• A Pocktful of Security Risks

    A Pocktful of Security Risks

    The smartphone is easily one of the most significant technological breakthroughs of the last twenty years. The ability to connect with one another via every conceivable medium with a single device has revolutionized the world. We have access to more information at the tap of a screen than ever thought possible. The smartphone can act as everything from encyclopedia to wallet, so it is crucial that we protect them from every angle we possibly can.

    The smartphone is easily one of the most significant technological breakthroughs of the last twenty years. The ability to connect with one another via every conceivable medium with a single device has revolutionized the world. We have access to more information at the tap of a screen than ever thought possible. The smartphone can act as everything from encyclopedia to wallet, so it is crucial that we protect them from every angle we possibly can.

    The Mobile Phone Security Risk

    The smartphone has become a lifeline in the modern age. We use it for everything. While there is little security risk in making a phone call here and there, the real risk lies in one of its other basic functions, the email inbox. 

    In 2022, phishing scams were the single most costly source of data breaches in the workplace. Costing nearly five billion dollars in business, phishing scams are shockingly simple and distressingly prevalent. We associate phishing schemes with desktop computers, but a smartphone is effectively the same thing. The same scrutiny and careful workplace digital hygiene need to be observed when operating from a smart device. 

    Social engineering is also a major source of smartphone hijacking. Social engineering is the less flashy cousin to the traditional phishing scam. While phishing relies on a recipient clicking on a bad link or downloading a malicious piece of data, social engineering is a simple and often embarrassing method of tricking a user into granting access to a device on their own accord. Using a well-written script and a phone call, a tricky hacker can guide a hapless user down the path of ruin. 

    Smartphone users are susceptible to connection attacks that desktops would simply never run into by virtue of being more mobile. Leaving a smartphone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections on while walking around town will leave a device open to so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks. These attacks position an invisible or otherwise disguised third party in between a device and the network to which it is sending data. Information that is not properly encrypted during a man-in-the-middle attack can simply be plucked from a computer and copied with little to no fanfare. Because smartphones travel with us to any number of unsecured Bluetooth devices and internet networks, they are constantly at risk for these types of attacks. 

    Lastly, we run the risk of simply losing our phones. Smartphones are compact, easy to carry, and easy to steal. A lost phone can rip a person’s life apart once a bad actor gets ahold of it.

    Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to protecting the data we entrust to our smartphones, but what happens when we let our guard down?

    The Things We Carry

    Smartphone hacks are particularly devastating. These devices are our companions in many respects, and because of that, much of our most precious data resides on our smartphones. Smartphones also tend to prioritize simplicity over security. The single sign-on solutions the tech giants like Google and Facebook offer to users create a massive security gap. 

    When a smartphone hack hits, it hits hard. These hacks open up our wallets, our personal conversations, and our photo albums. Any embarrassing secret is instantly laid bare for a hacker to use against you. 

    Once a device has been compromised, your default cloud storage accounts can be accessed through the front door, so to speak. A hacker that has access to a phone’s data can use it to operate with exactly as much access to your personal files as you. Passwords managed on a browser, every single search you’ve made, and all of the photos you’ve ever taken of yourself can easily fall into the hands of a monster when improperly secured. 

    Protecting Our Phones

    Protecting your devices is a rather simple manner. Place passwords wherever you can. 

    Lockscreens: lockscreens act as a first line of defense when a  device falls into the wrong hands 

    Log out of social media: when not in use, log out of your accounts. This will prevent hackers from popping in to trick loved ones or scour your messages for personally identifying information.

    Secure Your Storage: it is tempting to use the default cloud storage services provided with your device. The problem here is that everyone is using them, and they’re not quite as secure as they could be. AXEL Go not only fully encrypts your data, it also creates a decentralized ecosystem to further protect data once it leaves your device for the cloud. 

    The Importance of Security

    Hackers depend on sloppy security to get what they want off of a smartphone. We use our devices to solve so many problems over the course of ownership that it’s easy to forget what resides on our micro USBs. 

    Taking a look through your downloads and saved photos will reveal that you probably have photos of your driver’s license from the last time you accepted a job offer, your social security number might lie dormant in an email to a landlord, and your partner’s personal photos might be sitting in your messaging application of choice. 

