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Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Here at HCD we aim to keep our clients well informed on all subjects that relate to the digital space. The Net Neutrality debate may not be the sexiest topic on our radar, but as it has the potential to change the way we use the Internet, we thought it was worth passing on the following information...

The Net Neutrality debate in the United States is one of those topics that could be nothing, but it could, potentially, be cause for serious concern. In all cases, such as this debate, it is better to be well informed and well prepared so that you can take any necessary steps to minimise any potential for damage before it occurs.

The topic of Net Neutrality is far from new; for the better part of a decade, many parts of the world have been discussing and debating the case for a neutral and open Internet. The debate has become particularly heated in the United States, however, with large corporations supporting both sides and the subject sparking numerous protests and petitions.

Major political decisions in the United States always seem to echo an effect globally, so will the outcome of their decision change the Internet as we know it today?

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is a term that was first coined by a law professor in 2003, and very simply, is the idea that data on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers in regard to transmission (sending and receiving the data), and in regard to fees applied to the services provided by Internet Service Providers.

In a nut-shell, this is the argument for an "open Internet" or for a "closed Internet".   An "open Internet" being one where people can use the Internet equally without any interference from third-parties (no slowing of Internet speeds, no blocking of Internet services or websites). A "closed Internet" being the opposite, where the content or Internet services a person can access is restricted and managed by the service provider they use to connect to the Internet.

One can imagine the limitations of having a "closed Internet" - for example, not being able to access YouTube, because your Internet Service Provider has their own equivalent website, or is partnered with a different website.

What are the current arguments for Net Neutrality in the US?

In one corner, there are many Internet content and application providers such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, along with groups such as Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, Gun Owners of America who are all in support for Net Neutrality. Just recently, the Major League Baseball (who are the largest distributor of live video on broadband networks in the US) also joined the supporting side.

Their argument is equal access to the Internet is a right, that the current lack of regulation is what created the Internet and Information Revolution in the first place. Supporters also argue that removing Net Neutrality will cause content providers to pay more to deliver their content, which will be passed on to consumers. Also, smaller content providers will have to queue up behind paying content providers who can afford to pay for their content to be delivered faster, resulting in the smaller companies being pushed off the Internet.

What are the current arguments against Net Neutrality in the US?

In the opposite corner, groups like Americans for Prosperity, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as all of the major Telecommunication and Internet Service Providers such as Comcast and AT&T are strongly opposed to Net Neutrality; and are even accused of attempting to essentially buy support and votes to help their cause.

The opposition stance is that Net Neutrality limits the usefulness of the Internet, and will discourage investment in the development of new infrastructure, which would result in limiting the overall bandwidth available for Internet data. The opposition also counter arguments from supporters of Net Neutrality by stating that the Internet is not classified as a utility, and so should not be regulated as such; and that by giving bandwidth preference to popular content is actually in the best interests of the consumer because that is what the majority want to access.

Will the outcome affect Internet in Australia?

The short answer is yes, as much as it will affect the Internet globally, though the effects may be more obvious for Australians as many of the communications cables linking Australia to the rest of the world link to the US. A significant chunk of global Internet traffic flows to and from the United States, and limiting the flow of traffic will have knock-on affects.

What about the Net Neutrality Argument in Australia?

We have already finished our debate about Net Neutrality, and it has been seen as a lost battle. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission already regulates Internet Service Providers, and prevents network traffic management that would be considered as being anti-competitive behaviour. Australian Internet Service Providers could be considered to be discriminating, however, in providing un-metered data however, which provides access to websites or services that does not count to the users data allowance, and could possibly result in users preferring the free service over a competitors. In this sense, Australian Internet is not truly Net Neutral, but un-metered content is seen as a benefit to consumers that have limited data allowance plans as opposed to the unlimited data allowances that all US consumers have.

HCD Tip: Keep an eye on this debate, as it may very well change the way everyone uses and thinks about the Internet.

