in Mobile, Technology

Weak cybersecurity — steps to protect your online activities

2020 has been one of the worst years ever with the blast in Beirut, fires in Abu Dhabi, Earth Quakes in Turkey, destructive floods in Indonesia, US-Iran crisis, Amazon rainforest wildfires, and the most dangerous of all — COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s almost as if calamity has struck every corner of the world.

And with this, we have seen a huge rise of people being more digitally connected than ever; indulging in remote working, online shopping, and video calling to keep things afloat. One of the biggest issues of this increased reliance on the digital world is that cyberattacks have skyrocketed, taking advantage of the general fear and uncertainty that the global pandemic has instilled in the minds of people.

From phishing attacks, ransomware, to online identity thefts, cybercriminals have taken this opportunity of the coronavirus pandemic to boost their malicious activities, both in scope and frequency. The FBI has reported receiving as many as 4,000 complaints in their Cyber Division per day.

This is a 400% increase in ransomware attacks since covid-19 became a pandemic. From the perspective of criminals, this unfortunate situation is like stepping on a gold mine, and with that, it has now become more important than ever to become more vigilant about your cybersecurity.

Here are 12 steps to increase your cybersecurity and protect your data from prying eyes, viruses, and malicious entities.

  1. Implement Two-Factor Authentication. Even if you are not security conscious about your email address and personal accounts, it is always a good idea to implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on all avenues. It typically adds an extra layer of verification like a One-Time-Password (OTP) sent to your smartphone. You have to enter that code (valid for a limited time) to log in.
  2. Always Use Strong Passwords. There are a few protocols to follow when creating passwords for your accounts. This includes using variations of symbols, numbers, and lower/upper case letters, never copying the same password on different accounts and generally avoiding adding any predictable details in passwords. Bear in mind, cybercriminals have a lot of experience cracking weak passwords, so you have to be clever than them. Use a Password Manager to manage all your passwords.
  3. Install an Anti-Malware and Antivirus. Almost all internet-enabled devices, be it your smartphone, laptop, desktop, or tablet are vulnerable to being hacked, affected by malware/viruses, and dangerous spyware attacks. If you want to receive protection from them, you need to invest in a reliable Antivirus, Anti-Spyware, and Anti-Malware software. For Android, these are some tools that can help your personal security.
  4. Update All Your Devices/Applications. After installing the operating system, different applications, and network configurations, most people either turn off “automatic updates” or forget to keep their devices up to date with the latest patches, bug fixes, and product enhancements. Don’t make this mistake and make sure you actively implement software and system security updates to avoid being exposed to malicious entities and vulnerabilities.
  5. Decommission All Unused Services. If you upgrade to a better device, make sure to decommission the older ones, unless needed. This goes true for other limited-duration products as well. If you are not using them, retire the applications, logins, and user credentials associated with them. This will protect you in the circumstances any product/company suffers from a security breach, exposing your data simply for being associated!
  6. Avoid Clicking on Suspicious URLs. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the “coronavirus fearware” to introduce COVID-19 themed phishing attacks and ransomware to lure victims. Malwarebytes discovered a clever ploy wherein implemented a variant of the AZORult malware in coronavirus maps. This allowed them to steal data of users visiting the website, hence why it is advised to always look at URL carefully before opening them.
  7. Use a Security/Privacy Tool like a VPN. In addition to cover all aspects of system security, you need to invest in a reliable solution for online security. This is where a VPN comes in handy, changing your IP address, shifting your location, employing encryption, and assigning you a dynamic IP for protecting your anonymity online. You have to be careful when picking a VPN because providers often make claims that are later found to be false when the VPN is subjected to a thorough review and testing. But, as any unbiased review will show, well-reputed providers like NordVPN generally live up to their promises in terms of the features and performance they have to offer.
  8. Avoid Connecting to Public Networks. It may seem like a great idea to connect to a public Wi-Fi network when outside. The place could be a bar, restaurant, or a pub. What’s bad about this is that these places are vulnerable to cybercriminals who either hack into these networks or create a phony one, so that you hit the “connect” button and grant them the ability to snoop on your activity. It’s always safer to use your Mobile Data on public Wi-Fi instead.
  9. Don’t Overshare on Social Media. Many people don’t think before posting their details online, even going as far as adding their home address. Why would you do that? Refrain from publically posting your contact details or any extremely private information on social media, unless you are running a business. Cybercriminals use OSINT (open-source intelligence) to scour social media for potentially telltale information.
  10. Be Alert When Shopping Online. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have issued state-wide lockdowns with citizens practicing social distancing, as to avoid the spread of the virus. This has directly resulted in people relying on eCommerce websites for getting their groceries and other essentials. If you shop online too, always check the URL. Only open websites that utilize “HTTPS”, as the connection is encrypted via TLS/SSL.
  11. Inspect All Banking Transactions. If you do shop online a lot, it is vital that you be vigilant about all transactions occurring. In addition to being extra cautious when giving your credit card information online, make sure to inspect all transactions every month. This way, you can quickly take notice of any malicious purchases, and get in touch with the bank instantly. If you report within time, you may even get your money back.
  12. Don’t Ignore Aspects of Physical Security. Last, but not least, while being so encompassed with cybersecurity, make sure to not overlook simple security risks. In addition to physical restrictions on accessing your private computers/laptops, avoid security lapses like leaving behind your entry/access cards, keeping sensitive documents in the open, leaving crucial information on Whiteboards, or written down passwords on notepads.

