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Category: Data Privacy

5 Fundamentals Of Data Visualization

Big data and analytics are here. In fact, they govern the world, and ignoring that is no longer an option.

In order to keep up with the huge piles of data that you can find in every industry and profession, we all need powerful and reliable tools. More often than not, those tools are found in the realm of data visualization.

If you are going to work closely with data visualization resources, then you will want to remember the fundamentals. They can help you avoid many common mistakes and extract as much value as possible from your efforts.

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Data Cognition and Perception

The fundamental purpose of data visualization is to make it easy to understand abstract data at a glance. There are countless tools available, all built on the principles of cognition and perception. Can people understand the representation, and is it leading to meaningful conclusions?

To master cognition and perception, any visualization can be analyzed by asking a few key questions:

  • Is a clear relationship on display?
  • Is the data representation accurate?
  • Can you easily compare quantities?
  • Is it obvious how the information can and should be used?

If your visualization scores an easy “yes” to each of these questions, then it is successful in terms of cognition and perception.

Design Evaluation

The next fundamental utilizes an evaluation to ensure that the visualization is accomplishing its goals while remaining an accurate and reliable display of information. With so many visual representations available, it’s difficult to distill evaluations into a single checklist, but a general set of criteria can help you build a more specific evaluation for your project: 

  • Scale: Inconsistent scaling on a graph can distort the data representation.
  • Accuracy: Always triple-check that the data is accurate in the final visual.
  • Convention: Follow visual conventions to avoid confusion.
  • Cherry picking: Never exclude data to alter the conclusions.
  • Bias: Look for signs of bias, whether intentional or not.

Depending on the visual representations, you may also need to evaluate how easy it is to read the presented information and whether or not the visualization is leading to reasonable conclusions (as the saying goes, correlation does not equal causation).

User-Centered Design

The third fundamental that we are exploring is one of the most popular philosophical orientations for data visualization.

The concept is simple. How does the end user interact with the information represented?

As an example, a visualization of user statistics for a smartphone app might be used to help developers make decisions about the next set of updates. If you’re preparing this visualization, then it’s important to remember that the developers are not the ones who ultimately use this information. The data is informing development for the sake of the end user, and data representations should remember that.

Explanation vs Exploration

When dealing with data, there are two different things that happen. During analysis, you explore data to see what it can tell you. When you present the data, you explain the findings to others.

Visualization is involved in both of these aspects. When exploring data, you can use whatever representation tools make sense to you until you find something worth sharing. For explanation, visualizations have less freedom, as they need to present clear information to your audience.

It’s easy to get stuck on explanation and forget about exploration. Manage your time and explore the data as deeply as you can before honing in on the best solutions for explanation.

Communication

The fundamentals so far provide ways to approach visualization and enhance its value. The final pillar looks at data visualization from the other direction. There are two purposes to data visualization: making sense of the data and communicating.

When focusing on communication you need only remember two things. Make clear points, and aim for your audience. With a large data set, it’s easy to draw many conclusions, but when you present information (especially to non-experts), it’s essential that you distill everything into simple and clear points.

Catering to your audience is also vital. When one nuclear physicist presents findings to a room full of other nuclear physicists, the visualizations will look very different than if they are presenting that information to a board of investors (who presumably pay for the research). Always rethink the visualization from the perspective of your audience. It’s a simple but essential step in the process.

How to Make Sure You’re Protected Against Online Threats

It’s safe to say that over the last few decades, the Internet has unlocked a lot of benefits for most people. It’s how we stay in communication with our friends, family members and other loved ones. It allows us to work more productively. It lets us experience entertainment like never before. But at the same time, you also have to acknowledge that there are very real threats online that are worth paying attention to. Protecting yourself from those threats isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require you to keep a few key things in mind.

 

For starters, you need to enable two factor authentication on any account you have that supports it. This includes not only your email but also things like bank accounts as well. Two factor authentication is a technology that requires more than just a password to gain access to an account. Once you type in your password, you’ll be sent a unique numerical code. This will come either to your email or, more likely, to your cell phone.

