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The Belmont Blog

Keeping an Eye on the Internet for You, to make sure it doesn't MUCK ABOUT!

6 Million LinkedIn Passwords Stolen - Is Yours Safe?

Last month a Russian Hacker stole 6m LinkedIn passwords and posted them online to prove it.

You may have seen a message from LinkedIn asking you to change your password - that's why. If you want to check for sure whether your password was compromised, security specialists LastPass have launched a service so that you can check.

In any case, it might be wise to change your LinkedIn password in any case.

This is all very embarrasing for LinkedIn, whose share price has dropped as a result of the security breach.

Heere's an infographic that shows the scale of the problem.

LinkedIn Password Hack Infographic

How to Stop Spam Filters Blocking Your Genuine Emails

Belmont is Anti SpamNew spam filtering rules could block your genuine marketing emails, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has warned. You can avoid this if you follow the DMA's 10 Point Action Plan. I will tell you how to get hold of a copy in this blog post.

The amount of spam sent each day continues to increase. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the companies that deliver your email, are constantly working to improve spam filters.

In the past, the focus has been on filtering out "bad" emails. But you've probably noticed that quite a few genuine emails end up in your spam folder.

So ISPs have been working on new ways to filter spam to avoid these "false positives". The focus is shifting towards rewarding “good” mail instead. ISPs are starting to use data about how you treat your emails to decide which ones you want and which ones you don't.

This will have a dramatic effect on deliverability for businesses that send out bulk marketing emails. Unless you follow the DMA's recommendations, you could find that fewer and fewer of your legitimate emails are received by your customers, as more and more of them go straight into spam folders.

Here at Belmont we welcome the new rules and we hope that they will make life harder for spammers and people who do email marketing badly. We really hate spam, because it gives legitimate email marketing a bad name. It gets in the way of genuine marketing emails that people want to receive.

Research shows that plenty of people want to hear from businesses by email. More people are opting in to email lists than ever before. If your customers want to receive your emails, it's important that they don't get caught up in spam filters. So you must act now to ensure that you are not caught out by the changes that are happening.

Belmont Mail customers don't need to worry about the technical aspects of ensuring good deliverability. The servers we use are powered by dotMailer, one of the UK's largest Email Service Providers.

DotMailer are at the forefront of email marketing, and help the DMA to devise the standards for deliverability. Their servers are already configured and optimised to achieve maximum deliverability.

However, if you're not yet a Belmont client, you would be wise to act now. The DMA has produced a White Paper on Email Deliverability to explain the impact of the changes.

It includes a 10 Point Action List which explains the actions you must take to make sure that your email deliverability remains high.

Download a copy of the DMA White Paper on Email Deliverability now.

Internet Crackdown

The End of File Sharing Site MegauploadLess than 24 hours after Wikipedia's SOPA protest, the FBI closed down a file-sharing site, depriving legitimate users of their files in the process.

Megaupload, the 91st most popular site on the Internet, was notorious for allowing file-sharing of pirated content, but the FBI crackdown has led to tens of thousands of legitimate users losing their own content, perhaps permanently.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit digital rights advocacy and legal organization based in the United States, has weighed in on behalf of users to try and negotiate the release of data from Megauploads server hosts, who have not been paid since the FBI freezed Megaupload's assets.

Apart from the obvious lessons learned about the folly of storing your files in the cloud without a backup, this raises interesting questions about the legality of this sort of operation. Already, there is talk of legitimate users taking legal action against the US authorities for the denial of access to their files.

The Megaupload takedown followed a public spat between the site and Universal Music after a video in favour of Megaupload's service featuring many prominent stars of US music including Will.i.am and Alicia Keys was published on YouTube. Universal successfully lobbied YouTube into taking the video down - even though there was nothing illegal about the video itself and it did not contain any pirated content.

It seemed that they were particularly upset to see such mainstream artists - the people that the industry routinely claims are most hurt by file-sharing - apparently endorsing the practice.

In a revenge attack following the demise of Megaupload, the hackers organisation Anonymous temporarily closed the websites of the US Justice Department and Universal Music with a "denial of service" attack. The websites of the FBI and the Motion Picture Association of America's websites were also attacked in what is believed to be the largest ever attack of this kind, reflecting the growing anger at the creeping censorship of the internet that is clearly underway.

This is the shape of things to come - even without the controversial SOPA and PIPA legislation, large corporations and US authorities are already collaborating to take down not only pirated content, but legitimate, lawful content as well.

