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Is Technological Progress Slowing Down?

Technology is amazing. And it seems to get even more impressive every year. Every day, there’s some new gadget or breakthrough in the news worth getting excited about. And every year, our collective capabilities as a species seem to be getting broader and further-reaching. 

For decades, we’ve seen a veritable explosion in technological development – an exponential curve of innovation that constantly takes us to new heights. And we’re told that this technological curve is continuing – that we’re still growing exponentially, with massive leaps forward every year. 

But is this really true? 

There’s a compelling case to be made that while technological progress is still moving forward, it’s slowing down. And if that’s true, we need to be prepared for the consequences of such a shift in momentum. 

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Our first clue that tech innovation is slowing down is a change to the traditional model of tech development. In many ways, technology is all about solving problems; every new tech advancement is a solution for some long-standing issue. It makes sense that our current wave of tech advancement resembles an exponential curve because new technologies make it faster and easier to solve other, often unrelated problems. 

For example, the development of the internet was revolutionary for technological development overall. People now can review massive databases of information, communicate with other like-minded professionals, share ideas, and even publish their ideas to a broader audience. These capabilities have led to new ideas and new technologies that otherwise could never have been possible. 

But this trajectory is limited. In the course of tech development, we often explore new territory very quickly – but only for a limited period of time. Think of it this way. As early human beings began exploring new territory, they found themselves surrounded by an abundance of game animals, trees, and fish. But as they hunted, harvested lumber, and fished, many of those resources began to dry up. In other words, they’d taken all the low-hanging fruit, and were forced to come up with new ideas. They had to explore new territory, invent new agricultural methods, and even find new sources of nourishment. 

Our current burst of technological progress could be almost exclusively focused on low-hanging fruit. We’re solving the easiest problems first, and we’re solving them in quick succession. But the hard problems – like general intelligence-level AI, efficient battery storage, and even finding a cure for cancer – show little progress even over the course of decades. 

Any futurist will tell you that all of humanity’s problems can be solved eventually. But we have to understand that our pace of innovation tends to slow down as we master all the “easy� problems and start looking at the “hard� ones. 

Digital Innovation vs. Chemical Innovation 

We also need to understand that most of the tech progress we’ve seen in the past 30 or 40 years has been limited to the digital world. These technologies have been astounding, accelerated by novel high-growth startups, but they’ve almost been exclusively focused on digital communication efficiency. The internet, software engineering, and AI have all taken amazing strides forward. But on the level of chemistry and physics, we’ve advanced very little. 

We’re still incredibly reliant on non-renewable resources to fuel our consumption. We haven’t discovered any groundbreaking new elements, molecules, or chemical processes. And our understanding of the universe at the base level of physics hasn’t changed much, if at all, since the 1980s. We’re still struggling to reconcile major physics ideas that were first introduced nearly 100 years ago. 

So what? Digital innovation may be so incredibly fast-paced that it can be the conduit through which we solve all other problems, right? 

That may not be the case. For the majority of the digital age, we’ve depended on the momentum of Moore’s law. Moore’s law is an informal observation that the number of transistors that we can fit on a dense integrated circuit tends to double every two years. In other words, our computing power can double every two years, leading to major breakthroughs in a number of different technologies. 

However, it appears that the age of Moore’s law may be nearing its end. There’s an absolute physical limit to the amount of space on a transistor chip. With exponential growth since the 1960s, we’ve gone from integrated circuits with 10 transistors to ICs with something like 10 billion transistors. How much further can we really go without breaking the laws of physics? 

We may be able to push things even further, but to do so, we’ll need to invest in high-end chipmaking equipment and innovate entirely new manufacturing methods. Doing so will sharply increase the cost of chip production, ultimately negating the cost-effectiveness benefits. 

Of course, there’s a solid counterargument here. It holds that digital innovation may continue at the same rate of exponential growth even if we’re unable to maintain the consistency of Moore’s law; even if the number of transistors on a chip remains more or less stagnant, we can find new ways to use the chips we already have. 

Consumer Products and Perceptions 

We see an endless conveyor belt of new gadgets and new consumer-facing technologies emerging on a constant basis. But how innovative are all these products, really? 

Apple introduced the iPhone, a game-changing new type of technology, back in 2007. It combined several existing technologies into one, comprehensive unit, and changed the way we think about mobile tech forever. In the past 14 years, how much innovation have we truly seen in this space? We’ve seen a flock of competitors coming out with smartphone options of their own. And of course, we’ve seen Apple unveil a new model of iPhone nearly every year. 

But these new, “innovative� smartphones only make marginal improvements to the original formula. Their cameras are sharper. Their processing power is beefier. Their storage capacity and battery life are more robust. But they can hardly be considered new technology, at least not at the same groundbreaking level of their predecessor. 

As consumers, we’re getting used to a slower pace of technological breakthroughs. We’re content to see new smartphones, new video game consoles, and new TVs that offer merely slight improvements over their counterparts, rather than completely changing the game – and this is enough for us to continue thinking that we’re living in an age of exponential technology growth. 

What Does a Tech Slowdown Mean? 

So what does all this mean? Is it really a big deal that there’s a major tech slowdown? 

Much of our economic growth depends on technological innovation. Countless retirement plans like 401(k) depend on the growth of the stock market, which in turn depends on baseline economic growth; a slowdown in tech innovation leads to a slowdown in GDP, resulting in a cascade of economic effects that could cripple the economy at large. 

The larger danger is that we don’t realize the tech slowdown is occurring until it’s too late. Tech stocks are being traded and inflated as if they’re inventing fundamentally new technologies; as a general trend, they multiply in price in response to even the most meager announcements. If carried out for years to come, this could result in a massive tech bubble, or a broader investment bubble, that pops once investors begin realizing just how slow our growth has crawled. 

Of course, this slowdown may be merely a temporary lull. Just as the digital era sparked the launch of a million new problem-solving technologies, we may be on the cusp of another, equally paradigm-shifting breakthrough. To get there, we’ll need to refocus our research efforts and accept the limitations of the digital space. 

Our half-century long honeymoon with explosive tech growth in the digital era has been incredible, but it’s nearing its end. If we want to keep moving forward (as we should), we need to reset our expectations, redouble our research efforts, and start looking into new territory for technological expansion. 

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Why Your Business Needs Non-Stop Software Security

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Have you ever lost 30 minutes of creative works on your computer? Or has it suddenly occurred to you that you have a great piece of data that will augment a business proposal, only to discover that the data is missing? Oh – how frustrating!

Data loss occurs for various reasons

  • 78 percent – Hardware or system malfunction
  • 11 percent – Human error
  • 7 percent – Software corruption or program malfunction
  • 2 percent – Computer viruses
  • 1 percent – Natural disasters
  • 1 percent – Other acts.

Impact of critical data loss across global enterprises

Meanwhile, research reveals that global enterprises lose a whopping sum of 1.7 Trillion dollars due to data loss and downtime. And this excludes disruption of business activities, the loss of productivity, the diminished customers’ loyalty, the break of investor’s confidence, the cost of time spent on reconfiguration, and lots more.

While it may be difficult to establish a precise impact of data loss and downtime on organizations, it’s obvious that it would, sure, have a radical negative effect.

With a seamless increase in web adoption and constant acceptance of new technologies, both small and large scale businesses have been able to share important data as regards their products and services — using the web-as-a-service, Waas.

Hackers can compromise corporate networks

Meanwhile, hackers are seriously looking for ways to compromise the corporate network of several industries. As a matter of fact, the Verizon Data Breach Report reveals that 15.4 percent of reported incidents were related to malware and web application attacks.

Also, many of the most fatal breaches that covered the media in the past few years were caused by web-application and software security vulnerabilities. A very good example is the Equifax breach.

