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Hacker Alert:

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In case you missed the news at the beginning of this month, in early August, a Russian crime ring collected the largest known cluster of Internet credentials to date, which included 1.2 billion user name and password combos and more than 500 million email addresses in a mega-security breach. Milwaukee’s Hold Security discovered the violation and says the security breach affected several large businesses, but was unable to share the names of those affected due to nondisclosure agreements and victim security. The hackers cast a wide net, going after large and small business websites alike in countries around the globe—including the United States and Russia. According to an August 5 New York Times article, it appears the hackers haven’t sold much of the data, but are instead using this hacked info to send spam through social media sites, like Twitter for a fee. This article identifies the hacking ring as a small group of less than a dozen men in their 20s, based in south central Russia.

While it’s always troubling to hear news like this, don’t panic. Instead, tighten your Internet security measures. Ensure that you’re using strong passwords and that you’re utilizing different passwords on different websites. If you know you’re guilty of being lax with your passwords (or use the same ones on multiple sites), updating them to stronger passwords is a good idea. You may also want to check out one of the automated password changing services out there, like this free one, to ensure you’re keeping hackers on their toes.

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Merchants Show Increased Demand for Integrated POS

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Basic processing systems will no longer cut it in the payment processing industry. A terminal is viewed as the bare minimum in today’s market, and merchants are finding it more necessary to integrate multiple technologies in their software applications. Now merchants are able to run their entire business and collect payments on the same device.

Aside from the decrease in technology prices, tablet technology now allows merchants to get all of the products they normally couldn’t afford in one simple tool. When this is coupled with the fact that merchants are becoming more skilled and innovative in the payment industry, it becomes apparent that tablet based systems is the answer to all payment processing problems.

POS systems used to cost thousands of dollars, but now with integrated technology, merchants are able to afford the programming with rates as low as $50 a month. Also, the fact that different merchants required varied solutions gives more power to integrated POS systems. Systems that cover more bases and provide more solutions are being created on a more frequent basis, and industry specific tools are developing rapidly.

Because the industry standard for tools has changed so much, it is more important than ever that your POS system is top of the line. CoCard not only provides state of the art POS programming for tablets and devices, but also has a mobile payment application called ‘CCMobile’ that completely integrates a merchant’s business transaction data. Whether your business is in retail, restaurants, or any other industry specific trade, allow CoCard to provide cutting-edge POS solutions to simplify your daily process and reduce expenses. Call us for more information!

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Opposing Bitcoin Regulations Could Impede Currency Expansion

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According to Payment Source, the state of New York Department of Payment Services recently proposed the framework for ‘BitLicense’, a money transfer license pertaining to businesses that use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Although this proposal still has yet to be approved, the potential effects could alter the course of Bitcoin’s use nationally.

The proposed Bitcoin license would require state businesses to not only provide full customer disclosure, but also transaction receipts, a complaint resolution center, and user account verification. A cyber security program is also a requirement of the proposal, with heavy emphasis on record keeping ot be spearheaded by a chief information security officer.

When this proposal is placed in comparison to more liberal Bitcoin states like Texas, there is an extreme conflict in both interest and practice; Texas’ current Bitcoin laws make the currency an unofficial form of payment that is unregulated by the market. Bitcoin is not treated as real money, but can be used for goods, services, and currency exchange would still follow state law. With varying forms of enforcement for this controversial cryptocurrency, it leaves many wondering which the best course is for the future.

The new proposal is not yet active, and must be voted on by state businesses interested in transmitting Bitcoin. The voting period began July 23, 2014, and will continue for 45 days.

Although these new regulations only apply to New York for the time being, it is still a largely relevant issue because a majority of New York’s financial policy acts as a model for the national industry. Also, any customer not based in New York would still likely feel the effects of the legislation because any and all Bitcoin transactions/advertisements that go through New York’s financial industry will still have to be regulated.

New York’s new license proposal would likely deter many businesses, simply to avoid the hassle of registering for a license. Although Bitcoin miners themselves would remain unaffected, businesses would not only have to report all Bitcoin activity on a daily basis, but also be subject to independent investigation by the Department of Financial Services.

The proposed changes to the Bitcoin market vary extensively from many of the current practices on a national level, although it may not be all bad; these changes can significantly reduce the risk of money laundering, Bitcoin thievery, and overall illicit financial activities that could otherwise be disguised through Bitcoin. The tradeoff is that many companies are more than likely not looking to go through the steps to obtain a license, especially when it is subject to so many regulations. Will this have an overall negative effect on the national Bitcoin market? Will other states follow suit? We will all soon have answers once voting is concluded.

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Bitcoin Seeks to Expand ATM Services

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New Bitcoin ATMs continue to propel the currency forward

Bitcoin payment is still a highly controversial topic; many people don’t know what to make of it, many see it as illegitimate, and many don’t know what it is at all. Although it receives mixed reviews from economists and investors alike, the continued expansion of Bitcoin usage has caused an entirely new payment industry to arise.

