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Kickstarter Hacked — User Data Stolen

Kickstarter Email

Kickstarter Email sent February 15, 2014

I just received email from Kickstarter warning us that bad guys had hacked their site and stolen user data.

Kickstarter is doing the responsible thing by notifying its users, and it’s reassuring that credit card data was not taken.

The one gotcha is that encrypted account passwords were stolen.  Kickstartser says that with enough time, the bad guys could break the encryption, copy your password, and try signing on to other sites on the Internet using your email address and the de-crypted password stolen from Kickstarter.

Fortunately, if Kickstarter used reasonable encryption technology, it’s not likely that bad guys would be able to easily or quickly break the encryption and get your password in a readable form.  But, Kickstarter’s message provides a concrete example of the security mumbo-jumbo we are given every day.

  • You should use unique passwords for every site, especially sites like banking or ordering sites which remember your credit card number.  When you use unique passwords, if a site is broken into you have to change your password for that one site.  If you share passwords among sites, you have to change that password on every site it’s used when it’s compromised on any of the sites.

Remembering and managing passwords can be a pain, I know. The solution is to use  a  password management tool that learns and remembers your passwords as you type them online.

I use LastPass, and recommend it highly. The basic service is free, and the premiem features are $1/month.

LastPass has browser plugins for Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox… the browsers I use.  They have plugins for other browsers, too. These plugins watch for me to enter usernames and passwords, and they they ask me if LastPass should remember the data. If I say yes, LastPass stores the information securely, and I can have LastPass enter the username and password for me next time I visit the site.

Moreover, the information LastPass captures in Chrome is available to me in Firefox and on other computers.  I just sign on to LastPass when I start my browser and all of my usernames and passwords are available for retrieval.

As far as my Kickstarter password, it was a unique nonsense series of numbers, letters, and special characters which was itself generated by LastPass. I am feeling very smug.  I logged on to Kickstarter, had LastPass generate a new password there, and was done.

So, if you are a Kickstarter user, go to their site and change your password.  Maybe start using LastPass while you do it!  And, if used the Kickstarter password at other sites, then definitely visit all those sites and replace the common password with the random bits that LastPass will generate.

By |2014-02-15T15:18:27-07:00February 15th, 2014|Tips and Resources|3 Comments

Can I Use that Picture?

Puppy with a rose hip

Puppy “Zenith” Can Help with Your Marketing

Good looking pictures make all the difference in your website, social media posts, and printed marketing materials.  Previous blog posts have talked about how sex sells and told you to load up on photographs of pretty women, babies, and pets.

But, you can’t just grab a photo of a Golden Globe winning actor from another web site and stick it on one of your pages as if the star was a raving fan of your business.

I am not a lawyer, so if you want specific legal advice, contact an attorney.  However, let me tell you the rules I follow when I create web pages and social media for my clients.

  • You must have the right to use the photograph — maybe you took the picture (you own it) or you bought a license to use the image from a photo service.
  • If the subject in the photograph is identifiable and if you’re using the photograph for commercial purposes (this includes beauty shots designed make your web site attractive), you must have a model release.  Either ask the subject to sign a release yourself, or make sure that the photo service you’re using gets releases from their models.
  • If you are using a picture to illustrate a news story, you do not need a release as long as the picture was taken in a public place where the subject doesn’t have an reasonable expectation of privacy.  This means you can use pictures you take of church members BBQing  in an article about the picnic without getting a release from each person in the crowd.  The photograph can include children, too.
  • Although you can use photos of recognizable people for editorial purposes, it’s my policy to remove pictures from the website/Facebook/wherever if the subject says they don’t want their picture published.

The rules as I understand them — see non-lawyer caveat above! — are pretty simple.  Use pictures you’ve taken or ones you have permission to use.  If you’re using the photo for a non-editorial purpose and a person is identifiable in a picture, get a model release from that person.

You cannot use any picture or graphic you find in a Google search, on Flickr, or anywhere else on the Internet, unless the photo is marked in some way that gives you explicit permission to use it. Flickr and possibly other photo sites encourage people to give permission to others to copy their works using Creative Commons licenses. But, most images are not tagged with permission, and by default a photograph is protected by copyright law and copying is not allowed.

Pictures that grab the attention of your potential clients are powerful components of your Internet marketing effort. If you have the pictures you want for your Internet campaign, great!  Use them! If you’re looking for more photographs, I take some darn good photographs (see examples — especially the puppy pictures).  I am happy to come over with my camera and take the pictures you want. Or, browse stock photos available for licensing on the service I like best, Dreamstime.

Just make sure you get pictures of puppy Zenith or something equally appealing on your Internet marketing materials now!

Sex Sells and Facebook Knows It

Facebook Come-onI was somewhat startled when I went to Facebook to catch up with news and encountered a provocative photograph in the sidebar.

Facebook taunted me that the post they were displaying received 95% more “engagement” than the my own recent pitiful posts.  They suggested that the remedy to my isolation was to Boost Post — to pay them to display my posts in more places more frequently.

Puppy PictureWell, okay.  Maybe paying Facebook to display my posts as “sponsored” in the newsfeeds of people I don’t know would get some new people to read the Ozdachs page, like it, and buy our services.  Maybe.

But, what I really took away from Facebook’s recommendations was a reminder that sex sells.  The post that received 95% more attention was a crotch shot posted by a bar whose business page I had set up.  The client is now publishing his own posts, and I confess that I admire his talent for grabbing eye balls and getting people to LIKE the photo or click through for more information on the featured event.  He used a classic marketing technique: he used sex to get attention for his business.

I suggest to clients that we illustrate their pages/posts/hard-copy material with photographs of babies, puppies, and pretty young women.  Research shows that images of those subjects gets readers to pause and pay attention to the material.  It turns out that pictures of kittens and well-endowed young men are equally effective.

My own preference is to get users to stop and click by using pictures of adorable dogs.  They can be used in any forum, and puppies don’t risk offending the sensibilities of more traditional or conservative viewers.  Maybe the impulse to pet a dachshund isn’t as strong as the sex drive, but in my opinion a puppy is a more appropriate graphic for a business-to-business focus.

Of course, if you are attracting customers to your bar, you might focus more on sexy photographs.  Or, if you’re selling estate planning, you would be smart to load up your site with smiling babies of the inheriting generation.

In business, your task is to create an appealing image that will stand out from the crowd of messages hitting your prospective client.  Pretty women, babies, and puppies stop people from paging down or tossing your flier away without a second glace.  Give your message a chance to reach a customer.

Do what Facebook does. Let sex sell for your business!

By |2014-01-12T08:54:35-07:00January 12th, 2014|Facebook, Tips and Resources|0 Comments

The Only Spam Filter You Need is Free

You think you get spam?

Gmail's spam filter in action

My GMAIL Spam Folder

My email accounts have gotten over 10,000 pieces of spam in the past 30 days.

Unfortunately, most methods of spam protection fail.

  • The built-in spam protection that comes with the email accounts from your web hosting service marks too many legitimate messages as spam.  The spam algorithms, such as SpamAssassin,  are too aggressive in my experience. You’ll miss many messages you want to see if you rely on them.
  • The built-in spam protection of Outlook, the Microsoft email program, is both too weak and too aggressive. You’ll still see lots of sleazy messages in your in-box, and, in my experience, you’ll also have to read your spam folder to make sure real messages haven’t been filed there.

For many years, my solution was to rely on Spamarrest.  Spamarrest sends a challenge message to anyone who sends you mail, when that person’s email address isn’t in your list of contacts.  This approach was very effective.  I have received only a trickle of unwanted emails, most of those were from salespeople who manually responded to the challenge message and clicked to get their spam to me. I dealt with those exceptions by completely blocking that user or the whole offending domain.

Spamarrest is a cheap (about $50/year) paid service.  It lets you send and receive mail from a web page, too, so you can access your mail while traveling.

