How to Protect Yourself from the Weakest Links in The Internet of Things

How to Protect Yourself from the Weakest Links in The Internet of Things

Image via image via dsa66503. Image choice is not meant to suggest that Nest is an insecure brand.

So many things are connected to the Internet now. Your thermostat, your refrigerator, your baby monitor, your light switches, your health tracker. Did you know there are web sites designed to find all the Internet connected devices and potentially allow them to be hacked?

You don’t need to be a computer genius to hack into someone’s security system, door locks or cars. Using the username admin with the same password often yields access to such devices with no trouble at all.

Having access to one of the Internet connected devices in your home could be the weak link that allows someone to hack into other devices in your home, such as your computer.

The most important step you can take to protect yourself is to change default usernames and passwords on all your Internet connected devices. Boston University has a great post on how to create a secure password.

If possible, make the device accessible only from your private home network (which has a secure password, right?) You can then log in to your own network away from home, but others won’t be able to.

Protect your data. Be safe out there.

Broadband Use Drops Slightly; Smart Phone Use Climbs

The Pew Research Center released a new survey on home broadband use in 2015 that has implications for web designers. The overall finding is that fewer people have home broadband, while more people rely on their smart phones for Internet access.

The changes are slight, but possibly significant. Home broadband adoption has plateaued. It now stands at 67% of Americans, down slightly from 70% in 2013.

Pew Internet Survey results for movement from broadband toward smartphones

Pew Internet Survey results for movement from broadband toward smartphones. African Americans, those with relatively low household incomes and those living in rural areas show the most change.

The cost of broadband is a major problem cited by many of those surveyed.

The monthly cost of broadband is prohibitive to many

The monthly cost of broadband is prohibitive to 43% of those who do not have it

24% of Americans do not have cable or satellite. 15% are former subscribers who ‘cut the cord.’ Young adults, in particular, expect to be able to use their smartphones to access almost anything they want, apply for jobs, follow the news, access government services and more.

The implications for web designers

  • websites should work well on mobile devices
  • websites should download quickly with a minimal hit on a users data plan

Twitter Tip: The List vs. The Follow

Follows vs. followers: a twitter tip

About a year ago I started a new pop culture/entertainment blog called Old Ain’t Dead. I started a new Twitter account for it as well @OldAintDead.

In the service of my new topic, I wanted to follow the tweets of many people and sources who write about entertainment and the stars making the pop culture news.

I also wanted to get people to follow my new Twitter account. A much harder proposition. It’s a slower process to get followers than it is to find people to follow.

I didn’t want the numbers to be out of proportion when potential new followers looked at my twitter profile. My regular Twitter account, where I tweet about web design topics, is @vdebolt. There I have more followers than people I follow.

twitter profile for @vdebolt

Having more followers than accounts I follow looks okay.

It’s great to have lots of followers in proportion to the number you are following. Makes you look interesting.

But what about the @OldAintDead Twitter account. If I were following 2000 entertainment accounts and only 412 people were following me, it would look as if over 1500 people decided not to follow me back. Someone seeing my profile would think I’m not worth following.

Screen grab of my Twitter Profile

The proportion of following to followers is fairly equal because I put public figures in a list.

My numbers are about equal now. That’s okay with me. So how did I manage to keep track of people I want to follow without actually following them?

I used a list. I took all those people and organizations I wanted to read like @Variety and @ShondaRhimes – people who would never follow me back – and I put them in a list. I called the list #mediawelike. I put actors, shows, media sites, networks, and those kinds of accounts in the list.

For my @OldAintDead Twitter feed, I follow real people who follow back, people who sometimes read my blog and people who are willing to engage in a conversation about something on Twitter.

I use Tweetdeck for watching Twitter in a browser. On my phone, I use Hootsuite. (Hootsuite doesn’t have an option for viewing lists.) Here’s what I see in my Old Ain’t Dead Twitter feed in Tweetdeck.

A screen grab from Tweetdeck

The Old Ain’t Dead Twitter feed

You see my Home feed, which is where I see the accounts I follow. I also keep open a notifications column. You also see the column for tweets coming in to the #mediawelike list. By using the list, I can keep the number of people I follow in a reasonable ratio compared to the number who follow me.

