Masthead Blogs
Friday, October 12, 2018
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto

If you been around the digital space long enough you know you will learn something new all the time. It is an endless learning cycle and it keeps your instincts sharp as the digital space is still a can worms as you never know what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

One problem that I have encountered that is growing is what happens if you get a bad Internet reputation and your domain name is labeled as spam. This bad Internet reputation may be the result of you being hacked and your domain was used for hacker activity. I have heard stories of email providers shutting down your account when the filters think it is spam. This has made the use of email sometimes unreliable, as legitimate emails never get to you. Yeah a phone or text follow-up is 100% reliable.

 

The spam filters today just not look at the email address it also looks at the content for any suspicious URLs in the message and attachments. So if you have a bad internet reputation they will block it. Spam filters will also look at the bounce rates of your emails as part of the criteria they use to determine if your message was spam. So a high bounce rate is a red flag for the latest spam filters. For example the Gmail spam filter labels some emails promotional now, but not spam and if you are blocked on Gmail you have a big problem as your list may contain 10-20% gmail addresses.

 

 

What can you do to remedy this problem?

 

First you have to identify how bad your reputation on the internet. To see if you have a bad internet reputation there are free tools that allows you to test your email with all the various spam filters that are in the digital ecosystem. I tried out Glockapps and it is a good tool and has a free trial option. This allows you to evaluate your reputation before sending so you can make the appropriate adjustments. The solution offers advice on content structure and the use of links and images.

 

If your domain is being blocked after this test you have a big problem as your domain name has a bad reputation and you will need to get it whitelisted somehow with all the various spam filters. An impossible task as there are just too many spam filters out there..

 

The remedy is to transfer your website domain to a new server and then repopulate it on the Internet, but if you have old code you will be still vulnerable to hacker attacks. So always have the latest security patches on your website.

 

This is a big investment of time and money to transfer your domain, but before you do this there is a white hat workaround and it is to use a different domain or to camouflage the URL with another one that redirects to your website for your emails. You can do this until your Internet reputation improves, but this is only a short-term workaround. But some systems now outright ban the use of this practice. Services like https://tinyurl.com that are used by hackers are now being blocked in some ad ecosystems.

 

While we all support better security on the internet, spam filter technology still gets it wrong sometimes and the deployment of AI is supposedly raises the bar for reliably, in theory. But I live by the rule that we are only 50% right of the time.  It appears the decision making of inclusiveness by security professionals is like the government, by catering to a small segment everybody else suffers the consequences. But there is gotta be a better way to thwart off hacker attacks to your website, unfortunately this is the new normal on the Internet.

 

I invite you to join me this year on November 14 as I will moderating the State of Digital Seminar as part of the COPAs  this year. It will explore the next generation of ad solutions in the digital space that will touch on the use of geo-demographic targeting online, content sponsorship and an ad wizard for best practices.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto

I am amazed at the power and speed of the latest Android smartphones. The Android operating system is on 85% of the world’s phones, but in Canada it is only 45% with Apple the dominant device with Canada’s 32 million cellphone users.  Like everybody else I will need a new phone sooner or later (3 year lifespan), so I thought I try some Android phones and Samsung was gracious to lend me one to use for the past few months. 

 

 Samsung Galaxy S8

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a sleek design with a curved screen that is right to the edge of the phone. The phone dimensions are 2.68” w x 5.86” h x 0.31” d and 5.8” on the diagonal. It weighs 155gm (1/3lb) and comes with a 12 MP rear  and 8 MP front camera. It is powered by a 10nn chip that has 2.35 GHz of computing power that is the size of a fingernail. This processor is powerful enough to be used in drones as Android phones are sometimes used as the main computer to control the drone after the app is installed 

 

The benefits of the Android system ( I have always felt that Android was a iPhone clone in many ways) are that it works with all the Google apps and set up with my gmail account that I already had was painless. One thing I noticed is that the notifications feature that sends you highlights on your phone from your various apps became overwhelming as I had to turn it off on the apps I did want notifications from. There was also system alerts like data overage alerts that I did not have any control over that I found to be a nuisance, as I could not turn them off.

 

I was finally able to install the Vonage app on my phone (I was using a Nokia/Microsoft phone before)  as I use this VOIP service for my office line and now with this app. I can make and receive calls on the smartphone from the same number like I was in the office. This app acts like an extension and second line at the same time as I can receive calls on my land phone and if a second one comes in I can answer it on the smartphone or call out if I am on hold on the other phone. This saves on my cell talk minutes and I get unlimited calls to outside of Canada.

 

The bluetooth connection with my Android car stereo for music and the phone worked fine. It would be nice to able to receive text/email messages that can be converted to voice while driving with the option to reply verbally. Now this feature most likely will cause less car accidents, as they do not have the temptation to look at their phone now. Now, here is a feature the engineers have not relesed yet, so make the next generation of SMS messaging Bluetooth enabled with voice commands and text to voice messaging. This will save lives.

 

The screen is also ultra sensitive and I got a lot more pocket dials that I would have liked with this phone. During the summer it was in the hot sun and it over heated and the phone has an automatic shut down and I had to wait for it to cool down before it started working again.

 

The integration of Google Music with my song collection in iTunes was a simple transfer. I did have problems though in getting my full music collection on my smartphone as some songs were not playable as I needed a wifi connection. Even though I own the music and it was not a digital download.

 

 Edifer Luna Eclipse Bookshelf speakers

I connected a pair of Edifer Luna Eclipse bookshelf bluetooth speakers to the phone to listen to the music and the sound from these speakers was superb, when I used them at a family BBQ. The distance range was 50 ft. for the sound, which was good for small speakers. This sound was delivered with a 3” bass driver/woofer and 3/4 inch tweeter with each speaker having a dedicated amplifier of 15 watts for the tweeter and 22 watts for the bass. It also has a plug-in aux connection and remote control. Retails for $250 on Amazon. 

 

I did find that the battery lasts only 12 hours with light-medium use, if I was talking on the phone it would drain faster. I had to put the phone in medium battery saving mode to extend the battery life as normal settings would drain the battery faster. I did chip the edge of the phone on my ceramic floor so I had to get a rubber sleeve for it to protect it from addtional falls. I always wondered why OEMs put so much effort in making the technology better, but they forget to make the case better and not break when dropped. The biggest concern is that sooner or later the screen will crack, so it is best to buy a cover for your phone. 

 

At the end of the day this is a solid smartphone if you want to get an Android phone for your next device. Be wary though, it took me a while to figure out all nuisances of the phone and sometimes I found it overwhelming with all the new technical capabilities that some I don’t use, like Bixby, Samsung personal assistant. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is available as a $0 phone on some plans at Rogers or you can buy an unlocked one for $719 at Best Buy. My next Android phone I am going have a look at is the Huawei Pro 20. Also remember to recycle your electronic waste when you get that new phone.

 

 



 

Sunday, July 15, 2018
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto

We all know fake profiles on the internet exist, but how do we spot them. So I thought I take I look at the “Matchmaker” market for people to meet online to see if they exist and if I can spot one. I am new to the older single scene now so I thought I give Match.com a try, since it is one of the top sites online and my friends say they met people there. I found some interesting things in my one week experiment for this story. I found this service, in my opinion, is littered with fake engagement from women.

 

 

 

The Matchmaking Industry has grown to a $2.5 billion+ market in the USA and Canada is estimated at $150 million.  A Pew 2013 Survey of 2,000 people in the USA showed that 15% of adults use an online dating website or app, with 22% of 18-24 the top adopters The industry had to face the challenges of limited trust of online dating services, fake online profiles, fraudulent traffic, database breaches, background checks, and privacy safeguards to protect personal information of users. To get users in a crowded market requires success or the possibility of success for love, romance and companionship, a pretty tall order. So I guess some have had to resort to some interesting hacker marketing techniques to meet their user targets and keep them happy.

 

Here are the series of events that led me to this conclusion that Match.com may have a problem with fake profiles somewhere in their system.

 

DAY 1: July 7, 2018

Upon my email subscription notification at 12:20pm I received a series of emails that ladies were interested at 12:39, 3:33, 4:32, 5:18, 5:21, 8:04, 8:36, 10:42 and 11:51. So on the first day I received 9 message of interest and one 9 minutes after I signed up. I replied to them all and heard back from two but they were both brief conversations. The screen names were Goodcare121 (36yrs), Shelly (56yrs), Activethrulife (62yrs), Westendgirl (54yrs), Shaw8 (61yrs), Natureluvr2 (55yrs), Smartdj (54yrs), Silly62 (55yrs) and Stairway (52 yrs). Activethulife and Stairway were real people I think. I did not reply to Goodcare121, from Texas who was the first one to send me a message. After that all I got that were interested were from older woman closer to my age.

 

DAY 2: July 8

I received 2 replies from ladies that I was interested in but they were not a match. So perhaps there are real people on Match.com, but my doubts still lingered. Their names were Latinssima and Lori. I did receive a message at 12:33am from Fatchance a 55 year old that was interested. I replied and did not hear back. One of the clues of fake profiles is that they do not respond.

 

DAY 3: July 9

Today I received 4 notifications that ladies were interested in me at 10:10 am, 9:41, 10:45 and 11:15 pm. There names were Alyssum333 (58 yrs), Susan321 (51 yrs), Anxiousflower (52 yrs) and Happiness (52 yrs). Again I sent a courtesy reply and did not hear back. I did receive a reply from Junegoos that she was not interested. So today I suspected I had 4 fake people and 1 real one. But I did consider an upgrade of what they call " Guaranteed Email Reply" since I did not get many replies from the ladies that expressed interest in me.

 

DAY 4: July 10

Today was a quiet day and I received an email that I had 24 matches to look at 5:09pm. At this point my suspicions of fake profiles and engagement have grown to the point that I do not trust what is happening on Match.com

 

 

DAY 5: July 11

On Day 5 I received two notifications of interest at 5:45 and 11:49p from FXCVTALA9802 (34 yrs) and Aangeleyez07 299 (37 yrs). It was on this day that I felt for sure that some profiles are fake on the system as the names used is the same pattern I have seen used by comment sections spammers (HAM) using letter and numbers in sequence patterns.

 

 

DAY 6: July 12

I cancelled the subscription today (it will be cancelled at the end of the month) at 6:28am and I received two notifications of interest with the first one at 6:29, 3 minutes after I cancelled. There were from Hinnymick0 (36yrs) at 6:29p and Contrysmile33 (33yrs) at 6:51. This finally proved to me (in my opinion) there is fake engagement on Match.com as the time of the “interest notification” coincides with my cancellation.

 

DAY 7: July 13

Today I received a reply from a real person Kyss at 11:15p that she was not interested. So far there were 7 people that communicated to me but only one were from the 17 “interested in you” notifications, the other six came from the  women that I sent emails to that Match.com thought I was a 85% match for. So six real people out of  23 that I engaged with suggests that something is fishy going on here. In addition I received emails promoting their events, webinars and other singles sites. So during the 7 day period I received a total of 43 emails or 6 per day filling my inbox. Talk about corporate spam.

 

Knowing that there are maybe fake profiles created by Match.com plus the use of fake profile by users online I will be staying away from this type of digital service in the future. My feeling is that there were too many fake people to sort through and is a waste of my time. According to the system 200 women have checked my profile on line, with a very high percentage of very beautiful ladies. but how many of those people are real. In comparison, I have been using Kijiji the past week to rent a house and I had over 400 views of the ad plus 11 responses that I knew that were real people and it will be rented shortly and it is a free ad.

 

The clues for spotting fake identities on the internet are the screen name, lack of photo or a photo that looks like it was scraped off the internet like glamour shots. The timing of the emails was also a big red flag for me as they were grouped around dinner time and late nights or just after I registered/cancelled my subscription. This suggests that this is not a 3rd party hacker phishing for contact info or other things hackers want, as it was generated by the Match.com system. What do you think, what conclusion can you draw from that? Are these profiles fake?
 

 
 
Monday, June 18, 2018
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto

The tragedy of the internet is that it is available to anyone. On the plus side, being available to everyone is that information is now available to anyone that wants it. This observation can be best described by this economic concept the “Tragedy of the Commons”.
 

 

 

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits.”

 

The best examples of this is overfishing, global warming, traffic congestion and the plastic bottle island the size of Texas in the South Pacific. The internet is overrun with bad actors looking to make a score for some unsuspecting victim through a click on a email that delivers malware to infect your computer systems or a phishing exercise to get your contact info for identity theft and email scams. This unfettered access by bad actors to the internet is the “Tragedy of the Commons” and is a digital plague that needs to be exterminated,

 

I just got this scam in one of my email accounts. Hey! I just won $1.5 Million from Google and Microsoft. I bet Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are not too happy with being mentioned in this obvious scam. The best way to see if it is a scam is to ask yourself “ Is this too good to be true”,  then check the sender email address, reply address and location for authenticity. This one appears  to be from the UK but has Spanish writing in it are obvious clues of a scam. The use of the Google logo in the masthead gives an aura of authenticity for a glancing moment to get you to read it.
 

 

 

Other ways you can get scammed is with FREE offers on the internet when you are searching, but in order to get the free info you must register and give your credit card info. I call this a watering hole scam. I saw this when I was searching for a service manual for a outboard motor for the used boat I just bought. I hope eventually these types of scams are eventually filtered out by the search engines. I still remember the time I bought something online from a site that I did not know that was offering a great deal. I later discovered that this was the source of the theft of my credit card. So please shop only on sites that you trust.

 

But this heighten sense of security has caused a snowball effect of other problems for legitimate publishers. If your domain (website address) gets a bad reputation on the internet from the email spam filters, emails service providers will block you or shut you down. This may be of no fault of your own as a hacker can secretly now spoof your domain name and use it for “ Black Hat” (Criminal hacker) activities to fool the spam filters thinking it is legitimate, just like the scam I showed you above. Make sure you test all your email with a spam checker to see if it is classified as spam on various spam software platforms to gauge your reputation on the internet.

 

Government intervention to this digital plague has been legislation like Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws and the European Union’s digital privacy law that went into effect May 25, 2018. Unfortunately, this is a global problem as the bad actors always find a way to side step the rules as they operate in jurisdictions outside the reach of the law. So tough laws are toothless for these crooks, but legitimate players pay the price with more rules that tend to overreact and create more red tape. But on the plus side, ad tech companies enthusiasm for marketing surveillance for personalized marketing and ad delivery without a person's consent will stop.

 

Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) on the internet is a required skill for everyone and the best way to fight back is to expose people to their scams so we can recognize one. This is the new normal on the internet and it is not going to change anytime soon.

 
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto

I have been on a hiatus in writing my blog, but during this time this topic kept coming in me head, “The Rise and fall of the Digital Titans” - Is it coming?. History has shown tech companies do not stay on top forever and there is always somebody new to come along to disrupt the market to take away first place in the minds of investors and consumers.

 

If we go back to the origins of the dot-com boom the big players were AOL, My Space, Yahoo and Blackberry. Where are they today? The are all smaller in size and have become niche players. We all know of Apple’s rise and fall and rise story in tech history lore, the landscape is littered with them. So these digital titans will eventually fall, it is a question of when is it going to happen. This is the price all companies pay when they yield too much power in the marketplace, just ask Google and their battle with the European Union.

 

The digital world reminds me of the fads and trends in the kids toy market. Rarely do toys have staying power beyond a few years and this is happening with digital software toys that can be used on your smartphone. No digital company so far has the staying power of Mickey Mouse that help build the Disney Empire, but even Disney had its own roller coaster experience in its history.

 

The secret to long-term success is that companies need to grow to stay competitive and not fade away by getting bought out and then disappear. I had a look at 16 different market segments that these digital titans have products in, 14 of these products I considered mainstream (i.e.: mass appeal) with 2 - Car GPS and Virtual Reality the next mainstream products. Amazon entering the ad market to support sales on their website, entry into steaming video with Fire TV cannot be underestimated as the next big player to enter the game. Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world and they want to grow too!
 

 
 

We all know in the digital ad space Facebook and Google dominate, but when is this ride going to end. Both companies are now facing new threats as they get bigger and become a target of critics, hackers and now litigation lawyers looking for a quick score. Who has the title of the Big Bad Empire now, that used to be Microsoft’s crown. It seems it changes monthly between Google and Facebook now as they are co-champions based on the latest scandal or lawsuit .

 

Can Facebook recover from all the scandals that they have weathered the past few years like the distribution fake news, political propaganda and now the Facebook account information problem. It looks like the bigger they get the more problems they have to deal with through no fault of their own (perhaps). The European Union has challenged Google a few times about privacy rights, but perhaps Google is too big to take down.

 

There is a growing “ Consumer Tech “ movement in the marketplace to protect individuals right to privacy. No one wants to be tracked. Did you know that Twitter has 40 different ways a tweet can be tracked and this data is sold to corporations. The digital programmatic ad network space according to P&G in 2017 is wrought with fraud and bad actors with fake news sites, ad farms and email phishing, so law and order in the digital space is sometimes non existent. There is growing evidence that web display ads are not an effective ad tool and there is a growing confidence for pre-roll video for web ads instead. This development is perhaps the catalyst of the fall of ad networks, ads that don’t work and a source of ad fraud. So maybe the fall has already begun. 
 

 

 
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