Beyond the basics: 5 security tips for consumers to protect their identity in the era of data breaches

Password-security-380Though it might be shocking to read, the truth is that a big majority of people around the world are not conscientious when it comes to securing their online access. The most common password of 2016, making up 4% of all the surveyed passwords that were hacked in the last year was “123456.” The top 25 list was rounded off by 123456789, qwerty, and the word password itself among them. Cyber hackers know this only too well and they are ever ready to exploit these loopholes.

security-tips-albany-gaIndia too has seen its fair share of data breaches and security hacks in the recent past. WannaCry and Petya were devastating, with India being noted as one of the most affected geographies the world over. The concept of online safety and being on guard against malicious attacks is slowly gaining a foothold, but many still are in denial about how easy it is to be compromised in the online world. The humble password is the first guard against any obtrusive entry and is an important step to safeguard our identity as well as information.

New methods of authentication are needed to replace or supplement out dated methods that rely on personal information or passwords to verify identity. These changes will take time as new technologies, systems and policies emerge to replace legacy methods.

In the meantime, users must take proactive measures to protect themselves online. Consumers should follow basic security hygiene and keep abreast of emerging technologies. One should also follow security advice from experts to keep safe from cyber hackers and help safeguard their digital identities.

Security-TipsHere are five measures that are a good jump off points to be safe in the virtual world:

Ideal Password = A Long, Nonsensical Phrase

Most websites that contain sensitive information follow a password process to ensure they are not easily broken – at least 8 characters long, with either one or more alphanumeric characters. However, experts now suggest that a long nonsensical phrase, or “passphrases” is a better way to safeguard your online identity. It is a string of unrelated words which are tied together, and are at least 20 characters. These are much harder to crack either by guessing or in security parlance through brute force using compute power.

Do not re-use passwords

Every website worth its salt requires you to sign up for an account and it can quickly get overwhelming to remember all the passwords. Hence, many use the “same” password for ALL the websites. Research indicates that 81% to 87% of people re-use passwords. Hackers know this. And once they have cracked one account, the rest is pretty much open season to abuse.

However, memorising passwords is a real struggle. So a good way is to store passwords in a digital vault. The vault, in addition to storing passwords also help generate strong new ones when required. And rather than remember multiple passwords, one just has to memorize one password to access the digital vault.

Lie on your Security Questions

All good websites, especially ones for financial data have security questions as backups. They often have to do with personal information that are now easily accessible online such as mother’s maiden name, first school, address etc. Rather than go for these options, select questions that are opinion based, and hence harder to crack like favourite ice cream flavour. Another tactic is to use fake responses to ensure that only you would know the answer.

Two-factor authentication

Many services, particularly sensitive accounts like email and banking, allow for two-factor authentication (2FA). Enabling 2FA adds another layer of security checkpoint when certain risk factors are present. These risk factors include accessing the account from a new location of an electronic device.

2FA is quite familiar with users in India as multiple companies and websites already offer them, including banks and even hire cabs such as Ola.

Using biometrics

Even if one makes sure to apply all the steps above, we will soon move towards a time when the use of passwords as the sole to method establish identity isn’t enough. Biometric authentication uses our iris, fingerprints to verify identity. Aadhaar in India is the biggest example. In our daily use, iPhones already provide biometric authentication to safeguard access to the phone in lieu of passwords.

This too is not fool-proof, so experts have devised ways to make sure this data is collected and applied in a way that ensures privacy for consumers while preventing the ability for this info to be used by hackers. For devices that allow access via fingerprints, consider backing it up with a lock code.

As we continue to move our lives online, security will play an important role in safeguarding our presence. As in the real world, everyone will need to take robust and practical measures. Having a strong password is first step to ensure safety in the digital world.

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How a Ransomware Infects your Computer

Ransomware is probably the most dreaded cyberthreat that can strike anyone and at anytime unless we prepare ourselves against it. And the best way to start is to know how this malware works its way into your computer and how you can destroy its delivery mechanism. 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0101010000000010101000101010101000010101010111111010101010111101010100 0010101000000001010100010101010100001010101011111101010101011110101010 RANSOMWARE INFECT YOUR COMPUTER?

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0010101000000001010100010101010100001010101011111101010101011110101010 HOW DOES a malicious software that locks your computer or encrypts your data and demands a ransom in exchange and thus the name ‘ransomware’ = ransom + malware is the 5th most Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report 2017 common form of malware in 2017.

