Posts tagged think

Maybe Samsung Is Starting To Think Wearables Through More Carefully

Samsung’s new software development kit for its homegrown mobile OS Tizen offers a few hints about its upcoming Gear A smartwatch (codenamed Orbis)—namely, that it will probably sport a round display and a rotating bezel for taking a spin through the interface.

More important, though, the SDK also suggests that Samsung is taking a more measured approach to its new wearable—one that bodes well for its future efforts in the area.

Tizen Time

The all-things-Tizen website Tizen Experts explains that Samsung has redesigned its open-source operating system specifically for smartwatches. That sounds like a parallel to the way Google made Android Wear as a wearable-optimized version of Android. The post also says that developers have access to an install manager, development assisting tools, sample apps, and platform images in the new SDK.

Want to navigate through menus on the new Gear smartwatch? Its rotating bezel acts similarly to the Apple Watch’s digital crown.

The new rotating bezel navigation controls also sound promising—a counter to the Apple Watch’s “digital crown” that could relieve users of the repeated swipes and taps often necessary to accomplish simple tasks. Twisting the bezel probably means quicker navigation and fewer accidental swipes or taps. (Fewer finger smudges on the watch’s display, to boot.)

Smarter Samsung

What really stands out about the new SDK, however, is the timing. Previous Tizen-based smartwatches, most noticeably 2014’s Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit, all launched before Samsung provided SDKs to developers. One consequence was a paucity of third-party apps that stunted the appeal of Samsung’s burgeoning wearables lineup.

This time, however, Samsung has wisely invited developers to take a look at its SDK before formally announcing the new Gear. This gives developers time to work on bringing popular apps from other wearable platforms to Samsung’s party. It also makes Samsung look like it’s putting real time and patience into this product launch, rather than simply announcing every device it can think of as soon as it comes out of testing.

Samsung is making a big show about working with developers before launching its new wearable. That’s a good thing considering the criticisms suffered by its previous smartwatch efforts.

In 2014, Samsung shipped 1.2 million Gear smartwatch units, though it’s not clear how many of those devices made it onto customers’ wrists. Android Wear devices, meanwhile, couldn’t even crack a million units shipped, even with several manufacturers crowding into the market. Now that the Apple Watch has easily surpassed both, Samsung appears ready to ake a different tack.

One thing to look for might be new features that could connect smartwatches to other smart devices at home and elsewhere. SmartThings, which is also owned by Samsung, just announced new cloud software and data-exchange protocols for tying together its clever gadgets; it wouldn’t be surprising to see Samsung extend such functions to the next Gear. 

Furthermore, as we’ve previously heard, the Gear A is rumored to have a built-in SIM card, meaning it may be capable of operating independently of a smartphone. (Doing so would require a separate data plan.)

It’s not clear that adding a SIM card is all that helpful these days; doing so makes devices more expensive and power-hungry for relatively little added benefit. But who knows? Maybe Samsung’s new, careful approach to its newest Gear will have it reconsidering its Dick Tracy dreams as well.

Images courtesy of Samsung; lead photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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That Inside Look At The Apple Watch? It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Maybe Apple didn’t mean to insult other companies in Wired’s feature story on how it developed the Apple Watch. Nonetheless, some of the details that came out of the conversation between writer David Pierce and his subjects—Apple’s Kevin Lynch and Alan Dye—seem to throw a little shade at wearable tech competitors and even developers.

See also: How The Apple Watch Stacks Up To The Competition

The article, “iPhone Killer: The Secret History Of The Apple Watch,” describes the long path Apple took in creating a new type of arm-based experience. The company tried various things, accepting some and rejecting others—which is normal for a tech company creating a new gadget and software. But in this case, those inadequate cast-offs happen to resemble efforts put out by Pebble and a budding crop of watch app makers.

Take these as learning lessons or subtle, disguised barbs. Either way, Apple and its executives won’t be mincing words if the watch becomes a hit. So for now, let’s read between a few lines.

Time Jump

In one section, the Wired story reveals that previous versions of the Apple Watch software took a chronological approach, setting information in a timeline. But the concept was tossed aside early on for Short Looks, which prioritizes info based on whether or not you engage with it, and Glances, which offer a unified place for fast news and updates.

