heartbleed bug

The Heartbleed Bug: How Could It Affect You?

Recently, one of the biggest security breaches in Internet history occurred, affecting over two-thirds of the Internet. No one saw this coming and several large companies were at the front of those who were vulnerable. It was a scary moment waking up to the biggest security breach in history and learning that almost every website you used was in trouble wasn’t it? People desperately started searching for what to do and which sites to change their passwords for, sites scrambled about trying to implement a patch or find out if they’d even been breached, and news agencies went crazy with the story. Now that things have calmed down and you have, hopefully, changed most of your passwords, it is time to think about what can be done to repair any damages you may have faced or what this could mean for the future of your business.

I Keep Hearing “Heartbleed,” What Is It?

The Heartbleed bug attacks sites that utilize Open SSL for their site security. The scary thing is the majority of popular websites use SSL! This is why this bug affected over two-thirds of websites. Though, it is important to note only websites that use Open SSL are vulnerable, any other sites that use different formats of SSL are safe. What is this, you ask? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is that handy little lock at the front of many web addresses. When you see that, you believe everything is secure. This bug opens up all private information from an Open SSL site to the Heartbleed hacker and anyone else who knows how to use it. It is basically an open backdoor that says, “Come and look at all of my information! You can have it if you want!”

How Does This Affect My Personal Facebook Time?

The only way this affects your personal Internet usage is that your private information has been vulnerable for a very long time. This is scary and upsetting, but you can fix any future views on your private info by simply changing your password. This goes for any other social sites you’ve used such as Twitter and Instagram. Mashable released a great list of companies and websites that were breached by Heartbleed and that installed patches to their systems. Before changing your password though, make sure the site has updated their security with the necessary patch. Again, Mashable lists companies that have done this.

What About My Business – Should I Be Worried?

You should take as many precautions as possible when it comes to the Heartbleed bug. Your business may or may not be affected by it, but it is wise to check. Steve Peterson over at Social Media Today said that while his online shop wasn’t affected he still had to double check. He didn’t want to operate his shop if it was vulnerable because he wanted to keep his clientele safe. Conversely, he has made sure that before purchasing items online, he tests each site to be safe with a handy program. Test your online store to make sure you are safe, if not, give your provider a call to learn what steps they are taking and how much they will amp up security.

Tips On How You Can Stay Secure and Recover From This Breach

We are sure you are wondering what you can do to recover and how you can best protect yourself and business from any future breaches. Sadly, it is difficult to completely protect your sites from breaches like this but there are many things you can do to make it difficult for anyone to gain access to your personal information.

1. Change Passwords Frequently. We know this is a pain to do! However, changing your passwords frequently is just a good security practice. If you don’t want to do this for your personal sites, at least do it for your business. You want to make sure your client’s information is secure as best as possible.

2. Beware of Scams. Many sites and independent workers are releasing new programs that will detect if there is a bug or will detect if you have a vulnerability, unfortunately this is a prime moment for scammers and hackers. Make sure you research any company before you download software and try to always download software from a reputable source. If you don’t, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

3. Don’t Ignore Your Phone. While Apple products weren’t affected, many Androids have been. Make sure you upgrade your phone to the latest software updates. You can find out if your Android is vulnerable by seeing if your system is the 4.1.1 Jelly Bean or you can download an Android app to test vulnerability. In addition, if you happened to use Google Chrome on your iPhone, it may be wise to update your Chrome app and change all passwords you used on your phone. While iPhones weren’t affected, it is a good idea to be extra prepared.

4. Enable a Two-Step Verification System. Most sites have the ability for you to utilize a two-step verification system to keep your system from being hacked. Many people never used this, as they didn’t fear being hacked but with the Heartbleed bug out there, you should consider the two-step system. It can be a pain, but would you rather go through one extra step or risk having all private documentation available to a hacker?

5. Keep Checking Lists To Learn More. Keep an eye on the various lists being released by websites showing which sites have been affected. In the first week of the virus, we learned of many major corporations but we are learning about more that have been affected since that first week, as well. DigitalTrends.com has a comprehensive list if you want to learn more.

In Closing: Constant Vigilance!

The Heartbleed virus has made everyone jumpy when it comes to Internet security. If you take the precautions listed above and follow all directions from services you use, you will be able to secure your private information, as well as your client’s private information. This will help you in the future if another security breach such as this occurs. Make sure you are in the habit of constant vigilance and security!

 

 

net neutrality

The Web Stays Free in Europe: Net Neutrality Is Signed into Law

Image source – Credited to DailyTech.com 

Net neutrality is a trending topic these days for all the right reasons. After all, what could be more important than equal access to all the information that the Internet has to offer? These days, we simply can’t afford to take the Internet for granted. It reduces our workloads, supports and promotes our business, reinforces our communication with our loved ones and provides timely answers to all our questions.

The Internet is our unanimated Mr. Know-It-All whom we all need in our lives to function properly. But even so, the Internet is not technically ours. It belongs to no one and to everyone at the same time. This is precisely why news related to net neutrality and its virtually endless list of positive aspects is received with great enthusiasm by a large audience.

What It Net Neutrality and Why Does It Matter So Much?

A few days ago, the European Union made a huge step in the right direction, towards an improved legislation by signing net neutrality into law. The European Parliament voted in favor of the Telecoms Single Market proposal, a much-awaited change that could improve the online experiences for all European Internet users. The EU showed its eagerness to support a set of solid rules that ensure an equal, indiscriminative access to the Internet. According to an article published by Forbes, the whole concept of new neutrality gravitates around a very important nucleus: the idea that all the information available online should be treated identically, regardless of adjacent factors like users, application or platforms. This means that all EU-based Internet visitors would have unlimited access to the same content, without being forced to cope with interferences or any other kind of limitations.

