The cost of Malware

According to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt the internet’s biggest problems are:

  • Hackers and cybercriminals
  • No delete button
  • Censorship

It should be no surprise to us that hackers and cybercriminals made it to number one on this list, although I must say I was surprised to see that lack of the delete button was such a major issue. Many of us have seen if not experienced the damage, which can be caused by cyber criminals. The fact that we have antivirus programs running on our computers is evidence of their presence.

Let’s take a quick look at one their main tools used to commit cybercrime. Malware!! The name says it all. The word malware is a short form for malicious software. I’m from a French creole persuasion and the first part of the world “Mal” means something ‘bad’. So yes, malware will definitely do bad things to you. So let’s take a quick look at some of these bad things: Viruses, Worms and Trojan horses (not a condom). I promise you that if your use this Trojan, you WILL get infected with some virus. Your only safety is to abstain.

From the year 2004 we’ve seen a dramatic increase in malicious programs ranging in the 100 million. But what is the cost of such large a large increase in malware?

Yea, it not much you say, just $29.99 for a top of the line antivirus program, right? Hey for me it’s free because I’m running the Avast free version.

Only if this was the case!!

Symantec says we spend $110 billion annually on malware damage while McAfee says $1 trillion. Now there sure is a large error between the two reports, but the point is that malware is costing us lots of money. Though these criminals who release those viruses get the personal information (credit cards, SSN, passwords) of us every day regular folks, this financial damage is the result of damages caused to businesses. For a large multi-national firm or business, a virus attack that may affect the computer systems for one or two days is millions of dollars lost. Therefore if you didn’t know, guess what?  Malware is expensive!!

 How to protect yourself

  1. Use an antivirus software
  2. Do not pirate software- you can get infected by viruses and Trojans
  3. Be careful when opening attachments
  4. Click with care! Avoid visiting infected websites
  5. Enable your firewall
  6. Keep current with operating system updates

References

Hyman, P. (2013). Cybercrime: it’s serious, but exactly how serious?. Communications of the ACM, 56(3), 18-20.

http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/advisor/staggering-cost-malware-now-over-100-billion-023014986.html

Social Media and Warfare

Social media is radically changing all that we know, from communication, marketing, even warfare. Today it’s all being done through social media. In this post I will take a look at the role social media in warfare in the 21st century.

Let’s go back to 2010-2011 in what we all know as the Arab spring. During this short time period we saw one leader after another toppled over in the Middle Eastern Arab world. Through Facebook and Twitter the citizens of those countries were able to organize and coordinate large crowds containing thousands of people to protest against the unjust acts of their government. Through social media people were able to express their thoughts and complaints and their desire for change (freedom, democracy). Without the tool of social media, such actions would most surely result in death. But through slacktivism via social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, thousands of people got the courage to make their desires known to the world. But could social media be used more menacingly to cause disruption of governments by other political powers. I can already foresee it happening.

The 2009 elections in Iran saw Iranians taking to Twitter in protest against the government. Based on data analyzed from Twitter during this period, we saw that many of those who were taking to Twitter in Tehran were not even located in Iran (Gaffney, 2010). Many individuals simply changed their profile information to Iran’s and were protesting as if from within Iran. Maybe they were doing so to give courage to those within Iran who were protesting. But can this be abused? What if an enemy through social media organizes and coordinates the people of a country to rise up against their government? All they need is an incident with the country and a change of IP or location to incite the citizens to spark off a protest. I am just thinking of the evil possibilities afforded through social media to incite war. Need I saw more. It is indeed something to think about.

What if?

References

Gaffney, D. (2010). # iranElection: quantifying online activism.

Collaboration on Twitter

Hey world, in 140 characters here’s what I’m up to. This is the typical language of a Twitter message. But can the micro blogging platform be used as a tool for conversation and collaboration. And if so, what type of collaboration can it be used for?

To investigate this, Courtenay Honeycutt and Susan Herring scrapped hundreds of tweets from Twitter in a 12 hour timeframe and analyzed those tweets. In spite of the fact that Twitter was designed for answering the question “What are you doing?” their work showed that people are actually utilizing for much more than this.

The research showed that Twitter can be used for conversation and collaboration, but in order to successfully accomplish these tasks certain techniques must be utilized. The most popular of these included using the @ sign for addressivity. Since twitter is a very noisy platform which does not differentiate between conversation dialogs, users have to use the @ sign to direct messages to a desired individual.