    Don’t leave your security to chance. Take control with AXEL Go. You can have complete and total privacy in the face of Big Tech oversight and hacker intervention alike with our password-protected link-based file sharing, personal details will remain inscrutable in our fully-encrypted cloud storage, and your files can only be shared on your terms with our customizable expiration dates.


    Sources 

    Nelson, Brooke. “Top Security Threats of Smartphones (2022).” Reader’s Digest. Reader’s Digest, July 27, 2022. https://www.rd.com/article/mobile-security-threats/. 

    “Cost of a Data Breach 2022.” IBM. Accessed January 25, 2023. https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach?utm_content=SRCWW&p1=Search&p4=43700072379268724&p5=p&gclid=CjwKCAiAoL6eBhA3EiwAXDom5jTDtO0hPbzV92OnPinwpmiL1kK3yx9JFleMywHOuVRC35kMbE9B7hoC9XoQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds. 

    Fruhlinger, Josh. “How to Hack a Phone: 7 Common Attack Methods Explained.” CSO Online. CSO, November 2, 2021. https://www.csoonline.com/article/2112407/how-to-hack-a-phone.html. 


  • The Technology That Drives Secure File Storage and Transfer

    The Technology That Drives Secure File Storage and Transfer

    Secure File Transfer and Sharing Apps are popping up everywhere. Most of their UI’s even look similar to ensure ease of use on your first file store or share. But are you familiar with the technology behind these apps? Let’s take a peek at what makes them all work.

    Typical “brand name here” file storage and sharing providers use technologies referred to as “centralized.” Within the context of the applications and networks themselves, the term centralized has a couple of different definitions. We have centralization of the file storage and sharing repositories themselves, and we have centralization of the controls of the files being stored.

    Centralization of file storage is one we’re all familiar with, and is the it’s the most typical of applications. It’s typical because it’s the most readily available type of storage and can be leased for a very small fee, so it makes perfect sense that most brand name providers offer this type of storage configuration.

    Functionally, centralized file storage means that all the files you upload to the cloud are stored in a server farm that is typically collocated. What this means is that all of the files are stored in the same general place and location. While that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, centralization of storage has a couple of downsides.

    Storing all of your digital content in one place, even if your content is encrypted at rest, means that someone with nefarious intent only needs to breach a single digital gateway to access all the content stored within the repository. The more files and personal data stored in the repository, the more is at risk, and the more suffer the losses. This is why when you see these data breaches in the news, they typically affect millions of people. It’s because of the centralization of the stored content.

    Everyone reading along can easily recall a recent data breach at a large company that has impacted millions of people. Equifax, Yahoo, Sony, the list goes on. The reason for this is that data breaches happen virtually every day. Storing all of your content in a single place exacerbates this risk.

    Centralization of control is a second definition we need to consider. Centralization of control means that all of your files are in the direct control of the custodian and their respective workforce(s). That sounds relatively benign. So, what is the risk with this type of centralization?

    Let’s say you’ve got your storage app, and decided to encrypt your files for both transfer and storage. This is a smart move on your part because it makes the content much more difficult to breach when it’s encrypted, except when the decryption keys are also held by the centralized controlling authority. They’re the ones that provided you with the encryption keys, so they, too, have your decryption keys. Is it really encrypted and protected if someone besides you can unlock it?

    So, what other ways exist to store, transfer and share files, photos, and other digital content? The answer lies in “decentralization.” And just like centralization, there are a couple of different definitions that merit us looking into this further.

    Decentralization of file storage: AXEL Go utilizes this technology to enable files to be stored in multiple physical and geographic locations across the network. Decentralized file storage means that your content isn’t simply in one server farm in one place where, if it’s breached, all of your content is at risk. Decentralized file storage uses technologies like “edge computing” that give you faster access to your digital content because it’s stored closer to your geographic location.

    Decentralized file storage with file fragmentation: AXEL Go provides a file fragmentation method that breaks files apart into small pieces, and then encrypts these file fragments prior to storage. The fragments are sent to the network array and stored across multiple storage repositories. This means that even if someone were to breach one of the storage repositories, they would just find encrypted puzzle pieces that don’t make any sense to the naked eye.

    Decentralization of Control:  The AXEL Go network is powered by blockchain technology. The nodes that comprise the network are individually owned and operated by other users and supporters of the network. Since the nodes are not under the singular control of the company itself, the network becomes what all networks should be; a truly public network.

