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Hacking Webcams

When whistleblower Edward Snowden released classified NSA documents in May 2013, the world suddenly became acutely aware of government surveillance of civilians—even of those who posed no threat to national security.

According to the Guardian, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters, the UK version of the NSA) “files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program code-named Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.” Disturbingly, many of these images, it is reported, are explicit in nature. And, of course, it’s not just the government: hackers have also figured out ways to spy via webcam.

Unlike many viruses, Mac webcams are just as vulnerable as those installed in PCs. Most laptops with built-in cameras come with an important privacy feature: a light that activates when the camera is in use, with seemingly no way to be deactivated. Information to the contrary has come to light, however. As quoted in the Washington Post, “Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, said in a recent story in The Washington Post that the FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years.”

Since the release of the Snowden documents and what’s come to light in their aftermath, we’ve learned much more about the extent to which monitoring occurs, and have become more vigilant about online and network security, as well as the processes our computers employ while in use. 

While technical fixes exist to remedy this situation, sometimes an easy, old-fashioned approach is the most effective: physically obstructing the webcam while not in use. This can be accomplished by simply placing a post-it note over the lens, though more creative options are readily available on Etsy, including puffy felt stickers, snap-on plastic covers, and, of course, hand-crocheted ghost cozies.

To learn more about services and products – including Computer Network Managed Services & Remote Monitoringvisit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn oTwitter.

How Can a Relational Database Help Your Company?

Relational database. When you hear the words, you may notice your mind going blank and your eyes glazing over, thinking the term completely uninteresting or unrelated to your work. Dig in further, and you’ll find terms like normalization, entity and referential integrity, superkey and abstraction layer. Relational databases, however, play a huge role in our daily office activities, and even how we shop.

The relational (which refers to mathematical relations) database was created in 1970 by E.F. Codd, a researcher at IBM. At its core, the database is made up of a group of connected tables. With anywhere from 10 to more than 1,000 tables, a typical relational database contains a column or columns that other tables can key on to gather information from that table. Since its creation, databases have become a standard for most businesses and websites—Amazon’s site contains hundreds or thousands of tables all used together to quickly find the exact information needed at any given time—even deciding what products to suggest, based on the user’s activity and interests.

A relational database sorts and filters data, provides stronger security, ensures increased data integrity, and shares information.

Data Integrity

Data Integrity is the foundation of a solid and proper database design. A relational database is able to cross reference data.  The lack of data integrity will cause duplication of data, missing records, and orphaned database records.

Information Sharing

Another key aspect of a relational database is it gives the ability for users to share information simultaneously. The database automatically updates the system when information is deleted, added, or changed. Users are able to immediately access all changes.


No data can be totally safe; still, a relational database allows for different access levels and password protection. Also, authentication steps can be set to ensure that users are only allowed to access information relevant to their job. Authentication steps can also produce a record of user access that can be used to determine access for different users.

While building a custom relational database may take time, its positive impact on a business can be tremendous. A relational database can quickly and efficiently compare information, allow access to vast amounts of information to numerous people at once, and keep information protected by the use of passwords authentication steps. If you are considering a relational database for your company, it is easy to see how important it could be to your business and your bottom line.

To learn more visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn oTwitter.

What are the Advantages of Choosing a Company to Build Your Website?

In the first years of the Internet, websites offered information in straightforward (if not always attractive) formats, created by men and women with specialized training, often self-taught. Today, nearly anyone can create a web presence—a blog or website, compatible on multiple devices and across various platforms. As a business owner, it’s possible to create a site, but the real question is: will it deliver the results you’re looking for?

While the “build your own website” ads look appealing, with easy-to-fill-out forms and low prices, they may not be the best choice for your business. Choosing a company specializing in professional website building offers many advantages over the drag & drop, fill-in-the-blank, pre-formatted online builders.


While hiring a company to design your website might cost more money up front, the benefits reaped from a fully functioning, easy-to-use website can be enormous. By using an online site to build your website, you could miss out on different ways and  techniques to create more traffic for your site. This is the expertise you need  that a website company brings to the table.

New Trends

When choosing a website company, you get the expertise and knowledge of a large set of individuals. These experts know what is trending in design and how to create a user-friendly site with calls to action.

Saving Time

Most businesses and individuals do not have the time or in-depth knowledge required to build a truly useful and informative website that sets your company apart from the competition and provides a great user experience for any visitor.

Exact Specifications

Do you have specific design specifications you want incorporated into your new website? Do you have a vision for what your website will look like? If this is the case, an online website builder will be unable to fulfill your website dreams. Only a website company can sit down with you and talk through the wants and needs of your new website and advise on the best way to accomplish this.

