Is “conversational commerce” the next big improvement in online shopping? I hope so. I’m closely following the success of the new Octane AI conversational commerce app. It was announced this week along with convincing data on significant sales increases it generated by actual users. conversational

It works with Shopify, the shopping cart platform used by half a million eCommerce sites.

Related:- The Cost To Develop A Blockchain-Based App Platform

Not replace … enhance

“We are not trying to replace ecommerce websites or apps, said Octane AI CEO Matt Schlicht. “Instead we make them measurably more profitable and effective. Our new app dramatically improves the customer experience on online stores. We combine them with an automated concierge, and we have the numbers to prove it.” Those numbers, by the way …

Stores in the Octane AI private beta, including VerClare Boutique, Pure Cycles, Apt2B, Pearl Paradise, Filly Flair, Sweat Tailor, and Epic Rights, on average had 1 out of 9 Messenger messages sent convert into a sale, over 75 percent open rates on messages sent to customers, and recovered twice as much abandoned cart revenue. Stores in the private beta have made over $750,000 in new revenue.

“Conversation is actually one of the most natural and oldest ways to shop,” Octane AI VP Product Megan Berry told me. “What’s amazing about conversational commerce is the ability to do that at scale through messenger apps and chat. All of your customers can get personalized, instant attention with the help of messenger, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Related:- Helping enterprises improve team engagement

Messenger marketing for ecommerce

How does it work? CMO Ben Parr adds, “Octane AI is a bot concierge for your store that lives on Facebook Messenger. An Octane AI bot answers customer questions, recovers abandoned carts, and increases sales automatically — their customers see a 7 to 25 percent increase in sales on average. Imagine talking to a store on Messenger and automatically getting product recommendations, shipping notifications, and all of your questions answered. They are leaders in conversational commerce — using conversation, messaging apps, and voice platforms like Alexa to improve the shopping experience.”

The Octane AI website links to specific case studies with detailed numbers. VerClare Boutique founder Cristina Vercler says the app increased her business’s monthly sales by 14%. Pure Cycles founder Jordan Schau said “Octane AI has enabled us to talk to over 10,000 of our customers and has grown our revenue online by about 14%.” And there are more real numbers on the website at octaneai.com.

For the record, I don’t do paid commercial endorsements on this blog. I never have. Occasionally I promote my own books and software, but even that is only a handful of posts among more than 1,800 posts here. Octane AI is special because the Megan Berry I quote above, VP Product, is my daughter. I’ve also known and respected co-founder Ben Parr for years. And as of last year, I am also an investor. So that’s bias, and I’m proud of it.

Enterprises have continued to work in the remote work model and will mostly continue to do so until the pandemic is completely eliminated. The work from home model, however, resulted in distorted communication. CIOs believe that if this model has to continue, it is vital to develop measures for seamless communications between teams and their managers.

Enterprises

Managers need to follow modified processes to better team dynamics, boost employee engagement, and assure them that their voices will be heard clearly.

Paying attention

While micromanagement is not advisable, too much leniency where the employees are left wondering about their role or the role of the leadership is not advisable either. A regular one-on-one meeting where the personnel have undivided attention is a foolproof way to ensure that leaders have time with each direct report.

Read More: Minimize Cloud Wastage in Today’s Hybrid World

Conducting skip-level meetings

CIOs acknowledge that having one-on-one meetings with direct reports is critical, but they are not enough, in organizations with a complex structure. The skip level meetings allow leaders to skip over a manager to communicate with an individual contributor directly. Traditionally skip-level meetings need to be shorter (15 minutes or so) and less regular than one-on-one meetings. CIOs believe that skip-level meetings allow them to learn new aspects about the team members and detect multiple opportunities to serve the clients and go ahead in their careers.

The skip-level meeting allows leaders to organize their teams to ensure that they have diverse skillsets that are complementary to one another inside a business function. This gives clear data on where CIOs should go if impromptu business requirements come up.

CIOs say that it’s crucial that direct reports be given a heads up before the skip-level meetings are initiated. If such meetings are initiated without informing the team leaders first, they risk damaging the trust built up over the years with them.

One major element to be wary of is that C-suite leaders should avoid appearing favoring one particular contributor at all times and taking for granted their direct reports.

Acknowledging and building relationships

Enterprise leaders believe that it’s vital to be aware of the types of employees they work with. To be respectful of people who would rather receive a “Thank you” or “Great job” than be given stock options or a raise.

As C-suite leaders, they are expected to invest time in building relationships with every team member via one-on-one and other communications. Relationship building helps them understand what kind of an acknowledgment each employee answers to and then ensure to offer it.