Money demanded in some of the recent ransomware attacks of 2017 ranged from 79$ to 4000$ (mostly in Bitcoins)


THE 2 MOST COMMON CHANNELS ransomware use to infiltrate your computer Emails serve as the most resourceful tool to deliver ransomware. “93% of all phishing emails contained encryption ransomware in 2016.” PhishMe Q1 2016 Malware Review How is a phishing email used to infect your computer with a ransomware? A phishing email containing links to malicious websites – visiting such sites can drop a ransomware on your PC. A phishing email carrying attachments hiding ransomware – Downloading such attachments will execute a ransomware on your PC. These attachments are usually MS Office docs such as Word, Excel, and PPTs, and PDFs. To make a phishing email look more genuine and convincing, it is disguised as something that you’d expect – invoices, tax forms, letters from a co-employee or your boss, purchase receipts, etc.


An infected or a compromised website (in this case) is a webpage(s) where the attacker has hidden an exploit kit (a software designed to misuse software vulnerabilities). When you visit such a site, this exploit kit will scan your web browser or other software for security vulnerabilities it is designed to exploit (security vulnerability is a weakness in your computer that an attacker can misuse). And if a vulnerability is found, the kit will drop the ransomware. How do you land up on a site compromised with an exploit kit? By clicking on a link in a phishing email – the most common way By clicking on a malicious advertisement This attack is called malvertisement – ads loaded with malware. Malicious ads do not only appear on shady websites, they target genuine websites too. This means, clicking on an ad on a legitimate website can also infect your computer with a ransomware. Case in point: Malicious ads (containing the Angler exploit kit) appeared on The New York Times, the BBC, AOL, and the MSN homepage in 2016, delivering ransomware to the people visiting these websites. FREE! FREE! HOW DO YOU DEFEAT RANSOMWARE? X XBANG! Staying safe from ransomware means preventing it from getting inside your computer.

You can do this by…

#1. NOT CLICKING on links or downloading attachments from unknown or unexpected sources (even if the sender looks familiar).

#2. PATCHING all vulnerabilities in your Operating System and software by applying all recommended security updates.

#3. PROTECTING your computer with an antivirus that can block access to compromised websites and prevent ransomware from getting downloaded on the system.

#4. BACKUP YOUR DATA regularly. Consider storing them securely in multiple, offline locations. Should a ransomware infection occur, you can restore your data from these backups. 

#5. INSTALL AD-BLOCKERS on your web browsers. This will reduce your risk on clicking on malicious or harmful advertisements. STAY AWARE STAY SAFE

Here’s an infographic that will take you through this.

How a Ransomware Infects your Computer [INFOGRAPHIC]

Sources | | | |

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Microsoft is ending its free Windows 10 upgrade for users of its accessibility features

The next generation of Windows Windows 10

If you use Microsoft‘s accessibility features and want a free Windows 10 upgrade, better hurry up because Microsoft is closing this last deal on 31 December.

Microsoft stopped offering free Windows 10 upgrades in July last year but users who use accessibility features, got an extension of that promo, a report in ZDNet said on Saturday.

Accessibility features in Windows are options to help users who may have trouble using their computers normally.

In July, Microsoft announced: “We are not restricting the free upgrade offer to specific assistive technologies. If you use assistive technology on Windows, you are eligible for the free upgrade offer.”

According to the report, Microsoft quietly edited that page last week and updated the original statement “We will make a public announcement prior to ending the offer” to “The accessibility upgrade offer expires on 31 December, 2017”.

The general ‘Upgrade to Windows 10 FAQ’ page was revised to include the expiration date for this offer. That page was “last reviewed” on 24 October.

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Microsoft finally kills off the Kinect, but the tech will live on in other devices


Microsoft’s Kinect had a rapid ascent and slow, sputtering demise — it was an inelegant end, as the company couldn’t find a permanent spot for the once revolutionary accessory. Now Microsoft is finally ready to put the final nail in that coffin.

Kinect creator Alex Kipman and Xbox GM Matthew Lapsen told Fast Co. that the company is finally end-of-lifing the peripheral, after a few years of taking the pedal off the gas. We’ve since  confirmed the move with Microsoft.

It’s not for lack of trying, of course. After a debuting the 3D camera for the Xbox 360, the company started shipping the Kinect with its new Xbox One — but ultimately backed down making it mandatory part of the purchase. Ultimately, gamers seemed to prefer a more traditional game pad experience. As Nintendo can tell you, these sorts of activity-based gaming trends tend to regress back to the mean after a while.

