Is the Ashley Madison Hack the Tipping Point of Online Security

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It goes without saying, that if you enter into marriage with your spouse, you should stick to your vows and using a site such as AshleyMadison.com is a very bad idea.  Unfortunately, over 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce, people are going to be unfaithful and it seems that the Ashley Madison site was a platform that made cheating a bit easier for quite a few people.  That said, I’d like to look at the bigger picture of the situation.  You are talking about 36 million email addresses, a rather astounding number.  Not to mention over 10,000 emails with a .gov domain.  Its difficult to fathom how many divorces will come of this.  Unfortunately, it has already been reported that there have been two suicides due to the hack.  You have celebrities involved, such as Snookie from Jersey Shore’s husband, Josh Duggar, and plenty of others.  As the story moves on, it seems to get worse every day.  When looking at a number of that size, you have think that everyone at least tangentially knows someone on that list who is quaking in their boots at their spouse discovering their email address in the database.

The bigger question for me is where this takes us from an online security standpoint?  We already had the iCloud hack last September, where plenty of celebrities had their private photographs posted online for the world to see.  Now that we have 10,000 people in government exposed, maybe this will be the catalyst to bring some change to how data is secured online.  There is no question that more and more of our lives are going to be lived online, and passwords will be more and more important.  I already have troubles remembering the logins for the 50+ online interfaces I work with.  Where do we go from here?  To we stick with Apple’s idea of a thumb print?  Do we all have microchips embedded in the back of our hands for passwords and credit cards?  It will be interesting to see how it develops, but that is only half of the picture.  The Ashley Madison hack was not on the user side, it was on the server side, attacking the database directly, regardless of the passwords kept by the user.

Target had a huge leak of credit card information, hackers stole over one billion dollars from banks in a data hack.  Is your data is safe any longer?  You would have to think that a hack of this magnitude and content will be a detriment to sensitive sites, especially adult content, going forward.  The question is what can be done to rectify the situation?  There will always programmers out there trying to protect data in the most robust and effective fashion, and just as many hackers doing everything they can to break through that security wall.  With any new medium there will always be growing pains.  However, the internet has been a major part of our lives for almost 20 years now, and its seems that there is a new article about a security breach each week.  Regardless of the content of your data, your data is just that, ‘yours’, and its a problem that needs to be addressed more sooner than later.

Whats Up with Draft Kings and Fan Duel?

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In 2015 it is virtually impossible to attend a sporting event, or even watch a sporting event on television without being inundated with advertisements for either FanDuel.com or DraftKings.com or both.  The meteoric rise of these two companies means that someone must be using their services, and boy are they.  Both of these websites provide a service which they describe as ‘one day fantasy sports leagues’.  In essence you are picking players to gamble on.  As we all know, online gambling is illegal in the United States.  If I wanted to go online and lay down $50 that the Yankees would beat the Red Sox, that would be illegal, so shouldn’t what those websites do be illegal as well?

I sure thought so, but not so fast!  There is one specific rule that currently makes these sites legal in the eyes of the United States government.  If I were to go and place $50 on my Yankees, that would be considered a game of ‘chance’.  If I were to go to Draft Kings and select individual players to compete against other individual players, that would be considered a game of ‘skill’.  Its a very interesting technicality, and one that is raking in millions and millions of dollars for these two firms.  As I began to look into it a bit more, I was shocked to find out that Major League Baseball actually signed an exclusive partnership with Draft Kings this spring.  You have to wonder if the success of these firms could be the catalyst for the government to look at taking the steps to make online gambling or sports betting completely legal.

I live five miles away from a beautiful casino, which opened three years ago, but I have been there a grand total of one time.  I’m not a big fan of sitting at a table of people I don’t know and losing money playing blackjack, but what about going with your buddies to watch the big game and making some random bets?  The first round of the NCAA mens basketball tournament is almost a holiday in Las Vegas with people traveling to sit in the sports books, and scream and yell, as the games come down to the wire.  It would be great to have that same opportunity in other casinos.

