Malvertising: The Next Big Threat

Deadly ransomware and zero-hour exploits have been making headlines over the past few months. But while you’ve been wringing your hands over protecting your clients’ files, cyber criminals have been building out attacks on one of the fast-growing malware platforms: malvertising. According to security firm RiskIQ, malicious ads have increased by 260% in the first half of this year compared to the same time frame in 2014.

What Is Malvertising?

Malvertising is a form of malicious code that distributes malware through online advertising. The code can be hidden within an ad creative, such as a swf file, embedded on the web page itself, or bundled with software downloads. Malvertising can be displayed on any website, even those considered the most trustworthy. Gone are the days when your clients could simply avoid P2P and pornography sites and stay safe. Malvertising is everywhere, from YouTube to Reuters to Yahoo!

How Does It Infect Users?

One of two ways. Some forms of malvertising utilize classic social engineering tactics in order to persuade users into infecting themselves without knowing. A pop-up might appear telling users they are infected and need to download software to prevent it—only to actually install the malware. Or malicious ads tailored to user browsing habits will entice them to click and then deliver the payload.

The second, and more frightening, technique is the “drive-by download.” Just loading the web page that contains the malicious ad results in infection. Most users won’t even realize it’s happening. No amount of safe browsing habits will save you and your end users.

Why Is Malvertising Scary?

Malvertising represents a huge threat not only because of the size of the campaigns, but also the ease of deployment. Attacks are now happening at “Internet scale” with massive reach. Most recently, Malware-bytes discovered a colossal malvertising campaign targeting Yahoo!, which receives nearly seven billion visits each month. In addition, attacks are easy to get away with because of a decentralized ad space online, which makes them difficult to flag—and especially effective.

Small business owners should be aware of the potential fallout from a malvertising attack. Computers may be susceptible to the following:

  • Identity, financial, or data theft, as well as extortion via ransom-ware
  • Computers that can be hijacked into a botnet and manipulated into being used for criminal activities
  • Exploit kits delivering even more lethal malware that can render machines and servers useless

 

 

Serious World Problems: Don’t worry, Google is on it

There are many problems these days; Climate change, poverty, Illiteracy, debt crises, these are just a few. Google has decided to give solving these problems a try and created the “Solve for X” initiative. This project draws together some of Google’s best minds and asks them to imaginatively tackle some of the most perplexing global issues. The hope is that the “Solve for X” brain trust will come out with revolutionary solutions using current technologies in a way previously unthought-of.

Tackling the biggest global issues

Of course, it’s not that simple. The “Solve for X” brain trust will be taking on issues that have long befuddled world leaders. Nevertheless, the people behind this project are nothing if not enthusiastic. They are saying the work happening here is comparable to the groundbreaking thinking that was necessary to send humans to the moon. On the “Solve for X” website, Google talks about it this way: “This combination of things—a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it and the breakthrough technology to make it happen—is the essence of a moonshot.”

Tackling water scarcity

The Mashable.com recently ran an intriguing feature story on the “Solve for X” project. Mashable cited the account of a participant in a “Solve for X” retreat who said that the minds gathered with him were concentrating on the huge issue of global water scarcity. What kind of solutions are “Solve for X” members creating to cope with this issue? One involved forward osmosis with recycled ammonium salts. If you have no idea what that means, don’t fret—the people at “Solve for X” do.

The need for technology brain trusts

Whether or not “Solve for X” produces real solutions for the world’s problems, the idea definitely has value. Technology is commonly developed with a single function in mind, usually for entertainment. That said, it’s likely there are many ways we’re able to use current technologies that we haven’t considered. Ideally, “Solve for X” will help us tap into that potential.

Nanotechnology: Not the Stuff of Science Fiction

You hear the word “nanotechnology,” and what do you think of? Sci-fi, maybe robots, something along those lines? The truth is, nanotechnology is making life less difficult for all of us. At its core, nanotechnology is the science of working with matter on an atomic and molecular scale. The hope is that scientists can use nanotechnology to create new materials and products that boast a variety of applications.

