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Why you should care about your digital footprint

In this age of digital and technological transformation, information about anything and everything is readily available online. While we may reap the benefits of this more often than not, we must still remain vigilant and take active steps to protect ourselves and the people around us. 

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With how widespread the use of technology and the internet has become, it is practically impossible to come across someone that hasn’t used Google at least once in their lifetime. Likewise, people who don’t own a single social media account are far and few between; and while access to such websites have their perks, their accessibility in itself could easily lead to one’s downfall.

In a presentation entitled “Online Privacy and Risk Management” by OSINT Intelligence Analyst Ritu Gill held during Trend Micro’s annual cybersecurity conference DECODE 2021, Gill points out common habits of internet users that could be threatening their safety. Gill also shares instances when we unknowingly leave traces of our identity and ‘digital breadcrumbs’ that hackers could easily use to access sensitive information.

While the conference is primarily attended by cybersecurity professionals, students looking to learn about the field are still welcome. “The various panel discussions and presentations are designed to cater to different sectors as part of our efforts to educate vulnerable audiences and raise awareness on online safety and security,” said Alma Saturnino-Alvarez, Director of Threat Hunting at Trend Micro.

To better protect ourselves and minimize our digital footprint, here are some DOs and DON’Ts from Intelligence Analyst Gill herself that can apply to everyone –expert or otherwise. 

1. Be careful when posting photos of things that could contain sensitive information.

While this may be obvious and self-explanatory, it still persists to be a common mistake of social media users. Gill shares that even when covering up flight information and ticket numbers, an exposed barcode or QR code alone could already make your personal information (such as destination, boarding gate, address, and even bank information) available to anyone that knows where to look (or anyone that’s used an online barcode reader).

P.S. This also goes for photos of packages bought from online stores and vaccination cards.

2. 20 questions? This or that? Favorite ____? Be mindful of the information you publish online.

What may look like an innocent game to get to know people better, might actually be the key for hackers to unlock your personal data. These games, according to Gill, are prime examples of oversharing sensitive data online. Answers to seemingly innocent questions like “What street did you grow up on?” or “Name of first pet?” could provide hackers with the answers to security questions commonly asked for when securing an email address or bank account. 

Posting or publishing information like addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays without any security settings can unlock a mine full of data for hackers. 

3. Don’t click on suspicious links even and especially if it states that you’re now supposedly the heir of a recently deceased monarch and a billion times richer. 

Being on the receiving end of a suspicious text or email is something most of us have probably experienced at one point in our lives. While some links come accompanied by intriguing messages or seemingly automated “official” looking notifications, they’re no different from those obviously sent to scam in that one click on the link could automatically infect your entire system. Gill suggests using URL or website checkers like urlscan.io to get a read on where the link came from and to trace malicious activities from the source.

Remember to ALWAYS think before you click. 

4. Everything you post online builds your digital footprint. Be aware and thoughtful of what you post and how it can potentially endanger yourself and others.

Always exercise caution when posting online, especially if your accounts are not on private. Aside from refraining from posting phone numbers, addresses, and bank information avoid geotagging locations you are presently in or posting while on vacation. Such information could make people aware that your house is empty at the time or may compromise the location of you or your family. Gill warns to keep in mind that privacy settings don’t always work and sites may be “leaky” so manual precautions like these could save your life.

You have control over the information you release online; therefore, do so responsibly. 

5. Utilize the resources available to you to build your security and stay secure. 

While it may seem taxing, simply going through and adjusting your privacy settings could make a big difference. Gill advises to use strong passwords (not based on the names of pets or loved ones), turn on two-factor authentication, and install the latest software and app updates on your devices. Additional steps you can take include using a password manager, encrypted email, and a paid Virtual Private Network (VPN). Securing ourselves online can also be as easy as removing old accounts that are no longer in use and deleting software or unnecessary third-party apps from devices. 

Beyond securing social media accounts, Gill also reminds us to think about our online search habits and the search engines we use. Even on incognito, websites and service providers can still access search histories. Sites like coveryourtracks.eff.org, amiunique.org, and whoer.net can easily show how your browser appears to other sites. Using browser extensions like HTTPS Everywhere or Privacy Badger can help further adjust your privacy settings and keep you protected.

In this age of digital and technological transformation, information about anything and everything is readily available online. While we may reap the benefits of this more often than not, we must still remain vigilant and take active steps to protect ourselves and the people around us. 

To quote Gill’s final words, “Don’t be a soft target. Take control of your online privacy and security”.

Tech & Innovation

Social media can be a lifesaver for international new ventures

Newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

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The use of social media can be beneficial to international new ventures and help them to survive. This is according to a study – Early Internationalization in the Digital Context: A Capabilities-based Approachfrom the University of Vaasa, Finland, which also showed that newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

For any international new venture, acquiring enough foreign market knowledge can be a matter of life and death. According to Emmanuel Kusi Appiah’s doctoral dissertation, an international new venture can use social media, and then employ ambidextrous learning in its knowledge development process. Ambidextrous learning means using two diverse ways of learning: exploratory learning and exploitative learning.

Exploratory learning helps the company to discover new threats and opportunities in its environment. Exploitative learning, on the other hand, utilises the current market information the firm already has.

“A company can use social media for exploitative learning, but also for exploratory learning to survive in foreign markets. The company can also switch between these two approaches,  according to the situation and company strategy. The use of social media has a positive impact on ambidextrous learning,” says Emmanuel Kusi Appiah.

Firms can benefit from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in their networking efforts. In addition, social media tools such as Buzzsumo, Tagboard and AgoraPulse can provide the necessary knowledge about customers, competitors, and existing and new markets, thereby reducing the difficulties a new firm would otherwise face in foreign markets. Acquiring knowledge is usually more difficult when a firm is new, especially if it is new and foreign.