Read More:- The Cost To Develop A Blockchain-Based App Platform

Providing authentic feedback

CIOs feel that it should always be authentic when positive feedback is provided; this includes either constructive or positive feedback. When the desired result is not achieved, it is vital to inform the team constructively.

It is better when feedback is provided at the earliest after an event or a situation as possible. CIOs should ensure to unambiguously point out the behavior or action in question and provide the scenario of any potential failure. It eliminates ambiguity and trains the team members to engage in targeted improvements. A one-on-one meeting is an excellent scenario to provide feedback at.

Boosting team engagement

Leaders say that paying attention to the responsibilities of the teams and developing skill sets via both skip-level meetings and one-on-ones with direct reports is helpful. Their accomplishments should be acknowledged in a manner that is unique to them and bosses should ensure they provide authentic feedback. A leader should remember to be a multiplier and start with scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with the team.

Blockchain technology is one of the most trending technologies these days and is used for more than just economic transactions. Blockchain tech can transform the traditional ways to do business and transact with each other. The term Digital transformation perfectly blends into the definition of blockchain.
Blockchain represents the decentralized network essential these days, and companies do not want to let this go. Businesses seek a top mobile app development company with several years of experience in building the blockchain app according to their needs. But the question is: how much does it cost to build a blockchain-based app platform?
Platform
The cost to develop a blockchain-based app depends on multiple factors, including app features, blockchain type, complexity, a blockchain platform, and other tech stacks. Considering numerous factors, examples, & numbers, we have evaluated the cost of blockchain-based app platforms.
In this blog, we will look at the various factors that should be considered to estimate a blockchain app’s cost.
– Process or Phrases
– Complexity
– Development Resources
We will look into each one by one. Let’s begin!
Cost Determination of Blockchain-based App
1. Process / Phrases

Cost of blockchain implementation is invested in various activities or phrases of the project, including:
– Design: System Blueprint, UI/UI design including wireframes, low-fidelity designs with app flow & high-fidelity designs with a mock-up.
– Development: Coding & Testing
– Deployment: Deployment on DevOps, Cloud Platforms, and Delivery
– Migration: Moving the current solution to the Blockchain platform
– Maintenance: Maintaining new updates & testing if the app runs seamlessly on each OS release.
– Upgrade: New features, Modifications in Smart Contracts
– 3-rd Party Tools: Hosting, Storage, Collaboration, Notification System
Blockchain-based platforms also incur other costs, such as a developer paying some fee to deploy a contract on the blockchain.
Below are a few third-party tools that blockchain apps might use:
– Bug tracking tools like Instabug & Bugsee: Collecting and reporting live bugs
– Amazon web services: Computing, storage, and delivery
– Analytics with Mixpanel: Analytics of funnel, insights, data, and reporting
– Notification services like AmazonSNS: facilitating notifications inside the app
Project Management Cost
For instance, applying an agile method to execute frequent meetings or daily scrums, track the existing sprint, testing, bugs, timeline, and deliverables. And using tools like Jira and Trello to enable the agile technique. The cost of using such tools can also contribute to the cost of blockchain. For example, using the Jira tool to deliver action items to customers & track the internal team’s progress.
Continuous Integration
It is essential to preserve a pipeline of quality code. Every developer must write code and conform to a standard code depository to ensure that it works seamlessly with everyone else’s code. The correct way to check this is by using an automated process. The source code can be handled with tools like Github and Bitbucket. These tools also contribute to the blockchain-app cost.
Maintenance
Since this tech is still new in the market, and new platforms are entering the market each day, the apps can be converted to different platforms based on their flexibility, scalability, and confidentiality. Moreover, every year Google, Apple, and various blockchain platforms release new OS updates. This calls for a maintenance cost of 15-20% of the overall project cost, and it could differ based on the complexity.
2. Complexity
The cost of blockchain depends on the complexity of your app, and the complexity depends on multiple factors.
We have segregated the blockchain app into 3 categories based on their complexity:
Low-Complexity Blockchain Apps
– Basic Smart Contract Development App
– Payment apps developed with current cryptocurrencies
Medium-Complexity Blockchain Apps
– Semi-decentralized apps
– dApps developed on blockchain platforms such as Hyperledger, EOS, Ethereum, Fabric/Sawtooth, and more
High-Complexity Blockchain Apps
– Developing a blockchain platform from the start
– Creating an entire decentralized network
3. Development Resources