It is important to remember that working on your online privacy/security and making adjustments like the ones above are crucial for getting used to the new reality and the tricky cybersecurity atmosphere as of recent. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Now, while these steps above may not get rid of every cyberattack imaginable, you can use them for making yourself a less visible target in the eyes of malicious actors. Therefore, if you have not started implementing them yet, it is high time you do.

Fincurious – Indian Startup Finance

Fincurious - Startup Finance

Fincurious – Startup Finance

This is a short book and can easily be kept aside as a quick reference guide if you are running a Startup or starting one. This book does not teach you to be a financial expert but will help you keep you informed so you have an idea.

Rahul Saria is a Chartered Accountant. He has served as heads of many Startups such as Near, Rentomojo, and Vedantu. He is currently the financial advisor to my Startup – Valinor Earth.

The book is written from the lens of starting and running a Startup in India. The book is short at less than 200 pages and you can finish it off in an hour or so.

Buy it at

If you show a gun, fire it

Antique Gun

I tend to be the super-excited founder who will talk and suggest doing things that would likely be years ahead of the current circumstances. My co-founder, and business partner for the last 8+ years, is the one who will help me glide down to earth, all the way to the very first principle.

A few days back, we were discussing the features of our new product for our Startup, Valinor Earth.

I was eager and was planning to demo some of the tools which were not ready. My co-founder insists that we are not prepared and would set off expectations that we may not be able to satisfy for a while. We might end up building a fancy tool without actually solving the customer’s problem.

As a normal human being, our customer will praise the tools and say good things – which, btw, is the least useful data for us to evaluate anything.

If you are going to show a gun, be ready to fire it. If we are showing the tools, then that tool should be made useful soon enough, if not immediately.

Chekhov’s Gun

Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle stating that every element in a story must be necessary, and unnecessary details removed. A feature should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play.

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off in the second or third chapter. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

If you are going to show a tool or do a demo, be ready to use it and make sure it is relevant to the customer’s needs.

Photo by Alexander Andrews

A Non-Technical Parents’ Guide to Digital Tools for Kids Online Classes

Laaija's Desk

A new school season has started, and schools are moving online for the classes. There are lots of changes, and they are happening real fast, and all-at-once. Not all parents are ready to switch to a new lifestyle so fast, but we have to.

Schooling is going to be an entirely different experience for everyone involved — students, parents, teachers, and schools. It is not just about transitioning everything that happened offline in schools to the online world. It is a totally different approach, new thinking, and the eventual “normal.” Everyone involved will have to treat this in a new way — by the schools, teachers, and parents.

Today, I will try to focus on just a small piece of the more significant change — tools that will help kids be part of the new learning paradigm.

The Room, Space, and Lighting

You should try to have a separate space or a room dedicated to your kid to be part of the classes. The better lit the room is, the better. Try to have the light facing your kid — liting up her face and not from the back. A better option is to have sunlight coming in from an angle that is not too bright to the eye, but enough to light up the face. Try to avoid the sunlight shining directly onto the screen/monitor.

If you need artificial lighting, then a LED light lamp should do just fine.

Search for;

  • LED lamp
  • studio lamp

Devices

This depends a lot on the activities your kid will be involved in. Will it be just listening to the teachers, or will she be presenting at times, talking, and discussing with her friends and doing other digital activities during the classes? Let’s assume that the events will be a bit of all and better prepare for them than stand short when needed.

