You are an integral part of the IOT

What is ‘IOT’ and How are you an integral part of it?

Let me explain –

‘IOT’ is an acronym for the ‘Internet of Things’

The ‘Internet of Things’ means the machines connected to the internet.  In the today’s digital world, everything is connected to the internet.  Let it be mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, iPhones, iPods, iPads, etc.  Even offices, houses and cars are today online.  Online in the sense, many people opt for converting simple operated utilities like power connections, telecom, locks, etc. in their offices, houses and cars into Wi-Fi connections thinking that it would be safe and would be under their control even when they are not present at that place.  In many five star hotels as well, iPods are used to control all the things that require power including room locks considering ease and convenience of the users.  Indeed, they are useful even in houses and cars.  However, when you connect to the internet from anywhere, it becomes your responsibility to first know the pros and cons of connecting everything online and then be accountable for the security and safety of your houses, cars, hotels visitors and their personal information, employees at work and all your belongings.  The simple act of using a mobile or a smart phone needs your vigilance while accessing internet for any purpose.

In today’s digital world, cyber crimes have increased because of lack of knowledge and vigilance on the part of the users of the internet and the connected devices.  There are numerous intrusion prevention and detection systems available in the market today.  There is not scarcity of expert engineers who are dedicated to information security day in and day out.  There are so many organizations that are working for the security of this digital world in one or the other way, however, day by day cyber crime is taking a speed every year at an increasing rate.  The main reason for this increase in cyber crime is lack of knowledge and vigilance on the part of individuals using the internet and the connected gadgets, and the lack of seriousness regarding information security among the business houses.

Everyone who is connected to the internet is an integral part of the IOT and so you are not an exception.  You too are an integral and the most important part of the IOT.  The fast you acknowledge this fact, the fast you would be able to learn about the pros and cons of the internet and the IOT, and thereby prevent yourself and your belongings from cyber threats.

Internet is a boon because it gives you so many benefits connecting you to the world at the tap of your fingers; however it will not take any longer for it to become a threat if you are not vigilant while being online.  It is wise to have at least a basic knowledge about the web and the gadgets that connect you to the web.  Expert knowledge is not expected from everyone but basic knowledge is because when you are online, only you are responsible for your actions that you take online and the consequences of those actions and the parties affected online as well as offline.

So today for every individual, the businesses, the local authorities, the governments and every other person connected to the internet, the need of an hour is being vigilant online.

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Strava Global Heatmap is only one example – No wonder what’s coming next

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Image credit: pixabay.com

Recently Strava [A social network of athletes, a fitness app] released their long awaited Global Heat Map showing the activities of their fitness app users.  The map consisted cycling activity, runs, water and winter activities being carried out across the globe by the users.  One can find any place and the related activities on the map https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#13.00/-98.61707/29.39043/hot/ride.  If we really see the utility of a fitness app, we can safely say that such apps are not required for tracking and maintaining our fitness activities.  I am not using any fitness app yet, however, the information about this global heat map from Strava did drew my attention towards a big question about data security of the users and the economy as a whole.  In future if other fitness apps come up with such heat maps or live GPS tracking, it will be of a great concern for every individual and not only for defense.  This map could be exploited by bad guys in every possible way and so one of the important steps that US Defense Secretary took was to review the fitness app use policies following the news this weekend that an app used by troops revealed sensitive military information, [https://www.c4isrnet.com/intel-geoint/2018/01/28/how-a-popular-running-app-could-jeopardize-military-secrets/].  Go to the links given here for the detail information.  They are worth visiting.

If you are using Strava or any other fitness app on your smart phone or smart watch, consider the above information and decide whether to continue to use it or not.  Remember, the data disclosed by those apps publicly is merely a fraction of the entire data set that they have about you.  You don’t know how your data is being used.  Your sensitive data is your responsibility, only yours.

Thoughts on the above post are welcomed.

Thanks

Love

Gargi

 

3 Important points worth considering for cyber security

Hey guys,

I was reading a blog on cyber security where I saw the 3 important considerations worth taking note of, for protecting our PCs from cyber threats.  Prevention is always better than cure.   I agree to what the author has mentioned here.  Check out the three rules that the author has emphasized here, they are really important.

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/05/krebss-3-basic-rules-for-online-safety/

Thanks

Love

Gargi

Protect your browsing with WOT

When you search for any information by putting your search query into the search engine, you get hundreds of results strings that include trusted as well as untrusted sites. Now, how do you know if any website showed in the search result comes from a trusted source. If you are familiar with the website then you would know that its genuine and reliable, however, what if the website is unknown. If you have a specific application installed on your PC to check the website’s reliability, then you might have the answer to my question. Mostly, people do not go for any such solution and keep browsing in an unsafe environment. It is vital to know which websites are genuine and comes from trusted sources because the security of your data should be the number one priority for you and your information assets at anytime.

