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Happy MacIntosh Computer Day

Happy MacIntosh Computer Day

January 24th is Macintosh Computer Day. On this day we celebrate the innovation, skill and can-do spirit that shaped the future of computing. We recognize the history of Apple. Back in 1984, its creators with Steve Jobs at the helm introduced the first Macintosh computer, now known as Apple or Mac to the world would never be the same.

A Proper Introduction

The first Macintosh made an epic entrance during the Superbowl, with an iconic commercial directed by Ridley Scott, of Alien and Bladerunner fame. It depicted a gray dystopian world in which everyone was controlled by the state, a direct homage to George Orwell’s beloved novel 1984.

Macintosh was there to free humanity from the mind control and usher in a new age of freedom and creativity. Looking back it may not seem like much with two programs, MacWrite and MacPaint. But this was the beginning of a company that defined and has continued to redefine not just technology but culture itself.

The First Personal Computers

As with any technology, innovations build on what has come before. But every once in a while we take a great leap forward. In the late ’70s, early ’80s, we’d already been introduced to the Apple II and IBM’s PC, which had begun to shape how we do business.

In the late ’70s, Apple became the fastest growing company in U.S. history, reaching a 300 million valuation (over $1B in today’s money) almost overnight. With over 50 companies trying to get in on the action, one company stood above them, IBM and so began one of the most brutal rivalries in history as many would-be competitors fell by the wayside to be largely forgotten by history.

Upon its release, the Macintosh became the first commercially successful personal computer that included a mouse and a graphical user interface (instead of lines of command), two very unpopular features at the time, because — you know — change is hard.

A Bitter Rivalry: Apple Vs. IBM

In 1983, before the arrival of the Macintosh, IBM stood poised to take over the world of personal computers, making deals with other companies to solidify its stronghold in the industry. And within three short years, IBM had sold over 2 million computers. That’s a great feat in a time when a very basic personal computer cost over $2000 (~$7000 in today’s money).

The 1984 Macintosh release became humanity’s last hope to prevent IBM’s world domination as was reflected in their choice of commercials. Apple spared no expense, spending over $15 million on its Superbowl campaign, which actually ended up raising the price of the Macintosh by an additional $500.

That war would rage on for the next decade as IBM cemented deals with Intel and Microsoft that would shape how people perceived its products. Many 3rd party companies would be forced to choose between IBM and Mac compatibility.

“It’s How It Works”

Steve Jobs notably said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This quote exemplifies Macintosh from the beginning. While IBM continued to create systems that were hard for the average person to use or understand, Apple was focused on creating intuitive hardware and software that took virtually no training to use because it just made sense. Did they always live up to this goal? No. But it drove them to continually improve their product.

The Macintosh project had actually been many years in the making. In the late ’70s, Apple employee Jef Raskin looked beyond what had gone before and into the future where computers were easy to use and so affordable that almost everyone could have one. He had initially wanted name the computer after his favorite apple, the McIntosh, but was forced to change the name for copyright reasons. Jef recruited a team of top minds like Bill Atkinson and Burrell Smith.

Smith designed the first Macintosh board that contained an astounding 64 Kb (Yes, Kb!) of RAM and used a Motorola 6809E microprocessor. This monster of a machine could support a 256×256 pixel B&W bitmap display. But through continued ingenuity, Smith persevered until the system could support a 384×256 pixel display. Smith’s design used less RAM than Apple predecessors, making it much more cost efficient.

The final design for 1984 release had a QuickDraw picture language with 64 Kb of ROM and 129 Kb of RAM. The system did not yet have memory slots to expand capacity, but it was designed to incorporate 256 Kb RAM through soldering for those willing to take that on. The monitor was 9 inches of 512×342 monochrome pixels.

At this time, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, shifted his attention to the Macintosh project, foreseeing it becoming their crowning achievement. Raskin, who up until this point, had spearheaded the Macintosh project left the project when Jobs entered because of personality conflicts.

Upon its release, the Macintosh suffered a serious setback in the fact that 3rd party software manufacturers did not want to take on the time and expense to re-write software that had been designed for IBM.

Macintosh continued in an uphill battle to retake market share once taken from them by IBM. But it would be decades with before Apple would again take over the industry with the Advent of iPhones and iMacs in one of the biggest and longest in the making comebacks in the history of any industry.

And for this, we celebrate, January 24th, Macintosh Computer Day.


Will Cybercriminals Shutter Your Business In 2019?

Cybersecurity

If the frightening headlines about massive data breaches were not warning enough, upwards of 60 percent of all small and mid-sized businesses, reportedly shutter within six months of a systems hack.

The leading causes of nefarious systems incursions are reportedly caused by about 25 percent of valued employees repeating the same username and password across multiple platforms. But what remains even worse is that fact that as many as 95 percent of all small businesses lack adequate protocols to safeguard important company or customer information.

In the coming months and years, cyber threats are expected to continue to pose a grave danger to the health and well-being of small and mid-sized organizations. The question business leaders may want to ask themselves is . . . will you join the 60 percent of companies that did not recover from a data breach?

