Is oil price crash secret US war on Russia?

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lower oil prices- leading to falling petrol prices have been great for Western consumers but are they also a secret US weapon against Russia?

Is oil price crash secret US war on Russia?That’s the conclusion drawn by New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman, who says the US and Saudi Arabia, whether by accident or design, could be pumping Russia and Iran to brink of economic collapse.

Despite turmoil in many of the world’s oil-producing countries – Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria – prices are hitting lows not seen in years, Friedman writes.

Analysts identify a number of possible reasons for the steep drop – increased US production, slowing economies in Europe and China and steady production from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Rather than look at the causes, however, Friedman says to look at the result – budget shortfalls in Russia and Iran – and what it means.

Who benefits? He asks. The US wants its Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia to have more bite. Both the Saudis and the US are fighting a proxy war against Iran in Syria.

“This is business, but it also has the feel of war by other means: oil,” he writes.

As for Iran, he writes, an oil price of anything less than $100 (£62.41) a barrel will create onerous budget deficits and undermine the nation’s position in ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West. The closing price on Wednesday was $81.40.

One can only hope that the oil sheikhs will come to their senses, curtail production and stabilize prices at least at $90 per barrel”In Russia, the media have taken notice.

“The Russian economy’s dependence on energy resources, gas and oil first and foremost, is often compared to drug addiction; people say that it is ‘on the oil needle’,” write the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta (translated by BBC Monitoring).

“In this case, dealings to decrease oil prices on the global market can justifiably be compared to triggering agonies that are no less painful than withdrawal from a drug. And this is being done with obvious geopolitical aims to undermine the country’s economy and its influence on the global arena.”

Nikolay Makeyev and Konstantin Smirnov write in Moskovskiy Komsomolets that they fear a more severe replay of the 2008-09 economic crisis: “One can only hope that the oil sheikhs will come to their senses, curtail production and stabilise prices at least at $90 per barrel.”

Friedman’s neo-Cold War theories aren’t the only speculation making the rounds at the moment, however. For some analysts, the oil drop has everything to do with increased US production threatening Saudi Arabia’s standing as the pre-eminent oil-producing nation.

That’s changed, however, with the 70% increase in US production over the last six years.

What’s clear is that the sharp drop in oil prices is creating very distinct winners and losers on the world stage. What’s not so clear is who, if anyone, is pulling the strings.

It’s human nature to speculate about the schemes of behind-the-scenes players when the stakes are so high. It can also be comforting – a much preferable alternative to a system where the health of nations is determined by the random permutations of fate and the chaotic fluctuations of an uncontrollable market.

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Online music videos to have age ratings

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Prime Minister has announced a scheme to put age ratings on online music videos.

Online music videos to have age ratings

David Cameron mentioned it during a speech about families and admits he has banned his own children from watching certain content online.

Only three of the major UK record labels- Sony, Warner and Universal have signed up to the scheme, alongside YouTube and Vevo and will begin in October with the British Board of Classification.

Parents and celebrities have often spoken out about music videos, calling many overtly sexual and lyrics too explicit. In 2011 Gary Barlow, a father to three children, criticised “sexual” imagery in many videos.

Singer Katy B who is signed to Columbia Records told Newsbeat she thinks the ratings move is a good idea.

“I think that’s amazing. I think it’s good. I don’t know why they haven’t done that sooner,” she said. “I think that people should be able to express themselves the way that they want to.”

Because artists like Rihanna, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are signed to the American arm of the big labels, they will not be included in the new age classifications.

The body which represents the UK’s biggest record labels- the BPI, says it agrees with the government that “content is made available to the public in a responsible way”.

“The BPI and its members are therefore working with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and with the support of government on a pilot scheme that will trial age ratings for music videos released online through the UK”.

How it will work is still being developed, but the scheme will see UK record labels voluntarily provide content which will then be rated suitable for 12 or above.

The classification age categories will be 12, 15 or 18.

The BPI goes on: “Labels will then include this data with a ‘parental advisory’ style alert in its feed to the Digital Service Providers so that users, including parents, can make a more informed viewing decision.”

Vevo have signed up to the pilot but in March 2012 but doubted that such a system could work as  many American artists- known for being racier will not be certified.

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The dangers of the Connected Home

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Monday, August 18, 2014

The Internet of Things (IoT)  lets us communicate and connect via a myriad of different technologies.

The dangers of the Connected HomeThe IoT promises to  let stuff, devices and gadgets connect in the same way that humans do via the internet.