Wikipedia Blackout in Protest at SOPA

Wikipedia Blacks out Home Page in Protest at SOPA and PIPAIf you have tried to use Wikipedia today, you will have found the site locked in protest at the proposed US SOPA and PIPA legislation.

 

Wikipedia are concerned that these two Acts, which are billed as anti-piracy measures, are drafted in a way that "infringes free expression while harming the Internet". 

 

In a protest aimed at highlighting the risks in the legislation, raising awareness and promoting discussion about the Acts, Wikipedia blacked out their website for 24 hours starting at midnight today. Instead of their information pages, they provided a link to an explanation of why SOPA and PIPA are bad news for everyone except big media companies, and urged people to contact their elected representatives to protest.

 

Other high-profile companies joined in the protest, including Google who self-censored their home page in the US and provided a link for visitors to sign a petition to Congress.

 

Even though this legislation is being proposed in the US, if successful it will have far-reaching implications for free speech on the Internet across the whole world.

Google's Self-Censored Homepage

 

Campaigning organisation Avaaz has already gained almost 1.5 million signatures on their petition against SOPA, which we urge you to sign today. Even if you are a UK citizen, you can call upon your MP and the Foreign Secretary to oppose this legislation. You can contact your MP very easily here, and send an email to William Hague here.

 

There is also a UK specific petition which you can sign to send your message of protest to the UK Government.

 

If you value the freedom and independence of sites like Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and YouTube, and your right to access whatever content you want on the Internet, then don't sit by and do nothing - take action and join the protest now.

Why US Anti-Piracy Laws are Everyone's Business

The Worst Part of Censorship is XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXThe US is proposing legislation that will undermine the freedom of sites like Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet ever. 

 

SOPA would give US courts the power to take down any website accused of practicing or aiding piracy. Whilst this might seem like a good thing, critics allege that the legislation has been too broadly worded, leading to draconian shut-downs of any site that studios and record labels didn't like. 

 

The SOPA legislation is THE MOST EVIL proposal for the Internet since its invention. It would make all website owners liable for all content posted on their sites. That means that if someone posts a libellous Facebook message about someone else, Facebook would be liable. If someone posts an inaccurate Wikipedia entry, Wikipedia would be liable. If someone uploads a pirated YouTube video, YouTube would be liable.

 

This is like making the Post Office liable for what people send in the post, or BT liable for what people say on the phone. It's absolute nonsense. In the words of blogger "memcpy", who has written a summary of the SOPA legislation, "SOPA is disguised as an anti-piracy bill ..... The bill is, in actuality, designed to obliterate free speech on the internet and allow media publishing companies to commercialize everything." (You can also view a 2-minute video summarising SOPA here.)

 

The legislation means that if a website infringes copyright, ISPs will be required to return an empty response if the web address is entered into a browser. The risk of being taken offline and facing mutli-million pound lawsuits would mean that sites like Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube would cease to operate as they do now. 

 

In their place, you can expect to see corporate-sponsored sites which replaced freedom of speech with marketing messages. Coming to a computer-screen near you in the very near future if this legislation gets through!

 

Many big names have spoken out against these proposals. In an open letter published in several US newspapers, the founders of Google, Flickr, Yahoo, YouTube, PayPal, Wikipedia, Twitter and eBay wrote that the legislation would "give the US government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran". Facebook, AOL, Mozilla, LinkedIn, Sony, Electronic Arts and Nintendo also oppose the legislation.

 

You may think this legislation won't affect you because it's in the US and we live in Britain - but US prosecutors are already applying for extradition orders against British citizens for breach of US copyright. If they are successful, British student Richard O'Dwyer faces a five-year prison sentence.

 

Mr O'Dwyer hasn't been to America since he was five years old, his website was hosted in the UK and he has never posted any copyrighted content. But because his site allowed people to find copyrighted content on other sites, the US think that he should be sent over there and jailed. That is not even a criminal offence in the UK, the country of his birth where he lives.

 

SOPA would make breach of copyright a felony under US law, making such extradition orders easier to enforce. The penalties are completely disproportionate to the "crime". In 2009, a US court awarded $1.9 million in damages to record companies against a single individual for downloading 24 songs. It is inconceivable that the record companies suffered losses of almost $80,000 per song.

 

HERE'S THE MOST SINISTER TRUTH OF ALL!!