Strengthen Your Business Defenses

Many of the toppled 60 percent may wish they knew then what many know now. That is, the key to cybersecurity does not solely depend on having the best software protections. According to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, and Department of Homeland Security, nefarious email remains a primary trap used by cybercriminals and DHS recommends the following safety procedures.

“Never click on links in emails. If you do think the email is legitimate, whether from a third party retailer or primary retailer, go to the site and log on directly. Whatever notification or service offering was referenced in the email, if valid, will be available via regular log on.”

“Never open the attachments. Typically, retailers will not send emails with attachments. If there is any doubt, contact the retailer directly and ask whether the email with the attachment was sent from them.”

“Do not give out personal information over the phone or in an email unless completely sure. Social engineering is a process of deceiving individuals into providing personal information to seemingly trusted agents who turn out to be malicious actors. If contacted over the phone by someone claiming to be a retailer or collection agency, do not give out your personal information. Ask them to provide you with their name and a call-back number. Just because they may have some of your information does not mean they are legitimate.”

As you can surmise, these cyber safety measures do not necessarily rely on the latest antivirus software or systems protections. Hackers continue to take advantage of human oversight and error to infiltrate organizations and pirate valuable personal data and intellectual property. Homeland Security also recommends that business leaders implement the following employee training and protocols to protect against data breaches via email.

  • Maintain Secure Passwords: Change passwords regularly and never share them or provide co-workers with access.
  • Verify Sources: Make certain that emails originate from people and companies within your network by contacting them directly for verification.
  • Nix Auto-Download: Never use automatic download options for email attachments.
  • Never Click On Links: Embedded links are a primary method used by hackers to trip up team members through ransomware and malicious viruses.

Strengthening a company’s defenses begins with employee training and awareness that data breaches are not reserved for significant organizations and Fortune 500 corporations. Hackers continue to troll for low hanging fruit and unsuspecting employees who make innocent mistakes.

Employee Cyber Security Training is Job One

Although ransomware attacks reportedly declined from 638 million in 2016 to 184 million in 2017, according to Statista, this method has been used to target a tremendous number of small and mid-sized outfits.

The common attitude among cybercriminals is that decision-makers will ultimately weigh the cost of paying the ransom against potential profit losses and do the math. Hackers understand that poorly defended organizations are likely to negotiate and pay up. That’s why valued employees must remain vigilant and be a sort of human firewall if you will.

Proactive industry leaders are tasked with training employees and also determining which team members could be considered at risk. An IT support team can utilize training videos, create a cybersecurity policy and implement it by working with groups and individuals. But once the hands-on work has been completed, it’s imperative that companies conduct ongoing cybersecurity evaluations. These are logical methods to consider.

  • Identify team members who could be best targeted by hackers.
  • Deploy unscheduled mock cyber attacks.
  • Create and release convincing but harmless mock ransomware links via email.
  • Require employees to complete cybersecurity training modules.
  • Require advanced training for those who are tripped up by mock cyber attack drills.

We may be living in a golden age of technology, but our everyday fallibility remains the threshold that cybercriminals use to break into our business systems and rob our valued customers and us of critical data. One of the primary ways to avoid joining the 60 percent who are out of business is to make team members aware of cyber dangers and provide them with the skills to combat cybercriminals.


Top 8 Cybersecurity Concerns For Local Businesses

Top 8 Cybersecurity Concerns For Local Businesses

As businesses add more layers of cybersecurity to their arsenals, cybercriminals are finding new ways to attack system, networks and devices. There is a constant stream of emerging threats that can mean trouble for companies of any size.

Why Is Data Security a Major Challenge Going Forward?

Businesses today are realizing the vast opportunities that come from leveraging, monetizing and collaborating on their collected data. That means companies need to protect their data not only from privacy breaches but also from data misuse, data manipulation and loss of intellectual privacy.

Data validity, for example, is one particular area of cyberattack emerging. Data need not be stolen to hurt the business reputation. Instead, hackers could alter data such that it becomes invalid or inaccurate in such ways to delegitimize business outcomes and partnerships.

Industries need to identify and deploy new technologies that protect data while it’s at rest and in transit. Privacy risks related to data in use are hindering the full realization of data collaboration, limiting the opportunities available to companies.

Here are 8 other cybersecurity challenges that businesses need to combat now or shortly.

1.  Chatbots at Risk

Artificially intelligent chatbots have become commonplace, helping to answer questions and guide web visitors to required information and action. Hijacked chatbots, however, could mimic existing tools to drive victims to click on links, download malicious files or share private information.

Web application flaws could also be exploited to insert malicious chatbots into sites that don’t have one.

While these intrusions will likely be text-based bots for now, shortly, speech-enabled bots could lead to further victimization over the phone or other voice-enabled technologies.

