Is Fingerprint Recognition on Mobile Devices Secure?

Posted on January 20th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Mobile, Security | Comments Off

Think about it for a moment. Being able to do things like unlock your phone or tablet to purchasing an entire virtual shopping cart of gifts off Amazon for your loved ones during the holiday – all authorized by you with a simple quick press of your finger on your phone or tablet. This is the type of technology we read about in science fictions novels and saw in movies only 10 years ago and now it’s becoming a reality. Many argue that fingerprint recognition is the holy grail of security. It combines speed, accuracy and minimal brain power, but just how secure is this trending technology?

Before diving into numbers, let’s look at where this technology is available first. The major players currently showcasing biometric fingerprint recognition are Apple with it’s iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 and as well as Samsung with it’s Galaxy S5. As of current, Apple is allowing the use of their fingerprint recognition to buy items off their Apple stores such as iTunes and through their Apple Pay service with participating apps such as Target Mobile. Samsung has also allowed the use of your fingerprint to authorize PayPal purchases. While these seem rather limited as of now, you can expect more services to be available in the future as this technology becomes more popular. Apple and Samsung will be undoubtedly watching these services closely as they are test cases in the months to come.

fingerprint security

Currently, Apple seems to be the only company out of the two corporate giants, actually coming out forthright about the details of their fingerprint scanner. The scanner is located inside the home button on the bottom of the phone. When you setup your fingerprint for the first time, it takes 20 or so captures of your fingerprint and stores it in a secure part of your phone’s internal memory. While this may seem extreme for some, it allows a fingerprint to be read at any angle it’s positioned. This memory of your fingerprint is only available to the touch sensor app. No other apps are allowed to store this data. The Samsung S5 also stores your fingerprint in the same basic method.

Apple’s biometric fingerprint recognition securities feature a wide range of tests for accuracy. One of the most fascinating is a touch ID sensor that check to see if the fingerprint on the screen is alive and not a reproduction. Yes, this means you’ll be less likely to become the target of a person wanting to sever your hand and use it to gain access to your phone (as seen on many crime series TV dramas). In reality, this means someone would be less likely to get into your phone with just a picture of your finger or by ways of lifting your fingerprint oil patterns. The reader picks up 500ppi (points per inch) very similar to the scan sensitivity to many optical mice on the market now. The fingerprint reader also scans the user’s sub-epidermal skin layers. This means that people with dry skin won’t need to worry too much about the reader not picking them up however, this doesn’t mean the reader can scan through dirty fingers.

While all this security may seem like an overwhelming victory for merchants and a possible reason to look into a new phone, it’s always good to think about new technology as untested. Reports are still coming in from various sources stating that these fingerprint accessible phones are easily hacked. Some are saying that vulnerabilities may still exist in these designs, leaving your fingerprints vulnerable. All these signs lead me to believe this is shaping up to be a trend (like 3D TVs) but that’s not a reason not to check on reports and testimonials in future months. We may see everyone using fingerprints in the near future but as for now, I’ll keep the fingerprint recognition function turned off for my new Samsung Galaxy S5. If I were doing more purchases and got out more often, I could see the benefit of using the fingerprint software in tandem with a password protect. Then again, some of you may think I’m borderline paranoid when it comes to security. For general public use, I’d recommend using your fingerprints as a means to quickly unlock your phone if you find yourself picking it up and down very often.

Best Practices to Backup and Store Your Data

Posted on January 12th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics | Comments Off

For many people, losing their computer data ranks fairly high as the worst type of information to lose. Don’t get me wrong, losing actual physical records to something like a fire or flood is still considered catastrophic, however most people now spend and store their lives on their home computer. How many photos, videos, or projects would you lose?

Backing up your data isn’t as rigorous anymore as it used to be. I remember sitting at my computer for hours back in college, backing up my projects and artwork by burning them to CDs. Luckily, the same results can be achieved by either a drag and drop or by pushing a single button if setup right.

Physical Backups

Physical backups are what comes to everyone’s mind when they think of backing up their data. These are backups you can make with disks, CDs, USB thumb drives or external hard drives.

The benefits to having a physical backup of your data is that you can take them with you and use them on the go with other computers. Most physical storage devices are made to easily be recognized on other computers and are relatively cheap for the storage capacity you’re buying.

There are of course downsides to physical backups however. Most physical backups like USB thumb drives come very small now days. It’s easy to lose or misplace your important files during something like a move. Obviously if you lose your data, you run the risk someone else may find it and keep it. There’s also hardware degradation to worry about. CDs will scratch, disks can snap, external hard drives can have their motor damaged and USB thumb drives can be destroyed. I find that USB flash drives are more resilient compared to other methods of backup however.