Already it is possible to get smart thermostats, fridges, ovens, washing machines, air conditioners, lights, plugs, music players, baby monitors and many more gadgets.

With a net connected oven, it will be possible to ensure your casserole is cooked to perfection as you arrive home hours late rather than dried up and cold because there was no way to communicate with the oven and adjust its timer.

However security- or rather the lack of it is the serious problem.

One of the big issues is that if one wi-fi video camera for example makes itself available to the internet regardless of your firewall, anyone who knows your IP address would be greeted with the login screen for the camera.

With one camera recently tested, entering a default login name and password granted access to the images and sounds the device was capturing. There was no prompt to change these credentials to protect privacy.

Statistics gathered via the Shodan search engine, which catalogues devices and industrial equipment attached to the net, suggests there are more than 120,000 of just this one poorly protected gadget online already.

It was hard to know how many were giving strangers a look into homes up and down the country, they said, as there was no legal and ethical way to probe them.

The vulnerabilities in the devices emerge from the very basic web server software it uses to post images online. That insecure software is currently being used by more than five million gadgets that are also already online.

Researchers from NCC Group managed to take control of several different devices including smart plugs that can be controlled via wi-fi, a wireless music system and a blu-ray DVD player.

The NCC Group said vulnerabilities in a widely used networking system called UPnP helped his team take control of these devices.

UPnP was known to be vulnerable and kits already exist, one of which was written by an NCC Group researcher, that look for devices that use the networking protocol and try different vulnerabilities against them.

Many of the devices used UPnP to reach servers out on the wider net potentially exposing them to attackers.

Built-in passwords that could not be changed made these ripe for exploitation.

Gaining control of these devices was likely to annoy people more than anything else but other work by the company had exposed a more worrying aspect.

“The one that people really get concerned about is the microphone on a smart TV,” he said. “We were able to bug a living room through it. That’s when the internet of things starts to spook people out,” he said. “when your stuff does more than you think it does or ever wanted it to.”

The work that Microsoft and other PC software vendors were doing to harden their code was already making dedicated cyber criminals look elsewhere for targets.

The “ridiculously easy” way it was possible to subvert many smart gadgets was likely to make them a candidate for attack in the near future. There had already been examples of attackers looking to subvert domestic hardware in a bid to grab online banking data.

Filed in Cyberwars- news reviews by Dynamic Solutions, Data Protection, Internet Browsing, Technology Companies, Telephone Marketing Professionals, Uncategorized, WiFi Telephony • Tags: , , , , ,

World’s first smartphone is 20 years old

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Friday, August 15, 2014

IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator was the forerunner of the modern smartphone.

World's first smartphone is 20 years oldThe IBM Simon went on sale to the public on 16 August 1994 and combined mobile phone technology with a wide range of computing features.

To mark the 20th anniversary, London’s Science Museum is putting it on display in its new Information Age gallery.

“The Simon wasn’t called a smartphone back then,” said curator Charlotte Connelly. “But it had a lot of the features we see today. It had a calendar, it could take notes and send emails and messages and combined all of this with a cell phone.”

Weighing 1.1lb, the Simon was not exactly pocket-sized. However, Ms Connelly insisted the design was ahead of its time.  “It looks like a grey block but it’s not as big as you’d imagine,” she said. “It had a stylus and a green LCD screen, which is similar in size to the iPhone 4. In fact, it’s not a bad looking thing.”

IBM’s pioneering product was also the first mobile phone to feature software apps and could be linked up to a fax machine.

It was only available to customers in the United States, operating within a 15 state network and sold around 50,000 models.

The device was particularly popular with members of the business community, who craved a transportable phone that doubled up as a mini-computer.

However, a hefty price tag and limited battery life contributed to its eventual disappearance from the market around two years after its launch.

“It only had an hour’s battery, it was $899 and there was no mobile internet at the time. So it wasn’t very successful,” said Ms Connelly.

The Simon will go on display this October as part of the Information Age exhibition – the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the history of communication and information technology.

More than 800 objects will be on display, illustrating how far communication has come over the past 200 years.

Ms Connelly said the exhibition also acts as a reminder of a different era, free from constant connectivity.

“It does remind us of that time. I definitely enjoy getting away from things and deliberately disconnecting myself,” she said. “There’s something quite nice about that.”