If your kid already has a device, use it and gauge the device’s performance before spending money on upgrades. Look for performance degradation of the quality of audio and/or video. It is always better to have much better quality audio than video.

New Device / Computer

Apple MacMini

If you have to buy new devices, and unless portability is crucial, invest in a desktop computer instead. Desktop computers allow for easier upgrades, have better performance, and are usually more economical.

I would personally suggest for a 16GB of RAM, and an SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of hard drives that have mechanical spinning parts. Don’t worry too much about the size of the SSD, a minimum of 200GB+ is suggested. You can always have a cheaper external drive for more storage. The other components will be good enough when you try the above particular configuration. If you are already thinking Intel, AMD, etc., then I believe you already know what you need.

If you’re more of a Mac Family and find it more comfortable, the cheapest MacMini would do just fine. If you can get an earlier generation MacMini or a refurbished one, it will still be suitable for a less expensive investment.

My daughter uses a 2012 MacMini with an upgraded RAM and SSD replaced drive. Well, Apple’s 2012 MacMini model is the last easily upgradable model. Please be advised that Apple hardware are tightly coupled and integrated with their software that an 8GB RAM might just work great.

Search for

  • Laptop with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Computer with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Laptop with 16GB RAM
  • Computer with 16GB RAM

Microphone

Even if you use a Laptop with a built-in microphone, I can guarantee you that they are not the best. Most software has become really good these days to filter out echo and other noises. However, a decent microphone goes a long way and will really help.

Here is my suggestion, in order of preference;

  1. Pop Filter Microphone with a stand, either on the desk or clipped/screwed to the table.
  2. Lavalier Microphone that can be clipped to your kid’s top/shirt.
  3. The last option is an audio headset (speaker + microphone). However, they come in the way of your kid studying or listening to the teacher.

Search for

  • Microphone kit
  • Lavalier Microphone
  • Headset
  • Microphone with Stand

Speaker

If your device or computer comes with a speaker, stick with it. Otherwise, any desktop speaker should do the job. If you have already invested in a Headset, then a separate speaker may not be necessary.

Search for

  • Desktop Speaker
  • Computer Speaker

Webcam / Camera

Video is needed but not as crucial as a Microphone. Your kid can get away with a not-so-good video, but her voice/audio should be the best possible. So, depending on your budget get for something you can afford. If your kid has a Laptop, stay with the built-in webcam but invest in the external microphone and audio setup.

Search for

  • Logitech Webcam
  • 720p Webcam
  • HD Webcam

UPS

Invest in a entry-level UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). A UPS is used to protect hardware such as computers and other electrical devices where an unexpected power disruption could cause data loss, or damage to the devices.

Software

Besides the usual software that she will need, as suggested by the school, try to get some additional life-skill software-tools that will come handy. Some of the basics include but not limited to;

  • A calendar. Teach your kid to schedule class video calls, homework submissions, peer-to-peer meetings, etc. You should also have access to it, so you can help when needed. Google Calendar is a pretty good option.
  • A TODO app. Try to stay with the basic simple listings and not overwhelm them. A lot many people have wasted countless hours trying to hunt for the best TODO app, the best ways of using it. So, just stick to simple listings and checking items off. Better yet, stick to the physical Sticky / Post-it Note.
  • A Password Manager. It is high time to teach your kid to use a Password Manager. Some of the good ones are 1Password (paid), Keepass (free, open-source), Bitwarden (free, open-source, paid)

Upgrades

The next best upgrade after the basics are taken care off, would be, to separate their activity/study computer from the video device — have a device such as an iPad, a Tablet or a Phone just for the video calls/classes and a desktop or a laptop or a Raspberry Pi as their study computer.

Books of 2019

Books of 2019 at Oinam

In the year 2019, I re-read over 5+ books and read another 50+ new books in both digital (Kindle) and physical books. I’ve enough books lined up, either purchased or bookmarked on Amazon to last me quite a lot of reading.

I have also made a simple guideline that my daughter can read as many books as she wants. The only caveat being that if she cannot or does not want to finish a book, they have to wait for the week to pass before they can buy another book. She is used to both physical and digital (Kindle) books.

Dan Roam’s Books

Dan Roam Books

I wanted to learn to draw/sketch out my ideas better. The best source for me was the books by Dan Roam. I enjoyed reading Show and Tell, Draw to Win, and Unfolding the Napkin. I’m yet to read Back of the Napkin, and Blah Blah Blah.

