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Research from Periscope By McKinsey shows that only 15% of Retailers...

Whilst most retailers see personalization as a priority and think that personalized promotions dramatically increase customer visits, only a minority say they have properly implemented itNew York – April 25, 2017 – Periscope® By McKinsey, a suite of solutions focusing on price, promotion, assortment, sales and marketing optimization to achieve sustainable revenue growth, today announced the findings of research it carried-out at the 2017 World Retail Congress (WRC) looking at retailers’ implementation and attitudes towards... Source: RealWire

A new manager learns the power of no

You've done it! You got that big tech promotion or landed that first IT management job.

And you've earned it—as a top performer and someone who's solved critical issues, you've gained noticed. Now, you're responsible for a team of employees, and your supervisor expects great things from you and from them.Along with the new role, supervisors and executives come to you with issues and opportunities, which you take on to prove that they made the right choice in hiring you.

Then, after a few weeks or months, you find yourself staying later, coming in earlier, and working weekends simply to stay on top of your workload. You're getting tired, losing focus, and stretching the limits of both you and your team. To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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4 tips to help you wait for a promotion or raise

Whether you’re pushing for a promotion or raise or management has broached the topic with you, one thing is certain: The process will take longer than you expect.
In most companies, managers don’t have the authority to give you new responsibilities or a pay increase.

They must go through the proper channels to get approval.“While it’s natural to feel antsy while waiting for the raise they asked for, it’s critical to find some more productive, tactful ways to prove their worth in the meantime,” says Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HighGround, an HR software company.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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Comcast, AT&T, and ISP lobbyists are excited about Trump’s FCC chair

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee in September 2016.Getty Images | Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call reader comments 75 Share this story Comcast, AT&T, and industry lobbyist groups representing ISPs are heaping praise on Ajit Pai, who was appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman by President Donald Trump yesterday. Pai, a Republican commissioner and former lawyer for Verizon, has vowed to undo net neutrality rules and opposed numerous consumer protection regulations passed under his predecessor Tom Wheeler. With Republicans taking control of the commission, Pai has promised "to remove outdated and unnecessary regulations" imposed on ISPs. "We commend [Pai's] tireless efforts to develop and support policies that benefit American consumers and spur greater investment and innovation in broadband technologies to connect all Americans and drive job creation," Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen said in a statement yesterday. "This is a terrific appointment for the American consumer and the companies the FCC regulates and we look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai in his new role.” AT&T Senior Executive VP Bob Quinn concurred, saying that "No one is more prepared to reframe the agency to address the needs of this rapidly changing marketplace.

Chairman Pai will work with his fellow Commissioners to quickly and decisively put back in place the commonsense regulatory framework necessary to support the President’s agenda for job creation, innovation and investment." Consumer advocacy groups, meanwhile, are worried that Pai will consistently obey the bidding of ISPs who want more mergers and fewer consumer protection regulations. Now, we shouldn't read too much into the statements of ISPs.

Telcos regulated by the FCC are always inclined to publicly congratulate the commission's new chair and pledge to work cooperatively with the agency—an ISP isn't going to accomplish its regulatory goals by publicly declaring itself an enemy of the regulator on his first day. Wheeler received similar praise from AT&T and Comcast when he was chosen by then-President Barack Obama in 2013, and Wheeler ended up being a fierce opponent of the cable and wireless industries. But in this case, there is plenty of reason to believe Pai's agenda will line up with the agendas of the country's major ISPs.

During the Obama years, Pai repeatedly sided with ISPs against consumer advocacy groups and Wheeler on issues such as net neutrality, common carrier regulation, online privacy rules, paid data cap exemptions, rules encouraging alternatives to rented set-top boxes, the FCC's broadband speed standard, and more. Despite campaign, Trump FCC looks good for ISPs Trump and ISPs weren't close friends during his campaign. Cohen was a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, while AT&T regulatory lobbyist and longtime GOP supporter Jim Cicconi supported Clinton too, saying, “This year I think it’s vital to put our country’s well being ahead of party." While campaigning, Trump promised to block AT&T's attempt to buy Time Warner and said he'd consider breaking up the six-year-old merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal.

But now that he's president, it's much less clear whether the Trump administration will take either of those actions.

