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Category Archives: Analytics

A Banking View on Windows XP and the End of Support: See It, Block It

A Banking View on Windows XP and the End of Support: See It, Block It
By Christopher Budd


We are a couple of days away from a proverbial red letter day: the end of security support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014.

For the past few months, we’ve been talking about this impending event. We’ve talked about what people can expect in terms of the number of vulnerabilities they may see when Microsoft stops issuing security patches. And we’ve tried to make very clear that this is a situation that can affect everyone, not just those running Windows XP.

 

 
When we talk about the dangers that people on Windows XP pose to others, there’s probably no single industry that faces a greater set of risks by users being on Windows XP than banking and finance. More than any other industry, banking and finance face significant risks of fraud and loss due to its customers’ making the unwise decision to stay on Windows XP. As an industry facing extraordinary, unprecedented risks around Windows XP, banking and finance should consider equally extraordinary, unprecedented steps to protect themselves by alerting customers who are on Windows XP of the risks and encouraging them to upgrade. In some cases, especially as time goes on, the banking and finance sector should consider taking steps to block customers still on Windows XP from their services entirely.

The reason that banking and finance are at so much at risk by its users being on Windows XP is that unpatched vulnerabilities will be found and attacked on Windows XP. And as we’ve shown in our 2013 Threat Roundup, online banking malware is a huge problem. From 2012 to 2013, detections of online banking malware more than doubled from 500,000 worldwide in 2012 to more than 1 million in 2013. And the United States and Brazil alone accounted for 50%, or 500,000 detections, of online banking malware. Skyrocketing online banking malware combined with a coming slew of never-to-be-patched vulnerabilities means that online banking on Windows XP is going to become incredibly dangerous soon. And while that is a risk to the users of those Windows XP systems, in aggregate and in the end, it’s those users’ banks and financial institutions that face the greatest risks.

From a technological point of view, when users go to websites, it’s a relatively simple matter to detect the browser and operating system that’s accessing the site. Using that information to create an alert to make people aware of the risks of being on Windows XP and what they should do about it is an easy way to help spread the word. And a step like this will reinforce actions that Microsoft themselves are taking to alert users through alert messages. The broader the net is spread to pass the word about these risks the better.

But warnings may not be enough. People tune warnings out and ignore them. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that warnings alone will be sufficient. And as time goes on, this situation will become worse and worse. Banks and financial institutions should also start considering the drastic measure of actively blocking users on Windows XP from using their online services entirely.

This is clearly an extreme measure as it will cause lost business. But this step may be justified, especially if the risks of financial losses from Windows XP users exceed the risks of losses from losing those customers. It’s not desirable to turn customers away, but businesses do it all the time in service of their larger concerns. The coming situation with Windows XP and the risks those users pose to their banks and financial institutions is a good example of when these larger considerations pertain.

Of course, in addition to online alerts or blocks, further education campaigns make sense. Notifying customers of the risks and what they should do, through email and online campaigns, can further reinforce the message. Banks and financial institutions (and really anyone) should feel free to disseminate our flyer that outlines these risks.

Banking and finance aren’t the only sectors that are particularly at risk starting next week. But it is the sector that may face some of the greatest impact over time as its users continue to refuse to switch. We’re getting down to the wire and time is running out. Increasingly, those still on Windows XP represent those who most stubbornly refuse to take action. Increasingly, organizations who are themselves at risk by the non-actions of these recalcitrant users will have to themselves take actions that seek to spur those users into action. In short, we have to make it more painful for these users to do nothing than to take action. And so, a viable tactic in support of this goal around Windows XP is if you see it, block it.

Christopher Budd is a communications manager with Trend Micro. His focus is on communications around online security and privacy threats to help people understand in plain English the risks they face and what they can do about them. In addition, he focuses on managing crisis communications utilizing a framework and processes he helped put in place.

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis
By Mike Krings


Political cartoons aren’t just for newspapers any more. A University of Kansas professor and her students analyzed how political cartoons were presented on Facebook during the Syrian uprising, the themes they explored, reactions to them and what they can tell us about social media use in Syria.

 

 

When Syrians rose up against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the government began a severe crackdown against its people. Hyunjin Seo, assistant professor of journalism, and doctoral students Goran S. Ghafour and Ren-Whei Han archived and analyzed 164 political cartoons from the Comic4Syria Facebook page, a site devoted to posting cartoons from professional and amateur illustrators about the conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people. The researchers examined cartoons from July 24, 2012, when the page opened, until Nov. 23, 2013.Seo and her co-authors analyzed the images to understand more about the topics of the cartoons, the frames they used, characters depicted in them, how they depicted men, women and children and which types of images drew the most reaction from viewers.

Examining political cartoons from Syria in a digital age served several purposes, as social media has allowed more people to share political opinions freely. The medium is also undergoing transition from being the domain of newspapers, especially in countries such as Syria with significant media censorship.