The practical side of nanotechnology

As an example, Science Daily ran a feature story about scientists creating a method to use nanotechnology to lessen the amount of friction in car engines and machines. If this technology becomes commonplace, it can help extend the lives of machines and engines and help them operate more efficiently. According to the Science Daily story, a team of scientists developed tiny polymer particles that were distributed in automobile engine base oils. When tested under conditions that simulated those found in car engines, these tiny particles were found to have a phenomenal ability to reduce friction.

More efficient motors

Even when distributed at low concentrations they decreased friction considerably, much more so then the friction additives currently being used in many industries today. How much more do they reduce friction? By about 55 percent more! Nanotechnology is a growing industry so expect more breakthroughs like this. In fact it is growing so quickly that the United States recently released a national strategy to be certain that environmental, health, and safety research requirements are addressed in the field.

The emerging world of nanotechnology

Next time you consider nanotechnology think of your car’s engine. Someday nanotechnology might be responsible for saving you lots of money due to your engine using less gas.

Serious World Problems: Don’t worry, Google is on it

There are many problems these days; Climate change, poverty, Illiteracy, debt crises, these are just a few. Google has decided to give solving these problems a try and created the “Solve for X” initiative. This project draws together some of Google’s best minds and asks them to imaginatively tackle some of the most perplexing global issues. The hope is that the “Solve for X” brain trust will come out with revolutionary solutions using current technologies in a way previously unthought-of.

Tackling the biggest global issues

Of course, it’s not that simple. The “Solve for X” brain trust will be taking on issues that have long befuddled world leaders. Nevertheless, the people behind this project are nothing if not enthusiastic. They are saying the work happening here is comparable to the groundbreaking thinking that was necessary to send humans to the moon. On the “Solve for X” website, Google talks about it this way: “This combination of things—a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it and the breakthrough technology to make it happen—is the essence of a moonshot.”

Tackling water scarcity

The Mashable.com recently ran an intriguing feature story on the “Solve for X” project. Mashable cited the account of a participant in a “Solve for X” retreat who said that the minds gathered with him were concentrating on the huge issue of global water scarcity. What kind of solutions are “Solve for X” members creating to cope with this issue? One involved forward osmosis with recycled ammonium salts. If you have no idea what that means, don’t fret—the people at “Solve for X” do.

The need for technology brain trusts

Whether or not “Solve for X” produces real solutions for the world’s problems, the idea definitely has value. Technology is commonly developed with a single function in mind, usually for entertainment. That said, it’s likely there are many ways we’re able to use current technologies that we haven’t considered. Ideally, “Solve for X” will help us tap into that potential.

Don’t Squelch Creativity in Your Workplace

Do you run a workplace in which staff members feel free to express new ideas? Do your workers come to you with new plans or suggestions about ways to run company meetings more productively? Have your employees ever introduced ideas for a new marketing plan or recommended topics for the company’s blog?

If not, then you might be managing a workplace in which employee creativity is being squelched. Today a lack of creativity in your company can condemn your firm to second-tier status. It may even lead your company out of business.

Creative employees frequently come up with key ideas for better promoting your products, enhancing the functionality of the company website, improving production efficiencies, and shaving dollars off your monthly expenses. However, employees won’t exercise their creativity if you do not first encourage them to do so.

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity is to listen closely to employees when they bring their ideas to you. You can also get ideas from them, by sending out an email asking them if they have any strategies for improvement, whether big or small. When a worker does have an idea, listen to it! You don’t automatically have to use their idea, but it’s important to show them respect.

Dismissing an idea before you have heard it or not giving it your full consideration will dissuade your employees and defeat your purpose. Instead of having a bunch of innovative thinkers working for you, you may end up with a group of people just going through the motions for their paychecks.

To truly encourage creativity, reward those employees who do come up with strong ideas. This could mean having to pay a small bonus to those employees whose ideas you use. It could mean praising employees in company newsletters or memos. It could even mean an in-person “thank you.”

