Monthly: September 2017

Digital Innovation

IoT and GoT Have Something In Common: Feudalism

 

It’s 2017, and everyone is on the Internet, seemingly all of the time. You could be scrolling through your social media pages at a red light or shopping for something on Amazon during your lunch. The Internet has made our lives much easier but has also put us at risk. It’s not just the Internet itself; it’s the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects with internet connectivity and the communication that occurs between them.

IoT applications include Smart Home, the Apple Watch, AT&T’s Connected Car, Amazon Echo, and the Fit Bit. It seems that now everything from dishwashers to doorknobs requires an internet connection, but this has caused many problems. Recently, internet hackers broke into a casino through its fish tank. This tank had internet connected sensors that measured temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors, then to the computer used to control them, and ultimately to the other part of the casino’s network. Our devices and products are always gathering information about us and our environment. That information is valuable not just for us, but for people who want to sell us things.

A good example of this is the Roomba, a useful robotic vacuum cleaner. The high-end models can create maps of its users’ homes to navigate while cleaning. Roomba’s manufacturer may plan to share those maps with its commercial partners.

It can be argued that even after we purchase a device, the manufacturer still owns it. A smartphone is a great example. Companies claim they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. This started to become the norm even before IoT. John Deere told farmers that they don’t actually own their tractors. Therefore, farmers can’t fix their farm equipment on their own or take it to a repair shop of their choosing. Tractors and other farm equipment must be returned to the manufacturer for repair.

Currently, we are still allowed to paint our houses whatever shade we want and have our cars repaired at whatever shop we choose. The expansion of the Internet of Things seems to be steadily moving to the Middle Ages. This expansion could be the return to feudalism: a system of medieval Europe where the king owned almost everything including everyone else’s property. Peasants depended on their relationship with the king and lived on land granted by him. Workers didn’t own the tools they used for farming, carpentry, and blacksmithing meaning that their way of life and making money was completely in the hands of their ruler.

Don’t freak out just yet! These problems become public relations nightmares for the companies involved, and there is overwhelming support to return power and privacy to consumers. Think about the Internet of Things the next time you walk to your car after leaving the bar, and your phone tells you how many minutes you are away from home. Many people love that their life is made simpler by the power of the Internet and accept the Internet of Things with open arms. However, beware of the hackers and those companies that are directly selling your information to control how you consume.

Technology

2017: The Age of Hackers

 

2017 has been a year full of high-profile data breaches. Consumer credit score company Equifax revealed that hackers accessed up to 143 million customer account details on July 29th. This breach means that details such as names, social security numbers, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers from more than 200,000 people have potentially been stolen. Verizon announced that phone numbers, names, and pin codes of six million Verizon customers were left online for nine days. Voter data belonging to almost 200 million Americans have been found online. Chipotle’s payment system was hacked resulting in hundreds of people’s payment information being unsecured. 2.5 million gamers that use the XBOX360 and PlayStation PSP forums had their account details compromised; email addresses, passwords and IP addresses were leaked. One of the most bizarre breaches took place at a North American Casino by using an Internet-connected fish tank. This fish tank was connected to a PC that regulated the temperature, food, and cleanliness of the tank. Out of many computer crimes, it has been described as one of the most ingenious system hacks.

Here are the nine most common ways that hackers find their way:

  • Email Social Engineering/Spear Phishing
    • Cyberspies can get into a network by sending an email or instant message to a targeted victim that will include an attachment to a website. Many times, the spies customize the email for the recipient.
  • Virus Infections
    • Hackers will implant a piece of code onto a website so that anyone who comes on the site will be immediately infected.
  • USB Malware
    • Hackers will place malware onto a USB so it will infect the computer upon use.
  • Scanning Networks
    • Hackers can remotely scan servers to determine vulnerabilities and exploit it by sending a command to the server causing it to crash.
  • Social Engineering Passwords
    • Hackers have various ways to trick users into giving their credentials. If hackers can find out the credentials of that user, they can log in as that user and access network resources.
  • Wifi Compromises
    • Hackers can invade a system by exploiting an open wireless network through unsecured or poorly secured wifi.
  • Stolen Credentials from Third-Party Sites
    • A good example of this is when cyber spies look for victims on third-party sites, like Linkedin.
  • Compromising Web-Based Databases
    • When someone enters personal information on a website, it gets stored in that company’s database. Cyberspies can put in a specially crafted code to cause the database to unlock.
  • Password Reset Services to Hijack Accounts
    • Hackers can simply find out the answers to possible security questions by researching the victim on social networking sites and other places.
  • Insiders 
    • Cyberspies still resort to old-fashioned disguise techniques. Spies can find a way to get hired by companies and, upon hire, get into the system.

In this digital age, it is imperative to know the steps to take if you or your business is hacked. Even the smallest businesses now have to worry about network security and protection. If your company has been hacked, it is necessary to investigate the scope of the compromise, contain the attack by pulling all systems offline simultaneously, remediate and repair systems to prevent future attacks, and communicate with your customer base as soon as possible. Many businesses have plans set to prevent security breaches or to recover quickly in the event of one. At Velocity Agency, we are constantly staying abreast the ever-growing digital world to make sure that our employees, clients, and information are secured properly and understand that as the industry grows, hackers are learning and growing as well. We hope you stay safe out there!

