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Actrix Online Informer – June 2016

The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.

Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz.

Actrix – best little ISP in New Zealand

Welcome to the June Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for June 2016. This month we explore a concept called the Internet of Things. Maybe you've heard of it, maybe you haven't. Either way, you're going to have to read the article to know what we're talking about!

Our second feature article is about creating and protecting your passwords. We've put together a list of helpful tips to help you create impenetrable passwords, as well as providing some information on how simple passwords can be hacked.


YouTube feature

In this month's YouTube feature , Glen Keane, the animator behind Disney classics The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan, has taken his artistry to a new level through the power of virtual reality technology.

Glen has spent his career life (four decades at Disney) embracing new tools and technology, from digital environments to 3D animation. Now, Glen will take to the latest in creative technology: virtual reality. Virtual reality presents us with a totally immersive means by which to create and observe art, and it will finally enable Glen to step into his drawings and wander freely through his imagination.

The software being used in this video is called Tiltbrush. You can find out more about Tiltbrush at www.tiltbrush.com.

The Internet of Things

You may have caught a little of the buzz surrounding the Internet of Things in days of late. News of this 'solution' usually goes along the lines of increased machine-to-machine communication. We hear that this Internet of things is built upon cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors (or nodes). We are told it is going to transform connection, making it mobile, virtual, and instantaneous. Somehow, this Internet of Things is going to make everything in our lives from the toaster to the Sky Tower "smart."

So what exactly is the Internet of Things? One search of the normal internet reveals that there is technically no universally agreed upon definition of the Internet of Things (or IoT) as yet, but the simplest way of putting it would be thus: it connects unintelligent devices such as refrigerators to the internet where software is then used to connect them to our daily lives.

Perhaps you have seen, read or heard of a similar concept in a science fiction story. The concept is closer to becoming a reality now more than it has ever been, and it is important to have some understanding to prepare us for the technological advances to come.

The concept of 'smart homes' that feature helpful talking appliances has been a recurring ideal featured in many an author's imagined tomorrowland. Humans tend to delight in the idea of clever little machines helping us get about our daily lives.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which all your appliances, spaces and vehicles work in utopian synergy to get you smoothly through the day! Your toaster can talk (or transfer data) to the smoke alarm to prevent a house fire from spreading, the car that you are driving home in can talk to your heatpump and lights to let them know that you are just five minutes away, and it's time to switch on.

The small but ultimately convenient possibilities are endless!

Because wi-fi networks are becoming increasingly accessible and common, inanimate objects that we use daily can now acquire internet access with special software and sensors (or nodes). Sensors are devices that fall under the microelectromechanical system category. They were designed and manufactured in a similar fashion to a microprocessor (the lithography process).

Sensors appear as little techno-dots that sit subtly on and around our objects gathering relevant, helpful data. Sensors are purpose built; some can register changes in temperature, light, pressure, sound and motion. They become a person's eyes and ears; busily gathering and communicating data.

In order to achieve successful communication, each device connected to the Internet of Things will need its own unique address in the same way every web site has its own unique address or URL. Obviously, there is always the risk of hacking, whereby (for example) someone might find it amusing to hack your fridge and turn it off while you sleep. The next morning you wake up to water all over the floor of the kitchen: not fun.

Currently there have already been a few cases of smart cars being hacked. It is widely agreed that there will be plenty of security flaws to fix if there is to be any future for the Internet of Things. This will not deter people from investing, but we should remain aware of the potential risks brought upon us by the Internet of Things, despite the exciting promises of improvement to our quality of life.

And speaking of the cons brought upon us by this concept, where might the guarantee of privacy be when billions of our personal objects are connected to the internet, and potentially even capable of recording us via video or audio? Would we be asking for trouble by surrounding ourselves with devices that are 'smart' enough to project personal information such as web searches, messages, video and voice recordings from node to node and across the internet?

