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Maintain Your Identity

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

No one wants their identity stolen.  For our discussion, let’s define identity theft as the illicit creation of fraudulent accounts (be they with a web host, a bank or any other financial institution) using unlawfully acquired credentials. In 2011, more than 11.6 million adults in the United States fell victim to identity theft. The average amount of time each of these individuals spent repairing damage due to the creation of fraudulent accounts was 165 hours. An additional 58 hours was spent to repair and resolve the subsequent issues with their previously existing accounts. The best estimates indicate that an identity is stolen every three seconds; frequent enough for the FBI to consider identity theft “America’s fastest growing crime problem.”

At HostGator, we deal with fraudulent account sign-ups every single day, without exception.  Some try to use comically fake identification, others use legitimately stolen documents. As a result of our continuing efforts in preventing these sign-ups, we slowly but surely became experts in the many ways that criminals will attempt to perpetrate fraud.  There is no absolute way to guarantee immunity from identity theft, but you can certainly hedge the odds in your favor by exercising a slight degree of caution.

Exercise caution when browsing the internet:
Phishing is essentially the creation of a very legitimate-looking website that exists solely to trick people into providing their personal information. Imagine a website that looked exactly like FaceBook, but perhaps had one letter different in the domain, like “faecbook,” which was specifically chosen in hopes that you would perhaps accidentally misspell the name yourself when attempting to browse to FaceBook. Now, if you don’t notice the mis-spelled domain and you enter your legitimate FaceBook login, you have now provided your login credentials to phishers. Now, imagine if the same thing happened with your bank account login.

Exercise caution when making online purchases:
Not everyone knows what an SSL Certificate is, but it is a key piece in the prevention of online identity theft. An SSL Certificate facilitates an encrypted connection between two machines; your computer and the server on which you are making an online purchase. Any time you ever enter any credit card information on any website, for any reason, be certain that the address bar of your browser shows “https” and not just “http.”  That “s” stands for “secure” and without it, your information is unencrypted and ripe for the taking by any number of dastardly folks on the prowl to steal identities.

Exercise caution even when making physical purchases:
Skimming is the act of running a credit card through a small, easily-concealed device that simply stores the information held on the card’s magnetic strip. Perhaps a skimmer takes a job as a waiter at a restaurant for the sole purpose of being able to handle your credit card for a few moments, unobserved when ostensibly taking the card to facilitate the payment of your bill.

The goal here is not to increase paranoia, but to raise awareness of the potentialities that exist and the means by which these methods are executed.

Protect yourself:
Your Social Security Number should be memorized and the original card kept in a safe place, not your pocket. Don’t print it out or write it down unnecessarily. Only provide it in an official capacity to legitimate recipients, such as a credit card or loan application or your employer. Always provide your SSN with caution.

You likely receive mail that contains information that could be useful to malicious people; bank statements, credit card offers and bills all contain personal information.  Perhaps use a paper shredder for both sensitive documents and junk mail, rather than just tossing them in the trash.  If your purse or wallet is stolen, notify your bank or financial institution immediately and report any credit or debit cards as stolen. These are just some basic pro-tips, though a quick Google search will turn up countless websites that cover this topic in greater detail.

Please educate yourself further; do not be a victim of identity theft.

Tattooed Gators

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

In 1936, Life magazine estimated that 6% of Americans had a tattoo.  Undoubtedly, this was mostly comprised of sailors or other military personnel and likely also a carnival sideshow entertainer or two.  In March 2005, The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology determined that 24% of the general U.S. population had at least one tattoo.  HostGator presently has about 850 employees in Texas.  We were able to wrench 619 of those Gators away from more important tasks in order to survey them.  We found that 244 of the 619 had at least one tattoo.  If we guesstimate the math to the best of our ability, we find that just over 40% of HostGator employees are tattooed.

In recent years, there seemed to be more and more professional athletes turning up with visible tattoos.  Of the 431 players in the NBA, 233 (or roughly 54%) have tattoos.  Aside from the NBA, there seems to be very little statistical information regarding tattoos as related to various industries.

In 2008, seventy percent of tattooed Americans needed to hide the ink for their jobs.  Visible tattoos are essentially a non-issue at HostGator; we have non-tattooed as well as heavily-tattooed people throughout all levels of the company.  You’ll find tattoos on our front-line Jr. Administrators as well as members of upper Management.

Some other interesting statistics: 17% of those who have a tattoo have considered having it removed and 5% have subsequently covered a tattoo with a different design.  When broken down by political party, 15% of Democrats, 13% of Republicans and 13% of Independents are tattooed.

The Pew Research Center, in February 2010, stated that 15% of 18-25 year olds think that the increase in people being tattooed has caused a positive impact, while 60% of 18-25 year olds think that the increase in people being tattooed has caused no discernible impact.  It’s been said that the only difference between a tattooed person and a non-tattooed person is that the tattooed person doesn’t at all mind that the non-tattooed person doesn’t have a tattoo.