The cost of recruiting a team for app development is a significant contribution to the estimated cost. Salaries to the software developers are the main expense, but other imp factors include vacations, incentive compensation, benefits, holidays, and payroll taxes.
There are several ways to develop a blockchain app, and some of them are as follows:
– Developing a blockchain-based app with an in-house team
– Recruiting a freelancer for a blockchain-based app platform
– Recruiting an agency to develop a blockchain-based app
In-House Team
Maintaining an in-house team of blockchain developers seems complicated only cuz’ of monetary factors. However, digging deeper, you will know there are plenty of issues. Although, you will have a dedicated team who will be on their toes if any problems arise. You will have complete control over your blockchain development and manage the team’s expenses, including their incentives, vacations, workspace, and more.
Since blockchain is still nascent, there is a lack of experienced developers in the market. The average pay of a blockchain developer is $150k annually. It can be more expensive to recruit an in-house team than outsourcing a blockchain development company.
Freelancers
Hiring freelancers can be the least costly for blockchain app development; however, 80% of businesses face problems like their availability, quality, response time, and more. You can recruit a freelancer if your project is small because the risk factor rises with the project scope.
Agency
Any blockchain specialized agency can be the best option. Agencies serve as a full-time service provider and are experienced in the app development practices like Agile & DevOps. The cost of a blockchain app is lower than the in-house team. Sign a contract before starting to work on your project, which includes deliverables with particular timelines. Hence, you can count on them for your core business competencies.

The cloud remains the most strategic resource for all businesses, hybrid offering greater organizational adaptability, agility, improved efficiency, and cost reduction – but managing its wastage remains most critical.

In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, businesses are turning to the cloud to support remote workers, improve productivity, and manage cost requirements. In fact, cloud adoption continues to expand at an unexpectedly exponential rate, as the Cloud Spot Survey stated that 82% of IT leaders are increasing their cloud usage. In the midst of such a quick development, it is easy to exceed the planned investment.

hybrid

However, many also risk not leveraging the advantages of cloud that they may already be paying for. It is vital to optimize cloud expenditure when supporting long-term distributed work environments, continuing to offer organizational agility, where eventually managing the overall costs is possible.

Cloud costs are far simpler

Many businesses are strategically utilizing the cloud as a resource, as it offers greater adaptability, improved efficiency, agility, and cost reduction. Despite all these benefits, a common challenge faced by enterprises when beginning their cloud journey is the mounting, unexpected bills. It is easy to comprehend how this poses a grave challenge, as the cloud is typically billed in a very diverse manner to traditional on-premises systems.

While individual public cloud vendors offer tools to manage their cloud services, they may not provide a comprehensive overview of all cloud deployments encompassing other private instances, public providers, and virtual machines.

Related:- Cost Optimization Strategies For Compute Instances

Poor visibility whilst on-demand

IT departments have an inherently more difficult task of understanding who is using when what and why across a hybrid cloud environment. It’s simple to spin up a cloud instance on-demand, which means that there could be activity beyond what IT teams are actually aware of, creating spikes in the organization’s overall bill. The same ease of use that actually differentiates the cloud also means that on-demand instances might not be managed strategically enough if IT teams lack complete visibility into these deployments.

The invisible domino effect

Just last year, Gartner forecasted that ‘cloud waste’ would reach $14.1 billion in 2019, up from $12.9 billion in 2018, indicating just how much of challenge organizations have when it comes to attempting to have visibility into and control of their cloud investments.

To manage cloud costs effectively and to avoid potentially unsustainable solutions, IT decision-makers need to set expectations, adjust policies about the use of the cloud, and understand the needs of their workforce accordingly to avoid short-term pitfalls.

Related:- The 4 Reasons to Consider a Managed Firewall

What Enterprises Need to Follow
1. Businesses must get the perfect tools in place to manage complicated cloud environments.
2. Ensure common cloud cost optimization strategies are in place as every organization needs to regularly check that they have rightsized resource allocation, created power schedules, and considered reserved instances for AWS, among others.
3. Establish organizational expectations and policies that clearly outline what acceptable cloud usage looks like.
4. Consider whether tools are required to provide additional visibility as the best tools combine insight from on-premises and cloud workloads in order to inform users and spend forecasting, as well as offering actionable or automated capabilities to address the suggestions quickly.
5. Set up robust governance and automation capabilities. A high level of visibility into cloud usage and requirements also enables process automation to eliminate significant cloud waste. By identifying the main sources of cloud usage, one can increase or reduce the available resource to ensure the most effective cloud use.

As firms turn to the cloud, IT leaders need to be aware of the wide-ranging requirements for cloud management. It is critical to achieve prior to the implementation of cloud systems, to prevent and curb the spiraling costs. Once an organization has decided to move a substantial volume of its legacy from on-premises to cloud technology, the ongoing management following migration must be the top priority on the company’s agenda. Visibility is vital to reduce the hybrid cloud challenge, regardless of whether an enterprise is on its individual cloud journey or outsourced it.