I adapted the idea of doing presentations and storytelling to my teams, via sketches and not slides. I have a long way to go to master this beautiful art of storytelling with visuals, sketches, and speeches.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan

The most surprising book and one of my personal favorite turn out to be “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford.

From our history books, Genghis Khan was definitely not a good person. He conquered, murdered, and lay waste to vast lands and inhabitants. However, his advocacy for human rights, freedom of religion, free trade, propagation and preservation of knowledge, turns out to be pretty impressive for that time.

Well, Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas.

The book will give you enough details to make it applicable to the current world scenarios and events. I’m sure you will like the book.

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Should Businesses Accept Cryptocurrencies – an Infographic

Bitcoin

Plenty of major companies like Subway, AT&T, Expedia, Dish Network, and Microsoft have recently decided to accept cryptocurrency. These are large corporations that have the resources to experiment with relatively new technology.

But should the average business, or small business, accept cryptocurrency?

A high population of the world has heard of or are familiar with Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to use it. Only a few percentages own it. An even smaller number use cryptocurrency.

There are more than 40 million cryptocurrency wallets out there. Cryptocurrency usage has soared in places such as San Francisco, New York, and Tampa — and in places like Canada (the first country to regulate the digital currency), the Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel, Switzerland, and countries with volatile currencies, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

To give you a perspective, there are almost 300 million active users of PayPal worldwide and about 1 billion Visa and 900 million MasterCard credit cards in circulation. Cryptocurrency has to catch up when compared to these other digital ways to pay.

It is widely thought that if small businesses make the necessary investments in cryptocurrency infrastructure, then cryptocurrency usage will rise enormously. But there are plenty of pros and cons for businesses to consider before they take that leap.

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Pi-hole – Blocking Ads at Home

Pi-hole

Pi-hole is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software. The best part of Pi-hole is that it can work off cheap hardware such as a Raspberry Pi.

Last month, I bought a Raspberry Pi 3-MODB-1GB and a 16GB MicroSDHC (MicroSD) Memory Card. That was enough to run an Ad Blocker Service for the whole home.

Raspberry Pi-4

Raspberry Pi

  1. First, we need to set up a Raspberry Pi (official guide).
  2. Get a microSD card with a capacity of at least 8 GB. I suggest getting a 16GB one for some extra room, just in case. The price difference isn’t worth saving. Plug the microSD card to a desktop computer and follow the steps to Setup the microSD card (official guide) and thus unzipping the Raspbian operating system content to the drive. Install the Raspbian operating system via NOOBS.
  3. Plug in the microSD Card, monitor, keyboard, and a mouse. That’s it. Power it up.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish setting up the Raspbian operating system. Restart and the Raspberry Pi is ready to setup Pi-hole.

Pi-hole

Pi-Hole

  1. There are three ways to install Pi-hole. Follow the one that works for you – Install Pi-Hole (official guide).
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll just be pressing the RETURN key a lot.
  3. Pick your choices of options along the way. Do not forget to pause at the last screen and record the admin password and other details.
  4. The final step is to point your Internet Router’s DNS (just one, delete the others) to the Pi-hole IP (remember the screen from the earlier step).

Pi-hole have a really nice web-enabled Admin dashboard which can be accessed inside your Network via http://pi.hole/admin or //[Raspberry Pi’s IP address]/admin/ or http://raspberrypi.local/admin/.

Pi-Hole Dashboard

Pi-hole works pretty well without much fanfare that you might be left with a feeling that you’re missing something. I’ve been running Pi-hole as the Ad-Blocker for my home and seems to be working good so far.

Go, have fun.

Libra – Cryptocurrency by Facebook, an Infographic

Libra is a cryptocurrency designed using blockchain technology. It is built by the most popular social media giant Facebook. The main motive behind developing Libra is to emancipate millions of underbanked and unbanked people by offering them similar financial opportunities.

Libra will give their users the best transaction experience with unimaginable speed on minimal or no charges. Users can transfer money from their home to any part of the world. Libra is compatible with mobile and all you need is a basic data connection.

Blockchain technology is a decentralized programmable database that helps in backing the more constant currency and has the capability to act as a medium for transacting money to millions of people all over the world.

Libra is a self-reliant association formed to control and regulate the flow of Libra, it is an organization aiming to offer basic financial infrastructure and to introduce a universal currency to empower millions of people. Libra Association is a compilation of validator nodes, such as academic entities, international corporations, and social impact partners.

