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Display Widgets Plugin Includes Malicious Code to Publish Spam on WP Sites

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If you have a plugin called “Display Widgets” on your WordPress website, remove it immediately. The last three releases of the plugin have contained code that allows the author to publish any content on your site. It is a backdoor.

The authors of this plugin have been using the backdoor to publish spam content to sites running their plugin. During the past three months the plugin has been removed and readmitted to the plugin repository a total of four times. The plugin is used by approximately 200,000 WordPress websites, according to WordPress repository. (See below)

Wordfence warns you if you are using a plugin that has been removed from the repository. During the past months you would have been warned several times that this plugin has been removed with a ‘critical’ level warning that looks like this:

It turns out that this plugin did have “unknown security issues”. Let’s start with a timeline of what happened to Display Widgets, why it was removed three times from the repository and allowed back in each time and then finally removed again a fourth time a few days ago. Read More

Is Your Website Collecting Dust?

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Ref Original Article: Posted under All About Blogging on Feb 29 2016 by Robin Burton

Reasons Why Fresh Content is Critical for Your Website and SEO

1. Increased engagement with customers.

One of the most important reasons to update your website content is to create a constant stream of communication with your customers, which allows you to engage with them on an ongoing basis. A static website that has standard information that your customers have already seen won’t inspire them to engage with you or re-visit your website, but a regularly updated website that provides high-quality content will.

2. Better search engine performance.

Organic traffic is hugely important when it comes to sustaining a successful business website and one of the top ways to help your business website gain organic search engine traffic is by keeping it updated with new content. The reason for this is because search engines typically pay much more attention to websites that are regularly updated than those that are not, and on top of that, updating your website with new content gives search engines more chances to index the pages on your website.
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CES Trendspotting – Inconspicuous Innovation

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Original Article BY SHELLY PALMER

The pace of technological change is exponential and accelerating, and the results are hiding in plain sight. I call it “inconspicuous innovation” and it’s the top trend of 2016. Let’s have a look at some other macro trends that will be on display at CES.

At first glance, CES® 2016 looks a lot like CES 2015. Approximately 3,600 exhibitors will announce approximately 20,000 new products. And while CES 2016 is set to be the largest, most diverse yet — there aren’t too many (if any) groundbreaking, game-changing or revolutionary (choose your hyperbole) new products. TVs are a little bigger, a little thinner, a little less or a little more curved, have slightly better screens, slightly better dynamic range, and slightly better color gamuts. Everything on display has a slightly faster processor, a little more storage, slightly better battery life, a new app, some cloud computing component, is somehow related to IoT, is smart (in some way), and offers slightly better connectivity, etc. “New and improved” features do not generate big headlines, so if your innovation metric is new product announcements (defined as, pro…

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Google+ and YouTube are finally splitting up

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A Google Account will be all you need for Google’s popular services
Original article The Verge By Chris Welch

Google is officially divorcing Google+ profiles from its other, more popular services. Today the company published a blog post announcing that over the next few months, “a Google Account will be all you’ll need to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google.”

The decision comes several months after Google stopped forcing new users to create accounts under its social network, which has failed to become the Facebook and Twitter competitor Mountain View once hoped it would be. Google has also split successful Google+ features like Photos into stand-alone products, a strategy it says will continue. “We’re well underway putting location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, where it really belongs,” Google’s Bradley Horowitz wrote. “We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+.”


“Your underlying Google Account won’t be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles,” Horowitz says. “And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don’t plan to use Google+ itself, we’ll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles.”

YouTube will be among the first big services to move away from Google+. Some of that starts today; YouTube says comments you make on its pages will no longer show up on your Google+ profile. But the ability to create a YouTube channel, upload videos, or comment without a Google+ is still months off, the company says — and it’s warning users not to remove their Google+ profiles before that day comes, since doing so will also eradicate your whole YouTube presence. “Do not do it now or you’ll delete your YouTube channel (no bueno).”

Google insists Google+ isn’t going away and will continue to provide an “interest-based social experience” for users who’ve grown to love its communities. But for everyone else, it’ll finally be much easier to walk away from Google+ in the weeks to come.

See the video:

The 3-step plan to make your website harder to hack

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Original Article PC World By Robert Lemos

Online attackers are increasingly targeting websites to make a statement, send spam or flood someone else’s network. Protecting your online brand requires vigilance.

When a big website like Lenovo’s gets hacked, it’s news. But most such attacks take place under the radar, at smaller sites lacking the skills or time to protect themselves. Take the legions of WordPress-based sites, which got a rude awakening last year when many thousands of them were hacked.