Network (Remote) Backups

Network backups are becoming slowly phased out by the use of the cloud when it comes to home use however, network backups are still the best method for businesses. I’ll briefly explain both and their uses.

A network backup is considered the backing up of data by sending your files through a network connection to another computer, usually to an off-site location. Network backups are very secure and the reason why most businesses still use this method. The remote computer containing the network backups are usually monitored by a network administrator. These administrators can assist users who forget their passwords or other general problems. There’s no needless worry involved about information falling into the wrong hands since the data is contained on a company computer using a secure line. Most network administrators keep multiple instances of their backups running at the same time in case of hard drive failure. If a flood were to happen at the office and all the computers were damaged, business can still resume as normal once they install new computers.

The cons to setting up a network backup is that they are tedious to setup and impractical for home use. A vast majority of home PC users don’t have the luxury of owning a second off-site computer. Some may argue that tedium isn’t a major factor, however most home owners take the time to setup home networks with full file storage capabilities. This isn’t to imply that the home computer owners are limited to their options.

Cloud Backups

Cloud storage is a relatively new feature that service websites are starting to provide. For a small fee, you can pay for a website to backup your data on the cloud. This allows home users to remotely backup their data on a website’s servers run by administrators. Most of these service websites will hold your data on multiple hard drives and at more than one location, giving the user complete accessibility whenever they want. Most sites also offer a means to connect to both your home PC, tablet and smart phone. Big name sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud allow you to enjoy their limited services for free and offer their full services at very reasonable prices.

You may say to yourself that cloud storage sounds like the end-all of backing up your files however there are various downsides to this method. Security is a big problem when it comes to backing up your data to the cloud. Even though most sites take extreme precaution to prevent hacker attacks, they can’t protect you if you happen to write your login info on a piece of paper and lose it. Yes, you can change your password but in most cases it could already be too late. There’s also the problem that service websites are susceptible to going out of business. While this hasn’t been a major problem up to when this article was written, it also doesn’t necessary mean you’re completely protected either.

On-site Backups

On-site backups are any backups you keep with you at all times and on hand. Since this also falls into the realm of physical backups, I’ll be a little more specific. On-site backups are kept for quick restoration purposes. Computers have the capabilities to contain more than one hard drive within the rig. Some of you may experienced hard disk problems or maybe you accidentally deleted something you weren’t supposed to. Backing up your data on more than one drive gives you the quick ability to go back and save your work. From my personal experience, accidental deletion has been the most common form of data loss in the past. Because of this, I always install a second drive for storage reasons whenever I buy a computer. As computers change so do the methods of on-site data storage options. One of the best methods to backup your data is to keep a mirrored image of your hard drive. This puts to use a second hard drive that assures you that you’ll still be able to use your computer should one drive’s motor die on you.

You could probably already guess the apparent issues with on-site backup. You don’t have the benefits of being able to recover data if your computer is completely destroyed and you don’t get the luxury of being able to access the data handily.

Conclusion

Regardless of the cons of all these methods, your percentage of data loss vastly decreases with every method you add to your arsenal of recovery options. I highly recommend home PC users use the rule of three. On-site backups, physical backups and cloud backups. If you’re lazy like me, you can also practice backing up data by importance. I usually keep my every day use files on my on-site backup drive, and my harder to replace files on the cloud and on physical backups. I personally only put my important records and documents on encrypted physical backups that require a password. That way they’re useless to strangers and if they’re destroyed, no one can use it to request a business or government agency to give them duplicates without being me.

Cloud Computing

Posted on June 29th, 2012 by admin in Basics, Hosting | Comments Off

Cloud Computing Simplified

The term “cloud computing” has been increasingly used in computer and Web-related talk, but what exactly does it mean? The ideas behind cloud computing likely originated in the 1960s when figures, such as John McCarthy, expressed the opinion that computer use may someday be used in a fashion similar to that of public utilities. In the standard Web services schema, if you wanted to rent file storage space for example, you would have to come up with an estimation of how much storage space you actually need so that you don’t a) end up paying for more space than you use, or b) end up exceeding your space needs and having to go through the hassle of upgrading to a more expensive plan. This standard schema is applied to many services that can be rendered over the Web, from hosting for a website to your phone’s data plan, and is still in use today. Cloud computing seeks to make this an obsolete business model by providing users with plans under which they pay for exactly what they use, no more and no less. This is very similar to the way in which we pay for public utilities. In essence, cloud computing is the use of technology that offers resources and services over the Web in a manner in which a client’s use can be tracked, thus allowing the client to pay for exactly what they use without having to worry about different plans, scalability, etc.

