Sunday, October 23, 2016

Major Study Settles the Debate Between Apps vs. Websites

When it comes to your most-used solution, is the mobile application a more secure choice in terms of user privacy, or does the website offer superior protection against leaked information? Researchers from Northeastern University sought to answer this question in a recent study comparing the app versions of programs against their web-based counterpart on Android and iOS devices.
Selecting a group of 50 of the most popular free services online with equal functionality in both the app and the website, the researchers compared the data leakage of information that could be used to identify a user from either platform. Being sure to sample from a variety of industry categories--including business, news, shopping, music, and even weather--the team would log in as if they were a regular user before tracking how their information is shared by the site to advertisers and data analytics companies.
So, between mobile apps and web-based services, which leaks more of a user’s information? According to research team member and assistant professor David Choffnes, that depends.
Choffnes stated that the team expected applications would leak more information by their more direct access to it. While their findings do support that hypothesis somewhat, the margin was much closer than they expected. In 40 percent of their tested cases, the website version of a service or function would share a greater variety of information with outside parties than the apps would.
The type of information shared also varied based on the platform a user chose. Websites, for example, would share the user’s name and location, while apps were far more likely to share a device’s unique ID number. Together, the app and website could collect a fairly comprehensive profile on the user, much to the surprise of the research team.
While there are legitimate reasons for these services to share out their information, the research team is concerned that the users are unaware of where their personal information is going, as many believe that their information is being held solely by the service they provide it to. However, the team hopes to spread awareness of credential and information sharing, and has even provided an online report of what information is leaked by particular apps, as well as an online tool to determine which method of accessing a service, the app or the web page, is the more secure option.
Information is an incredibly valuable and sensitive asset to a business, so it is best to know just where your information is going. 

Tip of the Week: Quirky Productivity Advice From 4 of History's Most Successful People

It’s important that your workflow allows you to get the most success out of your workday, yet this is often easier said than done. Everyone has different routines and practices that might work for them, and no one else. If you’re looking for ways to improve your own productivity processes, why not consider these four famous individuals with unorthodox practices?
A Crescendo of Productivity: Ludwig van Beethoven
Every office has folks who rely on the coffee machine to jumpstart their workday, but did you know that one of the world’s most famous composers was also highly-indulgent in the caffeinated beverage? History shows that Beethoven required his morning cup of coffee to consist of exactly 60 beans. That being said, you can expect a cup of coffee like that to have just the kind of kick needed to get tons of work done in a short period of time.
Of course, we’re all well aware of the negative effects that caffeine has on the human body, and this extreme productivity measure eventually leads to an extreme crash. It’s thought that this overindulgence eventually led to Beethoven’s declined health. In general, using drugs like caffeine to enhance your productivity may not be the best idea, but a cup of coffee or an energy drink might be just what you need to get through a big project.
The Birthday Suit: Benjamin Franklin
As uncomfortable as it might be to mention, America’s founding father Benjamin Franklin was a major proponent of nudity. He would spend the first hour of his morning reading and writing in the comfort of his own skin. While it might be humorous to imagine the founding father naked at his desk, compiling notes that would eventually become the Declaration of Independance, it’s interesting to note how much precious time and energy the average clothes-wearer wastes getting dressed each morning. Granted, whether or not this produces any noticeable increase in early-morning productivity is up for debate.
To take this a step further, you can emulate this success in spirit by planning out your morning routine in order to dodge the hassles associated with tough decisions. Lay out your outfit the night before, and leave notes to determine which tasks should have priority.
The Case of the Missing Desk: Agatha Christie
Unbeknownst to some, mystery novelist Agatha Christie never owned a desk. Christie wrote some of her most famous stories before computers became the user-friendly commodities that we’re all so used to, going as far as using a pen and paper or borrowing typewriters, often keeping notes and manuscripts stored in some kind of carriable case. A deskless workflow might sound difficult, but thanks to modern technology like mobile devices and cloud computing, it’s more possible than ever before.
To accommodate the modern Agatha Christies in your own office, give them the opportunity to flourish without being tethered to their desks. Mobile technologies like cloud computing and mobile devices have made this easier than ever, so you can let your employees work on their own terms.
Terrifying Display of Discipline: Stephen King
The famous horror author Stephen King once said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” It’s a well-known fact that Stephen King is a writing workhorse, compiling 2,000 words every single day. It’s not just King, either; countless other writers assign themselves daily word counts in order to reach their goals. This commitment is one of the major reasons that King is able to consistently churn out quality manuscripts.
What does 2,000 words look like in your line of work? Is it responding to 25 emails a day, reading a book every week, or making daily sales calls? Whatever you define as success, take this disciplined approach and roll with it. Take small steps to chip away at a larger goal.
Would any of these productivity tips help you get through the day? Share your thoughts, and your own tactics, in the comments below.