Further Reading:

What is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree with the idea of a Net Neutrality? How do you think the Net Neutrality discussion in the United States will affect Australia? Share your thoughts on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

In a recent announcement on their Developers Blog, Facebook outlined a game-changing inclusion to their Platform Policy.

The new policy reads:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

You can view the full details here.

The policy change is aimed at curbing a practice known as Like-Gating - better known as "Like our page to get access to" or "Like our page to go in the draw" - which up until now, has proven to be an effective way to get a boost in page Likes in a short amount of time.

The new policy is also in line with Facebook's current promotions policy prohibiting the practice of sharing posts to gain entry to a competition or access to content.


Hub Com Digital Likes This

The new policy makes sense. It is to discourage the fake Like culture of Facebook and give more value to a single Like. As Facebook stated, the policy change has been made with the aim that people will Like a page because they actually Like the page (or page owner), giving a clearer indication of true followers rather than just a number of contest entries that haven't engaged with the page since.

It also means that companies will need to work harder to gain a Like by increasing their engagement, improving the quality of their content, and giving Facebook users a legitimate reason to Like their page.


The Like-Gate Alternative

The replacement strategy for Like-Gating is being referred to as Action-Gating - encouraging actions that generate true engagement from the user, such as providing some details or answering a survey in return for valuable content (or a competition entry).

This method is already a successful practice on websites, and it makes sense to use the same practice to generate leads on Facebook as well. The information that is collected this way is far more valuable than 1000 fake Likes on a Facebook page.


Further Reading:

What is your opinion about Like-Gating? Did you ever like-gate on your Facebook page? Or do you think the practice is right to be banned? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

With news that 1.6 billion internet username/password combinations have been stolen by a gang in Russia, it goes without saying that updating your passwords and ensuring that you use strong passwords is as important and as urgent as ever!

We often hear about the need for stronger passwords and tips for creating secure passwords, but we don't often hear why.

Cracking a password is as easy as:

  1. Downloading a password cracking application
  2. Enter in the password length, and the combinations to try (numbers, lower-case letters, upper-case letters, symbols/special characters)
  3. Press Go.

Basically, the program will use what is called a Brute Force method to go through every possible combination of letters, numbers and special characters within a defined set until it gets a match.

The stronger the password you use, the longer it will take for this method to match the combination that is your password.

For example: Your password is simply 12345.

Using the Brute Force method, the software will try 0, all the way to 9. Then it will try 00, 01, 02, etc. Then move to 000, 001, 002, etc. Until it finally tries 12345, and BINGO! It's cracked it. A smart program might even start at 1, then try 12, then 123; cracking your 12345 even faster.

Now compare this to a password that is also 5 characters, but has capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters - 1tWo# for example. Now the program has to go through significantly more combinations to find a match. Make the password longer, and the number of possible combinations jumps even higher.

This is why it is highly recommended that you create and use passwords that are at least 8 characters long, and use a combination of numbers, lower-case letters, upper-case letters AND symbols / special characters.

Change your passwords regularly (at least every 6 months), and don't use a password elsewhere if you are using it for something sensitive like on-line banking.

The reason for changing every 6 months is keep your password fresh. If someone does manage to obtain your password, by the time they try to use it, you have already changed it.

HCD Tactic: Use a short, memorable phrase or word combination as your password. Make it something that is difficult for others to guess, swapping some characters for capital letters, and adding some numbers and symbols at the start and at the end (or anywhere in between). For example: $24ILikeCoffee68$.

There are many websites that help you to test the strength of your passwords, and can show you how quickly your password would be cracked by hackers. There are even websites that show how predictable your password is - that is, if you use words to make up your password, software can predict what the next character is more likely to be based on character combinations seen in words.

A list of on-line password strength calculators and testers:

  • How Secure is my Password is a great website to test the strength of a password before using it, and the website will show you how long it would take a normal desktop computer using Brute Force software to crack your password.
  • Telepathwords is also good to test how predictable your password will be for more advanced password cracking software.
  • This password strength tester by rumkin.com also explains the logic behind chosing a strong password a litte better, and is worth reading.
  • And the interactive brute force search space calculator provided by the Gibson Research Corporation explains everything even further.