What Cloud Hosting Brings to the Table

Besides providing the obvious benefit of not causing a client to examine different hosting plans and upgrading or downgrading at the appropriate time, companies that offer cloud hosting really bring something magical to the table when it comes to scalability. Imagine you’re starting a business on the Web. Not only will you need hosting for your site, but you may also need storage space for your files, dedicated servers, and to have the ability for your business to scale upwards if it is a success. The last thing you want is for your business site to be down because it was so successful that the data limits of your current hosting plan were exceeded. With cloud hosting, scalability is never an issue; as your business expands and necessitates the use of more resources from your hosting company, you will automatically be given these resources and charged for exactly what you use without having to worry about your data usage. Likewise, if your business is not as successful as you may have hoped, you will not be over-charged by any expensive plans you may have over-optimistically purchased.
To learn more about some of the top cloud hosting services available, or to sign up for cloud hosting today, please visit the following links:

http://www.rackspace.com/
http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/
http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/cloud/index.html

What is E-commerce?

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by admin in Basics | Comments Off

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, is the buying, selling, or trade of products and services over any electronic system. Today, the vast majority of e-commerce occurs over the Internet. E-commerce is most commonly used by e-businesses, that is, businesses that are run in part, or completely, on the Web. Some of the largest e-businesses include Amazon and eBay.

There are a number of components necessary in order to operate a successful e-business. Like any business, a way to accept payment, as well as deliver the product or service, is needed. Depending on the business, the ability to accept returns and/or provide customer service may also be needed. And of course, an e-business requires a “place” to sell a product or service. This place generally comes in the form of an e-commerce website that includes an online store where a potential customer can browse items and place them in a virtual “shopping cart.” When they’re done shopping, a customer can then add or remove items from their cart before making a purchase.

E-businesses can provide advantages over a typical brick and mortar store. One major advantage is that an e-business can save its owner money in regards to the physical space required to run the business. Another enormous advantage of running an e-business is having the ability to reach millions, or even billions, of customers internationally. Additionally, e-businesses are not subject to normal time restrictions and can keep their business open all day and all night.

E-commerce Solutions

Starting or expanding a business on the Internet comes with a host of issues that must be addressed in order to achieve success. Firstly, owners and customers alike need a way to transfer money and goods while both providing legitimate credentials that prove they are who they say they are, and keeping their information secure from third parties. A high standard in regards to security is essential for running an e-business. Most e-commerce sites employ Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology to help protect information at the point of purchase.
Additional concerns for an e-business include the endless sea of possibilities for site design, as well as the plethora of marketing strategies which are available on the Web. The correct site design and/or marketing campaign can make or break an e-business. And of course, search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important for any e-business. If customers do not find an e-business site while searching for the products or services said business offers, the business is not likely to be successful.

There are a number of free and/or inexpensive tools a business owner can use to set up an e-business. However, a business owner will generally have many other things to focus on and there are a many online companies (e-businesses themselves) that offer e-commerce solutions. These companies can help a business owner do anything from reliably host an e-commerce site, design the site with a specific business in mind, provide a secure shopping cart to process orders, develop marketing plans that fit the business model, use techniques to improve the business site’s search ranking, provide customer service, and more.

Ultimately, a business owner should be sure to conduct a fair amount of research before deciding whether or not to start an e-business or expand an existing business to the Internet. Not all businesses will benefit from the Web (for example, a business that makes most of its profit from a loyal, local following may waste money by attempting to expand to the Internet). Likewise, if a business owner decides that creating an e-business will provide him or her with advantages, he or she should be knowledgeable enough to know whether creating and managing the site on their own will be more or less beneficial than hiring one of the many e-commerce solutions companies that are available online.

The Basics: Register a Domain Name

Posted on January 29th, 2008 by admin in Basics | No Comments »

One of the steps to starting an Internet site is registering the domain name. Coming up with the name is the fun part. After that, you will want to go to a domain registrar. For this example, we’ll use my favorite registrar, GoDaddy.

Step 1: Find a domain name that is available.

At http://www.godaddy.com, there is a box on the homepage that says Domain Name Search. To find your name, type it in this box and choose from the drop down box a tld (.com, .net, etc). Click the Go button.

If the name isn’t available keep trying until you find one that is available that you like. GoDaddy offers suggestions for alternatives if the name you searched is not available.

Step 2: Register the Domain

After you’ve found a suitable name, continue with the checkout process. You will need to choose how many years you would like to register your domain. A discount is offered if you choose to register it for multiple years. You will be reminded by email when the end of your registration period is up, so that you can choose to extend your registration.

Step 3: Enter contact information

A domain must have contact information associated with it. There are four contact fields that you must enter but you can use the same contact information for each. Alternatively, GoDaddy offers private registration for a few more dollars. This will set a proxy contact so that your own contact information is not directly accessible.

Step 4: Point your Domain Somewhere

Point the domain name to a server at your web host or leave it alone and GoDaddy will park the domain for you.

Once you complete the checkout process, you’re all set!

 

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