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Well, this is certainly noteworthy. According to the third annual report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) titled “Who Has Your Back?”, gadget giant Apple along with carriers AT&T and Verizon, Google’s rival Yahoo and the forgotten social network MySpace all are very likely to give in to Uncle Sam’s data demands.

Specifically, Apple and Yahoo scored one out of six possible stars, with Verizon and Yahoo rather ingloriously earning zero stars each. These companies’ weak safeguard implementation does little to circumvent data demands and protect your private information from the government’s prying eyes.

Whereas Apple and Yahoo only fight for users’ privacy rights in Congress, companies like Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Dropbox go to great lengths to ensure privacy of your data, earning four out of six stars each…

“We remain disappointed by the overall poor showing of ISPs like AT&T and Verizon in our best practice categories,” the EFF wrote. Comcast, Google, SpiderOak and Twitter earned two new stars this year, Microsoft earned three new stars and Foursquare went from zero stars in 2012 to four stars in 2013.

Of the eighteen technology service providers the EFF tested, only chúng tôi and Twitter have reasons to celebrate, having emerged victorious with a prefect six out of six stars each.

This means both companies protect your privacy in Congress and courts, publish law enforcement guidelines and transparency guidelines, tell users about government data requests and require a warrant for your content.

Wondering which service providers tell users about government data requests?

Think Dropbox, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress and chúng tôi Just don’t count on neither Facebook nor Google to tell you what’s going on. In fact, you may never know they bent over to Uncle Sam and handed over your data as neither will inform you of data requests from the government.

“We were disappointed to see Google backslide in this category,” the EFF wrote, “introducing ambiguity into its policy and in the process losing the half-star it had earned in previous years.”

Google on its part argues that “we notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order.”

Here are the rankings.

Microsoft and Twitter this year published their first transparency reports, while Facebook has yet to publish a transparency report of its own.

“Apple and AT&T are members of the Digital Due Process coalition, but don’t observe any of the other best practices we’re measuring,” the EFF cautioned.

What are these, you ask?

If you look it up on Wikipedia, a National Security Letter is a secretive government demand for user information and typically accompanied by a gag order.

Gag orders are issued exclusively by the FBI – without judicial oversight – and are designed to prevent individuals from ever revealing the existence of a National Security Letter to their coworkers, friends, family members or the general public.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to protecting users’ privacy in courts, Google impressed the EFF by challenging a National Security Letter.

Not every company has had the opportunity to defend user privacy in the courts, and sometimes companies will fight for users in court but be prevented from publicly disclosing this fact.

However, we award a star in this category when a company goes above and beyond for its users, as Google did this year.

It’s also interesting that even though Amazon was conceived as a cloud-based startup – the company now leases its servers to other startups and big brands like Twitter – the online retail giant only earned one more star compared to Apple or Yahoo.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn about four stars for WordPress. WordPress’s rival Tumblr earned one less star. Both blogging platforms are new to the EFF report this year.

In case you’re not familiar with the intricacies of the Patriot Act, the FBI ca now get telephone, Internet, financial, credit, and other personal records about anybody without court approval, “as long as it believes the information could be relevant to an authorized terrorism or espionage investigation.”

All told, the report is a devastating blow to Apple’s proclaimed privacy efforts.

Did you find these findings trustworthy?

I frankly thought Apple would have ranked somewhere in the middle, if not near the top.

You're reading Trust Twitter And Google, Not Apple, To Protect You From Government Data Demands

Do You Trust Ai To Do Your Job?

Almost two-thirds of Australians believe there are not enough safeguards, laws and regulations in place to make the use of AI safe in the workplace.

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ChatGPT and the varied offerings from other Big Tech providers have highlighted the transformative power and challenges AI tools can pose at work.

A 17-country study reveals how much and in what ways we trust AI in the workplace, how we view the risks and benefits, and what is expected for AI to be trusted. The Trust in Artificial Intelligence global research study completed by University of Queensland Business School and KPMG surveyed 17,000+ people and indicates that only half are willing to trust AI at work.

The analysis suggests the varying levels in trust and acceptance across countries largely reflect three key factors:

Differences in the perceived benefits of AI and the extent to which they outweigh potential risks: people in western countries and Japan are generally less convinced of the benefits of AI, and together with South Korea and Israel, less likely to believe the benefits of AI outweigh the risks, compared to people in the BICS countries and Singapore.