Even without 'eyes and ears', settings and sensors could still stand to present a risk. For example, if one were to access the data accumulated by your lighting and thermostat preference settings, one might be able to deduce whether or not you were home or away on holiday. Abnormalities in daily object routines could then become neon lights to hackers and robbers waiting for an opportunity to have free reign over your home and furnishings!

Moving on, it is time to ask yourself where exactly you might be sitting on the Internet of Things food chain.

To start, businesses will be the biggest beneficiaries of the Internet of Things solution. Researchers claim businesses can look forward to the following three ways in which the Internet of Things can offer business improvement: it will lower operating costs, increase productivity, and it will offer the expansion of new markets (as well as the development of new product offerings).

Then, governments that are focused on increasing productivity, decreasing costs, and improving their citizens' quality of life will see opportunity in the form of the Internet of Things. It is believed that governments will be the second-largest adopters of Internet of Things ecosystems.

Consumers sit at the bottom of the food chain, where they will lag behind businesses and governments in arriving at the Internet of Things adoption stage. This being as it may, it is still assumed by researchers that they will purchase a massive number of devices and invest a significant amount of money into the Internet of Things (perhaps with the help of a few stylish and persuasive videos that show just how much easier their lives are about to become).

Now let's talk numbers. In total, researchers have projected 34 billion devices should be connected to the internet by 2020. Devices connected to the Internet of Things will account for 24 billion of those devices, while traditional computing devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, etc.) will comprise only the remaining 10 billion. As far as investment dollars go, nearly $6 trillion is the estimated spending money that will be confidently thrown at the Internet of Things solution over the next five years.

Whether we are for it or against it, the Internet of Things is on its way and, like most major technological advancements, it is important to have an understanding of the 'solution' before we experience its impact.

For more details on the Internet of Things and how it will change the world, watch this Ted Talks video presented by Dr. John Barrett.

How to create an impenetrable password

When was the last time you updated your computer/login passwords? If you or someone you know is still logging in via the word "password", then it is definitely time to change and strengthen that critical line of digital defence.

Hackers are coming for people's personal information left right and centre. Using "brute force" software, hackers are able to create and try as many as 8 million password guesses a second – and "password" is most likely going to be the first one they try.

But what do hackers want with your password? This week, LinkedIn was forced to urge its users to reset their accounts after well over 100 million profile passwords were hacked and appeared for sale online. Everyone is out to make a profit... especially hackers.

As hacking methods improve, so must our passwords: it is time to consider carefully the ways in which you can better protect your profiles and computers.

Before you begin, take a moment to run your password through the website howsecureismypassword.net. How long will it take a computer to access your password?

Say no to single words

Unfortunately, single-word passwords are only asking for trouble these days. Single words are the easiest to crack as they are going to take fewer guesses. A hacking method called "dictionary attacks" quickly runs through every word and name in any language at lightning speed. Passwords acquired through this means are advertised online via the 'dark web' where they are passed among other hackers to add to their password-guessing word arsenal.

A long password is a strong password

About 12-14 characters is the recommended minimum for any characters included in your password, according to security experts. Few people have passwords with more than 12 characters, and this is understandable as these can be tedious to type and difficult to remember at the worst times.

Be that as it may, it has been proven that a longer password can be more effective than a complicated password. The longer your password, the more time you are buying your privacy and security: 14+ character passwords can potentially take up to 800 trillion years to crack!

Passphrase always

The greatest solution available when investing your time and effort into sorting out your login security is simply exchanging your password for a passphrase. Passphrases can increase the time it takes for a computer to hack your password by the billions.

Take your favourite line from a film or book, or perhaps a commonly used quip heard among your family or friends. Think of a line of lyrics from your favourite song and compile the words into a password. Passphrases are simple to remember and highly effective!

For example, instead of using the word 'starwars' (one of the top 10 most common passwords of 2016), you could try 'maytheforceBwithU'.