“As the platform has become more democratic, I think there are a lot more studies that can be done about the role of political cartoons,” Seo said. “Their use in Syria was very interesting as the landscape of Syrian opposition is very complicated.”

The researchers analyzed the structure of the cartoons to determine common features. Of the 164 images studied, 81 percent featured Arabic only, while 11 percent featured English only and about 8 percent featured both Arabic and English. Nearly half, 47 percent, of the cartoons featured both male and female characters, 39 percent featured only male characters, and only 1.8 percent featured only female characters. The rest featured characters whose gender was unclear or did not feature human characters at all.

Of the cartoons featuring human characters, 60 percent featured only adults, while 28 percent featured adults and children, while 3.7 featured only children, and the remainder were characters whose age group was unclear.

Syrian cartoons averaged more than 243 “likes,” with the highest number of likes reaching 1,531. Comments made on the images averaged 11.77, ranging from zero to 110. The images were also shared frequently, including one that was shared 3,237 times.

The researchers examined frames used in the cartoons and identified six: freedom, oppression, international influence, hypocrisy, media influence and sectarianism. Oppression was by far the most common frame, at 52 percent, while freedom and international influence followed at 14 and 12 percent, respectively.

The president’s regime was by far the most common topic, featured in 89 percent of analyzed comics. Mental torture and physical torture were also common, featured in more than 50 percent of the cartoons as well.

The most common topics and frames did not necessarily draw the most viewer reaction.

“There were cartoons examining media effects and how they were distorting facts and supporting al-Assad’s propaganda,” Seo said. “Those were the cartoons that received the most likes.”

Cartoons with a hypocrisy or oppression frame followed media influence in most likes generated. Freedom and sectarianism received the fewest. Media-influence cartoons were also the most shared, followed by international influence and hypocrisy. Those patterns held true for cartoons that generated the most comments as well. Media influence was once again at the top.

In terms of cartoon topics, martyrdom was the most effective, generating more likes and comments than others such as mental torture, al-Assad’s regime and others. However, in terms of which topics were more likely to be shared, mental torture rated the highest, followed by martyrdom, international influence and the Syrian regime.

When examined by types of characters featured, those with political leaders of other countries received the most likes, comments and shares.

Seo and her co-authors will present their research in May at the International Communication Association Conference in Seattle. The research is part of an ongoing line of work in which Seo has analyzed the role social media can play in social change. She has studied social media use during the Arab Spring, Twitter images used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Internet connectivity in the Middle East. She is beginning a new grant-funded study in which she’ll analyze the Facebook use of al-Assad and opposition forces during the ongoing uprising and civil war. She was also selected as an emerging scholar by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in recognition of her work.

The analysis of Comic4Syria images not only adds to visual communication studies, it helps provide a deeper look at how Syrians viewed the uprising, especially important in a region of the world in which media censorship is common practice and crackdowns were common against both Syrian and foreign journalists.

“Social media has emerged as an important channel through which Syrian civilians document the Syrian revolution and people around the world get a glimpse of what was happening in Syria,” the authors wrote. “By analyzing political cartoons posted to the Comic4Syria Facebook page, this research helps provide a more nuanced understanding of digital media-facilitated communication practices in Syria.”

Mike Krings is a public affairs officer in the KU News Service.

Spending More Time on SEO Than Adding Value to Google?

Spending More Time on SEO Than Adding Value to Google?
By Chris Abraham

 
I met my buddy Adam Viener for breakfast the other week at the Reston, Virginia, Silver Diner. This is something we do seasonally. Adam’s an affiliate and an AdWords guru, par excellence, by profession; however, he also stays on top of organic search religiously just as part of creating content sublime enough to compel all the folks who click through from sponsored search, contextual ads, and display ads.

Hummingbird’s Secret

I asked him what he thought of Hummingbird, Google’s latest search algorithm, and he said:

“Aside from just making sure you have all of the share and +1 buttons sorted out on your sites and committing to Google Authorship, the only thing that’s left is simple: creating content that gives value to Google.”
 

Give Value to Google

The reason why so many companies, brands, and sites need to spend so much time and money on advertising and SEO consultants is because they’re also spending too much money on minimalist web designers who chop, cut, deforest, raze, and hilltop-remove “wordy” first and second generation website content down to simple, minimal, stock-photograph-splashed slideshow emblazoned front pages that have become so light on copy and textual content in service of being modern and of high design, that there’s nothing there for Google.

Google Needs Copy and Content More than Inbound Links

Yes, Google does care about Google Authorship; inbound links and keyword terms; the proper use of headline, bold, emphasis, italics, and bullet points to describe content; meta tags and alt tags to help describe the foundational architectural metadata of the site; share me buttons, especially Google +1; and Google Analytic script embeds. All that is mechanics, is back room, is what goes on in the boiler and utility rooms and not in the front office, the lobby, the reading room.