Perceptions of institutional safeguards: there are differences across countries in the perceived adequacy of safeguards and regulations to make AI use safe, and confidence in the institutions responsible for this. Fewer people in western countries, Japan, South Korea and Israel view current laws and regulations for safeguarding AI as sufficient, and report less confidence in companies to develop, use and govern AI, compared to people in Brazil, India, China and Singapore.

Familiarity and understanding of AI: people in western countries generally report less use of AI at work, and lower use and knowledge of AI in common applications, compared to people in the BICS countries and Singapore.

The findings of this global survey provide a clear overview of the current and future challenges to trust and acceptance of AI systems, as well as opportunities for overcoming these challenges.

“Given the rapid and widespread deployment of AI, it will be important to regularly re-examine public trust and expectations of AI systems as they evolve over time, to ensure AI use is aligned with and meeting changing societal expectations,” the study says.

Florian Douetteau is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Dataiku, the platform for Everyday AI, democratising access to data science and enabling enterprises around the world to build their own journey with Artificial Intelligence. The company has raised $600 million at a $3.7 billion valuation in their most recent Series F funding round in December 2023.

Douetteau started Dataiku in 2013 out of his passion for data, machine learning and people. He envisioned a future for businesses with AI becoming mainstream through the collaborative effort of everyone in the company, not just data scientists or technical experts.

“We are focused on being the company that helps businesses to get it done,” Douetteau says in an interview with Forbes Australia. “We leverage existing business expertise, only through AI and across a company, not just through a technologist.”

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He says the landscape has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years, from big data trying to find capacity to store information to cloud technology that has reduced costs.

“There is a conviction now across all industries that this can be a more efficient way of doing things in some areas of a business. We have the expertise to leverage AI to increase those efficiencies.”

Douetteau says the uses of AI have been “underestimated” and can give back time for the business to be more creative rather than overwhelmed by everyday reporting and researching of data.

How brands are using AI

AI is rapidly changing the way people communicate and create and brands are no exception.

Bain & Company has agreed a services alliance with OpenAI to help enterprise clients identify and realise the full potential and maximum value of AI, with The Coca-Cola Company announced as the first business to use the system.

OpenAI is the research and deployment company behind the AI systems ChatGPT, DALL·E and Codex.

The alliance builds on Bain’s adoption of OpenAI technologies for its 18,000-strong multi-disciplinary team of knowledge workers.

Over the past year, Bain has embedded OpenAI technologies into its internal knowledge management systems, research, and processes to improve efficiency. Given the early successes of those initiatives, Bain and OpenAI are working together to bring OpenAI’s groundbreaking capabilities to its clients globally.

“AI has reached an inflection point and we foresee a huge wave of change and innovation for our clients across industries. We see this as an industrial revolution for knowledge work, and a moment where all our clients will need to rethink their business architectures and adapt,” says Manny Maceda, Bain & Company’s Worldwide Managing Partner.

Maceda says that by collaborating with OpenAI, there will be “unmatched access to state-of-the-art foundation AI models, so that we can create tailored digital solutions for our clients and help them realize business value”.

Zack Kass, Head of Go-To-Market at OpenAI says, “Coca-Cola’s vision for the adoption of OpenAI’s technology is the most ambitious we have seen of any consumer products company.”

James Quincey, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company says the company sees opportunities to enhance its marketing, along with exploring ways to improve business operations and capabilities.

Smaller e-commerce businesses are finding ways to use AI in their own way. Kayla Houlihan, tribe skincare founder, detailed five ways she was using ChatGPT this week on a LinkedIn post: product descriptions, creative names for a secret project, PR/media pitches, employment contracts, brand bible revisit.

Houlihan describes the tool as “surprisingly good” and “great for writer’s block”, but adds it needs fact checking and doesn’t have an accurate tone of voice.

Look back on the week that was with hand-picked articles from Australia and around the world. Sign up to the Forbes Australia newsletter here.

The Tech Brands You Can Trust

But how many of them are willing to spend the money it takes to ensure that their products hold up after the sale has been made, and to service the product if it breaks?

Those are important questions for customers to ask before they buy–and the key questions of our annual Reliability and Service Survey. Each year we survey thousands of our readers to find out which hardware manufacturers have the best–and worst–product reliability and customer service and support.

This year’s response was unprecedented: 79,000 of you rated the tech products you use. With such a large pool of survey data, we learned a great deal about the companies that make laptops, desktops, smartphones, HDTVs, cameras, and printers. Here’s the mile-high view of what we found.