The study says, 50-to-80% of cloud bill comes in the form of Instances or Virtual Machine. And this cost can be minimized up to 40% if proper resource management strategy is followed.

Cost

Most of the companies while choosing the Instances (or VMs) considers the maximum expected load their infrastructure may subject to. In on-premise IT modal this approach is ideal because their hardware cannot be instantly upgraded according to load. But when it comes to cloud computing this is not the case. And this is what which makes cloud computing interesting. Here the infrastructure resources can be automatically and instantaneously scaled (both expand and shrink) depending upon the need. So while choosing the instances in cloud computing the clients need to understand their infrastructure are not going to need all resources all the time. And that is why they should plan resource management strategy accordingly to cut-down their expenses on the cloud.

So let’s discuss some common Cost Optimization Strategies for Compute Instances to save unnecessary expenses on Instances in cloud bill.

Related:- Safeguard your network and customer credentials

Cost Optimization Strategies for Compute Instances

Identifying Untapped Instances:

Selecting instances according to maximum expected load on the network is one of the key reason causing high instance bill to the clients. It needs to understand, generally, not all instances are used at the same time. So it is important to identify idle (unused) instance in the process and turn them off. Say for example you have created ‘n’ number of instances where the cost of one instance is 0.2 dollar per hour. And during the certain time period in a day, you have used only n-2 instances. If this happens one day for 5 hours the loss will 2 dollars (2*(0.2*5)) per day. But if this happens with more number of instances for more numbers of hours in a month, in that case, the loss will be higher. So turning them off will avoid the billing of your unused instances and save you from paying for them.

Related:- The 4 Reasons to Consider a Managed Firewall

Search for Higher Discount:

Cloud providers offer a high percentage of discounts if a client promises to use their service for the long run. So before selecting the instances do a proper research and select the most appropriate package.

For example, AWS on its EC2 Reserved Instances (RI) provides the maximum of 75% discount than comparing with its on-demand instances. There are three different categories of RIs standard RIs, Convertible RIs, and Scheduled RIs. And the discounts offered to them by AWS are also different.

EC2 Reserved Instances provides per hour billing with an optional capacity reservation on EC2 instances. When the attributes of EC2 instances matches attributes of active RIs, AWS billing automatically applies the discounted rates. You can also get a discount by choosing region scoped RIs.

Use AWS Spot:

AWS spot instance allows to you in optimizing the cost and helps in scaling the throughput of your applications around ten times. Here you pay the spot price in effect for the time period your instances are running. According to Amazon, AWS Spot instances allows users to save up to 90% comparing with on-Demand prices. AWS provides a tool called Spot Instant Advisor to compare the pricing of spot Instance against On-Demand rates.

Managed Firewall – As the first line of defense in your business network security, a secure firewall is one of the most important pieces of your network’s infrastructure. Without it, any hacker or intruder could easily access your critical and confidential information.

Managed

With more and more sophisticated threats developing every day, it can be difficult to stay ahead of the curve in keeping your business protected. It takes more than just purchasing a piece of hardware, plugging it in, and calling it good.

Whether you have a dedicated IT person within your company or not, there are numerous benefits to having a professionally managed firewall. Here are a few of them:

Related:- Safeguard your network and customer credentials

24/7 Monitoring and Alerting

As is the case with most Managed IT Service offerings, the benefits of having your network monitored 24/7 are countless. This is especially true for your firewall. With a Managed Firewall service, your firewall is continually monitored to ensure that it is online, up to date, and that any alerts are acted on appropriately. This is vital to ensure that network attacks are avoided due to unnecessary downtime or unseen issues.

Team of certified experts

While having a remote team monitoring your firewall is comforting, knowing that the remote services are provided by a team of certified security professionals will allow you to sleep easy. These certified firewall security administrators are trained and certified by security vendors and are experienced in configuring and managing firewalls, keeping them up to date, and troubleshooting issues to create a resolution.

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No license renewals

License renewals can be one of the ongoing annoyances in any IT department. In general, at least once a year your licensing must be renewed at a cost that is probably higher than last year. With a Managed Firewall solution, your cost is fixed from month to month so you always know what to expect. In addition, any licensing is taken care of by the IT service provider, taking that hassle out of your hands.

Reporting

Knowledge of what activity is taking place on your network can be incredibly insightful to understand how many threats were avoided, where they are coming from, and where you may have any weaknesses in your security. A Managed Firewall solution can also provide information on bandwidth usage over time as well as web usage, even down to a particular workstation, which can give insight into how effectively your team is using their time.