Simply put, “business websites possess the greatest threat to organizational security.�

Watch your data loss due to website and software patches

A sizable number of business sectors have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to website and software patches. This has reduced the efficiency and productivity of these organizations to the barest minimum. Little wonder why 70 percent of firms that experience data loss run out of business within one year of the attack. (DTI)

You may not know when the next attack could occur, but taking proper precautions can hamper or completely abolish a hacker’s attempt at gaining access to your business website.

Why your business website needs software security programs

1. Monitoring and detection

How satisfying will it be to have effective and efficient protection of your business website against the worst threat ever?

Using a software security program means your business web is on the watch, and any single vulnerability will be detected on the spot.

Software security companies provide website security scanners that check your website at predetermined intervals to detect any malicious action. You can rest assured that you’ll receive an alert as well as the next line of action when this happens.

Not only does website security monitoring protect you and your customers, but it protects your website’s rankings by checking a variety of different blacklists, and notifying you if you have been placed on one.

2. Performance optimization

Do you know that Google, Bing, and other search engines, use site speed as a ranking factor?

We live in a world where nobody is ready to wait for anything. We have become accustomed to business websites and apps working instantly and perfectly. As a matter of fact, a study reveals that 47 percent of customers abandon business websites that take more than 3 seconds to load!

Performance optimization is a major reason why your business website needs software security programs. Besides SEO, a site performance typically revolves around reducing the overall size of web pages. This includes the size of the files and perhaps, more importantly, the number of them.

3. Fast disaster or data recovery

In an age where data is king, the idea that data can be lost so easily should be enough to encourage businesses to take steps to protect it.

The U.S National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of companies are unable to sustain their businesses over six months after a data breach.

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average price for small businesses to clean up after their businesses have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for mid-sized businesses, it’s over $1 million.

Recent events have proven that nobody is safe from the threat of data breach — not large corporations, small businesses, startups, government agencies or even presidential candidates.

When a crisis occurs, there would be one of the two scenarios:

  1. You run a licensed app/piece of software and the vendor is responsible enough to issue an update/patch when issues are reported.
  1. You run a custom software delivered by your software development company and you ask for the software to be enhanced. That is going to take just as little time but chances are your custom software will ever be hacked is drastically lower. Just because the hacker would need to spend even more time looking for vulnerabilities than the AQ department of your software developer.

Even if your website is secure, a misconfiguration or simple mistake can lead to data loss. Only a sure backup plan can save you if your custom files are overwritten or tampered with.

A website security provider can offer secure remote storage, automatic backup scheduling, and an easy recovery process without disturbing your workflow. Decent software companies offer a fast and easy way to recover all the files you need in a very short time.

4. Regular software update

A software update, also known as a service pack is a periodically released update to software from a manufacturer, consisting of requested enhancements and fixes for known bugs. A software update is mainly to present security vulnerabilities in their existing items.

You may think that you do not have anything to protect on your business website but the reality is that security software gives protection for your data. Data is valuable for the sustenance of your business. Top software security programs keep your data secure by providing regular updates to keep you safe from malicious attempts.

Summing It Up:

Since 60 percent of businesses that are affected by a breach in business websites or data will shut down in 6 months, cybersecurity experts, thereby, recommend that you have an effective software security program to save yourself and your business from this calamity.

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Passwords and Their Ability to Bring Down Even the Largest of Enterprises

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The dangers of using passwords as a means of authentication cannot be overemphasized. According to reports by IT Governance, poor password behavior is the number one cause of data breaches. Despite this, passwords are still very common in the average person’s personal and work life. Here are passwords and their ability to bring down even the largest of enterprises.

Passwords are difficult to manage, and bad password habits are easy to develop because of how difficult it is to store multiple complex passwords.

They are also very insecure because passwords are just too easy to guess, hack or intercept. What’s more, the legacy of bad password habits, reusing and sharing online credentials, leads to constant cybersecurity attacks of both people’s personal accounts and enterprises.

The consequences of a cybersecurity attack from a leaked, stolen, or shared password could be disastrous; a hacker could launch a highly sophisticated attack on you or your business, causing serious short-term and long-term damages. This could lead to serious financial and legal implications. In a worst-case scenario, a malicious attack could even sabotage your business and its operations to the extent that it may never be able to recover.

Too Many People Use Old Passwords — STOP THAT!

According to a 2019 HYPR password usage study, a study that involved analyzing data from over 500 American and Canadian full-time workers, about 72% of people surveyed reuse an old password when forced to change to a new one, and 78% percent of them forgot their passwords in the previous 90 days.

This can be said to be due to the overwhelming number of passwords users have to manage because the study further showed that over 37% of respondents have over 20 passwords in their personal life, which in most cases is too much to manage effectively.

Hackers will Always Try to Attack Your Employees

Many negative implications come with your business’ security being compromised due to poor passwords, some of which are discussed below.

  • Financial Implications

On average, cybersecurity attacks in 2017 alone cost enterprises $1.3 million and $117,000 for small and medium scale businesses to repair hardware and software. A data breach can also lead to legal consequences for your company if data leaked belongs to a third party or contains sensitive information.

  • Data Theft and Sabotage

Every single day, companies from around the world lose about 5 million records containing sensitive data due to vulnerability in their system or a human factor failure, with only a mere 4% of escaped data being protected by strong encryption and, therefore, cannot be misused.

In some cases, millions of email addresses and passwords are leaked during a single data breach.

Hacking and data breaches may also negatively affect digital data or even physical equipment. Some hackers may intentionally modify or damage data in order to harm their targets.

  • Poor Web Presence

For many businesses, especially small ones, most sales and operations are made online – as an online presence exposes businesses to larger markets, with two-thirds of small businesses relying on websites to connect them to customers.

Hacking or data breach, in this case, however, may be seriously detrimental to your online presence; it may lead to your website being slowed down considerably as hackers try to upload and run files on your company server.

Also, if hackers try to use your IP address to attack other websites, your web hosting might be suspended, or your website may shut down entirely and only display a “PAGE NOT FOUND – 404 ERROR” message; all these will also cause your company’s SEO ranking to take a big hit.

  • Damages to Company Reputation

When a business is hacked, its reputation also takes a huge hit, either temporarily or permanently. A large percentage of a hacked company’s customers may choose to switch over to their more secure competitor.

According to a 2019 study published on BitSight, nearly two out of five (38%) enterprises admit that they have lost business due to either a real or perceived lack of security performance within their organization. Nearly half of all executives surveyed in that same report admit that their ability to attract new customers was harmed following a security incident.

  • Business Failure

Many businesses, especially small ones or those in their early stage, operate on low margins and may not withstand the significant financial loss resulting from data breaches.

Depending on the severity of such attacks, how stolen data is used, or the damage caused, your business might not be able to withstand the financial implications. It may be forced to close all operations and shut down.

How Enterprises Can Protect Themselves

Data breaches due to bad passwords are bound to happen when you ask employees to create and manage their passwords without providing them with the proper tools to do so.

There are limits to how many passwords your employees can remember and how complex they can be; this, coupled with the ever-growing number of online accounts, makes it easy for your employees to settle for poor password habits and security shortcuts put your company at risk of a data breach.

Employees often create passwords that are easy to remember and very predictable, as creating and storing different complex passwords is a burden.

Hence, employers and enterprises need to sensitize their employees to keep good password behavior with some of the solutions below.

A. Password Managers

Password managers are secure software applications designed to store and manage your online credentials. They make your accounts more secure by freeing you from generating and remembering sufficiently complex passwords, thus allowing for single-purpose passwords that meet a much higher security level.

From auto-filling to encrypting passwords, password managers ensure that credentials stored with them are kept secure.

B. Two Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication makes use of newer improvements to authentication by combining two out of the three types of authentication; what you know (password, pin), what you have (bank card, sim card), and who you are (fingerprint, facial recognition).