Filed in Dyenamic Solutions, Smart Phones, Tablets, Technology Companies, Telephone Marketing Professionals, Uncategorized, Winning Technologies • Tags: , , ,

UK online spending up by 16% according to Ofcom

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Monday, December 23, 2013

UK shoppers’ online spending increased on average by 16% per person in 2012 compared to 2011- according to the latest data from Ofcom.UK online spending up by 16% according to OfcomThe figures show that the average spend was £1,175 compared to £1,017 the year before. The figure is more than double the average spend per head of other countries in the survey.

According to Ofcom’s research, shoppers in the UK trust online retailers more than shoppers in other countries. The research also suggested that UK online shoppers have greater confidence in the security of the sites they buy from.

Ofcom’s research for online shopping was based on data from IMRG, the industry association for online retail sites.

Ofcom’s annual International Communications Market Report indicates that UK consumers benefit from cheaper access to mobile phones, landline and broadband deals than customers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US.

The proportion of household income spent on communications deals in the UK was 2.3%, compared to 2.5% in the US and 3.4% in Germany, the report said.

“Consumers in the UK are benefiting from one of the world’s most price competitive marketplaces for communication services,” said Ofcom’s director of research, James Thickett.

“Telecoms bills have been falling in real terms in the UK for the past ten years. However, consumers are not just benefiting from cheaper deals – they are also getting much more for less, as the quality and range of telecoms services has expanded hugely in that time,” he added.

Additionally, researchers asked survey respondents if they were aware of 4G mobile services.  The UK had the highest proportion of people who knew about faster mobile speeds, it found. This was unsurprising, given the high level of advertising around this service at the current time, said Ofcom.

If your website needs help with maximising it’s online mobile sales, then please contact us now:
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GCHQ and NSA tracking billions of mobile phones

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost five billion mobile phone location records are logged by GCHQ and NSA every day according to reports the Washington Post.GCHQ and NSA tracking billions of mobile phonesThe data is said to help the NSA track individuals, and map who they know, to aid the agency’s anti-terror work.

The “dragnet surveillance” was condemned by digital rights groups who called for the NSA’s snooping efforts to be reined in.

The huge database built up by the “Five Eyes”- the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand keeps an eye on “hundreds of millions” of mobile phones, said the Post, adding that it let the agency map movements and relationships in ways that were “previously unimaginable”.

It added that the vast programme potentially surpassed any other NSA project in terms of its impact on privacy. Information about the programme was in papers released to the Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The spying agency is said to have accumulated so much data, about 27 terabytes according to leaked papers seen by the Post, that it was “outpacing” the NSA’s ability to analyse the information in a timely fashion.

The analysis, via a computer system called Co-Traveler, was necessary as only a tiny fraction of 1% of the data gathered was actually useful in its anti-terror work, said the paper. The analysis is so detailed that it can be used to thwart attempts to hide from scrutiny by people who use disposable phones or only use a handset briefly before switching it off.

The vast majority of the information gathered is said to come from taps installed on mobile phone networks and used the basic location-information that networks log as people move around. Analysing this data helps the NSA work out which devices are regularly in close proximity and, by implication, exposes a potential connection between the owners of those handsets.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was “staggering” that the NSA could mount such a vast location-logging system without any public debate. The “dragnet surveillance” broke US obligations that require it to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans.

“The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrong-doing, not assembling massive associational databases that, by their very nature, record the movements of a huge number of innocent people,” it added.

Dyenamic Solutions cautions that it isn’t just governments that are snooping on you- don’t forget that Facebook, Google and Apple are watching your every post as well.

Filed in Apple Inc- Dyenamic Solutions review of the online business, Data Protection, Dyenamic Solutions, Facebook, Google, Technology Companies, Uncategorized • Tags: , , , , , ,

Ethics of blocking ads debated

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is it ethical to block adverts online- or are the ads intrusive?
Ethics of blocking ads debatedAccording to one count, 84% of the top 100 websites in the world rely on advertising to generate revenue, utilising the now long-established trade-off: use our website for free, but you need to look at some ads while you do it.

On traditional mediums such as TV and radio, advertising has over time developed into a form of entertainment itself.

But online, evidence suggests we’re far less forgiving. Adblock Plus, the most popular adblocking program on the market, has been downloaded 250 million times, and has around 60 million active users.

Adblock Plus sees its “mission” as being to encourage advertisers, and the websites that carry their material, to rethink how those ads work – minimising discomfort for internet users.