As many people know, Bitcoin is a digital payment system that can be exchanged as a form of cryptocurrency. Individually valued at hundreds of USD per coin, the exchange of coins for goods, services, and even paper money has become a point of interest. In the wake of this increased interest, Lamassu Inc. has moved forward in the production of Bitcoin ATMs.

Lamassu has developed new software named Rakia, which will allow its operators to provide remittance services, bill payments and airport cash exchange. Lamassu Bitcoin machines originally only allowed users to exchange their paper money to buy Bitcoins, but since May, users have been able to receive cash in exchange for coins as well.

The software is open source, and developers are able to work with Rakia to further improve its functionality. Lamassu also keeps the Bitcoin theme of decentralization alive, allowing operators to personally decide their prices, commission rates, and partners.

Bitcoin continues to strengthen its argument as a legitimate currency with its innovate technologies. Does this mean that eventually Bitcoin may become the real deal? Comment and let us know!

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Major tech companies push for legislative reform of NSA’s accessibility laws

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With the continued expansion of internet prevalence in our everyday lives, it’s becoming harder each day to escape the ever-watching eyes of “Big Brother”. “Big Brother” is an idiomatic term that refers to government surveillance powers that oversee our actions on an everyday basis, the most relevant example in this instance being the NSA.

The NSA has recently experienced a significant amount of backlash from major tech companies because of its invasive and disturbing policies for mass data collection. A year after agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of private documents, executives from nine major tech companies (AOL, Dropbox, Google, Apple, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook) sent a letter to the Senate demanding a reform of internet privacy and security laws.

Specifically, Microsoft sounded off about the changes in legislation that they would like to see, in reference to cyber-spying and data hacking. One of their main gripes was towards the security of cloud-based services, and the lack of certainty behind the protection of their documents and information. Microsoft claims that the government has “intercepted data traveling across the internet”, and “hacked links between company data centres” (www.thegaurdian.com).

Microsoft has a strong call to action, with five specific desires:

  1. Recognize that U.S. search warrants do not have jurisdiction outside of the U.S.
  2. End bulk-collection of data (phone records, email records)
  3. Commit to the ending of large scale data centre hacking
  4. Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which makes its rulings in private.
  5. Improve transparency in terms of exactly what rights the government has to information and records.

It’s no secret that the government watches over us and keeps an eye out for suspicious activity. Many people understand and accept that it is for the greater good, but a great many (me included) believe that it is a serious breach of our Constitutional rights. With the constant increase in web/cloud based technology that businesses use for records, it’s a scary thought knowing that your business’s private information is always at the fingertips of the government; with little to no control over what the government can do or take from us, how much power do the people really have? Is the internet just another way for the government to control us? How do you think the government’s aggressive interference with private information will affect businesses in the future? Reply and let us know!

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Five Tips for POS security

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Point of Sales security is always a relevant issue for a merchant services provider. With the recent string of data breaches that have happened to well-known businesses like Target and Verizon, there are plenty of reasons to feel like your POS’s security system may not be up to snuff.

Although hackers are becoming better each day at getting access to essential data, there are multitudes of ways to help toughen the process for a determined hacker. The two major forms of hacking involve either the use of an attachable hardware device to the POS system, or using malware to hack into a POS network. Although there is no surefire way to prevent either of these things from happening, here are five tips that will help improve the security of your POS system.

  1. Always maintain the most up-to-date POS software.

POS system updates can be a drag, but oftentimes these updates provide crucial security patches that ward off malware and other hacking technology. Rather than updating technology quarterly, update the technology as frequently as possible. It’s hard to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals, but if you’re always improving, it makes the task more difficult.

CoCard provides cutting-edge POS services, featuring top-notch security and management tools.

  1. Install Firewall and Anti-Virus Software to boost your network’s immunity.

Similar to keeping up-to-date POS Software, installing new Firewall/Anti-virus software is critical. It adds an extra dimension to the security system already in place at your firm, and puts yet another wall between you and a potential hacker. Programs like Barracuda and McAfee are good choices.

  1. Create intricate passwords that are frequently changed.

This is an extremely overlooked habit that should always be practiced. Many times, hackers have no problem getting past security systems because the passwords in place are entirely too simple and intuitive. Always change from the default password that was provided for your system, and never make it something simple like “Password1” or your birth date. Find something that isn’t easily guessed, and change the password frequently, preferably every two or three months.

  1. Deny internet access from POS Stations and Terminals.

Keeping POS computers off the internet vastly reduces the risk of viruses and other internet-based malware. Only connect your system to the internet for necessary POS activities, and avoid general internet usage. Don’t give a hacker the chance to get to you by staying clear of their sights.

  1. Disable Remote Access.

Although we get accustomed to allowing IT professionals and employees to use the POS system from remote locations (not necessarily in office), hackers have a far easier time finding your device’s information when it is used away from a terminal. Restrict access to programs as much as possible, and you have vastly decreased your risk for hacking.

Although none of these solutions are fool-proof, they are steps that over time can make a big difference in your program’s safety. When thousands of potential clients’ credit information is in your hands, why take the risk? Just like you take vitamins to protect your immune system, take precautions to protect your POS system!

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Meet Rex, Weekend Support Specialist

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Take some time getting to know one of CoCard’s most promising employees, Technical Support Specialist, Rex Peterson!

Currently a Computer Science major at Georgia State University, Rex’s love for coding, mobile applications, and all things tech has led him to CoCard’s headquarters in Decatur. His strong knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and program development makes him a fully qualified member of CoCard’s bilingual support team.

Rex is the newest member of our weekend support team, available to assist you when nobody else can. Rex is in place and on call to answer any questions regarding technical support, customer transaction services, and terminal download assistance.

Aren’t you tired of constantly dealing with automated voices and answering machines? Stop wasting time and money sitting on hold, and start receiving intelligent, insightful tech assistance from our 24/7 support staff! Call us for support today!

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Out of This World

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It sounds like the premises for a sci-fi flick: Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics just discovered a rocky distant “mega-earth” that weighs 17 times more than our planet, and that shows plausible implications for life. Given the moniker, Kepler-10c, this newly discovered planet is 560 light years from earth, circles a sun-like star every 45 days, and is approximately 11 billion years old (which resets our idea on the age of the universe). Rocky planets like this offer the best conditions for life. Given the age of this planet, scientists now know they shouldn’t count out old stars when they’re looking for signs of life. So, is there something else out there? Let the hypothesizing begin!

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New Bitcoin Debit Cards may make cryptocurrency a universal coinage

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The Bitcoin craze that began a few years ago is yet another one of the unforeseen curveballs that the internet has thrown at us. Although this form of electronic payment may seem futuristic and innovative—and to some parties, illegitimate—there’s no denying that it has altered the landscape of peer to peer payment forever. With financial service institution “Xapo” set to launch a Bitcoin debit card this month, it brings to question what exactly the future of this cryptocurrency and other open source payments may be.

For those who are a little less tech savvy, Bitcoin is a form of digital payment used to purchase goods, services, or merely trade among consumers. Bitcoins are earned through a process called “mining”, where users connect their computer to a server to process countless other Bitcoin transactions. These transactions go to an independent Bitcoin ledger called the “block chain”.

As users gain more Bitcoins, the processing of mining becomes increasingly difficult, and block chain rewards decrease per every block mined. There are only a finite amount of Bitcoins, and this method of accumulation is only expected to last until about 21 million Bitcoins are created. By that point, the only way to make a profit off of Bitcoins will be through payment transaction fees. This could possibly explain why finding alternative ways to use and transfer Bitcoins has become a topic of interest.

According to www.coindesk.com, the Bitcoin debit card will act the same as a regular debit card, and will be usable at any location a Mastercard can be used. Zapo analyzes the user account registered to the card, and then sells the appropriate amount of Bitcoins through the Bitcoin exchange service “Bitstamp”. The merchant will receive whatever localized currency is accepted in the area, so businesses will still receive real money, not Bitcoins.

With Bitcoin value currently fluctuating near $600 USD per coin on www.bitcoinexchangerate.org, this is a huge step forward for the use of this peculiar digital currency. Now, owners and investors will have legitimate ways to spend their Bitcoins on goods and services outside of the internet. But what affect will this new service have on the market value and liquidity of Bitcoins? Will this make Bitcoin a more legitimate form of payment? Bitcoins were highly popular, largely because their fees were so much lower than those of regular credit card processors; how will this affect the price relationship, and what affect will this debit system have on other merchant payment systems? What do you think? Let us know!

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Apple unveils changes to Mac, and hints at potential watch

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Apple recently unveiled their most recent collection of products, most notably the Ios8 mobile phone.

Although there were many improvements with the iPhone, such as multi-app messaging and group message self-removal, there were also several other products that got some upgrades; this includes their signature personal computer, the Mac, and reportedly, a potential watch.

According to www.hufftingtonpost.com, the new Mac computers will run off a program entitled “Yosemite”. Yosemite has a few notable features, one being a new, “flat” design that makes every application on the screen appear more like those on an iPhone. It’s OSX programming allows users to make calls and send text messages from their computers.

Other improvements include an enhanced search bar, as well as enhanced email usability. Users now can send larger documents, and the Apple email app allows users to mark up emails and write signatures.

The most notable improvement may be the ‘DropBox-like’ storage device called iCloud Drive. The program allows users to organize and find documents from both Apple and Windows devices. They are set to be available his fall.

The potential iWatch also has interesting features, reportedly include a new Healthbook software that hosts multiple health-monitoring devices (blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, etc.), and notifies the wearer of any changes during exercise.

The “Quicktype” feature may also be featured for wearers, an app that allows quick messaging to contacts by suggesting words and phrases.

Although one can always speculate about the innovations that Apple intends to make every year, it’s undeniable that their work continues to change the landscape of technology every year. What do you think of the changes to Apple products? Reply and let us know!

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