Firefox Makes Yahoo! it’s Main Search Provider

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In Mozilla Firefox’s new version titled Firefox 34, you will see a browser switch from Google to Yahoo. After ten years, Mozilla decided to part ways with Google and switch to using Yahoo as its default search provider for the popular Firefox web browser. The deal stated that Yahoo would take over as the default search provider in the U.S. across mobile and desktop devices. In a blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard called the end of its use of Google an, “opportunity to review our competitive strategy and explore our options.”

What does the switch mean for you?

This change means that if you’re downloading Firefox for the very first time, Yahoo will be designated as your default search engine. On the other hand, if you are an existing Firefox (based in the U.S.) and you have not previously changed your search default, the new update will prompt you to switch to Yahoo. If you’d designated a different search browser, you can simply click “Later” to continue with whomever you are using.

Why the change?

The change is speculated to be in response to a new Mozilla product, a mobile phone software, which would compete with Google’s Android. Another reason may be that Mozilla is one of the main proponents behind Do Not Track, a group that is pushing web companies to agree to a standard that users should be able to opt out of advertising tracking. Google has historically opposed this viewpoint, and unlikely to ever abide by it. Yahoo, on the other hand, will support the Do Not Track standards as a part of the deal.

What does the change mean for users?

In the browser and search engine world, it seems that many people are loyal to provider that they use. In that light, Google has been using many tactics to try and win back Firefox users. One of Google’s most unique tactics was a tweet that stated: “This one’s for all the Google Search-loving Firefox fans out there.” The tweet showed an image of how to change the default search engine back to Google.

Overall, whether you are loyal to a search engine or are considering a switch, these providers are going to be vying for your attention.

Best Buy Website Crashes over Black Friday – Influx of Online Traffic

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Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, eat turkey and reminisce on all the wonderful things in your life. The day after Thanksgiving, as everyone knows, is Black Friday. To most, Black Friday means serious holiday shopping. A time to get great deals on gifts for everyone on your gift list from your favorite stores.

This year, the electronics retailer Best Buy had a disaster-prone Black Friday. Best Buy promoted deep discounted items online, even emailing customers regularly to inform them about deals added to the online shop. As customers logged onto the site that day, they were finding that the website was slow, unresponsive and went completely down for over an hour.

What happened to the Best Buy website?

Best Buy claims that the website issues were due to an influx of traffic, due to shoppers flooding the site to look for deals. The site was apparently experiencing issues around 9 a.m., but then went completely down shortly thereafter. Best Buy spokeswoman Amy von Walter said in a statement that the site was taken down, “in order to take proactive measures to restore full performance.”

There is probably not much that they could have done to avoid delays and glitches because of the incredibly high spike in traffic. However, for companies with high traffic websites, having the right hosting can make a difference.

Shared Servers

Shared server hosting means that you are sharing a server with other websites. It essentially means that the same SPUs and RAM are distributed to support multiple websites.  If you have a website that you expect to gain a lot of traffic, this is probably not your best choice. These sites may be slower, but they are the most cost effective option.

Dedicated Server

A dedicated server deals with traffic from only one website, and can typically handle a spike in website traffic. Having a dedicated server also means that you are limited to the capabilities of that server, and if the hardware goes down, or any other issues, your site goes down. You can still recover your site, but it takes some time.

Scalable Cloud Hosting

This may be the best option for extremely high traffic sites, or those sites like Best Buy that are planning for major traffic spikes. This service runs your server in a virtual environment. In a Black Friday instance, a scalable cloud hosting would be able to scale itself to get more resources in the event of a major traffic surge.

In the end, Best Buy probably lost a lot of business during its Black Friday outage. However, this did prove that more and more customers are interested in shopping online. If you are an online retailer, it is important to make sure that your website has the capability to accommodate online shoppers and handle a spike in traffic.

Tips from the Sony Hack

Tips from the sony hackIn late November, a cybercriminal group called the Guardians of Peace (GOP) gained access to Sony Entertainment’s computer network and stole more than 100 TB of confidential employee documents, unreleased movies, and more.

It has been widely suggested that the group resides in North Korea, and that the hack was in response to Sony’s recent plans to release the movie “The Interview,” in theatres. The plot of the comedy revolves around an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After the initial online attacks were discovered, the hackers installed a “wiper” malware onto Sony’s network – a software designed to permanently wipe data from Sony’s servers.

Regardless of who was involved in the attack, the event is a reminder of the importance of securing computer networks. Even Sony, a company that recorded a $72B revenue in 2013 and had an assumingly robust IT security barrier, was compromised – and not for the first time. The organization learned a great deal from the attack; and so did the public – in some cases, gaining access to extremely sensitive information the hackers released.

So, what measures can you take to secure your own business IT network?