Two-factor authentication is far more secure than passwords alone because it considers two forms of authentication rather than one. Other methods of two-factor authentication include using an authenticator app like Google authenticator or Microsoft authenticator, SMS Codes, and biometrics alongside your password for more secure verification.

C. Passwordless Authentication

One major shortcoming of both password managers and two-factor authentication that is commonly overlooked is the fact that they don’t completely eliminate the burden that is passwords’; this is where passwordless authentication comes in. This provides enterprises the ability to deploy desktop MFA and strong customer authentication.

The passwordless authentication technology removes hackers’ most popular target by completely replacing passwords, forcing them to attack all devices individually. This provides enterprises with increased security and a more secure means of authentication.

In Conclusion

It is becoming clearer that passwords are more of a burden or headache than they are a security tool. As a business owner, protecting your personal and customer data and ensuring your website’s security has to be one of your top daily priorities.

Hackers will always try to attack your employees, the weakest link in your security infrastructure.

The best way to strengthen your entire security system is to make sure both your employees and IT admins are aware of their responsibility to maintain good password security and that necessary steps are taken to provide employees with the necessary tools to fulfill this responsibility.

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3 Dangerous Cross-Site Scripting Attacks of the Last Decade

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Cross-site scripting (or XSS) ranks seventh on the OWASP Top Ten — a standard industry-recognized document listing the most critical cybersecurity risks.

The OWASP Foundation suggests companies to adopt this document to understand the most common vulnerabilities and minimize them in their web apps.

That means cross-site scripting (or XSS) is one of the most common bugs that are harvested by cybercriminals to compromise an organization’s networks or systems. And history proves it — attackers have utilized this vulnerability in various cyberattacks, causing damages of millions to those organizations, and in turn these organizations are spending a fortune to try and stop these attackers.

That is why it is important for security professionals to understand cross-site scripting and evaluate their security posture. Let’s check examples of cross-site scripting attacks to learn how those attacks were planned and understand the consequences of this vulnerability.

British Airways

British Airways — the second-largest carrier airline in the United Kingdom — faced a data breach in 2018. The breach affected 380,000 booking transactions between August to September 2018. Thankfully, it was caught by researchers from RiskIQ who reported it to British Airways, and they patched it later.

The breach was suspected to be linked to Magecart — a hacker group popularly known for using card skimming techniques to get their hands on confidential credit card information from unsecured payment pages on popular websites. The skimming process worked in this attack by exploiting a cross-site scripting vulnerability using a malicious JavaScript library known as Feedify. Surprisingly, this approach was also utilized by attackers to compromise Ticketmaster.

In this attack, the JavaScript file was modified to record customer data and send it to the attackers’ server (“baways.com� to avoid suspicion) when the user submits the form. Its attackers were smart enough to even buy a secure certificate (SSL) for their malicious server so that the overall web page looks secure to the web browser and the user. This leaves no room for doubt for the user to not trust the web page while making the payment and losing their credit card details.

Fortnite

Fortnite — the popular online video game by Epic Games — could face an attack leading to a data breach in January 2019. The issue was a retired, unsecured web page with a dangerous cross-site scripting vulnerability that allowed attackers to get unlimited access to 200 million users. The likely purpose of attackers is stealing the game’s virtual currency and recording the players’ conversations, which may provide a treasure of useful information for their future attacks.

Fortnite had been a prime target for cybercriminals owing to its popularity. In 2018-2019, Fortnite was nominated for 35 games awards and won 19 titles including “eSports Game of the Year�, “Best Multiplayer/Competitive Game�, and “Online Game of the Year�. Statista reports that Fortnite had 350 million registered users in May 2020, which makes it a lucrative target for hackers.

In this attack, the specific issue was a combination of leveraging a cross-site scripting vulnerability and exploiting an insecure single sign-on address. Using both the vulnerabilities, attackers could redirect players to dubious web pages that could have been used to steal the players’ info and/or virtual currencies. Though Check Point — the security researchers — caught and notified this issue to Fortnite in January 2019 and Fortnite fixed it, there is no method for ensuring that this set of vulnerabilities was not already part of a major cyberattack.

eBay

eBay is a well-known marketplace for buying and selling products from or to businesses and consumers. Though it had cross-site scripting vulnerabilities many times in the past, a vulnerability present from December 2015 to January 2016 was very dangerous. It was dangerous because it was a simple vulnerability that could have been easily harvested to wreak havoc on eBay users. And since users usually buy or sell products on eBay, attackers could gain access to users’ products, sell it to them at a discount, or steal their payment details, etc.

In this vulnerability, eBay used to have a “url� parameter that is used to redirect users to the right page. However, it was not checking the parameter value before inserting it into the page, making it a vulnerability. An attacker could use this vulnerability to inject some malicious code into the page and make the user perform the attacker’s bidding. For example, an attacker may have added code to steal the user login credentials and wreak havoc on the hijacked account.

These are some of the dangerous cross-site scripting attacks of the last decade. In all the mentioned cross-site scripting cases, the first mitigative step is to write secure code from the ground up. Cross-site scripting (XSS) is one of the most common vulnerabilities, thus there are a lot of code analysis tools that help detect and fix such vulnerabilities in code.

Second but more important, the code should always validate and verify user inputs — especially if the input is going to be inserted in the web page in the present or the future. The code should also limit user inputs to avoid or filter special characters or skip long inputs.

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6 Brilliant Brain Hacks for the Remote Worker

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What was once a niche work lifestyle has become commonplace. Millions of Americans now work remotely – and millions more are ready to join in. While remote working offers many benefits, it also has its own distinct challenges that must be worked through. Understanding how to power through friction and optimize productivity for better output is the goal. Here are six brilliant brain hacks for the remote worker.

Do you know where to start? Here is a practical guide to on-boarding remote engineers from a topmost expert. Consider these 6 brilliant brain hacks for the remote worker.

The Upward Climb on Remote Working

If you work from home, you used to be the anomaly. Today, you’re in good company. Pretty soon, you’ll be part of the majority.

According to Global Workplace Analytics and Quarterly Global, the leader in PR, marketing and advertising, the number of individuals working from home has grown by 173 percent since 2005.

Overall, 4.7 million employees (roughly 3.4 percent of the overall workforce) work from home at least half the time.

Approximately 40 percent of American employers offer more flexible workplace options today than they did five years ago. But with 80 to 90 percent of the U.S. workforce saying they’d prefer to work outside the office at least some of the time, this number is expected to rise in the coming years.

As remote working becomes more commonplace, so will the need for better remote working strategies.

The Top Remote Working Challenges

Remote working is highly appealing and advantageous for freelancers, employees, and employers alike. But it’s not a perfect setup. There are plenty of challenges, including:

Blurred lines

Everyone wants to talk about tearing barriers between work and personal life, but too much overlap can equally problematic. One of the keys to maintaining optimal work-life balance is being able to separate the two. When you work out of the house, it’s challenging to carve out a meaningful division between each area. This can make you less effective in both aspects of your life.

Distractions

Have you ever tried to work from home when you have a house full of rambunctious children? Or what about participating in a conference call in the middle of a loud coffee shop? Wherever you’re working, distractions abound.

Procrastination

Whether you’re an employee or freelancer, your remote working status typically comes with greater freedom in how you manage your time. If you aren’t careful, procrastination can get the best of you. Over time, it may even become habitual.

Inconsistency

When working in an office, there’s something to be said for the predictability. You basically know what to expect. Your desk is in the same place, you see the same people, and you go through the same basic routines. Remote workers rarely have the luxury of consistency. This makes it hard to get in a state of flow.

Communication

We may have more communication methods than ever before, but there’s still nothing that can fully replicate being face-to-face in the same physical space. For remote workers, trying to communicate via a combination of phone, email, SMS, and video chat creates an extra layer of friction.