Ambidextrous learning can help firms to combine new external knowledge with existing knowledge and prevent inefficiency and short-sightedness. It can also help firms to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Emmanuel Kusi Appiah reminds us that applying ambidextrous learning is not straightforward. Entrepreneurs and companies that are planning to move into a new market internationally need to understand the drivers and mechanisms that support ambidexterity. The dissertation provides valuable information regarding this aspect.

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Tech & Innovation

Eastern Communications announces holiday deals

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

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The holiday season is right around the corner and it is the busiest time for many enterprises, catching up with the demand of customers. While there have been ups and downs that helped strengthen various sectors, businesses have gradually returned to normalcy in their day-to-day operations.

With the steady demand for connectivity and ICT solutions in the new normal, premier telecommunications company Eastern Communications treats SMEs with its latest holiday deals to help them further emerge in the most anticipated season of the year.

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

Business Boosters

Recommended for retail and e-commerce start-ups and SMEs, Eastern Communications offers Business Boosters to new subscribers of the Eastern Fiber1 or IDS Select plan until December 31, 2022. Aside from the high-speed internet service, businesses are eligible for up to Php3,000 worth of Lazada Gift Cards. With these gift vouchers, you can now check out the business devices on your wish lists!

Festive Freebies

They say great things come in threes! For businesses in Metro Manila, new Eastern Fiber1 subscribers can choose this promo to receive exclusive freebies such as three months of free monthly service fee, a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and a Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security License.

This promo is recommended for emerging companies that have plans for expansion. With integrated ZTNA and a world-class next-generation endpoint product, the free Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security Solution is perfect for remote working setups. Don’t miss out on this exclusive holiday promo until December 31, 2022 only.

Empowering business to emerge from the pandemic, Eastern Communications has been reaching out to support SMEs throughout the year with its expansion efforts, promotions, and award-winning E-Huddle webinars, and aims to continue doing so in 2023.

For more information about Eastern Communications’ products and services as well as promos, visit www.eastern.com.ph/ or call 5300-7000 (Metro Manila) or 0919-081-7788 & 0917-300-7788 (Regional).

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Tech & Innovation

Food advertisements on Twitch can lead to cravings, purchases

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products.

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Food advertisements on social media are pervasive, but research has not yet comprehensively documented the effects of these ads on adolescents and young adults. A new study by researchers at Penn State and Dartmouth College found that advertisements on the social media platform Twitch can lead to cravings for and purchasing of nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks among some adolescents and young adults.

Twitch is a streaming platform that allows viewers to have conversations while sharing a common video feed. It offers channels across a broad range of topics including travel, sports, food, art and music. But videogame play is the original — and by far most common — use of the platform.

The use of Twitch is growing rapidly, with over six billion hours of content viewed on the platform during the first three months of 2021. This represented a 97% increase over the same period in 2020.

“People can be baffled by Twitch, but anyone old enough to have played home videogames as a teenager likely had a similar experience,” said Travis Masterson, assistant professor of nutrition, Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and co-author of the research. “You would go over to a friend’s house after school, or on Saturday morning, and if they were trying to get through a particularly tough part of a videogame, you might sit and watch them play. The videogame was an excuse for a conversation. This was certainly true for me. Twitch offers the same opportunity to hang out in a community with your friends, but now it is all online.

“Endorsement deals on Twitch can be worth many millions of dollars, and younger people — who are always attractive to advertisers — are moving their eyeballs away from television into these more interactive forms of entertainment, often to Twitch specifically,” added Masterson.

The researchers noted that, as the popularity of Twitch increased, advertising for nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks became more common on the platform. The research team, which included Jennifer Emond, associate professor of biomedical data science and pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and Catherine Pollack, Emond’s former graduate student, wanted to understand how advertising on Twitch affected the cravings and purchasing habits of viewers.

The team recruited 568 Twitch users through Reddit. Participants were predominantly male and either non-Hispanic White or Asian. Using three existing instruments for measuring food cravings, the researchers sought to understand whether they could predict which people were more susceptible to food advertising.  

In a publication in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the researchers demonstrated that some Twitch viewers are more likely than others to remember, crave and purchase brands that they see advertised on the streaming platform. The researchers also found that three questions from an instrument called the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory could help identify members of this “highly susceptible” group. Highly susceptible viewers endorsed the statements, “I want food or drinks that I see others eating,” “I want to eat when people talk about food” and “I notice restaurant signs/logos.” 

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products. Masterson said that the researchers were concerned that people who are highly susceptible to advertising and who spend multiple hours per day on Twitch could be prone to buying foods that undermine their health.

“In academic research, we are playing catch up with food advertisers,” Masterson explained. “Advertising is pervasive for a reason: It works, and companies understand how it works. People tend to understand that children are susceptible to advertising messages, but we often like to think that once we grow up and start making our own decisions, adults are immune to advertising’s power. But advertising didn’t grow to be a $100 billion-plus industry in the United States because it is ineffective. Advertising works on us, and on a subset of us, it is especially effective.”

Masterson added that academic researchers need to understand consumer behavior as well as advertisers, so that society can determine what advertising is or is not safe in different environments.

“This is a single study, and these results cannot be generalized to everyone, but the study still has broad implications,” said Masterson. “This research shows that some people are highly susceptible to advertising and that the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory can help researchers identify those vulnerable people.

“I am a gamer. I am on Twitch and am part of these communities,” Masterson continued. “It bothers me when I am watching League of Legends, for example, and I see a branded candy ad in the middle of the game. It bothers me because I know that these ads affect people, including me. This work provides researchers with one tool for understanding who is most affected, and in the long run, that could promote greater health for gamers and everyone who is exposed to food advertising.”

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