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The way in which we think of hackers is usually shaped by the immediate effects we see after a data breach, an act of sabotage, or a massive DDoS attack. All of these things depict hackers as people who are disruptive to the Internet and everything we are trying to create on it. If you think this way, you are right, for the most part. There are, however, hackers out there who actually do good. And I’m not talking about “hacktivists” like Anonymous and other groups that usually destroy things for causes they perceive as positive. I am talking about hackers that have a net positive effect on the Internet’s ecosystem as a whole. Do they exist? And if so, what motivates them?

Defining “Hacker”

The oldest definition we have of the word “hacker” comes from the 1960s in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It describes a person who is an enthusiast at programming or systems engineering. The negative connotation came with the dawn of the Internet era, when circumventing computer security became something profitable and somewhat easy. Today, this connotation still exists, but we now split hackers into three categories: White hat (doesn’t destroy anything, but rather fixes it), grey hat (does things outside the confines of the law), and black hat (disrupts things for profit or fun). For all intents and purposes, I will be using the modern definition of the word “hacker” and use each category to describe what type of hacker I’m referring to.

Why Would a Hacker Want to Do Good?

In the middle of July in 2024, United Airlines awarded a million flight miles to two hackers who discovered security flaws in its web system and disclosed them privately to the company. There are many companies that provide rewards to people who, instead of destroying their infrastructures, reveal the problems to the company staff so that they may repair it. The profit motive is perhaps the most powerful one white hat hackers have to do some good and inform private sector and public sector entities of their security flaws. This scheme is known as a “bug bounty” scheme, which is practiced by several entities around the world and provides a strong incentive for hackers to inform them of their security flaws which sometimes is more profitable than selling a hacked database or attempting to profit off of it yourself.

Good hackers aren’t always motivated by money, though. There are people who sometimes spot security flaws and provide a tip to the company owning the database without expecting anything in return. This sort of altruistic white hat hacker does what they do because they are enthusiastic about information security and may want to get on people’s good side so that they may eventually use their recommendation as leverage for employment in information security-related fields.

Is The Idea of Hacking Changing?

Until recently, the act of hacking was looked down upon for the destruction it caused. Slowly, many companies are starting to realize that hackers can actually be an asset driven by profit. The market itself is, in its own way, creating its own way of dealing with hackers that does not involve jail sentences or heavy fines in a way in which the hackers, customers, and the corporate world they both participate in all stand to benefit. This doesn’t mean that hackers are suddenly going to be driven to more positive and productive pursuits. Black hat hacking will always exist. However, it appears that we are starting to enter an era in which we can all cooperate towards a common goal, which is the hardening of security in both the corporate and government spaces.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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App Makers May Be Exposing Your Sensitive Data To Hackers

Some popular apps store sensitive data such as user names and passwords and credit card information in plain text on your phone’s memory, making the data an easy target for hackers. A Chicago-based mobile forensics company called viaForensics recently found as much after completing an audit of dozens of the most popular apps on both iOS and Android platforms.

If a criminal had physical access to your phone, it wouldn’t be very hard to find all that data and use it to commit identity theft; even remote access to your phone to harvest cached data is now becoming possible–the increase in mobile malware on Android phones and jailbroken iOS phones means that insecurities are more exploitable than ever.

You put a lot of information on your smartphone, mostly through apps that promise a standard of security and require usernames and passwords to access your personal data, at least on the initial setup of the application. But many of those apps unnecessarily store that information on the phone when they don’t have to, and they don’t encrypt all of their information when they do have to store the information offline.

Earlier this year, everyone was shocked that iPhones were storing their location data in an unencrypted file on the phone’s internal memory. But a history of location data seems like small fry compared with storing a password (considering that most people reuse their passwords for multiple accounts) or credit card numbers, or messages you’ve sent to your boss on the phone’s memory. Because phones are easily stolen, and Android phones especially have seen an increase in malicious apps (currently 2.5 times more common than they were six months ago, according to Lookout Mobile Security), storage of your private details shouldn’t be taken lightly.

You can check out the list of apps that viaForensics tested here, along with a summary of how much information each app revealed. ViaForensics contacted all of the app builders before publishing the results, so many of the apps tested are earlier versions that have since had the security holes fixed. But these are just a sampling of the hundreds of thousands of apps out there that keep more information stored on the phone than is absolutely necessary.

What Kinds of Apps are Insecure?

According to viaForensics’s tests, all kinds of apps can have major security holes when storing app data and login information–apps ranging from financial planning to productivity to social networking. But it’s important to note that the apps themselves are not malicious (although apps built for the sole purpose of stealing people’s information exist, especially on the Android platform); nevertheless, these insecure apps might open you up to malicious attacks.

