We’ve previously talked about ways to protect your email, or your web surfing, from hackers. One of the surest ways to protect yourself when on a public WiFi hotspot is by accessing the Internet through an SSL-encryted tunnel. Most services that offer that, though, cost money. Enter Cocoon, a free Firefox add-on that sends all of your browser traffic through an SSL encrypted tunnel.
Today, 40Tech is pleased to present you with a guest post from Jared Scott.
Long before you ever created your first MySpace page or added your grandma as a friend on Facebook, two guys in North Carolina were looking for a new way to share local announcements. The year was 1979, and Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis of Duke University established a link to the nearby University of North Carolina and Usenet was born.
Early the next year, Usenet was connected to ARPANET through UC Berkeley and the community quickly flourished.
Before online discussion forums, email or instant messaging, Usenet was the original social network.
In many ways, Usenet was the Wild West of the Internet. No subject was too far out there and “Newsgroups” for just about every topic imaginable were created. Spirited discussions between professionals and amateurs would play out over days, weeks or months.
Usenet is the place where Linus Torvalds’ announced Linux, Tim Berners-Lee announced the World Wide Web, and where the first “Make Money Fast” post was placed.
And most movie buffs don’t know that The Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb, even began on Usenet in 1990.
With the emergence of the World Wide Web, many people began calling for the death of Usenet. In fact, I just read an article on TheNextWeb.com this past week referring to Usenet as Long Dead & Buried.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While no longer commanding the spotlight it once shined under, Usenet has been quietly thriving for years. As major Universities and Internet Service Providers abandoned their Usenet servers, private enterprise stepped in to pick up the slack.
No longer constrained by the limited budgets of academic institutions and armed with capital from paying customers, competing Usenet providers have been steadily improving the product and providing previously unthinkable levels of service.
Today, it is not uncommon for a Usenet service provider to offer one or all of the following:
Uncapped Download Speeds. By harnessing the full speed of your Internet connection, downloads can take a fraction of the time they do with other technologies.
Privacy & Security. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) server connections provide an encrypted link between your computer and the server keeping prying eyes out.
Huge Data Archives. Retention of data may be the biggest improvement of all. Almost nothing gets deleted from Usenet these days.
Now well into its 30’s, Usenet has continued to develop, evolve and mature. As one of the pillars of the Internet, Usenet has a long and robust history. And as a system built on openness and mutual benefit, Usenet is well positioned to last another 30 years.
If you’ve never used Usenet or just haven’t used it in a while, take a look. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
Jared Scott is a blogger and Internet entrepreneur who spends the vast majority of his waking hours connected to the Internet. He’s currently the Manager of Public Outreach for Binverse.com. You can follow his updates on Facebook.
I recently read a Gizmodo article about BitCoin, a new digital currency that is peer-exchanged — and generated — and aims to “revolutionize global finance.” It’s a nice idea, really, and some stores and services have already adopted it. According to Gizmodo, you can already trade BitCoin tokens for web designers, games, guns, and even drugs — yep… drugs. This sounds like the makings of real money to me, but how far will it — or can it — go?
Money is many things: the root of all evil, maker of spinning worlds, an absolute necessity to live in our society, yada yada. It also has a basis on which to trade — generally gold and silver repositories that give the coins and paper some degree of relative worth. Even our debit and credit cards, which are the primary ways of buying things digitally, are tied up in the worldwide economy of shiny valuable metals. This has been going on for thousands of years, ever since a few people decided that hoarding pretty things was a good way to live — and other people decided they wanted those same pretty things too. In a nutshell, anyway.
Can BitCoin stack up against all of that? It creates itself out of nothing! It’s an app on your computer that uses your machine to crowdsource the power to facilitate the currency’s transactions, all the while generating tiny bits of BitCoins for you. The creators have put some thought into it, sure, putting a cap on the creation of BitCoins (21 million in total) that will introduce scarcity, and therefore a basis for value, but what kind of potential does this new currency have against thousands of years of history? Not to mention that the wheels that turn the economy, like credit card companies, might have a thing or two to say on the matter – especially about the lower of fees, transaction limits, country walls, and other things that provide financial control over users.
