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3 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats Facing Small Businesses Right Now

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Technology has quickly engulfed the world around us. Everything we do, both at a business and personal level, seems to involve technology in one way or another. However, as that happens, small businesses continue to be a top target for hackers, with the number of organizations hit by cybercrime rising each year. According to The Ponemon Institute’s 2017 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium-Sized Businesses report, 61 percent of businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2017, signifying a 6 percent increase from the previous year’s 55 percent. Data breaches were up to 54 percent from 50 percent in 2016.

This year promises faster internet, more connectivity, and unfortunately, more cybersecurity threats. Threat Horizon 2018, from the Threat Horizon series by the non-profit association Information Security Forum (ISF), shows that with the growing connectivity, there will be an increase in the information security threat landscape.

1. Internet of Things (IoT) leaks.

As real-time data collection becomes increasingly important, the IoT is growing too. From monitoring traffic and collecting real-time patient information to optimizing the uptime of industrial equipment, organizations are massively acquiring IoT devices. However, these devices aren’t always secure. This creates a potential backdoor into the organization, warns the ISF.

Related: How Smart Technology is on the Verge of Compromising Your Business Security

IoT works so great because it’s comprised of dozens of devices that hide in plain sight. Be it alarm systems, GPS, web cameras, HVAC or medical devices, such as pacemakers, it’d be hard to guess which of these devices are even connected to the internet in the first place. But since IoT devices lack built-in security, they are often easy targets by hackers.

Attackers usually use automated programs to locate IoT devices. Once located, attackers attempt to connect to the device using the default admin credentials. And since most users don’t change them, this is usually a success for the attacker. Once in, the hackers can easily install malware, basically taking the system under their control.

Daniel Soderberg, CEO of EyeOnPass, advises changing all passwords immediately when you acquire a new device. “I wouldn’t operate any device with the default password,” he warns. “Default passwords are usually printed and freely available, exposing the user to all manner of cyber dangers.”

2. Opaque algorithms.                                                                                              

The Threat Horizon 2018 report also warns of the increasing using of algorithms. As organizations continue to fully trust algorithms with the operation and decisions concerning critical systems, the report says, they lose the visibility into the functioning and interaction of their systems.

The lack of proper and transparent interactions between algorithms poses a security risk in case unintended interactions between algorithms create incidents — like the U.S. Treasury Bonds “flash crash” of October 2014 that saw bond yields drastically drop briefly before the algorithms corrected themselves.

“We know they’re going to do some quirky stuff from time-to-time,” says Steve Durbin, managing director of the ISF. “You need to understand some of the exposure you have to algorithmic systems. We’re building more and more of our systems on top of algorithms — industrial control, critical infrastructure. There’s an increasing risk in this space we need to be addressing.”

Related: 10 Artificial Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2018

To be able to manage these risks, organizations need to have a human monitoring the execution of operations and decisions often left to algorithms. The report advises organizations to know the risks that come with algorithm-controlled systems and know when to involve a human. Also, they must update their code maintenance policies and identify alternatives to treating algorithm-related incidents, especially when insurance isn’t an option.

3. Security researchers are being silenced.

Security researchers are often the whistleblowers. They impart knowledge about digital vulnerabilities, making sure systems are secure and users’ data remains in the intended hands. When they are silenced, either by the government or private companies, it’s often a loss for all users.

With software replacing hardware in most major sectors, users and businesses depend on researchers to unearth vulnerabilities and make them public as part of ongoing efforts to improve security. However, lately, manufacturers have been responding to such actions by taking legal action instead of working with the research to fix those vulnerabilities. The ISF predicts that this trend will only grow; exposing customers to vulnerabilities that manufacturers have decided to hide rather than fix.

To protect themselves, the ISF advises technology buyers, which include small businesses, to insist on transparency during the procurement process. It advises manufacturers to take it more positively when vulnerabilities are found within their systems by rewarding the researchers rather than attempting to punish them.

Considering that a researcher might find a vulnerability in a tool in 2018 and not report it, it’s imperative for the small business owner to take a step further in protecting themselves, even if it means working with other business in order to come up with an affordable solution.

Related: Making Your Data Unreadable to Whoever Steals It Might Be the Only Way to Keep It Safe

Transparency is key.

When it comes to security, transparency has a great role to play. But this part has long been left for the security professionals. If all users reflected some degree of transparency, security in the cyberspace would be easier to achieve. If the non-technical managers and leaders understood the impact of good and poor protection, they would use the cyber assets they have more responsibly. Employees would be more careful about the devices they introduce to the network.

As the business owner, it’s your job to carefully manage the inventory of the connected IoT devices. “Some things have internet capabilities that you didn’t ask for and will never use,” says Leon Adato of SolarWinds adding that any devices that don’t need to be connected to the internet should be disconnected.

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Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’

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Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.

CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”

Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.

While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.

Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.

A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”

Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.

While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.

To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.

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Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants

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Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.

Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.

Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.

Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.

Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.

Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.

This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.

Here is what the button looks like in action:

Image via TechCrunch.

As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.

Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.

These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.

“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.

Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.

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5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018

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Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.

1. Raising capital

Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.

Related: IPOs Are Boring But You Must Keep an Eye on These 9 Initial Coin Offerings

This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.

2. Transacting value

Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.

Related: 5 Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs Serious About Cryptocurrency

3. Investing for the future

For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.

Related: Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Anymore

4. Developing on the blockchain

The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.

Related: 6 Cryptocurrencies You Should Know About (and None of Them Are Bitcoin)

5. Joining the blockchain community

The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.

Related: How Digital Wallets and Mobile Payments Are Evolving and What It Means for You

Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.

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7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You

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“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.

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