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How data is shining a light on global property markets

April 14, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, search engines, Uncategorized

The property market, like that of gold and oil, is a rather murky world.

The property market, like that of gold and oil, is a rather murky world.

The prices you’ll see on most websites are asking prices. The value of a done deal – the real price – can take land registries weeks to process, by which time a fast-paced market will have moved on.

So those on the inside doing the deals, such as estate agents and developers, have a distinct advantage.

Could technology help blast open this closed market?

Teun van den Dries, chief executive of Dutch software company GeoPhy, believes his data analytics software program could do just that, starting with commercial property, a global market worth about Ä22.5tn (£15.7tn), according to the European Public Real Estate Association.

His program crunches lots of different data sets – public transport, roads, congestion, location, demographics, local economy, building quality and so on – to calculate an estimated value for a property.

And he has data for 41 countries, from Singapore to Spain, Brazil to Belgium.

“If you look at the current property market, almost all transactions are handled by estate agents that will describe property as being well situated, with great accessibility and beautiful views,” he says. “And that could all be true, but it doesn’t mean anything and it doesn’t allow you to compare.”

Location accounts for 70%-75% of the weighting in the algorithm – a mathematical set of rules – and his pricing is accurate within about 5%, he says.

Estate agents are known for their creative euphemisms when it comes to property descriptions, but data could help cut through the sales speak to arrive at a more realistic assessment, he believes.

But, he notes, “a valuation is never right until someone pays. So, it’s the same price point a surveyor will put their signature on.”

The only difference is that it’s derived from data and a set of comparable rules, he says.

However, there are some valuations it can’t help us to understand – parts of London, such as St James’s Park or Mayfair, home of the £90m mansion, simply defy data analysis.

At present, his customers are pension funds and other large institutions that own property portfolios. They want quick access to property valuations, as well as other data, such as the energy efficiency of their buildings.

But he hopes this type of analysis could also help make the residential property and rentals markets more transparent, too.

So when your landlord says prices are rising in your area and hikes up your rent, you’ll be able to see if that’s really the case, says Mr van den Dries.

 

But not everyone is so sure about the benefits of data analytics in the commercial property market.

For example, a seller may offload a building to make a loss to offset against tax and as such will sell at a lower “rational” price, he says.

And shifts in economies thousands of miles away – China or in the Middle East, perhaps – could suddenly empty money out of a given market, without the data giving any warning.

While many large publicly owned property owners have talked about using data, many “just don’t really know where to start and are only at the start of the journey,” he says. “Commercial property is the last imperfect market.”

“Homes may be better, as they are more homogenous and could be more comparable,” he adds.

Mr van den Dries admits that there is some resistance to this new data-driven approach – a number of property owners have expressed displeasure at having their buildings benchmarked, he says.

But he, and others, remain convinced that better analysis of more data is key to a more efficient – and less mysterious – property market.

Cost concerns over web spying proposals

February 13, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, data security, Dr Search, Google, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

Disentangling data can be difficult and costly, say net experts.

Disentangling data can be difficult and costly, say net experts

UK MPs are investigating what it will cost ISPs to meet government proposals to log where Britons go online.

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee is looking at whether gathering data on net-using citizens is even feasible. It also wants to look into the potential impact that logging browsing will have on how people use the web.

The consultation comes as questions mount over the money the government will set aside to support monitoring.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) was unveiled last week and it attempts to update the way the state, police and spies gather data to fight crime, terrorism and other threats.

One of the most contentious aspects of the IP Bill obliges ISPs to record information about the services, websites and data every UK citizen uses. These “Internet

The Science and Technology committee has said it wants to look more deeply into this and its potential cost.

In a notice announcing the inquiry, the Committee said it wanted to find out if it was possible for ISPs to meet the IP Bill’s requirements. The text of the Bill asks ISPs to log where people go but not what they do when on a site or using a service.

MPs also want to find out how easy it is for ISPs to separate data about a visit to a site from what happens once people log in, because more stringent rules govern who can discover what people do on a site as opposed to the sites they use.

The Committee will also look at how much it might cost the providers to do this.