–Put simply, products made by Apple, Asus, Brother, and Canon are typically reliable and well supported.

–Products made by Dell and Hewlett-Packard often aren’t, especially if you’re a home user.

–Laptops are slightly more reliable than before, and have fewer serious problems than desktops.

–Business PC customers are generally more satisfied than their consumer counterparts.

And there’s much, much more.

After you read this article, you may want to jump to PCWorld’s Facebook page, where readers can add their own stories of product reliability and vendor service.

Winners and Losers

Apple once again smoked the competition in the desktop, notebook, and smartphone categories, winning high praise from customers in all reliability and service categories. The Macintosh and iPhone maker did so well that virtually all its scores were above average. Apple’s only average scores were related to the company’s deftness at replacing failed notebook components, and in two areas pertaining to serious problems with the iPhone, the latter perhaps stemming from the iPhone 4’s well-publicized antenna issue that resulted in dropped calls for some users.

Asus did well in ratings among both desktop and laptop owners, though it is best known in North America for its low-cost netbooks. These mini-notebooks have often been the target of derision over the past two years, with critics calling them cheaply made and hard to use. While some netbooks may fit that description, our readers say that Asus portables are, in general, highly reliable.

Canon, which like Apple, is a perennial favorite of PCWorld readers, again rocked the printer and camera categories. It’s not alone at the top, however. In our survey, Panasonic has surpassed Canon in camera reliability, and Brother is gaining popularity among printer users.

Panasonic, the biggest proponent of plasma HDTVs in a market increasingly dominated by LCD models, has a slight edge over LG and Sony. And smartphone users, in addition to praising the iPhone, are particularly happy with Verizon Wireless cell service and with handsets built by HTC. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry phones, however, get low marks for ease of use.

Dell and HP, two of the tech industry’s largest hardware manufacturers, disappointed us this year, particularly in desktops and laptops for home use and (in HP’s case) printers. (We address these two companies’ dismal showings below.)

Overall, it’s clear that many reliability and service problems persist, including defective components that fail out of the box, as well as poorly trained customer service representatives who are incapable of departing from a script.

Golden Apple

Can Apple do no wrong? Indeed, 2010 was a remarkable year for the world’s highest-valued tech company. In addition to unveiling the iPad, a touchscreen tablet that launched a new genre of mobile computing devices, Apple enjoyed record sales and profits. And now it’s won the trifecta by smoking the competition in our reader poll.

IDC computer analyst Bob O’Donnell attributes Apple’s popularity to the company’s stylish, well-made computers and its easy-to-use operating system. “It’s a combination of having high-quality hardware–you pay a premium for it–and a software experience that’s more straightforward,” he says. “And if you have fewer questions, you typically have fewer problems.”

Apple is very good at offering extras too. “You have things like the Genius Bar at all the Apple stores. People literally walk in with their systems, and the [support] guy sits there and says, ‘Oh, yeah, you’ve got to do this, this, and this,’” O’Donnell adds. “It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling: ‘They’re taking care of me.’ Nobody has anything close to that on the PC side.”

Asus Ascends

The impressive showing by Asus caught our attention as well. This Taiwan-based manufacturer sells an assortment of desktops, such as its all-in-one EeeTop models, and full-size notebooks. But its Eee PC family of mini-notebooks “pioneered the whole netbook concept,” according to ABI Research, and remains the company’s claim to fame, at least in North America.

Our survey doesn’t distinguish between netbooks and laptops, but industry analysts say that any distinction between those categories is irrelevant where reliability is concerned. According to ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr, “Netbooks are made by the same vendors on the same assembly lines as laptop computers. I am not seeing any significant quality differences between netbooks and laptops that use comparable materials. One could argue that lower-cost materials are being substituted, but again this is not being seen.”

Asus shipped 396,000 portable PCs in the United States in the third quarter of 2010, and 201,000 of those were netbooks, according to technology industry research firm IDC. Netbooks may get a bad rap as shoddily built machines, but our survey results suggest this isn’t the case–at least not with Asus gear.

Dell and HP: No More Excuses

Combined, Dell and HP ship nearly half of all PCs sold in the U.S. According to tech industry research firm IDC, HP had just over 24 percent of the American PC market and Dell owned 23 percent in the third quarter of 2010. (Apple and Acer placed a distant third and fourth, each holding 10-plus percent.)