 

The idea is that even if someone were to gain access to your password, they would be very unlikely to have access to your physical device at the same time. Therefore, that password would essentially be worthless without the code. At the same time, if you get a code that you didn’t request, you’ll know something is wrong. You can quickly step in and change the password on the compromised account to prevent further issues from happening.

 

Another step that you can take to protect yourself against online threats involves always making sure that your operating system and other programs are updated. Many people don’t realize that the latest version of software does more than just add new features. It also patches security holes that hackers can leverage to do you harm. Therefore, making an effort to keep your system updated is one of the best ways to stop that from happening. Most updates are free these days anyway. 

 

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re never using an unsupported version of an operating system. This is true even i it is one that you still like and that still technically functions. Microsoft stopped supporting the Windows 7 operating system a few years ago, for example. This means that when new security issues are discovered, and they absolutely will be, Microsoft will no longer offer support. This makes your computer a potential vulnerability just waiting to be taken advantage of by someone with bad intentions. You always need to upgrade to newer versions of Windows or the MacOS operating system as they become available to avoid issues like these moving forward.

 

In the end, the Internet is certainly not without its potential dark side. Countless new strains of malware appear online every single day. But by making an effort to understand this threat, you can enjoy all of the benefits of being online with as few of the potential downsides as possible.  

Everything You Need to Know About DDoS Attacks

These days, it seems you can’t venture anywhere on the web without threats lurking around every corner. And each day, you hear about a new data breach, virus, or some other threat to your security and data online. 

When will the madness end? Well, probably never. As long as people are sharing sensitive information on the Internet (such as Social Security numbers and payment data), hackers will try to take advantage. 

Still, there’s one type of online threat that many people have never heard of, but that’s been gaining traction over the last several years. It’s the DDoS attack—and anybody with a server, website, or even an email address could be at risk.

What is a DDoS Attack?

Specifically, DDoS stands for "distributed denial of service." In simplest terms, a DDoS attack aims to slow down a server or crash it altogether by essentially flooding it with fake web traffic. These types of attacks can wreak serious havoc, especially on websites that rely on steady uptime to generate revenue through direct eCommerce sales or even ads. In fact, one study has found that major server outages for the top five eCommerce sites in the United States total about $3.5 million per hour.

Unfortunately, DDoS attacks have grown not only in their frequency, but their size as well. Attacks of several hundred gigabytes per second are no longer uncommon, rendering some "DDoS protection" software unable to keep up. Meanwhile, it seems that nobody is safe from the threat of a DDoS attack; from major corporations to small non-profits and everything in between, attackers will target any and all vulnerabilities.

How to Protect Yourself

With all this in mind, what can you do to be proactive against DDoS attacks? While there’s no way to guarantee you’ll never fall victim to an attack on your site or server, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. 

Start by making sure you’re using a server or hosting platform with build-in safeguards against these kinds of attacks. Many hosting companies offer DDoS protection as part of their hosting packages. If you can upgrade your protection to guard against even larger attacks, do so.

Meanwhile, be aware of the signs of a DDoS attack. Most often, victims of DDoS attacks will notice problems accessing their website. The site may be slow to load or it may fail to load altogether. In other cases, you may still be able to access your own site, but you may receive reports from others that they cannot or that the site is loading very slowly. If this occurs, you’ll want to contact your hosting company as soon as possible so they can look into it further.

Don’t Become a Victim

Hopefully, you never have to worry about a DDoS attack causing downtime on your server or website. Unfortunately, these attacks are becoming a very real threat across the web. By being aware of what DDoS attacks entail, you can better protect yourself!

5 Reasons You Should ALWAYS Use A VPN

If you watch any YouTube video or listen to any podcast, there’s a good chance that you’ve already heard about VPNs but might not know what they are. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and allows you to connect to the internet from anywhere in the world safely and securely (are the script reads from the podcast ads stuck in your head now?). If you’ve been curious about what a VPN can do for you, here are five of the biggest reasons why you should dive in and start using them yourself. 