And with Pai in charge, ISPs are more likely to get what they want at the FCC under Trump than under Clinton, who supported net neutrality rules and wanted to boost broadband competition. Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman who is now the cable industry's top lobbyist as head of NCTA—The Internet & Television Association, said that "During his tenure on the Commission, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a common-sense philosophy that consumers are best served by a robust marketplace that encourages investment, innovation and competition." The American Cable Association, which represents small and medium-sized providers, said that Pai "respects and understands the concerns of independent cable operators, especially in those cases where they have been required to shoulder enormous regulatory burdens to the same extent as much larger providers, such as new obligations to comply with the Open Internet's enhanced transparency rules." The United States Telecom Association called Pai "an exceptional choice to head the Federal Communications Commission," and urged him to "ensure our nation's telecommunications innovators can invest and compete on a level regulatory playing field." Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner who now leads CTIA, the top mobile industry lobby group, said that Pai "has championed spectrum and infrastructure reform and is a leading voice for a common sense approach to open Internet and privacy," and praised his work on "reducing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment." CenturyLink said that Pai "will bring a much-needed free market approach to his new role," and that "Hopefully this will result in the thoughtful elimination of outdated, unnecessary federal regulations that stifle investment and no longer reflect rapidly evolving consumer demands and the entry of innovative, new competitors.” Pai will be “formidable opponent” Consumer advocates, meanwhile, are worried about Pai not just because of his policy proposals but also because they believe he will be skilled in enacting his agenda. "The public interest community will not be happy about Commissioner Pai’s promotion to chairman," said Andrew Schwartzman, a Georgetown Law lecturer who led the Media Access Project, a public interest telecommunications law firm, from 1978 to 2012. "He is not only an outspoken detractor from many of the important advances we obtained under Chairman Wheeler, but he is also extremely smart and knowledgeable. He will be a formidable opponent." Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge CEO Gene Kimmelman noted that "Commissioner Pai has a history of attacking consumer protections, from the Open Internet order to our right to privacy online." But the group will not give up on lobbying the commission, saying, "we urge Chairman Pai to preserve consumer protections and to focus on driving down prices and expanding choices for all essential communications services while preserving the Commission’s recent pro-competitive and consumer protection rules and actions.”

Ajit Pai, staunch opponent of consumer protection rules, is now FCC...

FCC Republican Commissioner (and soon-to-be Chairman) Ajit Pai.FCC reader comments 411 Share this story Update on Monday, January 23: President Trump today made it official, selecting Ajit Pai as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. "I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission," Pai said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans." Fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly offered congratulations. [Pai's] "thoughtful approach, deep knowledge base, and sense of humor have been great assets to the Commission, and it makes sense that President Trump hand-picked him to carry out the new Administration’s broad vision for the agency," O'Rielly said.

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also congratulated Pai, saying, "Ajit is bright, driven and committed to bringing connectivity to all Americans.
I am hopeful that we can come together to serve the public interest by supporting competition, public safety, and consumer protection.” Original story from Friday, January 20 follows: President Donald Trump will select Republican Ajit Pai to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Politico reported today. "Two industry sources" who are familiar with the decision said an announcement could be made as soon as today, the report said. Pai would become chairman immediately, without needing to be confirmed by the Senate, because he is already a member of the commission. New commissioners must be approved by the Senate, but the president can select the chair from among the commissioners without any additional approvals. Pai was widely expected to be appointed chairman on at least an interim basis, but Politico says Trump is appointing him as a long-term chair.

That would mean Pai could lead the commission throughout Trump's four-year term in the White House. "Pai, who met with Trump in New York on Monday, had been seen by many as a top contender for the job given his reputation as a telecom law expert who’s comfortable in front of the camera," Politico wrote. "But his selection is also somewhat of a departure for the incoming administration, which has tapped people outside of Washington for many top positions." There's been no official confirmation of the decision yet, but we'll provide an update as soon as there is an announcement. We contacted Pai and his staff this afternoon but haven't heard back yet. Pai does need to be reconfirmed by the Senate by the end of 2017 in order to serve another five-year term as commissioner, but that's likely a formality. Pai was associate general counsel for Verizon from 2001 to 2003 and subsequently served as counsel for the US Senate Judiciary Committee, the US Department of Justice's Office of Legal Policy, and the FCC. Pai was nominated to the FCC by President Barack Obama at the recommendation of Senate Republican leadership. He was confirmed by the Senate in 2012. Pai consistently opposed consumer protection regulations during the three-year chairmanship of Democrat Tom Wheeler, who left the FCC today. Pai opposed net neutrality rules and, after Trump's victory, said those rules' "days are numbered." He also opposed lower rate caps for inmate calling, rules designed to give TV consumers cheaper alternatives to rented set-top boxes, rules that protect the privacy of ISP customers, an update to the 31-year-old Lifeline phone subsidy program to help poor people buy Internet service, a speed increase in the FCC's broadband standard, an investigation of AT&T and Verizon charging competitors for data cap exemptions, and preemption of state laws that restrict expansion of municipal broadband. Pai often argued that Wheeler's FCC exceeded its legal authority.
In some cases, he was proven correct.

