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Encryption on the Internet Primer

I spoke to several of my mothers friends the other day and they were all worried about being on the web. Kudos to these ladies for being connected at all (they are in their 70’s and 80’s) but they also get a gold star for being alert enough to recognize that something on the ol’

Working Endless Hours Does Not Make You a Hero

Working endless hours may be nothing more than a waste of time. The BYOD and Cloud phenomenons have blurred the line between work and home with the goal of greater productivity. However, data from OECD and the Economist say just the opposite. Entrepreneur reports that Germany has the shortest work week, with employees averaging 35

WWW is 25 Years Old

The world wide web turned 25 this year.  The 1989 proposal from Sir Tim Berners-Lee for an “information management” system became the foundation for the World Wide Web. Professor Berners-Lee’s proposal has grown to a world-wide phenomenon  In honor of the milestone,the Business Insider provided some insight into how the Internet has grown through the years.

Tablet Trouble

There has been a shocking long-term trend in Apple (AAPL) iPad sales. Despite the much bally hoed launch of the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, sales of Apple’s iPad has sunk to its lowest level since the 2011 introduction of the iDevice.This chart from the Business Insider shows the decline of iPad sales.

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Encryption on the Internet Primer

Encryption on the Internet PrimerI spoke to several of my mothers friends the other day and they were all worried about being on the web. Kudos to these ladies for being connected at all (they are in their 70’s and 80’s) but they also get a gold star for being alert enough to recognize that something on the ol’ intertubes has changed recently.

Data breachThey hear that their information at the banks and stores they frequent are being stolen. One neighbor lady even said she was worried but the government stealing her data. I explained to the group that I too am concerned about how it seems everyone on the web is under attack lately.

I gave them the usual pointers, don’t trust anything on the web, have someone (not me!) help keep their anti-malware and systems up to date and use encryption if possible.

Of course none of my mothers neighbors had heard of encryption. I explained to the ladies that encryption means changing a message so that anybody who heard the message would not understand it unless they knew how the message was changed. I used the example of Ig-pay Atin-lay.

  • An-cay ou-yay eak-spay Ig-pay Atin-lay? = Can you speak Pig Latin?
  • I-way ave-hay a-way ecret-say = I have a secret.

Then of course I was outsmarted when one of the ladies chimed out, Oh like the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. (Next time I will start with the smart CODE TALKERSanswer and then go to the Pig-Latin.)

So that got me thinking, what does the end-user really need to know about encryption? Sure there are PKI’s, Salted hashes, Block-ciphers, and …. none of which mean anything to the end-user.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez at MakeTechEasier.com recently explained what beginners need to know about encryption. He says that encryption is a practice in cryptography by which a piece of data is obfuscated (manipulated) in a mathematically predictable way that can make it very difficult to recover its contents. The author says it like my pig-latin example, but much more complex. The mathematical equations used to encrypt (and decrypt/decode) things are called cryptographic algorithms.

These cryptographic algorithms are needed because hackers Encryptionare getting smarter and sneakier. They’re compromising databases left and right. To protect your data from attacks system owners are supposed to use these algorithms to  mathematically jumble up all your personal data, making it difficult (if not completely impossible) for an individual or group of individuals to steal your data from that database. Mr. Gomez claims that encryption basically protects you from intrusion. If a hacker manages to break into a database and take your passwords, it would be reading something like “EAFC49BF4B496090EA2B7CA51674589” instead of “Mary_$mith.”

The article calls the jumbled-up text like “EAFC49BF4B496090EA2B7CA51674589” at the end of every algorithm is called a ciphertext. The decrypted equivalent is known as plaintext. These are very important words to remember when discussing cryptography.

The author explains that there are two ways that the plaintext “Mary_$mith” gets turned into the ciphertext to “EAFC49BF4B496090EA2B7CA51674589” and then back to plaintext “Mary_$mith.” The first method is called a symmetric algorithm:

Symmetric Asymmetric AlgorithmSymmetric algorithms use a key to encrypt and decrypt data. The key is basically the “x” that will solve for “y” in the mathematical algorithm. The length of the key and some other properties of the algorithm determine its “difficulty.” The more difficult an algorithm is, the more difficult it is to crack it. A difficult algorithm requires immense amounts of computing power to crack, which is usually out of reach from run-of-the-mill hackers. More sophisticated attacks might use computer clusters to decipher your data. Even then, some symmetric algorithms might thwart these attacks.