5. Don’t Let the Boss See You

With the advances in IT, there’s a good chance that your company’s department can see every single thing that you’ve done on the internet. Have you tried to download an extension for Chrome or, god forbid, try to play a game for a few minutes? Your boss probably knows about it. If you’re using a VPN, though, you can have more freedom to not be tracked to the point where it feels like a massive invasion of privacy. VPNs allow you to get around network restrictions without revealing your browsing history, which might come in handy if you’re perusing LinkedIn.

4. Staying Anonymous

It isn’t just your boss or IT department that you can remain hidden from when using a VPN. Overall, you can obtain peak anonymity when browsing the internet on a VPN. Your true IP address will remain hidden no matter where you’re connecting. Instead, those that are looking for you will only find a VPN that was generated in the area in which you selected, meaning that there’s no way you can be traced.

3. No More Throttling

Your internet service provider already nickels and dimes you for using just a kilobyte of data, so why not fight back? When you use a VPN, you can set your location to wherever you want and avoid being throttled or even charged more for going over the mysterious (and frankly unwarranted) data cap. Set yourself to a country that has high speed internet without those data limits and you’ll be flying through the web at a lightning pace.

2. Public Wi-Fi Safety

Anonymity tends to go hand in hand with online safety. If you want to prevent people finding out who or where you are when using a public wi-fi server, using a VPN is the way to go. This is also true for people that might be known to the public eye, like a streamer, for example. While using a VPN, your data is encrypted and even on a modem where a password isn’t required, you’re getting the top level of safety.

1. Access to Content

These days, we’re all being stretched pretty thin due to the amount of streaming services that are offered. Between Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and the countless others, there are many that you might only want to use to watch one thing. Instead of subscribing to all of these and using big bucks to watch that one thing, see if it’s available on a free site like YouTube in certain countries. Getting around region locked content is perhaps the biggest reason that casual internet users get a VPN.

The Truth About Password Security and How to Keep Your Accounts Safe

You need a password for everything these days. It feels like such a hassle, but if you have ever experienced the fear and frustration of having an account hacked, then you know how much passwords matter. The truth is that you need passwords, and they need to be secure, so here are four trade secrets that can help you keep your accounts safe.

The Longer the Better

It seems pretty obvious that a long password would be better than a shorter password, but you should know adding just a few extra characters to a password can make a huge difference.

For instance, let’s look at a password containing at least one lowercase letter, an uppercase letter, a number, and a symbol. If said password was 8 characters, a computer could crack it in around eight hours; if the password was 12 characters it would take 34,000 years.

Long but simple passwords, such as “catsruletheworldsecretly,” are easy to remember but difficult for a computer to crack.

Passwords can be made even more secure if you do away with dictionary words. The above password can be transformed into “C@tsRul3th3W0r1d5ecret1y” for maximum security.

Do Not Reuse Passwords

If you only have one or a few passwords that you use for every account you have, you could be in trouble in the case that your password gets cracked or leaked.

Many websites and services have had data breaches, some of which have resulted in passwords being posted online for anyone to view. This means someone could see your email and password combination and try it on any website in hopes that they get into your account.

Having a unique password for every single account you have is the best solution to avoid this. That way, even if one account gets exposed, your others are protected.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Some places might also just call it two-step authentication, or two-step validation. Basically, it adds another layer of security to your account beyond your password.

A common form of this is when, after logging in, the service requires you to input a code that they text to your phone. This step ensures that even if a hacker did get your password, they would be unable to access your account since they do not have access to your phone information.

Additional methods could require an authenticator app for access, an email with a code, a fingerprint, face-id, and more.

These steps add just a few seconds to your login time but offer significant protection for your accounts.

Don’t Write Your Passwords Down or Share Them

A notebook with a list of all your login information is a surefire way to remember all your passwords, but also an easy way for someone to get all the information for every single account you have.

Likewise, having a text document with your login information is possibly worse, since a hacker could access it remotely on your computer.

If you have trouble remembering all your passwords, try using a password manager. Password managers are programs that remember your passwords for you – in a secure way.

Lastly, keep your passwords to yourself. Even if you are only sharing your login information with someone you trust, there’s no guarantee they know the best practices for password security.