Don’t be one of those sites. Even if you don’t use WordPress, you can learn important lessons from what those poor blighters have been through.
Read More

Google’s New Search Algorithm Stokes Fears Of ‘Mobilegeddon’

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Original NPR article By Sam Sanders

Google has a lot of algorithms. And the company updates them on a regular basis. But one update that started rolling out Tuesday has tech writers across the Internet warning of a coming “Mobilegeddon.”

The change is only taking place on Google searches made on smartphones. The results will favor websites deemed “mobile friendly,” giving them higher rankings than sites that are only optimized for desktops and laptops.

Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi elaborated on the changes in a statement e-mailed to NPR. “As people increasingly search on their mobile devices,” she said, “we want to make sure they can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.” Google said it has offered tools to help make pages Web-friendly. There’s even a Google website that allows you to test any site’s mobile-readiness.

Favoring mobile websites on searches made on mobile devices seems like a no-brainer, and in 2015 you’d think most sites have mobile friendly webpages. But a study done by online Internet marketing firm Portent found that a majority of the Web’s top sites actually aren’t mobile friendly.

Portent tested 25,000 Web pages that were ranked as “top sites” by ranking and analytic websites Majestic Million and Alexa. The study found that 10,000 sites failed Google’s mobile-readiness test, including heavy hitters like the Department of Homeland Security and

Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, said some bigger websites may not be mobile ready because those organizations may have a mobile app, and don’t think they have to worry about the Web. Others might not think mobile users are a big enough portion of their overall Web traffic. And Lurie said, some of it is just organizational inertia.

Lurie did say that for some businesses, there might also be a financial reason. “It’s an investment,” he told NPR. “Even if you’re building a brand new website, it’s more expensive to build a website that’s ready and renders well on a mobile device than to build a site that just looks good on the desktop. … It’ll be 25 percent or so higher than building a site that is only desktop ready.”

Google did tell NPR that as soon as Web pages are made mobile friendly, they’ll start to show up better in mobile searches. And, Google said mobile friendliness is just one part of an algorithm that takes a lot of factors into consideration. “While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results,” Radosavljevic-Szilagyi said. “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. The ranking update will not make it rank below lower quality pages that are mobile friendly.”

Lurie says Google’s definition of mobile-readiness and the changes to its algorithm seem reasonable. But he’s still worried. “Google is very scary at this point as a controller of Web content,” Lurie said. “It is a little scary to see them do this, because they’re using their opinion of what a mobile ready website is, and that can mean a lot of different things. Right now, their definition of a mobile ready website seems to just plain make sense. It’s a site that changes shape and size and remains readable on a smaller format device. But they could change that.”

Lurie’s not the only one questioning Google’s search dominance. The European Union has been investigating whether Google is favoring its own products in online searches and has charged the company with antitrust violations. The EU also recently suggested breaking up Google as a remedy, though that seems unlikely.

Here is more from Portent’s study on website mobile-friendliness:

One study found that half of the Internet’s top 25,000 websites aren’t “mobile-friendly.”

FCC’s net neutrality rules open door to new fee on Internet service

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Now the fee could start appearing on broadband bills too, in a major expansion of the nearly two-decade-old Universal Service Fund program.

It’s not clear yet, however, if most consumers would end up paying more in total USF fees than they do now.

In approving the tough rules for online traffic in February, the Federal Communications Commission put broadband in the same regulatory category as phone service, opening the door for the charges.

For phone service, telecom firms pass the fees directly to their customers, with the average household paying about $3 a month.

Those who opposed the net neutrality rules foresee the fees rising.

“The federal government is sure to tap this new revenue stream soon to spend more of consumers’ hard-earned dollars,” warned Ajit Pai, a Republican on the FCC. “So when it comes to broadband, read my lips: More new taxes are coming. It’s just a matter of when.”

Higher fees on Internet bills could make the service unaffordable for some people, reducing broadband adoption instead of expanding it, critics said.

The FCC held off on adding the assessment until a special federal and state board that has been weighing whether broadband providers should contribute to the fund makes a decision in the coming weeks.

“I think it is incorrect … to say anything in what we have done will lead to an increase in [USF] fee contributions,” Wheeler told House lawmakers at a recent hearing.

“You would have a reduction in one area that may be accompanied by an increase in another that should end up washing out because the gross number is the same,” he said.

So, for instance, under his view, a customer with both phone and Internet service from the same carrier might still pay about $3 a month, but it could be split between the two services instead of allocated all to phone service.

But when pressed on the issue at a House hearing last month, Wheeler would not guarantee that consumers will not end up contributing more to the fund.

The FCC sets the size of the fund, and the size has been increasing almost every year as the focus has shifted from providing phone service to providing Internet access to those without it. The fund has grown about 47% since 2004.