For some, having this information accessible is harmless–someone knowing your Foursquare username and password can’t do much with that name and password unless they happen to be the same as the username and password for your bank account or work email.

Even more-popular finance apps like Square, the mobile credit-card reading app, kept some transaction information cached on the iPhone (the Android-based version securely stored most information accessed on Square, and passed with a warning). Although both versions of the app hid the user’s password properly, on iOS the merchant’s phone contained the last four digits of the buyer’s credit card number, but “the ultimate fail was when you sign on the pad, the last signature [made in the app] was available on the memory of the phone,” Eull says.

Malware Can Exploit Security Holes

Although the threat is still largely theoretical, malware might be the next big affront to your privacy on mobile devices. Eull noted that because user app data and login information is often stored on your phone’s readable memory, it’s possible for a hacker to create a piece of malware that extracts all the information you thought was secret while you’re using your phone.

Android users have faced a marked increase in instances of malware on their phones, usually acquired by downloading apps containing malicious code, and there’s no reason that this kind of malicious code couldn’t search for the unencrypted user names, passwords, and other app data that more popular apps are storing.

Alicia diVittorio, Communications Director at Lookout Mobile Security, warns against downloading questionable apps that could put the information on your other “safe” apps in jeopardy. “People are downloading these apps that could give access to information on phones,” diVittorio said, “and when you’re using unencrypted Wi-Fi, anyone who’s also on that Wi-Fi could see the data transferred. Data from the app should be encrypted, and the Wi-Fi should be encrypted,” to really stop any predatory activity on your mobile device. Using 3G exclusively will eat up your data usage, but if you can’t find trustworthy Wi-Fi in your location, it might be a good idea to turn your phone’s Wi-Fi connection off. Also, downloading a security app like Lookout that can scan for malware on your phone can help you protect your phone from infiltration.

Although clearly not every app developer is tuned in to the mandate to protect users’ security, Andrew Hoog, the CIO of viaForensics is hopeful: “In November of last year apps were storing banking information insecurely,” he says, and now, “we’re seeing a positive trend” in the way developers build their apps to guard against breaches. But app developers need to become better at building security a lot faster than their malware-developing counterparts, or face an ugly wake-up call of user dissatisfaction.

Why Is A Good Cybersecurity Culture Important For Your Company

blog / Cybersecurity What is Cybersecurity Culture and Why is it Important for Companies?

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Data is increasingly considered to be the most precious asset for a company. It has the potential to create or destroy a company’s fortune. With such significance placed on data and information, it is natural that external or internal forces may attempt to undermine data security, violate its confidentiality, tamper with it, or even steal it. This, among other reasons, is why companies need to create a cybersecurity culture at all levels of the organization. What cybersecurity culture really translates to is every member of an organization embracing attitudes and beliefs that drive secure behaviors when it comes to safeguarding their companies.

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity in broad terms is the protection of information and data on computers, networks, and other electronic devices. It has increasingly become important to fortify companies against cyber attacks. For one, it has become easier to breach the system. With the technological landscape shifting to cloud services, access points for attackers have increased and despite stringent cloud policies, cloud misconfigurations are said to be the leading reason for cyber security attacks. For the other, the cost of data breaches is extremely high. On average, the United States sees the most expensive data breaches in the world, costing $4.2 million per attack. As a result, it is critical for businesses to establish and invest in cybersecurity frameworks to protect their data and important information.

How to Establish a Strong Cybersecurity Culture at Work Focus on the Fundamentals 

A secure cyber blueprint’s first and primary defense is as basic as a strong password. Companies should enforce password protocols to make them strong using various characters that are difficult for intruders to figure out. Further, you can use Two-Factor authentication or Single-Sign-On.

Educate Employees on Cybersecurity

According to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the human component was involved in more than 85% of data breaches. Therefore, employee education through formal cybersecurity training would help them respond better to cyber-attacks and prevent future errors.

Share the Responsibility

To establish an excellent cybersecurity program, this responsibility must be shared by all levels of a company. The firm’s cybersecurity aim and vision must be articulated so that everyone can understand and implement it, benefiting the organization. 

Keep a Feedback Loop

Everyone in the business must feel comfortable reporting any faults made by the IT department. Setting up a conduit where workers can communicate their worries about cybersecurity or ask inquiries will be beneficial. 

Conduct Drills

Organizations should practice responding to a cyber assault through drills or scenario preparation. Everyone should know the procedures if an actual attack occurs.

Who is Responsible for Driving a Cybersecurity Culture?