While the build your own website ads can be tempting, the advantages of using a website company like Kinetik I.T. far outweigh that temptation. A company can be more cost effective in the long run and create the website of your dreams. To learn more visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn oTwitter.

Simple Ways to Avoid Cyber Theft

A recently released Australian study estimates that $300 million is lost each year to online fraud, up 16 per cent from $261 million in 2012. With the average value of illegal transactions totaling almost $200, these individuals aren’t losing a fortune. Still, losing any amount of money to online fraud is unpleasant and unnerving, leaving one to wonder where the breach occurred, and how the sensitive data was accessed.

While big box stores have gotten flack in the past year for not having adequate security measures in place, fraud experts suggest the biggest concern for consumers is not where they shop in person; rather, using online websites to shop leaves shoppers’ financial secrets vulnerable to cyber-thieves. 

Fortunately, there are simple ways for the average individual to guard their information. Kinetik I.T. President Josette van Stiphout shares some basics for keeping information safe. “When opening an account online,” she suggests, “the first thing to do is to choose a unique username and strong secure password—not the obvious ones.

Any device connected to the Internet is at risk for exposure to malware, viruses, and hackers. Keeping devices clean, as well as keeping current with updates—which often include security fixes—for software, applications, and operating systems will also help mitigate the risk of infection or intrusion.

Everyone loves posting to social networks, but keeping your personal life, well, more personal, is another way to safeguard information. Posting images of vacation while on vacation may seem innocuous, but it can be a clue to cyber thieves that you may not be paying close attention to your finances. Another threat is using unsecured Wi-Fi networks and public hotel computers. Ward Clapham, vice president of recovery services at Absolute Software in Vancouver, British Columbia is quoted as saying in an NBC article, "Because they're on vacation, they most often want to quickly check an email, or post a picture to Facebook, and blindly connect to a network not knowing or caring who runs it or its security setup."  Cyber thieves are setting up Wi-Fi networks for the sole purpose of getting a hold of your personal or financial data.

In addition to not using unsecured connections, Internet users should also ensure they’re using secure websites, the URL of which will begin with “https.” These sites are able to encrypt login details prior to sending it to the server, keeping it safe from prying eyes.

It’s possible remain cyber-theft free by being aware and using some foresight. Whether you or your business has been the victim of cyber-crime, Kinetik offers disaster recovery audit, planning and implementation services to get you back on your feet. Located in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, Kinetik IT is a full-service information technology and Internet services provider.  To learn more about services and products, and to stay up to date with Kinetik IT, visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

2014 Web Trends

When we hear the word trend, it’s often fashion we think of, or social media, as in “What’s trending on Twitter?” Trends, though the layperson is often oblivious to them, also emerge and develop online—on websites, and in mobile design for phones and tablets. Many trends that became prevalent in 2013 can still be seen on a regular basis—which is why, explains writer Amber Leigh Turner, “they are called trends and not fads, as trends tend to stick around for a few years while fads are only hot for a very short time.”

And already, 2014 has been a great year for new trends in design, with simpler, to-the-point designs. With the rise of smartphones and tablets, mobile devices continue to inspire innovative design. Whether mobile or web, here is a short list of a few of the most popular trends in design so far this year. 

  1. Less Text -- Imagery has always been important on the web, and this trend won’t be letting up any time soon. Numerous apps, and some websites, rely almost exclusively on images and icons. This can work perfectly for some, but the trend isn’t ideal across the board. Don’t feel trapped by this trend; if more text is needed to convey your ideas or to make navigation easier for your customers, use it!

  2. Minimalist Navigation -- This trend has been welcomed by many smartphone and tablet users, and with the interplay between design for mobile and web design, this trend is guaranteed to continue. The focus here is on scroll-downs, icons, and navigation that contracts when you scroll further down the page.
  3. Cards and Tiles -- Look at any newer website, and you will see this trend in all its glory! Cards are like mini, condensed web pages, and commonly include title, a user name, a picture, various icons, and, sometimes, a brief amount of text (think Pinterest, and you’ll get the idea). Cards and tiles can be a great way to display large amounts of information without overwhelming users.
  4. Expanding Search Bars -- This is a new trend welcomed by all. Its primary purpose is to save room on the page. Either a semi-hidden or an expanding search bar can be used at the top and toggle it up or down just like a navigation menu. This feature works great in responsive layouts and can be used in more complicated designs.
  5. Quick User Registration -- Our world moves too quickly to fill out a long, detailed registration form. If you are looking to capture new visitors, try a two- to four-field registration. This newer trend is seeing a lot of use in all types of websites. Gone are the days of long forms, try this new trend to see a large increase in registrations! 
  6. Typography and Monochromatic Design -- With the rise of web fonts, many designers are using a mix-and-match approach to websites. Sometimes bigger is better, and many designers are heading in that direction. Monochromatic design is also on the rise. Using only two colors and the numerous shades of each can make for a cleaner looking site. 