An allocated system of the Libra blockchain looks after the transactions and ownership of Libra. While transacting Libra, there is a slight chance of attacks on the system and here Blockchain helps in defending this kind of attack using LibraBFT.

A secured and well-written software will help you in protecting the Libra Blockchain. Move a new programming language that is used in developing Libra. It is a safe and responsive programming language for Libra Blockchain. It is an applied bytecode language used to implement smart transactions and contracts.

People have different views on cryptocurrencies, but Libra can be trusted easily as it is backed by a reserve that includes stable liquid assets, which helps in keeping the value of Libra stable.

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BITS Conquest 2019 Finale

Bits Conquest Finale 2019

Eleven Startups pitched at the BITS Conquest 2019 Finale.

Unfortunately, a jarring meme that I saw was that the Slides were very similar and have very similar presentation style. They even had the dreaded “competitor slides” where everything right was ticked for the Startups while the competitors were not.

Here are a few details about the Startups without any of my biased opinions.

Scout my Trip

ScoutMyTrip is a technology-led platform that helps its users plan their trips better. It uses techniques such as predictive analysis, and through its trained network of “scouts”, helps you enjoy your journey.

InvestoAsia

InvestoAsia is a system that enables investment into emerging markets by digitizing their securities using blockchain technology into tokenized assets and further trade them on a private platform.

FarmSurge

FarmSurge is a digital platform addressing the last mile connectivity issues of small farmers by providing on-demand booking solutions for farm inputs, farm services, and farm produce market linking.

HRBot

HRBot is an AI-based full stack recruitment marketplace for mid and entry level hiring capable of screening candidates at large scale remotely, with 10x faster TAT irrespective to the geography.

Xplorazzi

Xplorazzi is an Automated CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) merchandising execution and Audit tool using AI and computer vision to analyze in-store product display from shelf images for faster sales-related decision-making with a smartphone application.

4MirrorTech

4MirrorTech is an IoT clean-tech Startup focused on facility monitoring services, building solutions such as washroom, trashcan, seat occupancy, and employee monitoring.

SecondHandKart

SecondHandKart delivers quality checked premium used products such as iPhones, Macs, Xbox, etc with after-sales-service and warranty. They additionally provide up to 12 months repair warranty, 12 months buyback guarantee, check on delivery on every product they sell.

VenueMonk

VenueMonk is a booking platform which helps people book venues quickly, effortlessly and at the lowest possible price.

LetsEndorse

LetsEndorse is a marketplace for matching proven social innovations with nuanced local challenges and development capital, to eradicate social issues at scale. Supported by the Tata Trusts, it comprises of 500 social innovations from 40 countries globally. 1,500+ grass-roots implementations partners/NGOs, responsible corporations, Government and individual contributors.

Aayush

An innovative, cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill using a unique micro-sensor technology aided by AI and Cloud computing, for analyzing, identifying and predicting Heart Attacks and SCA 9-11 minutes before they strike a person, by sending emergency alerts.

Nimble Vision

Nimble Vision provides an IoT solution for water level controller and meter. This solution brings massive data analytics on water availability, consumption, leakage and quality, helping people to conserve water up to 50%.

30+ Cryptocurrencies in Four Words or Less

The word “crypto” in the cryptocurrency is referred to as complicated cryptography which allows for a particular digital token to be generated or stored, and to transact securely, also typically and anonymously. Other than this important “crypto” feature of the currencies, it is a common commitment to the decentralization. The cryptocurrencies are typically developed as a code by teams, which has built-in mechanisms for its issuance which is often, maybe not always through a process called “mining” and few other controls.

Litecoin

Litecoin is based on the open source global payment network which is not controlled by any of the central authority and it uses “scrypt” as the proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of the CPUs of the consumer grade. Although Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many ways, it has faster block generation rate and therefore offers a faster transaction confirmation. Other than the developers, there are many growing numbers of merchants who accept the Litecoin. As of today, Litecoin had a market cap of around $2.63 billion and per token value of about $43.

Ethereum

The applications of the Ethereum run on its own platform-specific cryptographic token called Ether. Ether acts as a vehicle for moving around the Ethereum platform, and it is sought by the mostly developers who are looking to develop and run the applications inside Ethereum, or now by the investors who are looking to make purchases of other digital currencies using the ether.

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