Year after year, readers proclaim HP one of the biggest losers in our Reliability and Service Survey. In 2004, for instance, HP and its Compaq brand were rated last in desktops, and next to last in notebooks and digital cameras. (HP did well that year in printers, however.) The company improved in 2005, earning average grades overall, but then fizzled again in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Dell’s scorecard has varied over the years, but recent trends are troubling. Its second-to-last laptop ranking in 2009 (only HP did worse) shows a marked decline from 2004 and 2005.

Making Bank on Mediocre?

Although Dell lost $4 million on its consumer business in the first half of 2010, the company made a total profit of $886 million during that time (that’s 16 percent more than it made in the same period last year). Dell’s lines for small and medium-size businesses accounted for much of its total profits: $636 million, a 34 percent increase from the first half of 2009.

Over at HP, the company’s Personal Systems Group–which includes desktop and notebook PCs, workstations, and handheld devices–saw a year-over-year earnings increase of 18 percent to $1.46 billion for the nine-month period ending July 31, 2010, according to an HP filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company’s Imaging and Printing Group, which sells HP’s home printers, had a 1.66 percent earnings boost to $3.19 billion in the same period.

Meanwhile, several of Dell and HP’s smaller competitors have maintained high survey scores year after year, despite competing in the same cutthroat markets as the Big Two. Asus and Toshiba, which duke it out with Dell and HP in the ultracompetitive Windows laptop market, earned high marks from our readers this year.

That raises the question: If Dell and HP have a profitable business model–one that has enabled them to control half of the U.S. PC market–are they sufficiently motivated to improve their support operations?

They should be. PC and peripheral manufacturers sell in a crowded market, and a customer with an unpleasant support experience is soon a former customer.

HP officials we spoke with expressed surprise at its poor showing in PCWorld’s Reliability and Service Survey. The company has shown improvement recently in similar surveys, they say, including one from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a University of Michigan business school study based on customer evaluations of the quality of goods and services bought in the United States.

“We’re not happy until all of our customers are happy,” says HP customer service executive Cliff Wagner. “There’s clearly a lot of work that we’re continuing to do, and a lot of investments that we’re doing.”

Those investments include two new customer service and technical support centers in Conway, Arkansas, and Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Wagner says, although both facilities won’t be fully staffed for at least two more years.

“We have not lost our focus on making sure that we’re building customers for life,” adds Jodi Schilling, vice president of HP customer support in North America. “We’re continuing to make investments, not only in the support experience but also in product development.”

If there’s a glimmer of hope for HP, it’s that users who bought machines within the last 12 months were much happier with the company’s support of home desktops and notebooks. (Our one-year chart includes only survey respondents who have bought a PC or printer in the last 12 months.)

It’s possible that HP’s service and support operation devotes more resources to newer customers, resulting in higher satisfaction levels for this group.

Dell’s 12-month results show little change, with home desktops and laptops that aren’t particularly reliable, but with printers that are. Dell business laptops did get higher reliability grades on the one-year chart, but not enough to boost Dell’s standing vis-à-vis the competition.

This year we separated Dell and HP business and home users in the laptop, desktop, and printer categories, in order to compare the satisfaction levels of the vendors’ corporate and consumer customers. For a discussion of the results, see “2010 Reliability and Service: Laptops and Desktops.”

It Takes Only One Frustrating Incident

IDC’s O’Donnell points out that the home market is a challenge to support. But home users aren’t simpletons either, and their frustrations are often born from bad support experiences rather than from self-inflicted slip-ups.

Dan Keller, a medical journalist in Glenside, Pennsylvania, bought an HP Pavilion desktop about three years ago. The CD drive faceplate arrived broken, and HP has yet to replace it, despite his many go-rounds with customer support, he says.

“It wasn’t a run-of-the-mill problem, and they said, ‘That part doesn’t exist,’” Keller says with a laugh. “I said, ‘Well, you’re putting them on computers, they have to exist.’”

Despite the unresolved faceplate issue, Keller’s desktop runs fine. But the frustrating support incident, combined with the poor keyboard layout and other design quirks of an HP laptop he bought recently from Costco (he has since returned it), has soured him on the vendor. “At this point, with two goofy machines, I think I would shy away from HP again,” he says.

Survey Methodology

It’s important to note that our survey results don’t necessarily represent the opinions of a given company’s customers as a whole. And because our data comes only from PCWorld readers who chose to take the survey, our results don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of PCWorld readers in general.