In December, the agency approved a $1.5-billion annual increase in the amount the fund can spend to help boost high-speed online services for schools and libraries under the E-rate program.

E-rate is one of four programs funded by the USF, which was created as part of the 1996 overhaul of telecommunications laws. The other programs provide assistance for low-income consumers, help rural residents connect with healthcare providers and help customers in isolated areas pay the higher costs of reaching them.

One of the problems with assessing USF fees is that they’re based on what has quickly become a less popular way of communicating. Fees are collected on a percentage of carriers’ revenue from long-distance calls. Intrastate calls are subject to fees for similar programs run by individual states, including California.

Revenue from long-distance calls, however, has been declining as conventional voice calling has been replaced by email, text messaging and Internet video calling services such as Skype.

So to raise the amounted needed for the USF every year, the FCC has had to increase the percentage of long-distance revenue subject to the fee. It has risen to 16.1% in December from 8.9% at the end of 2004.

Public interest groups have argued that because the fund increasingly is being used to pay for Internet access, companies that provide such services should be contributing.

“We’re funding broadband deployment with USF, but we’re not bringing broadband into the contribution base,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. “That’s just not sustainable long term.”

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates at the California Public Utilities Commission supported the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, in part, because they would give federal and state officials more ability to expand broadband access.

The rules would “ensure that broadband users share in the financial burdens” of providing the service, the office said. They also expose broadband providers to additional state fees.

If broadband is subject to new federal and state telecommunications fees, consumers could end up paying a total of as much as $11 billion a year more, said Hal Singer, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Washington think tank.

“As soon as the joint federal-state board moves forward, states are free to do what they want,” said Singer, who studied the potential effect along with Robert Litan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Wood of Free Press said Singer’s estimate vastly overstates the potential effect because states would need to take steps to adapt their various fees. In addition, the Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits any new taxes on Internet service that weren’t in place when the law was passed in 1998, although it’s unclear if the restriction applies to new fees.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Assn. trade group is worried about USF fees being applied to the service provided by its members, such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.

As the FCC was considering the net neutrality rules, the group urged it to permanently prohibit assessing the fees on broadband because they would “undermine the efforts being made by cable operators and the commission to promote broadband adoption.”

Target agrees to pay $10 million to data breach victims

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 CBS News Original article

MINNEAPOLIS — Target has agreed to pay $10 million under a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit stemming from a massive 2013 data breach, the company confirmed to CBS News.

“We are pleased to see the process moving forward and look forward to its resolution,” Target spokesperson Molly Snyder told CBS News late Wednesday.

The proposed settlement, which must be approved by a federal district court judge, creates a settlement account that could pay individual victims up to $10,000 in damages, according to court documents.

The data breach, one of the largest of its kind, occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013, just as the busy holiday shopping season was underway. Information from as many as 40 million credit and debit cards was stolen.

Investigators believe the thieves captured the information by installing software on payment terminals customers used to swipe their payment cards at checkout. Nearly all of Target’s 1,797 stores in the United States were affected.

At least 15 lawsuits were filed by the end of 2013, seeking millions of dollars in damages. The harm was so widespread that the Department of Justice began its own investigation into the breach.

A court hearing on the settlement proposal was scheduled for Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Target’s headquarters is located.

The news comes as Target recently announced layoffs of 1,700 employees — or 13 percent of the workforce — at its Minneapolis headquarters, reports CBS Minnesota.

A Safer Internet for Our Children? We Need Better Tools For Managing Their Digital Lives

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Over the years, I think we’ve tried just about everything to manage our kids’ access to the Internet. We’ve installed a half dozen Web monitoring programs on every computer in the house, changed the WiFi network passwords countless times, and spent hours on the phone with our wireless carrier getting them to throttle our kids’ data plans.

Original Article  Tech Columnist

It was a total frigging pain. And my wife and I are both geeks. Imagine what it has been like for non-tech savvy parents.

While the tools have improved a lot since we first started – Norton Online Family and Net Nanny are both pretty good at filtering Web content and reporting what your kids are up to – they still require way too much time and geek know how.

Tomorrow is Safer Internet Day 2015, which aims to promote responsible behavior online and on mobile devices, especially among kids. Here’s my wish for SID2015: That somebody invents an easier way to manage our kids’ digital lives. In fact, there are a handful of parents trying to do just that.

Dead dog

A year ago I found a beautiful solution for controlling our home network: The Skydog router. It offered a simple dashboard that allowed me to control Internet access for every single device or user on the network. I could set time limits, block categories of sites or individual ones, throttle down the bandwidth, and more. I was in Geek parent heaven.

Then, in June, Comcast bought Skydog’s parent company and took the router off the market. Comcast said it planned to incorporate the tech into a new generation of Xfinity routers, but it still has not announced a time frame for that.