For example, the municipal broadband decision was overturned in court, and the FCC lost several court decisions on inmate calling rate caps. On the other hand, Pai also argued that Wheeler's majority "us[ed] legal authority the FCC doesn’t have" when it passed net neutrality rules and reclassified broadband as a common carrier service. Wheeler won that battle when a federal appeals court upheld the net neutrality rules and reclassification. In his FCC bio, Pai argues that "consumers benefit most from competition, not preemptive regulation." After Trump's election victory, Pai gave a speech vowing to "fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation," and said that "during the Trump Administration, we will shift from playing defense at the FCC to going on offense." Consumer advocacy group Free Press was alarmed by the news of Pai's promotion. “Ajit Pai has been on the wrong side of just about every major issue that has come before the FCC during his tenure," Free Press CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement sent to Ars. "He’s never met a mega-merger he didn’t like or a public safeguard he didn’t try to undermine... Pai has been an effective obstructionist who looks out for the corporate interests he used to represent in the private sector.
If the new president really wanted an FCC chairman who'd stand up against the runaway media consolidation that Trump himself decried in the AT&T/Time Warner deal, Pai would have been his last choice." The FCC currently has two Republicans and one Democrat. One more Republican and one more Democrat could be appointed to give the FCC its typical composition of five members, with the president's party having a 3-2 majority.

Machine learning versus spam

Machine learning methods are often presented by developers of security solutions as a silver bullet, or a magic catch-all technology that will protect users from a huge range of threats.

But just how justified are these claims? Unless explanations are provided as to where and how exactly these technologies are used, these assertions appear to be little more than a marketing ploy. For many years, machine learning technology has been a working component of Kaspersky Lab’s security products, and our firm belief is that they must not be seen as a super technology capable of combating all threats. Yes, they are a highly effective protection tool, but just one tool among many. My colleague Alexey Malanov even made the point of writing an article on the Myths about machine learning in cybersecurity. At Kaspersky Lab, machine learning can be found in a number of different areas, especially when dealing with the interesting task of spam detection.

This particular task is in fact much more challenging than it appears to be at first glance.

A spam filter’s job is not only to detect and filter out all messages with undesired content but, more importantly, it has to ensure all legitimate messages are delivered to the recipient.
In other words, type I errors, or so-called false positives, need to be kept to a minimum. Another aspect that should not be forgotten is that the spam detection system needs to respond quickly.
It must work pretty much instantaneously; otherwise, it will hinder the normal exchange of email traffic. A graphic representation can be provided in a project management triangle, only in our case the three corners represent speed, absence of false positives, and the quality of spam detection; no compromise is possible on any of these three.
If we were to go to extremes, for example, spam could be filtered manually – this would provide 100% effectiveness, but minimal speed.
In another extreme case, very rigid rules could be imposed, so no email messages whatsoever would pass – the recipient would receive no spam and no legitimate messages. Yet another approach would be to filter out only known spam; in that case, some spam messages would still reach the recipient.

To find the right balance inside the triangle, we use machine learning technologies, part of which is an algorithm enabling the classifier to pass prompt and error-free verdicts for every email message. How is this algorithm built? Obviously, it requires data as input. However, before data is fed into the classifier, is must be cleansed of any ‘noise’, which is yet another problem that needs to be solved.

The greatest challenge about spam filtration is that different people may have different criteria for deciding which messages are valid, and which are spam. One user may see sales promotion messages as outright spam, while another may consider them potentially useful.

A message of this kind creates noise and thus complicates the process of building a quality machine learning algorithm. Using the language of statistics, there may be so-called outlier values in the dataset, i.e., values that are dramatically different from the rest of the data.

To address this problem, we implemented automatic outlier filtration, based on the Isolation Forest algorithm customized for this purpose. Naturally, this removes only some of the noise data, but has already made life much easier for our algorithms. After this, we obtain data that is practically ‘clean’.

The next task is to convert the data into a format that the classifier can understand, i.e., into a set of identifiers, or features.

Three of the main types of features used in our classifier are: Text features – fragments of text that often occur in spam messages.

After preprocessing, these can be used as fairly stable features. Expert features – features based on expert knowledge accumulated over many years in our databases.

They may be related to domains, the frequency of headers, etc. Raw features. Perhaps the most difficult to understand. We use parts of the message in their raw form to identify features that we have not yet factored in.

The message text is either transformed using word embedding or reduced to the Bag-of-Words model (i.e., formed into a multiset of words which does not account for grammar and word order), and then passed to the classifier, which autonomously identifies features. All these features and their combinations will help us in the final stage – the launch of the classifier. What we eventually want to see is a system that produces a minimum of false positives, works fast and achieves its principal aim – filtering out spam.

To do this, we build a complex of classifiers, and it is unique for each set of features.

