The Password is PASSWORD

                     Highlights from the last few months in cyber-chaos

cyber security, password

  • April, 2014 – The “Heartbleed Bug” strikes, affecting as many as 500,000 websites.
  • November, 2014 – Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by person/persons unknown; leads to a complete and total meltdown in Hollywood,  forcing people in the “biz” to actually pick up a phone and talk to their cubicle mate and for the rest of us to stream a bro-stick comedy over Christmas that we all probably would have been better off waiting for on Netflix.
  • December, 2014 – North Korea’s Internet service undergoes a “DDOS attack” (distributed denial of-service) by person/persons unknown.
  • January, 2015 – US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked by Islamic State sympathizers
  • Retailers such as Target, Neimann Marcus, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, PF Changs, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A – ALL HACKED!!

A recent study found that 13.1 million U.S. adults are victims of fraud, with a total somewhere in the $18 billion range of fraudulent activity accounted for annually.  Earlier this month, President Obama proposed legislation that would encourage companies and government agencies to share information about security threats and vulnerabilities with each other.

Remember when you got that email from your bank, your social media website, your email server to change your password in the wake of Heartbleed. Did you actually do it? A Pew research study last year found that only 61% of those who knew about Heartbleed changed their passwords.

Just how lazy are we?

 A survey from 2012 by Research Now for CSID on password habits among American consumers found:

  • 61% of us reuse passwords across multiple websites.
  • 54% of us have 5 or fewer passwords for all of our internet usage.
  • 44% of us change our passwords once a year or less.
  • 89% of us feel secure with our current passwords and security habits.
  • 21% of us have had at least one online account compromised.

Splashdata’s annual list of most commonly used passwords found that “password” had been supplanted by the surely uncrackable“ 123456” as the most popular password of 2013.

 So what kind of passwords should we be using? 

The latest and greatest recommendations from cyber experts, including Blizzard’s own Hosting Manager, Tish Lockard, agree on the following guidelines for creating strong passwords:

  • A strong password should contain AT THE VERY LEAST 8 characters, combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols; there should be no inclusion of words found in the dictionary or the names of your friends and family.
  • Never use easy to discover dates like birthdays or anniversaries; you’d be surprised what is clearly visible on our personal and business social media pages these days.
  • You should have a unique password for all of your important accounts.
  • You should change your passwords every 90 days and not reuse them for different sites.

There are password generating sites that will create strong passwords for you. Tish says, “Can’t think of a good password? There are tools out there, such strongpasswordgenerator.com that will cook up a good one for you.  You can even decide the length of your password and what type of characters to use.  I use this Every. Single. Day.” Hear that? Every single day! I am listening Tish!  Some others generators  are random.org and freepasswordgenerator.com.

  How the B!33P am I supposed to remember that gobbledygook?

cyber security, heartbleed, passwords

Keep your Hello Kitty in a secure location, NOT near your computer!

How are you supposed to remember these nonsensical passwords? I know I have  been  loath to use passwords like those described above because there is no way I  am ever  going to remember them. Most security experts recommend the use of a password manager such as Dashlane.com, LastPass.com or 1Password.com which have apps that can go with you from your computer, phone and tablet. YES, you will have to have a password  for these heavily  encrypted secure sites, but if you can’t remember ONE goofy  password, well, maybe this  World Wide Web thing just isn’t your bag.

DO NOT store your passwords in a public cloud, in a Google doc, in emails that  can be  hacked, on your phone’s notepad app or maybe not even in that little spiral  Hello Kitty  notebook that you carry around with you everywhere unless you have really bad  handwriting.

According to Tish, “If everyone could make these criteria a priority and truly commit to changing their passwords regularly, there would be a lot less chaos in  the world. Well, ok, chaos caused by hackers, anyway.” If we listen to Tish, at  least we all can do a little something about this cyber chaos. The hacker free-chaos, Tish and I will endeavor to deal with that another time.

