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Computer attacks: How to prevent cookie stealing, sniffing and redirection?

Common types of computer attacks

There are 4 main types of cookies (session, performance, functionality and targeting). In the EU web sites must, by law, display a cookie banner to ask for a person’s permission before cookies are used. Everyone has the right to allow or deny cookies. But if we accept and use computer cookies then is there a risk of cookie misuse?

Cookie stealing

A reflected XSS attack executes a script on the client that can be read by the client’s cookie. This cookies’ contents can send its value to the attacker (reflection) and the attacker can impersonate the client without obtaining the cookie by sending a XMLHTTPRequest. Such commands usually use “get” or “post” to obtain client data.

The best way to overcome a reflected XSS attack is to: utilise the browser’s security settings and policy by using permission zones and setting them accordingly, secondly, use a cross site request forgery, meaning cookies must be sent from the same origin policy from the client.

Web vulnerability

Today internet service providers literally provide you with an internet connection, however, surfing the web on the “naked” internet opens you up to even more vulnerability. You should therefore make use of virtual private networks (VPN) and proxy servers. Surfing safely allows your data to be more secure.

Lately Edward Snowden has revealed that NSA and GCHQ (UK) have been working on cracking a VPN’s secure setting. This is a complex task but it is possible because encryption is simply a bunch of complex numbers that, once cracked, can be analysed for any purposes. As technology progresses so too does misuse.

Hackers invented Firefox

“Hackers are not criminals”. Copyright of Jonathanmh Devintart. Reused, unmodified.

Main computer attacks

Sniffing refers to those who use their “naked” online connection sent by internet providers. To do this hackers sniff mentioned network devices if using URL based session IDs. Recently Google started encrypting their searches, and other search engines followed, which meant that HTTP became HTTPS (secure) and thus can reduce search engine sniffing.

Redirection occurs whenever information is sent back to a web server, as well as, redirecting it to the hacker. Redirection can occur from HTTP REFERER or CSS.

Would you like to add to the main types of computer attacks above? Tweet Gerald.

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References

  1. Gollmann, D. (2008) Securing web applications. Information Security Technical report. 13 [volume number missing] pp. 1–9
  2. Morgan, D. (2006) Maintaining state in web applications. Network Security. [volume and issue numbers missing] pp. 16–18
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3 things an interface does

The interface starts on an output device, for example, a monitor or projector. Interfaces are solely designed for us humans because computers do not require interfaces to compute calculations. What does an interface do?

An interface impacts memory
  • Pleasing designs
  • Functional designs
  • Emotional designs
Memorable interfaces are ones we share with family and friends since they make us think differently. Who uses an excellent interface and stays silent about it? Memorable interfaces spark conversations.
An interface allows us to remember functions. Interfaces are not just about looks, they help us learn and, even better, interact with a system.
Fantastic interfaces cause us to have emotional responses with that interface and, thus, specific web sites. If you use a beautiful site that is easy to use, functional, and designed with accessibility and usability factors that site will evoke positive emotions, for instance, joy or interest. If the site also uses fun elements the site further enhances the positive emotional state because it is fun. Who does not like fun? It is, however, worth noting that some sites require a professional tonality and fun is therefore unsuitable. Your audience is key to triggering emotional states.
Emotions

Emotional wheel. Copyright of Wikimedia Commons.

An interface enhances relationships
  • Accessibility
  • Functional
  • Usable
  • Trust
  • System interaction
All interfaces are designed to establish interactions. Building relationships with your audience increases user interaction. Designs at their best are interactive relationships.

Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another.
(Wikipedia).

Interactive effects can be direct, for example obtaining a useful piece of information, or indirect by, for instance, subconsciously thinking that a design is usable and pleasant to look at.
Interfaces communicate
Interfaces allow user’s to communicate, for example, the menu element enables users to press a button to go to another web page. Small buttons affect communication. The size of interface elements is vital to aid communication.
In the last few years interfaces have started to hide and disappear. It is now accepted to hide details, for example, an address might be hidden but activated once a mouse hovers over a specific region, such as, a small arrow, for instance. User’s love to learn hidden interfaces.

Values of hidden interfaces

Users love hidden interfaces because: hidden commands help with efficiency; they evoke emotional responses, for example, learning a new shortcut triggers happy emotions since hidden commands lead to a sense of achievement; users like to show hidden interfaces to their friends and family, thus hidden interfaces give a sense of social value. Embrace hidden commands. Users react positively to finding hidden commands.

At first, however, hidden commands can be mistaken for a mistake. Those users who are willing to explore will re-encounter that “mistake” and link it to a hidden interface. We love to learn. Hidden interfaces facilitate learning.

