Aug 232017
What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is used primarily for the purposes of remote access and protection of confidential data. In particular cases, it can be imperative for a small business to use a VPN to cut costs and save time. A VPN allows users to send information privately on a public network like the internet and have remote access to other devices.  How does a VPN Work? In simple terms, a VPN establishes a point to point connection between two points and allows a user to access another computer from their own, usually using tunnelling protocols. In order to protect your data and to stop other users from intercepting the data during transmission, the traffic is often encrypted with cryptographic network protocols like SSH or IPsec. In the past, encryption ciphers were simpler, but as computers have advanced to generate complex ciphers, it is difficult for humans to manually decode them. Levels of complexity in the encryption vary depending to what level a user wishes to protect their data, but usually a simple SSH tunnel allows remote and protected access from one device to another.  Why Would a Small Business Want a VPN? Businesses often use a VPN as an auxiliary tool to support certain aspects of the company: A VPN can be used to protect private company data, like company records or client information, using traffic encryption, to stop hackers from stealing information like client numbers or identities. Remote access could be used in many different ways; an employee working from home can remotely access a company computer using a VPN. If a member of the business is travelling, they could use the VPN to connect to work or home computers while they are travelling, so they don’t have to stop working. If a business has various sites that all use LAN networks, a VPN allows remote access between these sites, so that a worker in one site can access data from the networks in various sites, which is faster than asking someone to send them data. Setting up a VPN There are various ways to establish a VPN connection: Manually using configuration software like Putty to make a secure point to point connection that can be used repeatedly. On mobile devices, apps like OpenVPN can be used to keep searches anonymous by encrypting traffic. Commercial software can be purchased from (more…)
Jul 122017
Steven Heap/123RF By Will Nicol — Posted on July 4, 2017 6:30 am If you follow tech or financial news, you’ve probably seen the name “Ethereum” popping up over the last couple years, often in connection with bitcoin. Ethereum is a rising star in the world of cryptocurrencies, entirely digital forms of currency that grew in popularity after the creation of bitcoin by a person or group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Demand for Ethereum is so high that it may even be driving up the price of graphics cards, as miners try to generate as much currency as they can. What is Ethereum exactly, and what does it mean for the future of cryptocurrency (and maybe society)? Here’s the rundown. To start — what is a cryptocurrency? People often refer to Ethereum as a cryptocurrency, but that isn’t precisely true. It is a platform that allows individuals to conduct transactions and draw up contracts, using a currency called “ether.” To understand what distinguishes Ethereum from a cryptocurrency like bitcoin, it helps to understand what a cryptocurrency is, as well as the concept of a blockchain. A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency created through encryption. A cryptocurrency has no physical form — like a banknote or coin — and it is not issued by a central bank or governmental authority. Units of cryptocurrency exist as data on the internet, and are created and managed through something called a blockchain. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger, shared amongst any number of computers. When transactions occur, they are recorded in blocks; in order for these blocks to go into the ledger, they must be validated by a certain number of computers on the blockchain network. Crucially, the ledger exists, in the same form, for everyone on the network. Anyone can can look at to see a complete history of every transaction that has occurred, and any changes would be visible to everyone. The individuals who validate the transactions — which they do by having their computers solve complex computational problems — are called miners. Mining is a surprisingly intense activity, as our guide explains, that requires powerful hardware and a lot of planning. As a reward for their help in validating blocks, miners are given rewards. This is typically a specific cryptocurrency; Bitcoin miners receive bitcoin, while Ethereum miners receive ether. When you send someone an amount of cryptocurrency, a digital signature is (more…)