In most cases, people do not appreciate the good until they meet the really bad and the ugly. Those who do not acknowledge the importance of net neutrality should imagine how the absence of a legal framework regulating the Internet access would influence their work, spare time and ultimately their whole life. Clearly, an Internet that would not be protected by net neutrality would look and feel completely different. In this context, there are two potential threats that should be factored in.

First of all, numerous companies could decide to fill the pockets of major players operating in the telecom industry by paying ridiculously high amounts of money for premium, faster services. This would be good news for telecom giants who would probably rub their hands together in anticipation, but a major drawback for the masses. The financial aspect is only a part of the problem. According to Forbes, the absence of a robust set of rules designed to protect the Internet as we know it and help it become a better version of itself, the content that users check out online could also be influenced. This would be a highly unethical practice that should be avoided at all costs. We all know that content is a mighty king. So the question is this: how much could we actually value a king in chains?

The Reason Why Net Neutrality Makes Telecommunication Moguls Choke

As expected, the new step completed by the EU has created quite a stir, especially among giant telecom players who realize that the net neutrality framework doesn’t really serve their best interests. Right before the much-awaited EU vote, 4 major companies operating in the telecommunication industry chose to express their discontent by releasing a joint statement. Their statement condemned the new legislation and all the proposed amendments, blaming them for their “restrictive” nature. According to these four influential players, the proposed changes would block innovations and impact competitiveness in this field of activity.

On the other hand, experts specializing in digital security and privacy issues beg to differ. For instance, Forbes’ Michael Fertik suggests that net neutrality would protect the consumers’ rights, support the evolution of a free Internet and block the abusive, aggressive, moneymaking strategies that would most likely be embraced by big players in the telecommunication sector.

Network Discrimination Comes to an End in Europe. What’s Next?

At this point, by giving the green light to net neutrality, Europe has managed to outpace the United States. Forbes reveals that America is a few steps behind the EU in what equal, unlimited access to the Internet and online privacy issues are concerned. Perhaps the recent changes implemented by the EU will accelerate discussions and compel the U.S. to follow a similar course of action.

Accessnow.org reveals that the positive proposal will be analyzed by the Council of the European Union, whose representatives will have to communicate their final position on the new set of rules later on this year. The same source indicates that the Council should protect the net neutrality and make sure that this principle could be enforced in a highly effective manner, to prevent power abuses and protect the consumers’ rights.

 

 

2013 For Express Writers: A Year In Review

Wow. Just wow. There is no other way to sum up this third year for Express Writers any better.

To really show you what I mean, let’s start from the very beginning: our original goal in December 2012, which ended our second successful year in business.

Remember, at that time I was the sole manager (team manager, project coordinator, sales department, and CEO); we had about 20-25 writers; and we’d completed over 1,751 projects for the year.

My 2012 Ending Goal: Express Writers will become a copywriting agency, with an editor to review and Copyscape every piece of content, a manager to oversee the work, and an even bigger writers’ team than ever (at least 50 writers).

2013: What Really Happened…

In February, I hired my first team manager. She did all the roles I did. In March, we introduced our first editor. These two hires were my first dip into staffing for my company. From there, things started flying on the fast track with additional staff. I could barely keep up with the work: it was mandatory to hire people to manage just so things could get done. Throughout the rest of the year, we added over four additional world-cultured editors. Mid-year, I registered Express Writers as an LLC and set up all my business licensing with a great CPA. Express Writers was absolutely, 200% official.

What happened with staff: instead of “a manager”, my hiring goal for 2013, we added no less than 4: a full-time Content Coordinator; a full-time Sales Leader; a part time Sales Leader; and a Client Coordinator to answer the phone calls and attend client meetings. The oxen of the team, our writers, round up the grand finale. Throughout the year, we interviewed over 300 writers, and have a total of 60 in-team writers this December.

Today, December 2013: Our team is going strong with four staff members, five editors, and over 60 writers. 

What We Did For the Year

As for the projects and clients we’ve finished—it’s been an amazing year. We’ve worked with some world-famous names. Our creative writing talents were some of the brainiacs behind video scripts you might be watching on TV. (For NDA purposes, we can’t reveal these projects).  We served over 800 clients in 21 countries in 2013, and completed over 23,000 individual pages (web pages, blogs, press releases) for the year.

That’s an average 1.15 million words written for the entire year.

Successes

Some of our clients reported tremendous success on their content projects this year: this was also a new stepping stone for us, seeing for ourselves content results from various clients.

Daily blogging clients reported the most success, from ROI on individual blog return to a steady increase gained in rankings from tracking the backend analytics. One 500-word blog was a landing page and conversion point worth over $800 in ROI alone for one client. That’s some serious writing return!

What’s Ahead

For 2014, Express Writers is redoing our brand, our look, our website, and launching a full-service, a smooth, fully functional e-commerce content shop with over 40 products, with new and better defined products. Lastly, we’re working on additional screening tests for further qualified writers. Our goals? That we’ll have at least 500 active clients registered and ordering in the new site by the end of 2014; our writers will grow double; we’ll have a few more staff in place; and the successes we’ve seen this year will double next year with more retainers who benefit from a high quality standard in our team, across editors and writers.

To all those who were a part of Express Writers in 2013, a heartfelt thank you so much for being a part of our growing company. Our passion is here. We are so excited to see 2014 happen and our brand improve. We hope you’ll stay with us and be a part of it, long-term.

And to all those who are reading: stay on our subscriber list and keep an eye out for what’s ahead!