Isolation

Finally, remote working often gives rise to feelings of isolation – particularly in people with extroverted personalities. This can lead to boredom, pessimism, and a lack of drive. It can even have serious side effects, like anxiety or depression.

Most people ignore these challenges, and the results show. But if you’re someone who wants to increase productivity and maximize output, you need a better strategy.

You need to find what works.

And once you discover what works, you need to bottle it up and use it to your advantage.

Powerful Brain Hacks for Better Results

Brain hacking.

It sounds like a buzzword – and it kind of is. But that doesn’t make it any less valid.

Our brains are constantly being shaped by events, experiences, external stimuli, and other environmental factors. And as weird as it may sound, the human brain is subject to regular physical and cognitive changes.

The neuroplasticity concept says that the brain, like muscles in the body, becomes weaker or stronger over time. It’s continuously changing and rewiring. Over time, targeted techniques and purposeful strategies can morph into automatic habits and processes.

These targeted techniques and strategies are brain hacking. And it’s something that every remote worker can do to overcome the aforementioned challenges and optimize productivity and output.

Here are some brain hacks you may find helpful:

  1. Try Intermittent Fasting for Better Focus

Intermittent fasting is a biohacking concept that involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating. There are various techniques, but the most common is to eat all of your meals in one eight-hour window. In other words, you’re fasting for 16 hours every day.

If you’re someone who loves food, this probably sounds impossible.

However, it’s not nearly as difficult as it initially seems.

It basically means you eat your first meal at 11 a.m. and your last meal at 7 p.m. (or whatever variation works for you).

Aside from the fat loss and metabolism benefits, intermittent fasting actually helps with focus. The consolidated intake of food prevents wasted energy from digesting food. Instead, you’re able to allocate those energy reserves to concentrate on work-related tasks.

On a related note, be mindful of what you eat.

While health professionals have spent years telling people to avoid fat, the truth is that you need healthy fats to maximize cognitive functioning.

Why?

It’s pretty simple: The human brain is 60 percent fat.

When you eat, try incorporating items like eggs, avocados, nuts, salmon, trout, and coconut oil into your meals.

  1. Eliminate Digital Media from Your Morning Routine

Bing! Bing! Bing!

Your morning alarm goes off.

You slap the snooze button. Once. Twice. Three times.

Once you finally come to your senses, you grab your phone, pull up Instagram, and start scrolling.

Then you get out of bed, walk downstairs, and turn on the news.

While watching the news, you reply to a couple of late-night texts that came in while you were sleeping.

Over breakfast, you check your email.

It’s not even 8 a.m., and you’ve consumed more digital media than your brain can process. You’ve also unintentionally heightened your stress level, stifled your creativity, and destroyed your focus.

When you start your day with digital media, you’re actually beginning your morning playing catch-up on what happened yesterday. You’re also letting other people dictate how you feel. You haven’t even started working, and stress, worry, and discontentment become the resounding feelings of the day.

Try taking a digital fast for the first two to three hours each day.

In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia, 124 individuals were asked to check their email frequently for one week. The next week, they were told only to check their email three times per day (and to disable all notifications).

The data was analyzed against the time spent viewing email, and participants reported feeling significantly lower stress levels and higher feelings of positivity when email exposure was limited.

Once you cut back on exposure to email, social media, news, and other digital media forms, you’ll start to feel the positive effects.

While everyone can benefit from less digital media exposure, it’s especially helpful for remote workers close to digital distractions like the TV, video game systems, and personal smart devices.

  1. Leverage the Pomodoro Technique for Better Scheduling

Americans have a love affair with multitasking. We wear our ability to juggle responsibilities like a badge of honor.

But research shows that multitasking actually suppresses productivity. And if you work from home, where personal distractions are omnipresent, it can severely limit your output.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique – a revolutionary brain hacking method that remote workers have been using for years to increase focus and productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique consists of breaking your workday into 25-minute sections of work separated by five-minute breaks. Each one of these half-hour chunks is referred to as a Pomodoro. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros, you take an extended break of 15 to 20 minutes.

These 15- to 20-minute breaks can be used for remote workers to do tasks around the house – such as folding laundry, fixing lunch, or taking a shower. This allows you to be productive with work while also taking full advantage of the fact that you’re home.

  1. Use Parkinson’s Law to Avoid Procrastination

In a satirical piece written for the Economist in 1955, British naval historian Cyril Parkinson made the following statement:

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.�

He would later write a book that fleshed out this idea. Eventually, people would refer to this concept as Parkinson’s Law.

In a remote work setting, Parkinson’s Law states that the time it takes to complete a work project depends on how much time you allot for it. In other words, if you give yourself eight hours, you’ll slow down and make it take eight hours. If, however, you only give yourself five yours, you’ll block out distractions and get it done in five hours.

If you’ve grown weary of procrastination and hope to finish your work faster and more efficiently, you need to set tighter deadlines.

Instead of telling a client, you’ll have the project done by next Friday, tell them you’ll have it in by next Tuesday. By tightening the time constraints, you force yourself to work more efficiently.

  1. Optimize Your Home Office for Productivity

One of the major challenges of working from home is that you’re forced to create a professional workspace in the middle of a very personal place.

But this is also one of the distinct advantages.

You have the capacity to design your own workspace – so why not optimize your at-home workspace in a way that puts your brain in the right frame of mind to be productive?

For starters, choose a room in the house that’s as far away from communal living areas as possible. In other words, being located right off the living room isn’t ideal. You’re much better off positioning a home office in the back corner of the house.

Secondly, you need natural light. It plays a catalytic role in brain performance, creativity, and focus.

Thirdly, paint your office walls a soothing color. The principles of color psychology suggest cool greens, blues, or neutrals. Avoid colors like red and orange, which provoke feelings of urgency.

Finally, eliminate distractions by avoiding clutter. While some creative minds thrive in messy environments, the vast majority of people wilt. Clutter zaps up energy and makes it hard to focus on the task at hand. By adopting a minimalist environment, you can get more done with less effort.

  1. Keep a Schedule

The human brain thrives on predictability. Remote working is far less predictable than working in an office where you’re expected to show up, take lunch, and go home at the same time each day.

If you want to give your brain a solid framework to latch onto, a consistent schedule is necessary.

Start your day by having your alarm go off at the same time every single morning.

After waking, implement a consistent routine that helps you transition from personal duties to professional responsibilities.

Start working each day simultaneously and use a couple of familiar tasks to help your brain slip into the right frame of mind.

Taking lunch at the same time is also advisable – particularly if you’re leveraging intermittent fasting.

The hardest part for most remote workers is “clocking out� at a consistent time. It’s easy to continue working and filling time until late in the evening. To prevent this from happening, try scheduling obligations in the evening. This makes it less likely that you’ll keep working.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Not all of these brain hacks and strategies will appeal to you. It’s all about finding your best approach and leveraging whatever it is that helps you achieve a state of flow.

What works for you?

How can you set yourself up for max productivity?

Your approach will differ from the next person’s – so don’t try to mimic or replicate what others are doing. Instead, become like a scientist in the laboratory. Mix, match, and blend proprietary formulas until you discover a brain hacking system that puts you on a path for success.

Image Credit: David Cassolato; Pexels

The post 6 Brilliant Brain Hacks for the Remote Worker appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Data and Security data security Digital Identity Hack internet security privacy privacy regulations Software

How to Protect Your Digital Identity

protect digital identity

Our digital identities are shaped by personal information about ourselves that we share online: name, age, gender, geographical location, email address, phone number, etc. If someone steals this data to act on our behalf, we might lose our funds, reputation, and social connections. In this article, you’ll find useful tips on protecting your digital identity from theft and enhancing the security of your online presence.