For example, the best results for expert features were demonstrated by gradient boosting – the sequential building up of a composition of machine learning algorithms, in which each subsequent algorithm aims to compensate for the shortcomings of all previous algorithms. Unsurprisingly, boosting has demonstrated good results in solving a broad range of problems involving numerical and category features.

As a result, the verdicts of all classifiers are integrated, and the system produces a final verdict. Our technologies also take into account potential problems such as over-training, i.e., a situation when an algorithm works well with a training data sample, but is ineffective with a test sample.

To preclude this sort of problem from occurring, the parameters of classification algorithms are selected automatically, with the help of a Random Search algorithm. This is a general overview of how we use machine learning to combat spam.

To see how effective this method is, it is best to view the results of independent testing.

College fires IT admin, loses access to Google email, successfully sues...

Sacked techie claims school retaliated over race complaint Shortly after the American College of Education (ACE) in Indiana fired IT administrator Triano Williams in April, 2016, it found that it no longer had any employees with admin access to the Google email service used by the school. In a lawsuit [PDF] filed against Williams in July, 2016, the school alleges that it asked Williams to return his work laptop, which was supposed to have the password saved.

But when Williams did so in May that year, the complaint says, the computer was returned wiped, with a new operating system, and damaged to the point it could no longer be used. ACE claimed that its students could not access their Google-hosted ACE email accounts or their online coursework. The school appealed to Google, but Google at the time refused to help because the ACE administrator account had been linked to William's personal email address. "By setting up the administrator account under a non-ACE work email address, Mr Williams violated ACE's standard protocol with respect to administrator accounts," the school's complaint states. "ACE was unaware that Mr Williams' administrator account was not linked to his work address until after his employment ended." According to the school's court filing, Williams, through his attorney, said he would help the school reinstate its Google administrator account, provided the school paid $200,000 to settle his dispute over the termination of his employment. That amount is less than half the estimated $500,000 in harm the school says it has suffered due to its inability to access its Google account, according to a letter from William's attorney in Illinois, Calvita J Frederick. Frederick's letter claims that another employee set up the Google account and made Williams an administrator, but not the controlling administrator.
It says the school locked itself out of the admin account through too many failed password attempts. Williams, in a counter-suit [PDF] filed last month, claims his termination followed from a pattern of unlawful discrimination by the school in the wake of a change in management. In a phone interview with The Register, Frederick said she filed a federal lawsuit in Illinois against the school, which has yet to respond. "We would hope that the [school's] action in Indianapolis would be viewed as retaliation, which we believe it was, and that judgement would be vacated and we would prevail in the discrimination claim." Pointing to the complaint she filed with the court in Illinois, Frederick said Williams wrote a letter [PDF] to a supervisor complaining about the poor race relations at the school and, as a result of that letter, he was told he had to relocate to Indianapolis. "That's how the whole thing started," she said. "His working remotely has always been a condition of his employment." The school, she said, knew he could not do that because of parental obligations requiring him to remain in Illinois. 'Sad situation' Frederick said the school has been subject to several discrimination claims over the past two years. "It's a sad situation," she said. The complaint filed by Williams alleges he, as an African American, was paid less than workers of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. "Rather than support Williams in his position of IT Systems Administrator, Defendants intentionally discriminated against Williams by refusing to allow Williams to participate in work-related training; paying Williams less than his co-workers, subjecting Williams to unwarranted scrutiny, refusing to promote Williams to management – all the while requiring him to perform the job of manager – holding secret meetings so as to hide the promotion of others from Williams, making it uncomfortable, humiliating and almost impossible for Williams to do the job he was assigned to do," Williams' complaint says. It further alleges that Williams' objections to unfair treatment brought retaliation, like the requirement that he track all his duties and time in 15 minute increments, something only one other employee, another African American, was required to do. Williams, according to court documents, resides in Illinois due to a joint parenting agreement and had for years been allowed to work remotely under his contract with ACE.

The school's actions against him, his complaint suggests, are retaliatory. In September, the Marion County Superior Court judge hearing the school's case in Indiana issued a default judgement of almost $250,000 after Williams did not appear in court, according to the Indianapolis Star. Frederick said she could not immediately confirm the details of the judgement in Indiana.