“We rethought the UI,” said Lynch, formerly of Adobe and now Apple’s vice president of technology. “We rebuilt the apps—messaging, mail, calendar—more than once, to really get it refined.” There was apparently no place in the refinement process for chronology—although the concept did find a home at Pebble. 

See also: Meet The New Pebble Time—Though Getting One Will Take … Time

When Pebble founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky told me about his revamped smartwatch software in February, he described a system that presents data based on chronological importance. “Instead of having individual apps, we’ve extracted the information from those apps that are relevant to you in your normal day,” he said. Pebble users can bring up activities that just happened, future appointments or data that’s important right now by hitting assigned buttons on the watch.

Pebble Time Steel

All that “button mashing” can be a turn off for some folks, but apparently not enough to derail Pebble’s new device and platform. Consumers also don’t seem to think a time-based approach is inadequate for a watch: Pebble’s second Kickstarter trounced its first $10 million record-breaking campaign, doubling the funds raised and setting another record. More than 78,000 people pledged more than $20 million to Pebble Time and its new software. Within a day of launch, the campaign was fast approaching the halfway mark, suggesting iPhone-worthy levels of interest.

Here’s some context: Sales for the latest iPhones, the models 6 and 6 Plus, together sold $10 million in their first weekend. If the Apple Watch sells as well as its smartphone counterparts, Apple would be thrilled. If it doesn’t, perhaps the company needs to reconsider whether a time-based concept for a watch is all that wrong-headed after all.

The Watch As A Cure For iPhone Obsession

Speaking of iPhones, our obsession with it and other smartphones is apparently what led Apple to create the Apple Watch.

We spend a great deal of our lives staring at glass displays, and more of us are coming into the fold. According to Pew Internet And American Life Project, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone. Apple feels responsible for this problem. And, writes Pierce, “it thinks it can fix it with a square slab of metal and a Milanese loop strap.”

The Apple Watch was designed to liberate people from their phones by giving them convenient, but subtle access to data and faster ways to respond to it, if they choose. A lot of that hinges on the interface, which is Alan Dye’s domain.

Dye’s story must be fascinating: He was a graphic designer in the marketing division who helped design product boxes. Now he’s leading Apple’s human interface team.

See also: Apple Watch Developers Can Now Submit Watch Apps To Apple

One thing he doesn’t want is for people to get too involved with their watches. The thought of people uncomfortably holding up their wrists for more than 30 seconds appalls him. “We didn’t want people walking around and doing that,” Dye told Pierce. Ultimately, Apple settled on the idea that watch interactions shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 seconds. 

But tell that to the burgeoning ranks of developers, now free to swarm the app admissions process with their best watch wares. Productivity apps, finance apps, social apps, news apps, and more are gearing up to make a play for our wrists. Based on what we’ve seen so far, some seem guaranteed to blow through the 10-second rule and give us the sore arms Dye wants to avoid. 

Knowing what the company focused on in creating the device and software should shed light on the experience it ideally wants watch apps to deliver. For instance, Apple spent a year figuring out what a tweet should feel like when translated as vibrations through the “Taptic engine.” Does the company expect others to put as much effort into their apps? Probably not initially, especially since WatchKit hasn’t even been out that long. But even if it were, Apple’s ramping up for the device’s launch now, and it wouldn’t want to squelch developer interest in a new technology that, frankly, not everyone is sold on.

See also: The Apple Watch Looks Great—But It’s Going To Disappoint Lots Of Users

So enjoy Apple’s learning lessons or whatever shade it may want to throw for now. The company won’t be beating around the bush later, especially if the Apple Watch takes off. Because if there’s one thing Apple knows, it’s how to take dead aim when it feels emboldened. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, calling out Android by quoting ZDNet, at WWDC 2014

Apple Watch photos courtesy of Apple; Pebble Time Steel photo courtesy of Pebble; iPhone photo by Hadrian via Shutterstock

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Your “Strong” Password May Be Weaker Than You Think

If you’ve been relying on password meters to determine how strong your passwords are, we’ve got some bad news. Their strength measurements are highly inconsistent and may even be leading you astray, according to a new study from researchers at Concordia University:

In our large-scale empirical analysis, it is evident that the commonly-used meters are highly inconsistent, fail to provide coherent feedback, and sometimes provide strength measurements that are blatantly misleading.