I have been using a security application named ‘WOT’ https://www.mywot.com/en/download for protecting my web surfing and accessing websites for past more than 6 months and I would say it is amazing. I am really happy with the way it works and I am more confident now in clicking the search result links. I would like to clarify here that I am not endorsing this app but truly desire to share something that would help you protect your web browsing and make your online search experience more enjoyable.

‘WOT’ is an abbreviation for ‘Web of Trust’. WOT shows website reputation icons next to links in most search engines, social media, and many popular websites. These reputation icons appear besides each of the links in the search result in different colors based on the four kind of ratings. Green color for Safe, Yellow color for Suspicious, Red for Unsafe and White for not rated websites. These ratings are arrived at based on user ratings. It is based on crowdsourcing approach that collects ratings and reviews from a global communiy of millions of users who rate and comment on websites based on their personal experiences, as mentioned in app introduction. This application supports 4 kind of browsers; Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari. I am using it on Mozilla Firefox.

Download this application on your PC for your browser https://www.mywot.com/en/download. Once installed you will see reputation icons besides websites in the search results. Also, you will see the same color icon on the top right corner in your tool bar in your browser window. As a wise person, I know you will click only on safe links indicated by green icon once you install this app. If you click on the icon, you will see the ratings and reviews about that website for your information. This app is also available for Android phones.

If you desire safe browsing, do look into using this application. If you know any other good app for this purpose, do share here in the comment box below.

Have a happy & safe surfing.

Love
Gargi. 

Cyber Security – Breaking Bio-metrics

When there are rules, there are rule breakers.  This is the fact in today’s world and will always remain no matter what the area of life.  No one like rules however rules are important and required to some extent to create a healthy and disciplined atmosphere.  Same applies to cyber security.  In order to prevent our crucial data, we are working in and out to find new ways to come up with products and services that would ensure mitigation of cyber risks to some extent.  ‘Bio-metrics’ is one of the solutions that is used in today’s world for identity authentication.

Since, the innovation is done by humans for protecting the data from other humans, these humans with malicious intent also works in and out to break those prevention techniques and are successful in most of the instances.  However, bio-metrics are one of the strong authentication techniques and cannot be under estimated.  Many international banks are now using advanced bio-metric systems for user authentications.  However, there are many ways to break into those systems and get unauthorized access though with negligible chances of success as confirmed by the service providers.

The video below will show you how these strong authentication systems are tested for its accuracy in preventing an unauthorized access to the user accounts and also the word of caution that a user of IOT must take into account when using the devices.  This is a very informative video.  Do watch till the end and share your views on this topic.  I would be glad to hear from you.

PS:  Every user of the device must be vigilant while buying, using and selling the devices.

 

Thanks

Love

Gargi

The Leading cause of Cyber Attacks in a Business

As a cyber security professional and as a responsible person for my data and the organization’s information systems, I have always felt that though there are millions of expert IT Engineers in the field, the data breaches and other cyber crimes are on the rise.  And the leading cause for this increase in cyber crime is not the lack of talented and qualified cyber security professionals but the lack of awareness or I can clearly say negligence on the part of the users of the devices or the owner of the personal information.  Yes! You are right, I am talking about a layman who uses the electronic devices and offers his or her personal details like bank account numbers, passwords, etc. on the web while making online transactions.  People are not serious enough to consider even basic prevention steps when dealing with confidential information.

Sharing of passwords, using personal pen drives at work, downloading games or unreliable software, clicking on the pop up advertisements without confirming if they are from a trusted website, clicking on phishing links in emails, etc. are some of the negligent actions that a user indulges in when dealing with crucial information.  The hackers always look for such actions that help them to succeed in their malicious intents.  Even if an organization has all the security measures in place and all the required IDS and IPS, the data would be at risk if the human elements involved are not vigilant about their actions when dealing with information system.  This applies to every single person on this earth.  Every layman needs to have basic knowledge about cyber security and must be vigilant when dealing with the information systems.

Recently I came across a video on YouTube when I was looking for some good cyber security related information.  This video showed how the human element is responsible for data breaches because of their lack of awareness and sometimes negligent behavior.

