Actrix Online Informer – June 2015
The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep
Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to
help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.
Welcome to the June Actrix Online Informer
Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for June 2015. This month we tell the scary tale of Mat Honan, a well-known tech writer who had his entire digital life compromised by a ruthless hacker who either deleted or destroyed all his accounts. In response, we share a number of tips you can take to make sure the same doesn't happen to you.
We finish things off this month with a few recent posts from our blog, as well as the opportunity to name Microsoft's new internet browser.
This month's YouTube feature is a short film created by a bunch of talented New Zealanders to show the dangerous effects of substance addiction. The film is both beautiful and haunting, as we watch the protaganist descend deeper and deeper into a helpless sense of dependence.
A couple of years ago Mat Honan, a tech writer for WIRED, wrote a terrifying article on how he lost his entire digital life in just one hour.
"In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook." - Mat Honan
It was an unfortunate event for Mat, but he is not the only victim. What happened to Mat could happen to anyone, at any time! Our digital life is very important so we need to take the appropriate precautionary measures in order to protect it.
Provided below are seven tips to help you protect your digital life:
1. Backup your data
Make a habit of backing up your data using multiple sources. Cloud backup services are certainly the most popular, modern and convenient way to backup your data; you should also consider backing up your data using a portable hard drive.
2. Strengthen your passwords
There are two simple rules to remember: choose complex, difficult to guess passwords and do not use the same password for all your online accounts! If thinking about managing dozens of complex passwords gives you nightmares, remember you can always use a password manager to make your life easier!
3. Always use an HTTPS connection
Most popular websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and all banking websites allow you to establish a connection to their servers via an HTTPS connection. To know if the website you are accessing is secure, make sure the web address begins with https ("s" stands for secure) and has a closed padlock on the navigation bar or footer.
4. Strengthen your security questions
Security questions are used as an extra layer of security by websites in order to verify users' identity and help users reset their passwords. This feature is often used by hackers to hack accounts by guessing the answers asked during the password reset process. However, you can make it hard for the hackers by carefully choosing the security questions and your answers to those security questions.
5. Opt for 2-step verification
Google and Facebook both offer 2-step verification features to make the login process more secure. The 2-step verification feature requires users to provide an additional pin code (usually sent to your mobile phone) along with the password. This can be a little annoying, but it is a great security feature you can use to protect your account.
6. Enable login notifications
The login notification feature is a great security feature offered by many banking websites (even Facebook has it). When you use this feature, the website sends a notification (via email or SMS) when your account is accessed from a computer or mobile device that you have not used before.
7. Do not respond to forged emails
If you receive an email asking for account, password, banking, or credit card information, make sure you do not respond to it or click on any links embedded in the email. The links may look legitimate, but they will probably go somewhere else entirely. Somewhere bad.
New Zealand phishing attempts increasingly realistic
Phishing attacks aimed at New Zealanders are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Email messages pretending to be from local schools and organisations are increasing the chances a user might accidentally click through to potentially harmful websites.
One message received last month was almost indiscernible from a legitimate email, with only a misspelling and odd formatting as the only clues the message wasn't legitimate:
The message's signature details are from a real school based in Kihikihi. The contact details were likely harvested, or scraped, from the school's public website.
If you have any doubts regarding a message, even if it appears to be from a trusted sender, delete it and contact the sender through alternate means to confirm they sent it.
If the email is legitimate, it can always be re-sent.
Microsoft kills off Internet Explorer
The days of Internet Explorer are numbered as software giant Microsoft confirms it's killing off the web browser.
Microsoft will introduce a faster, rebranded browser which was codenamed Project Spartan.
Microsoft marketing manager Chris Capossela said the new browser didn't have a name yet and research was going into what to call it.
Submit your suggestions for the new Microsoft browser name on the Actrix Blog!
Grim Reaper stalks ISP advert
Dying to get online? It's a bit early for April Fools Day but that hasn't stopped the Internet from noticing a peculiar image used by a Napier ISP.
Upon closer inspection it appears the Grim Reaper is stalking the older gentleman to the right, peering in through the French doors.
The stock photo originates from Shutterstock, and is titled "Mature Caucasian man typing on laptop in home," however the original photo does not appear to depict the silent stalker of death.
The puns have begun, with tones81 writing: "This is fantastic. I'd be dead keen to sign up with these guys, if I lived in Napier. And if my internet wasn't already free. No bones about it!"
Paid streaming video facing new threats
Netflix launched in New Zealand on 25 March 2015, and the arrival of the service is already creating pricing headaches for NZ-based rivals Lightbox and Sky's Neon.
Both services have responded to Netflix's low entry-level pricing by reducing their own prices, according to Stuff.
The big local players are also upset the overseas-based provider isn't required to charge GST.
Spark managing director Simon Moutter claims Netflix will have an 'unfair tax advantage,' going as far to say that the Netflix model risks 'the hollowing out, not only of a tax base, but of a nation.'
The Sky may very well be falling, but all of the paid models might be in for a rude surprise.
Torrent Torment and Geofencing
Many ISPs are offering built-in virtual private networks to circumvent 'geoblocking;' or artificial fences erected by content providers to restrict access to countries where content rights are otherwise sold to local providers (such as Lightbox). This allows users to not only access the US-based Netflix, but also regionally-restricted services such as the BBC's iPlayer, Comedy Central, and Hulu.
The paid model presented by Netflix, Sky, and Lightbox might be at further risk from anonymous online developers. Software such as Popcorn Time not only facilitates online streaming of torrents but also provides a 'slick user interface.'
Despite domain name seizures, the project has pushed ahead with a peer-to-peer model, eliminating centralised servers which are more vulnerable to legal action. Some reports have said the free service is attracting more than 100,000 new users a day.
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Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Teen developer seeks $150,000 for software: A 19-year-old student is seeking to raise up to $150,000 for his software firm that helps schools schedule parent interviews. Click here for more.
Wellington hopes to lure tech-savvy Aussies: Tech-savvy Australians are being urged to cross the ditch to find out why Wellington works. Click here for more.
Hitting the internet for the first time at 82: Kerstin Wolgers made it through 82 years on this earth without ever once checking an email, watching a YouTube clip or sending a tweet. Click here for more.
Kiwis unhappy about Customs computer search plan: The country's peak tourism body says Customs should not require people to disclose passwords to their computers and smartphones unless they have grounds for suspicion. Click here for more.
Customs password plan slammed by Labour, Greens: Labour and the Greens have slammed a Customs proposal that it be given blanket authority to force people to disclose passwords to their computers and smartphones at the border. Click here for more.
Kiwi expertise helps Apple Watch tick: A Wellington tech company has been selected as one of the chosen few to create apps for the new Apple Watch. Click here for more.
Anti-cyber bullying bill progresses: A new law to stamp out cyber bullying has passed through another parliamentary stage. Click here for more.
What Netflix offers New Zealand viewers: Netflix has rolled out something for everyone in its New Zealand library of on-demand film and television. Click here for more.
The perils of legislating the internet: Earlier this week, I presented to a group of 15 parliamentarians, plus a couple of dozen staffers, at an event InternetNZ co-sponsored called the Parliamentary Digital Bootcamp. Click here for more.
Fears cyberbullying law will criminalise children: A new law to tackle cyberbullying comes before Parliament this week amid concerns it is too harsh and will "criminalise children". Click here for more.
Government doubles Kiwi Facebook data snoops: The government nearly doubled the number of requests for information on Kiwi Facebook users in the second half of 2014 compared with the first half. Click here for more.
USB-C: One plug to end all the fumbling: Amid all the fanfare at this week's Apple Watch launch was a little piece of tech that could do more to improve your life than a smartwatch. Click here for more.
IBM looks at 'bitcoin' currency system: International Business Machines Corp is considering adopting the underlying technology behind bitcoin, known as the "blockchain," to create a digital cash and payment system for major currencies, according to a person familiar with the matter. Click here for more.
How clickbait grew up and got (sort of) serious: Scott DeLong famously founded his clickbait empire ViralNova from the spare bedroom of an Ohio house that backed up against a cornfield. Click here for more.
Google CFO Patrick Pichette to retire, go backpacking: Google's finance chief plans to retire, the latest in a series of changes in the company's upper ranks but a move that some analysts said was unlikely to cause major disruptions. Click here for more.
Google Ventures and Bill Maris' search for immortality: "If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes," Bill Maris says one January afternoon in Mountain View, California. Click here for more.
USB-C port will improve your tech life: Amid all the fanfare at the Apple Watch launch was a little piece of tech that could do more to improve your life than a smartwatch. Click here for more.
Video gaming could help school work, report says: The association between video gaming and academic performance depended on the kinds of games students played and how often they played them, the study said. Click here for more.
A dollhouse to encourage more girls into engineering: For Alice Brooks, a pathway into engineering was a somewhat natural course. When she asked her father — robotics expert Rodney Brooks, one of the founders of iRobot — if Santa Claus could bring her a Barbie, she received a saw instead so she could make her own dolls and dollhouses. Click here for more.
Australian team builds Google Maps for the body: Google's mapping technologies quite literally open our eyes to whole world. With the click of a mouse, you can zoom from a view of the world to a view of a country, then a city, a street, even a house. Click here for more.
Is the internet giving us all ADHD?: Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar to you: You get into work. You're feeling productive. You've powered through approximately three emails/order forms/whatever qualifies as progress in your particular industry when - BAM - your best friend signs onto Gchat and sends you a video of a dachshund puppy getting pushed around in a tiny shopping cart. Click here for more.
48 hours inside the Internet's 'most toxic' community: Reddit, the front page of the Internet, hasn't exactly had a banner year. In August, it served as an early incubator for the Gamergate movement, which would go on wreck the lives of several innocent women and baffle America's non-gaming populace. Click here for more.