Whatever method you decide upon to have truly secure passwords, remain ever vigilant as you cruise along the world-wide-web. There are hackers around every bend and it’s up to you to keep an eye on your online accounts. And don’t forget that old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say in an email about someone, maybe just jot it down in your Hello Kitty notebook.

Insight Finder from Google makes Google Research Easier

Google has a website called thinkinsights with Google that is a great source to get insight, facts, stats, research, planning tools and… data!

There is a lot of great travel related data that is worth checking out.  They also have a “Real Time Insights Finder” which can help you discover all kinds of free real-time data from a plethora of Google Tools:

A New Series: Recommended Readings!

Saying that there is a plethora of SEM info out there would be an understatement.

It’s a team effort to find, read, evaluate, and then share search marketing updates with the rest of the Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc. team.  And now we also want to share some of those articles with you in a series called: Recommended Readings!

Here is a snippet of updates and fun readings that we recommend this week:

A new Google feature combines AdWords with Instant Previews, so searchers can see a preview before clicking on the ad.
What a brilliant way to save time and for advertisers to save money (and work on their landing pages!)
See the previews for yourself and read:  Google is Testing Instant Previews on Ads

You have probably seen a QR code (the square that looks like a complicated alien message), but it’s not that complicated and pretty cool.
See Trent’s article about creating and tracking a QR code into your marketing then get to know a QR Code and get inspired by reading: Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes

What is more effective for selling discounts – Facebook or Email Marketing? [Read more…]

TripAdvisor Reviews – The Good, the Bad, and the Crustiest of 2011

“It looked like a CSI Crime Scene.”

“Crusty.”

“Bug bites.”

“Cockroach filled pool.”

These are just a few of the words used to describe this year’s coveted list of Top 10 Dirties Hotels from TripAdvisor as reported by travelers.

As in previous years, the class of 2011’s Dirtiest Hotels did not have a lack of sickeningly descriptive reviews.

It really is fun to read through bad reviews (when they aren’t about you, of course) so here are a few snippets of my favorites from this year’s list:

“I would have preferred to stay under a bridge or in a dirty rental car.”

- Jack London Inn

“It all started with the manager burning trash in the fireplace in the lobby.”

- Super 8 Estes Park

“They told us that the competition writes the bad reviews and puts them on the internet but don’t believe it its really bad and they don’t care!!!!”

“The hallway smelled of urine.”

- Desert Inn Rose

You get the point.

For more crusty details, check out the rest of TripAdvisor’s list of the Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels in the US.

If you have a strong stomach, don’t miss the Dirtiest Hotels in Europe (“I wish this hotel would burn down so no one else would have to stay here”) and India (“No extra charge for cockroaches at this place”).

All About iPads for Hotels and Resorts

iPads usage in hotels and resorts is starting to take off.

As a followup to our April 13th, 5 Ways to Use an iPad at Your Hotel’s Front Desk, here is some good reading about iPads in hotels:

Create a Proactive Online Marketing Frenzy During Adverse Times

Lodging managers and owners usually provide their own public relations in the middle of frenzy. Whether in good times when you are turning over 95% guest occupancy or in more challenging times of natural disasters or uncontrolled events, the Public Relations hat must be worn along with all of your other hats.

Sometimes it’s hard to see through it all. Turn to your marketing experts for another point of view, a second opinion or to brainstorm ideas.  

At Blizzard we have the advantage of working with clients all over the world.  We have helped our clients fight through a wide variety of situations; flooding, snowstorms, avalanches, tornadoes, hurricanes, and even the results of man-made events. Counteracting the situation with a flurry of online activity works.

[Read more…]

Featured Article: When and How to Outsource Your Search Marketing

Every business comes to a point when they have to decide whether to keep their search marketing in-house or hire an outside firm; a decision not to be taken lightly.

Blizzard Internet’s Director of Search Strategies, Carrie Hill, contributes a featured article to Search Engine Watch, a top search marketing online publication.
Search Engine Watch
This month Carrie focuses this topic in her article “When and How to Outsource Your Small Business Search Marketing.

If you are seriously considering expanding your online presence and increasing your ROI, this is a must read.