I think BitCoin is a nice idea. I think it even has potential — at least to gain some sort of reasonable adoption over the long term. It will probably be a very long term, though, before any real revolution is seen. Everything we do is too tied up in regular currency. There are those out there who believe in BitCoin now, however — and they are trading the online currency at one BitCoin for $7.50. That’s virtual coins for real money — and not bought by someone who is looking to get a new castle or set of armour in their favourite MMORPG.
Think about it.
Is BitCoin revolutionary? Doomed to failure? Ahead of its time? — Or maybe all of the above? Let us know what you think in the comments.
With all of the crazy outages and hacking going on in the digital world over the past week or two, the fact that LastPass has an issue (as of May 3rd), probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it is a bit of a shock to the system to be reminded that the “last password you’ll have to remember” is potentially as vulnerable as any other. Before panic sets in among LastPass users (of which I am one), know that the company is on it, and that those with strong, non-dictionary based passwords should be fine in any case. LastPass also admits that they may even be overreacting, but prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping your data safe — a policy that I am 100% behind.
Without getting into the technical aspects behind it all, what basically happened is that LastPass discovered at least two network traffic anomalies in their systems that they couldn’t explain. One occurred in a “non-critical machine” and the other came from one of their databases. The second matched with the first and involved information exiting the LastPass environment. The company reported in their blog post that the outgoing amount of data was large enough to have contained email addresses, password hashes, and “server salt,” but not enough to have “pulled many users’ encrypted data blobs.”
While LastPass doesn’t feel that the issue is a large one, they recognize the potential for brute force hacking on the passwords of any users that may have been compromised. This is most likely to affect those who have a master password that is lacking in strength and/or dictionary-based, which is still incredibly common, even today. To protect the integrity of their systems, and their users’ data, LastPass is requiring all users to change their master password. They are also looking for email validation from you if you happen to be logging in from an IP address that is outside your usual set. This is an added security measure, just in case your password does get compromised before it is changed.
Don’t rush off and change your password right away, however. The sheer volume of password change requests is slowing down LastPass as a whole, which is causing server connectivity problems across the board. The company has beefed up the email verification protection as a result, and are confident that there should be little risk in waiting a day or two before changing your master password. You will have to do it eventually, however.
Creating a Strong – But Easy to Remember – Password
When you do change your password, strength should be your primary focus — but there is no reason you have to put together something that is impossible for you to remember. That may seem a bold statement, considering that strong passwords need to have combinations of numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters — and should avoid dictionary words — but a great post by Gina Trapani (Lifehacker) back in 2006 essentially solves that problem.
Gina advises that you use a single rule set as the basis for all of your passwords. You start with a base password that you create from something like a favourite acronym, letter/number combination, or nonsense word that you will never forget. Pad that with some symbols for extra safety, if you want, and store it somewhere offline, just in case you forget it. Once the base of the password is set, the rest comes as a result of the service you are signing up for.
For example, you could set your base password using your initials (including middle) or even your favourite pet’s initials, combined with your favourite number. In this case, you are the proud owner of Fluffy Cattington, and have a love for the number 86. Your base password could be something like FC86, or FfyCt86, etc. Add a few things to that for extra strength and you could have this: &*FfyCt86!, or #(FC86)^^. Already, we are well on our way to a secure password.
The next step is to add a standard code for the service you are using. Initials or the first few letters of the service name are good here as well. If this were to be your LastPass master password, for example, you could have something like this: &*FfyCt86!LP, or #(FC86)^^Las. Just try to make sure your password is at least eight characters long and that you are using numbers and letters. Using symbols and uppercase/lowercase letters is even better, but not all services will allow this in their passwords, so you may have to adjust for that. LastPass does, so no worries there.
Check out the Lifehacker post for even more ideas on how to choose your base password.
If you are interested in alternatives to LastPass, check out Evan’s post on eWallet vs Keypass vs LastPass. I like LastPass, though, and am pleased by the lengths they go through to protect their service and users. Evan also makes a great case for LastPass here.
What are your thoughts on choosing and remembering strong passwords?
Ok, I know this has been my only post this week, and that it’s light and fluffy — but bear with me, the flu sucks and the chuckles are making me feel better. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Mike Tyson slap something? And I don’t care how angry those crazy red birds are, even a mild slap from Tyson is a good bet to get them to hang up their sling shots…
The video is actually a roundabout plug for SportsNation, an attempt at viral marketing. Make sure you watch the second one, as well — it’s a bonus outtakes reel, and I actually found it to be funnier.