Of course, that’s not to say the Kinect wasn’t a rousing success in its time. The device was truly revolutionary when it debuted in 2010, and all told, the company managed to move around 35 million units. The product’s depth sensing and voice recognition ushered in a new era of interactive gaming, going well beyond what Nintendo had managed with its Wiimotes, four years prior.

The power of the Kinect also extended well beyond the console. It was a relatively cheap and accessible and became a favorite of the DIY community, spawning a sub-genre of Kinect hacks. For a while, the things were popping up in the most unexpected places. Over the years I’ve visited a number of universities that have used them for everything from 3D scanning to robotic vision. In 2012, I took a trip the set of Laika’s stop motion film, ParaNorman, where one was being used for production.

So, pour one out for the bygone peripheral, but don’t mourn it too much. The Kinect was just too good to kill off completely. Depth sensing has made its way onto a number of devices in the meantime, from Project Tango to the iPhone X, and Microsoft is also utilizing the tech it built for current and future products.

“Manufacturing for Kinect for Xbox One has ended but it is not the end of the journey for the technology,” a spokesperson told “Kinect continues to delight tens of millions of Xbox owners and Kinect innovations live on in Xbox One, Windows 10, Cortana, Windows Holographic and future technologies.”

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Forget the iPhone 8 and iPhone X – here are 7 reasons you should buy the iPhone 7 instead


There are a ton of great phones you can buy this year. But if you’re intent on buying an iPhone in 2017, don’t bother with the new iPhone 8 or the high-end iPhone X coming in November.

Here’s why:

It’s the same great experience of using iOS.


No matter which iPhone you buy, you’re getting Apple’s first-class ecosystem, security and updates, as well as the App Store, which has the best selection of apps. Since all of these iPhones run iOS 11, they all perform and behave very similarly. You’d be hard-pressed to notice the differences between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, in particular.

If you’re still having trouble seeing the differences between the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8, I highly recommend checking out Apple’s iPhone comparison tool. But if you need further convincing, consider this: The iPhone 8 is a basically slightly faster iPhone 7 with a glass back for wireless charging. Would you spend $150 for those changes, especially knowing the phone doesn’t come with an included wireless charging pad? Try everything in store and see for yourself, but I’m not convinced wireless charging is worth investing in quite yet. Wait until charging systems are better, cheaper, and more ubiquitous — it’ll be a much better market by this time next year, for instance.

And if you’re really holding out for the iPhone X, my question is this: Why? Sure, some of the features on that phone are exciting, but are they worth paying nearly double the price of an iPhone 7? That is a question you’ll need to answer for yourself.

Consider this as well: By this time next year, we’re going to be talking about an all-new iPhone, which means the iPhone X will be less expensive by then, and definitely more available than it will be if you’re trying to get a new iPhone before the end of the year. Simply put, there’s no real reason to obsess over the latest phone when there’s nothing really wrong with the iPhone 7, last year’s “all-new” phone. It has an excellent design, a gorgeous screen, and great battery life. And at $549 to start, it’s a steal.

The iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone X have near-identical front-facing cameras as well.


The iPhone X’s front-facing camera is complemented by an all-new TrueDepth camera system, which includes a set of sensors required to operate the new Face ID system to unlock the phone and make purchases via Apple Pay, but the front-facing cameras across all three iPhone models — 7, 8, and X — are almost identical.

Again, here are the specs from Apple’s website:

Based on Apple’s data, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 — as well as their respective “Plus” models — all have near-identical front-facing camera systems. The iPhone X obviously has a more sophisticated front-facing camera system overall, which also helps achieve some of those newer features like Face ID, Portrait Lighting and Animoji, but none of those iPhone X-exclusive features on the selfie camera are must-haves just yet.

The iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X have similar rear cameras.


If you care at all about photography, the rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X are nearly identical. The smaller iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 are also great shooters, but the larger “Plus” models include a second telephoto lens so you can zoom in without losing image quality.

This is how Apple breaks down the camera specs of the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. As you can see, all three camera systems are almost identical from a hardware perspective — the newer iPhone 8 and iPhone X have “Slow Sync” on the True Tone flash, for better flash pictures, and the iPhone X has a slightly different aperture in the telephoto lens, but that’s about it.

The only other difference here is that the iPhone X rear camera has optical image stabilization for both wide-angle and telephoto lenses — this helps with sharper images and video, especially in low-light settings. The iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus only have OIS the wide-angle lens, not the telephoto lens. But again, this doesn’t make much of a difference for the user experience; iPhone 7 owners won’t feel like they’re “missing” anything.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone X support fast-charging and wireless charging, but both of those features require buying extra accessories, and you don’t need these charging methods in the first place.


The iPhone 8 and iPhone X support the Qi wireless-charging standard and fast-charging for the first time, but you’ll need to buy Qi charging pads, which aren’t exactly cheap, and another $25 to $75 worth of equipment if you want to try fast-charging.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus charge using Apple’s standard lightning cable, and that works perfectly fine.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone X have glass backs, making them more fragile and less resistant to smudges.


Apple added glass to the backs of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X so those phones can support Qi wireless charging — but as a side effect, those glass backs made them more susceptible to smudges and fingerprints, as well as fall damage. With the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X, you’ll need to worry about both the front and the back of the phone cracking if you drop it.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 has the same aluminum unibody frame as the iPhone 6 line, which means you’ll only need to worry about the phone’s display cracking if you drop it. The metal backs on the iPhone 7 line are also more resistant to smudges and fingerprints compared to the glass backs of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

The iPhone 7 comes in more colors than the iPhone X.


The iPhone 8 comes in three colors: silver, gold, and space grey.

The iPhone X comes in just two colors: black and white.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, meanwhile, come in five different colors: jet black, matte black (the best color), silver, gold, and rose gold.

The iPhone 7 is more affordable than the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.


The first but most important reason you should consider the iPhone 7 is its price tag relative to the other new iPhones.

The iPhone 8 starts at $699 — $150 more than the starting price of the iPhone 7, for a very similar phone. The larger iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799, and the high-end iPhone X, if you can even find one when it becomes available on November 3, will start at $999.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 starts at $549 — almost half the price of the iPhone X — and the larger iPhone 7 Plus starts at $669. Don’t get me wrong, these phones are still definitely considered “expensive,” but they’re much more reasonable than the prices of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.


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Amazon India launches the Amazon Business market in India for SMBs


E-commerce major Amazon India today launched a new marketplace — Amazon Business — to cater to the requirements of the small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country.
The new marketplace is focussed on meeting the procurement needs of SMBs such as technology and service companies, manufacturers, universities, schools and offices, said in a statement.

They would be able to choose from over 10 crore products including laptops, printers, network storage solutions, electronics, pantry supplies among others at business-only pricing, it added.

Small companies can register with Amazon Business with their GST number and be entitled for input tax credit (varying between 5-28 per cent basis different product types). “With this launch, we now have a fully functional B2B marketplace alongside our thriving B2C marketplace to enable the same benefits for business buyers,” Amazon India Vice President Category Management Manish Tiwary said.

Amazon Business was launched in the US in April 2015, and serves more than one million businesses customers. It has been extended to Germany (December 2016), the UK (April 2017) and Japan (September 2017) as well.

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Reliance Jio will ‘discontinue’ unlimited voice calling for these customers


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Although Reliance Jio has been giving a hard time of its competition since last year by giving free voice calls and generous 4G data, it also has the authority to ‘discontinue’ the free voice calling facility for some users.

The telecom giant says it has all rights to discontinue the free voice call service after 300 minutes if they find out that the number is being used for commercial use or in a fraudulent service.

Reliance Jio says it will consider commercial use from a number once the outgoing voice usage goes beyond 300 minutes per day or 1200 minutes for 7 days or 3,000 minutes per month (28 days), whichever hits earlier.

Under the terms of use section in both the ‘Postpaid’ and ‘Prepaid’ page of Jio it has been mentioned that, “This Plan is intended only for personal use of included services. RJIL reserves the right to discontinue the free Voice benefits offered as part of this Plan in case of misuse/ fraudulent use/ unauthorised telemarketing and commercial use. Commercial usage for this plan is defined as outgoing voice usage of 300 minutes per day or 1200 minutes for 7 days or 3,000 minutes per month (28 days), whichever is earlier. Calling to 100 unique MSIDNs in a rolling 7 day period will also constitute commercial usage.

A Reliance Jio executive told , that until now the company has not yet faced any such cases and that the the firm has its own algorithm to note if the calls being made are for commercial purposes or for personal use. It was also communicated over call that the firm will get in touch with the particular user and will cross check the issue. To revive the service, prepaid users would need to make a recharge. The recharge amount details were not mentioned by the executive.

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