4 Reasons Why Businesses Love Office 365

Decision makers for small and medium-sized businesses certainly have a tough job. Each choice they make on the behalf of the business has repercussions, which could potentially influence the rest of the company, for better or for worse. Therefore, we’d like to take some of the pressure off of the decision makers with a recommendation: if you haven’t done so, consider utilizing Office 365 for your business’s various needs.
Available as a subscription-based Software-as-a-Service, Office 365 for Business can provide many features and benefits that the SMB owner/decision maker will find intriguing, to say the least.
Cloud Capabilities
One of the great computing innovations of our time is the concept of cloud services, allowing for convenient collaboration and connection. As long as you are able to connect to the Internet, you can use the included mail client, access and collaborate on company projects and files, from any device.
Collaboration Benefits
Featuring a project management tool called Planner, Office can help keep your company’s employees organized and on the same page. And on the topic of staying on the same page, users are able to collaborate in real-time on documents, and are capable of making and seeing edits that other users are making without the need to refresh the page.
Cost Efficiency
Office 365 will ultimately save your business money, namely by reducing your maintenance costs. By keeping employee accounts in the cloud, Microsoft assumes the responsibility for maintaining and updating them--without any additional costs to your business.
Capacity to Grow
One of the biggest concerns with any solution is its scalability--if a business were to grow, how easy would it be for its solution to grow right along with it? Office 365 answers that question with a single word: very. As your company expands and--by necessity--requires more from its 365 solution, you can very easily incorporate the additional services, features, and storage you need into your existing contract for an increase in price.
With the full capabilities of Microsoft Office available just about anywhere at anytime, Office 365 is a clear candidate for a solid software solution for your business. 

Was the NSA Hacked By Enemies Abroad, or Was It an Inside Job?

Not long ago, a group referring to itself as the Shadow Brokers distributed hacking tools utilized by the United States National Security Agency (NSA), on various publically-accessible websites. While the motives of the Shadow Brokers are a story for another time, an investigation seems to have locked in on a particular theory of how the Shadow Brokers came into possession of the tools in the first place.
Hypotheses were initially varied as to how the tools were taken from the NSA at all. Some surmised that the leak must have been the work of another agency insider following the lead of the controversial Edward Snowden. Some suspected that Russia, deemed responsible by D.C. lawmakers, had hacked into the NSA headquarters located in Fort Meade.
However, the FBI has begun to focus their efforts on an entirely different source, one that--while certainly less openly malicious than a foreign attack or insider leak--still shows the dangers that human error can present to cyber security.
Based on information provided by the NSA, investigators are looking into reports that an individual associated with the agency, either as an employee or a contractor, had left the tools on a remote computer during an operation approximately three years ago. These tools would allow their users to exploit systems from Fortinet Inc. and Cisco Systems.
Patches have since been released to help protect these systems from the now-public tools. Investigators, however, are not ruling out the possibility that the tools were left exposed on purpose, or that others within the NSA made similar mistakes that ultimately resulted in the Shadow Brokers obtaining them.
To their credit (assuming that it was an honest mistake), the unnamed individual reported their mistake shortly afterwards, according to the NSA--which, it must be mentioned, did not inform the companies of the risk to their systems. Rather, having sought out foreign use of the tools with no results, the NSA saw no need to inform the software manufacturers.
Regardless of blame for the release of these tools into the public domain, the unnamed former NSA representative who left the tools on the remote computer proves that critical data should never leave the safety measures to be found on-premises and taken into the world without considerable measures put in place to ensure its security.

Tip of the Week: How to Customize Your Windows 10 Notifications

Windows 10 has been issued updates that provide users with brand new ways to receive notifications. While you can go through Android and iOS’s Cortana app, there’s a better way to manage your notifications. We’ll walk you through the process of customizing your Windows 10 notifications.
On the Lock Screen
One of the more controversial uses of notifications in Windows 10 is on the lock screen. While this is great for times when you don’t want to log into your device, it can be considered a privacy concern. If you’d like to remove all notifications from the lock screen, go through Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Notifications. Then, turn off the switch for Show notifications on the lock screen. If you want to hide certain notifications from appearing on the lock screen, go through System > Notifications & actions > Get notifications from these senders. Now select the app that you want to change and turn it On under the Keep notifications private on the lock screenoption.
Set Priority Notifications
If you receive notifications from several sources, it’s clear that not every single one of them is a priority. Thankfully, Windows 10 makes it easy to set certain apps to varying priority levels. You can set them to either Normal, High, or Top priority in order to layer them into groups based on importance. Go to Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Get notifications from these senders, and select the app that you want to configure. Under Priority of notifications in the action center, assign it a priority level.
You can also choose how many of an app’s notifications will appear in the Action Center at any one time. The default is three, but you can extend this number all the way to 20. Change this setting by going to Number of notificationsvisible in Action Center.
Change the Sounds of Your Notifications
To further customize your notifications, you can remove or change their sounds. All you have to do is go through Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Get notifications from these senders > Your Chosen App > Play a sound when a notification arrives. Right-click the Start button and select the Control Panel. Select sound and you’ll open up a menu. In Program Events, scroll down to Notification and select it. Underneath the Sounds dropdown you can change the sound that plays when you receive a notification. If you’d rather not have sounds play for your notifications, just select None.
Turn Off Notifications
If you aren’t keen on notifications in the first place, you can turn them all off at once. If you don’t mind them, you can limit how many apps are allowed to send you notifications. Go through Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Notifications > Get notifications from apps and other senders. Select the apps from which you want to receive notifications under Get notifications from these senders.