Category Archives: General

Your Stupidly Simple Password Is Begging to Be Hacked

 

 2014 was finally the year that Internet and data security became mainstream concerns from the celebrity iCloud hack to the alleged cyber assault by North Korea on Sony Pictures.

Use a creative combination of letters and numbers for your password. Photo credit: Jhayne
Use a creative combination of letters and numbers for your password. Photo credit: Jhayne

Despite the constant headlines about the importance of a strong password, it seems few of us are taking that imperative seriously, based on the just released list of last year’s most popular passwords, compiled by SplashData.

As Fast Company reports, some of the most common passwords are so simple such as “123456” and the perennial favorite “password” that one wouldn’t need a degree in computer science to hack into your computer or cloud storage account.

While you can see the full list of laughably simple and obvious passwords here, you may need a refresher on what makes for good password hygiene.

According to SplashData, here are three simple steps to make a strong password:

1. Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters.

2. Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites.

3. Use a password manager to organize and protect passwords, generate random passwords, and automatically log into websites.

It’s no surprise that SplashData offers one such password manager solution, but others include the well-reviewed 1Password which allows you to use just one password across all sites while it encrypts your information quickly and relatively easily.

Until we reach the days of ubiquitous finger print readers and retina scanners, the traditional password will be dogging our digital lives. Make yours smarter and hopefully you will stay off this map in 2015.

Pinterest Improves Search With Data

 

pinterest
Pinterest is innovating its search feature. Photo credit: mkhmarketing

Visual discovery tool Pinterest announced today that it’s taking steps to improve the search functionality of its vast collection of pins.

It turns out that what other users search for can be predictive as to what you will likely search for. As Gigaom reports, they can utilize this power of the crowd through a platform called QueryJoin:

Pinterest uses a data-collection workflow called QueryJoin that helps with applying one user’s search queries and the data gleaned from those searches to other users in order to generate more relevant search results for everyone involved. QueryJoin contains data like search queries, demographic statistics, adjacent queries and pins.

Read the whole story on Gigaom here, which references Pinterest’s original blog post on the subject and has more technical info on QueryJoin.

As companies continue to harness and aggregate huge amounts of data, we can look forward to better, more intelligent searches on everything from social networks to Netflix and Amazon.

And speaking of Pinterest, check out BeenVerified’s Pinterest page where we follow our interests from beautiful craft IPAs to meditation and breathtaking data visualizations.

3 More Amazing Ways to Improve Your Life With Data

 

Earlier this week we wrote about how using public data available through background check services can potentially improve your dating life, finances and general decision-making. We suggested using data more in your life to help you reach your goals in 2015.

With the innovations in publicly accessible background checks available to you, there is no need to guess about the people and places around you anymore.

Get motivated for the new year.
Data will help keep you fit this year. Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Equally exciting are some of the innovations involving your own personal data that you can harness to have a better year this year. Once you start tracking your data, just be careful with where and how you store it.

Here are three areas where data is set to make a big impact in your life in 2015:

Health

With Apple’s announcement of its forthcoming Watch and a string of health-related apps, 2014 was the year that smart watches and fitness trackers broke through to the mainstream.

2015 will be even better as heart rate and sleep monitors improve. You’ll soon be receiving specific recommendations about how to manage your diet, blood pressure and a personalized exercise program, if you desire it.

If Apple’s Watch is too much of a commitment, you can dip your toe into health and fitness trackers with budget models from Jawbone, Pebble or Garmin. In any case, the days of the simple pedometer are coming to an end and the data you are provided about your health with potentially help you lead a healthier life.

Car

Tired of paying higher car insurance premiums than you think are merited? Most people are. The same concept of personal fitness tracking also now applies to your car, with auto insurers and start-ups trying to disrupt the market.

Most major auto insurers now offer telematics devices that can track your mileage, the speed at which you drive and can even help determine fault in an accident. This way they can offer better rates to careful drivers.

Startups like Metromile and Automatic are taking telematics innovation further by offering per mile car insurance and the ability to run diagnostics on your car in real time.

Home

Many people are familiar with Nest, the startup recently acquired by Google and famous for their smart thermostat, and yet remotely controlling your home’s temperature is just the beginning.

Recent innovations on the market now allow you to create intelligent lighting patterns that make it appear that your are at home when on vacation, or even change color when your favorite sports team wins. Intelligent locks, home security systems and more are all in the early stages of hitting the market and are set to add value in 2015.

We hope our posts this week help you think about how you can improve your life with public and personal data.

How Public Data Can Help You Dominate in 2015

 

2015
Have a better 2015 with data. Photo credit: Joy Lin

While many people set and then struggle to achieve the same New Year’s resolutions each year, at BeenVerified we have a more novel suggestion for you which may in fact help you to achieve any number of goals along the way. This includes your financial, business, and love life.

Our idea: resolve to become more data-oriented in your everyday life.

What does this mean? It means utilizing the public and private data relevant to your life to make better decisions about how you live, what you do and whom you do it with.

Take online dating: are you one of the 40 million Americans who have tried it?

If so, have you ever given thought to what data you use to inform your decision making on sites that could help you find a future spouse, intimate partner or even just a one-time hook-up? If you’re like many, you are just relying on a series of photos and a few lines of text that make up a profile. Tinder users just rely on a picture alone.

Regardless, these extremely limited data sets come from the same biased source: someone trying to sell you on them!

Consider that for matters as serious as your heart (and your personal safety) other sources of publicly available data could be useful, including a background check.

This tool can help give you the peace of mind that your next date checks out with the vital stats that they have presented to you. It can also alert you to a potential date’s financial difficulties, current and ex-spouses, business associates, properties and any criminal record.

Why wait for this crucial information? Consider a background check to make your dating life more secure, efficient and confident in 2015.

Here are some other ways that public data can potentially improve your life this year:

Buying a new home:

Is this the year you will buy your first home? You can use data in public records to research home values in your target neighborhood and also estimate your tax bill. Don’t overpay on the biggest investment of your life.

Researching business contacts:

Are you serious about building your Rolodex this year? Public data can be a powerful research tool and can give you a knowledge edge when interacting with potential new clients.

Finding a long-lost relative:

Has a family member been out of touch for a while? Not sure where they live now or how to get in touch? Public records can be a fantastic resource for this purpose if you have their name and an idea of their age.

While becoming more data-oriented, especially with public records, may have been a daunting task in the past, this year you have access to clear and affordable public data searches in the palm of your hand through background check services like BeenVerified.

Check out our new iOS or Android app and commit to becoming more data-oriented this year.

Our Most Popular Blogs of 2014

 

As 2014 comes to a close here is a look at some our most popular blog posts:

1. Top 3 Surprising Things in a Background Check Other Than a Criminal Record

There is more data than just a criminal record to be found in an individual’s background check. Read this post to find out some of the more surprising things you can find.

Photo credit: Nana B Agye
Photo credit: Nana B Agyei

2. 3 Reasons to Keep a Background Check App Handy This Weekend

You never know when you might need to run a background check. That’s why BeenVerified puts effort into our mobile apps, so you have the freedom and flexibility to run a background check when you need to.

3. Unfriend Old Social Networks in 3 Easy Steps

A self-background check can give you a good idea of your online presence, including that ancient MySpace account that you forgot to close years ago.

4. Background Checks: Before You Freak Out, Read This

Make sure you interpret the data in a background check correctly and reference it against other sources. Avoid getting confrontational unless it’s absolutely necessary and you’re 100% positive that your interpretation of the data is the only correct one.

5. 3 People Who Overcame Criminal Records and Dominated

Did you know these three famous and successful people had criminal records?

You can look forward to some exciting improvements to the BV blog in the New Year. Until then, we wish you a happy and safe start to 2015!

 

Avoid These Shocking Holiday Scams

 

It should come as no surprise that this time of year is ripe for scams and con artists. The NRF estimates that nearly 20% of all retail sales take place during the holiday months. Anytime there is a flood of money exchanging hands, there will unfortunately be a handful of thieves ready to take advantage.

Avoid holiday scams with common sense, intuition and data. Photo credit: David Vega
Avoid holiday scams with common sense, intuition and data. Photo credit: David Vega

In addition to the tool utilizing a background check when you have a funny feeling about someone, you should be aware of the following perennial holiday scams to help prevent you from having a Blue Christmas (or Hannuakah, or Kwanza or….Festivus).

Perennial Holiday Scam #1: Gift Card Scams

According to CEB TowerGroup data, $124 billion will be loaded onto gift cards this year. Gift card scams work in a variety of ways but one common strategy is for the thieves to write down the identity numbers of the cards and then wait for the card to be activated before going on their own, illegal shopping spree.

BBB recommends buying gift cards from a reputable retailer and to be wary of gift card exchanges.

Perennial Holiday Scam #2: “Grandparent” Scams

We have noted these before, but the elderly, particularly if unable to be with their families during the holidays, can be particularly vulnerable to scams via phone calls and emails from a supposedly “stranded” relative.

Perennial Holiday Scam #3: Gift theft

With tons of packages arriving and sitting on your doorstep while you’re at work, they make a tempting and easy target for thieves. If you live in a city or high-foot traffic area, consider an Amazon Locker or sending your packages to your office or with a neighbor you know will be home during the day.

Perennial Holiday Scam #4: Home burglaries

Home Alone is a classic for more reasons than one, but the main premise of the film is unfortunately timeless. With holiday travel and empty homes, comes a potential increase in home burglaries. According to the FBI, nearly 400,000 homes are burglarized each year during the holiday season.

Take some common sense steps to deter thieves. Have a neighbor you trust check in on your home. Consider investing home security and an intelligent lighting system that will alternate your lights to give the appearance of people being at home.

Use common sense, your intuition and when available, public data, to help inform your decisions during the holiday season and enjoy the time with your family and friends.

The team at BeenVerified wishes you a happy and safe holiday season.

The Top Data Stories This Week

 

If you’re busy like us you may not have had time to catch up on reading until the weekend. Here is a roundup of the three biggest data stories we noticed this week:

1. Companies Data Security In Question After Sony Hack

sony
A bad week for Sony Pictures, Uber and maybe net neutrality.

As we blogged about yesterday, the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures leaves open many questions about how companies guard their customers and employees’ private data. With the culprits still out there, large companies are playing catch-up to ensure their systems won’t be breached next.

2. Uber Admits Employees Abused “God View” Location Tracking

Uber has been in the news for all sorts of reasons in the past few weeks, but their latest misstep involved the use of a data tool that allowed its employees to all rides an individual user has taken. After being taken to task by a US Senator, Uber responded in writing about its collection of user ride data and admitted that some abuses occurred. We have definitely not heard the end of this one.

3. Dirty Data: Why the 4 Million Comments On Net Neutrality May Not Be What They Seem

The ongoing battle between advocates for and against net neutrality rages on, with a new report surfacing that just one group could have manufactured the overwhelming number of responses to the FCC’s request for comment. Both sides have tried to poke holes in the other’s interpretation of the data, and as President Obama weighs in, it’s clear this controversy will rumble on through the tech community and beyond.

What was the most interesting story you read this week? Let us know in the comments.

3 Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Data Lovers

 

At BeenVerified we’re obsessed with data, and creating compelling consumer products from it. (By the way, if you share our passion for data, perhaps you should join our team). As the holidays approach, below are some unique gift ideas for the data obsessives among your friends and family.

An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.
An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One Is Looking) by Christian Rudder

As a co-founder of OKCupid, the dating site that made headlines earlier this year for running experiments on its users, comes a book about human behavior from the data created when we interact with each other online.

As Rudder says in an interview promoting the book, “Your preferences on OKCupid tell us what you find sexy, and your reaction to the strangers the site offers up tells us how you judge people. The articles you “like” tell us not just about your politics, but even predict your intelligence.”

The result is “a new picture of mankind based on our data.” Creepy? Maybe. Fascinating? Definitely.

Automatic

You’ve heard about the connected home, but what about the connected car? Automatic plugs into your car and then transmits data back to an app on your smartphone.

No more relying on mysterious engine lights, you can now get detailed information on the health of your car and how best to manage it through Automatic. It can also help you save money on gas, remember where you park and help you get assistance quickly in an accident.

iLumi LED Smartbulb

You may recognize the founders in the promo video from Shark Tank, and it’s true that Mark Cuban is a major investor in this product.

What at first may seem like a mildly improved (and really expensive) light bulb that can change colors becomes a much more interesting proposition when you realize it has the capability to interact with the data on your phone.

The “smartbulbs” can be programmed not only to wake you up gently with warm light in the morning or alternate on and off when you’re not at home to dissuade burglars, but also can sync with your stock portfolio or scores of your favorite sports teams, and change color based on the data it receives.

Let us know about your favorite data-related gifts in the comments.

Watch out! BeenVerified is Growing!

 

 

As you can see from the picture below, we are knocking down walls to expand our New York office to make room for our growing company. Having started in 2008 offering our customers the ability to run a background check quickly and easily, BeenVerified has grown to the premier public data provider for a number of different uses and customers.

The BeenVerified office is under construction.
The BeenVerified office is under construction.

As we grow we need new team members to help us tell our story and develop products for all of the different types of customers that rely on us. If you are interested in joining a growing, data-driven company that encourages experimentation and having fun while doing it, we want to hear from you.

BeenVerified is currently hiring for a large number of technical and marketing positions. We have an especially strong need for engineers, people who love working with data and savvy marketers.

You can see all of our open positions here.

You can also read our blog post on the top ten reasons we think you’ll enjoy working with us here.

And finally, read an interview with an actual employee for even more detail on life at BeenVerified.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to get a better idea of our company culture, passions and interests.

What BeenVerified Customers Say on Facebook

 

Our background check service has been used millions of times and we always love hearing from customers, which is why we maintain such an expansive social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn and Instagram,  as well as our blog.

We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee
We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee.

In case you haven’t seen them, here are a few real, recent comments from our customers left publicly on our Facebook page and some of our accompanying thoughts.

“im glad (i’m) with beenverified” -John E. 

We are happy to have customers with us for all their public data needs. BeenVerified can be used more for more than one-time background checks of criminal records. We make it easy for our customers to stay with us for the long-term, with affordable subscription packages so searching for multiple phone numbers, properties and anyone in the U.S.

“Thanks to you all a few years ago I found my birth mother. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Hoping to meet her soon.” -Sarah R.

We love hearing stories about how our data has helped reunite families.

“I have had two episodes of identity theft. Beenverified has the most reliable and accurate information. I recommend this service above any other similar company. Good job.” -Dora J.

 As we wrote recently, identity theft is an increasingly worrying problem for our customers. Our ability to let you search yourself quickly and easily for all the public data about yourself out there will hopefully gives you a leg up on keeping your identity safe.

Are you following us on Facebook and all our other social media platforms? We’d love to hear how BeenVerified has helped you and any questions you have about using public data.