 

The media companies who have to date spent over $100 million lobbying in favour of SOPA have also been encouraging people to pirate their content, distributing pirating software and explaining how to use it to breach copyright for over a decade! This video makes very interesting viewing, if you can stand the annoying presenter (like Michael Moore on speed).

 

Yes, that's right, companies like CBS, Disney, Warner and Microsoft have been actively encouraging pirating of their own material for years. In some cases, they were simultaneously suing other organisations whilst using their pirating services. CBS even has a website, CNET, which promotes downloading MP3s and has a search engine that enables users to do it.

 

Why would they do that? Firstly, because they have made hundreds of millions of dollars from doing it, and secondly because it enables their lobbyists to create the impression with US legislators that there is widespread copyright infringement in order to gain control over what is broadcast on the Internet.

 

There is a glimmer of hope here - this strategy could just backfire, because by promoting the software to enable copyright infringement, the companies could find themselves liable, not only for their own copyright infringement, but for the loss of income to the artists whose content they were allowing to be pirated.

GoDaddy in Embarrassing U-Turn over Online Piracy


People power has forced an embarrasing about turn for the US hosting company GoDaddy. After the company announced it's support for the controversial SOPA anti-piracy laws, a mass GoDaddy Boycott was launched, forcing the company not only to drop it's support for the Act, but to begin actively opposing it.

Many big name companies have spoken out against the Act, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo, but GoDaddy stood almost alone in announcing their support for the legislation. In the first two days of the boycott, over 37,000 domains were transferred away from GoDaddy. They responded with a massive PR and advertising campaign, announcing their embarrasing u-turn.

 

The final straw seems to have been the announcement by LolCat guru Ben Huh, of icanhascheezburger.com fame that the company would transfer over 1,000 domains away from GoDaddy if they continued their support. Meanwhile, GoDaddy had switched off comments on their blog because of the overwhelming negative response that they were getting.

 

Anyone who thinks that GoDaddy can be trusted after this fiasco is surely deluded. The company has revealed it's true colours - pro-censorship, anti-internet freedom, doesn't care what its customers think, and will cynically change it's stance 180o to protect itself. At the very least, if they are going to make such a bold stance, they should stick to their values and tough it out.

 

For the record, Belmont strongly opposes the SOPA legislation, and if anyone wants to transfer their hosting from GoDaddy to Belmont, we will add the rest of your term with GoDaddy to your first year's hosting with us absolutely free of charge. Simply contact us for further details.

Web Pages are Getting Fatter

The average web page today is 33% bigger than in 2010, according to the HTTP Archive, who bother to monitor such things. The reason is probably that as broadband speeds increase, websites can handle more graphics of better quality.

 

However, with more and more users accessing the web through mobile devices with lower bandwidth, and with Google and other search engines beginning to take more notice of page load speeds, website owners would be wise to consider reducing the size of their web pages.

Which Browser is Best?

Google's Chrome browser overtook Firefox recently to become the second most popular internet browser after Internet Explorer, according to news reports. Chrome had almost 26% of the market, compared to Firefox's 25%.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to be the most popular browser with 40% of the market, although it has been in long-term decline following previous versions that have been plagued with bugs and errors. Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner recently described IE6 as "dead", which was music to the ears of web developers, who have been trying to kill it for years!

So if you're choosing which browser to use, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three most popular browsers?

Chrome

Strengths

  • Large viewing area
  • Very fast

Weaknesses

  • Has trouble running some scripts, so some websites don't run properly
  • Displays an error message that says "Aw, snap!" if it crashes, which may make you want to smash your monitor in

Firefox

Strengths

  • Probably the most stable browser
  • Gives the most accurate and reliable rendering of websites
  • Open source - so no anti-competitive protectionism or corporate agendas to pursue

Weaknesses

  • Mozilla tend to bring out major upgrades too frequently - 4 new versions in 2011 alone
  • Annoying habit of automatically installing updates on opening without asking first - very rude

Internet Explorer

Strengths 

  • Good for downloading other browsers

Weaknesses

  • Painfully slow
  • After the dismal performance of previous versions, who can trust Microsoft to have tracked down all the bugs?
  • IE10 won't support Flash, and despite what the Apple Corporation and its legion of sycophants and Microsoft think, many people still want to view Flash on websites

For everyday use, Belmont recommends Google Chrome. It's fast, it looks good and it's uncluttered interface gives you the maximum possible viewing area. Download and install a copy now.