Many people want a job that allows them to be creative. It stimulates their minds and prevents boring redundancy. Many employees also have ideas on how to improve their place of business; they just haven’t voiced them to you. So encourage them to let you know what they think. It doesn’t mean that the way you have been doing things is bad; it just means that they may have ideas that you many not have thought of. Regardless, you and your business will reap the benefits of their creativity and your employees will be happier for it.

What is this Pinterest Thing, and What Does it Mean to Me

Tired of social media? Ignoring it all together? Well, join the bandwagon, because it’s not going away! In fact a new site recently popped up that is gaining popularity: Pinterest. Pinterest is a bit different than sites like Facebook and Twitter, since it focuses purely on the interests of the users. This encourages creativity by allowing you to share your interests with others rather than just posting updates about your day-to-day life.

But that doesn’t explain what it is. The meaning is in the name. Pinterest is a combination of the words “pin” and “interest”. Inside your account you have “pinboards,” similar to bulletin boards. You could make these public or not, and then “pin” images of things you are interested in onto these and make notes about these images.

Creating Pinterest Categories

Creating categories will let you organize your account and permit people to decide what in your account they want to focus on. You could choose to share all of your pinboards with other users or only a couple. You can not only make notes regarding the images you pin to your pinboard, but you can also add links to sites where you found the pictures.

The Social Part of Pinterest

While Pinterest has a different approach to social media, its main purpose continues to be social interaction. You can choose to follow as many people as you want as well as only follow the pinboards you’re interested in. Say someone has a collection of local restaurants; you’re able to follow that, while choosing not to follow her collection of “all things cute.”

Joining Pinterest

This is the most difficult part about Pinterest. You have to be invited to participate. You can visit pinterest.com and request an invite but there is no telling just how long it will take to receive your invitation. One surefire way is to ask a friend that has a Pinterest account to invite you.

Dressing for Success in the Workplace

It’s not an easy task to find a job these days. So when you do get called for an interview you’ll want to make the best impression. There’s one easy way to do this: dress for it.

That’s right. What you wear to work and to job interviews still matters. Yes, a lot more people are telecommuting. More people are arriving to the office in jeans and t-shirts. However, that does not mean that you should dress casually for an interview.

So, follow this easy rule for any job interview: err on the side of overdressed. Even if the company you happen to be interviewing for has a relaxed work environment, when you show up in jeans and a sweatshirt you’ll make a bad first impression. Dressing up shows that you respect the interviewer and take the position you’re interviewing for seriously.

This applies to the workplace too. Even a casual environment wants their employees looking sharp. So avoid grabbing a random t-shirt and the jeans you have been wearing all week off the floor. Think about what you’re wearing and try to look professional. Showing that you simply put effort into your appearance sets you apart in your workplace, and that can be helpful in the event the boss is looking to promote someone in your department!

Of course, you still have to be a good worker. You can be the best-dressed person on the planet, but it will not help you if you don’t do your job well. All things being equal, the better-dressed employee will certainly make the better impression.

7 People You Should be Following on Twitter

So now that you have Twitter you have probably followed coworkers, clients, and friends. But you may be interested in more then what your coworker did over the weekend.

You’re lucky: Great thinkers, legislators, celebrities, sports stars, scientists, and entrepreneurs all have their own Twitter feeds, and you can catch a glimpse into their daily lives just by following them.

Here are 7 of the more interesting people who you should be following on Twitter:

Conan O’Brien: This talk-show host is a master of the absurd. His posts are always witty and clever. If you’re looking to follow somebody that will give you a mid-day chuckle, follow @ConanOBrien. Also, he doesn’t promote his show through his tweets.
Marissa Mayer: Mayer is the first female engineer at Google, you can get a glimpse into the life of a tech expert as well as learn some interesting things about Google by following her @Marissamayer.
Mike Massimino: Head in the clouds? Then follow @Astro_Mike, the Twitter home to NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. This astronaut can provide you with the inside scoop on life at NASA and a glimpse into what it’s like to go into space. (He also made a recent cameo on the Tv show The Big Bang Theory. And, yes, he tweeted about it.)
Rainn Wilson: Chances are you’ll know Rainn better as Dwight Schrute from The Office. If you find his character quirky and entertaining, you might also enjoy his tweets. Follow @Rainnwilson. Here is a recent Tweet from him: “If I had a bird, I would call it James VanDerBeak.”
Ryan Penagos: If you love comics, you have to know Ryan Penagos. He’s the editorial director of Marvel Comics. He’s also a busy Tweeter at @Agent_M. Penagos and recently Tweeted regarding a new Spider-Man video game and gave his thoughts on his favorite comics. He likes the work of writer Brian Michael Bendis.
Barack Obama: Maybe you didn’t vote for him, but Barack Obama is the president of the United States. How can you not follow his Twitter feed? Have a look at what the Commander in Chief has to say at @BarackObama.
Bill Gates: Bill Gates has made an undeniable impact in the tech world. Learn what’s going on in his life and about the charitable causes he and his wife support @BillGates.

Will Windows Phone make Microsoft Cool

Microsoft is everywhere; their products are used throughout the world. And, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chief, is among the most widely known names in the field of technology. That said, Microsoft is missing one thing, it has never had a “cool” image. But the launch of Windows Phone, Microsoft’s new smartphone software, may alter our opinion.

Microsoft has long had a reputation of being slightly uninspired. Remember the Zune mp3 player or the Kin phone? You may not, they were short lived, and are illustrations of Microsoft products that have shot and missed.

That said, Microsoft’s Windows Phone software has captured some interest. The Windows Phone has been received well by both critics and consumers.

Windows Phone draws approval for its vibrant on-screen typography and its mosaic of animated tiles on its home screen. This presents a visual contrast with the home screen of the iPhone. The operating system receives points, too, for making it easier for users to access social networks. When friends or family members post pictures, messages, or updates to Twitter or Facebook, the tiles representing these services pop into life on Windows Phone-equipped devices.

Even with all these features and praise Windows Phone hasn’t been the biggest seller. This is perhaps because of the phones that come loaded with the OS. Many individuals believe these phones are dull and wireless services providers are still pushing the iPhone and Android in a big way.

The Windows Phone, though, does provide some hope for Microsoft’s attempts to capture some cool. Certainly, big sales and ubiquitous products are important, but a touch of hipness never hurt a business, either.

Moving Beyond the Mouse: Connecting with Our Computers in the Future

We’ve already had a taste of mouse-free computing. Touchscreens on our smartphones and tablets let us search the Internet, compose e-mail messages, send texts, and stream movies, all without using a mouse. So what do you think this will lead us to down the road? How will we interact with our computers in the coming decades? If we ditch the mouse, what comes next?

Gesture sensing

Consumers who play video games have used this for some time. The Wii and the PlayStation employ gesture-sensing technology. This technology allows users to hold a wireless remote and utilize their body movements to swing a racket, jog in place, or shoot menacing robots on screen. Even though this technology has not been perfected it’s not difficult to envision how gesture sensing could be applied to computing.

Multi-touch technology

Multi-touch technology is the one other interactive innovation. This is what is being applied whenever you tap your smartphone screen to gain access to programs, or swipe your finger across the surface of your tablet to change screens. In the past few years we have seen a lot of growth in this technology. Do you think this will end up being the primary way we navigate around our computers?

Voice recognition

Another possible technological advancement that could replace the mouse involves voice recognition. Rather than clicking on a mouse button to open up a program, users can simply tell their computers to open a particular word file or close iTunes. Some of this already exists, most notable is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which allows users to dictate reports and stories on their word-processing programs. Again, the tech still needs refinement, but a future where we talk to our computers isn’t all that far-fetched.

No matter what new technologies arise or how refined the ones we spoke about get, the odds are that the mouse won’t disappear all together. It has served us well, and we know we are able to rely on it.