No matter how well lit, well appointed, well heated, and inviting your library is, it’s really not a library unless there are books to read, content to consume and comprehend, be it multimedia, textual, spoken word, visual, etc.

Google Still Believes that Books Make the Library

Google needs the content of your library much more than it ever needed your library building; unfortunately, we all spend more of our time choosing the perfect platform (WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace?), the perfect template (Responsive, HTML5, swipeable?), and the perfect plugins (AddThis, W3 Total Cache, Yoast‘s WordPress SEO?) than we do writing all the copy, storytelling, background, insight, history, biographies, case studies, origin story, and educational content that actually gives Google everything it needs to most accurately predict whether it’s your content, your site, your page on that site, that shows up first on Google for any given keyword phrase.

Form Has Smothered Function with a Pillow on Most Modern Sites

Websites have been influenced heavily by the minimalist ease-of-use offered by smartphones and tablets. While these beautiful sites shape change and reconfigure based on how you view them, they don’t help Google very much. They’re only made for the user experience: The sighted human user experience. And not optimized in any way for the robots, bots, and spiders that actually make your site more of a constant home than any human you could hope to woo.

Google Makes Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

Google is the consummate nerd. Google prefers brains over beauty; Google demands character above charm. While your site may well be on the bleeding edge of the user experience and work like a charm on all versions of Chrome, IE, Opera, Firefox, Android, and Apple iOS, Google doesn’t care.

Humans Care About Aesthetic Form, Google Cares About Informational Function

What Google wants to know is how the site is architected. How the series of pages under your domain name are stitched together through textual hyperlinking. How quickly your site responds and loads and what sort of traffic your server and bandwidth can bear. And after that, Google’s all about slurping down your entire site into an index on a server in a data center somewhere.

When and How Often Does Your Site Serve Hot Doughnuts?

At this point, all Google cares about is what literal keyword strings those slurped balls of text have within them and how often those balls of text need to be updated based on how often, historically, there have been changes to those pages and that copy on those pages under your domain that make up your site. The more you update your pages, the more often Google will be trained to spider your site and slurp down your latest and greatest. Google will love you even more if you “ping” Google every time you update your content using some of Google’s Webmaster tools, including Google sitemap.

Bottom Line: Add Value to Google by Adding Value to Your Site

Stop wasting all of your best words on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter. Get the best of those words, language, story, happenings, culture, copy, information, hours, addresses, bios, wins, memories, origin story, hopes, dreams, aspirations, experiences, client lists, and all of the good stuff that you’re giving away to Mark Zuckerberg every day as you write all this great stuff that you’re putting onto a site you don’t own or control.

Feed your own site first, before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Google+, and not just the blog you have tacked on to your proper site, but start beefing up your entire site with the sorts of things that Google finds valuable. Don’t worry, all of this stuff can be built in behind your landing page so you can have the minimalist theatrical experience when people come directly to your site from your card or your signature file.

However, Most People Will Find Your Site Through Deep Search

I know, I know, you generally want your clients to come through your front door and have the entire formal welcome experience; however, Google doesn’t think like that. Potentially, Google will pop people anywhere into your site, but always in the right place to find what they’re looking for. What’s more, if you make things easy enough for Google to truly grok, you may very well allow Siri and Google Now to interpret the content on your behalf without the visitors ever needing to actually get to your site.

Always make sure you offer contact info, address information, hours of operation, discrete pages for each and every staff member, fully-descriptive, user readable and robot readable URLs, titles, and descriptions. Write your phone numbers, contact info, and emails in a machine readable format that Google can read and understand. If you embed your address into the graphical banner at the top of your site, it’ll be invisible to Google, even if you embed that address into the alt tag.

Google Is Painfully Literate Because It Doesn’t Have Time to Think

Spell it out for Google in every way. Be sure to be clear, to label things clearly and if you’re up to the task, you might even want to explore semantic markup in the form of microdata, structured data, geotagging, and hCard microformats. These are methods, similar to RSS and Sitemaps, to create structured data that Google can better understand explicitly and not through making assumptions or looking for sometimes confusing series of alphanumeric symbols that sometimes look like names, dates, phone numbers, dates, or addresses.

Don’t Get Mired Down with High Geekiness, Just Start Adding Value to Google Today

It’s pretty simple. Don’t mess up your very expensive, cutting edge, beautifully designed entrance-way. Maybe even wrap your sofa in clear plastic if you must. However, make sure you’ve got a romper room and a library full of objects and content that Google can understand. Google’s a toddler in your home and you need to do as good a job as possible to make sure you feed Google every day. Over time, Google will grow attached and you’ll become a team. You create an educational and enriching environment, a happy home, and Google will bring home prospects, contacts, relationships, investors, supporters, donators, contributes, customers, fans, and even friends.

Value for value. That’s all Google demands.

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Chris Abraham

Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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