How much would you pay for YouTube's competition?: Would you pay to see some of the internet's best video clips first? Vessel, a new service trying to change the way that short video pieces make money on the Internet and mobile devices, is betting on it. Click here for more.
Five myths about Google: Google is the biggest and best-known Internet company in the world, a colossus whose revenue this year is expected to top $US65 billion. Click here for more.
Not sharing enough online? Try Open Humans: A new online platform launching lets users give scientists information about their genomes, gut bacteria and other biological data. Click here for more.
Online algorithms keep you experiencing new things: Until about three weeks ago, Pinterest was - hands down, no contest - my absolute favourite social network. Click here for more.
Tinder's new premium service will cost more for over-30s: Tinder's new paid service will cost a user more if they are aged 30 or older. Click here for more.
Blocked online, Islamic State supporters launch own social network, 5elafabook: Islamic State supporters, facing regular bans and blockages on Facebook and other social networks, have launched their own CaliphateBook to spread their militant message over the internet. Click here for more.
Facebook adds fill in the blank gender option: Facebook users who don't fit any of the site's 58 gender identity options can now choose how to define themselves freely. Click here for more.
Facebook betting on virtual reality explosion: Once a concept that lived solely in the domain of science fiction novels (1992's Snow Crash) and movies (2009's Avatar), VR now is poised not only to challenge reality's stranglehold on the way we engage with life, but possibly even eclipse it for sheer thrills. Click here for more.
Real Madrid and Portugal football star Cristiano Ronaldo most 'liked' on Facebook: Football's World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo now has another gong to be proud of - he's the most popular person on Facebook. Click here for more.
Denise Irvine: Social media vileness is modern day sport: A family I know of has recently had a difficult event to deal with, some of which has been in the public domain. Just when there had been a resolution for them, I came across some vile posts about it on the internet. Click here for more.
Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft
Do you know what the Apple logo looks like?: Pretty much everyone knows about the Apple company and its products but, it seems, almost no one can accurately recall its logo. Click here for more.
Apple Watch to shake up smartwatch market: If you don't know much about smartwatches then expect that to change in the next wee while. Click here for more.
Apple buys database company FoundationDB: Apple Inc.'s acquisition of FoundationDB LLC gives it some top engineering talent, and follows another stealthy acquisition to bulk up data capabilities as it seeks to expand cloud-computing services. Click here for more.
Security and Privacy
Cyber-crime's new front: Your reputation: Businesses have read all about the script kiddies that deface websites, and organised collectives such as Anonymous, launching cause-based denial of service attacks. Click here for more.
Wikipedia joins lawsuit against NSA's mass surveillance: The nonprofit organisation that runs Wikipedia will today file a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the US Department of Justice, challenging America's mass surveillance program. Click here for more.
Microsoft warns 'Freak' attacks puts millions of PCs at risk: Hundreds of millions of Windows PC users are vulnerable to attacks exploiting the recently uncovered "Freak" security vulnerability, which was initially believed to only threaten mobile devices and Mac computers, Microsoft warned. Click here for more.
US urges companies to do more to fight cyber crime: Cyber crime is probably the biggest risk facing companies across the world, and they need to do more to help governments tackle the problem, US. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin says. Click here for more.
US 'threat-sharing' bill enhances corporate-intelligence agency links: The US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee has introduced legislation to enhance information sharing between private companies and intelligence agencies. Click here for more.
: Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
Would you wear a necklace that stops you overeating?: Engineers at UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles) have developed a smart necklace that tracks its wearers' eating and drinking habits. Click here for more.
Snapchat priest offering digital confession: A US man claiming to be a priest is offering people absolution via Snapchat. Click here for more.
'Aboriginal god' Jar'Edo Wens hoax finally scrubbed from Wikipedia: It has survived unchallenged for almost a decade, but Wikipedia editors have finally caught up with, and removed, an entry created by an anonymous Australian contributor who concocted a fake Aboriginal deity named Jar'Edo Wens. Click here for more.
The internet's first anarchist: Twenty years ago, the conditions facing the technology industry were not unlike those today. Click here for more.
Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.
New Zealand's internet filter goes live: The Department of Internal Affairs' (DIA) internet filter is now operational and is being used by internet providers (ISPs) Maxnet and Watchdog. Thomas Beagle, spokesperson for online freedom lobby Tech Liberty says he's "very disappointed that the filter is now running, it's a sad day for the New Zealand internet". Click here for more.
Warning over bogus IRD emails: Inland Revenue is warning customers not to respond to a hoax email claiming to offer the recipient a tax refund. Click here for more.
$900m plan to open NZ internet tap: Lower internet prices and unlimited downloads for home connections are predicted to be the result of a new high-speed link planned between New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Click here for more.
Tweet-ups big in Wellington: Wellington is a small town getting smaller through social media tools such as Twitter. Click here for more.
1000 sign up to carpool commuting website: More than 1000 Wellington region commuters have signed up to a carpooling website to save money and avoid rail delays. Click here for more.
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