The joy of the web is that there is always something new to see and enjoy. These trends, and numerous others, give designers a new way to engage users and entices visitor interest in a particular site. The use of more than one of these trends can be seen in many sites. Be sure to think about what works best for the content and the user when considering a new trend.

To learn more about services and products – including mobile and web applications visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn oTwitter.

Abandonment Issues in Online Shopping

When choosing an online shopping cart, there may not appear to be many nuances; however, consider that cart abandonment is one of the major problems common to all online retailers, regardless of industry. And the issue is widespread: studies indicate that 68 percent of shoppers abandon their shopping cart before completing a transaction. Some businesses report up to an 80 percent abandonment rate. 

Shopping cart abandonment has led to an annual loss of billions of dollars and climbing. According to Forrester Research, the estimated total of annual abandoned shopping cart revenue will reach $31 Billion dollars.

Most research indicates that consumers stop the purchase process due to unexpected costs like shipping and taxes as the top reason followed with “I was just browsing” as the second highest reason for cart abandonment.  It is important to keep these behaviors in mind and remember that consumers usually don’t purchase the first time they visit.  With that said, optimizing features and functionality of your shopping cart is a critical part of increasing ecommerce.

In any ecommerce situation, the shopping cart is the conduit of a company’s income.  Making a well-informed decision in choosing the right shopping cart is of primary importance. There are several factors to consider. Just like choices regarding your website’s design and functionality, you must decide whether to use out-of-the-box software, or to create a custom e-commerce solution.

The website Practical Ecommerce offers these suggestions for must-haves in an online shopping cart: 

  •      Large, Functional Product Images
  •      Product Reviews
  •      Layered and Faceted Navigation
  •      Single-Page, Fast Checkout
  •      Search Function (Supporting site search)
  •      Coupons and Discounts
  •      Product Import and Export
  •      Easy Integration with Third Party Solutions
  •      Analytics and Sales Reporting


Ecommerce functionality should fit your business needs, and creating a custom online shopping cart allows your  website to drive revenue to your business and encourages consumers to complete that transaction. 


To learn more about services and products – including how custom designing an online shopping cart can help your business – visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Increasing Productivity, Simply

Recent studies have shown that having a potted plant can significantly increase a worker’s productivity and creativity. The findings harken back to a theory first published in 1980, called “attention restoration theory.” The gist of this theory is that our brains expend a lot of energy on tasks that require direct attention. This type of mental fatigue is only restored when that concentration stops. There are multiple ways to do this—meditation or a nap is ideal, though not always practical on the job. When we're awake, direct attention can be refreshed by shifting focus to something indirect. In the potted plant study, nature offered just this type of absorbing, restorative distraction.

While the basis for this theory lies in spending time observing nature, similar benefits are seen when individuals engage in other activities, such as playing games and playing with toys. That’s right—playing with toys. We’ve all heard tales of the Google and Facebook corporate campuses, where arcade games are common, and extracurricular activities abound (including gardening at Google’s London HQ). This is attention restoration theory at work.

Most businesses don’t budget or have the space for ping pong tables or pinball machines; fortunately, smaller games and puzzles also provide the rejuvenation that employees periodically need. Simple items that allow for tactile engagement offer similar benefits to restore the overworked brain and lead to high productivity and happier employees.

Visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

The Cost of Web Hosting

Oftentimes, the rule of thumb for managed web hosting is the higher the price tag, the better the technical support. The monthly cost of managed hosting packages can vary from less than $50 to several hundred dollars.

At Kinetik I.T., we don’t think it should cost a fortune to host your website. We offer managed hosting solutions that are secure, affordable and easy to maintain.  Our web-hosting servers are co-located in a state-of-the-art data center with continuous monitoring and 24/7 toll-free technical support. Through redundancy and reliability, our server configurations allow us to guarantee 99.9% up-time.

Easily Manage Your Domain
Our web hosting service features

  • Server-Side E-Mail SPAM Filter  With 3 levels of sensitivity and 3 different handling options, the filter will reduce SPAM delivery by over 90%.
  • Server-Side E-Mail Virus Scanning – A virus can never make it into your inbox, because the server deletes the virus and notifies you of the attempted intrusion.
  • Rotated Visitor Logs for Statistical Reporting – At the interval you desire, logs are automatically rotated and compressed into time-stamped files for quick identification.