Suppose a lunch companion says, “I think there’s something wrong with this tuna salad.” Safeguard To determine if the problem is tuna not to their taste vs. tuna gone bad, would you scarf it down? Probably not. Now remove tuna salad from the example and substitute a web browser extension. (Stay with us here.) Let’s say you’ve been warned that an unknown extension could be used for fraud. Should you download it and let it marinate in your company’s network? The FTC says that’s what the owner of ClixSense.com did, and it’s just one example of conduct challenged as deceptive or unfair.

safeguard

ClixSense – a sole proprietorship owned by James V. Grago, Jr. – is a rewards website that pays users for clicking on ads, taking online surveys, or completing other tasks. As part of the enrollment process, ClixSense collects users’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, and other personal information. In addition, people must create usernames and passwords and answer security questions. If users earn more than $600 a year from ClixSense, they have to turn over their Social Security numbers, too.

Visitors to ClixSense.com were promised “the latest encryption and security techniques to ensure the security of your account information.” But according to the complaint, at least through 2016, the site didn’t honor that claim. The FTC alleges that ClixSense didn’t perform network vulnerability and penetration testing, didn’t use established techniques to protect against third-party attacks, didn’t implement reasonable access controls, didn’t use techniques to detect cybersecurity events, and didn’t use encryption – among other techniques – to protect sensitive consumer information stored in plain text on its network.

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What’s more, the FTC says ClixSense let employees store plain text user credentials in personal email accounts, didn’t change third-party default logins and passwords, failed to use readily available security measures, and maintained consumers’ information, including their Social Security numbers, in clear text on the company’s network and devices.

In November 2015, a user warned ClixSense about a publicly available browser extension that appeared to allow people to click on ads without actually viewing them. To use a term well-known in the industry, the browser extension purportedly facilitated click fraud. And that’s where the iffy tuna salad analogy comes into play, because how did ClixSense respond to the concern about this suspect browser extension? According to the FTC, ClixSense simply downloaded it onto its own network without taking proper precautions. There it sat for months as hackers used it to access credentials on employee laptops, change employees’ logins and passwords, and redirect visitors to an unaffiliated adult website – all clues that should have alerted ClixSense that its network had been compromised.

Ultimately, hackers used credentials lifted from an email on a compromised employee laptop to access an old ClixSense server still connected to the network. That server used the default credentials ClixSense had never changed. If lawsuits were horror movies, this is where you’d cover your eyes and yet still feel compelled to peek at what happened. That’s because hackers used the old server to connect to the new server, which is where they downloaded personal information maintained in clear text on about 6.6 million consumers, 500,000 of them in the U.S. The hackers then offered stolen data for sale on a questionable website.

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The complaint challenges the company’s claims about using “the latest security and encryption techniques” as false or misleading. The FTC also alleges that the failure to use reasonable security was an unfair practice.

For people who follow FTC data security enforcement, the proposed order is worth a careful read. Among other things, the order prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information, including the extent to which encryption and security techniques are used. In addition, before collecting personal information, Mr. Grago and any company he controls must put a comprehensive information security program in place. The proposed order lists eight specific features the program must have, all tied to the conduct and lapses alleged in the complaint. Also required: periodic third-party security assessments and annual certifications that the requirements of the order are in place. Once the proposed consent agreement is published in the Federal Register, you will have 30 days to file a public comment.

What can other companies take from this case?

Deliver on your security pledges. Security claims are more than cut-and-pasted boilerplate. Like any other objective representation, they need the support of solid substantiation.

Monitor for suspicious activity and respond quickly and thoughtfully. Use affordable tools to alert you to unexplained traffic on your network or changes to your website. If you suspect a security incident, implement a forceful red zone defense. But don’t “investigate” with a wayward click or download your tech team hasn’t thought through. Turn to the FTC’s Data Breach Response publication and video for advice.

A confidential credential can be consequential. Most business people know that certain kinds of data – for example, Social Security numbers and account information – can be toxic to a consumer’s identity if they fall into hackers’ hands. But stolen login credentials can inflict harm, too. Let’s face it: People have been known to use the same username and password on more than one site. Because the theft of a user’s login on your site could serve as a skeleton key to give hackers access to consumers’ bank accounts, medical records, or other highly sensitive information, keep a close eye on credentials. Start with Security has more tips on passwords and authentication.

Donating devices like laptops, phones, and flash drives may seem like a noble thing to do—after all, it’s good for the environment and makes devices available at a lower price point for people who may not otherwise be able to afford them. However, device recycling can pose a serious and often overlooked security risk. Device security is a concern that has to be addressed before donating so you can trust that your personal information will remain protected.

devices

In a 2019 report, security operations company Rapid7 revealed thedangers of recycling and discarding devices. Researcher Josh Frantz visited 31 businesses that sold refurbished computers and accept donated hardware, spending $650 on 85 devices. He then set out to extract data from them. The results were astonishing and alarming: Out of 85 devices, only two had been wiped properly and only three were encrypted. He found over 366,300 files and managed to extract email addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, drivers license numbers, phone numbers, and even a couple of passport numbers.