What the Measures Mean

PCWorld readers rated hardware vendors in six product categories: desktops; notebooks; cameras; HDTVs; printers; and smartphones. Each category (excluding smartphones) had 5 to 9 measurements, each ranking a vendor relative to its competitors. In each measure, we determined whether the vendor’s score was significantly better (s), not significantly different (u), or significantly worse (t) than the average of its peers.

The five reliability measures spotlighted problems with such things as failed components (e.g., a notebook hard drive) or problems that occurred right away or “out of the box.” Among those measurements are two that score our respondents’ overall satisfaction with their vendors’ hardware reliability and customer support.

If a vendor received fewer than 50 responses in a subsection, we discarded the results as statistically insignificant. This threshold prevented us from rating some smaller companies. The measurements in our smartphones category were a bit more comprehensive. We rated smartphone makers using on four reliability measurements and five ease-of-use measurements. For the wireless carriers that sell the smartphones, we measured five different aspects of their customer support, as well as two aspects of their network performance – wireless internet service quality and voice call quality.

Reliability Measures

Problems on arrival (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem with the device out of the box.

Any significant problem (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem at all during the product’s lifetime.

Any failed component replaced (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported replacing one or more original components because the components had failed.

Core component problem (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems with the processor, motherboard, power supply, hard drive, system memory, or graphics board/chip at any time during the life of their laptop or desktop PC.

Severe problem (HDTVs, phones, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported a problem that rendered their device impossible to use.

Ease of use (HDTVs, phones, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who rated their device as extremely or very easy to use.

Overall satisfaction with reliability (all devices): Based on the owner’s overall satisfaction with the reliability of the device.

Service Measures

Phone hold time: Based on the average time a product’s owners waited on hold to speak to a phone support representative.

Average phone service rating: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners’ ratings of several aspects of their experience in phoning the company’s technical support service. Among the factors considered were whether the information was easy to understand, and whether the support rep spoke clearly and knowledgeably.

In-person service rating (phones only): Based on a cumulative score derived from phone owners’ ratings of several aspects of technical support received at a service provider’s retail location. Among the factors considered were the ease of getting a representative’s attention in the store, and the knowledge, fairness, and attitude of the rep..

Problem was never resolved: Based on the percentage of survey respondents who said the problem remained after they contacted the company’s support service.

Service experience: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners’ responses to a series of questions focusing on 11 specific aspects of their experience with the company’s service department.

Google Pleads Its Case To Apple To Switch From Sms To Rcs Texts

Messaging platforms and bubble colors go hand in hand: There are Google’s green bubbles—how messages sent from its Android phones appear on iPhones—and of course the well known blue bubbles of iPhone users. 

On that front, Google is adding even more color to the situation by trying to publicly shame Apple into adopting a protocol called RCS with a new website and social media campaign launched this week. “Get The Message” lays out Google’s arguments for why Apple should enable RCS instead of SMS—and encourages users to “Help @Apple #GetTheMessage” by Tweeting about it. 

Messaging, of course, is an incredibly important feature of smartphones. Collectively, we send billions of iMessages, WhatsApp messages, and other kinds of text messages every single day. It’s understandable that this is something Google feels strongly about: texting between iPhones and Android phones using SMS sucks. Plus, the SMS protocol that’s used between the two platforms really is objectively worse than the iMessage protocol used for iPhone-to-iPhone texting. 

So, let’s look at what’s really going on. 

Messaging for dummies

Not all text messages are the same. Depending on the protocol or service you use, they can be sent in entirely different ways. 

To start, SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) are what many of us grew up with. Developed in the 1980s, they’re wildly out of date, inefficient, and insecure—and still widely used today. You’re limited to 160 characters per message and they’re sent over the cell network. (On an iPhone, they’re displayed as a green bubble.)

Then there’s iMessage, Apple’s proprietary messaging protocol. Messages are end-to-end encrypted and sent over the internet. It also allows you to see when someone is typing, receive “read” notifications, send and receive high quality images and videos, and participate in group chats. Plus, it has add-on features like reactions and voice notes. (On an iPhone, they’re displayed as a blue bubble.)

Next comes Rich Communication Service (RCS), which is supposed to be the successor to SMS and MMS. It enables messages to be sent over the internet, which allows many of the features people expect in a messaging app that are missing from SMS—like group chats, live typing notifications, read receipts, audio notes, and high-quality photos. While the iPhone doesn’t support RCS, it’s available through Google’s Messages app on modern Android phones.