Creating a list is simple. In a browser, go to the Lists tab on your profile page. The create a new list option can be found there.

The new list button

The new list button

Makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. No, wait. Wrong song.

Just go make a list.

The Basics of Choosing and Obtaining a Domain Name

Thinking of starting a new website? Two preliminary steps are choosing a domain name for your new site and then buying that domain name. Let’s take a look at some of the basics involved in that process.

Choosing a Domain Name

A good domain name is easy to remember and easy to spell. A domain name that’s easy to spell shouldn’t have characters like hyphens between words. It you want more than one word in the name, run them together like alistapart.com or webstandardssherpa.com. It’s a bit awkward to read, but for someone typing the domain name for A List Apart or Web Standards Sherpa in the location bar of a browser, it makes perfect sense.

Are you starting a website for an established business? Try to make the name reflect the business name and the branding that is already in place for the business. This may be a bit hard if it’s a commonly used name. For example, a Denver floor tile company might have trouble getting the name mountaintile.com. But perhaps denvermountaintile.com might be available.

If it’s a personal website, try to use your name. Karen McGrane owns karenmcgrane.com. How simple is that?

If it’s a blog where you’ll be exploring a particular point of view, pick a domain name that reflects your point of view. A name like Mountain Poet or Lesbian Dad tells you a story about what you can expect from the website before you’ve even visited.

Before you seek out a place to purchase the domain name, it’s good to have a few ideas ready to go. Your first choice might not be available.

Obtaining a Domain Name

Okay, you’ve got some ideas for a great domain name. It’s time to see what’s available for purchase.

There are literally thousands of places where you can buy a domain name. I use the domain name services connected to the hosting company where I do business. I like having the domain name company and the web hosting company connected. But I know people who think this is a bad idea. I think the reasoning of the people who think it’s a bad idea is that if one company shuts down suddenly, at least the other one still operates. If you choose an established company with a good history, I don’t think it’s something you need to worry about.

If you search for domain names on Google you get 84,000,000 results. There are a lot of choices! I’ll just pick one to use as an example. This does not imply that I endorse this company, it’s just an example. Also, prices vary, so the prices you see in these examples may be different from other domain name sellers.

A typical domain name search form.

A typical domain name search form.

At domain.com, you see something similar to what you see on any site where you want to purchase a domain name. You enter the name you are hoping to purchase. The site will tell you if the name is available. If it’s not available exactly as you want it, the site will suggest alternatives that are close to what you want.

I searched for vdebolt.com, my own domain name. Here’s what the tool told me.

The .com is gone, but other top level domains for that name are available.

The .com is gone, but other top level domains for that name are available.

I can’t buy vdebolt.com (duh, I already own it) but other top level domain name types are available like vdebolt.net or vdebolt.org. (Domain names are cheap. Many people buy several variations and direct them all to one site.)

If the name you want isn’t available, choosing whether or not to go with a .net or .org or some other .whatever is an option.

If you don’t want the .org or .net or .whatever, the tools usually suggest variations of the name based on your original search. Here are a few suggested to me:

A few of the suggested variations on my domain name.

A few of the suggested variations on my domain name.

Even better, create your own variations like the denvermountaintile.com example and use the search tool to see if it is available.

If you can’t get a name close to what you originally wanted, go back to step one and brainstorm a new idea. Keep trying until you eventually find a name that will work and is available.

You can buy the name for 1 year or for several. You’ll probably save a few dollars if you buy several years at a time. Don’t forget to renew it on time, or you might lose it!

You’re all set. Go build something awesome.

[Note: This post was originally published on Blogher.com.]

Characters, Symbols and the Unicode Miracle – Computerphile (Video)

What exactly is UTF-8? I’m always telling students to choose it as the character encoding for their HTML documents. It turns out that representing symbols, characters and letters that are used worldwide is not easy, but UTF-8 managed it. Tom Scott explains how the web has settled on a standard. @tomscott