Imagine the havoc someone could wreak with all that information—it could open you up to credit card fraud, ID theft, doxxing, and more. Moreover, tests run by Limited Results found that discarded low-cost IoT devices can be used to acquire wireless network passwords, which may enable a hacker to gain entrance to an otherwise secured network.

Discussions involving device security tend to focus on what to do while your device is in your possession. Protecting devices with passwords, using a password manager to store secure login information, and using caution with open WiFi networks are all good measures. However, as the Rapid7 report shows, the risk doesn’t end when you retire your old tech for the latest model.

Recycling devices can put your personal data at serious risk, as the machines may still contain thousands of files of personal information, and resellers that promise to wipe them may not live up to that promise. Anyone who plans to recycle, resell, or donate a device must take the task of wiping it into their own hands.

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Wipe the system

A factory reset may seem like the quickest and easiest way to erase all data from your device, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Data can stay on discarded devices and drives for years, even after a factory reset. Luckily, with a little extra effort, you can keep your data safe and unrecoverable.

There are a number of applications out there to wipe a hard drive or SSD. For Windows, Eraser is a popular choice, and Digital Trends has a good guide for how to use it. Another popular option is to erase a hard drive using Darik’s Boot And Nuke, also known as DBAN, a free data destruction program that completely erases all the files on a hard drive (check out Lifewire’ guide on DBAN here). Other similar programs include CBL Data Shredder, MHDD, PCDiskEraser, and KillDisk. There are dozens of free data destruction software programs out there, so find the one that works best for you. If you’re looking to wipe solid-state drives or multiple disks in a RAID, Digital Trends recommends PartedMagic.

Once you’ve wiped the hard drive, remove it from the device and destroy it thoroughly. This may seem extreme, but data could still be extracted from the device unless it is physically destroyed. Frantz recommends using a hammer, industrial shredder, drill, incineration, acid, electrolysis, or—if you’re reallycommitted—thermite. Just make sure to do this safely and use appropriate gear, like goggles and gloves.

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Consider sustainability-as-a-service

Another way to retire tech securely is partnering with an organization that safely and responsibly recycles it. As an individual, you should conduct due diligence before donating a device to find out the resellers’ security practices. As an enterprise, find a reputable service provider that can help recover, repurpose, or recycle tech with device security as a priority.

Since 2016, HP has recycled 271,400 tons of hardware and supplies and continuously made device security a priority through its Device-as-a-service (DaaS) offering, which includes end-of-use services to help your organization sustainably prepare for a technology refresh. HP’s sanitization service permanently destroys the storage media in accordance with the latest industry standards, reducing the workload on your organization and providing peace of mind.

Before we get to most common cyber security mistakes made by enterprises, let’s take a step back and think about the world of 10-15 years ago. Remember how it was? If you’re like most people, you’d be using a flip phone, you’d be using that creepy landline phone, you’d be ordering food over the phone, you’d be renting DVDs, and you’d be using those confusing street maps. Now that we look back, we can’t help but feel weird about it.

That’s because technology has touched almost every aspect of our lives and changed it forever. Whether it’s the way we communicate, the way we eat, the way we travel, the way we get entertained and—most importantly in the context of this blog—the way we work. Digitization has disrupted almost every type of business—whether small or significant—and has made everything smoother, faster and efficient. But as Richelle Mead says, “Most good things come with the risk of something bad.” Here, this risk comes in the form of cyber-attacks.

cyber security

There was a time when only the big firms used to care about cybersecurity because they had to, you know. Nobody used to care about the cybersecurity concerns of SMBs—just like your Facebook cover photo. That time is long gone, and the tables have turned (nobody still cares about your Facebook cover photo though). It might seem counter-intuitive, but around 95% of reported credit card breaches hail from small businesses. So, it’s dead wrong to think that SMBs are not spared. They should care for it even more as 60% small businesses close after suffering a data breach.

So, it’s pretty clear that cyber-attackers spare no one. That’s why having proper people, infrastructure, policies, and strategy is of paramount importance. And the enterprises seem to have understood this. They’ve started taking cyber security seriously and have begun taking proper actions. While doing so, many commit mistakes that come back to haunt them. To avoid such errors and their implications, we’ve come up with the five most commonly committed mistakes by businesses.

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Here are the five most frequently made cybersecurity mistakes by enterprises. Watch out for these!