Watch this video and see how our behavior can affect our information system causing loss to the economy.  This is a dramatized video and really helpful to understand the scenario leading to most of the data breaches now a days.  I am sure, this video will help you to gain more understanding on the basic security measures and more vigil behavior when dealing with the information systems.

 

Thanks

Love

Gargi

Bitcoin Mining – Enter at your own RISK

Hey guys!

In the last post we saw what are Bitcoins and how they work.  In this post we will see about Bitcoin Mining and pros & cons in brief about Bitcoin Mining.  It is true that the Bitcoin has a huge value in the market today and investment in them can make you millionaire in a short span of time.  That’s why people especially youth of today are attracted to virtual currencies like Bitcoin to become wealthy easily and in a short span of time.  However, is it really a wise decision to invest in Bitcoin or indulge into the business of Bitcoin mining to earn money let alone become wealthy?

Before you step forward in the direction of virtual currency investment or Bitcoin mining, it is important to understand –

What is ‘Bitcoin Mining’?

How ‘Bitcoin Mining’ is carried out?

Why Bitcoins are mined? And

What are the Pros and Cons of ‘Bitcoin Mining’?

Lets see the answers to the above questions in brief:


What is ‘Bitcoin Mining’?

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Image courtesy:  http://www.pixabay.com

‘Bitcoin mining’ is a process of verifying the Bitcoin transactions on the network and recording them in the publicly distributed ledger called ‘Block Chain’.

How ‘Bitcoin Mining’ is carried out?

Bitcoin Mining is carried out by the individuals [miners] or group of individuals [mining pools] through powerful computers like GPU, FPGAs or ASIC chips**.  In this mining process, the Bitcoin transactions are validated and are added to the block.  The block header of the recent block is added to a new block as a hash [nonce^].  Now the header of the recent block and the nonce are combined and a hash is generated containing enough zeroes preceding the other characters in the generated hash.  If the zeroes are less than the Target [256 bits number], the block is said to be mined and added to the block chain.  This is called ‘Proof of Work’ and an insanely difficult task for the miner because computing a hash with enough zeroes less than the Target is extremely difficult and the process of computing the required hash to be acceptable in the network, the miner has to repeat the activity billions of times before the computer arrives the required hash.  Once the block is added to the block chain, the miner is rewarded with new Bitcoins [presently 12.5 BTC per mined block].  The number of BTC offered as a reward decreases to half every 210000 block mined.  As per the Bitcoin Protocol, a new block [ie. collection of transactions, total block size of < 1 MB]@@ is added every 10 minutes on the network.  To compute the hash for the block, the miners use powerful computer cards known as ‘Mining rigs’.  The Bitcoin protocol is made in such a way that the mining of one block takes at least 10 minutes.  As more and more miners enter the peer – to – peer network, the block creation increases.  This results in the increase of the difficulty of block mining.  The more difficult the mining, the more time required to mine the block.  This increases the time taken to mine the block.  Since, the Bitcoin Protocol is made in a way that limits the mining time to 10 minutes for a block and average two weeks for 2016 blocks, if the time taken to mine the block increase than this specified limit, the Bitcoin’s target value is recalculated after two weeks and the difficulty is lowered and the block creation slows down to 10 minutes as decided by the protocol.  Similarly, if the mining time takes less time than the standard protocol, the Bitcoin’s target is recalculated to raise the difficulty level and this increases the block creations bringing back the standard 10 minutes time per block creation.  Every transaction in the block offers some transaction fees and the miners have choice of selecting those blocks of transaction with high transaction fees.  In addition to this, the Bitcoin miners receive new bitcoins as a reward for each block mined and added to the Block Chain.  In this way new Bitcoins are introduced in the market.  Thus, the Bitcoins would cease to be offered as rewards against the mining activity, in the year 2041 most probably as estimated by the Bitcoin Protocol because as per the protocol the total number of Bitcoins to be created has been limited to 21 millions.  Once this number is achieved, no more Bitcoins would be generated and the miner would then be dependent only on the transaction fees for earning money.  This has been decided to let Bitcoin appreciate in value constantly.

** GPU –> Graphic Processing Units, FPGAs –> Field Programmable Gate Array, ASIC –> Application Specific Integrated Circuits

@@ The block size is now planned to increase from 1 MB to 8 MB [ref.: http://www.newsbtc.com/2015/06/21/block-size-to-increase-from-1-mb-to-8-mb/%5D

^ Nonce:  https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Nonce

Why Bitcoins are mined?