This is what all the current drama is about: Google wants Apple to use the RCS standard for messages sent between iPhones and Android phones, not SMS, which it currently uses. 

Is RCS really the same as iMessage?

While Google attempts to equate RCS and iMessage, the two are fundamentally different in a couple of ways. Apple’s iMessage is more akin to WhatsApp, Signal, or Skype than SMS. Yes, on an iPhone, they’re sent from the same app, but they’re not the same sort of texts.

On the other hand, RCS is an open standard built on top of SMS and MMS. It was designed by a consortium in 2007 before the iPhone even launched, and it has taken years to roll out. One big barrier was that it originally required support from wireless carriers who are hardly famous for their rapid embrace of new technologies. In 2023, Google did an end-run around them and launched an app that would allow it to enable RCS on Android on its own. 

One big iMessage feature that the RCS protocol lacks is end-to-end encryption. However, Google has developed a workaround: All one-on-one RCS conversations using its Messages app are end-to-end encrypted. (Group messaging will be encrypted later this year.) However, this undermines one of the supposed points of RCS: that it’s an open standard that any compatible app can use. If encryption is only available between certain apps, it’s no longer open.

Locked in and loaded

As interesting as the subtle differences between the various messaging protocols are, the latest news is related to something else: Google’s absolute failure to develop its own messaging protocol despite countless attempts. It is trying to shame Apple into using RCS, because it has utterly failed to compete with iMessage.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be good for consumers if Apple embraced RCS, but it’s only in the last couple of years that it has become a credible alternative to SMS, let alone any other service. And it still doesn’t offer all the features that are available in iMessage—in particular, always enabled end-to-end encryption.

Could Apple embrace RCS messaging and work with Google to make it end-to-end encrypted between iPhones and Android devices? Sure, but Google would have to solve a few more problems first. And for now, Apple clearly enjoys the benefits of the customer lock-in that comes with iMessage, despite Google’s increasing public pressure.

Meanwhile, in Europe, another option looms large: Meta-owned WhatsApp is installed on more than 90 percent of smartphones in some countries. It’s cross-platform, end-to-end encrypted, and supports all the features you could want. 

But whatever happens over the next few years, remember, RCS is still a fundamentally different protocol to iMessage. Don’t expect the green bubbles to ever go away.

Correction on August 12: This post has been updated to clarify that WhatsApp is installed on more than 90 percent of smartphones in some European countries.

Mte Explains: What Is Ddos And How Can You Protect Yourself

What Are “DoS” And “DDoS?”

DoS and DDoS are both attacks that are carried out on a particular computer or server. Both of these attacks have one thing in common: They flood the destination server with connection requests and/or data. The goal of both attacks is to overwhelm the server with so much data that it will simply stop accepting new connections. Other users will not be able to use the services provided by that network endpoint. In other words, if someone succeeds in attacking a website through a DoS or DDoS attack, you won’t be able to connect to it.

The difference between the two terms lies simply in the number of computers attacking.

DoS, or “Denial of Service,” attacks are carried out by one single computer.

DDoS, or “Distributed Denial of Service,” attacks are carried out by multiple computers (either voluntarily or involuntarily).

Both attacks can be dangerous, but DDoS is the most dangerous of all.

Methods of Execution

While a DoS attack may involves one single computer just running a DoS “tool,” a DDoS attack is often much more sophisticated. DDoS attacks are usually carried out from within botnets. A botnet is a group of computers that have been rounded up against their will, usually because of a virus or something else. They all connect to a central “command center.” This command center can be something as simple as a private password-protected chatroom. After the computers have all connected to the terminal, the hacker can simply command all of the connected computers to flood the target machine. A typical botnet looks like this:

Sometimes, this involves thousands of computers, all pouring the full brunt of their bandwidth into one server. This poses an extreme risk.

How Does DDoS Affect You?

There are two ways to be a victim of a DDoS attack: Your computer can either be infected with the botnet virus, or you can be the target of a DDoS attack. Both of them can pull you offline for a very extended period of time! I’ve had a DDoS attack flood my servers with over 8 Gbits/second of data for an entire week. This really interrupts many things, and the infected computers didn’t even know that they were attacking me.