Create Several Digital Identities

Maybe you have two phone numbers or two emails and use the first one for work and the second one for private communication. Similarly, you can create multiple digital identities.

Emails Can Help

Have several emails.

  • You can create your first email address to communicate with banks and government bodies.
  • The second email address exchanges messages with diverse offline recipients (such as shops, garages, dental clinics).
  • Your third email address is for friends, relatives, and social networks.
  •  A fourth email address will be for subscriptions and registrations.

Each of your digital identities will be connected to a particular email, but they will never overlap — these types of actions create your safety net of digital identities.

You can access all your email addresses from the same mailbox. For instance, you can automatically redirect all the incoming messages to the same Gmail inbox. Gmail will let you select the address that you would like to send each of your emails from.

You won’t even need to use exclusively @gmail.com addresses. Microsoft Outlook functions on the same principle and allows users to attach up to 10 auxiliary emails to the main one so that you have 11 addresses all in all.

Replace Your Password with a Passphrase

A passphrase consists of several words, so it’s much more difficult to brute-force it than a password. Ideally, these words should be generated randomly, and each of them should contain a minimum of 16 characters.

For each site and service you use, you should generate a unique passphrase. Of course, it might be tricky to remember all these combinations — but you can download 1Password, LastPass, or Dashlane. These trusted and credible password managers will safely store your passwords in a well-protected database.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Some modern online services include two-factor authentication as a mandatory feature; others offer it optional. After you enable the two-factor authentication, you won’t be able to access your account just by inserting your password. The system will send you a confirmation link or code to your phone or email that will serve as the key to your account.

If someone tries to hack your account from a remote device, you will get to know about it.

Install and Enable an Antivirus

Modern antiviruses are powerful multifunctional programs. They efficiently protect users not only from malicious software but from all sorts of threats. They identify a menace long before it attacks your device and ward it off.

Also, they check your system and software updates to make sure you use the latest versions. Updatings are essential for security because newer versions of the programs don’t contain old vulnerabilities.

Stay Suspicious

If a site or service asks you to share your confidential data, think twice whether it really needs it. Is it necessary for a game, news aggregator, or dating service to know your birth date or bank account number? Or is it just a nefarious trick to cheat confidential information out of you?

Inspect your bank statements and payment history weekly. According to a stereotype, if hackers get hold of your bank account, they will immediately transfer all your funds to their account. But this will inevitably attract your attention, so some smart violators opt for small transfers instead. If you notice payments for goods or services that you never purchased, your account might be hacked.

Don’t include meaningful personal information in your social media profiles.

Indicate only the data that you are ready to share literally with the whole world, including thousands of people that you will never know.

If you receive an email with a link, open it only in case you know the recipient well. Spammers and organizers of phishing attacks might ask you to visit a certain page, to indicate your account data or financial credentials. Some ask you to confirm the receipt of a pre-approved credit card that you never ordered.

If you receive a similar email from your bank, get in touch with its support service, and ask if they indeed sent it.

Use Browser Security Tools

To get rid of the annoying ads for good, install AdBlock Plus. To block spying ads and invisible trackers, use Privacy Badger. To make your browser always redirect you to safer HTTPS versions of websites from the outdated HTTP ones, apply HTTPS Everywhere.

You can choose between dozens of free extensions that are compatible with nearly any browser and will efficiently protect your digital identity.

However, the protective software that you have installed might not be enough to stop tracking completely. To check how safe your browser is, use Panopticlick: it will measure your security level and analyze your system configurations. Relying on the impartial results of the analysis, you will be able to fine-tune your settings, delete or install certain add-ons, etc.

Monitor the News

If a bank, a governmental body, or an e-commerce institution falls prey to a data breach, it will be mentioned in the news. If it turns out that your confidential data might be compromised, change all your passwords immediately.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article came in handy, and now you know how to protect your digital identity. Losing it might sometimes be just as troublesome as losing your real-life passport.

The above-listed recommendations can be applied to any device that you use to go online, be it a stationary computer, a laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet. As you see, you don’t need to be a geek to enhance your internet privacy and enjoy the time you spend online to the max.

Image Credit: cottonbro: pexels

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Digital Photography digital tools Hack Learn Platforms Social Tools Software

I Used These 5 AI-Powered Background Removers and Here is What I Found

background removers

Have you ever needed to remove the image background? There are so many use cases in business and marketing when you need to do it quickly and professionally — from making a transparent logo to optimizing a product image for eCommerce to creating eye-catching ads with photos of products placed in unexpected backgrounds. This straightforward operation is usually so time-consuming.

Luckily, with the advent of artificial intelligence and smart photo-editing tools, things have changed. Here I would like to share my investigation of the best AI-powered background removers to help you save time and efforts when preparing images for social media, advertising, branding, or other purposes in your everyday life. 

Background Removers Can Help Your Business and Marketing

Photo via Unsplash

Background removal or placing objects in different backgrounds have become very trendy today. Whether you want to add more style to your photo for CV or prepare teammates’ photos for the “About Usâ€� page on the company’s website, you may need a magic wand that makes it within seconds without the help of a professional photographer. Here we will consider a few more cases when a digital marketer, blog editor, or entrepreneurs can face this challenge.

ECommerce

There is no secret that many eCommerce platforms accept only product images with transparent backgrounds to demonstrate its essence and beauty without distracting the customer from unnecessary details. Adhering to this eCommerce tendency, many eCommerce website owners also cut their products out of the images and place them on solid white backgrounds when preparing product visuals for a catalog.

Creative Advertising

You might notice that most of today’s ads promoting webinars, courses, or conferences include the photo of a speaker with a solid-colored background. As well, many companies have fun with their ads by adding products into the craziest and most unexpected backgrounds. Just imagine a banner showcasing a fridge that stays at the snowy top of the iceberg in the ocean. It must look eye-catching, doesn’t it? From my experience, this simple yet engaging trick helps draw the customer’s attention and convert more sales.

Blogging

The trend of solid-colored or creative backgrounds has also come into blogging. You may need to edit a featured image for your blog article and remove its backgrounds to distinguish the central object. Probably, you would like to create a cover image for your next video on YouTube or post a selfie with a creative background in your feed on Instagram — there are many cases when you need a background remover.

Branding

You are lucky if you have a designer sitting nearby you at the office. However, if you work at a startup with 2-3 people (and none of you is a designer) or you just consider it impractical to hire a full-time designer, you may lack easy-to-use creativity tools to make visuals look professional. When it comes to processing brand assets or getting a transparent logo, a background remover may also come in handy.

How AI Makes Background Removal a Breeze

Photo via Unsplash

Since most traditional photo-editing software for casual users don’t have a background removing function or perform it very inaccurately, there is a growing demand for intuitive tools that offer a one-click problem solution.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence has revolutionized many industries, and photography isn’t an exception. AI-powered image-enhancing software has become an answer and made background removal a breeze. 

Most of the AI-driven tools allow you to cut even the most complicated objects like hair or entire body silhouettes with the highest accuracy within a few clicks. Usually, you only need to mark an object and undesired background, and artificial intelligence will do all the other hard work for you.

5 Best AI-Powered Background Removers

When preparing promotional visuals for clients, I have often encountered a challenge of background removal. So, I needed to find the best and most user-friendly solution to solve my everyday creative issues related to ads.

After trying out dozens of alternatives, I have selected these top five AI-driven background removers that are almost equally cool and helpful.

SocialBook Free Background Remover

It is one of the best free AI-powered background removers available on the web. You don’t need to spend time on setting up software or app since SocialBook allows you to remove the image background online.

You just need to enter a website, upload your image, or add an URL to it. Several clicks and voila! You can download your picture with a transparent background. 