The government has said it will provide £175m to ISPs over 10 years to pay for data to be gathered and stored.

ISPs watch the flows of data across their networks to help manage traffic, he said, but they typically only sample these streams because they deal with such massive quantities of information every day.

How to protect your online brand against cybersquatters

February 02, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Cyber Security, Google, internet, Uncategorized

Cybersquatting is buying up website addresses, or domain names, that sound very similar to existing well known brand names.

 

When Google recently launched its new parent company Alphabet, and the abc.xyz web address, there were more than 20,000 registrations by people attempting to take advantage, registering names like googlefiber.xyz or googledocs.xyz.

And in January, eBay won one of the largest cybersquatting cases, winning the ownership of more than 1,000 domains that had used its trademark.

Protecting your brand name online is of critical business importance for smaller companies as well.

The potential for cybersquatting has grown since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the international body responsible for co-ordinating all these addresses – began issuing hundreds of new generic top level domains (gTLDs), such as .xyz, and .nyc, as well as controversial ones like .sucks and .porn.

When ICANN proposed allowing these new generic top level domains, the trademark world was not receptive to that idea because they were so concerned about cybersquatting and poaching. Those concerns would appear to have been justified.

People were “just overwhelmed” by the number of gTLDs becoming available.

In the distant history you had .biz or .info and things like this coming online in a small round of five or six new gTLDs. Now the burden of protecting your brand online is potentially much higher as more extensions become available.

So how do you protect your brand online?

Registering it as a trademark is a good first step as it gives you more rights over related web addresses.

Under ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) rules, a domain registry must provide a “sunrise period,” during which trademarked brands registered in the TMCH can buy domains before they are publicly available.

Simply buying up lots of addresses that are variations of your brand name is one option. But this can get expensive for a small business, as domains can vary in price from 99p to several thousand pounds.

GoDaddy, a web hosting company, says: “Really, nobody has to go out and buy hundreds of domain names across their brands and keywords to protect themselves. Be thoughtful about the handful of names that are most important to you and think about registering those – ones that if you saw in the hands of your closest competitor, you wouldn’t be happy about it.”

If you think a cybersquatter has bought a domain name that infringes your trademark, you can go through ICANN’s uniform domain name dispute resolution (UDRP) system to have your case heard by a panel of experts.

“The UDRP keeps people out of court,” says the WIPO. “If you’re sitting in the United States and there’s somebody in Vietnam that’s squatting on your brand, you don’t have to go a local court.”

Another option is the uniform rapid suspension (URS) system, which is a “lighter version.”

At the end of the UDRP process, I get the domain back in my portfolio and keep it out of the hands of other infringers. Under the URS though, it just gets suspended or taken down for the duration of the registration period.

The brand owner then has the choice of trying to obtain the domain in the future or waiting to see if anyone takes it again.

The cybersquatting issue is likely to keep lawyers and dispute resolution panels busy for years to come.

TalkTalk hack to cost up to £35m

January 10, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Cyber Security, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

The cyber-attack on TalkTalk could cost it up to £35m in one-off costs, the company has said.

The cyber-attack on TalkTalk could cost it up to £35m in one-off costs, the company has said.

Following the hack, which divulged some 255,000 users’ financial details, all customers of the telecoms group will be offered a free upgrade.

Chief executive Dido Harding said that despite the hack, TalkTalk was “well positioned to deliver strong and sustainable long-term growth”.

The firm expects still full year results to be in line with market expectations.

TalkTalk shares were still down more than 20% compared with their pre-hack value.

She added that in recognition of the uncertainty that this had caused customers, they would be offered an upgrade.

A spokesperson said the type of upgrade offered would depend on the kind of package customers already had. For example, customers with TV packages might be offered a sports channel that they did not already have.

Customers who were financially affected directly will be free to leave TalkTalk without financial penalty. They would have to be able to show they had lost money as a result of the hack.

Customers who wish to leave for a different reason – for example, if they feel their data is not secure – would still have to pay a contract termination fee.

Some of TalkTalk’s millions of customers might have been angry enough to try to terminate their contracts when the telecommunications company first revealed details of a major data security breach last month.

But, with contracts for mobile, fixed line, broadband and television services of up to two years (always worth looking at those few lines at the bottom of the paperwork) customers found they couldn’t leave TalkTalk without incurring hefty costs.

When Dido Harding, the chief executive, first announced two weeks ago that customers would only be able to leave if they could show a “direct impact” on their bank account – a pretty high bar – investors heaved a sigh of relief and TalkTalk’s share price bounced up.

It was up again this morning – by more than 12% – as the half-year results revealed that TalkTalk was still expected to make £300m profit before tax this year. And that revenues were up 6%.

On 21 October, hackers attacked TalkTalk’s website, stealing confidential customer data including passwords and bank accounts.

The firm was initially uncertain as to the extent of the hack, but after an investigation it said last week that 157,000 of its customers’ personal details had been accessed.

Ms Harding told the BBC that it was “too early to tell” what the longer-term impact of the breach would be on the business.

“We of course saw an immediate spike in customers cancelling their direct debit, but actually after a few days we saw many of those customers reinstating their direct debits again, so time will tell, but the early signs are that customers think we are doing the right thing,” she told BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed.

Swiss email firm pays web attack ransom

December 06, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Email, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

A secure email firm, based in Switzerland, has paid a ransom of more than £3,600 after web attacks crippled its website.

A secure email firm, based in Switzerland, has paid a ransom of more than £3,600 after web attacks crippled its website.

The anonymous network behind Bitcoins has made the virtual cash popular with cyber thieves.

The hi-tech criminals behind the web attacks said the payment would stop the deluge of data hitting the site. But despite paying up, the web attacks continued, leaving Protonmail struggling to operate.

It has now launched a fund-raising drive to raise cash to tackle any future attacks.

In a blogpost, Protonmail said it received an email on 3 December that contained a threat to attack its website unless it paid a ransom of 15 bitcoins (£3,640).

Protonmail did not respond to the message and, soon afterwards, was hit by what is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This tries to knock a server offline by bombarding it with more data than it can handle.

Protonmail is a free, web-based, encrypted email service that needs its site up and running to serve customers.

The first attack knocked out Protonmail for about 15 minutes and then stopped. A second attack the next day was much bigger and overwhelmed efforts by the email firm and its ISP to stop it.

“This co-ordinated assault on key infrastructure eventually managed to bring down both the datacenter and the ISP, which impacted hundreds of other companies, not just Protonmail,” it said on the blog.

In a bid to halt the attack, Protonmail said it “grudgingly” paid the 15 bitcoin ransom.

However, it said, this did not stop the attacks which continued to cause problems for many other firms.

Eventually, Protonmail’s ISP took action to remove the company’s site from the net to stem the flow of data.

Post-attack analysis suggests Protonmail was targeted in two phases, the company said. The first aided the ransom demand but the second was “not afraid of causing massive collateral damage in order to get at us”.

Switzerland’s national Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert), which helped Protonmail cope, said the attack was carried out by a cybercrime group known as the Armada Collective. This group has also targeted many other Swiss web companies over the last few weeks, the team said.

It said anyone who received ransom email should not pay up. Instead, they should talk to their ISPs about the best way to defend themselves against attacks.

Protonmail said that despite its work to harden itself against attack, it was still vulnerable to DDoS data deluges. It said it planned to sign up with a commercial service that can defend against the attacks but this would be likely to cost it more than £66,000 a year. It has started a fund-raising drive to gather the cash to pay this fee.

MI5 boss warns of cyber terror risk

October 17, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Cyber Security, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

The serving boss of the UK’s home security agency told the Today programme it was becoming more difficult to obtain online information.

The serving boss of the UK's home security agency told the Today programme it was becoming more difficult to obtain online information.

Advances in technology are allowing terrorists to communicate “out of the reach of authorities”, head of MI5 Andrew Parker has told the BBC.

He said internet companies had an “ethical responsibility” to alert agencies to potential threats. But MI5 was not about “browsing the lives” of the public, he added.

Ministers are preparing legislation on the powers for carrying out electronic surveillance. Mr Parker, in the first live interview by a serving MI5 boss, said what should be included in new legislation was a matter “for Parliament to decide”.

MI5 boss Mr Parker also told the BBC:

The terrorism threat is the “most serious threat Britain faces in security terms”
Six alleged terror plots have been foiled in the past 12 months, which Mr Parker said was the highest number he could recall in his 32-year career “certainly the highest number since 9/11”
MI5 had to “make choices” about where to put resources, and make sure they were “focused where the sharpest threat is”
On the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby: “There cannot be a guarantee that we will find and stop everything. That’s not possible. We can’t monitor them all the time.”
He rejected the suggestion that security service tactics can lead to radicalisation saying it was “completely untrue”
He paid tribute to the people who work at MI5 and their work “which so often goes unrecognised”

He said online data encryption was creating a situation where the police and intelligence agencies “can no longer obtain under proper legal warrant the communication of people they believe to be terrorists”.

It was a “very serious” issue, he said, adding: “It’s in nobody’s interests that terrorists should be able to plot and communicate out of the reach of authorities.”

The overall context is a terrorist threat, that MI5 says is growing, technological change and recent concerns over privacy and surveillance.

The question of whether new legislation will maintain existing capabilities against a backdrop of technological change or provide new powers will not be clear until the detail is revealed.

Much of the communications material MI5 needs is held abroad, often by US companies, and he made clear he would like more co-operation from them.

There is recognition from the security and intelligence services that justifying their intrusive capabilities will require more transparency.

That openness may be provided not just by legislation but also by speaking publicly and even coming into a BBC studio.

Mr Parker said the shape of the terror threat had changed “because of the internet and the way terrorists use social media”.

He said they were using secure and encrypted apps and the internet to “broadcast their message and incite terrorism among people who live here”.

The UK’s terror threat is rated as “severe”, which means an attack is highly likely.

Facebook has a billion users in a single day, says Mark Zuckerberg

September 25, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Facebook, Google, internet, Search Clinic, Social Media, Social Networking, Uncategorized

For the first time over a billion people used Facebook on a single day, according to company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

For the first time over a billion people used Facebook on a single day, according to company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The “milestone” was reached when “1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family”, he said in a post.

Facebook has nearly 1.5 billion users who log in at least once a month, but this was the most in a single day.

The company gained its billionth user in October 2012. It was founded in 2004 by Mr Zuckerberg while he was a Harvard student.

In his post on Thursday, he predicted that Facebook’s reach would continue to grow.

“This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

In July, Facebook claimed that over half of the world’s online users visited the site at least once a month.

It was only back in October 2012 when Facebook first announced it had one billion users using the site at least once a month – and now, just under three years later, the site has managed to pull in that many in a single day.

The question is how can it continue to grow? Surely it will plateau at some point, right? Yes – but we’re a long way off that.

In Facebook’s headquarters in California on the wall a map of the world highlighted the countries with lots of Facebook users.

Sure, the US, Europe and India are almost at peak Facebook. But there are huge gaps – Africa, much of Asia, some of Latin America. That’s where Facebook is focused on now.

One billion in a day? No big deal.

Web browser market share- latest research results

September 17, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Customer Service, Google, internet, Microsoft, Mozilla, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The lastest web browser market share results have been announced for August 2012.Web browser market share- latest research resultsIt’s been a while since the Search Clinic last looked at the web browser share statistics- 2010 to be precise, when the Internet Explorer browser fell below 50 per cent market share.

Then the usage breakdown was Internet Explorer had a 49.87 per cent share of the global browser market, with Mozilla’s Firefox on 31.5 per cent market share, while Google’s Chrome browser accounted for only 11.54 per cent of the market.

The figures were researched by StatCounter.

The latest figures below have again been compiled by StatCounter and are based on analysis from 3 million websites.

The statistics for web browser market share in August 2012 show that now Chrome is top of the tree with a total web browser market share of 33.58%.

Internet Explorer now has a total share of 32.81%.

With the Firefox web browser now having a share of 22.86%.

Two other thoughts are that in 2010 the three browsers had a total share of 92.91- last month that dominance had only dropped to 89.25% and that despite Apple’s recent growth thier Safari browser is still a great distance away from disturbing that dominance.

YouTube withdraws terrorism videos

June 19, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Cyber Security, Google, internet, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, Video Marketing, YouTube

YouTube’s ownsers Google has revealed that it removed about 640 videos that allegedly promoted terrorism over the second half of 2011 after complaints from the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers.YouTube withdraws terrorism videosThe news was contained in its latest Transparency Report which discloses requests by international authorities to remove or hand over material.

The firm said it terminated five accounts linked to the suspect videos.

However, the firm said it had rejected many other state’s requests for action.

Canada’s Passport Office was among the organisations rebuffed. It had asked for a video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and then flushing it down the toilet be removed.

Google also refused to delete six YouTube videos that satirised Pakistan’s army and senior politicians. The order had come from the government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology.

But Google did act in hundreds of cases, including:

  • requests to block more than 100 YouTube videos in Thailand that allegedly insulted its monarchy – a crime in the country;
  • the removal of a YouTube video that contained hate speech that had been posted in Turkey;
  • the termination of four YouTube accounts responsible for videos that allegedly contained threatening and harassing content after complaints by different US law enforcement agencies.

Overall, the firm said it had received 461 court orders covering a total of 6,989 items between July and December 2011. It said it had complied with 68% of the orders.

It added that it had received a further 546 informal requests covering 4,925 items, of which it had agreed to 43% of the cases.

Google’s senior policy analyst, Dorothy Chou, said the company was concerned by the amount of requests that had been linked to political speech.

“It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect – Western democracies not typically associated with censorship,” she said.

“For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.

“In Poland, we received a request from the Agency for Enterprise Development to remove links to a site that criticised it.

“We didn’t comply with either of these requests.”

The real suprise is that Google have reacted at all.

A few years ago they tried to argue that as they were the recipients of so many videos they could not possibly police and delete videos. Now as they are becoming more corporate they are slowly realising that yes they too have to accept governmental requests.

UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism

June 15, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Cyber Security, data security, Email, Gaming, internet, search engines, Skype, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Civil liberty groups have voiced severe criticism over the newly published Data Communications bill aka snoopers’ charter. UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism   The controversial bill extends the type of data that Internet Service Providers must keep to include your emails, web browsing history and social media posts- including Skype.

The government claims that the legislation is need in the fight against criminals and terrorists.

However activists have dubbed it a snooper’s charter.

“This is all about giving the police unsupervised access to data. It is shocking for a government that opposed Labour’s plans on this to propose virtually the same thing,” said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

“It will cost billions of pounds and will end up only catching the stupid or the innocent. Terrorists will circumvent it.”

Dyenamic Solutions also points out the non UK organisations may not be compelled to store your data- thus not only driving a coach and horses through the intended effectiveness, but also forcing many UK ecommerce business abroad.

Publishing the bill, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Communications data saves lives. It is a vital tool for the police to catch criminals and to protect children.”

But Mr Killock argues that knowing where a citizen has been online is equally intrusive.

Drawing a parallel he said: “If I’m having an affair then who I’m talking to is just as revealing as what I say,” he said.

The bill – an update to the controversial RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) legislation – lays out new duties for the UK communications companies.

The new proposals would require ISPs to keep details of a much wider range of data including use of social network sites, webmail, voice calls over the internet, and gaming. Websites you visit will also be recorded.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association said that it would be lobbying MPs in the coming months.

“Ispa has concerns about the new powers to require network operators to capture and retain third party communications data,” said a spokesman.

“These concerns include the scope and proportionality, privacy and data protection implications and the technical feasibility.

“Whilst we appreciate that technological developments mean that government is looking again at its communications data capabilities, it is important that powers are clear and contain sufficient safeguards,” it added.

Please join the Snoopers Charter Petition– it takes just 2 minutes and could have a huge effect against this red tape- which the Financial Times estimates will cost us £2.8 billion over the next 10 years.