2. Artificial Intelligence Mean Powerful Malware

The rise of AI, the Internet of Things and machine learning means more opportunities for business transformation. They also invite more smart attacks using intelligent malware. Cybersecurity providers need to develop new means of detecting these threats and training personnel to recognize and prevent them. Many of these preventative measures need to be automated to provide continuous detection and prevention.

Part of the challenge is the sophisticated tools hackers are using. Updated exploit kits, artificial intelligence and natural-language algorithms have allowed hackers to automate convincing emails. Simple processes allow for the generation of emails to millions of stolen addresses with compelling phishing attempts.

3. Data Exposure

AI-enabled applications rely on data pools to power advanced functionality, both for smaller companies and giants like Amazon and Facebook. The increasing use of data pools means more potential for developers to expose information, often customer data. These data aren’t necessarily subject to hack, but instead are vulnerable and accessible to anyone who can find the vulnerabilities.

4. Cyberwarfare

Bad actors are no longer content on ransomware and phishing attempts. Technology advancements provide new opportunities for targeted and individualized attacks.

These attacks may leverage artificial intelligence to target individuals or corporations. Data integrity attacks, for example, could force organizations to completely replace computer hardware. Physical assaults could use drones and other tools for physical assaults.

5. Infrastructure at Risk

Nation-states will continue to wage cyber attacks on enemies with state-sponsored attacks on infrastructure. Attacks on national security, emergency communications, public health and financial systems could cripple governments and create spiraling consequences for the private sector.

Smaller conflicts could also be used as testing grounds for nation-states to assess new tactics, procedures and technologies that could be used in more significant geopolitical conflicts.

6. Data and Privacy Regulation

In 2018, the launch of GDPR, covering privacy issues for European Union citizens, forced companies to reevaluate their privacy and disclosure procedures. Similar privacy laws were approved in Canada and California. These new regulatory mandates are likely the first wave of protections that will force companies to spend more on cybersecurity, data transparency and reporting. As control of data begins to shift from institutions to individuals, companies are going to need better ways to monitor and report on compliance from multiple jurisdictions.

7. Connected Devices in the Crosshairs

With connected refrigerators, stoves, thermostats, doorbells and washing machines becoming the mainstay in many homes, the possibility of exploits is grave. Hackers will begin to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in these smart devices. Manufacturers will need to build in additional safeguards and architecture to meet growing consumer demand while keeping bad actors away.

8. Industrial Control System Risks

While there are more automated systems to allow for greater control of buildings, utilities and factories, there are inherent risks of exposure. Many of the players providing the technology in this space are new, making high-value targets all the more enticing to hackers.

Each year brings with it new technical innovations sure to drive better business outcomes. At the same time, hackers will find more sophisticated means to create more effective intrusions.


SCAM ALERT: Google Play Gift Cards

If there’s a will there’s a way when it comes to scammers, especially with gift cards. Everyone loves gift cards. Consumers love how easy it is to purchase gift cards, use gift cards and even give gift cards. It’s as simple as buying a card at a brick and mortar store or clicking a few buttons and almost instantly having the funds needed to play. Scammers love gift cards too. Gift cards can immediately be activated and spent by these scammers even before the owner of the card knows what happened.

Google Play gift cards are targets right now. Scammers love how easy they are to steal so consumers need to stay one step ahead of these online crooks. Here’s one of the latest Google Play Gift Card Scam that is scouring the internet.

Google Play Gift Cards

Scam Alert: Currently there is an email scam occurring where thieves, posing as someone the recipient knows and are phishing for personal, financial, and other private information. This includes requests for Google Play Gift Cards. For example, the message will read, “I need you to pick up a couple of gift cards. Can you make this happen? The type of gift card I need is Google Play gift cards. I need 4 cards in $500 denominations…scratch the back of the card to reveal the card codes and email me the gift card codes.”

Take away: Never provide any personal information including gift card codes like Google Play in an email. What seems like the information is going to a trusted source, it could be a scam.


World Braille Day

World Braille Day

On January 4th, 1809, Louis Braille was born. Louis Braille was a child who lost his vision in an incident involving a sharp tool at the age of 3. During his early life, Louis had an interest in “night writing”, a military code used by the French Army in the 1800s. This “night writing” was a way for soldiers to silently communicate in the dark. At 15 years old, Louis Braille simplified the French soldiers’ code so that it was easier to use and understand. This was the beginning of the Braille System that is still used today.

Braille is a system of raised dots that are felt with fingertips to give blind people a way to read the words around them. The raised dots are arranged in a way that represents letters, numbers, and other characters. There are two different versions of Braille. The first is uncontracted, where each word is spelled out. The second is contracted, similar to shorthand. There is also a type of Braille, the Nemeth Code, that is for working with mathematics.

World Braille day reminds us of the impact that Braille has on the daily lives of people living with blindness. Braille is a key factor in obtaining literacy equality. Without braille, people with blindness or vision loss wouldn’t be able to read anything on their own. Braille helps people to live more independently.

On World Braille Day, further, educate yourself on braille. Learn about all the ways that it makes life easier for those who are blind. You could even join groups that help incorporate Braille into more parts of everyday life.