Asymmetric AlgorithmThe second way plaintext gets turned into the ciphertext and then back to plaintext are called Asymmetric (public key) algorithms.  Asymmetric algorithms split the key into two pieces: a public one (usually stored in the server) and a private one (usually stored in your computer by software). Mr. Gomez writes that asymmetric algorithms get their strength from this particular technique, since a hacker will not be able to read the contents of your data even if he gets his hands on the public key (it’s only half the key).

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In the end, no algorithm is created equally. All of them have some flaw or another that will be discovered in the future, so it’s difficult to know what services you should rely on.

The best advice is still the oldest advice, look for URL’s that start with HTTPS and have little green lock in the URL line. This means some part of the connection is encrypted with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) an Asymmetric (public key) algorithm. The Internet is on the verge of move to a more secure Asymmetric algorithm called Transport Layer Security (TLS) 

That’s why the age-old advice to the keep your PC up to date is critical for keeping your personal data safe..

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Working Endless Hours Does Not Make You a Hero

Working endless hours may be nothing more than a waste of time. The BYOD and Cloud phenomenons have blurred the line between work and home with the goal of greater productivity. However, data from OECD and the Economist say just the opposite. Entrepreneur reports that Germany has the shortest work week, with employees averaging 35 hours a week at the office, but it also the most productive nation in the world.

According to the cloud-based software company PGi which created this infographic, the marginal benefit of each hour worked on a country’s gross domestic product declines pretty steadily as the number of hours increase.

How many hours a week do you work?

Winding Down the Work Week

 

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

WWW is 25 Years Old

The world wide web turned 25 this year.  The 1989 proposal from Sir Tim Berners-Lee for an “information management” system became the foundation for the World Wide Web. Professor Berners-Lee’s proposal has grown to a world-wide phenomenon  In honor of the milestone,the Business Insider provided some insight into how the Internet has grown through the years. Statista made this chart for them using data from Pew. And here is the first US website.

Rapid Rise of the Internet

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Despite republican political posturing and corporate greed the intertubes is 25 years old. It needs our help to keep the internet open for the next 25 years.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Tablet Trouble

Tablet TroubleThere has been a shocking long-term trend in Apple (AAPL) iPad sales. Despite the much bally hoed launch of the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, sales of Apple’s iPad has sunk to its lowest level since the 2011 introduction of the iDevice.This chart from the Business Insider shows the decline of iPad sales.

Apple iPad revenueApple CEO Tim Cook was unfazed about the iPad’s plunging sales. During Apple’s latest earnings call Apple’s Cook said, “I’m very bullish on where we can take iPad over time.”

Despite CEO Cook’s optimism, research from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech is not so sure. In a recent analysis of the tablet market, they found that consumers aren’t convinced that they need the latest iPad or any tablet for that matter.

Their conclusion is based on research which found:

  • A majority of non-tablet owners in the U.S. said they would not buy a tablet in the next 12 months.
  • Of those who will not buy a tablet, 72 percent said that their PC or laptop was “good enough” as the reason why they are not buying a tablet in the next year.
  • Tablets are not seen as an alternative to smartphones.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business at Kantar Worldpanel laid out four reasons why tablets sales are not growing at the rate many had expected.

  1. Replacement cycles are longer for tablets than smartphones. Ms. Milanesi explains,”Software upgrades help refresh the devices, and carriers do not provide incentives/subsidies to encourage replacements every two years, as they do with smartphones.”
  2. Tablets are not as personal as smartphones. “While there is no question that tablets are more personal than PCs, if less personal than smartphones, they still land in between the two,” the Kantar chief of research says.
  3. Tablet owners hang on to their old tablet when they get a new one, while smartphone users tend to turn in their old smartphone when they upgrade to a newer one according toKantar Worldpanel data:
    • 36% of current tablet owners plan to keep their tablets even after upgrading to a new one,
    • 18% plan to past their old ones on to a friend or relative, according to Kantar Worldpanel data.
  4. Finally, the value proposition of tablets remains weak. They report that only 3% of non-tablet owners in the U.S. said they will definitely buy a tablet in the next 12 months.

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I thought that tablets  were  going to take over the world.

So what is the use case for tablets? If the Apple fanboyz and gurls aren’t buying new iPads why should anyone else?

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Veterans Day

Thanks

Veterans Day