Just as humans look very different, we each learn differently too. Some users will be quicker than others whenever they learn hidden interface commands.

An example of a hidden command

If you have Twitter’s mobile app, long press the “compose new tweet” button to bring up your draft messages. Alternatively if you have more than 1 account go to your “me” section and drag your photo all the way down to the bottom. This triggers a command allowing you to switch user accounts. Each of these functions are not new sections of the app, they are simply different ways to communicate with the system.

Have you found a new hidden interface or command recently? Tweet Gerald.

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Reference

  1. Lee, M. Kim, D. Kim, H. and Nam, T. (2012) Understanding Impacts of Hidden Interfaces on Mobile Phone User Experience. CHI ’12. pp. 45–48

Browsers, cookies and search engines

There are over 100 web browsers available today. Knowing a little about browsers is important because they are widely used today.

Macs, PCs and browsers

Browsers are used by most people. It is possible to search a Mac without a web browser, by using Blacktree Quicksilver or Objective Development’s LaunchBar for example, which reduces search engine personalisation. Macs may effectively safeguard against personalisation. Using Blacktree Quicksilver, however, can be unstable just like PC browsers are never perfectly secure from vulnerabilities.

Image of different browser logos.

Photo of browser logos. Source.

Cookies and browsers

It is possible to allow your browser to accept or deny cookies on your device, however, browsers are not recognised as being suitable to do this under EU regulations on cookies. This is why cookie notification bars are widely used today.

Browsers facilitate personalisation because search engines can communicate with browsers and vice versa. This communication allows search engines to build up a profile on your behaviour.

Is Google Chrome safe to use?

Ohngren (2010) found that Google Chrome invades privacy because they monitor browsing behaviour. Awareness helps you to monitor and review your tactics on a regular basis.

Internet Explorer, unlike Google Chrome, offers a tracking protection list option and gives a partial block on third party cookies (for more in-depth reading read reference #2 below).

W3C state that Google Chrome (52.9%) is the most popular web browser whereas Firefox (28.2%) and Internet Explorer (11.8%) are second and third, respectively.

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References

  1. Mlot, S. (2012) Firefox 14 encrypts search; Microsoft browser glitch; AT&T chargin for FaceTime? PC Magazine. pp. 1-1
  2. NSS Labs. (2013) 2013 Browser Security Comparative Analysis: Privacy. [Online] [Accessed on 12th September 2013]
  3. Ohngren, K. (2010) Google Chrome. Entrepreneur. 38(1) pp. 33–33
  4. Reis, C. Barth, A. and Pizano, C. (2009) Browser security: Lessons from Google Chrome. Communications of the ACM. 52(8) pp. 45–49

Responsive Web Design: Alternative and important views

Challenges with Responsive Web Design*

Time and effort
Designer sketches, such as wireframes, need to take designs into each application. Clients on a tight timeline may not have the time to wait for RWDs
Devices will always be different
“…there will always be one of two devices which won’t translate”.

Is it the right choice?
If a site uses and relies on flash, clients may wish to limit all the content on all mobile devices. RWD does not allow for this to happen.
Media queries
Media queries allows the device to know what screen size and resolution is being used. If the web browser, however, does not recognise media queries then the page will be incorrectly displayed.

*Adapted from (Elle 2012: online).

SEO and responsive web design

The connection of SEO and RWD is clear but it is important to be aware of the alternative, if not negative, viewpoints because an SEOs job is to ensure they give the searcher, and user of technology, the best experience to obtain the highest possible rankings.

Some problems with RWD

Many, not all, responsive websites: have poor information architecture (e.g. Microsoft and Disney); are slow and don’t delight users with mobile only features (i.e. creating an app-like experience). Some of Meunier’s (2013) work, however, is not accurate. Mobile specific keywords, for example, are the same for desktop/laptop users. Arguably the only difference is that mobile searchers do not search for a lot of specific searches on their mobile devices because they carry out broad informational queries.

RWD is still in the early stages

RWD is approximately three years’ old: RWD is still in the early stages of the systems lifecycle and it still have a long way to go (i.e. becoming the fastest browsing experience).

I hope you realise that this post has not been intended to give RWD a ‘bad name’ or put someone off a RWD but I do hope you think about the negative viewpoints whenever you are thinking about what is best for your user.

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”

It is hoped that this post will help answer the following question: Are there any negative aspects to responsive web design? This post is, therefore, not saying RWD is poor. Knowing the disadvantages allows you to make the right decisions for your client/s.

References

  1. Elle [No surname] PS Print. (2012) 4 CHALLENGES WEB-DESIGNERS FACE WITH RESPONSIVE DESIGN. [Online] [Accessed on 30th March 2013] http://is.gd/TNtooy
  2. Meunier, B. (2013) How Common Are SEO Problems With Responsive Web Design? [Online] [Accessed on 04th April 2013] http://tinyurl.com/d9ggyma

Newsjacking: Galaxy Mega 6.3 smartphone

Galaxy Mega 6.3 smartphone specifications and price

Size of screen
At 6.3 inches, or 16 cms, the Samsung Galaxy Mega smartphone is the largest smartphone on the market
Operating system
Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
Weight
199 grams
Apple’s iPhone 5 weighs 112 grams whereas the Samsung Galaxy SIII weighs 133 grams.
Is there a smaller Galaxy Mega smartphone?
Yes! It is 5.8 inches (1.1 inche smaller)
Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 smartphone specifications
HD LCD display with 720p resolution. 1.7GHz dual-core processor. 1.5GB of RAM. 8GB/16GB storage. microSD support up to 64GB. 8-megapixel camera. 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct. GPS, GLONASS. LTE support. IR sensor. NFC. MHL. Size: 167.6 x 88 x 7.9mm.
Release date
Samsung said the mobile will be launched “globally” in May starting with “Europe and Russia”.
Price
£596.08 / €699

Photo of Samung Galaxy Mega smartphone.

Photo of Samung Galaxy Mega smartphone.
From Samsung Mobile Press


References

  1. Anon. (2013) Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 and 5.8. [Online] [Accessed on 11th April 2013] http://is.gd/Z298iz
  2. BBC (2013) Samsung unveils 6.3in Galaxy Mega smartphone. [Online] [Accessed on 11th April 2013] http://is.gd/Lmb1qc
  3. Samsung. (2013) GALAXY Mega 6.3. [Online] [Accessed on 11th April 2013] http://is.gd/F1o0Ri
  4. Smith, C. (2013) Galaxy Mega 6.3 and Galaxy Mega 5.8 official: specs, features, release date and pricing. [Online] [Accessed on 11th April 2013] http://is.gd/eWYA8M

An easy way to get backlinks: White-hat

This post, and this blog, only emphasises white-hat related content.

Newsjacking breaking news and developments

Newsjacking is a form of content marketing which allows blogs and WebPages, among others, to write about breaking news stories rather than focusing on “how to guides” etc (Stetzer 2013: online).

Social media is a good foundation to find some newsjack stories. Some of the biggest news stories have been tweets on Twitter (e.g. Obama and the Bin Laden raid). Social media, therefore, needs to searched to find new stories and developments. Rumours can also be stronger or weaker by using social media, industry experts, for instance, are likely to use social media to give hints about product features.

How to search social media

Obviously not everything on social media is true, or one hundred per cent accurate, but it does allow everyone to find out reactions, opinions and rumours. Stories, of course, should not be based on rumours because the information is unreliable. Unreliable information could affect your ranking (i.e. Google’s Panda update).

Certain social medias do, however, have effective search features. Twitter Search, for example, allows users to search for keywords: This will allow you to generate stories for the latest developments. Related stories to your business model can help you create newsjacking material(s).

We all like to stay informed, as part of being human, because we are inquisitive by nature; however, we also like to read good opinions on the latest developments. We are, therefore, more likely to share links of good ‘breaking news’ stories we are interested in: Links allow us to get / earn backlinks which helps improve our Google PageRank.

Topsy: Instant social insight

Topsy allows users to search social media in real-time which helps us generate excellent content for newsjacking stories / articles. Tweets, photos and videos, to name a few of Topsy’s medias, can be searched for for more information on a breaking news story, or to find out how strong a source is for a new product release, for example.

Like Twitter, Topsy displays what is trending. Do trends contain information we, humans, like to read? Does this match our inquisitive nature?

Social media is massive. The amount of user generated content is too much to search but some services allow us to search through the mass of free opinions. It is, however, time consuming to do this. Backlinks of people taking about your newsjacks could be priceless.

Conlin (2012: online) identified that becoming popular online, among other factors, allows you to earn great backlinks. Does this show that newsjacking content allows you to become popular?

References

  1. Conlin, B. (2012) Five Ways to Earn Backlinks the Right Way in the Wake of ‘Disavow’. [Online] [Accessed on 29th March 2013] http://www.vocus.com/blog/seo-earn-backlinks-right-way-disavow/
  2. Stetzer, A. (2013) Creative SEO Tip: Newsjacking. [Online] [Accessed on 29th March 2013] http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2258014/Creative-SEO-Tip-Newsjacking

Google Translate on the go!

From yesterday Android users could download Google Translate to their mobile. Why would you want to do this?

Translate without the internet or 3G/4G

Android users on 2.3 or above can download Google Translate which allows them to ‘speak’ in a foreign country, such as, on holidays, or a quick city break, for example.