Cybersecurity is a collaborative effort. From executives to CEOs, everyone is, in a sense, responsible for adhering to the organization’s cybersecurity guidelines. However, the onus of managing or ‘driving’ the cybersecurity culture has to be with a designated executive, who supervises the actions required to maintain security. That may not necessarily be the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). 

How to Develop a Cybersecurity Culture at all Three Levels Leadership Level  Group Level Individual Level

Individuals must increase their knowledge about cyber attacks to detect possible fraud and phishing emails. And everyone has to know what to do in the event of a threat. 

Given the risk involved and the worldwide history of cyber threats, a cybersecurity culture in a firm is vital. To be better prepared, learn more about cybersecurity from Emeritus’ online courses and become a part of a healthy and safe virtual environment.

By Siddhesh Shinde

Write to us at [email protected] 

Would A Circulatory System Be Better For A Computer?

In the 1990s the vast majority of computers only needed to cool their CPUs with a simple fan that fit in the palm of a human hand. This is still how we cool most of our computers in the 21st century, except for the fact that the fans are now more efficient and larger.

The problem with hardware is that electrical impedance creates a sort of “friction” that results in excessive amounts of heat. As hardware gets more powerful, it needs to dissipate more of this heat. Most high-budget PC enthusiasts have built computers by hand or through bare-bones kits that include water cooling, a more efficient method of removing heat from multiple pieces of hardware. But what if we had a system with cooling that functioned a lot like our own vascular systems? Would that be more efficient?

The Traditional Cooling Model Is Failing Us

For most modern computers, it is sufficient to have a fan cooling the CPU. That’s not because air cooling is necessarily the most efficient, but because all of the operations we do on that computer can be accomplished through the CPU it currently has, and that CPU can be cooled by air. Overclocking enthusiasts may have to opt for water cooling not because they are pushing the limits of the hardware, per se, but because they will eventually push the hardware to a point that is acceptable for the system but only if the cooling method is more efficient.

Ultimately, what we end up with is hardware that is “dumbed down” to work with the traditional air cooling method. Water cooling isn’t extraordinarily popular because you always risk leaking fluid into the system and frying the computer whenever you are performing maintenance. For this reason, it’s difficult to sell the idea of water cooling to the masses. Instead, we have a compromise where we start adding more fans to pre-built systems and leaving it at that (many CPU coolers have two or more fans).

What we need is a new cooling method that is simple to maintain and allows us to accelerate the process by which we can develop hardware. It’s either that, or we start coming up with magical CPUs that don’t give off a whole lot of heat. Both are possible, but a circulatory system for computers would probably be the best solution.

Circulatory Cooling vs. Water Cooling

In 2013 IBM showcased its invention of a computer that runs on “blood.” The concept is rather simple: Distribute power to the system and remove its heat. The electrolyte is conductive, making it possible to route power wherever it’s needed. At the same time, it can carry heat away from the computer into a pump that cools the liquid once again. It sounds like a glorified water cooler until we add one more (very important) detail: it has capillaries that can distribute themselves into smaller areas.

The human body is efficient at maintaining its temperature not only because of the presence of sweat glands, but also because our blood seems to be all over. When you get a cut, no matter where its location on your body, blood somehow manages to come out of the surface. This is because there are millions upon millions of capillaries scattered all around the body. Considering that the human brain consumes roughly 20 percent of the body’s resting metabolic rate, it produces a lot of heat for one single organ. The blood that enters the brain helps dissipate all of this heat.

Doing this with a computer could help spark more innovation that doesn’t have to work around the traditional cooling practices we employ. By filling a computer with capillaries, we can distribute power and cool small clusters of transistors, allowing us to make denser CPUs. This construction could help us also pioneer a new age in robotics. Instead of measuring a CPU by how many tasks it can accomplish in one second, it could perhaps be more adequate to measure its performance by how many tasks it can churn through with one gram of fluid.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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Difference Between Gravitational Force And Electrostatic Force

Force is a physical quantity which is defined as a pull or push of a body having certain mass. Force is the factor that causes a change in the velocity of a body. Basically, a force is an external agent causes the change in the state of an object, i.e., it may move the object or may stop the movement of moving body.

Force is a vector quantity. Thus, it has both magnitude and direction. Force may be classified into two broad categories namely contact force and non-contact force.

Contact force is the one that acts on a body by making a direct contact with the body.

Non-contact force is the one that acts on the body through space without having direct contact with the body.

A generalized formula of force is given by the Newton’s second law of motion, which is,

$$F:=:ma$$

$$F:=:ma$$

Where, ‘F’ is force, ‘m’ is the mass of body, and ‘a’ is acceleration (change in velocity of body due to force). The SI unit of force is Newton (N).