Researchers Xavier de Carné de Carnavalet and Mohammad Mannan evaluated the password strength meters used by a selection of popular websites and password managers. The sites surveyed included Apple, Dropbox, Drupal, Google, eBay, Microsoft, PayPal, Skype, Tencent QQ, Twitter, Yahoo and the Russian-based email provider Yandex Mail; the researchers also looked at popular password managers including LastPass, 1Password, and KeePass. They added FedEx and the China Railway customer-service center site for diversity.

De Carné de Carnavalet and Mannan then assembled a list of close to 9.5 million passwords from publicly available dictionaries, including lists from real-life password leaks, and ran them through those services to what kind of job their password-strength meters were doing.

Ineffective Rules

Password strength meters typically looked for length, a variety of character sets (such as upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols). Some tried to detect common words or weak patterns.

However, the strength meters that looked at password composition often ignored other easy-to-crack patterns, and didn’t take “Leet” transformations—which replace the letter l with the number 1, for example—into account. Hackers, of course, often try these variations when trying to crack passwords.

Inconsistent Results

Confusingly enough, nearly identical passwords provided very different outcomes. For example, Paypal01 was considered poor by Skype’s standards, but strong by PayPal’s. Password1 was considered very weak by Dropbox but very strong by Yahoo!, and received three different scores by three Microsoft checkers (strong, weak, and medium). The password #football1 was also considered to be very weak by Dropbox, but Twitter rated it perfect.

In some cases, minor variations changed the assessment as well due to an overemphasis on minimum requirements: password$1 was correctly assigned very weak by FedEx, but it considered Password$1  very strong. Yahoo considered qwerty to be a weak password, but qwerty1 was strong.

Similar problems emerged with Google, which found password0 weak, but password0+ strong. False negatives turned up as well—FedEx considered +ˆv16#5{]( a very weak password, apparently because it contains no capital letters.

“Some meters are so weak and incoherent (e.g., Yahoo! and Yandex) that one may wonder what purpose they may serve,” the researchers wrote.

Black Boxes, Black Boxes

De Carné de Carnavalet and Mannan argue that the opacity of password checkers works to their detriment. That could also be a problem for users confused by oddly inconsistent password-strength results.

“Except Dropbox, and KeePass (to some extent), no other meters in our test set provide any publicly-available explanation of their design choices, or the logic behind their strength assignment techniques,” the researchers wrote.

With the exception of Dropbox and KeePass, the password meters appeared to be designed in an ad hoc manner, and often rated weak passwords as strong. As the researchers wrote: “Dropbox’s rather simple checker is quite effective in analyzing passwords, and is possibly a step towards the right direction (KeePass also adopts a similar algorithm).”

De Carné de Carnavalet and Mannan recommend that popular web services adopt a commonly shared algorithm for their password strength meters. In particular, they suggest using or extending the zxcvbn algorithm used by Dropbox or the KeePass open-source implementation of it.

Lead image by nikcname

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Why brands need to think hard about international SEO strategy – BizReport

Why brands need to think hard about international SEO strategy
While SEO is a priority for every marketer today, many don't realize that they are missing out on new business opportunities by only targeting the English-speaking world. Companies that have customers around the world – or multilingual customers in the

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You Think Private Clouds Are More Stable And Agile Than Public? Think Again

You can’t really blame your IT staff for inflicting a private cloud—actually just a corporate data center with a fancy new name—on you. In some ways, their jobs depend upon it. Self-preservation is a powerful incentive.

Of course, your CIO’s job is only truly threatened by the public cloud if she chooses to fight it, or mindlessly continues to believe she can build a better cloud than Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. For 99.999% of enterprises, building your own cloud or data center may be a comforting way to stick with old habits, but it’s generally going to be the wrong decision. 

While there are certainly workloads that will perform better or need to be secured within the four walls of your firewall, the reality is that most infrastructure belongs in the cloud.