ACE's attorneys were not immediately available to address the issue. Williams' complaint claims he cannot afford to represent himself in Indiana and has been unable to obtain legal representation there. In an emailed statement, Melissa Markovsky, senior director of communications and marketing for ACE, said the school has a policy of not commenting on pending legal issues. "As this case is moving through the court system, we are not able to discuss the lawsuit at this time," she said. "What we can affirm is that we have taken steps to ensure that our information technology policies are more effectively implemented moving forward in order to mitigate a future circumstance similar to this incident." Google has returned control of the account to ACE, according to Markovsky. ® Sponsored: Customer Identity and Access Management

Families of ISIS victims sue Twitter for being 'weapon for terrorism'

The families of three Americans killed in ISIS terror attacks are suing Twitter for allegedly knowingly providing support for the terrorist group and acting as a “powerful weapon for terrorism.” The suit was filed over the weekend in a federal court in New York City on behalf of the relatives of three U.S. nationals who were killed by ISIS in the March 22, 2016, terrorist attacks in Brussels and the Nov. 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris.

At least 32 people died in the Brussels attack and about 130 in the attack in Paris. The suit alleges that Twitter has violated, and continues to violate, the U.S.

Anti-Terrorism Act.

The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined at trial. Twitter did not reply to a request for comment. “Twitter’s social media platform and services provide tremendous utility and value to ISIS as a tool to connect its members and to facilitate the terrorist group’s ability to communicate, recruit members, plan and carry out attacks, and strike fear in its enemies,” the suit alleges. “ISIS has used Twitter to cultivate and maintain an image of brutality, to instill greater fear and intimidation, and to appear unstoppable ...” The lawsuit also contends that specifically for the Brussels and Paris attacks, ISIS used Twitter to issue threats, as well as to announce and celebrate the attacks. The lawsuit was filed by the family of siblings Alexander Pinczowski and Sascha Pinczowski, who were killed in Brussels, and the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in Paris. Last year, another lawsuit was filed by Gonzalez’s father against Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for allegedly knowingly allowing ISIS to “use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.” In December, the families of three victims of the June shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, the owner of YouTube, for allegedly ”providing support to the Islamic State.” Forty-nine people were killed in the attack. The question, if either case goes to trial, is whether a social network can be held responsible for the actions of any of its users. “While I certainly can sympathize with the families, it’s hard for me to see how Twitter can be held responsible for the rise of ISIS and their terror activities,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with OrionX. “Let’s imagine the world a few decades ago, before the internet. Would someone try to hold AT&T responsible for criminal activities that were planned over the telephone? Or is the printing press manufacturer responsible for magazines that encourage terrorism that were printed using presses they built and sold? “ In response to the attacks, Twitter took steps to prevent terrorists from using its network. In August, the company reported that in the previous six months, it had suspended 235,000 accounts for violating its policies related to the promotion of terrorism. That was in addition to 125,000 accounts that been suspended since mid-2015, bringing the total number of terrorist-related suspended accounts to 360,000. “We strongly condemn these acts and remain committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on our platform,” the company said in a blog post at the time. Judith Hurwitz, an analyst with Hurwitz & Associates, said it would be a significant challenge for Twitter to keep terrorists completely off its site. “Perhaps Twitter could do a better job identifying users who are terrorists,” she said, saying the company would likely need advanced machine learning tools to weed out the bad players. “Of course, it would have to be advanced… Remember that terrorists are very good at adapting.
If they are thrown off of the system, they can come back with a different persona and try to game the system.” Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google can’t be held responsible for their users’ actions. “There is no way of effectively policing those sites based upon affiliation or behavior,” Shimmin said. “Twitter itself has gone to some extreme measures to single out and remove accounts engaged in this sort of thing.

That will help, and I think such efforts are a moral responsibility for Twitter and other social networking vendors, but those actions can’t rule out future misuse.” Olds said it would be impossible for Twitter to keep terrorists from using its site 100% of the time, but the company could do a better job of curtailing it. “Terrorist messages should be able to be rooted out with some solid language processing software,” Olds said. “I’d like to see them do more along these lines.

The technology is there, they just need to adapt it to anti-terrorist tasks.” If Twitter loses the lawsuit and is ordered to pay significant damages, the impact on other social networks would be chilling, he said. “Social networks would be forced to keep a much closer eye on user activities and crack down on anything that could be interpreted as ‘bad,’ “ Olds said. “The end result would be self-imposed censorship on the part of the nets, which would greatly upset many users.

But I just don’t see this happening—at least not with this case.” This story, "Families of ISIS victims sue Twitter for being 'weapon for terrorism' " was originally published by Computerworld.

Steganos Privacy Suite 18

If a website's massive data breach compromises your privacy, there's not much you can do. It's out of your hands. But that doesn't mean you're completely helpless. There's plenty you can do to protect your own privacy, things like encrypting your files, and protecting your passwords. Steganos Privacy Suite 18 brings together a variety of useful privacy-related tools. However, the quality of the tools varies, and the suite lacks some useful features found in competing products.

With most antivirus tools, security suites, and password managers, you pay a yearly subscription fee. That's not the case with Steganos. For $59.95 you can install it on up to five PCs and use it for as long as you like. The only thing you don't get is a free update to the next version.

