Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Web Secret 547: Do you know why robots are here?

One of my sons works for a startup accelerator.

Accelerators typically help startups find seed investments, connections, and mentorships, as well as teaching them how to pitch their companies, etc. to accelerate growth.

The other day he sent me this 2 minute video link with the rubric: "the fastest growing enterprise software company in history."

Because I am a remarkably unobservant person, I watched it the first time without understanding:

Did you get it?

Watch again: the executives at UiPath are explaining how robotic automation allows them to pursue other challenges. Meanwhile, in the background, their computers are completing tasks at warp speed without their input.

The robots are automating even complex tasks and use machine learning to accelerate these processes even more.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Web Secret 546: A Dark Consensus

About a month ago, the New York Times published an article "A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley."

Essentially, the article is about how technologists in Silicon Valley are struggling to limit the screen time of their children. They believe "the benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high."

I believe this issue is possibly the greatest facing the parents of the under 18 generation.

Here are two practices of the parents in the article:

1. Daughters, ages 5 and 3, have no screen time “budget,” no regular hours they are allowed to be on screens. The only time a screen can be used is during the travel portion of a long car ride or during a plane trip.

2. Children aren't allowed to have cellphones until high school, are banned from phone use in the car and severely limited at home.

Of course the difficulty is that other children may have cell phones and tablets, and it is easy to go over to a friend's house after school and use their devices.

I liked the approach of this technologist:

" phones until the summer before high school, no screens in bedrooms, network-level content blocking, no social media until age 13, no iPads at all and screen time schedules enforced by Google Wifi that he controls from his phone. Bad behavior? The child goes offline for 24 hours."

But the reality is that opinions about best practices limiting screen time are all over the spectrum. Some parents believe that all children should learn to code at an early age. Others don't believe in strict limits arguing they watched TV all the time as a child and still became successful.

There is a dearth of research on the subject, in part due to the lightning speed with which technology evolves. As soon as we establish best practices, we are faced with a new evolution. Watch out when virtual reality is perfected and we can disappear into worlds that have no reality.

In the interim, EAPs have the opportunity to develop lunch and learn programs about how to limit screen time. And individual counselors can develop this expertise to help their clients of all ages.

Many grownups have a problem with screen time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Web Secret 545: Sextortion Scam

In the past couple of months, thousands of people (possibly millions) received the following disturbing email: (Note: email exactly as it is sent, weird grammar and English included.)
"I am aware of one of your passwords: Lets get directly to point. Not a single person has compensated me to investigate about you. You do not know me and you are probably wondering why you're getting this e mail?

actually, I actually installed a software on the adult vids (sex sites) site and you know what, you visited this web site to have fun (you know what I mean). When you were viewing videos, your internet browser initiated working as a Remote control Desktop that has a key logger which provided me access to your display screen and also web cam. Right after that, my software program collected your complete contacts from your Messenger, FB, and email . After that I created a double-screen video. 1st part shows the video you were viewing (you've got a good taste haha . . .), and 2nd part shows the view of your webcam, and its u.

You do have only 2 alternatives. We are going to understand these types of choices in aspects: 1st solution is to disregard this message. In this case, I am going to send your actual video clip to just about all of your contacts and thus you can easily imagine about the disgrace you feel. Not to mention should you be in a relationship, just how it will eventually affect?

Number two choice will be to pay me $3000. We will think of it as a donation. As a consequence, I most certainly will without delay eliminate your videotape. You will keep going on your daily life like this never happened and you will not hear back again from me.

You'll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search for "how to buy bitcoin" in Google)."
When I first heard about this scam, I read dozens of articles explaining it and offering suggestions on how to handle it. The best of these was "Sextortion Scam: What to Do If You Get the Latest Phishing Spam Demanding Bitcoin."

Here are the recommendations:

1. Do not pay the ransom.

2. Don’t panic. Contrary to the claims in your email, you haven't been hacked (or at least. This is merely a new variation on an old scam which is popularly being called "sextortion." This is a type of online phishing that is targeting people around the world and preying off digital-age fears.

3. What makes the email especially alarming is that, to prove their authenticity, they begin the emails showing you a password you once used or currently use.

Again, this still doesn't mean you've been hacked. The scammers in this case likely matched up a database of emails and stolen passwords and sent this scam out to potentially millions of people, hoping that enough of them would be worried enough and pay out that the scam would become profitable. Think Facebook hack or any of the dozens of major hacks you have heard about before.

4. If the password emailed to you is one that you still use, in any context whatsoever, STOP USING IT and change it NOW! And regardless of whether or not you still use that password it's always a good idea to use a password manager.

5. And of course, you should always change your password when you’re alerted that your information has been leaked in a breach. You can also use a service like Have I Been Pwned to check whether you have been part of one of the more well-known password dumps. (Note: every single one of my email accounts was compromised in one or more data breaches - often from sites I had never heard of.)

6. Do not ever respond to this type of scam. If possible, don't even open the email.

7. Moving forward, enable two-factor authentication whenever that is an option on your online accounts. Yes, I know this is a pain in the neck.

8. One other thing to do to protect yourself is apply a cover over your computer’s camera. A small strip of electrical tape will do.

You've been warned.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Web Secret 544: Sash Bag

Sometimes a company uses social media and email so brilliantly, I drop to my knees in awe. And I am compelled to share their story so you can learn from it.

I am talking about you, Sash Bag.

Sash Bag started off as a very small company on Kickstarter in 2016. In fact, they were looking for a mere $29,000.

Ultimately, they raised $81,737 from 738 backers. Still pretty much small potatoes.

So how in the world did they raise $1,019,486 from 4,914 backers on Kickstarter just two years later!?

No, they didn't go on Shark Tank.

And yes, they do have a great product. And provide outstanding customer service.

But their success is the result of so much more.

They made inspired use of Facebook and communication to their backers.

As they raised more and more money, they shared their success and offered more and more perks to their crowdfunders. As it appeared that they were going to hit $1,000,000 - they promised to throw a party for everyone who had invested - if they broke the million dollar mark.

They created a sense of community among the users of their product and they were completely transparent and inclusive about the process by which they source and create their bags. For example, they made videos of the factories in India where they source their Ikat fabric.

They shared the joy of their success and their gratitude to the Sash Sisterhood - women (and even a couple of men) - from every walk of life and all over the world.

Oh, and that Million Dollar Sash Bash is taking place February 23rd, 2019.