The downside of Spamarrest is that a fair percentage of real people either don’t see or don’t understand the challenge message that Spamarrest sends to them.  As a result, I have missed some business and personal messages, including some that were time-critical.  Still, Spamarrest has been the only effective spam fighter I’ve tried.

Until this month.

Over the summer I  tracked the spam-catching ability of the Gmail account I use to connect with Google services.  Though Gmail did not filter messages through Spamarrest, I never received any spam.  The messages in its spam folder were, indeed, spam.  All of them.  Google, alone, seems to be able to separate spam from wanted messages.

So, at the start of October I stopped Spamarrest from emptying my [email protected] and other email accounts.  Instead, I had Google connect to the accounts and get the messages in real time.  It’s worked.

I have received very  few spam messages.  When I have checked the spam folder, all the messages I’ve seen have looked sleazy. Better, no one has told me that they sent me a message that I didn’t see.

I’m sold. I’m recommending Gmail as a spam filter for your mail.  Get a Gmail account and have Gmail empty the mailboxes of your other email accounts.

Note: I am not recommending that you use an Gmail address as the published address for your personal or business life. Gmail is free, and Google has no obligation to you to keep that free service going. There are scary stories of people who relied on Google and Gmail, only to have Google suddenly block their accounts.  I do not want you to trust Google with anything that is critical to you.

Instead, use Gmail as an email concentrator.  Read your messages in Gmail online or else download them to your computer. You’ll like the spam protection.  And, if Google ever decides to stop Gmail or to ban you, you can still access your email through Spamarrest, Outlook, or whatever other method you’re using now.

Give Gmail a shot!

By |2012-10-27T14:52:14-07:00October 27th, 2012|Tips and Resources|2 Comments

iOS 6, Too Hot to Handle

Yesterday Apple unleashed a new version of the operating system that runs its iPhones, iPads, and probably iEverything.  I accepted the offer to download and install iOS6 on our household’s iDevices when I synched one of our iPhones yesterday morning.  I’d heard good things about the operating system’s new features, and, besides, Apple is fairly insistent that you upgrade when you can.  I didn’t make Apple nag me, I eagerly upgraded.

The OS looked good, but when we took our  iPhone 3gs’s outside of the house and tested the new mapping feature, the iPhones started running hot to the touch and losing battery life very quickly.

The news media has ignored the power story, instead reiterating how wonderful the iPhone 5 is and talking about the new features of iOS6. However, consumers like me have been screaming for help (or vengeance) on online forums and Tweets. A Google search for “iOS6 Battery Drain” shows plenty of anguish loose in the Apple orchard.

The loss of battery power is severe, maybe especially so in the older models like our 3gs.  A few hours without recharging and your phone is a lump of inert electronics and trim.

The Google search does turn up what the user community suspects are the problems.

  • Apparently the widely-disliked Apple map app is a power hog, in addition to its functional failings.  It, and other apps that use “Location Services,” do something wrong, like check-in with the mother ship too frequently. As a result the cell radio is active too much of the time.

How to fix the power drain:

  • Turn Location Services OFF for the new map app.  The setting is buried in the General, Privacy menu, but it’s a treasure worth hunting for. On my phone I went on a disabling spree, and I turned off location services for the map app, turned off Genius for Apps, and turned location-based iAds is OFF.  I also turned off “Use Cellular Data” for automatic downloads and iTunes Match.Yes, having a map not be able to tell where you are is stupid.  

But when we  turned off that location service and rebooted (because somewhere we read that the map app keeps the gps function going even after it is closed), our phones stopped being hot and battery life returned to pre-iOS6 levels.  We made our changes this morning, and my phone didn’t even want a mid-afternoon snack.

Now we’re enjoying iOS6 without having to keep our iPhones plugged into a charger.

Still, as a IT professional, I wonder all to hell and back how Apple could have put out another power-draining operating system release, this one caused by an Apple-made map app that is both inferior and faulty. Don’t they have pride, or at least a quality control department?

By |2012-09-21T19:41:00-07:00September 21st, 2012|Tips and Resources|0 Comments