Earlier editions of this product included VPN protection, but the current product lineup makes Steganos Online Shield VPN a separate product. As I write this, Steganos is running a promotion that gives you the VPN for free when you purchase the suite. Note, though, that PCMag's Max Eddy gave this VP service just two out of five stars.

Getting Started with Steganos

After the quick, simple installation Steganos displays its main window. At the left is a three-by-three matrix of icons representing the suite's features: Safe, Portable Safe, Crypt & Hide, Password Manager, Private Favorites, E-Mail Encryption. Shredder, Trace Destructor, and Privacy. The suite is effectively a launch pad for these utilities.

The right-hand portion of the main window is a kind of security progress report. Just by installing the suite, you start with a 20 percent security level. Creating an encrypted safe for storing sensitive files gets you another 20 percent, and setting up the password manager raises it by another 20. Using the password manager's bonus ability to store private favorites adds 20 percent more. Configuring the Privacy components takes you to 100 percent. I like the way this simple report encourages full use of the product's features.

Standalone Products

Several components of the Steganos Privacy Suite are available as standalone products. I'll summarize my findings regarding those products. To get full details, please click the links to read my reviews.

Steganos Safe 18 lets you create any number of safes, which are encrypted storage containers for your sensitive files. You can create safes on your PC, on portable devices, or in your cloud storage accounts. When a safe is open, you use it exactly like any disk drive. When it's shut, its contents are completely inaccessible.

Steganos Safe is extremely easy to use, more so than most container-based encryption products. In addition, it offers some seriously sneaky techniques for hiding the very existence of your safes from prying eyes. For example, you can hide a fairly small safe inside an audio, video, or executable file. And the Safe in a Safe feature lets you dedicate a percentage of a visible safe for use as a discrete, invisible storage location, with its own separate password.

Along with the encryption tool, you also get Steganos Shredder, a secure deletion shredder utility. You can securely delete any file or folder by selecting Destroy from the right-click menu. With this tool you can also shred all of the free space on disk, effectively applying secure deletion to already-deleted files. It can also wipe any disk drive (except the active Windows drive) so thoroughly that a format is required when it's done.

Steganos Password Manager 18 handles the basic tasks of password capture and replay, and includes a password generator. Unlike most competing products, it doesn't directly handle syncing your passwords between devices; if you want syncing, you must connect to your existing cloud storage. You also get a limited ability to fill Web forms with personal data.

In testing, I couldn't get the password manager's Firefox extension to load. Also, some features worked in Chrome but not in Internet Explorer. If you get this password manager as part of the Steganos suite, you might as well use it. But if you're shopping for a standalone password manager, there are much better choices.

The two standalone Steganos products I've reviewed account for five of the suite's nine component icons. Password Manager and Private Favorites both correspond to Steganos Password Manager. Safe and Portable Safe are parts of Steganos Safe, as is Shredder. For the remainder of this review I'll focus on the rest of the privacy components.

Encrypt and Hide

The name Steganos comes from the term steganography, which is not the same as encryption. The aim of encryption is to ensure that others can't decipher your secrets. The aim of steganography is to conceal the fact that you have secrets. When you process a file through the suite's Crypt & Hide component and then shred the original, a hacker or snoop won't find any evidence that the sensitive data exists.

I don't know precisely how this tool processes files—it's not in the company's interest to reveal such information. But here's a simple example of how steganography could work to hide a file inside an image. First, picture that the file contains a list of numbers representing the exact color of each pixel in the image. Now round all those numbers so they're even. That tiny change doesn't make a visible difference in the image. Convert your secret file into a stream of bits, and step through the list of the image's pixels, leaving the color number unchanged for zero bits and making it odd for one bits. You've hidden the file in a way that's completely recoverable, but the image doesn't look appreciably different.

Steganos can use BMP, WAV, or JPG files as carriers for encrypted data. The help system advises using a carrier file at least 20 times the size of the encrypted data. You can also use it to create encrypted archives without hiding them, much as you'd do with a ZIP archive utility. Note, though, that the archives created by Steganos use the proprietary EDF format, not the standard ZIP format.

To create a simple encrypted archive, drag files and folders onto the Crypt & Hide dialog, or browse to locate the desired items. You can also enter a text description of the contents. Clicking Save lets you define the name and location for the resulting EDF file. The password entry dialog is the same as that used by Steganos Safe and Steganos Password Manager. It rates password strength as you type, with the option to use a virtual keyboard, or to define the password by clicking a sequence of pictures.

To create an encrypted file and also hide it, follow precisely the same procedure, but click the Hide button instead of the Save button, and choose a BMP, WAV, or JPG file as carrier. That's it. Your secret files are hidden within the chosen carrier. Don't believe it? Launch Crypt & Hide again, choose Open, and select your carrier. Once you enter the password, your files are back. Of course you must use the shredder to destroy the originals.