The purpose of mining activity is not only to receive new Bitcoins as rewards and to earn transaction fees but also to keep the Bitcoin network consistent and error/fraud free.  Since, there is no centralized authority to regulate and administer the Bitcoin exchange and the transactions on the Block Chain, the Bitcoin miners do the verification and recording process to ensure that the transactions are valid and are appropriately recorded on the Block Chain for every node to be able to see the transactions occurring.  This also ensures that single Bitcoin is not spend more than once.  Thus, the Bitcoin mining has more than one purpose.

What are the Pros and Cons of ‘Bitcoin Mining’?

The below pros and cons will help you to decide whether Bitcoin Mining is a wise investment.

Pros

  1.  The value of one Bitcoin [BTC] [Virtual Currency] is huge compared to other legal currencies.  Today 30/12/2017, the value of 1 BTC is $ 13929.98 [ref: https://www.currency-site.com/current_rate/BTC/USD/%5D.  In Indian Rupees it is INR 889,589.42 for 1 BTC [ref: https://www.currency-site.com/current_rate/BTC/USD/%5D.
  2. Freedom of use, as there is no centralized regulating and administering agency like Banks and Financial Institutions.
  3. Bitcoin transactions are verified and authenticated by the Bitcoin Miners and against that they receive new Bitcoins and transaction fees as per the Bitcoin Protocal.  This way new coins enter the market and miners make money.  Also, this provides security against double spending of a single Bitcoin.
  4. Bitcoin mining can be done sitting in a room and you don’t need to go anywhere.
  5. Bitcoins are legal in most of the developed countries and some of the developing countries, though not authorized or regulated by any Government agencies.^^

Cons

  1. No centralized regulation by Government.
  2. Your Bitcoin Wallets are prone to hacking by hackers and so to the loss of your high value Bitcoins within a split of seconds.  In this case, you do not have any way to file a legal complain with law enforcement to get back your money as the Bitcoin transactions are not governed by any centralized agency unlike Banks and Financial institutions who have policies and procedures to protect your money kept with them.
  3. Bitcoin mining requires high processors, cool environment for those high processing machines as they generate a lot of heat and a good technical knowledge to carry out this complex task of mining.  So, a newbie in this field has low chances of successfully carrying out the mining activity without these per-requisites.
  4. Without much investment, you can get involved in Bitcoin mining by joining mining pools, however, the share that you would receive would be very low.
  5. It is important for you to look at the investment amount and the returns you receive from Bitcoin mining.  Since, these high processing machines need to be run 24×7 and consume lot of electricity giving you large money outflow against lower inflows from Bitcoin Mining.
  6. There are already big players in Bitcoin Mining with huge infrastructure in the Bitcoin market today, so if you are new, you need to consider this fact before you choose to get into this business.
  7. One more option is Bitcoin Cloud Mining, however, consider the facts that you do not have much access to the infrastructure and the business processes used by those cloud companies and to know whether they are genuine and if at all they are genuine then whether they have secured system in place for conducting Bitcoin Mining and keeping your data and money safe.  Some times, cloud companies keep the activity on hold if the Bitcoin value goes on a certain level.  There may be many other internal rules for carrying on this Bitcoin Mining activity.  You need to consider these facts before joining any Bitcoin Cloud company.
  8. At any time if the server of the Bitcoin exchange or your Mining Rigs crashes, be ready for the huge loss of your real legal tender that are circulating in the Bitcoin exchange in the form of this high value attractive crypto currency.

The above are few of the Pros and Cons of Bitcoin Mining, they are many more.  After looking at the above the details, if you feel it right to invest in Bitcoin Mining, go for it.  However, remember if you indulge into this business, you are doing this solely at your own RISK.

That’s all for this post.  If you have any queries or thoughts to share about Bitcoins and its mining, write in the comment box below.  I would be glad to hear from you.

References used: 

https://steemit.com/bitcoin/@mohsan0073/why-there-are-only-21-million-bitcoins

https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Mining

https://www.fxempire.com/education/article/bitcoin-mining-for-dummies-427762

http://www.newsbtc.com/2015/06/21/block-size-to-increase-from-1-mb-to-8-mb/

^^https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_bitcoin_by_country_or_territory

 

Thank you

Love

Gargi

 

Bitcoin Dynamics

Hey Guys,

Crypto Currencies are much popular in today’s digital market.  They are complex yet interesting.  In this post we will understand Bitcoin dynamics by answering the following questions.

What is a Bitcoin?

What is a Block Chain?

How does a Bitcoin transaction works?

Let’s see the answers to the above questions in brief.


What is a Bitcoin?