For web developers, the browser of choice is Firefox, with its faithful rendering and splendid range of excellent development tools.

Twitter Predicts the Stock Market

Twitter predicts stock market movementsResearchers have discovered that the mood of the general public, as reflected by Twitter, can predict the direction of stock market movements.

The discovery was made by accident after researchers decided to monitor Twitter feeds to see how the public mood responded to changes in the stock market. Using aggregating software to automatically monitor the frequency of positive or negative words and sentiments in millions of random Twitter feeds, they wanted to see whether fluctuations in the market made us all more or less happy.

However, to their surprise they discovered that our mood swings occur 3-4 days in advance of corresponding swings in the values of stocks & shares. The theory goes that as all analysts have access to the same information on a particular investment (insider trading aside), whether they overvalue or undervalue stocks depends not on their financial wizardry, but on something much more mundane - their general mood.

The correlation between the mood of the public and the next change in the stock market is around 86%, which is enough to make a big difference. An unnamed financial institution has been quick to take advantage of the new technology. By basing their investment strategy on the information about general levels of positivity and confidence, they have been able to outperform the market by "a significant margin".

Happy Twit

Although it may seem astonishing, really this research is confirming something that we already suspected - that the value of markets has very little to do with the underlying performance of the economy or the skill of the traders, and everything to do with subjective levels of confidence and optimism.

So come on, cheer up! And then blether on all over Twitter about how good you feel - you'll be doing your bit for the economic recovery.

When is Cyber Monday?

Everyone knows that Christmas is the busiest time for retailers both online and off - but when is the busiest day for online retailers?

Although each of likes to believe that we are individual and unique, human beings are basically herd animals, and in large numbers our behaviour is extremely predictable. For the last few years, the busiest day for online sales has been the same. It's the day on which UK shoppers spend a million pounds a minute on the Internet.

Surprisingly, whilst offline retailers are usually busier at the weekend, the busiest online shopping day is on a Monday. It has become known in the e-commerce world as "Manic Monday" or "Cyber Monday". So when is Cyber Monday? And why is it so predictable that more people will shop online on that day than on any other?

Cyber Monday occurs when it does because it is the first Monday after the last payday of the year - so it's simply the week when people are feeling most flush as they fritter away their disposable income on gifts for others. People want to shop as soon as possible so that gifts arrive in time to be wrapped and, in some cases, posted in time for Christmas.

Since online retailing began, every year has broken the previous year's records for online sales. PayPal have predicted this year that online sales will soar by up to 60%, with the peak being expected on Cyber Monday - last year's was the busiest ever.

This year's Cyber Monday is 28th November. Online retailers would be wise to organise promotions and special deals around this date, and promote them to their customers using well-planned email marketing and social media campaigns, in order to grab their share of the massive amount of money that will be changing hands in just a few weeks time.  

Another Record Christmas for UK Online Retailers

Online retailers have had another record Christmas. While High Street retailers suffered in the snow, online sales were up by 25% over 2009. By contrast, offline sales were up by just 2% on the previous year.

However, despite these high levels of growth, experts predict that in 2011 online sales will continue to see double-digit growth.

This time last year, online sales were predicted to grow over the full year by 13%, but actually increased by 18%. This level of growth is expected to continue throughout 2011 despite continuing uncertainty about the UK economy, which is expected to hit consumer demand. Retailers who are not already online could do well by expanding onto the internet.

UK shoppers spent £6.8bn online in December alone (source:IMRG). Boxing Day was the busiest online shopping day of the year, with sales of over £300m, and even Christmas Day saw sales of over £150m.

The highest growth this Christmas was seen in clothing, which grew by 40% as everyone bought more clothes to combat the harsh weather, and alcohol at 36% as we all got properly stuck in to the party season.

Nothing like a new coat and a few tipples to take the edge of the winter chill!

Clear Improvement in UK Online Job Market

It's good news for recruitment consultants as the Monster Job Index recorded an 11% year-on-year increase in online job demand.

Strongest growth was in Transport & Logistics, IT and Marketing, PR & Media. Sadly, the Banking & Finance sector slipped into decline, reflecting ongoing uncertainty surrounding the industry. So spare a thought for the poor bankers!

There was a slight slowdown in growth during December, which may have been caused by the weather, but could also mean that employers are holding on to see how 2011 shapes up before committing to new recruitment.

If that's true, expect to see continued growth as those jobs are advertised in the early part of the year.

Click here to read the full Monster Employment Index report.