This article is meant for explaining the differences between gravitational force and electrostatic force. Where, both gravitational and electrostatic forces are the types of noncontact forces. Before, going to discuss the differences, we learn the basics of gravitational force and electrostatic force so it becomes easy to understand the differences between them.

What is Gravitational Force?

The force of attraction exerted by an object on another objects due to their mass is called the gravitational force. If out of two, one body is the earth, then it is called gravity. The gravitational force can be only an attraction force, it can never be repulsive. Though, the gravitational force is a non-contact force. Therefore, for the existence of gravitational force between two bodies, the direct contact between the bodies is not required.

If there are two bodies having masses M1 and M2 respectively and are separated by a distance of R meters, then the gravitational force is given by

$$F:alpha:frac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$ $$Rightarrow:F:=:Gfrac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$

$$F:alpha:frac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$ $$Rightarrow:F:=:Gfrac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$

Where, G is the constant of proportionality, called gravitational constant. In SI units, the value of G is −

$$G:=:6.67:times:10^{-11}Nm^2kg^{-2}$$

Numerical Example 1

$$G:=:6.67:times:10^{-11}Nm^2kg^{-2}$$

Two bodies having masses 500 kg and 700 kg are separated by a distance of 200 meters. Calculate the force of attraction between the bodies.

Solution

Given data,

Mass of body 1, $M_1$ = 500 kg

Mass of body 2, $M_2$ = 700 kg

Distance between bodies,$R$= 200 m

Therefore, according to the Law of Gravitational Force, we get,

$$F:=:Gfrac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$ $$Rightarrow :F:=:frac{(6.67:times:10^{-11})times:500times:700}{200^{2}}$$ $$F:=:5.84:times:10^{-10}N$$

$$F:=:Gfrac{M_1M_2}{R^2}$$ $$Rightarrow :F:=:frac{(6.67:times:10^{-11})times:500times:700}{200^{2}}$$ $$F:=:5.84:times:10^{-10}N$$

Thus, the force of attraction between the given bodies is of 5.84 × 10−10 N.

What is Electrostatic Force?

A force that acts between two bodies due to their electric charges is called electrostatic force. Therefore, the electrostatic force is the one that a charged body exerts on another charged body. Just like the gravitational force, the electrostatic force is also a non-contact and hence do not require direct contact between bodies for their existence.

Unlike the gravitational force, the electrostatic force may be an attractive force or a repulsive force. It is an attractive force, if the two charged bodies carry different charges, like one carries positive charge and another carries negative charge. On the other hand, if both charged bodies carry same charge, i.e. positive-positive or negative-negative, then the electrostatic force acting between them is of repulsive nature.

The electrostatic force is formulated by the Coulomb’s Law as,

$$F:=:kfrac{Q_1:Q_2}{r^2}$$

$$F:=:kfrac{Q_1:Q_2}{r^2}$$

Where, k is constant of proportionality, Q1 and Q2 are the charges on bodies, r is the distance between two charged bodies. The value of k is given by,

$$k:=:frac{1}{4piepsilon_0epsilon_r}$$

$$k:=:frac{1}{4piepsilon_0epsilon_r}$$

Where,$epsilon_0$ and $epsilon_r$are the permittivity of vacuum and relative permittivity of medium respectively.

$$epsilon_0:=:8.85:times:10^{-12}:Fm^{-1}$$

$$epsilon_0:=:8.85:times:10^{-12}:Fm^{-1}$$

The following example illustrates the process of determining the electrostatic force acting between two charged bodies.

Numerical Example 2

Two charged bodies carrying electric charge of +5 C and -10 C and are separated from each other by a distance of 10 meters in free space. Determine the electrostatic force acting between them.

Solution

Given data,

$Q_1$ = +5 C and $Q_2$ = −10 C

r = 10 m

Therefore, according to coulomb’s law of electrostatics, we get,

$$F:=:kfrac{Q_1:Q_2}{r^2}$$ $$Rightarrow :F:=:frac{(9:times:10^{9})times:5times:10}{10^{2}}$$ $$therefore:F:=:4.5:times:10^9:N$$

$$F:=:kfrac{Q_1:Q_2}{r^2}$$ $$Rightarrow :F:=:frac{(9:times:10^{9})times:5times:10}{10^{2}}$$ $$therefore:F:=:4.5:times:10^9:N$$

Hence, the electrostatic force between the two bodies is 4.5 × 109 N and it is an attractive force because the charges on the bodies are opposite

Difference between Gravitational Force and Electrostatic Force

Gravitational force and electrostatic force are both non-contact forces. However, there are several major differences between gravitational force and electrostatic force, the following table highlights all those differences:

Basis of Difference Gravitational Force Electrostatic Force

Definition A force of attraction that a body exerts on another body due to their mass is called gravitational force. A force of either attraction or repulsion that a body exerts on another body due to their charge is called electrostatic force.