No, You Can’t

It’s a convenient fiction that public cloud is unreliable compared to private IT. But let’s be clear: it’s fiction, not fact.

Here’s the reality on public cloud up-time: last year Amazon Web Services managed 99.9974% uptime despite hefty growth and unparalleled pressure on its infrastructure. Google was even better at 99.999% uptime. (Microsoft Azure performed a bit worse, though still quite well, according to the Cloud Harmony data.)

This is better than most enterprises can boast and, as AWS is demonstrating, the public cloud providers keep getting better at uptime.

In other words, public cloud costs considerably less than data center resources (even if dressed up as “private cloud”)—a huge advantage, by Actuate executive Bernard Golden’s estimation:

Source: Bernard Golden

But it also performs better. And, most important of all, public cloud computing offers dramatic improvements in convenience and flexibility. 

Sure, there are companies like Uber and Facebook that may be able to run infrastructure more efficiently than AWS or Microsoft, but these are the exceptions, not the rule, as Golden goes on to note.

Cloudy Forecast For IT Jobs?

None of which need threaten IT professionals. After all, “cloud” doesn’t translate into “unemployment.” Instead, it translates into “leverage.”

Take AccuWeather, for example, which discovered that the public cloud gave it the opportunity to highly leverage the relatively small IT staff it had. As Christopher Patti, vice president of Technology at AccuWeather, told

We don’t have a gigantic staff. In the past it took a serious amount of time to provision equipment. Now my development staff can go to the Web and click a few buttons and have a full environment deployed worldwide. The whole concept of the company has changed. We don’t have this locked-in, capital expenditure artificial boundary around us anymore.

Oh, and by the way, this steady state of headcount was able to manage a dramatic increase in scale: 2 million server calls hitting its services to more than 4 billion requests a day within five years. 

Persistently Retro

None of which is stopping CIOs from believing that the private cloud remains relevant to their futures, despite investing much more heavily in public cloud last year, as RightScale’s State of the Cloud survey shows.

For example, adoption of OpenStack private clouds barely limped to a 1% gain (from 12% to 13%). And while 33% of respondents claimed to be using VMware’s vSphere for their private cloud deployments in 2015, that’s a mere 2% gain from 2014 (31%). 

RightScale isn’t ready to write off the private cloud, though its defense is actually an indictment:

The slowing of adoption in private cloud is likely caused by the much talked about complexities of standing up and deploying a private cloud environment. However, interest levels remain strong, so this could lead to a reacceleration of growth over the next year.

Source: Gartner

It is precisely those complexities that call into question the very purpose of private cloud computing. Gartner finds that 95% of private clouds are failing. When asked how IT executives’ private cloud initiatives were going, a mere 5% could claim that “nothing is going wrong.”

That’s pretty terrible.

It’s not surprising, though. Way back in 2008 Redmonk analyst James Governor pointed out 15 ways to tell fake cloud from real cloud (Here’s just one: “If you own all the hardware… it’s not a cloud”). Those remain true today. 

Public Cloud And Iteration

This is merely a sign of the private-cloud times, because private cloud, like private data centers before it, requires an enterprise to buy into fixed hardware resources when its actual needs are highly elastic. 

As AWS data science chief Matt Wood told me, this is particularly thorny for Big Data projects, but his principles apply across the enterprise IT landscape:

Those that go out and buy expensive infrastructure find that the problem scope and domain shift really quickly. By the time they get around to answering the original question, the business has moved on. You need an environment that is flexible and allows you to quickly respond to changing big data requirements. Your resource mix is continually evolving—if you buy infrastructure it’s almost immediately irrelevant to your business because it’s frozen in time. It’s solving a problem you may not have or care about any more.

Which is just one more reason that more and more workloads will migrate to the public cloud. 

Enterprises can’t afford to lock themselves into yesterday’s hardware to solve tomorrow’s problems. They need to remain agile, and public cloud infrastructure enables such agility, even as it drives cost and reliability advantages.

So what are you waiting for?

Photo by George Thomas

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Sundar Pichai: Here’s How You Ought To Think About Google

Looked at one way, Google is an online advertising company with a lot of peripheral—and mostly not-very-profitable—side businesses in mobile devices and Internet service. Looked at another, it’s an ambitious-bordering-on-crackpot technological innovator that just happens to make its money from ads.

