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Austin startup to offer blockchain tech to mortgage industry #VERYCOOL

(TECHNOLOGY) An Austin startup is heading the initiative to move mortgage industry to move towards blockchain technology.

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The 1s and 0s of life

For a guy who has on two occasions written in favor of the robot apocalypse, I can be pretty twitchy about security in tech. I surf behind a VPN (because the NSA is super interested in my herbal tea blends) encrypt important files for storage, all that good paranoid stuff.

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But of course, the real nightmare when it comes to tech security isn’t on the consumer end. We’re not worried about robots swiping unused RAM or reading our browser history (well, I’m not; I don’t know what you’ve being doing lately, you deviant) nearly so much as the new reality that everything from money to mortgage papers is digital, and 1s and 0s don’t much care who’s futzing with them.

Big bad middleman

A fine state of play on the issue can be found here, but the TL;DR is that to date a money-based economy has required an intermediary between buyer and seller, someone whose only job is to manage the money itself. That middleman’s big job is verifying the value of what’s being exchanged, resolving the “double spending problem” of spending the same unit of value more than once.

Fun fact: that’s literally why there are coins.

Originally the heads on the “heads” side weren’t just rulers showing off, they were stamps from the royal treasury that confirmed the proper amount of precious metal was in that particular lump. The authenticity problem is literally as old as money, and now we’ve gone and thrown away the stamp.
Thanks to the authenticity problem, historically it’s been impossible to perform a straight peer-to-peer exchange of value with money: note that yours has deceased politicians on it. In theory, digital exchange makes that unnecessary. Cryptographic technology can guarantee authenticity better than a green picture of a dead guy, and exchange can occur between people directly.

Bitcoin’s backend

That’s bitcoin, for example. But bitcoin is just the application of the idea. The idea behind bitcoin and a bunch of other clever digital things is blockchain.

Blockchains are “distributed ledgers.” All transactions made by members in a set time period are put in an encrypted “block,” then the blocks are distributed to the network and the first member to validate the encrypted transaction gets a bonus. As soon as that’s done, the block is timestamped, locked, and added to the chain. Every member’s ledger is identical because the records are generated automatically, and instead of going through a bank or credit card company, users have direct access to all their information at any time.

Best of all, with current technology blockchain is effectively hack-proof.

Once a block is stamped it never changes again, permanently linked to every other block, every block is safe behind the kind of crypto that – no hyperbole – a hacking tool can’t finish the necessary math because the Sun will blow up first, and you have to hack every block to get to any of them. It’s a big deal.

And it’s come home in a big way.

Killin’ it

Austin startup Factom just blew away their latest funding round. Factom is about “blockchain as a service,” implementing blockchain for transaction security and information storage in vital industries.
Their new hotness is Harmony, a service aimed at the mortgage industry that will integrate blockchain into existing tech to guarantee security for sensitive housing data. World-class VCs like Tim Draper and corporate stalwarts like Overstock and Stewart Title have already bought in.

Game changer

Nobody was ever sure if bitcoin was a monster, a punchline or the Big New Thing, and it suffered for it. But the blockchain tech created for it is legitimately important, a straight-up new way of doing business, and courtesy of Factom, it sounds like Austin will kick off the revolution.

#Blockchain

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

KRACK is the wifi vulnerability Y2K wishes it was

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) It was recently discovered that there is a vulnerability in all wifi networks, know how to keep your information from slipping through the KRACK!

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A security researcher has discovered a new vulnerability that affects literally all WiFi networks – and now that they know about it, it won’t be long before hackers know about it too.

The vulnerability, discovered by security researcher Mathy Vanhoef, lies within the WPA2 encryption used by all WiFi devices and routers. It’s called KRACK, which stands for Key Reinstallation Attacks.

By taking advantage of KRACKs, a hacker can snatch up data that we previously thought was encrypted and totally safe, including credit card numbers, passwords, messages in chat and email, and photographs. A hacker could even hack into your devices with cameras and get a live stream into your home.

They can also inject ransomware or malware into your device.

Security experts are urging all device makers and internet service providers (ISPs) to release updates to patch over KRACKs as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are a few suggestions for how you can protect yourself.

First of all, make sure all of your devices and routers are updated, and turn on auto-updates so that if any new KRACK patches come in, you’ll be sure to get them right away. If you got a router from your ISP, you should call them and bother them until they release a security patch for KRACKs.

In the meantime, use your router’s user guide to find the administrative options and make sure everything is up to date and that you have the strongest privacy settings selected.

If your ISP is slow to respond, you might consider using an Ethernet cable to connect to the Internet, since KRACKs are only a problem with WiFi networks.