TraceDestructor

As you use your computer and browse the Web, you leave behind traces of what you've been doing. Sure, you hid your secret plans using Crypt & Hide, but if MyWorldTakeover still shows up in the list of recent documents, you're busted. In a similar way, your browsing history may reveal way too much about what you've been researching. That's where TraceDestructor comes in.

TraceDestructor clears various types of browsing traces from Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge. For Edge, it just clears cookies and cached files. For the others, it can also wipe out such things as history, autocomplete data, and passwords. It can also empty the Recycle Bin and eliminate Windows temporary files, recently used file lists, and other traces.

Cleaning up traces doesn't take long. When the process has finished, Steganos advises you to log off and on again, for full cleanup. Simple!

Privacy Settings

Clicking the Privacy icon brings up a simple settings dialog with four on/off switches, all off by default. I couldn't test Webcam protection, because my virtual machine test systems simply don't have webcams. In addition, every time I opened Privacy Settings I got a notification from Windows that the webcam privacy component crashed.

Webcam protection does nothing but deactivate your webcam, so you must turn that protection off if you want to use the cam for videoconferencing. A similar feature in ESET Internet Security 10 lets you disable the webcam in general but enable specific programs. That would prevent webcam spying while still letting you Skype, for example.

Kaspersky Total Security also offers webcam blocking for all but permitted programs. It extends similar protection to the microphone, to head off the possibility of a snoop listening in on your activities.

Internet advertisers work hard to profile your personal surfing habits, so they can target ads based on your interests. If you've ever bought (or looked at) a product on one site and then seen an ad for that product on a different site, you've seen this process in action. You can set your browser to send a Do Not Track header with each request, but sites aren't compelled to obey this header. The Prevent tracking option in Steganos filters out tracking activity before it reaches the browser.

Some trackers skip the usual techniques for tying together all data about your online activity, instead trying to create a fingerprint of your devices and activity, including precise data about the browsers you use. Steganos lets you replace your actual browser details with a generic fake set, to anonymize your browser type. Finally, you can choose to block advertisements altogether. The Block ads, Prevent tracking, and Anonymize browse type settings are simple on/off switches.

In testing, these three privacy elements initially didn't work. I confirmed this using various online tests. I reinstalled the product, to no avail. I installed it on a physical system, thinking that it might be incompatible with running in a virtual machine. Here, too, the privacy elements just didn't work. Tech support determined this was due to the absence of a proxy process that provides all three types of filtering.

Going back and forth with tech support, I determined that the installer failed to create a necessary configuration file. Even after I manually copied the config file that tech support supplied, it did not launch the proxy process. After more back and forth, I got the proxy running on both systems. It seemed to be running smoothly on the physical system, but its output on the virtual system contained many error messages. That being the case, I focused on the physical system.

There's no way to tell if the Prevent tracking feature is working, but Anonymize browser type should change the user agent string that your browser sends to every website. It did not do so. And although the filter's output log contained tons of ad blocking reports, the ads visibly weren't blocked.

The worst thing about this component is that even when its proxy failed to load, it didn't display any kind of error message. The privacy features work silently, so you'd have no idea that they weren't functioning, unless you noticed its failure to block ads.

There is one icon I haven't covered, E-Mail Encryption. I've skipped this one for several reasons. First, it is not a Steganos product; it's from another company, MyNigma. Second, on a PC it only functions as an Outlook plug-in, and my test systems don't have Outlook. Third, it only works to encrypt email between other users of MyNigma, so it's not useful for general-purpose encrypted communication.

Another Take on Privacy

Abine Blur is another suite of tools aimed at protecting your privacy. Its active Do Not Track component goes way beyond just sending the DNT header, which websites can ignore. Furthermore, unlike Steganos, it makes its activity visible. It includes a simple password manager, but goes beyond Steganos by offering a safety report that flags weak and duplicate passwords.

Blur protects your privacy by masking email accounts, credit cards, and (on a smartphone) phone numbers. Suppose you make a purchase from a merchant using a masked email account, and a masked credit card. Mail from the merchant reaches your inbox, but you can delete the masked account if it starts getting spam. And a merchant who doesn't have your real credit card number can't sell the card data or overcharge you. Read my review for a full explanation.

Blur doesn't block ads, and it doesn't include file encryption, but all of its components are directly aimed at protecting your privacy. Even if you do install the Steganos suite, consider trying Blur's free edition for additional protection. Note that if you do opt for a $39-per-year premium subscription, you can use Blur on all your devices.

Do You Already Have It?