Ever since then I’ve been seeking a Skydog substitute. I’m not alone, and a few parents have invented their own solutions. One is Rod da Silva, owner of WebCurfew, a platform that let you control Internet access at the router level, turn devices on or off, set timers, and filter content.


The Chicago-based Da Silva started developing WebCurfew three years ago to manage Internet access for his three kids; last year he turned it into a product. You can use WebCurfew’s content filters and access controls for free; if you want to set timers, you’ll need to pony up $6 to $9 a month.

The downside? You need to dig into your WiFi router’s administrative settings to set it up, it doesn’t work with every router (none of the ones you rent from Comcast, for example), you can’t customize it by user, and your kids can easily defeat it by resetting the router. In other words, it’s not Skydog. But at least it’s something.

A vexing problem

Another parent taking matters into his own hands is Sean O’Riordan of Portland, Oregon. He’s just launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the VexBox, a cube-shaped device that plugs into your existing router and creates a new WiFi network just for your kids. Here’s the beauty part: When you turn on the VexBox, it doesn’t shut off the Internet, it just slows the connection down to 56K modem speeds.


And that’s it. The VexBox doesn’t do any content filtering; it’s just a way to get his kids to pry their eyes away from the screen long enough to do their homework and clean their rooms. When you turn the VexBox off and broadband speeds return.

The best part about it, says O’Riordan, is that the VexBox has improved his relationship with his 17-year old stepson. They no longer fight over school work or chores; when the kid sees his Internet speeds plummet, he gets up and does what’s needed.

O’Riordan has been using the VexBox at home for about 6 months; now he’s hoping to raise $50,000 so he can manufacture and sell these things to other parents.

The mobile savage

That still leaves a bigger problem: your teenager’s smartphone. Here, too, things are easier than they were a few years ago – just not easy enough. Now you may be able to throttle your kids’ data plan, track their locations, keep them from texting while driving, or limit the sites they can access using an app on your phone.

The key word in that sentence, though, is may. Your ability to do this varies from carrier to carrier and phone to phone. You may have to install multiple apps to get this functionality, and you’ll probably have to pay a monthly subscription fee. Use an iPhone? That’s too bad: Apple doesn’t let third-party apps manage any of these things on its consumer devices.

I recently tried to install AT&T’s Family Map app on my Android phone. It wouldn’t work. Why? Because my Nexus 5 is registered as a business line, and Family App only works on consumer lines.

Why is this process so bloody difficult? I asked Tasso Roumeliotis, founder and CEO of Location Labs, now part of security software company AVG. Location Labs makes safety apps for wireless carriers. When you install AT&T’s Smart Limits, Verizon’s FamilyBase, T-Mobile’s FamilyWhere, or Sprint’s Drive First app, you’re using Location Labs’ software.

(AT&T Family Map; Location Labs)

One reason is that wireless carriers move very slowly, both because of their size and regulatory constraints, says Roumeliotis. A change to a sign-up process that would take a tech startup a few days to implement might take months for a carrier.

“Managing your kids’ mobile devices is a hard problem we haven’t completely solved,” he says. “In enterprises it’s called mobile device management; if you want to use your phone at work, you need to put software on it to make it secure. The same thing needs to happen in the family space.”

In the meantime, the best thing you can do is try to keep your kids from engaging in risky online behavior and minimize the distractions technology can bring, Roumeliotis says. That might involve using an app to throttle down their data consumption, or it might be as simple as locking the phone away in a drawer until their homework is done.

As with many parenting dilemmas, there is no simple push-button solution.

Send your Internet safety solutions to Dan Tynan at

WebWizards® Launches Fun Ad Campaign Highlighting In-Person Internet Support At Neighborhood Stores

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WebWizards Network’s Internet Stores Provide Personalized Assistance With Social Media; Mobile Apps; Browser-Based Applications and Web Presence Services

LOS ANGELES, CA – WebWizards® Network, Inc., a full-service Internet education and support company, today announced the launch of it’s new ad campaign promoting the company’s innovative, in-person Internet retail stores. The first 30 sec spot pokes fun at Internet call centers and suggests that in-person support and education is a much better way for Internet users to keep up with advancing Internet technology.

The company’s flagship North Hollywood store is also in the process of launching it’s first series of neighborhood classes, teaching kids, teens and seniors Internet safety, trending applications, online security and how to build and market websites.

About WebWizards Network, Inc.

WebWizards® Network is a unified system of Internet service associates across America that offers personalized ground support, private/public classes and web presence services from WebWizards® branded brick n’ mortar retail locations, mobile support vehicles and authorized resellers. The business model is the first of its kind in the Internet industry. For more information, visit the company web site at