    Okay, we’ve discussed some of the networks’ topology and ownership/management differences. What other aspects merit a closer look?

    Metadata Preservation: Metadata is the information that summarizes the file itself. Metadata provides a file size, a file creation date, the date the file was last modified, the author of the file, and other information. While most people aren’t really concerned with metadata preservation, industries like Legal, Medical, and many Professional vocations are very concerned about metadata. When a file is moved from one place to another, it is often the case that some of the original metadata of that file is overwritten. This is one of the reasons that Legal professionals have such a difficult time using online and cloud file storage services. All of the dates (as an example) are changed to reflect the date the content was uploaded to the cloud storage service, corrupting the original metadata. AXEL Go preserves metadata so that content can always be relied on to be original.

    File Encryption: We discussed earlier that file encryption might not be entirely reliable if someone else besides the file owner can actually decrypt the file. It’s like someone else having the key to your file cabinet. AXEL Go’s blockchain technology enables the encryption keys to be generated within the network and provided solely to the file owner. The good news is that nobody but you can encrypt and decrypt your files. The bad news is that if you lose your decryption keys, we can’t help you. And we believe that’s precisely how it should be. They’re your files. You control the rights of access to your content.

    2-Factor Authentication: AXEL Go’s patented 2-factor authentication protocol can be applied to an entire account, or simply to a single file or folder. This is a significant benefit when you’re sharing files, and you want to make certain that only the intended recipient can unlock a file. It’s also a huge benefit if you’d just like to keep some files you store even more secure. Let’s say, as an example, that you have some tax documents you’d like to store. The documents themselves and/or the file folder housing those documents can be protected using AXEL Go’s proprietary 2 factor authentication protocol.

    Secure Fetch is another technology innovation helping to power AXEL Go. Secure Fetch allows any user of the AXEL Go network to request a file transfer from someone who resides outside of the AXEL Go network, and provides a safe and secure method for the file to be collected. A recipient of a Secure Fetch file request is given a URL that is specific to that AXEL Go user’s file request. The recipient of the Secure Fetch can simply click on the URL and drop the file being requested into the page opened by the link. The file is then transferred securely, privately, and directly with the user requesting the Secure Fetch file transfer. It’s one of the safest file transfer technologies available today.

    There are a lot of choices when it comes to secure file storage, transfer, and sharing. It’s crucial that we consider the technology when making our choices as to what applications we trust with our digital lives. We cordially invite you to try AXEL Go for free and see for yourself why it’s one of the fastest-growing file management platforms in the world.

    Sources

    Blog | “Difference Between Centralized Data Storage and Distributed Data Storage” Jan 2023. https://pulptastic.com/difference-between-centralized-data-storage-and-distributed-data-storage/

    CSO Online | “Equifax Data Breach FAQ: What happened, who was affected, what was the impact?” https://www.csoonline.com/article/3444488/equifax-data-breach-faq-what-happened-who-was-affected-what-was-the-impact.html

    New York Times | “All 3 Billion Yahoo Accounts Were Affected by 2013 Attack” Oct 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/technology/yahoo-hack-3-billion-users.html

    BBC News | “Sony Pays up to $8m over employees’ hacked data”. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34589710


  • Keep Your Attachments Secure Once and For All

    Email attachments have been integral to the distribution of information on the internet for almost as long as the internet has been available to the public. This form of communication has been the go-to medium for everything from advertisements, and job offers to love letters and family photos. As a society, we lean on the utility of email to transmit some of the most sensitive and sentimental data, but should we? We will examine our relationship with email, its shortcomings, and how we can improve upon a system we have relied on for so long.

    A Brief History of  Email

    The development of the early internet only resembles the current state of the internet in that it is a network of systems communicating with one another. The early internet, a network of computers called ARPANET, eventually needed a method of organized communication between people rather than simply sending and processing data for scientists. One of the first messages we would recognize as an email was sent in 1971. Eventually, in the 80s, a standardized protocol for sending short messages back and forth was developed, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). After another decade, we begin seeing the first email attachments. Email attachments, as a method of transferring files, have remained largely unchanged

    1992 was the year the first email attachment was sent. Thanks to Nathaniel Borenstein and his humble desire to connect families to one another over the internet, we saw one of the biggest and most impactful changes to email as a protocol. To ring in the change, Nathaniel and his colleague, Ned Freed, sent a photograph of a quartet named the Telephone Chords. Together, the two wrote an internet extension called Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). To this day, this protocol undergirds nearly every email attachment sent.