You can also disable WiFi on your smartphone and use your cellular data instead – although this could get expensive if you pay extra for cellular. You should also pull you Internet of Things devices, especially ones with cameras and assistants like Alexa, off of WiFi until your ISP has a KRACK patch.

It also helps to access the web through encrypted websites whenever possible.

Many sites offer either unencrypted access (HTTP) or encrypted access (HTTPS). You can download an extension called HTTPS Everywhere that tells your browser to automatically use encrypted access whenever available.

It’s available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Lastly, be aware that Android devices 6.0 or later are more vulnerable to KRACKs attacks than other devices. Good luck, and keep your information from slipping through the KRACKs!

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Real Estate Technology

Dot coms are on their way out when it comes to Realtors’ sites

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) NAR is making moves to secure their Realtors sites with .Realtor and .realestate authentications.

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR), the governing body of American realtors, has offered the .REALTOR domain to those who are members and has extended its initial kick off program until 2018.

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Currently, members of NAR can acquire a .REALTOR for one free year, as well as branded domain email and website creation. After the first year, REALTORS will pay $39.95 for their domain. NAR is also working on acquiring the domain .realestate for those in its membership as well.

Pile on the pros

This change can affect the online presence of a realtor in many number of ways. Because the .realtor domain is strictly policed by NAR and top level domain (TLD) registration group Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), this allows for a certain amount of trust and credibility to be made with a future customer. Due to the NAR’s deal with ICANN, those who use .REALTOR has that his or her domain registration tied to their National Realtors Database System (NRDS) ID number.

NAR states that this process is similar to the verification process for a .gov or .edu address.

Another reason for the decision to layers of around the strict TLD verification is the protection of the NAR brand, as well as the word realtor. Laypeople frequently confuse the terms “realtor” and “real estate agent,” unaware of the fact that only a member of the NAR is officially a realtor, and licensed non members who sell property are actually real estate agents.

In 2015, .REALTOR was the fastest growing TLD that had authentic websites, i.e. not domains bought for the purpose of scalping.

The NAR is also the largest trade association in the United States, with 1.2 million members. The TLD process for the NAR made history by being the first brand using this type of verification that was previously only afforded to governmental bodies and educational institutions.

Added security

The internet is a vast superhighway of changing parts, and the modification of TLD is a selling point for enhancing a brand.

NAR is offering a service by allowing the TLD to be another source of credibility for its members, a perk few other trade organizations can match.

#DOTrealtor

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Real Estate Technology

Are your phone settings giving hackers a free pass to your life?

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) If you are one to leave your bluetooth on 24/7 you might want to rethink. Doing so leaves you vulnerable to all sorts of hackers.

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Bluetooth connectivity

Bluetooth is meant to keep you connected. By enabling it, your devices can sync up to one another without even being prompted. However, in this case, what is easier for you is typically also easier for hackers.

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Hackers are incessant and if they want to, can find a way in. But that doesn’t mean that you should hand them an all access pass.

Peace out privacy

With every technological advance, comes some relinquishment of privacy. When you use social media to share your experiences, it’s an open invitation for the world to know where you live, who you’re friends with and what you do.

Newsletters and email accounts require you to share personal information just to use their services.

Bluetooth is no different. Researchers from the group Armis have discovered a way for hackers to infiltrate your devices simply by having Bluetooth enabled.

They call it borne, Blueborne

No, Blueborne is not exactly like James Bond, but it does have the power to mysteriously infiltrate your devices. Researchers found that it takes less than 10 seconds for hackers to gain access to your devices through Blueborne.

You don’t even need to be using Bluetooth.

All it takes is for it to be on. Blueborne scans surroundings to find devices with Bluetooth enabled, and then is used to hack into such devises. From there, hackers gain control over the device and can steal data. Once one device is hacked, it can spread to another device, giving hackers the chance to access multiple devices without increasing their distance.

Prevent hackers

Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, iPhones, iPads, car audio systems as well as Android and Microsoft products are all vulnerable to a Bluetooth cyberattack. One line of defense is to make sure that devices are updated.

Last week, Google and Microsoft created security patches so that owner can update and secure their devices.

Just don’t do it

However, if there is one take away from the discovery of Blueborne it is this: don’t keep your Bluetooth on. Think of Bluetooth the same way as you think of locking your car. It’s obvious that not locking your car makes it easier for people to steal it. The same goes with Bluetooth.

The best way to prevent a cyberattack is to be aware of when Bluetooth is enabled, and to make sure it is off when not in use.

#BlueBorne

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