1.  Who is going to attack our business? We’re not Apple or Google.

This is attitude problem more than anything else. As I made it clear before, smaller businesses tend to get targeted more by cyber perpetrators. Do you know why? That’s because of this we’re-not-Google-attitude. Because of this attitude, many SMBs don’t take cybersecurity seriously, and that’s exactly what hackers want. Such dubious stance results in weak security practices and that ultimately results in…you can guess the rest.

2.  Not training the staff

It’s no secret that employees are your most significant cybersecurity risk. A wrong click at the wrong place could make you fall prey to a phishing scam. We’re not telling you to enroll every employee for a cybersecurity course (it’d be great if you could do that), but we’re telling you to get them aware of the basics through proper training by an expert. We also suggest making security policies and guidelines that include the use of security practices such as antivirus, strong passwords, using secure protocols, encryption software and two-factor authentication. Such policies create ‘security-first’ environment—something that’s needed to thwart cyber attackers.

3.  Not updating on time

Let’s get this clear, updates come with a purpose, and that purpose is improvement. Newer versions comprise of patches, security updates that protect you against security vulnerabilities of past releases. No matter what it is, your antivirus, your OS, browser, protocols, server updates…your IT department must make sure that updates are installed on time every time.

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4.  Not investing in cybersecurity

Unfortunately, many companies still don’t see cybersecurity as something worth investing in. Whether it’s people, security software, software devices, monitoring systems; this is the time when you cannot afford to take security lightly. See a security consultant, let him/her do a security testing, and s/he will tell you what’s needed.

5.  “The IT guy will take care of it.”

You hired an IT person. Read it again; you hired an “IT” person. But it’s never a good idea to expect an IT person to take care of everything. This has to do with skills as well as priority. S/he might not have a vast knowledge of security. And even if s/he possesses, s/he must have a plethora of other responsibilities. Maintaining the security requires a lot of attention, and your IT person might not be able to give it. That’s why hiring a security specialist on permanent or consultation basis is essential.

One of the most pressing and controversial issues of our times has been the security and integrity of America’s elections. Fair and free elections are unquestionably a central pillar of the United States, enabling the people to choose their own destiny.

Unfortunately, US elections also have a history of being exposed to security threats, including from those who seek to shift the balance of power to their own unique advantage. This has become exacerbated as a result of the shift in recent years to electronic voting.

Recent examples include the nearly 20,000 emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee right in the middle of the 2016 Presidential election campaign season and the American intelligence community’s assertion that the Russian government had interfered in the election for its own benefit.

elections

Furthermore, several weeks after the chaotic Democratic 2020 caucus in Iowa, the city of Los Angeles also found numerous faults and glitches in its new voting system as well. These kinds of incidences raise serious questions leading into the upcoming 2020 election scheduled for November 3rd.

The simple fact of the matter is that American voting machines are a significant security risk. This is because they utilize outdated computer systems, hardware, and software, much of which is no longer even serviced. From this alone, it shouldn’t be difficult to see how America’s election integrity is vulnerable to attack.

In this piece, we’ll dive into exactly how America’s electoral integrity is at risk due to cyber attacks, and then talk about the best methods that can be used to improve both access and security in the country’s elections.

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How Are America’s Elections at Risk?

You might have seen headlines touting America’s “voting security crisis.” The integrity of election data has always been at risk. For example, election results can be incorrectly reported, creating inaccuracies by honest human error. Malicious actors can attempt to deliberately introduce inaccuracies into the vote totals and then destroy the evidence necessary to audit the election results. Registration data can be altered.

Voters can also be intimidated or deterred from accessing their polling site, therefore preventing their ability to cast a ballot in the first place. Illegal or fraudulent voting can and does happen (it’s just really a question of how often).

The list goes on.

That all being said, with most voting in the US currently being done electronically, there are a number of major cybersecurity vulnerabilities that America’s election processes are exposed to as well.

The main threats to current electronic voting in the United States can be summed up in the following ways:

Breaches of Servers

One of the most significant major threats against US elections is when hackers will physically breach electoral servers in an effort to gain credentials to provide them with access to the rest of the system.

The recent tampering of servers in Georgia is an example of this. In this case, it was discovered that election-related files had been deleted from the main server, although it was fortunately also found that no election-related data had been compromised.

DoS and DDoS Attacks

Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) are designed to slow down access to computer systems, thereby allowing them to disrupt both the actual casting of votes and auditing once the election is complete. They are also among the cheapest and yet most effective methods to hack elections and political campaigns.

The main difference between the two is that DoS attacks utilize a single computer and internet connection in order to target a system. In contrast, DDoS attacks utilize several computers and connections to target their systems. Both are massive threats to American election security.