You may also find that you've already got significant privacy protection courtesy of your security suite. For example, Kaspersky and AVG Internet Security include an active Do Not Track system, like what Blur offers, and Kaspersky can block banner ads. Webcam protection in Kaspersky and ESET goes farther than what you get with Steganos.

As for encrypted storage, the core of Steganos Privacy Suite, you can find a similar feature in many suites, among them McAfee LiveSafe, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Trend Micro. Admittedly, none of the suites build out this feature into the comprehensive encryption system that is Steganos Safe.

As for password management, it's becoming a common bonus feature in larger suites. Webroot includes a version based on award-winning LastPass, and McAfee comes with all the multi-factor authentication glory of True Key. Symantec Norton Security Premium, Trend Micro, ESET, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender are among the other suites with a password manager built right in.

Before you purchase a set of privacy tools, check to see what you already have right in your existing security suite.

A Mixed Bag

Steganos Safe is easier to use than other container-based encryption programs, and has some nifty features to both encrypt and hide your files. However, Steganos Password Manager lacks advanced features, and some of its features didn't work in testing. The Crypt & Hide component is a kick, as it truly hides your secrets, leaving no trace. But the browser-related privacy filters just didn't work in testing. Steganos Privacy Suite is a mixed bag, for sure.

There aren't many utilities specifically devoted to privacy. Abine Blur Premium remains our Editors' Choice in this interesting field. I look forward to seeing more competition in the specific area of privacy protection.

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RHBA-2016:2979-1: Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6 Bug Fix and...

Attention: RHN Hosted will reach the end of its service life on July 31, 2017.Customers will be required to migrate existing systems to Red Hat Subscription Management prior to this date.Learn more here Advisory: RHBA-2016:2979-1 Type: Bug Fix Advisory Severity: N/A Issued on: 2016-12-21 Last updated on: 2016-12-21 Affected Products: Red Hat OpenStack 6.0 for RHEL 7 Details Updated packages that resolve various issues are now available for Red HatEnterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6.0 (Juno) for RHEL 7. Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform provides the facilities forbuilding a private or public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloudrunning on commonly available physical hardware. Solution Before applying this update, ensure all previously released errata relevantto your system have been applied.Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6 runs on Red Hat EnterpriseLinux 7.3.The Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6 Release Notes contain thefollowing:* An explanation of the way in which the provided components interact toform a working cloud computing environment.* Technology Previews, Recommended Practices, and Known Issues.* The channels required for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6,including which channels need to be enabled and disabled.The Release Notes are available at:https://access.redhat.com/site/documentation/en-US/Red_Hat_Enterprise_Linux_OpenStack_Platform/6/html/Release_Notes/index.htmlThis update is available through the Red Hat Network.

Details on how to usethe Red Hat Network to apply this update are available athttps://access.redhat.com/site/articles/11258 Updated packages Red Hat OpenStack 6.0 for RHEL 7 SRPMS: python-oslo-utils-1.1.0-3.el7ost.src.rpm     MD5: e4ddef19a3d95b2ea29ce36b9d6b85c2SHA-256: b637b52f3bffa1d6c30e475bd44d0cad7b8abb54fb129d9fca9046bab421b22f rabbitmq-server-3.3.5-25.el7ost.src.rpm     MD5: 07edcf02036c19c0de417921ceedb24eSHA-256: 3031381e0b1e9187685968e4c8eb167079e8c510e83b8e7311c8d7c3fe6d04cf   x86_64: python-oslo-utils-1.1.0-3.el7ost.noarch.rpm     MD5: ec2f98282d2150d7f6fdc00be8d2d283SHA-256: d7915b69e5ee9c28309c189860295e4f9d3de8ddbc4d92e62732442bfac705db python-oslo-utils-doc-1.1.0-3.el7ost.noarch.rpm     MD5: 92afd90def31f68560738ed0a8301c2dSHA-256: 6b993926c8a5990c63456c9579243197c05bc3fe27defb56b41bf01d9482e10c rabbitmq-server-3.3.5-25.el7ost.noarch.rpm     MD5: 2d1b4d439a4fb988a7430771ec918e4aSHA-256: 0fd80cb6235d39380847220b73d0241e283452d70b2eb57b2d8285999635c41f   (The unlinked packages above are only available from the Red Hat Network) Bugs fixed (see bugzilla for more information) 1371844 - Drop leap second in python-oslo-utils-1.1.0-21391186 - Queue master process terminates in rabbit_mirror_queue_master:stop_all_slaves on promotion These packages are GPG signed by Red Hat for security. Our key and details on how to verify the signature are available from:https://www.redhat.com/security/team/key/#package The Red Hat security contact is secalert@redhat.com. More contact details at http://www.redhat.com/security/team/contact/