How To Protect Yourself From DDoS

Although a corporate network is more likely to be on the receiving end of one of these bad boys, it’s good to be protected at all times. I’m going to tell you a harsh truth: There’s little you can do to prevent a DDoS attack from ripping your bandwidth to shreds. A firewall will only do so much. One decent way to defend yourself against DDoS is to buy a decent switch or router with network-level packet filtering technology.

But even that method is kind of ineffective. If you really want to protect yourself, you’d better hope you have a dynamic IP. This will allow you to change your IP address any time you disconnect from the Internet and connect to it again. You can do this by unplugging your router and plugging it back in again. If you have a static IP, there’s nothing you can really do except wait out the attack or call your Internet service provider (ISP) and ask them to change your IP. This strategy will allow you to finally have some breathing room.

That’s not all you should do, though. Changing your IP is just one step of many (and probably the last step you should follow in the entire strategic process). You should close any program you use on the Internet (Outlook, instant messaging, syncing utilities, etc.) and then just open your browser to look through the web. Do this for a few days. Afterwards, you can pop your head out of the water to see if all is safe. Doing this puts you below the radar. Using an application like AdvTor in tandem with your Internet utilities can really confuse a hacker trying to attack you with a DDoS. It hides your IP and allows you to resume all operations safely while you wait out the attack.

In fact, one of the best ways to prevent a DDoS from ever affecting you is to use a proxy or the previously-mentioned application at all times. When you hide your IP, you give yourself more power.

What If You’re Infected With A DDoS Virus?

First of all, software firewalls are very effective at stopping a virus from penetrating your network. The only times they’re ineffective is when you accidentally add a virus to the firewall’s application exception database. Check what programs are listed as exceptions. If any of them seem suspicious, do a quick search on the web to determine whether it’s something you should be worried about.

In general, keeping a healthy and strong antivirus application on your computer helps you stop these kinds of things from happening. There are exceptions (such as newly-created “0-day” viruses). In this case, you should go back to your firewall. Configure it to disable your Internet connection for absolutely everything except applications that you allow. Better yet, clear the exception list entirely. When a program asks to use the Internet, a notification will appear asking you to approve its use.

If you don’t feel confident that you’ll catch the virus this way, use a network monitoring application like netmon from Microsoft.

The image above shows how netmon looks after I’ve started a new capture for a few seconds. It shows me exactly what programs are using my Internet connection on the left-hand panel. This transparency can help you tell whether there’s a program using your Internet connection without your consent.


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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Google+ Surpasses Twitter To Become Second Largest Social Network

Last week, Global Web Index released its December 2012 study of Active Social Platform Usage.  As expected Facebook remains on top with over 50% of global internet users actively engaged on Facebook each month.  The jaw-dropper of the report is that the Google Plus (G+) network has surpassed Twitter in number of active monthly users.  In the month of December 2012 G+ grew to 343 million users globally, or about 25% of global internet users.  Twitter came in 4th to YouTube with just over 20%.

According to Sam Fiorella, writing for the Huffington Post, to continue ignoring G+ as a marketing option is a risk few businesses can afford to take:

Google, through its various Web properties and deep integration with web- and social-based apps, is creating an interconnected database of users, content and relationships. This convergence of people, data and context is being referred to as the Web’s trust-based network. Google search engine results will be reprioritized to more favorably rank content that has been +1’ed or shared using the Google share/like widget or created and/or shared by people in one of your Google+ circles. Of course, this presentation filter only works when you are searching chúng tôi while logged in to Google, but let’s face it, with the growing number of applications and Web properties they control, the number of people permanently logged in is increasing exponentially every month. The goal of a search engine is to provide the most relevant information based on search queries and it now considers your social relationships a highly relevant factor in determining just what information is relevant to you.

While it’s becoming increasingly important to pay attention to the search and social marketing opportunities offered by Google+, Twitter is not to be discounted.  Even though, G+ numbers topped those of Twitter’s in December, GWI also noted that Twitter is currently growing globally at a faster rate than any other social network.  “GWI.8, the Q4 2012 dataset from GlobalWebIndex, shows that the number of active Twitter users grew 40% from Q2 2012 to Q4 2012. This is equal to 288 million monthly active users (claimed to have used or contribute to Twitter in the past month) across the 31 markets currently researched by GWI (representing nearly 90% of the global internet population aged 16 to 65). That marks a whopping growth rate in active users of 714% since July 2009.”

Is your brand making the most of the changing landscape of search and social?

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