Cause of existence Gravitational force is only due to mass of the body. Electrostatic force is exists due to charge on the body.

Nature of force Gravitational force is only an attractive force. Electrostatic force may be an attractive force or a repulsive force.

Effect of surrounding medium The gravitational force is not affected by the medium in which the two bodies are placed. Electrostatic force depends on the medium in which the bodies are placed.

Expression The gravitational force is given by, $$F:=:Gfrac{M_1:M_2}{R^2}$$ The electrostatic force is given by, $$F:=:kfrac{Q_1:Q_2}{r^2}$$

Constant of proportionality The gravitational constant (G) (which is the constant of proportionality) has a value that is constant at any point in this universe. It is, $$G:=:6.674:times:mathrm{10^{-11}Nm^2kg^{-2}}$$ In case of electrostatic force, the constant of proportionality is ‘k’ whose value depends on the medium.

The value of k in free space is, $$k:=mathrm{:8.85:times:10^{-12}Fm^{-1}}$$

Strength The gravitational force is comparatively a weak force. The electrostatic force is stronger than gravitational force.

Importance

The following are facts that show the importance of gravitational force −

It is responsible for rotation of the earth around the sun.

It is responsible for rotation of the moon around the earth.

It is responsible for formation of tides in the oceans, etc.

The electrostatic force is important because it enables us to find the electric force experienced by a charge due to another charge (or charges).

It also enables us to find the electric field intensity at a place.

Applications The gravitational force is used to calculate the time period of modern artificial satellites, prediction about lunar and solar eclipses, etc. Electrostatic force is used in laser and inkjet printers, Xerox machine, electrostatic air filter, etc.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, we can conclude that gravitational and electrostatic forces are different in many aspects, but both are types of non-contact forces, which means they do not need a direct contact between two bodies for their existence.

Consumer Software That’s Good For Business

You’ve probably seen the phrase “the consumerization of IT” bandied about. What does it mean? According to Microsoft, it’s a blurring of the lines between people’s personal and professional lives, driven by their desire to use the same technology at work as they use at home.

Travel Planning

TripIt is a fabulous and free personal travel-management tool that can easily adapt to the needs of small businesses. If you or your employees regularly travel for business, this tool can help you monitor where everyone is going, track how long they’ll be out of the office, and manage the reservations-related minutiae that crop up with even the shortest of trips.

How does it work? First, set up a free account on TripIt. Next, assign someone to create a group for your company that will enable your employees to share their travel details. Once TripIt approves your request, ask all of the traveling employees in your organization to create their own accounts and sign up for the group. Congratulations: You’re all connected.

If TripIt’s automatic-import feature doesn’t play nice with your email system (it’s most compatible with Web-based services, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail), simply forward a copy of each of your travel-related email messages to a standard TripIt address. TripIt will automatically organize and import details associated with your flight confirmations, hotel and dinner reservations, car rentals, and the like into a trip itinerary, which you can then add to your personal or business calendar. You can access the program on the go via apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 devices, too.

Productivity

The catch? If you want Google to manage the core of your communications for free, you get only ten user accounts, each of which is entitled to 10GB of storage. That’s sufficient for many small businesses, but larger entities will need to pay up. Google charges $5 per user per month, or you can save a little cash by signing up for one year of service at $50 per user.

Cloud Storage

Even if your business is outfitted with the most robust servers containing terabytes of network storage, you could still benefit from using consumer cloud-storage services for stashing files, syncing folders on multiple computers, and collaborating with colleagues.

Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive make it easy to share files among departments, teams, individual employees, and outside contractors. Each service offers a set amount of storage for free, and you can purchase more as you need it. These services are particularly useful for special projects: Rather than granting network access across the board, you can create a folder in the cloud, store only the documents everyone needs for that project, and then share that folder with the people involved in the project. And for sending large files, cloud storage is more convenient than email, which typically caps the size of attachments.

Cloud storage also helps you keep files synchronized between your home base of operations, traveling staffers, and remote employees. This arrangement can save your IT team from creating secure VPN (virtual private network) connections and setting up secure remote-sharing capabilities on your corporate network. All you have to do is stash important files in your cloud storage and grant access to other people on an as-needed basis. Traveling or remote employees will have access on any device–PC, tablet, or smartphone–from anywhere they have Internet service.

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