It’s my favorite tool when it comes to background removal. Thanks to artificial intelligence, it allows you to select the most complicated objects very precisely. SocialBook Background Remover is particularly helpful when you need to cut people out of the photo.

Its AI-based technology recognizes an object automatically, removes the background, and doesn’t add a watermark on the image.

Topaz Mask AI

Topaz Mask AI is an AI-based image background remover that uses MI and trimap technique. It is very user-friendly too. You will not see as many buttons and tools inside of this software as in Photoshop. If you don’t need to do professional photo retouch but only remove the background, Topaz Mask AI may be an excellent solution. 

There is great news for those who always spend much time on precise cutting edges out. The neural network of this tool has been trained to distinguish tough edges. The only con I’ve found is the price. Topaz Mask AI is quite expensive if you only use it for background removal.

fotor

Fotor is a convenient image background eraser that allows selecting the area and cutting it out from the picture almost instantly. Its particular feature is that you can preview all the changes and adjust your selection if needed.

Moreover, Fotor’s functionality is not limited by only one function and has an extensive photo-editing toolset, which, however, comes only in a paid plan. Its slight disadvantage is that it puts a watermark on the image.

inPixio

inPixio is a free tool that allows removing undesired backgrounds without extra-efforts. You only need to upload an image and use a red brush to select an area you want to erase. The rest work will be done by this smart tool.

The size of the brush is adjustable, so you can use it to cut even the smallest details in foregrounds. It’s easy to use, doesn’t put a watermark, and doesn’t require a subscription. The only con is that you need to remove the background from images manually.

Bonanza Background Burner

Bonanza is an online tool that doesn’t require special setup, unlike its alternatives. Using advanced algorithms, it can cut out objects from the image automatically. Before showcasing a result, it offers you several versions of the image with different changes, so you can choose whichever you like most.

Although it enables you to remove the background very quickly and easily, it doesn’t do it accurately enough, especially when it comes to cutting out people from the photo.

Conclusion

Here is my selection of the most helpful and easiest to use background removers. Thanks to artificial intelligence, image enhancement and background removal are now easy to do even for non-professionals.

The tools mentioned above can help you prepare amazing images for eCommerce, advertising, blogging, and branding within several minutes. I hope that this overview has been useful for you and will help find a background remover that suits you best.

Top Image Credit: liborio dibuono; Unsplash

The post I Used These 5 AI-Powered Background Removers and Here is What I Found appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
cyber attack cyber security Data and Security Hack hacking Software TikTok

How to Protect Your TikTok Account from Hackers

TikTok

TikTok, a mobile video-sharing service owned by Beijing-based technology company ByteDance, has been around since 2016. Its popularity shifted into hyper-drive over the past two years, with the user count exceeding 2 billion (according to Craig Chapple, a mobile insights strategist) globally at the time of this publication.

TikTok generated a whopping 315 million installs in Q1 2020 alone, which eclipses any other app’s achievements in terms of quarterly growth.

It’s common knowledge that cybercriminals follow the trends.

Cybercriminals are following the trends — so they treat the hype around TikTok as an opportunity to extend their reach. Haters, spammers, con artists, and malware distributors can weaponize hacked accounts in a snap. Therefore, it’s in every user’s interest to ascertain that their video blogging experience isn’t vulnerable to exploitation.

The good news is, you can benefit from TikTok’s built-in security and privacy features to raise the bar for malicious actors. This article provides simple steps to harden the defenses and make your account a hard nut to crack. Before delving into the protection facet of the matter, though, let’s see what security concerns about this service have been unearthed to date.

Known TikTok Security Loopholes

In early January 2020, experts at cybersecurity company Check Point Research discovered a series of TikTok vulnerabilities that might undermine the protection of one’s account. According to the white hats, a hypothetical attacker could take advantage of these flaws to do the following:

  • Compromise an account and alter its content
  • Erase videos
  • Upload new videos
  • Change the status of private videos to “publicâ€�
  • Obtain the victim’s email address and other sensitive information related to the account

SMS link spoofing is one of the malicious techniques piggybacking on TikTok imperfections. It can cause a great deal of harm with very little effort. This foul play is fueled by a somewhat crude implementation of a feature called “Text yourself a link to download TikTok,� which is available through the platform’s official website.

(Image by Check Point Research, “Tik or Tok? Is TikTok secure enough?� article)

A malefactor can use a proxy tool to skew the underlying HTTP query that consists of a user’s phone number and the legitimate app download link. This interference allows the hacker to substitute the URL with a custom value and thereby send malware-riddled text messages on behalf of TikTok.

Malware distribution and scams are the obvious use cases of this technique. The resulting sketchy site can be a credential phishing page or have exploits onboard.

Offensive mechanisms such as cross-site request forgery (CSRF) or cross-site scripting (XSS) may also kick in to execute malicious JavaScript code surreptitiously. This abuse can entail particularly disruptive outcomes, making it easy for an adversary to tamper with the victim’s browser cookies and perform different actions in their name.

What does the cybercriminal do next?

This access can pave the crook’s way towards removing arbitrary videos, adding new ones, approving followers, and making private content public. The info-stealing facet of this exploitation puts the victim’s sensitive data at risk, including their email address, payment details, and birth date. Thankfully, the company behind TikTok has since released patches for these issues.

Another pitfall is that the service isn’t too fair and square when it comes to users’ privacy.

In March 2020, security researchers exposed more than 50 iOS and iPadOS applications that regularly read the clipboard information. TikTok ended up on that list, too.

Whereas it’s not entirely clear what the application does with this data, such activity resembles eavesdropping at its worst. An additional concern is that an attacker who succeeds in compromising the TikTok app will be able to keep a record of everything the user copies to the device’s clipboard, including credit card details and login credentials for other services.

A malefactor with advanced tech skills can broaden the attack surface.

For instance, a feature called Universal Clipboard plays into crooks’ hands in this regard. It is intended to facilitate the process of copying and pasting between different devices under Apple’s umbrella.

Therefore, if an attacker takes over a TikTok account used on an iOS or iPadOS gadget, they may be able to access sensitive information on a related Mac computer.

For the record, the latest version of TikTok is no longer peeking into clipboard data. However, the aftertaste of past foul play remains. All of the reported caveats have called forth some restrictive moves at the level of governments and military branch departments.

In December 2019, the U.S. Navy banned personnel from using this service, and so did the U.S. Army shortly afterward.

TikTok Account Security Tips

Because a TikTok account is a goldmine of the user’s sensitive information, cybercriminals are lured to find ways to circumvent its defenses and get in. The following red flags may indicate a compromise and should urge you to take immediate action:

  • Your TikTok password, security email address, or phone number tied to the account has been changed.
  • Your username or nickname has been modified.
  • Someone is removing or adding videos behind your back.
  • Messages are being sent without your permission.

This brings us to the techniques that will keep perpetrators from gaining unauthorized access to your account. Below is a summary of TikTok security best practices:

1. Use a Strong Password

No matter how vanilla this recommendation may sound, it’s the stronghold of your account’s intactness. In addition to making your password at least 12 characters long, include special characters (%, $, &, etc.), uppercase letters, and numerals.

Also, make sure it looks as random as possible to prevent crooks from guessing it based on your personal details available on publicly accessible resources such as social networks.

2. Refrain from Reusing Passwords

Data breaches happen, so you don’t want your authentication info for another account to match the TikTok password. Using the same password across different services is a classic instance of a potential single point of failure (SPOF).

3. “Log In with Verification� Feature Can Make Your Day

If you enable the verification by adding your phone number to the profile details, the TikTok platform will be creating a one-time password (OTP) every time you sign in. But note the issue above with your phone number.

As opposed to the better-known two-factor authentication (2FA), the phone technique replaces password protection rather than boosting its efficiency. By the way, the video blogging service under scrutiny doesn’t currently provide 2FA.