It’s good to know that Twitter can be used for collaboration, but the work done through collaboration on Twitter will depend on its importance, nature and sensitivity. Sure there is the direct messaging option, but that would somewhat defeat the purpose because this is similar to traditional email except in character count. But irrespective of this, we’ve seen collaboration through Twitter on a massive scale as was demonstrated in the Arab Spring revolutions, the occupy Wall Street movements and the 2009 Iran election protests.

I think that Twitter as a good collaboration platform for public activities. Since it is such an open platform and anyone who decides to follow you can see your posts, one needs to be more careful about using the platform for more sensitive activities. But for a quick non sensitive collaboration in achieving some objective, as Honeycutt and Herring reported, Twitter can serve a very valuable role.

References

Honey, C., & Herring, S. C. (2009, January). Beyond microblogging: Conversation and collaboration via Twitter. In System Sciences, 2009. HICSS’09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-10). IEEE.

Distraction Distraction Distraction

Remember the days when your parents used to tell you don’t do your homework while watching TV; and you used to try arguing your way that it did not distract you. Guess what, it probably did distract you. I’m thinking back to that time and today about 14 years later, I’m saying to myself it’s great not being distracted by television anymore. Well what I didn’t realize until recently is that I am distracted more today than I was in my teenage years trying to complete my homework while watching my favorite tv show. Today distraction is all around me. Back in the late nineties, I did my homework on a notebook and if unwanted distraction came my way I could have easily find some isolated location. Well in my line of work, I can’t really do that. My notebook is no longer a stack of paper joined together by spiral wires. The work mead is not written on the front cover, but rather the word ASUS. Yes, I’m a windows and PC guy. When I take my notebook to a secluded I take the distraction with me because they all come from the notebook. I might be in be middle of writing an article or paper and suddenly a message pops up notifying me that I’ve received. I immediately try pressing the close button but miss and inadvertently click on the popup immediately opening email message. OK, the message is open now; I guess I can read it quickly to get back to work. Now it’s about 15 – 20 later and I’ve found myself on YouTube watching a video of Kel and Peel: Suburban zombies. Come to think of it this usually happens to me when working late at night.

Well this might seem extreme, but is it? I think there are others who experience something similar. What are those daily distractions that keep eating away at our capacity to be productive?  Need I mention social media? How many times have we seen the message that a friend has just upload some new photos. How many times have you passed off this message to continue with your work? It seems like every day there is a new social media platform and if a not a platform, then a new tool to make easier management of an existing platform.

What about our smartphones, a small handheld device which contains everything possible to keep us distracted. You know what’s worse, we cannot see ourselves living without it, yet we can’t seem to look pass the distractions emanating from it. At least with the laptop computer, the distractions are gone when we’re off the computer. On the other hand, we take the phone to bed and wake up to it first thing in the morning. If fact the phone may be the one who wakes us up with the first of the many distractions that will fill our day.

Hey sorry, I’ve got to go now; my phone has just distracted me with an international call from a childhood friend. Come on now, it’s international and it’s from my CHILDHOOD friend. What would you do? My next post would be how to control those distractions. Hopefully I would have learnt the how by the time I write my next post.

Retribution for abused victims: How the internet brought justice? A case of Online Activism

In 2002 a sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church. During this time it became known to the world that a catholic priest by the name of John Geoghan had abused and maybe was still abusing a number of young boys. The sick thing is that he had been doing it for over thirty years and all that had been done about the situation was just to transfer him from one parish to another. However in 2002, his sick habits and the Catholic Church’s covering up of his dirt and diabolical habits became known to the whole world.

But why did the story only break out in 2002. Didn’t people care about the issue before this time? Did the victims only decide to report the issue in the eventful year? Well not exactly.

Didn’t members of the parish try to protest these injustices done to those kids. I’m sure they did, but there was one thing limiting their voices and thus preventing the world from knowing; geographically restrictions. Even if they protested, it would only be restricted to a small geographical location. Traditional forms of communication just did not have the capability to allow them to effectively reach beyond their locality.  And even if someone heard, and wanted to take action how much effort would it require? And how much payoff would result from his efforts.

However by 2002 a new force had emerged on the scene. It was one that allowed an individual to instantly broadcast his message and also allow others to take action and voice their feelings on that message. Yes we are speaking about the internet. By the year 2002 people were creating their personal blob and websites and were able to write about anything they desired. Even better, the internet allowed an unlimited number of people to see and hear these messages and voice their feelings. What even better, as these people voice their feelings, others get to know of these feelings and also voice their feelings and take action. What we now have is a group of people voicing their opinions and feeling on a subject and taking action. Hmmmm, this sounds very much like some form of civic action, which is now taking place on the internet.