Yet an increasing number of people are questioning whether Adblock Plus’s software is unfairly using its powerful position not just to encourage better ads, but also to build a quite considerable revenue stream of its own.

It’s no understatement to say that most online publishers or advertisers have little time for Adblock Plus – and recently that annoyance has stepped up a notch. Descriptions like “extortion”, “protection racket” and “like the mafia” are all terms being voiced to describe the operation.

Where initially Adblock Plus would block all advertising, it now operates using a whitelist – a collection of, so far, around 150 sites and services whose ads are allowed through the filter.

To get on this whitelist, the advertising has to meet several fairly strict criteria: no animations, don’t get in the way of reading text, and don’t take up more than a third of a page’s width, plus various other things.

Sensible parameters on the face of it, but here’s the rub: for “big” companies that want to be on the whitelist, Adblock Plus demands they pay a fee.

If that fee isn’t paid, advertising is blocked, even if it fits the “acceptable” criteria.  Pay up, in other words, or Adblock Plus will knock-out some of your revenue.

The principles of “acceptable” advertising, as defined by Adblock Plus and its volunteer community:

Around 10% of the companies on the whitelist pay for the privilege and they list Google, Amazon, Yahoo and Reddit as some of the company’s “strategic partners”.

They would not not be drawn on how much they charge, nor do they give up any details on which companies had refused to play ball.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), a UK-based trade association for online and mobile advertisers, released a report earlier this year that hypothesised what it thought an advertising-free internet might look like.

The report argued that if some of the web’s most popular services – excluding shopping – did not carry advertising, users would each need to pay around £44 a month, on top of existing fees, to make up the revenue needed to keep those sites alive.

While the trade association has an obvious motivation behind stressing the importance of advertising, the report does at least highlight how integral that revenue stream is.

Although often descending into a bitter war of words, both sides of the adblocking debate at least agree on one core issue: they want the advertising to be relevant.

The more relevant it is to the consumer the more attractive it is to the advertiser, and it’s more valuable to the web publisher. But targeted advertising requires sophisticated techniques to track users and their browsing habits – a highly-contentious issue, to put it mildly.

Filed in Building Online Sales- news and reviews by Dynamic Solutions, Customer Services, Dyenamic Solutions, Online Advertising UK, Pay As You Go Advertising, Pay Per Click Advertising, Pay Per Sale Marketing, Technology Companies, Uncategorized • Tags: , , , ,

Stolen Facebook, Google passwords dumped online

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013

More than two million stolen passwords used for sites such as Facebook, Google and other web services have been posted online.Stolen Facebook, Google passwords dumped onlineIt is suspected the data was taken from computers infected with malicious software that logged key presses.  It is not known how old the details are – but the experts warned that even out-dated information posed a risk.

The website containing the passwords was discovered by researchers working for security firm Trustwave.

In a blog post outlining its findings, the team said it believed the passwords had been harvested by a large botnet – dubbed Pony – that had scooped up information from thousands of infected computers worldwide.

Often, criminal gangs will use botnets to steal large amounts of personal data, which can then be sold on to others or held to ransom.  In this instance, it was log-in information for popular social networks that featured most heavily.

The site – written in Russian – claimed to offer 318,121 username and password combinations for Facebook.

Trustwave said it had notified the sites and services hit prior to posting the blog entry.

Analysis of the passwords by Trustwave showed a familiar picture – the most popular password, found in the database over 15,000 times, was “123456”.

We have repeatedly warned people and businesses not to use simple passwords. In this day and age of Advanced, Persistent Threats (APTS) it is only a matter of time before you will be hacked. Not if.

Here is a list of the most stupid passwords– if you use any of them, then please change them NOW!


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Black Friday ecommerce passes billion Dollar sales

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday sees $1.2 billion spent by Americans on ecommerce via their desktops.
Black Friday sees $1.2 billion spent on ecommerce via desktopsAmericans have opted for ‘Couch Commerce’ by staying at home, avoiding the crushes and increased on Thanksgiving Day spending.  Apparel & Accessories ranks as the top product category with Amazon being once again the top online retailer.

Due to variation in the 2012 and 2013 holiday shopping calendars with Thanksgiving falling so late this year, current season figures are being compared to last year’s, which contain a full week of heavy post Thanksgiving/Cyber Week buying.