Specifically, hackers can attempt to attack US elections through DDoS attacks by distributing botnets, which are essentially collections of malware-infected computer systems, to crash web servers by overloading their resources with massive traffic.

Speaking of malware…

Malware

Malware is an umbrella term referring to most kinds of malicious software, consisting of Trojan horses, ransomware, worms, viruses, and spyware. It arguably is the greatest threat to voting online, because it can be introduced literally anywhere to help prevent a vote from being cast as intended.

The most common way for malware to be used to disrupt voting, besides being used in DDoS botnet attacks as described above, is to disable or otherwise compromise vote-casting systems. It can also be used to alter voting records or to attack election auditing software as well.

What’s worse, is that malware is usually not easy to detect, being disguised as legitimate-looking software updates or ballot definition files.

Indeed, the threat of malware to online voting is so great that many have suggested that turning to vote by paper ballots is the only surefire defense against it (more on this subject later).

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How Can Elections Be Made More Secure?

The question, of course, is how can America’s elections be made more secure without sacrificing the access to voting that Americans enjoy?

Currently, only 53% of Americans believe that the United States government would be capable of resisting a major cyber attack on an election. Even though that may be a narrow majority, it still doesn’t express that Americans have a great degree of confidence in America’s cyber defenses as a whole.

The good news is that there are several defenses we have available to combat the threat of election hackers and cybercriminals. These include, but are not limited to:

Do We Need A Department of Cybersecurity?

All elections in the United States are conducted at the local level (including the Presidential election) in literally hundreds of thousands of voting precincts. In other words, US elections are highly decentralized.

There are many pros and cons to such a system. On one hand, it would be thought that such a decentralized system would make it much more difficult for hackers and criminals to influence. But on the other hand, the localized nature of America’s election means that there are literally hundreds of thousands of unique targets for cybercriminals. Each precinct or voting system can be targeted to influence an election outcome, whether it be on a local, state-wide, or Federal scale.

This is exactly why there has never been a greater need for proper cybersecurity training to ensure that each individual voting precinct is properly protected. While the Department of Homeland Security has branches that handle election cybersecurity audits, it could be that we are now at the point that an entirely new Department of Cybersecurity (with a special focus on securing the integrity of America’s elections) could possibly be needed.

A Turn Back To Paper Ballots?

Electronic voting machines are often thought of as being the way of the future. That being said, cybersecurity experts are still warning that paperless voting is a very bad idea.

University of Michigan Professor J. Alex Halderman, for instance, has expressed dire concerns that online voting systems are simply too vulnerable to hackers as it currently stands. It took him and his students just 48 hours to gain control over an online voting system meant for Washington D.C. elections, for instance.

Professor Halderman suggests moving over entirely to a system that only uses paper ballots. As archaic as the idea may sound, he argues that a paper ballot system complete with a risk-limiting audit afterward is by far the best way to ensure electoral integrity while also ensuring easy access to America’s voting population.

Securing Voting Machines and Online Security

Of course, if America doesn’t move over to an entirely paper-based voting system, better actions will need to be taken to secure our voting machines. In fact, this step is absolutely necessary to ensure that American elections can be secured.

As mentioned previously, one of the most common forms of attack against online voting is DoS or DDoS attacks, which are designed to overwhelm web servers via internet traffic. The problem with American voting machines today is their age, as most are very likely to break down. Some election officials have been forced to turn to online outlets such as Amazon or eBay to just find replacement parts.

In a survey conducted by the Brennan Center, 31 states have directly stated that their voting machines are in need of replacement before the 2020 election, but two-thirds of those states also stated that they do not have the necessary funding to do so.

One solution: bolster the defenses of the voting machines themselves. Common security applications, such as firewalls and virtual private networks, are designed to protect and encrypt designed to encrypt internet traffic to external servers, thereby preventing them from becoming the target of a DDoS attack. Many consumer VPNs now use the same encryption protocols as their enterprise counterparts, like Cisco and Norton, making them a plausible solution to protect against attacks like packet sniffing.

Certificate-backed digital signatures are an example of a method that would both authenticate and validate the person voting online as well as provide an added layer of security as compared to traditional forms of electronic voting.

Another idea is for each individual to vote via both paper ballot and electronically at the same time, and for the ballot to be verified against one another. And while this method may not be 100% foolproof either, there is simply no independent way to truly assess whether the vote is legitimate.

Conclusion

There are positive changes that we can make to America’s election processes before the 2020 election hits.

Replacing or updating old machines with modern security measures and investing more funding at the Federal level for election cybersecurity are just two examples of measures that could help ensure America’s elections remain both secure and accessible.