Social Media

It’s a Facebook Thing: Connecting Users With The Products They Want

 

You’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you see a sweatshirt that has your name or your profession in a catchphrase, and it’s only $30. It feels weird to see something so distinctly “you” pop up. So, how does Facebook do that? If you feel like Facebook has more ads than usual, you aren’t dreaming it up; Facebook has been hitting all of us with more ads that are more relevant to us. Although it may seem unnerving at first, Facebook’s data collection tools are fascinating and can often connect users with products they want.

 

Facebook uses your profile to create personalized ads. If you like Target’s Facebook page, then Target will start delivering ads to you. Facebook will deliver ads to you based on what your friends like. However, it’s not just what you and your friends are doing alone that generates ads; it’s also demographic information. Major life events like getting engaged or married will produce content specifically for you. If you are recently engaged and post it to Facebook, wedding dresses and wedding venues will start to populate your feed. Kind of cool, huh?

When an advertiser creates an on Facebook, it can select all sorts of parameters, so it reaches the right people. For example, if someone is trying to sell a swimsuit: They can target it towards people that live near large bodies of water or has swimming listed in their interests. The more information you put about yourself on Facebook such as your age, where you live, where you graduated college, activities you like and where you work: This all will determine what ads are delivered to you.

If you don’t include all of this information on your profile, Facebook turns to your friends to fill the gaps. Facebook only needs to know one particular thing about you, like where you live, and what your friends provide to create a reasonable demographic that advertisers can use to reach you.

Let’s say you have a Facebook account just for the sake of having a profile. Facebook collects data through companies such as Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon, and BlueKai. These companies collect information about you through things like store loyalty cards, mailing lists, public records, browser cookies and more. So, if you are a customer at Starbucks and utilize their rewards program, you will see a Starbucks ad pop up on your Facebook at some point, or even a tee-shirt with a coffee cup on it saying Coffee Addict.

These data collection companies know more than you would think: race, gender, buying habits, economic status and more. If you don’t use loyalty cards or enroll in reward programs when you shop, Facebook still has you pinpointed. If you purchase a car at a dealership, they will more than likely ask you for your email to send you reminders about car servicing and more. That dealership wants to advertise on Facebook, so they upload a list of all of the email addresses they have. That data is then made private, and Facebook pairs the email addresses with the one you registered on Facebook. If these match, you might see an ad from that dealership on Facebook. Your friends might see the same ad from the dealership because they are reaching out to their target audience.

There’s no reason to feel a little spooked by all of this, but all of this information is kept private. Facebook uses a system called hashing to prevent from all of your private information from leaking. When you went to the grocery store last week, and you tried a new brand of yogurt that has just launched and used your discount card at check-out, Facebook might have delivered an ad for that yogurt that you had not seen previously. Don’t worry; it’s not because your phone heard you say how delicious it was at first bite.

Here at Velocity Agency, we pride ourselves in our knowledge of data collection and ad targeting. If you are trying to expand your target audience, we can help you take your brand to new heights. We have the knowledge and experience to make those internet users stop mid-scroll and CLICK the purchase button.

Seasonal

Brands Lead The Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

Hurricane Harvey was the first major storm of its kind to make landfall in the US in over a decade and caused mass destruction along the southern border of the nation. Companies from all over the country are offering funds, goods, their employees and offices to help with the relief. At this point, corporate donations have already surpassed $157 million.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have pledged $2 million to the mayor of Houston. They also have plans to match customer donations on a two-to-one basis. These funds will add up to $10 million that will be donated to the relief effort. Dell is a Texas-based company that has been around for decades and has become a global brand of choice in the computer industry. They pledged a whopping $36 million to assist Texas. The Starbucks Foundation has pledged $250,000, and the chain is encouraging its customers to chip in by allowing them to make a direct donation to the organizations aiding Texas in any of its coffee shops across the country. Home Depot is pledging one million to numerous organizations that are helping out with relief efforts and has put together its Team Depot volunteers who are on their way to help with the cleanup effort.

When Hurricane Harvey hit, people tried to prepare for the worst: buying up provisions from grocery stores and stocking up on water. Because of this, companies raised the price of water bottles to make even more profit. Companies such as Best Buy are being scrutinized by the public for their price-gouging during a time when people have lost their cars, homes, and even loved ones. Anheuser-Busch sent over 255,000 cans of emergency drinking water to Corpus Christie, Houston, and Austin to aid Hurricane Harvey response efforts and donated all of the profits to The American Red Cross.

Even fashion companies have stepped in to help. For example, Lime Crime, a trendy makeup company, will be donating 100 % of sales of their Beet it Matte Velvetine lipstick to help Houston. Keep in mind that many animals were affected by Hurricane Harvey too, which is why companies like PetSmart are giving one million dollars to animal welfare agencies that have been working to rescue and relocate homeless pets in the storm-ravaged areas.

It’s amazing that so many companies have been doing everything they can to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. However, it’s important to ensure your business’s disaster relief donations are well received. For smaller companies, your efforts can be coordinated with an accredited organization or the local government to determine whether your donations qualify. Depending on your industry and your business’s size, you may have access to supplies or service that will be useful to victims and aid workers. Media Companies have worked hard to list companies and organizations that will accept certain donations so that the general public can help.

In the corporate world, it’s all about competition. It’s the reason why we see CVS open across the street from Walgreens. It’s the reason why commercials will refer to their competitors and claim they are better. In times of Disaster, these companies come together for one unified reason: to help. Now the incredibly powerful Hurricane Irma is barreling towards Florida, and everyone in America is watching worried that Florida will be in worse shape than Houston was after Harvey. If you missed your opportunity to help after Harvey, here’s your chance for you or your company to employ a plan to help.

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