As a result, the season-to-date growth rate is being artificially suppressed in the short term, with the effects likely to normalize as the season progresses. (An alternative comparison to the four weeks preceding Thanksgiving in our blog post of last week: Ecommerce sales forecast for 2013 holiday season shows a growth rate of 24 percent, which overstates the growth trend much in the way the current rate understates the real growth trend.)

Black Friday 2013 (November 29th) saw $1.198 billion in desktop online sales, making it the season’s first billion dollar day and heaviest online spending day to date, while representing a 15-percent increase versus Black Friday 2012. Thanksgiving Day (November 28), while traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 21-percent increase over Thanksgiving Day last year to $766 million.

Amazon Ranks #1 Among Online Retailers on Black Friday
66.1 million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday using a desktop computer, representing an increase of 16 percent versus year ago. Amazon once again ranked as the most visited online retail site on Black Friday, followed by eBay, Walmart, Best Buy and Target.

Most Visited Retailer Properties on Black Friday 2013
Total U.S. – Home & Work Desktop Computers
Source: comScore, Inc.
Retail Property
1     Amazon
2     eBay
3     Walmart
4     Best Buy
5     Target

Apparel & Accessories Leads the Way for Holiday Category Spending

Top Online Product Categories by Dollar Sales in 2013 Holiday Season to Date
Non-Travel (Retail) E-Commerce Spending
Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
Total U.S. – Home & Work Desktop Computers
Source: comScore, Inc.
Category     Share (%) of Online Dollar Sales
Apparel & Accessories               28%
Computer Hardware                  19%
Consumer Electronics                 7%
Consumer Packaged Goods       5%
Shipping Services                       5%
All Other Product Categories      36%

The Apparel & Accessories category is posting particularly strong sales this holiday season as compared to the rest of the year with nearly double its baseline (i.e. January through October) market share while leap-frogging Computer Hardware to be the top-grossing product category. Notably, Computer Hardware is also outperforming its baseline market share for the prior ten months.

Whilst mobile ecommerce has grabbed the headlines- good old fashioned laptops and computer towers still dominate the actual spend figures.

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Ecommerce sales forecast for 2013 holiday season

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Friday, November 29, 2013

14 % ecommerce sales forecast to grow to $48.1 Billion for the 2013 U.S. holiday season.
Ecommerce sales forecast for 2013 holiday season
The first 24 days of November has seen strong desktop online spending with $18.9 billion in sales during the 2013 holiday season. The mobile ecommerce sales are expected to reach $7.1 billion, bringing the total digital ecommerce forecast spend to rise to $55.2 billion.

comScore reported the holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 24 days of the November-December 2013 holiday season, as well as its official spending forecast for the season.

For the holiday season-to-date, $18.9 billion has been spent online using desktop computers, marking a 14-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Tuesday, November 19 has been the heaviest online spending day of the season to date at $963 million. Two other shopping days – Thursday, November 14 and Sunday, November 24 – have also seen at least $900 million in online retail spending.

Black Friday- today and Cyber Monday can both be expected to easily surpass that total, with Cyber Monday already beginning to point toward $2 billion.

The forecast of 14 percent growth for desktop based buying still represents a strong outlook versus last year that highlights the continued channel shift to online. We also expect m-commerce spending growth to contribute about 2 percentage points to that growth rate, meaning that total digital commerce will grow at a rate of nearly 16 percent.

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year in the USA. However this year the 11th November ecommerce sales in China were close.

The day is traditionally when millions of US shoppers descend on stores across the country on the Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday, hoping to save on their Christmas shopping.

Black Friday became the biggest shopping day of the year in 2001 and although it’s often touted as the biggest shopping day of the year, the day didn’t earn the designation consistently until the 2000s.

That’s because, for many years, the rule wasn’t that Americans loved deals, it was that they loved procrastinating. So up until that point, it was the Saturday before Christmas that typically saw the most wallets being emptied.

Recently, Black Friday has become an international affair as online shopping has grown with retailers like Amazon having looked to Cyber Monday, first heard of in 2005, to promote deals for shoppers across the globe.

These sales figures come as no surprise to us. Is your website optimised and mobile compatable- if not you will be missing out on online traffic- and probably sales?

If your business needs some help with maximising it’s online sales potential, then please contact us now:
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Filed in Building Online Sales- news and reviews by Dynamic Solutions, Customer Services, Dyenamic Solutions, Ecommerce Sales, Ecommerce Websites, Online Sales, Online Sales Growth, Uncategorized, Winning Online Sales, Winning Sales • Tags: , , , , , , , ,