Is your Klout Score important?

KloutLogoYour Klout score is social media’s version of your credit score. The closer to 100, the more influential you are. It basically scores your status in the social media world summarizing down to one number how influential you are. But is this score really important to you and me or is it simply something that is relevant to obscure marketing insiders that measure things for a living? A lot of people criticize Klout as simply more proof that we are overly-obsessed with social media. But regardless of your industry, chances are there are a good number of people for whom a good Klout score can be valuable. If you are looking for any type of job that involves some level of marketing, having a good Klout score can be helpful. Indeed there have been many stories about how recruiters are using Klout score as one factor in some job interviews, some even going so far as to immediately discard any candidate with a low score. But even if you are not in marketing, eventually you could benefit from being an influencer in social media in some way. Although most of us use Facebook or Twitter in a casual way, at some point you will consider using these powerful platforms to talk about a cause you care about. When that happens, whether you are looking for a job, promoting cancer awareness, or simply looking for a lost pet, your level of influence could be of great benefit to you. For most, your Klout score is not worth obsessing over. But if you use social media in any way for personal or professional reasons, you should know it may be a number worth keeping your eye on.  For more on what the Klout score means, follow the link to Wendy Frink’s article below.



Wireless Over-the-top TV

The Holy Grail of consumer TV service is Wireless Over-the-top TV. The ability to order TV channels and movies, a-la-carte and have them delivered to any device over your wireless internet. A service such as Netflix with the capabilities to fully replace your cable service with popular channels, live events, movies, sitcoms, and news all from the cloud in a pay-per-use model. Most consumers would jump all over this kind of service and there are plenty of entrepreneurs and businesses that would be eager to make it happen. The advantages for consumers are tremendous; pay for what you need and unbundle it from the last-mile ISPs and cable companies. The reasons we do not yet have this option are all commercial and legal hurdles not technological. There are just too many stake-holders that want to prevent any change to the current cable TV model of selling bundled packages. If there were no government oversight, cable TV companies would have no problem slowing down any content which they deem as competitive (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc). Let’s hope there are enough visionaries out there that can counteract these forces. Could the recently reported deal between Dish Network and Disney be an important step in this direction? Hopefully as details of this deal become public, we’ll be one step closer to the ultimate in consumer choice.



Change your password often: why do it?

password text boxesEver wonder why experts recommend that you change your password often? If you have never been hacked, why bother right? Let’s face it, using the same username and password in multiple sites is a common practice, but even if you actually have different passwords, should you bother? And how often is it necessary to change it? Let’s understand the threat first. Websites that store your passwords are supposed to store them in an encrypted form, this is common practice but you really have no guarantee that it is actually happening. You also have no guarantee that a website is fully secure; read up on SQL injection attacks to understand how passwords and other information can be retrieved from misconfigured websites. Even popular sites have proven how hard security really is. Over 6 million user accounts were compromised back in 2012 when LinkedIn was hacked. Software tools are out there to crack password encryption quickly and these tools are easy and free; one such tool is HashCat. Aside from HashCat a hacker also needs a dictionary or word list. A popular list used by hackers is the rockyou list that was published by hackers back in 2009 and exposed over 32 million unencrypted passwords. The reason for the specifics here is to allow you to Google this information and understand the threat better. Although the methods used to encrypt are still technically strong, these tools really reduce the importance of strong encryption. If your password is common, it can be cracked in minutes regardless of the level of encryption used. The understanding of what passwords we use has improved drastically over the last few years because of these password lists becoming easily obtainable. Hackers can more quickly find commonly used passwords and variations. The more of these leaks occur, the more likely a hacker already has your password and crack the encryption within a matter of minutes. Common practices such as capitalizing certain letter, exchanging letter O for zero or the letter E for 3, are already known by hackers. The easiest way to protect yourself is to use passwords that are random, that include numbers and symbols, and are at least eight characters long. And if you are using the same passwords across sites at least use different passwords for banking and email accounts. Also, never access your email and banking sites from computers you don’t trust or from public wifi unless the wifi is encrypted and your website displays an HTTPS address.

Amazon Reinventing Itself

Why are there so many large successful businesses that fail to see changes in their industry and end up falling behind? BlackBerry, BlockBuster, and Kodak just to name a few. In the recent past there have been popular examples of companies that are on the other end of the spectrum and have reinvented themselves and come out stronger; IBM and Apple are two popular examples. But it appears that Amazon is quickly becoming another example. According to Jeff Bezos, AWS (Amazon Web Services) could soon become their largest business. So a company that has always been known for being an online retailer is quickly becoming the largest player in Cloud Computing services, otherwise known as Infrastructure as a Service. This has been obvious for some time; but for this type of business to become even larger than online retail is truly impressive. All this occurring because Jeff Bezos had the revolutionary idea to use a bunch of spare computing capacity to make some extra money.

Watch out for cheating


Ars Technica reported this week that a group of students in Southern California were caught connecting to the school’s computers and changing their grades. Apparently they used an old fashion method to gain access. When the teachers were not looking, they connected key loggers to their computers. These devices can be very small and connect to the USB / keyboard ports on the back of the computer. They capture everything that is typed in and store it in their memory. After they are retrieved, the perpetrator can determine everything that has been typed in, including passwords. If you are a teacher, it’s one more thing you need to check for, especially if you have tech savvy students.


Security on the Internet

Unfortunately many of us are still not practicing safe security habits when online. This week’s example of how Naoki Hiroshima’s coveted one-letter twitter handle got stolen teaches us that it is indeed hard to protect ourselves. Long story short, basically some businesses out there apparently will authorize access to your account just by providing the last four digits of a credit card. What can you do to protect yourself? Protecting yourself against these types of social engineering attacks is indeed difficult. But here are some basic tips. When making purchases online, provide only the information which is necessary. Try your best not to use the same password on multiple accounts. Use services like Lastpass to help manage multiple passwords. If that is too much to ask, at least keep a higher level of security on your banking and email accounts. Remember that your email account is how most services authenticate you and where they send password reset instructions. Use the most complex and unique passwords you can think of for your email. If a hacker steals your email, they have open access to most of your digital life. Also remember that stealing passwords in bulk is becoming all too common. Although most services may store your email encrypted, there are many tools out there that can break into common passwords within a matter of hours or minutes. The longer and more random your password is, the more protected you are. Finally, any time a service you use announces a possible data breach, change your password and never use that password again on any other service.

Sprint / T-mobile merger

T-mobThis month there was a meeting between Sprint board members and the Department of Justice to discuss Sprint’s intentions to acquire T-mobile. It is interesting to think back to when AT&T made efforts to acquire T-mobile a couple of years ago and it was basically struck down by the feds. Since then, T-mobile has invested billions of dollars in upgrades to their network and has also been on a marketing campaign attacking the other carriers, especially AT&T. Their CEO, John Legere, is attracting a cult-like following thanks to his brilliant marketing stunts, including crashing one of AT&T’s parties. Their Un-carrier plans have grown their subscriber base and brought in one of their best quarters in years. Competition is healthy and having four nationwide wireless carriers in the US is already too little. Whatever the end result, let’s hope it’s the best thing for consumers.

David Karim, Cloud Guru