Alternate passwords: harder access

Any security expert would advise alternating your passwords across the areas that require one to login. Over time, it becomes increasingly inevitable that at least one of your passwords could be compromised. By keeping the password characters consistent, you are making it easier for the individual who acquires your password to access all your social media sites, your accounts, or your computer.

Remembering which character you changed for whichever account you are trying to access can get confusing, especially if you are not visiting certain places regularly. To avoid confusion, you could add the name of the site you are trying to access to the end of each individual password.

For example, if your core password is 'happybirthday', you would set it as 'happybirthdayfacebook' for your Facebook password, and 'happybirthdaynetflix' for Netflix, and so on. This method can be extremely useful among families who regularly share computers and accounts.

Extra special characters

Avoid changing one or two characters to their common alternatives. Exchanging 'i' with 1, 'a' with @ and so on is no longer as safe or effective as many are lead to believe when it comes to computer and internet security. Hackers have prepared themselves and their software for such common character exchanges.

If you must stick to a password with one or more character changes, opt for a more obscure character. The character does not have to look similar to the letter it replaces, it just has to do its job: make things a little more challenging for the password guessing software.

Stop posting your password

If you have ever posted a harmless 'happy birthday' message to a family member on Facebook, or shared a named picture of your pet on Instagram, then chances are you have already presented your password for the whole world to see. You do not have to be a hacker to investigate an individual on their social media sites; taking note of their loved one's birth dates and their pet names.

Avoid using pet names and birth dates if at all possible. If you must use these, then be sure to clean up after yourself online and keep these password-perfect details private!

So take a little extra caution when setting up your passwords online and off. At the end of the day, if you absolutely cannot resist logging in with 'password', then at least try including it in a phrase, and maybe add a special character or two.

Interesting sites 

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.

Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Click here to e-mail and let me know!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoruhqYU1mtucQahbSBRj7A – Young Wellington-based Youtuber Tim talks tech news and reviews. His reviews are unbiased and well researched and his videos feature beautiful views of Wellington.

https://www.behance.net/ – Showcase and discover the latest work from top online design and photography portfolios by creative professionals across industries. A free to use website by Adobe.

Adobe Kuler
https://color.adobe.com/ – Create colour schemes with the colour wheel or browse thousands of colour combinations from the Kuler community. You can also upload a photo to Kuler to produce a custom colour palette for your art and design projects.

http://www.newzealanddesignblog.com/ – Fancy is a New Zealand lifestyle and design blog that features homeware, furniture, interior design and styling, designer interviews, graphic design and illustration. Featured are young Kiwi entrepreneurs with incredible talents and inspiring designs.

Graphic Burger
http://graphicburger.com/ – GraphicBurger is a buffet of premium quality design resources offered for free to the community. Here you'll find exclusive PSD files "cooked" in-house along with featured top-notch freebies from creatives around the world. Free for both personal & commercial use. Have a bite!

Great Big Story
http://www.greatbigstory.com/ – Great Big Story brings you awesome video storytelling from around the world. The website is obsessed with the unexpected and the amazing, and stories are usually positive and inspirational.
Timestorm Films
http://www.timestormfilms.com/ – Based in central Germany, Timestorm Films is a start-up media production company specialising in motion-control time-lapse cinematography using high end cameras and advanced motion-control equipment Timestorm Films deliver beautiful footage of the highest quality. Timestorm Films are on Youtube too where a few breathtaking time-lapse films of New Zealand can be discovered among their best.
http://nz.indeed.com/ – Online job searching made easy. One search draws advertisements from various popular job listing sites such as TradeMe and Seek, as well as newspaper advertisements and human resource website advertisements. Search simply by keyword and get notified daily when new relevant jobs become available.
http://www.boomeranggmail.com/ – With Boomerang, you can write an email now and schedule it to be sent automatically at the perfect time. Just write the messages as you normally would, then click the Send Later button.
https://www.indiegogo.com/#/picks_for_you – Indiegogo is a launchpad for creative and entrepreneurial ideas of every shape and size. Dream it. Fund it. Make it. Ship it. Indiegogo help at every step from concept to market.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Netflix crackdown in New Zealand takes hold

Netflix warned in January that people outside the United States trying to watch content on the American catalogue would find it difficult to reach the service through VPN, but it seems to have taken three months for the crackdown to really be felt in New Zealand.