A text message with TikTok verification code inside

4. Prevent Your Password from Being Automatically Saved

It goes without saying that password saving is a handy option. In fact, TikTok does it by default.

The whole convenience, though, can be overshadowed by the security risks stemming from this mechanism.

Consider turning the auto password save OFF to err on the side of caution.

  • Tap the Me icon at the bottom right of TikTok main screen.
  • Head to Settings and privacy
  • Select Manage my account
  • Then slide the Save login info toggle to the left — that turns it OFF.

Switch OFF the Save login info option

5. Stay Abreast of Account Usage Statistics

The app’s Your Devices pane lets you know what devices your account is opened on your mobile at any given time.

You may have previously signed in from somebody else’s gadget and forgot to exit the account. This is a benign scenario, though.

If the list includes a smartphone you can’t identify, it might be a heads-up. To make sure you are in the clear, go to Manage my Account, proceed to Security, and take a look at the account activity stats and the list of logged-in devices.

TikTok account activity stats

6. Stay Away from Sketchy Links

Cybercriminals may try to social-engineer you into tapping a hyperlink that leads to a malicious web page hosting a harmful payload. These links may arrive via booby-trapped text messages, phishing emails sent by strangers, or malicious redirects caused by malware.

As one of the abuse techniques demonstrates — the messages can as well impersonate TikTok. Don’t be gullible and ignore them.

7. Think What You Share

Don’t spill any personally identifiable information (PII) such as the email address or phone number in video descriptions. A seasoned hacker may mishandle the info to compromise your account.

What to Do If Your TikTok Account Has Been Hacked?

If you spot the slightest sign of a breach, go ahead and change your account password without a second thought.

Here’s how you do it: go to Settings and privacy — proceed to Manage my account, and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the procedure. As part of the attack remediation, be sure to check the accuracy of your account information on the same screen.

In case you are having issues with this, go to the Report a problem subsection under Support to access the Feedback and help screen. Then, tap the paper sheet icon in the top right corner to submit a support ticket describing your situation in detail.

TikTok Feedback and help section

All in all, TikTok is a great service bringing so many bells and whistles to your fingertips and allowing you to express yourself via nifty videos.

It’s not perfect in terms of security, though. Do your homework and tweak some settings to prevent your account from being low-hanging fruit for a cyberattack. Stay safe.

The post How to Protect Your TikTok Account from Hackers appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Data and Security Hack infoSec Platforms security Tech Web WordPress Security

WordPress Security Fundamentals

wordpress security

WordPress dominates the global market of content management systems (CMS). Its tremendous popularity makes it a lure for malicious actors. The WordPress Core in its current state is fairly secure by design, which explains the relatively small number of hacks exploiting it. Here is a guide to WordPress security fundamentals.

Cybercriminals are increasingly adept at piggybacking on flaws related to WP plugins, themes, hosting providers, and website owner’s security hygiene.

Who is Targeting WordPress and Why?

Most incursions zeroing in on WordPress sites are orchestrated through the use of automated tools such as crawlers and bots.

These entities are constantly scouring the Internet for crudely secured websites. If they pinpoint a documented vulnerability, they take advantage of it in a snap.

Spam

Here’s a little bit of wiki information: spam accounts for roughly 50% of all emails sent.

Malefactors may gain a foothold in your server via a security loophole in a plugin or an outdated version of the WordPress engine to repurpose the server for generating spam.

Siphoning Off Server Resources

Cybercrooks may infiltrate poorly secured WordPress sites, access the underlying servers, and harness their processing power to perform coin mining surreptitiously.

Black Hat SEO

One of the growingly common WordPress hack scenarios is to gain unauthorized access to a website’s database and furtively embed keywords and hyperlinks related to another site.

Embedding keywords and hyperlinks is a shortcut to hijacking and boosting the rankings of an attacker’s site on search engines.

Info-Stealing Foul Play

Seasoned hackers know the true value of data, especially in such areas as e-commerce and user behavior patterns. Felons can rake in hefty profits by retrieving this information and selling it to interested parties on the Dark Web.

Your Top Priority 

WordPress security should be every webmaster’s top priority as remediating a hacked WordPress site is easier said than done. You have to assess every single line of code to spot dodgy content, eliminate it, and re-enter valid strings.

Another thing on your to-do list is to change all authentication details, including database and server passwords.

Another facet of the issue is that the search rankings of a compromised website may deteriorate dramatically down the road, which translates to fewer visitors and lower monetization.

An extra thing to consider is that people won’t go to a site unless they trust it. A breach will most likely impact your reputation, which takes a lot of time and effort to restore.

WordPress Security: The CIA Triad

In information security terms, the CIA acronym stands for “confidentiality, integrity, and availability.� This CIA model is the stronghold of every digital security initiative. When it comes to WordPress, the anatomy of CIA is as follows:

Area 1: Confidentiality

  • Sensitive Data

WP plugins, themes, and global variables are a Pandora’s box filled with confidential information or breadcrumbs leading to such data. If you slip up by setting the value of WP_DEBUG parameter to “trueâ€� rather than “false,â€� this will unveil the path to your websites’ root directory. You don’t want that.

Author pages can also be verbose in this context because they often include usernames and email addresses. An attacker may try to guess or brute-force an author’s password. If it isn’t strong enough, a site compromise is imminent.

  • User Credentials

To its credit, the WordPress platform takes password strength seriously, helping users avoid the scourge of weak credentials. However, these efforts might not be enough.

An additional technique that can make an attacker’s life harder is to enable two-factor authentication. Restricting the number of failed sign-in attempts is worthwhile, too.

Area 2: Integrity

  • Data Verification

WordPress is committed to handling data securely and does a lot to ensure this. But, these mechanisms don’t work beyond its core, so web developers should get the hang of validating the rest of the code.

Using a site’s database directly could be a less secure approach than leveraging features like “update_post_meta.� The latter can fend off SQL injection, a sketchy tactic aimed at executing harmful code via forms embedded in a web page.

The harmful code tactic can become a launchpad for depositing dangerous strains of Windows and Mac malware onto visitors’ computers.

To thwart SQL injection raids when running a complex query or when handling a custom table, it’s best to apply the WPDB class combined with the “Prepare� function for all queries.

  • Query Sanitation

Queries related to WordPress site management are generally secure as long as SSL is turned on and you resort to trustworthy hosting services. But not all hosting services are trustworthy, so this isn’t a bulletproof ecosystem.

It’s in your best interest to monitor user intentions and ascertain that an incoming query comes from a registered user.

WordPress employs what’s called nonces to verify actions initiated by users. These security tokens are formed alongside every user-originated request. Since nonces are paired with specific URLs, they are subject to mandatory inspection on the receiving side before the request is executed.

  • Third-Party Code

Most WordPress compromise incidents revolve around vulnerable plugins, themes, and unpatched versions of the WordPress engine. In other words, the less third-party code the smaller the attack surface.

In case you can’t do without a specific WP component of that sort, be sure to do your homework and scrutinize it first. The things you should pay attention to include the user feedback, the date its latest build was released, and the PHP version it supports.

Additionally, check expert reviews on well-established security resources such as Wordfence.

Area 3: Availability

  • Updates

As far as the WordPress engine is concerned, it gets security updates automatically. However, the process isn’t as hassle-free with themes and plugins. You may have to check for updates and install them manually.

Furthermore, it might be a bumpy road because you can’t be sure that these third-party entities work flawlessly until they are tested extensively. Users often go through a lot of trial and error with them.

  • User Roles and Privileges

Sensitive data should be safe as long as it’s in the right hands. Therefore, you need to diversify access permissions to ascertain that each user can’t access more information than they actually need. A great way to manage privileges is to create user roles. The user roll technique will also prevent third-party components from tweaking the WordPress Core files.