This is what faced the Catholic Church in 2002. The church had made several attempts to stop its members from meeting to complain about the matter; however the internet ensured that this did not happen. The meetings did occur, and resulted in more members that anyone could have anticipated.  The whole world now knew of the scandal and it could no longer be hidden. Justice would be served.  Read more on this story and the role of the internet in online activism. See Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky.

Social Media and Weak Ties

In our last post we took a look at weak ties and the value that they offer. In this post we will investigate how social media can assist us in maintaining our weak ties.

How does social media help someone maintain their weak ties?

In 2009 and 2010 I interned at Purdue University and due to my buoyant personality (yes I’m blowing my own horn), I was able to develop a number of friendships and make a few acquaintances in my time there. Ordinarily one may consider such relationships ephemeral in nature, seeing that many of these students came from different parts of the country and the world and would eventually return after their internship. Lets’ be honest, having known these individuals for 2 short months, naturally one does not expect me to expend much time and energy maintaining such short relationships. Eventually many of these relationships died out.

Now let us analyze this situation and see how I could have benefited from these relationships. Here we have a number of students from different backgrounds, disciplines and social circles who could have all been of great value to me in the long run. Through continual contact with these individuals, many opportunities could have been made available that would not otherwise been known through my immediate circle of friends. By connecting with these individuals outside my intimate circle, I could have been privy to employment opportunities and other valuable information from these groups that would be of tremendous value to me. However in my naivety I failed to maximize on the opportunity.

How could have a good knowledge of social media benefited me?

Let’s examine Facebook’s affordances in maintaining weak ties. Facebook and social media make maintaining those otherwise ephemeral relationships easy. Through Facebook I could maintain weak ties with those individuals, ever so often sending them birthday greetings or quickly browsing their profiles to see their currently activities. I could also send them a tweet through Twitter. The many forms of social media allow me to maintain relationships with these individuals without much hassle or effort. The benefit of these weak ties is that when employment opportunities are available within their own circles I am made aware of them also. Isn’t that a great return for such a small investment on a relationship?

To be fair, this coin spins in both directions, meaning that I could be the weak tie that someone else benefit’s from. I don’t want my readers thinking that all I’m concerned about is profiting on my weak ties.

Isn’t it time that you use social media to maintain your weak ties and expand your opportunities?

Social Capital & Weak Ties: A close Look!!

look---Generally speaking, social capital refers to the resources one accumulates through his/her relationships with other people.  In fact research has linked social capital to psychological well-being, self-esteem, greater employment opportunities, better public health, lower crime rates, and more efficient financial markets [2][3][4]. From this we can argue that social capital is one important resource that one should possess.

Now you may be asking yourself, how much effort does it require to obtain and maintain such a resource? Well actually not much!! You see, social capitol can be divided into two components, bonding and bridging social capital.

Bonding social capital refers to the relationships between family and close friends. The members of these relationships are bound together through their emotional connections and other associations. In these relations the members constantly keep in touch with each other, and depend on one another for support whether it be psychological, emotional, financial, and any other type of support needed. Because of the nature of such relations, they have been described as what researchers refer to as strong ties.

So if there exist the notion of strong ties, then this means we should also have what researchers call ‘weak ties’. These are associated with bridging social capital which refers to the loosely coupled relationships between individuals. These relations are easy to maintain because they do not require the strong connections inherent in the relationships with strong ties. But are these ‘weak ties’ relationships any less rewarding than their counterparts. On the contrary research has shown that these weak ties provide far greater benefits and opportunities than strong ties, particularly with respect to employment opportunities. I mean we’re living in a recession era, wont it worth your while to have some weak ties on hand seeing their ease of maintenance?

How do these weak ties work?

Let’s take a look at this. The individuals with whom you have weak ties are most definitely not in your immediate circle of friends, thus the reason why they are weak ties. However you do maintain a weak relationship with these individuals that keep them in your acquaintance sphere. The great advantage is that these individuals extend many different fields of employment and social circles. As a result, they have greater access to employment opportunities and other important information that may have never reached you in your immediate circle of friends. Through that your weak ties increases your opportunity for mobility [5].

In our next post we are going to see how the internet particularly social media helps us maintain our weak ties and increase our opportunity for greater information and job opportunities.

 

References

  1. Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94(Supplement), S95–S120.
  2. Adler, P., & Kwon, S. (2002). Social capital: Prospects for a new concept. Academy of Management Review, 27(1), 17–40.
  3. Bargh, J., & McKenna, K. (2004). The Internet and social life. Annual Review of Psychology, 55(1), 573–590.
  4. Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 359(1449), 1435–1446.