Click here for more.

Tired at work in the afternoon? Turn off your phone at lunchtime

f work is leaving you drained, try turning off your smartphone at lunchtime. A study found that those who played on their phone during their lunch break were more tired during the afternoon than those who went for a walk or read a book. This may be because they used up more mental energy - or simply because their eyes were strained or their necks were cricked.

Click here for more.

Why NZ industry must work together to slow the tidal wave of spam

The "hush-hush" attitude of professional services firms and their IT providers when they experience a data security breach is adding force to the tidal wave of cyber-attacks continuing to devastate New Zealand businesses.

Click here for more.

?Xero signals new direction with NZ small business health check initiative

Small business in New Zealand will have access to an "unprecedented level of data" unveiled by Xero, in the form of Xero Signals. According to the Kiwi cloud accounting firm, the initiative is based on aggregated data from almost 10,000 businesses across New Zealand and surveys of approximately 500 nationally representative small businesses and 1300 Xero customers.

Click here for more.

2016 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards - And the finalists are…

A record number of new companies from across New Zealand have entered the 2016 Hi-Tech Awards. Hi-Tech Trust Chair Wayne Norrie says the standard of entries is the highest yet seen in the 22 years that the event has been held.

Click here for more.

First New Zealand industry-accredited computing degrees announced

Institutions now offering accredited and industry-endorsed computing degrees include AUT University, Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), Massey University, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) and Whitireia New Zealand.

Click here for more.


People interpret identical emojis differently

Hannah Miller, a third-year PhD student at the University of Minnesota, posted the findings on the GroupLens blog. Miller said she researches human-computer interaction, studying how to design technology to improve quality of life and social interaction.

Click here for more.

This optical illusion will have you questioning what you actually know about colour

If, thanks to the surge of optical illusions sweeping the world of late, you feel like you have no idea how your brain actually works, prepare to feel even more confused.

Click here for more.

Google's Chrome browser scraps support for XP, Vista, older versions of Mac OS X

The push for us to upgrade our old computers continues, with the latest version of Google's Chrome web browser dropping support for operating systems prior to Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

Click here for more.

Panasonic launches 4K Smart Ultra HD 2016 TV range

Panasonic New Zealand has announced the first of its 2016 line-up of 4K Smart Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TVs. Panasonic's new generation of 4K Smart Ultra HD TVs offer advanced smart features and easy-access content, improved image quality, brightness, colours, and new 'Switch Design' pedestals.

Click here for more.

A week with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Apple's latest iPad Pro packs the internals of the 13-inch model in the same space as the 9.7-inch iPad Air. Prices start at NZ$1050. The 9.7-inch iPad Air is more expensive than many laptops, but then Apple says it's more powerful. After a week of using it as my main, but not only, computer, it's clear some people will find it more useful than a laptop.

Click here for more.

Social Media

How Facebook is trying to get you to share more personal information

Facebook, like an old "friend" from high school who wants to get coffee and catch up some time, wishes it knew more about your personal life. At least, that's according to a couple of reports this week outlining a sharp decline in "original," personal posts from its users, and what Facebook is trying to do to reverse the trend.

Click here for more.

Sneaking social media time

Almost half of Kiwis in the workforce are checking their social media pages on their mobile phones at work, while a third think it is OK to use their phones while driving.

Click here for more.

Facebook vents direct complaints to cyberspace, not problem solvers

Maybe your coffee was terrible or you thought one of the kids at school was picking on your child. Is a Facebook rant your first response? Keyboard warriors are sharing their frustrations online, often before they go to the people who could fix them.

Click here for more.