What are your thoughts? Share on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

One the one hand, the Internet is making life easier by providing access to information from just about anywhere, but on the other hand access to private information raises serious security concerns.

We could argue forever about who's responsible for ensuring that private information isn't easily accessible by unauthorised people, but ultimately we must be aware that anything we share / publish / post on the Internet can be seen and shared with everyone else on-line; and nothing is secure on the Internet.

We must all play a part in on-line security. It's is a team game. By personally ensuring that we're doing as much as possible to secure ourselves, together we make it harder for the bad guys.

There are many steps and tools you can use to improve your on-line security. To start you off, we've put together this list of our 10 fundamentals...

Your on-line security must-do list:

  1. Block Third-party Cookies: Cookies store little bits of information about you for websites that you have been too. Disabling the unnecessary cookies will decrease the chances of others exploiting this information.
  2. Use HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is the secure communication protocol of the Internet, adding a layer of encryption between your computer and websites that you visit.
  3. Install HTTPS Everywhere: This web-browser plug-in forces the browser to use the HTTPS protocol instead of the regular HTTP protocol so you don't have to remember.
  4. Use Incognito Mode: Also known as Private Browsing, web browsers don't store your browsing history, save files in the browser cache, or save cookies when in this mode. Particularly useful if you are using on-line banking.
  5. Check for SSL: When entering sensitive information into forms (such as your credit card details), make sure the webpage is protected by SSL. Look for a green lock in the address bar.
  6. Email Carefully: Don't send sensitive information by email. This includes usernames, passwords, credit card details, etc.
  7. Encrypt Email: Consider encrypting your email. It may seem like a hassle, but once you and your regular contacts get into the habit it will become second nature.
  8. Use Secure Payment Gateways: Don't purchase from eStores that don't use secure, well-known payment gateways.
  9. Use Strong Passwords: Always. Test how long it would take to hack your password on How Secure Is My Password.
  10. Limit sharing: Don't share or publish information you don't want strangers knowing about you.

Lastly, make sure that your operating system, web-browser and anti-virus software are always up-to-date, and that you are using a firewall.

Join the Conversation - Got another security must-do that you'd like to add to our list? Let us a know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

So you have an awesome shipping policy and a killer returns policy ready to go, now it's time to move to the next area of eStore brilliance - On-line Promotions.

There are countless types of promotions...new stock arrivals, VIP benefits, seasonal clearances...promotions are an age-old tool designed to encourage customers to buy.

Promotions can be used to satisfy one of the fundamentals of great sales and marketing: fear of loss, which is arguably even more powerful and important in the fickle e-commerce world.

Great promotions are not just about discounts. Be creative. Promotions could be in the form of a bonus (free shipping), a "buy this get that" or a free sample. The key is to offer real value and incentive for customers to buy and to buy more and to buy NOW.

So, after much careful consideration, here's the 9 fantastic promotional tips that made the list.

HCD's Top 9 Tips for Fantastic On-line Promotions:

  1. Have at least one promotion running at all times. The only time you shouldn't have a promotion, is when you have nothing to sell
  2. Don't be predictable. Alternate the terms, length and other parameters to keep your customers guessing (and find what works best)
  3. Repeat successful promotions regularly and ditch the less successful ones
  4. Have at least one regular annual "Event", a promotion that customers can expect and anticipate. Make it HUGE
  5. Spread your promotions across your entire product range and target all your customer demographics
  6. Target customers who have purchased products with special promotional incentives on related products
  7. Align your physical store promotions with your on-line promotions
  8. Be aware of your competitors promotional activities and where possible out promote them or meet them head on
  9. Include post-sale promotions within orders shipped to customers. A thank you letter with a unique promotion code is a proven sales champion

Join the Conversation - Do you agree with our top 9? Perhaps you have your own tips for on-line promotions that you would like to share? Leave us a comment on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


On-line Resources: