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[RED ALERT] Meltdown and Spectre attacks can leak your sensitive data

Hey guys.

So, I don't know how much of this you know, but these two attacks, Meltdown and Spectre, are really serious.  We have been working non-stop to secure each and every one of our customers against these breaches, as well as the thousands of other attacks that we fend off every day.  We are patching our servers in real-time to ensure that your information is secure, but there may be occasional downtime for this.  We are working to keep that as much off-peak as possible, but when we find an intrusion, we have to attack it quickly.  Just know that we are doing everything in our power to give you the same service that High Level Studios has always provided.  Thank you for your patience.  Here's a bit more information on the attacks and how they can affect you.

Meltdown and Spectre attacks

A new class of side-channel attacks have been appeared, which exploit the following CPU vulnerabilities:

Meltdown and Spectre rely on them and allow the hackers to read the memory content of other programs, it means they can access the stored sensitive data like passwords, photos, emails, secret documents, etc.

The original coordinated disclosure date of this issue was planned for January 9, but the issue became public 6 days earlier.


Both are side effect attacks, but there’s a bit difference between them

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What Is Responsive Web Design & Why Do You Need It?

Responsive web design is a relatively new approach to website design that ensures users have a good viewing experience no matter what type of device they’re using. It’s become increasingly important over the last few years as mobile device ownership has exploded and traditional PC sales have slowed. And now that Google is prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in its search results algorithm, it’s essential to make sure your site is optimized for mobile by using responsive design.

The Backstory

Initially, after the launch of the iPhone, the trend was to build separate sites depending on whether a person visited the site from a desktop computer or a mobile device. While it was easier from a development perspective, there were a significant number of drawbacks. The downsides included increasing maintenance costs, having to promote and maintain separate sites for SEO rankings and even having to build different mobile sites for different types of mobile devices.

Web designer Ethan Marcotte is credited with coining the term “responsive design.” In 2010, he published an article on A List Apart discussing the rapidly changing environment of devices, browsers, screen sizes, and orientations. Building separate sites for every type of device simply wouldn’t be sustainable. Instead, he proposed an alternative concept: responsive design, which calls for building flexible and fluid layouts that adapt to almost any screen.

Development Principles

Responsive web design consists of three development principles. To work properly, all three of these need to be implemented:

  1. Fluid grids
  2. Media queries
  3. Flexible images and media

Fluid Grids

A flexible grid-based layout is the cornerstone of responsive design. It uses relative sizing to fit the content to the device’s screen size. The term “grid” is a little misleading because it’s not necessary to implement any of the available grid frameworks. Instead, CSS is used to position the content. This approach is based on percentages and is a departure from traditional pixel-based design principles. Responsive design moves away from the pixel-based approach because a pixel on one device could be eight pixels on another device. By basing text size, widths, and margins on percentages, a fixed size can be turned into a size relative to its display space.

Media Queries

Media queries, also known as breakpoints, can be used to apply different styles based on the capabilities of the device. The website detects the type of device you’re using or the size of your web browser and correctly displays the page. To see this in action, stretch the window of your web browser to different sizes. Notice how the page adjusts. Features can be used to control the width, height, max-width, max-height, device-height, orientation, aspect ratio, etc.

Flexible Images and Media

This feature allows you to adapt images and other media to load differently, depending on the device, either by scaling or using the CSS overflow property.

Scaling in CSS is relatively straightforward—the media element’s max width can be set at 100 percent, and the web browser will make the image shrink and expand depending on its container.

An alternative to scaling media is to crop it with CSS. Applying overflow:hidden allows images to be cropped dynamically so that they fit into their containers.

Getting Started

The front-end frameworks Bootstrap and Foundation have been around for several years and provide templates your design and development teams can use to get started, which will help save time and money. These frameworks have become responsive frameworks. And because their grids have responsive design in mind from the start, your developer won’t need to work out the percentages; they’re already pre-programmed.

Choosing to adopt responsive web design in your development isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, especially for existing web properties. Because Google prioritizes a site’s mobile viewing experience into the factors in its SEO algorithm, responsive design isn’t a choice—it’s essential if you want your site to be visible in search results.

For more information about responsive design, visit the site This Is Responsive for a list of additional resources. The site Media Queries has examples of responsive design.


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Hackers Stole $12.7 Million From Japanese ATMs in Less Than Two Hours

Hackers Stole $12.7 Million From Japanese ATMs in Less Than Two Hours


A rash of major breaches in recent years proves that your credit card information is hardly safe. But a recent heist in Japan shows that hackers are getting scary good at turning that data into cold hard cash. In this case, coordinated ATM withdrawals with cloned credit cards netted criminals $12.7 million in just two hours.

Police believe these thieves managed to steal data from a South African bank and use that information to print up 1,600 counterfeit credit cards. The cards were then used to withdraw the maximum amount (100,000 yen) in some 14,000 transactions. Authorities think that over 100 people participated in the flash mob-like heist.

Police in Japan and South Africa are coordinating with the International Criminal Police Organization to determine who is responsible for this breach. It’s possible that data-stealing skimmers, which are becoming increasingly crafty, were used to collect the initial data. Meanwhile, cloning the credit cards with the stolen data is relatively cheap and easy.


In the past, crime syndicates have pulled off ATM heists using a similar methods. Previous hacks took advantage of vulnerabilities on pre-paid “payroll” debit cards, created copies of those cards, and coordinated withdrawals at ATMs around the world. And as hackers’ methods get more sophisticated, you really should remember to check your credit statements regularly. If you haven’t already been the victim of credit fraud, you probably will be at some point. By Bryan Menegus

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Microsoft Will be Charging for Windows 10 Starting July 29

Microsoft is going to start charging for the Windows 10 upgrade on July 29. It'll be $110 for the Home version. Leo thinks Windows 10 is a worthwhile upgrade, unless you have software or hardware that still won't work with it. Leo doesn't like how Microsoft has pushed people into this so much. by Leo laporte



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Apple Says They Aren't Deleting Your Music, But ...

Apple responded to complaints of Apple Music users having their music deleted by saying that they aren't deleting the music deliberately, but it could be a function of users who are subscribed to both Apple Music and iTunes Match. Leo says to choose one or the other because Apple has never adequately explained how both work in concert. By Leo Laporte

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Apple introduces the iPhone 6, the Apple Watch, and Apple Pay Apple Pay

by | 17 Oct 14 

At its iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus launch event on 9 September, Apple also debuted what it called "an entirely new category of service": a mobile payments system called Apple Pay. In this article we answer the biggest questions UK readers will be asking about Apple Pay: how it works, when it will launch in the UK, which retailers, banks and credit card providers support the service and how secure it's likely to be. Summary: Apple introduces the iPhone 6, the Apple Watch, and Apple Pay Apple Pay


FAQs: What is Apple Pay? Ah, a softball to start with, eh? Good stuff. Apple Pay is the new mobile payment service that Apple launched alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It's basically designed to let you pay for things with your iPhone (or Apple Watch or iPad, in a more limited way). Sorry, it will "change the way you pay for things forever". Apple Pay FAQs: Sounds great! Er, how does Apple Pay work, though? Touch ID is key. If the shop you're in supports Apple Pay (more on that later), they will have a little sensor by the till. You put your iPhone on the sensor, put your finger on the Touch ID fingerprint scanner to identify yourself, and that's it.

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Best way to connect to wifi from a coffee shop!!

Wi-Fi Security Protect your identity and sensitive data at public Wi-Fi hotspots with Hotspot Shield VPN Encrypts your network traffic data Provides Wi-Fi security at hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc. Gives you private and anonymous browsing Compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android The Importance of Wi-Fi Security The availability of Wi-Fi hotspots at public places such as coffee shops, airports, and hotels has made it more convenient for us to access the Internet when we are away from the office or home. Unfortunately, the convenience comes with a huge risk as most public Wi-Fi hotspots do not encrypt the data transmitted through their networks. This means that sensitive information such as your email passwords, bank account information, and credit card information are available for the hackers to steal and use against you. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are perfect places for predators and hackers to perpetrate their cybercrimes.


If they happen to get a hold of your personal information, you could very well be the next victim of identity theft! Password-protected home Wi-Fi networks though somewhat safer are also highly vulnerable to sophisticated hackers. Why Use Hotspot Shield VPN to Protect Yourself from Hackers Despite the risks, Wi-Fi security is possible. The best way to keep your device secure on any network and in any location is to use a personal VPN such as Hotspot Shield VPN. Our VPN solution uses advanced VPN technology to encrypt your network traffic, enabling you to connect to a website via HTTPS. What this means is that your sensitive data, including passwords, credit card details, instant messages, and financial transactions are encrypted just like on a banking site. Therefore, hackers, spammers and ISPs are not able to track, monitor or intercept your web activities if you install and run Hotspot Shield VPN on your device. Wi-Fi security becomes even more critical if you are a frequent traveler or student who needs to use Wi-Fi connections at hotels, airports, coffee shops or university campuses to access the Internet. Hotspot Shield VPN is available as an ad-supported free VPN service or a paid premium VPN service. Additional Benefits of Using Hotspot Shield VPN Hotspot Shield VPN is a versatile security software that provides these additional benefits: Anonymous surfing – Surf the web anonymously and prevent tracking of your browsing history. Malware protection – Get protected from over 3.5 million malware, infected, phishing, and spam sites. Unblocking websites – Hotspot Shield enables you to access websites from anywhere, including popular sites such as YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and online gaming sites.

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WordPress sites are a massive draw for hackers

WordPress sites are a massive draw for hackers By Dan Raywood

Published 3 days ago

According to research by Imperva, WordPress websites were attacked 24.1 percent more often than websites running on all other CMS platforms combined. WordPress websites suffer 60 percent more XSS incidents than all other CMS platforms, and the research found that while WordPress is more likely to suffer fewer numbers of incidents for each attack type, it also suffers a higher traffic volume for each attack type. . Almost 75 million websites work on the WordPress content management system (CMS) and it seems that WordPress might be a victim of its own popularity. "We believe that popularity and a hacker’s focus go hand-in-hand," Imperva said in its report. "When an application or a platform becomes popular, hackers realize that the ROI from hacking into these platforms or applications will be fruitful, so they spend more time researching and exploiting these applications, either to steal data from them, or to use the hacked systems as zombies in a botnet". The research also found that 48.1 percent of all attack campaigns target retail applications, while websites that have log-in functionality, and hence contain consumer spe

cific information, suffer 59 percent of all attacks, and 63 percent of all SQL Injection attacks. Amichai Shulman, chief technology officer at Imperva, said: "Looking at other sources of attacks, we were also interested to find that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers are on the rise as attacker infrastructure. For example, 20 percent of all known vulnerability exploitation attempts have originated from Amazon Web Services. They aren’t alone; with this phenomenon on the rise, other IaaS providers have to worry about their servers being compromised. Attackers don’t discriminate when it comes to where a data center lives". Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and founder of High-Tech Bridge, said: "For upwards of a decade, the major CMS platforms such as Joomla and WordPress have been deeply researched by both black and white hat hackers (some well-known CMS even changed names during their development). Today it would be fair to say that the vast majority of data breaches are directly or indirectly related to vulnerable web applications and compromised websites". Dan Raywood is editor of The IT Security Guru Published under license from, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

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The Low-Down on Chip-and-PIN Cards

The Low-Down on Chip-and-PIN Cards

When Europeans buy something with their chip-and-PIN card, they insert the card in a machine like this one, then type in their PIN.
By Rick Steves

Europe — and the rest of the world — is adopting a new system for credit and debit cards. While handy for locals, these chip-and-PIN cards are causing a few headaches for American visitors: Some machines that are designed to accept chip-and-PIN cards simply don’t accept US credit cards. This news is causing some anxiety among American travelers, but really: Don’t worry. While I’ve been inconvenienced a few times with automated machines that wouldn’t accept my card, it’s never caused me any serious trouble. Here’s the scoop:

Today, outside the US, the majority of all cards are chip cards. These “smartcards” come with an embedded security chip (in addition to the magnetic stripe found on American-style cards). To make a purchase with a chip-and-PIN card, the cardholder inserts the card into a slot in the payment machine, then enters a PIN (like using a debit card in the US) while the card stays in the slot. The chip inside the card authorizes the transaction; the cardholder doesn’t sign a receipt.

My readers tell me their American-style cards have been rejected by some automated payment machines in Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. This is especially common with machines at train and subway stations, toll roads, parking garages, luggage lockers, bike-rental kiosks, and self-serve gas pumps. For example, after a long flight into Charles de Gaulle Airport, you find you can’t use your credit card at the ticket machine for the train into Paris. Or, while driving in rural Switzerland on a Sunday afternoon, you discover that the automated gas station only accepts chip-and-PIN cards.

In most of these situations, a cashier is nearby who can process your magnetic-stripe card manually by swiping it and having you sign the receipt the old-fashioned way. Many payment machines take cash; remember you can always use an ATM to withdraw cash with your magnetic-stripe debit card. Other machines might take your US credit card if you also know the card’s PIN — every card has one (request the number from your bank before you leave, and allow time to receive it by mail). In a pinch, you could ask a local if you can pay them cash to run the transaction on their card.

Most hotels, restaurants, and shops that serve Americans will gladly accept your US credit card. During the transaction, they may ask you to type in your PIN rather than sign a receipt. Some clerks in destinations off the beaten track may not be familiar with swiping a credit card; either be ready to give them a quick lesson, or better yet, pay with cash.

In a few cases, you might need to get creative; drivers in particular need to be aware of potential problems when filling up at an automated gas station, entering an unattended parking garage, or exiting a toll might just have to move on to the next gas station or use the “cash only” lane at the toll plaza.

Those who are really concerned can apply for a chip card in the US, but I think this is overkill. Major US banks, such as Chase, Citi, Bank of America, US Bank, and Wells Fargo, are beginning to offer credit cards with chips — but most of these come with a hefty annual fee. Technically, these are "chip-and-signature" cards, for which your signature verifies your identity, not the “chip-and-PIN” cards being used in Europe. While the American cards have chips, they are not configured for all offline transactions (in which the card is securely validated for use without a real-time connection to the bank). The cards will work for most European transactions, such as in Paris Métro or the London Tube stations, but they might not work at an out-of-the-way gas station in Provence, where the gas pump is probably offline. If you really want a chip card, ask your financial institution if it plans to offer one soon, and find out if the card is “chip-and-signature” or “chip-and-PIN.” With either type, be sure you memorize the PIN for your card in case a card reader requires it.

Some credit unions are beginning to roll out true chip-and-PIN cards that work for all transactions, online or offline. One attractive no-fee card is the GlobeTrek Visa, offered by Andrews Federal Credit Union in Maryland (open to all US residents).

In the future, chip cards should become standard issue in the US. Visa and MasterCard have asked US banks and merchants to use chip-based cards by late 2015; those who don't make the switch may have to assume the liability for fraud. There’s been lots of resistance, as the conversion may cost up to $8 billion. But businesses and consumers are feeling the pain as international criminals exploit our antiquated magnetic-stripe technology to hack into and compromise millions of US accounts every year. When your bank next renews your credit card, it’s likely there will be a chip in it.

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Google Authorship May Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not


Google ended its three-year experiment with Google Authorship yesterday, but the use of Author Rank to improve search results will continue. Wait — you can have Author Rank without Google Authorship? And just what is Google Authorship versus Author Rank? Come along, because they are different things — and Author Rank lives on.

What Google Authorship Was

Google Authorship was primarily Google’s way to allow the authors of content to identify themselves for display purposes. You asserted it by making use of “markup,” code hidden from human view but within web pages. Google extended from this original idea to link it tightly with Google+, as a step to create a Google-controlled system of identifying authors and managing identities.

Those making use of Google Authorship were largely rewarded by having author names and images appear next to stories. That was the big draw, especially when Google suggested that stories with authorship display might draw more clicks. Here’s an example of how it looked:


Above, you can see how the listing has both an image of the author plus a byline with the name.

Google ended Google Authorship yesterday. The image support was dropped in June; now the bylines and everything else related to the program are gone. It’s dead.

The markup people have included in their pages won’t hurt anything, Google tells us. It just will be ignored, not used for anything. But before you run to remove it all, keep in mind that such markup might be used by other companies and services. Things like rel=author and rel=me are microformats that may be used by other services (note: originally I wrote these were part of, but they’re not — thanks to Aaron Bradley in the comments below)

We’re planning to explore that issue more in a future article, about whether people who invested time now largely wasted adding authorship support should invest more time removing it. Stay tuned.

What Author Rank Is

Separately from Google Authorship is the idea of Author Rank, where if Google knows who authored a story, it might somehow alter the rankings of that story, perhaps give it a boost if authored by someone deemed trustworthy.

Author Rank isn’t actually Google’s term. It’s a term that the SEO community has assigned to the concept in general. It especially got renewed attention after Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt talked about the idea of ranking verified authors higher in search results, in his 2013 book, The New Digital Age:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

For further background on Author Rank, as well as the context of Schmidt’s quote, see my article from last year: Author Rank, Authorship, Search Rankings & That Eric Schmidt Book Quote.

Author Rank Is Real — And Continues!

Schmidt was just speculating in his book, not describing anything that was actually happening at Google. From Google itself, there was talk several times last year of making use of Author Rank as a way to identify subject experts and somehow boost them in the search results:

That was still all talk. The first real action came in March of this year. After Amit Singhal, the head of Google Search, said that Author Rank still wasn’t being used, the head of Google’s web spam team gave a caveat of where Author Rank was used: for the “In-depth articles” section, when it sometimes appears, of Google’s search results.

Author Rank Without Authorship

Now that Google Authorship is dead, how can Google keep using Author Rank in the limited form it has confirmed? Or is that now dead, too? And does this mean other ways Author Rank might get used are also dead?

Google told us that dropping Google Authorship shouldn’t have an impact on how the In-depth articles section works. Google also said that the dropping of Google Authorship won’t impact its other efforts to explore how authors might get rewarded.

How can all this be, when Google has also said that it’s ignoring authorship markup?

The answer is that Google has other ways to determine who it believes to be the author of a story, if it wants. In particular, Google is likely to look for visible bylines that often appear on news stories. These existed before Google Authorship, and they aren’t going away.

This also means that if you’re really concerned that more Author Rank use is likely to come, think bylines. That’s looking to be the chief alternative way to signal who is the author of a story, now that Google has abandoned its formal system.

I’d also say don’t worry too much about Author Rank. It’s only confirmed for a very limited part of Google Search. Maybe it will grow beyond that. If it does, it’ll be only one of many SEO ranking factors that go into producing Google’s listings. Byline stories as appropriate, but more important, make sure the quality of the stories you author make you proud to be identified as the author of them.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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Customer Testimonials

Hear what our customers have to say about us
“Scott was (and still is even after the official "end" of the project) great to work with. As a non-profit, cost was a consideration, and HLS was able to get us what we needed (and wanted) in a website for a cost well below what others quoted us. I can't say enough about our wonderful experience with Scott and High Level Studios! Anyone considering a website design or redesign needs to contact Scott and his team.”
patrickC Patrick C, President of Hispanic Bar Association, Saint Louis
“We were not anywhere close to being on the first or second page of Google now we're number one thanks to High Level Studios LLC. they did a very good job of putting our web page together.”
steveW Steve W
“High Level Studios transformed my business and has brought more people through our door than any other kind of advertising!”
LarryS Larry S
“They are perfectly competent and provide a fine service at a fair price. If you want to pay a lot more at a fancier place for the same end product, go ahead. But you'd be wasting your money.”
natalieS Natalie S
“These guys are the best! They are very professional and get the job done fast. The price is more than fair and the end result is exactly what we wanted.”
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“Simply the best!!!!! I think this lady below must be the competition because their price was far lower than the rest and the work quality was the best that must be why they do all the top St Louis company websites!!”
mike Mike W
“These guys do great work for half the price. They always come through in a crunch. They speak in Language I can understand and are nice!”
LeeD Lee D
“High Level Studios got my website up and running in under a month from initial conversation to completion. The site is clean and clear, and I love it. They even do internet marketing, and I'm already moving up in Google search!”
tomr Tom R
“Its been a great fulfilling business experience. I would recommend these guys for for your Marketing or website design needs.”
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1. Develop A Logical Plan We sit down with you to discuss your goals and aspirations for the site. We want to know exactly what you want to use the site for, so we can build you the site of your dreams.
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