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Image courtesy:  http://www.pixabay.com

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency [digital currency or say virtual currency].  It was invented by a person or a group of people under the name Satoshi Nakamoto released as an open source software in 2009.  Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency as it doesn’t have any centralized authority like Bank to administer the currency and its circulation in the market.  This digital currency operates in a peer-to-peer network.  The users directly transact with each other through cryptography without any intermediary unlike our regular banking transactions where banks are the intermediary and an authority to authenticate and conclude the transactions between the users.  The Bitcoin transactions are verified by the Bitcoin Miners and are registered on the Block Chain.

What is a Block Chain?

Block Chain is a publicly distributed ledger where all the Bitcoin transactions transacted on the Bitcoin exchange are noted for all the users to see and take the record of.  Since, there is no centralized authority to regulate Bitcoins, the Bitcoin miners perform the task of verifying the transactions on the Block Chain.   Approximately six times per hour, the transactions are updated on the block chain and shared with all the connected nodes in the network.   As per Bitcoin protocol, the bitcoin dynamics are made in such a way that the verification of one block takes at least 10 minutes and since the verification is carried out for the blocks [collection of transactions], the verification time may extend over 10 minutes slowing down the network.  Bitcoins are used for buying and selling products or currency trade.  Though Bitcoin is popular for online trading in some countries, it is not yet legalized in India and many other developing countries across the globe.  Since, Bitcoin exchange is not regulated by any centralized authority like Banks and Government, investing in Bitcoin is risky and prone to hackers’ malicious acts.

How does a Bitcoin transaction works?

Bitcoin transactions are like emails, the sender of the currency types in three details in a message that is then signed digitally with SHA 256* algorithm and sent to the recipient.  The details that the sender is supposed to mention in the message are –

  1.  The source transaction from which the sender received the bitcoins [ie. Input]
  2. The amount of bitcoin the sender intends to send to the recipient
  3. The recipient’s address called ‘public key’ to which the bitcoins are sent by the sender [ie. Output]

* 256 bits Secure Hash Algorithm [SHA] –>  Hash Algorithms are mathematical functions published by National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST], that converts the message digests [arbitrary size of bits] into alpha numeric characters [fixed size of bits ie. 256 bits] to encrypt them, which is designed to also be a one-way function, that is, a function which is infeasible to invert.

The sender of the bitcoin must have two keys, one private key and one public key to perform a transaction.  The private key is used to sign the transaction message digitally and the public key is used within the message to send the bitcoins to the recipient.  These keys are random alphanumeric numbers.

Bitcoins doesn’t exist in the physical form but in the virtual form.  They exist as the records of transactions on the Block Chain.  The user needs to have a Bitcoin wallet to enter into the transactions on the network.  Bitcoin wallets are digital wallets that has the record of the transactions entered into by the user.  This wallet keeps the records transaction wise and doesn’t total the amount in the wallet unlike other digital wallets.  This means, if the user has three transactions where he has received 2 BTC, 5 BTC and 2.5 BTC in three separate transactions, the Bitcoin wallet will show three separate  transactions with three amounts as above and will not show the total amount as 9.5 BTC.

If a sender of the Bitcoin currency requires less amount of the currency than he or she has in a single transaction, then he or she needs to have two separate addresses, where in the first address [recipient’s address], the user will send the exact required currency to the recipient and in the second address, the user will send the remaining amount to get the refund of the excess amount from the merchant.   This break-down of the amount into two transaction outputs is done by the Bitcoin wallet where you send only one message digest with the amount in its entirety.

For Example, if the user wants to send 3.5 BTC to the merchant for buying his product and he has 5 BTC in his wallet in a single transaction, then he has to send the entire 5 BTC in the intended transaction for buying the product though the price of the product is 3.5 BTC, however, the wallet will break-down the amount into two transaction outputs.  3.5 BTC will be sent to the recipient’s address for the price of the product and 1.5 BTC will be sent to a new address created for getting refund from the merchant.  Once the transaction is verified by the Bitcoin miner on the block chain, the payment is done.

This is how Bitcoin works.  Bitcoin Protocol has defined limited number of bitcoins to be in the circulation, thus, the value of bitcoin is rising periodically.  Today’s [21/12/2017] Bitcoin exchange rate is 1 BTC = $15795.9038. 

In the coming post we will talk about Bitcoin mining and the Pros and Cons of Bitcoin mining.  Let me know your view on cryptocurrencies.

Till then see you.

Love

Gargi

[Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin, https://www.bitcoin.com/info/how-bitcoin-transactions-work, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Hash_Algorithms%5D