How to read your 'secret' Facebook messages

A "secret" Facebook Messenger inbox may contain messages you have no idea you received and may even want to read. It turns out you don't always get a notification to alert you when someone you are not friends with on Facebook sends you a message.

Click here for more.

Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft

It's on ... Amazon targets Netflix with stand-alone streaming service

Amazon is taking on Netflix and Hulu with its own stand-alone video streaming service, just weeks before Netflix raises prices for longtime subscribers.

Click here for more.

iPhones last just three years says Apple

If your iPhone conks out after three years, you might feel shortchanged. But for Apple it's all part of the plan. On its website, the US technology firm admits it expects the mobile devices to last only 36 months.

Click here for more.

What is Amazon thinking with its crazy-expensive e-reader?

Amazon's Kindle Oasis, released Wednesday, has a US$290 price tag -- and, at least to me, offers some interesting cues about how the company's hardware strategy has evolved.

Click here for more.

Apple finds a way to make people care about the planet

Apple's recent efforts to trumpet its green initiatives have largely been about supply chain and manufacturing, but on Thursday the company unveiled a splashy new initiative aimed at its millions of customers.

Click here for more.

Clinton Carpene: How secure is your smartphone's lockscreen?

The fact that the FBI managed to hack the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter without Apple's help raises questions about whether PIN codes and swipe patterns are as secure as we think.

Click here for more.

Six of the best iPhone SE accessories

It's been just a couple of weeks since Apple released the iPhone SE, a device to appease to the iPhone-loving crowd who don't want a giant phone. The phone itself is ... fine. Nothing innovative and new, but that's alright. Those of you who went out to buy one, or plan on doing so in the near future, probably want to kit out your new device with some extra bits and pieces.

Click here for more.

Security and Privacy

'Impostor' email spike as scammers pretend to be your boss

Australians are being urged to think twice before transferring funds or handing over sensitive information at work amid a global spike in business-focused spear-phishing attacks, with scammers duping employees by pretending to be senior management.

Click here for more.

The best encryption apps for your smartphone

The topic of smartphone security and secure communication is front and centre these days, thanks to the battle between Apple and the FBI over opening up an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, mass shooters.

Click here for more.

Apple, Android, BlackBerry phones: Which is more vulnerable to hackers?

"The tech industry tries to build the most secure products possible," says Harvey Anderson, chief legal officer at computer security company AVG Technologies. There's no real way for consumers to protect themselves against the privacy concerns raised by possible government-mandated backdoors in mainstream phones on the market today.

Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

How my Apple Watch saved my life

I woke up feeling a bit odd. I strapped on my Apple Watch, unlocked the iPhone, and then felt for my pulse on my right wrist. Soon I was in the hospital cardiac unit for observation and treatment.

Click here for more.

People are taking pictures on the UK's first designated 'selfie bench'

A council in Wales installed two seats facing the road, apparently to give people weary of the ocean view another option – and allow them to comfortably take a seaside selfie.

Click here for more.

It was five years ago today

Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.

Facebook predator stands by scam: The woman dubbed the "Facebook predator" is unrepentant about tricking schoolboys into online relationships. Click here for more.

Pirates may help lawmakers see the treasure: The copyright debate shows politicians have no idea what the internet really is. Click here for more.

Let's get everyone online, says expert: Ultra-fast broadband needs to reach everyone if it is to truly transform the country, says a visiting expert. Click here for more.

Illegal downloading rife in New Zealand: Kiwis are movie-loving pirates, an online survey has found. Click here for more.

Computer scammers intensify NZ attacks: Scammers have stepped up a cold-calling con which convinces computer users to hand over cash to fix a non-existent virus. Click here for more.

NZ internet piracy policy one-sided, says expert: The Government's "three-strikes" policy aiming to tackle online piracy lacks the depth and sophistication found in Europe's reform of copyright law, says an international expert. Click here for more.


Bringing it all back home

Thanks again for reading the Actrix Online Informer. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through June!

Rob Zorn


Copyright © 2013 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz