Tech Keynotes

Here come the new iPhones at the Apple September event! Samsung announced their new phones in August. All around us is the thrill of new devices.

It’s amazing how such small devices that didn’t exist in our lives 20 years ago now have millions of users. Year after year, a new lineup of devices is announced with day one sales, rivaling attendance of day one showings at the movies. But what makes these little devices so special?

Smartphones, tablets, and computers are infused with innovation and the latest editions are constantly stretching our idea of what is possible. With all of this popular appeal, we sometimes forget that these devices translate into innovative platforms that can also protect our data for business.

End to end encrypting by iMessage inspires encrypted email communication

Image result for imessage encryption

 

Innovative features like Face ID and Samsung Iris scanner provide us a quick way to enter a tough password.

Image result for samsung iris

 

AI s like Siri and Google Assistant introduce us to AI protection.

Image result for siri

Smartphones make innovation fun and exciting, but by learning these exciting technologies we learn new ways to protect our environments from cyber attacks and make our processes more efficient.

Top 3 Technology Misnomers and Misunderstandings Explained

We’ve all had a moment when the right word didn’t come to mind. Technology words are no exception. Using the right word can be the difference between your technician scheduling an onsite call for tomorrow, or resolving the issue remotely today. In many cases, you can dramatically expedite the process of diagnosis. Here are the top 10 misnomers and misunderstood terms in technology we would like you to know, to help us help you.

 

1. Hard Drive and Desktop PC or Tower

Your PC Tower or Desktop PC is the computer. It is made up of components including the casing, the motherboard, the optical drive, power supply, the RAM, and the hard drive. Often this device is miscalled the hard drive which is a single component. It’s an easy way to worry your technician by telling him ‘my hard drive has failed to boot’, versus, ‘my PC failed to boot’. If your hard drive failed, your technician has to look into restoring a good backup, while, if the PC failed to boot there may be a problem with the power supply or a few other components in the system.

A typical Hard Drive

 

 

 

Example of a Desktop PC/ Tower (Dell Optiplex 3050)

 

2. Storage and Memory

Although there are a few exceptions (i.e. certain windows errors) Memory refers to data in the RAM, Storage refers to data in the hard drive. RAM (or Random Access Memory) is often referred to as memory but you wouldn’t call RAM storage. As a result, Neither should you call data in the hard drive memory because that data is stored until you access it. Here’s an example:

 

The story of Little Timmy and the Big Idea… the end…

 

 

Yesterday Little Timmy scored a goal in soccer, the memory of the sad look on the goalie’s face (bad luck Bruno) is stored in his mind forever. Today though, Little Timmy has an idea that could forever change the world.

Now imagine little Timmy is a computer. Well, RIGHT NOW he has a Big Idea that could change the world. That Big Idea is in Little Timmy’s Memory (RAM) he is not thinking of bad luck Bruno’s face. Bad luck Bruno’s face isn’t gone though, Little Timmy is not thinking of that face now so it is stored (Hard Drive).

So when a PC is out of storage space, there are no more memories it can store. If a PC doesn’t have enough memory, it cannot think of too many things at once i.e. Little Timmy can’t think of 5 big ideas at once but he has thought of 20 in the past.

3. Cloud Storage and Cloud Backups

Cloud storage builds upon what we know about Little Timmy’s story and adds another layer. Little Timmy’s memories of Bruno’s face are transported far away to a server farm in Ireland. He can still recall the memory but it’s somewhere else. Some common cloud storage services are Google Drive, Onedrive, and Dropbox. Here’ where we leave the Little Timmy’s story today. Cloud storage is volatile.

Cloud Storage’s purpose is convenience: your data accessible anywhere so you can edit, download and upload new files to your cloud storage service. Files can also be inadvertently deleted or overwritten with a bad version if we are not paying attention. That’s what cloud backup is for (specifically cloud to cloud backup).

Cloud Backup’s purpose is recovery: cloud backups copy a version of your file and places it elsewhere where it can’t be touched unless you want it back in a file restore. It saves the files at different intervals, hourly daily, weekly, or even yearly, with multiple versions available to you. Here’s an example:

As a result of cloud storage volatility, there are even cloud-to-cloud backup services available for cloud-hosted email and cloud storage through Barracuda Cloud Archiving Service.

If you liked this Tech Talk check out more at http://www.absne.com/category/news/tech-talk/

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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Creepy or Helpful?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning has become a hot button topic in Technology. Apple brought us Siri, Amazon brought us Alexa, and Google brought us Google Assistant. But AI capability and purpose goes far beyond your common answer to “what’s the weather like?” and “set a reminder when I arrive at home”. AI is ready to help businesses trace food from farm to store,  give a guided tour through New York City, research the cure to cancer, and to secure our networks. However, AI is something many of us fear. Voices throughout the technology community have expressed their warnings of further research on AI. Stephen Hawking said Artificial Intelligence will be the end of man”. Elon Musk stated, “We are rapidly headed towards digital super intelligence that far exceeds any human”. Should we mind these warnings?

Here’s some history.

In 2011, IBM’s Watson won the game of Jeopardy against 2 top human challengers.

Not only did Watson beat top challenger’s in Jeopardy, Watson brought deep questions about our limitations as humans and the capabilities of machines.

In 2017 Facebook created two AI chatbots, which were trained to have certain likes and pretend to express some sort of grief when they lost what they wanted. In an experiment, the AI’s were challenged to speak to one another and negotiate a trade of balls and books. The results of the conversation are seen below (One AI was called Bob, the other Alice):

 

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

 

What may seem like a useless conversation was actually the two bots communicating in their own language. The creators shut down the bots as they had no use to humans.

So AI is pretty smart right? But can modern AI beat the Turing test? The Turing test was a test developed by computer scientist Alan Turing (known for breaking the enigma encryption algorithm during World War II) used to distinguish whether a computer is artificially intelligent, it requires that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.

Can you distinguish the Google Duplex AI from a human caller?

OK, Maybe this is all a little creepy.

So maybe we cease to use technology altogether until every programmer vows to never create AI again; their creepy computer voices won’t be able to laugh at us in binary as we post silly human memes across their domain. Do we smash every smartphone? Every smart speaker? Every Internet connected device? Do we stop progress? Was Elon Musk right? Those are all questions for a philosophy course. For now, there are many benefits we can gain from utilizing AI.

Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana serve as assistant AI’s to help keep you organized, and keep your technology working for you in very personal ways.  Read more about them in my Tech Talk on smart things and privacy

Barracuda’s Sentinel AI was build to detect phishing scams so we don’t have to figure it out. It learns the patterns to the emails we send and receive and is able to determine whether a message is a spoof message to or from you.

There are many ways phishing scams can come through. And utilizing AI to assist with detecting it is the best way to avoid falling victim to it.

In conclusion, Modern AI is smart, and keeps getting smarter. The best way to stay ahead of the machines is to utilize them to your benefit.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540

https://gizmodo.com/nvidia-taught-an-ai-to-flawlessly-erase-watermarks-from-1827474196

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/07/10/the-economics-of-artificial-intelligence-how-cheaper-predictions-will-change-the-world/#50fdd7655a0d

https://www.ibm.com/blockchain?lnk=ushpv18c10&lnk2=learn

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-artificial-intelligence-ai-chatbot-new-language-research-openai-google-a7869706.html

https://ai.google/research/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2018/04/06/elon-musks-nightmarish-warning-ai-could-become-an-immortal-dictator-from-which-we-would-never-escape/?utm_term=.1a8fc6b6310d

Updates! Prepare the defenses!

The importance of finding new ways to protect your environment from cyber-attacks is more critical everyday. There are many contenders we use to fight our cyber battles for us: antivirus is the most popular place to start, the sword of cyber security; stopping viruses in their tracks. Then there’s firewall, the fortress of your network, keeping your valuable vaults of data safe from the outside world. Then, there’s spam filters and email security, the troop of armed guards that bring your digital messenger’s back to safety. But there’s one form of security that effects the whole system that often falls into the least concern. Updates.

Updates (or patches) are the foundation of all of your security, without proper updates all defense is a waste.  Your antivirus knight may be the best in all the land, but if he is still fighting with steel while your attackers are fighting with lightsabers, that steel is useless. If your firewall fortress was built with wood (which worked just fine while your attackers fought with slingshots) it won’t hold up when the raiders come with torches (not the firewall we had in mind), update to concrete.

Your operating system provides patches that often provide immunity to some of the most dangerous viruses out there. When the Intel Meltdown exploit was discovered, antivirus, and firewall had no solution to provide immunity to a possible attack through that exploit, the immunity came through in a Windows update.

Wait… Windows updates? you mean those things that make reboots take a half hour. Yes, those. As inconvenient as they may be it is critical that you allow the updates to take place and complete for the sake of the security of your network, and it is now easier than ever to assure these updates can take place with minimal disruption with Automated Business Solution’s MaxxM plans. With a MaxxM plan, ABS schedules your patches and patch reboots, so you don’t have to watch your PC wait at ‘35% complete’ for 20 minutes.

If you want to make sure your patches are always up to date on your network sign up for an Automated Busines Solutions MaxxM plan where you can get updates scheduled.

 

 

Top Notetaking and Writing Apps 2018

Getting an idea on a piece of paper seems to be straightforward enough; pick up a pen or pencil, just start writing, right? But when we think of think of  sticky notes, we wouldn’t use those to write a 5 paragraph essay, and we certainly wouldn’t use resume paper for quick notes. We have different mediums for different tasks. We have notebooks that are spiral bound, cloth bound, with a marker, without a marker, loose leaf, in a binder, and hundreds of other ways.So if our paper takes different forms for notation and writing, why shouldn’t our apps?

Here are some of the best of the best note-taking and writing apps this year, and what niches they fill.

iA Writer by Information Architects Incorporated

iA Writer is a markdown editor. Markdown is a new file format labeled .md that is designed for getting into the content of the writing first, and making formatting secondary. Markdown uses quick typing shortcuts to integrate formatting into text rather than clicking through menus.

iA Writer has largely replaced Microsoft word for me in my personal use. It costs only $20 for the full product on Windows (which they just released this year). It is my goto application for writing essays, creating lists, focused story and scriptwriting.

The focused mode is seriously helpful if panels and formatting sometimes get in the way of your thought process. Stop wasting time figuring out how you want the table of contents to look, and get your ideas out into the world.

iAwriter Is available on Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Windows.

 

Bear by Shiny Frog

Bear is a very similar application to iAwriter. Bear is also a Markdown editor with a focused mode and typewriter mode. Additionally, it supports and highlights over 20 programming languages all within a simple interface.

I consider Bear to build on the concepts of iA Writer with more features meant for notetaking. I use Bear during study, along side reading materials. Bear offers quick ways to outline notes then make their content easy to find with the ability to create links to other notes and to search through them by connecting notes to hashtags.

Bear is available on Mac OSX, and iOS.

Google Keep

Google keep is very different than the last too markdown editors. If iA Writer and Bear were the digital equivalent to paper notebooks, Google Keep is the equivalent to paper sticky notes. Google keep feels like a quick note taking application, reminders and lists easily searchable with titles and hashtags. You ca quickly place photos and audio recordings in your notes as well.

Google Keep integrates with Google drive so your notes are instantly saved across your devices.

When I used Google keep I was a bit disappointed with its integration with other Google services. Reminders do not sync between Google Keep reminders and Google assistant. Other than this, Google keep does serve as a great note taking app for quick and simple note for general day to day tasks.

Available as a WebApp for Chrome, on iOS, and Android

 

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote has come a long way over the years. Starting as a poorly formatted confusing spin off of Microsoft Word and becoming the flagship note taking application of the versatile Microsoft Surface. Onenote can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, with the interface designed off a a binder with dividers. OneNote is packaged in the Microsoft office suite and has features such as shared notebooks, Onedrive integration, and the option to sync or not sync documents across devices. If you need a tool that can do it all when it comes to note taking. OneNote is the jack-of-all-trades tool.

Available on Windows, Android, Mac OSX, and iOS.

Before I conclude this Tech Talk, there are a few honorable mentions that come to mind when it comes to note taking, writing, and reminder applications:

Sticky Notes on Windows 10 gets better and better as time goes on, hidden within the Microsoft operating system, the program just works simply and smoothly.

Apple Notes is simple but has been grown to be closely as versatile as Microsoft OneNote. Apple Notes comes preloaded in Every iOS device with native integration with iCloud, keeping your notes safe and secure.

Microsoft ToDo, although not exactly a note taking or writing app does offer note taking capabilities and is an excellent task manager, I use it often and it is remarkably simple and functional.

Evernote has been widely used for a long time and is certainly a flagship however I have found especially recently that people have been looking for new solutions from Evernote. Bear even offers a feature to migrate Evernote notes to Bear. While it was popular Evernote, like OneNote is a highly versatile all-in-one tool and is still in wide use. Evernote is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OSX.

Microsoft Word is the standard when it comes to writing applications and many use it for notes. I think there’s little I can say that is new on Microsoft Word  since this application has been in wide use since the dawn of Microsoft Office.

Notepad, TextEdit, and Notepad++ still have their place in the world as simple Text Editors, but their age shows. Nonetheless, a simple, tried, and true solution sometimes is all someone needs.

 

 

Be a smart fish in a phishing online world

Phishing has become the hot topic word in security today. It is where the majority of modern malware comes from. Phishing scams according to the Microsoft Safety and Security Center are, “[E]mail messages, websites, and phone calls are designed to steal money.” What Microsoft fails to mention is sometimes information is what hackers are after since it can be held for ransom. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself against the 3 main methods of phishing.

 

Email Phishing

Email phishing functions in some of the most deceiving ways. Official logos can be stolen for use of malicious entities, and email addresses can be spoofed. The best way to protect against this kind of vulnerability is by using a spam filter service such as Barracuda Email Security Service.  Sifting through email otherwise is much more risky. Some ways to detect phishing scams is to check that the email address matches the domain of the sender. For example: Emails from Microsoft should be from @Microsoft.com rather than a domain like @msft-support-hotmail.com. Another way to check is by hovering over links to make sure they are going to what they say they are going to. For example: if a link goes to www.absne.com and when you hover over, another url pops up, this is not a legitimate message. There are many other ways  email phishing can come through. You can learn more and take a free phishing test by Dell Sonicwall here: https://www.sonicwall.com/en-us/phishing-iq-test

Website Phishing

Website Phishing is often associated with pop-ups, but it also comes through links. For example, an ad link on Facebook may lead to a page where malware may exist.To avoid falling for this hook check if there is a small ad indicator (usually labeled ad, adsense, or ads). Use the same procedure with website links as you would use in email links. Be wary of articles along the side or at the bottom of even respectable news sites or local news sites. Look out for attention grabbing phrases such as “You won’t believe what..-“ or “Kanye uses this…-” or “In just 2 days..-“ and similar language. These are designed to be click-bait pulling you to malware or ad-ridden holes of the internet.

 

Phone Phishing

You or someone you know may have received calls that sound like this. “Hi this is Dell tech support, we found there is a virus on your network I need to remote in to remove it”.

These calls often result in the installation of malware and a possible charge for the false service provided by a fraud service provider.

Dell, Microsoft, and other systems manufacturers will not contact you for a malware infection. If your MSP provider were to contact you in regards to an infection you would likely be working with a technician already introduced to you.

In conclusion, it is very possible to avoid phishing scams just by being a smart fish. If it gets hard to determine however never hesitate to ask your IT technician!

Privacy Matters

Privacy. It’s a minimum requested to service providers when on the web. But what does privacy compromise on the internet? There are a few parts to internet privacy you may have heard of before: Cookies, Private browsing (aka incognito in Google Chrome), and VPN connections. But what does this all mean? Does it really protect you? And what is it protecting you from?

Let’s start with what information is collected

Most information collected is used to send ads that are more relevant to you that you will be more likely to click on. This information is extremely valuable and the relevance of these ads and whether they are clicked on has a direct impact on company profits. This of course is unmalicious in nature. The question is what information are they using and whether you want that information collected.

So, let’s talk about the methods used to obtain this information. Some methods are cookies, and fingerprints.

Cookies:

A cookie is a small file that a website downloads to your web browser that collects data about you. Some cookies are necessary, such as an authentication cookie that tracks whether you login or log out of their site. Other cookies are unnecessary such as third-party tracking cookies, which can be issued by a site other than the site you are visiting.

Fingerprints:

Fingerprints in this case isn’t the appendage that extends from your hand. Fingerprints are a new form of tracking technology used on the web and you may have heard little about them. Rather than installing a data file tracking data, your device is identified by operating system and a unique tracking key. This means that your use can be tracked across browsers or applications.

So how do we take some control on what data is being collected on us?

There are a few options:

1. Enable private browsing:

Private browsing clears cookies, trackers, and searches at the end of every session.

2. Disable Trackers that integrate into your Operating System and browser

Your OS plays a key role in allowing fingerprint trackers to work. If you disable tracking in your OS this can can help preserve your autonomy from fingerprint trackers.

Here are some places you can do that:

MacOS

 

Windows Initial Setup

 

3. Use a VPN

A VPN connection (Virtual Private Network) has two possibilities that you may have heard of. One is to connect to an office’s network remotely, the other way is to connect to VPN’s designed to prevent trackers from finding your location. This also creates inconsistency in their data. A good choice for a free and fast and trusted VPN connection is Opera VPN. One detail about using this method is it can disconnect local network resources while running the VPN connection.

 

In conclusion, you are a valuable asset to the internet. Although there are many ways to prevent unwanted data from being tracked, tracking is necessary to use any website. It is best to conclude that your value on the internet is best spent on the applications you feel should be benefited by your presence, and making a point that you value your privacy on the internet does effect change on how the internet evolves.

Top 4 Ways to use Technology to Reach Your 2018 Business Goals

2018 is almost here! Automated Business Solutions is here to provide you with some tips to make sure your office’s technology helps you reach your goals. Here are a few ideas:

 

1. Use productivity apps to help you meet your personal goals in the office

One of my favorite productivity apps is Forest by SeekrTech. If you’re anything like me, you may easily be distracted by your phone. When it isn’t productive for you to be using your smartphone, use Forest. With Forest, you can set a timer for how long you need to remain focused on a task outside of your smartphone. If you keep Forest open until the timer runs out you will earn credits and plant a virtual tree. These credits are exchanged to plant real trees in the world. Forest accomplishes this in partnership Trees for the Future. Using Forest makes your productivity time charitable, and rewards you for staying focused. Forest is available for iOS, Android, and now has a Chrome webapp and Firefox addon. You can find out more about Forest at the website at https://www.forestapp.cc/en/

Mindfulness meditation has proven to boost productivity and focus in the workplace and its practice is often a New Year’s resolution of its own. Headspace and Calm. are apps designed to assist with practice of mindfulness. Headspace now comes with business plans and is used by companies like Linkedin, Airbnb, Google, and Spotify. Each app walks you through guided meditations designed to relieve stress, anxiety, and to improve positivity, focus, and energy. Although each comes with a free trial, both require paid addons or subscriptions in order to continually progress with the app.

Calm.
Headspace

If you don’t have a personal goal yet (we won’t tell anyone) there is an app help you find vision and ease to attain it. The TED app gives you access to thousands of videos of TED talks on almost every topic. Speakers offer inspiring and visionary ideas in your area of expertise. If you need motivation, start with the TED app to set your 2018 skyrocketing.

TED app

When using your phone as a productivity tool, use the Outlook app to access your calendar, set reminders, access email from your smartphone. The Outlook app integrates with Office365 so your Outlook webapp, Outlook desktop application, and phone application will always be in sync. Just sign in with your company’s Office365 account and get moving!

Outlook for iOS

 

2. Check your backups

When backups are initially set up they don’t operate under the policy of ‘set it and forget it’! Although your managed services provider may be getting positive backup reports they may not know that you want a new drive backed up, or that the new laptop that came in holds mission critical data. Take the time to think through where some of the most important information is being saved and have your managed services provider check to make sure those areas have backups, If its only a few files that are the most critical such as a Quickbooks file, Barracuda MSP backup may be the best solution for you, if it’s the whole network, ask about our Barracuda Backup appliances, that keep a local copy of your backups on the network and uploads to the cloud to provide high reliability and efficiency in your backups, ABS covers both solutions in our MaxxD plans. Hard drive failures don’t happen often, but when they do, give yourself the peace of mind that you have a backup.

Barracuda Backup Appliance

3. Have your network evaluated for efficiency and security

Your office may be less secure than you think. Hackers and malware creators use phishing methods that, without a careful eye can deceive some of the most vigilant technology users. It’s good to have powerful antivirus on your network to combat viruses and malware but it is better to prevent malware from landing on your network. Using tools such as a Dell Sonicwall firewall or a Barracuda Essentials Email security filter can reduce the risk of malware by more than half.

Sonicwall
Barracuda Essentials

 

4. Have toner replacements ready to go

If you’re looking for greater efficiency from your office in 2018, there is nothing more frustrating than having that efficiency interrupted by a stalled printer, this can leave a whole department down until  that printer is serviced or until toner arrives. You can prevent that from happening by keeping backup toner on hand or if you have a supplies contract sign up to use a tool like FMAudit to make sure your printing supplier is aware when your toner is starting to run low or if a maintenance kit is close to expiring, That way replacements will arrive before you run out.

 

Canon Toner

 

 

 

We hope you can reach every goal you set this coming year.

From all of us at ABS have a Happy New Year!

Encryption: A positive tool, in the right hands

Encryption, We hear the term used often. Some associate it with security and protection. Others with breaches and destruction. It is at the heart of many new problems, solutions, and innovations. But what is encryption? And why can it be seen as either a good or bad thing?

Encryption is the process of converting readable data into unreadable data, only to be made readable again if decrypted with the proper decryption key. It was created to secure the transfers of sensitive data, and has its roots dating back to the enigma machines of World War II (pictured in featured image), cracked by the English computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing. Today encryption is used to protect sensitive data such as banking information, medical records transmissions, and critical business data. But is Encryption a very secure process? And how is it done?

In a nutshell encryption scrambles up data and saves it. The only way the data can be unscrambled is if the user has a decryption key or algorithm to unscramble or decrypt the data. To demonstrate I created a small Python program with a very basic encryption algorithm to demonstrate: click here to learn more.

There are many positive ways encryption can be used. The AES encryption standard is used by the U.S. Government and many business such as Automated Business Solutions MaxxD cloud backup Services. It prevents outsiders from prying in on your personal data. This is especially effective when your data is saved on a space such as the cloud.

But there are some ways encryption can be used negatively. In the case where data is encrypted without access from the proper user such as in ransomware. Ransomware can infiltrate a computer or network through methods such as email phishing, or insecure sites.  Once it infects a system it can encrypt data away from the proper user. By doing this, the virus creator can hold data ransom from a user, withholding the encryption key until a certain amount of money is sent usually via Bitcoin. The best way to secure your network from this type of malicious use of encryption would be through Automated Business Solutions MaxxP protection services, which is powered by Barracuda email filters that prevent phishing scams from ever reaching your network, And MaxxM monitoring services that provide Bitdefender Antivirus and patching services that can provide immunity from a cyber-attack via ransomware.

The last area where we see encryption technology is an area such as Bitcoin, in this area, rather than securing data from other users or accounts, the publicity of the data becomes the security of it. When transactions occur with bitcoin, an encrypted key is assigned to the owner of the coins, only the owner of the coins can decrypt them to their public key to use for transactions.

In conclusion, encryption is a powerful technology. The best way for our networks to survive in an encrypted world is to use the technology effectively.