Whether you view tattoos as an art form, a tool of rebellion or a downright disgrace it’s clearly something that is forever etched in numerous cultures and shows no sign of declining in popularity.  Tattoos aren’t just for sailors, rock stars and the yakuza anymore.  The doctor or EMT that saved your (or a loved ones) life might very well be tattooed.  Also the police officer who pulled you over for speeding, but let you go with just a warning (this time!).  The judge you had to stand before last time when the police officer wasn’t so understanding about your speeding… possibly even the lawyer who was in the courtroom that day.  We now know there is a 40% chance that the HostGator System Administrator who resolved your last issue and brought your server back to life from the brink of certain death is tattooed.

Several Gators decided to share some of our tattoos with you.  Please enjoy the following slideshow containing actual tattoos of actual HostGator staff, from our Houston and Austin offices:

 

Corralling New Gators

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

One of the great things about the web-hosting industry is the rather fortunate circumstance of virtually constant growth.  More and more people are taking their lives or businesses online every day.  Additionally, those already online are often ever-expanding their online presence.  A direct result of that is the necessity for us, as one of the leading providers of web hosting, to locate and hire more and more qualified people to support all of the above.  This is certainly a great opportunity, but it can also be somewhat problematic.

Although it would be great if a never-ending stream of qualified individuals would parade through our office doors each day, that simply isn’t the reality.  We have a recruiting department which endeavors to locate people with the correct skills to join us here at The Gator in a variety of available positions.  We often need to dispatch a highly-trained SWAT team of sorts from the swamp here out into the real world in hopes of returning to the fold with some new potential Gators.

Often the missions these aforementioned SWAT(swamp?) teams find themselves at are recruitment events of sorts.  Armed with a very nice tablecloth and often some nice HostGator swag to give out, they go forth into the world in search of qualified candidates:

 

At a recent event, there were HostGator koozies and squishy stress-relief Snappys to be had by anyone able to correctly guess the number of “Gator Eyes” hermetically sealed within a state-of-the-art containment device (hint: there were 499):

 

Another obstacle faced by those who came face-to-face with our recruiters was the much-dreaded “Gator Replication Station,” whereby the hopefuls endeavored to create gators of their own using the materials provided.  Those who successfully replicated gators in the most creative way won HostGator t-shirts and plush Snappys:

 

Certainly the goal is to locate and hire new Gators, but we do try to have as much fun at these events as possible.  The moral of the story though is that we are always on the lookout for new Gators and invite you to apply to come work with us!

HostGator is a great place to work, with many official (and unofficial) perks aside from those indicated on the website.  For example, on the day this blog was written, we had mobile masseuses roaming the office providing free massages to everyone at their desks while they worked.

We certainly appreciate the opportunity to hire individuals with some web-hosting experience, it’s true that the basics of what one needs to know to break into this industry are rather minimal and can be learned by virtually anyone.  Even if you are a complete novice, Google will be happy to teach you about FTP, Email Clients (SMTP, POP3, IMAP), DNS (MX, CNAME, A RECORD) and basic troubleshooting (ping, trace route).  Also, if you have an aptitude or experience providing excellent customer service, then you’re halfway there!

Consider a career with HostGator; we’d like to hear from you!

Malware Monday

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, July 9th, 2012

If you are reading this on the day it was posted (Monday, July 9th, 2012), then you are likely not a victim of Malware Monday.  Far from being as feared as something like the dreaded Y2K situation, Malware Monday revolves around a piece of malicious software known as DNSChanger and the efforts involved in the mitigation and ultimate ridding of this specific piece of malware.

DNSChanger functions on a couple of different fronts, though the fundamental result of infection would be an inability to connect to your ISP.  It reportedly will also prevent your Operating System from downloading updates that would detect and prevent the malware from functioning.

Back in 2007, the creators of DNSChanger began using the trojan to redirect internet traffic to sites containing paid advertisements, resulting in illegal profit for its creators.  Since then, the hackers evolved the malware to execute various other tasks on the infected machines.  The FBI became involved and those responsible were caught and arrested late last year.  Initially, the FBI wanted to shut down the servers that were being used by the hackers to control the infected computers, however it was determined that such action would have resulted in the infected machines immediately becoming unable to connect to the Internet.

The resulting decision was to implement a transitional system whereby the servers in question could be taken down without resulting in the infected machines from losing their Internet connectivity.  The plug was pulled on that transitional system this morning around 12:01am, at which point anyone with an infected computer would need to rid their machine of the malware in order to re-connect to the Internet.

So, if you are reading this on Monday, July 9th, you were unaffected.  If you were affected, then you’re likely seeing this at a later date and I’d like to welcome you back to the Internet (we missed you!) and invite you to regularly scan your computer(s) for any malicious software using any number of free or paid applications available today.