Our goal is to empower you an simple to use and secure control panel so you can easily manage all aspects of your hosting account. Our web hosting allows you to create and manage e-mail boxes, FTP accounts within your domain, generate usage statistics, manage your files on the server, analyze your web site structure and integrity, secure sections of your web site and manage multiple user access, and configure and install common CGI scripts and more. 

To learn more about web hosting, and a wide array of other services and products, visit or follow Kinetik I.T. on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Should You Use QR Codes?

Factoid: the QR code (short for Quick Response Code) was first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. Introduced in 1994—long before we had smartphones to scan them with—the code’s purpose was to track a vehicle’s progress through the manufacture process.

Today, QR codes can be found everywhere from magazines to corner benches, directing consumers to sites ranging from real estate to women’s fragrance and everywhere in between. They may be standard black and white, or colorfully graded to include a company’s logo. They can even be gigantic and composed of people holding umbrellas: the current record-holding world’s largest QR code encompassed 27,000 square feet, composed of 2,503 employees of the Coca-Cola company in n Zhengzhou City, China standing in formation, holding raised red and white umbrellas.

As useful-yet-novel as QR codes may be, when using them for your business, or when scanning codes in your personal dealings, there are several functionality and security issues that must considered. Security concerns regarding QR codes fall into one of multiple camps: where the code was generated, how the code is scanned, and the code’s destination.

Code Generation

QR codes can convey an enormous amount of information: while a standard barcode can represent up to 20 characters of information, QR codes can carry thousands of characters. There are hundreds of free code generators online, making it easy for hackers, and others with malicious intent to create a code, post it, and wreak havoc on all those who dare scan it.

When using a code generator, ensure you’re working with a stable, reputable company, and consider the lifespan of the material on which the code will appear. Codes may be considered proprietary by the company whose software you’ll use to generate it, so if the company closes or is acquired, the code may point to a 404 error message page. In addition, if QR codes go out of favor, a brochure meant to be relevant for several years suddenly becomes outdated.

Uncertain Links:

When scanning a code, how can you be certain where it leads? Simply because it’s implied by the information surrounding it? QR codes may convey direct or indirect links, which can be either safe of malicious, and you’ll never know until you scan (without a preview option, that is). Because a QR code’s information is unintelligible to the human eye, users have little indication of where the code may lead, and malicious QR codes may install malware on devices, or direct the user’s device to a questionable website.

Scanning Apps

QR code reader apps used to scan the codes carry their own set of issues, and there are currently no standardization requirements for these apps. Look for readers that allow you to preview the link before visiting the site. Apps include QR & Barcode Reader and Norton Snap both have this functionality.

When incorporating a QR code into your business materials, it’s imperative—for both your own safety, and that of your potential customer—to take security into consideration. Choose a reputable company to develop a QR code strategy: in addition to the aforementioned considerations, look for a company that offers a pricing plan, has a good grasp of the safety concerns involved, and appropriately accommodates error correction. With a bit of knowledge and the right tools, QR codes can work for you, your business, and your customers.

Heartbleed: Still an Open Wound

It’s been a month since the news broke of the Heartbleed bug—“a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library.” OpenSSL software helps keep information security while in transit over the Internet and corporate networks.This weakness created a vulnerability in encrypted information, allowing attackers to eavesdrop on supposedly secure communications and access critical information like website encryption keys, usernames, passwords, and user data. Heartbleed was such a concern that governments around the world got involved with warnings to banks and other businesses to create fixes to their servers and asked them to notify their customers to change passwords.  

While the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the bug appeared to have been squashed, recent reports indicate that more than 300,000 serves are still vulnerable. More concerning is this number is only the official tally—an unknown number of servers may also be “unofficially” vulnerable.

Being proactive to safeguard your information is of the utmost importance. The first step is determining whether the websites that have access to your private information has been compromised. Several checker tools have been created, including McAfee’s Heartbleed Test site, as well as LastPass, Qualsys, or Filippo Valsorda. If the site is safe, change your password. If the site is not safe and may be vulnerable, do not change the password, but closely monitor information associated with the site—credit card use, changes made to the account. Only change the password once the site has been patched, and create a long, strong password, using a mix of characters, symbols and numbers. The days of using the same password across multiple sites is gone, so consider using a password manager to keep track.

Kinetik I.T. offers disaster recovery audits, planning and implementation services, as well as a wide array of technology and internet strategy solutions.  To learn more about services and products, and to stay up to date with Kinetik I.T., visit or follow Kinetik on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.