Google, of course, prefers the latter characterization. So it wasn’t any big surprise when Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of product, took the stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday to offer some insight into Google’s mindset and clues as to what lies ahead for the Android platform.

Pichai started with a quick outline of Google’s various techno-initiatives, including the Project Loon effort to spread the Internet to developing regions with balloons and lightweight airplanes, on-the-fly language translation and tools for things like mobile development, virtual reality and mobile payments. Android is merely one puzzle piece in Google’s master plan—assuming, of course, you believe that there really is a master plan.

To help you understand the way Google wants you to think about it, Pichai explained that the company is really made up of three things: an information platform, a computing platform and a “platform for connectivity.” That’s the rubric by which Google explains its varied and disparate initiatives.

Ultimately, of course, Google’s plan is to keep people using its services and to grow that user base in a variety of ways. Because, well, advertising.

Android, clearly, is the computing component. “We’ve built an open platform, which makes all this possible,” Pichai said, referring to the numerous incarnations of the software that operates a growing array of gadgets. Currently, Google’s software runs smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and fitness bands, televisions, car infotainment systems, and that’s just for starters. 

When interviewer Brad Stone, from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, asked Pichai what people might be buzzing about at next year’s conference, the Google executive cited everything from wearables to virtual reality devices. 

“I’m excited about newer categories like VR, [but] for me, the power of what you see is not just in devices,” he said. “These are computing devices connected to the cloud. When you look at things like machine learning [or] ‘AI’—in terms of the type of computing work that you’re doing, they make these experiences much more powerful.” 

He sees Google focusing on that over the next few years, to make competing experiences much more “seamless” and “intelligent for users.” Pichai didn’t talk specifics, but the oblique references suggest Android will become much smarter about learning what its users want and predicting what they’ll need, and making decisions for users across the gadgets it governs. 

“[Our] computing has been working on automating what people can do with their devices,” Pichai added. The company may already seem to be doing a little bit of everything, but Pichai suggests Google thinks its task is just beginning. “We’re at this exciting stage where we can do more.” 

Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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AdWords Spring Cleaning Coming: Detritus Be Gone, But You’ll Have to Think Before You Remove

Unused ads, ad groups and campaigns will be deleted and “remove” will be a permanent move across the board.

The post AdWords Spring Cleaning Coming: Detritus Be Gone, But You’ll Have to Think Before You Remove appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Why an SEO should think more like a publisher – Econsultancy (blog)

Econsultancy (blog)
Why an SEO should think more like a publisher
Econsultancy (blog)
The objective of an SEO is to efficiently get as many people as possible from a search engine to a web page. This is done by ranking that web page higher in the search engine rankings that other web pages. A good SEO who has mastery of the technology

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Today’s Hackers Are Way More Sophisticated Than You Think

Guest author Lance Cottrell is the chief scientist at Ntrepid.

While the modern always-on, data-fueled environment spells opportunity for the enterprise, it also makes an attractive target for hackers. And the proliferation of such environments has turned hacking into a profession.

Today’s serious hackers are no longer attention-seeking geeks trying to make a statement—instead, they’re calculated criminals focused on acquiring information in a data-laden marketplace.

What does this mean to the technology user? Hackers have a growing and constantly evolving arsenal of attack methods, putting everyone with a connection to the Internet at risk. Everyone has something that hackers are interested in, whether bank account information, personal identification or credentials into corporate email accounts.

Users need to evolve in step. Malware and antivirus tools alone are not the solution. Organizations need to embrace robust ways of dealing with security breaches that can minimize their impact. In practice, this means automating rapid recovery of the IT infrastructure to a known good state.

Defining Today’s Hacker

Today’s breed of hacker did not just appear. Instead, the skilled professionals behind the latest security threats are the result of long-term evolution. When most people think about hackers and security, they are clinging to an outdated vision.

Hackers are now part of a highly specialized and distributed criminal ecology. The most basic layer is filled with individuals focused on finding exploits in software. Instead of using the exploits, this professional often sells discoveries to a group specializing in packaging exploits and running them through botnets. Those individuals, in turn, rent their botnets to anyone who aims to gain unauthorized access to other computer systems.