    Security and Email

    Email has become a widely beloved and accessible medium. By 2025, more than half the world’s population is projected to have a personal email address. Let’s not scoff at that. However, the utility of transferring sensitive information via email is greatly hamstrung by its history. Because email as a form of communication has been built upon for decades, there are so many functions that cannot be updated for these billions of users.

    This presents security risks of which we should all be cognizant. It is easy to believe that emails are secure at all times, but that belief is far from reality. Our emails simply do not have the same encryption and storage standards that a file-sharing service is capable. 

    If we consider briefly the information we send in email attachments, it is easy to understand the importance of adequate security when transferring files. We send our personally-identifying information to real estate agents when purchasing homes. We send copies of ‘driver’s licenses when accepting job offers, we even send voided checks, and personal photographs. All of our data is left vulnerable when we depend on email alone to share our data. 

    Solving the Security Problem

    There are a few massive issues when it comes to emails and security. First, who gets to access your data? When an email arrives at the wrong location, all it takes is one click to lose all of your most personal information. A missed keystroke is all that stands between us and complete financial ruin. Most services have no sort of recourse for a misdirected email. Second, email attachment limits have not been able to keep up with the average file size. When MIME was developed, rarely would there be a need to transfer more than a few megabytes of data, but now, workplaces and personal projects would easily crush the demands of the most advanced computers in the 90s. Third, and most importantly, where do your files go once they have been attached to an email? Your data is immediately at the mercy of an email server and the whims of your recipient.

    The bottom line? Relying on email to protect your files once ‘you’ve hit send is a dangerous game. It requires a degree of trust that, frankly, is unsustainable. Luckily, there are newer and more secure, file-sharing methods. Let’s leave wrestling with email attachments and praying that there is security on the other side in the past. Your information is precious and potentially ruinous if it falls into the wrong hands. 

    Today, however, there is a solution.

    File-sharing services are built to store, share, and protect your data, putting you in charge of security, rather than leaving security in the hands of others. AXEL Go solves the biggest email attachment concerns entirely.

    When sharing a file via a secure link, users are able to password-protect their parcels. Rather than leaving your fate in the hands of an email server, our password-protected secure shares give you the power to ensure your files end up where they were intended. You have the power to change your password, set an expiration date for the share, or revoke access entirely.

    Password-protected link shares solve a second problem, the issue of server security. Your files, rather than remaining on an email server or perpetually in easily-accessible inboxes, reside in decentralized, encrypted, and password-protected cloud storage servers that you control. Any file of any size can be easily transferred to the proper channels without leaving anything up to chance. 

    Security-minded individuals need only to generate a secure link and send it to the intended party. There is no need to commit third parties to your security infrastructure to obtain the security you deserve with AXEL Go. This means that committing to a secure digital lifestyle is as simple as “copy, paste, done.”

    Try AXEL Go Today

    The future of file-sharing is here. Easily secure your most private information with AXEL Go. Never leave your data up to chance, and secure your shares with custom passwords, expiring links, and professional-grade security today.

    Sources

    Marks, Joseph, and Aaron Schaffer. “Analysis | Cybersecurity’s Bad and It’s Getting Worse.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 24, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/24/cybersecuritys-bad-its-getting-worse/. 

    Sjouwerman, Stu. “[Heads up] the Bad Guys Have Likely Hacked Your Exchange Email Server.” Blog. Accessed January 20, 2023. https://blog.knowbe4.com/heads-up-the-bad-guys-have-likely-hacked-your-exchange-email-server. 

    Beatrice, Adilin. “Critical Analysis of Cybersecurity in the Government Sector.” Analytics Insight, June 24, 2022. https://www.analyticsinsight.net/critical-analysis-of-cybersecurity-in-the-government-sector/. 

    Stockton, Nick. “Meet the Man Who Gave the World Email Attachments.” Quartz, March 12, 2014. https://qz.com/186426/meet-the-man-who-gave-the-world-email-attachments. 

    Published by L. Ceci, and Nov 14. “Number of e-Mail Users Worldwide 2025.” Statista, November 14, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/255080/number-of-e-mail-users-worldwide/.