  • Email

WordPress works with email at the level of the server it’s installed on. To protect it from snoops, you should consider using the SMTP communication protocol.

There are numerous plugins that facilitate the process of sending emails via a tamper-proof SMTP connection.

You will need to add a new Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record, which requires access to the domain name’s DNS settings. The above-mentioned record is tasked with ensuring that the domain allows the SMTP service to send emails.

  • Auditing

The importance of keeping tabs on data integrity stems from the fact that attackers will be able to modify the code if they manage to access the server.

Thankfully, this issue can be addressed by means of specially crafted plugins. For example, the security plugin by Sucuri is a good choice. It checks your entire file database for a plethora of harmful code samples.

  • Backups

If you’re using a trusted hosting provider, it most likely performs the whole backup routine for you.

Even if your provider doesn’t offer an automatic backup feature for your site, there are plenty of alternative options to choose from. For instance, some services can back it up to cloud storage like Amazon S3 or Dropbox.

  • Hosting services

Low-quality hosting services are a common source for adverse scenarios where WordPress websites run obsolete PHP versions. There tends to be a big gap between managed hosting and one that simply provides a directory with database access.

You would always be better off finding a reputable managed hosting for your WordPress site. Although this could be a pricey option, you can rest assured that the security will be at a decent level.

Summary

The WordPress engine itself is getting regular updates that deliver patches and improvements, and the ecosystem around it isn’t nearly as secure.

The good news is, if you follow safe practices when installing themes and plugins, adding new user roles, and writing new code, your website should be on the safe side.

The post WordPress Security Fundamentals appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Apps Hack Productivity productivity tools Tech Tools

7 Best Tools to Create a Highly Productive Work Environment

tools productive work

Most businesses work on several projects and the work requirements keep on changing every now and then. The real challenge kicks in when you need to work on multiple projects having tight schedules. With so many tasks lined up for you, it becomes difficult to manage work and get things done within the predefined time frame. And with the pandemic, it’s even more difficult to accomplish your career goals. Here are the seven best tools to create a highly productive work environment.

Often, the stress of work and the demand to stay productive throughout the work hours may result in your overworking and losing your efficiency.

However, things do not need to end this way always as there are tools that can help you get over such difficult situations.

I am talking about productivity tools that are powered by modern technology and designed specifically to make your professional life easy. These tools will help you create a productive work environment by promoting effective task management and team collaboration.

Why You Should Use Productivity Tools in the Workplace?

As the name suggests, these tools are capable of injecting productivity in the workplace. They have a wide range of features that tends to improve the output of users.

Most productivity tools address the blockades that restrict you from giving your best at work and help you in eliminating them.

Below are some of the most notable benefits of using productivity tools:

What to Look for in Productivity Tools?

If you search for productivity tools on the web, you may get overwhelmed seeing the innumerable options. However, just to make it clear, not every tool out there can help boost your productivity at work.

What you need to do is to look for some basic characteristics in a productivity tool before considering it as a good option, which are:

  • Interactive User Interface
  • Comes with a Set of Practical Features
  • High Performance
  • Scalable to Meet Growing Needs of Business and Teams
  • Affordable Pricing Plans
  • Good Customer Support
  • Available Across Multiple Devices

Best Productivity Tools To Use

Finding the right productivity tools that can meet your requirements as well as budget is a tedious task. To help you out, I am listing the 7 best and most desirable productivity tools that can be a perfect fit for you and your business. Here goes the list:

1. ProofHub

A centralized place to manage projects, tasks, and team is what defines ProofHub the best. It brings together all the essential tools that you and your team need to be productive and stay on top of work. The software comes preloaded with Kanban boards and Gantt charts that you can use to define project workflows and keep an eagle eye on the progress of each task.

ProofHub also makes team collaboration effective with features including online proofing, team announcement, and built-in chat interface. There’s a dedicated space to carry out real-time discussions. Simply put, this project management software can help your team to be on the same page and carry out their tasks to bring in the desired results.

Recommended Plan:

Ultimate Control – $89/month (billed annually), $99/month (billed monthly) with unlimited users.

2. Zapier

Zapier is an automation tool that connects the apps you use every day, such as Gmail, Slack, and Mailchimp, to make your workflow more efficient. For example, you can create a Zap — automated workflow — to save attachments from Gmail directly into DropBox, which saves you time and reduces the possibility of documents slipping through the cracks.

Zapier connects more than 2,000 apps — making the number of possible workflows virtually endless.

Recommended Plan:

Starter 19.99/month (billed annually), $24.99/month (billed monthly)

3. Todoist

Managing tasks becomes easier when you have the Todoist app on your side. With this app, you no longer need to remember tasks and their due dates as you can transfer everything onto to-do lists. Thus, you can channel your focus on executing tasks rather than remembering what lies next on your work schedule.

You can even create subtasks for a task, add comments, prioritize, and track activities associated with a task, and visualize all such information conveniently in the Task view. You can also delegate tasks to members and make sure that everyone is well aware of what they need to accomplish.

Recommended Plan:

Business – $5/user/month (billed annually), $6/user/month (billed monthly)

4. Slack

Slack is a popular and reliable tool designed to make team collaboration successful for any organization. Staying in the loop is of the utmost importance when multiple people are working together on a common project and Slack is just the perfect tool to make this possible. By using this tool, your team can stay connected with each other and start productive conversations instantly.

One of the key things that make Slack ideal for collaboration is the flexibility that it offers in terms of communication. Apart from direct messaging and group chat, you can use Slack to switch between audio and video conferencing. Moreover, the tool also supports file sharing as well; you can send documents, PDFs, images, videos, and more to your teammates without any hassle.

Recommended Plan:

Plus – $5/user/month (billed annually), $6/user/month (billed monthly)

5. Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud storage service that allows you to keep all your documents, designs, and all other work-related files organized. For becoming productive, it is important to keep a check on time wastage caused when searching for files in a clutter. Dropbox provides you a secure space where you can bring all your work together.

You can also create files and edit them directly within Dropbox – there’s no need to switch between different apps. You can also choose people with whom you want to share your work with and collaborate effortlessly. Another feature that you will find useful when collaborating with your team is Dropbox paper, which lets you create and share project timelines, to-do lists, etc.

Recommended Plan:

Dropbox Business (Advanced) – $20/user/month (billed annually), $25/user/month (billed monthly)

6. Toggl

Time tracking is extremely important when you want to maximize your productivity at the workplace. Toggl is a simple yet powerful time tracking tool that is going to make time management a painless process for you.

With Toggl, you can start or continue tracking time for a task with just a single click. All the time data is stored on a secure server and you can get detailed time reports to assess which projects/tasks are taking too long to get completed. If you wish to have a tool that lets you see how you and other members of your team are spending your work hours, then Toggl is just the perfect choice.

Recommended Plan:

Premium – $18/user/month (billed annually), $20/user/month (billed monthly)

7. GanttPRO

GanttPRO is a Gantt chart based tool that you can use to manage your tasks as well as your projects in an efficient manner. The interactive Gantt charts offer a timeline view of projects that will help you manage your resources smartly. You can also set task duration and create dependencies among tasks on a Gantt chart.

The tool also has a board view using which you can organize tasks as cards. Additionally, GanttPRO is a great tool to use if collaboration is what bothers you the most. Attaching files with tasks, adding comments, getting notification for task activities are some features that you’ll admire while working in a team.

Recommended Plan:

Team – $7.90/user/month (billed annually) (minimum 5 users)

Conclusion

Whether you are a manager who needs to lead teams and drive projects towards success or an employee who needs to finish all the assigned tasks before due time, there are tools that can help you out. Pick a suitable productivity tool from the ones listed above and start managing your office work like a pro.

Image Credit: Elly Fairytale; Pexels

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