See also: How To Build A Botnet In 15 Minutes

Bottom line, hacking is no longer about bragging rights. While less sophisticated hacktivists still exist, today’s new hackers are doing this for money—and so aren’t talking about their exploits.

It’s hard to tie an accurate dollar amount to the costs associated with hacking. However, the sophistication of today’s hacker is quite clear in the Ponemon Cost of Cyber Crime Study, which shows a 20 percent increase in successful attack rates year over year, even as organizations continue to invest in security tools.

How Do They Do It?

Part of hackers’ growing sophistication is a direct result of the vast number of attack methodologies at their disposal. They can pick and choose among denial of service attacks, viruses, worms, trojans, malicious code, phishing, malware, botnets and ransomware, any of which could play a key role in opening business data centers to intrusion.

Today’s hackers also benefit from giant scale. They often build huge botnets from compromised computers they can harness in order to hack other systems. Often, the goal of these attacks is to compromise the desktop or workstations that allow them to work from within the organization. These attacks are launched against anyone and everyone, using generally less sophisticated techniques and better-known vulnerabilities.

Many attacks are also precisely targeted against particular individuals with access to sensitive information—proprietary corporate secrets, for instance, details of negotiations or other information that could be valuable to competitors or investors willing to base trades on it. These hackers are like snipers with carefully crafted attack plans.

The danger here is that their attacks are highly unlikely to turn up in your typical malware or antivirus detection system. That’s because such threats are often tailored specifically for particular targets and rely on innovative techniques and zero-day vulnerabilities. As a result most detection systems won’t have a clue what to look for.

Finally, modern hacker attacks are persistent. Once a hacker gets into one person’s corporate email, they can gather enough information to social engineer everyone else in the company. Patience is a real factor in these attacks. Attackers do not just come in, poke around and leave. In most breaches, it turns out that the hacker has been inside the network for months.

How To Fight Back

There is no silver bullet capable of stopping today’s attacker. Given that attackers are very likely to be successful in compromising their targets, we need a new approach to security.

For a new approach to take root, people first need to let go of the notion that no hacker will target them or their company because they “don’t have anything worth stealing.” Today’s hackers consider a lot of things valuable, especially financial information. Hackers are looking for online banking, credit card numbers or access to any other financials they can possibly find.

More to the point, almost any Internet resource stolen at scale can be turned into something valuable. So everyone is at risk.

That means the only way to assure the security of our computer systems is to assume that they have or will be compromised. We need to design networks in such a way that it’s possible to revert them to a safe state. People have a mentality that when they are breached, they will simply clean it up. Instead, they need to think of themselves as always being in a breached state.

Bottom line, no business is ever entirely free of viruses. Occasionally, something is going to penetrate the browser. What separates winners from losers rests with the organization’s ability to make the consequences negligible. 

When countering targeted attacks, remaining anonymous can prove instrumental. If the hacker never recognizes the target, they will not pull the trigger.

See also: The Virtual Path To Freezing Malware

Organizations also need the ability to isolate browser activity in addition to conducting a rapid reset to a known good state. Security optimized virtualization is key for both of these. Running the browser in a properly designed and configured virtual machine ensures that any compromise is contained, and the browser virtual machine can be rolled back to a saved clean state without impacting the user’s working documents.

The trick is to destroy any possible trace of infection without losing important work or documents. It’s possible to preserve key documents and other material and to restore them to the virtual machine after reset, taking great care to ensure that doing so doesn’t also create an avenue for the malware to survive as well. 

Diverse resiliency is key. For example, good deep backups help neutralize the effectiveness of ransomware.

The trend towards walled garden architectures with a requirement for signed binaries and enforced sandboxing may help, but itwill simultaneously reduce the flexibility and openness of our computers. It is unlikely that they will ever be completely reliable, and software will continue to have vulnerabilities so additional layers of protection will be needed for many years to come.

Simply put, as hackers grow in sophistication, so too should our responses..

Photo by Johan Viirok

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Why SEO is much easier than you think – The Globe and Mail

Business 2 Community
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