Install a Firewall

Every network security system begins with a firewall. These control the barrier between trusted internal connections (LAN) and un-secure external sources (WAN). Firewalls can be in the form of software or actual hardware, and are recommended for most businesses with internal servers. However, a firewall alone could not prevent the Sony hack, which is why the next two actions described here are equally important.

Monitor Your Network

Experts suggest that the Sony hacking intrusion could have been going on for at least a year before it was discovered last November. Monitoring PCs and servers can identify irregularities and alert the user much sooner to a problem, mitigating restoration time in the case of a hack. Penetration testing, intentionally attacking a computer system to discover security weaknesses, can also be performed by third-party software to evaluate the quality and vulnerabilities of a system’s security.

Back Up Your Data

The potential loss of a huge portion of important business files poses a massive headache for Sony. Backing up information in a secure, off-site location is like data insurance. It ensures that original network files can be restored in the event of data loss during a breach.

It is difficult to gauge just how much damage has been done to Sony as a company and a brand by this event. In 2011, the company’s PlayStation and Qriocity services were hacked and data from 77 million users was stolen.  The network restoration process took 24 days, and the incident cost Sony $172 million.

Sony Hack & Network Security

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In the days before Thanksgiving 2014, Sony Pictures employees walked into work to find that their computer system was hacked. Computers flashed forbidding messages, and the network was completely compromised. Not too long after the initial discovery, employees found that their personal information was being leaked onto the web; things like their Social Security numbers, private emails and salaries. Additionally, employees found that five Sony-produced movies had been spread online. It was a grim day for Sony, and made us all think more about network security.

What happened in the cyber-attack?

The cyber-attack was thought to be in response to the movie “The Interview”, a comedy that discusses the assassination of the North Korean leader Kim Jon Un. Whatever the reason, the attack “used ‘a sophisticated worm to conduct cyber exploration activities,’ said retired Brigadier Gen. Gregory J. Touhill, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity operations and programs at the Department of Homeland Security.”(1) This attack is reported to have destroyed servers and computers, first taking data, and then wiping them of all of the data.

Taking Proper Network Security Precautions

It’s now been more than six weeks since the attack, and Sony is still working on getting its network back up and running. Ideally, Sony would have had a strong, proactive intelligence threat program to identify and address any security vulnerabilities that it might have. Large enterprises and small businesses alike should assume that they may be the target of a hacker attack. While no security precautions are perfect, each business should look at its security program to make sure that it is robust enough for the most common and most basic security attacks.

Could the attack have been prevented?

It is unlikely that the attack could have been totally prevented. However, it is likely that if Sony had a more robust security intelligence team, the leak wouldn’t have been as bad. The lesson here is: it is really important to make sure that you are continually monitoring your computer network system to make sure that your company minimizes the risk for a systems hack.

 

  1. Park, M. & Ford, D. CNN. North Korea to U.S.: Show evidence we hacked Sony. 9:18 AM ET Wed January 14, 2015. Accessed Wed January 14, 2015.

Will The Y2K Scare Happen Again?

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The weeks leading up to December 31, 1999 were fraught with much trepidation.  The scare of Y2K had people running into grocery stores to buy bottled water and pulling money out of mutual funds to protect against loss. It was an uncertain time, in a seemingly certain world. When the clock struck midnight, many were surprised when catastrophe did NOT strike. The street lights stayed on, telephones rang, and the internet was accessible. It turned out to not be as big of a deal as everyone had thought it would be.

Why was it such a big deal?

The problem stemmed from the fact that computers would not be able to decipher between 2000 (’00) and 1900 (’00). Many people thought that this would cause interruptions in operating systems and chaos in the business/ governmental/ industrial data.

Y2K: What really happened?

On the back end, Y2K was a bit bigger of a deal. Y2K has been fondly remember by IT professionals as one of the biggest (and most stressful) make-work projects that had to be tackled. Companies spent hours working to correct the time telling capabilities of digital and non-digital situations that practiced abbreviating a four-year digit year to two digits.

Did everything get fixed? Will there be another scare like Y2K? Maybe.

Year 2038 Problem: What we know, what we don’t.                      

The 2038 problem will occur on March 19th 2038, at 03:14:07 (coordinated universal time). At this point computer servers will reach the largest number representable in a 32-bit integer. Which means that the systems will not be able to decipher between the year 2038 and 1970, and will go into negative counting up from -2,147,483,647 to zero. So what happens then? It’s likely that most systems will not be able to manage this change and will fail. How they will fail is unknown.

Should I be concerned?

While there will, in fact, be a Year 2038 Problem, we do have over two decades to prepare for such an event. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that there will be any serious issues. Furthermore, because it is so far away, many of these old systems will have worn out by this time and have already been replaced.

In Conclusion

Yes, there are likely to be serious computer system malfunctions that could cause major shutdowns if not dealt with properly. However, there is no need to lose any sleep over it. Y2K educated us to think ahead of our past technology mishaps and prepare for a future full of technological innovations.