Draft Kings went from $45M in entry fees in 2013 to $304M in 2014, and now it seems like 2015 is set up for another year of extreme growth.  On the other side FanDuel brought in nearly $622M in entry fees in 2014.  That type of growth and revenue seems unsustainable, but incredibly impressive.  As an investor, you would have to acutely concerned with the government getting involved.  It seems that we constantly hear about how in debt our country is, and there are some smart people in Washington that are looking at these numbers, and racking their brains as to how the government will be able to find a way to get their piece.  It will be very interesting to see how the single day fantasy leagues play out over the next few years, and I promise to do some research, by losing some money playing the fantasy golf leagues.

Inc. 5000 4th Year in a Row

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I’m thrilled to announce that we were named to the Inc 5000 list of fastest growing privately owned companies in the United States.  We have been fortunate enough to add 90 jobs recently, and most of that growth can be attributed to our newly expanded call center.  While our revenues have gone up in an outstanding trajectory, when I put my head on my pillow at night, I’m most proud of being able to say that we have been able to create 130 jobs in greater Edison.  We live in the greatest country in the world, and it really is the American dream to be able to take your idea, not only turn it into a successful business, but be able to create jobs so that others can live comfortable lives.  I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity.

While we may have quite a bit of new staff, our core thoughts remain the same.  We take pride in taking care of our customers.  Being able to put in the new call center over the last six months is another way we are making our customers our top priority.  We now have shorter wait times for our customers to speak with one of our qualified specialists, and put our customers at ease as we quickly set up repairs for their home.  I’m proud of both our new staff, and our core crew that has been with us for years.  It has truly been a pleasure to come to work each day.

While it has been an honor to have been named to the Inc 5000 list for the fourth time, this only means one thing, we need to “Drive for Five!”.  We have so many enhancements in our pipeline over the next 12 months,  that I have all the confidence in the world we will do an even better job for our customers and will be back in the Inc 5000 next year in 2016!

 

 

How Can Apple Music Differentiate Itself?

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Apple announced that they have already signed up 11 million users to the free trial of Apple Music.  Its a rather astonishing figure considering how late they are to the streaming music vertical.  Apple is giving users a three month trial period and then the cost will be $9.99 per month for an individual and $14.99 per month for a family plan.  I listen to quite a bit of music and have been paying for both Pandora and Spotify for some time, so I really didn’t (and still can’t) grasp what Apple can do to set themselves apart in what appears to be an already crowded landscape.  Not to mention, Apple Music is being launched on the heels of Jay-Z’s music streaming venture, TIDAL, that by all accounts has been an absolute disaster up to this point.  Personally, I’ve been using Apple Music for at least a month and have to say that I enjoy what I have seen so far.  I tend to listen to music of artists I already know, and searching through my favorite bands, I’ve seen many more offerings than I have seen through Spotify.  Dave Matthews Band is a good example, with probably 20 more live shows available on Apple Music than on Spotify.

I’m also an Apple guy, so it couldn’t be any easier to pull up Apple Music through my MacBook, my iPhone or my iPad, and I’ve been using it in the car on road trips.  My biggest complaint after a month is that Apple Music is not yet integrated with Sonos.  Sonos is an incredible whole house audio system that I have been using in my home for at least five years.  It gives you the ability to stream music from iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Sirius, etc.  From what I am reading online, it will be integrated by the end of the year, but are currently caught up in some licensing issues.  For that reason alone, I don’t see myself canceling my Spotify subscription unless Apple Music is integrated into the Sonos.  This is the point where my personal expertise is over and done with…

The music streaming services are built upon communities of users building out playlists, rating songs, discovering new music, speaking about concerts, etc.  Millennials have shown the business world that they care about being part of this community.  Apple has already failed drastically with Beats Music, so its interesting to see what has happened with Apple Music.  Spotify claims to have roughly 22 million subscribers, and if all 11 million Apple Music subscribers stay on after their three month trial period, which isn’t likely, they will be half way to catching an established service with Spotify.  Just with any Apple product, as we have recently seen with the Apple Watch, the first iteration is not always what the product will become.  Apple did use a sound strategy by offering the three month trial in attempt to put together a strong community, it will be interesting to see what the streaming music landscape will look like six months from now.  I have a feeling Apple will pull out all the stops to force their way to be a leader in the space.

All Work and No Play…

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Without a doubt, there are times where we work too hard.  When your mind is focused on goals for your business, sometimes you can begin to develop blinders and not see the forest through the trees.  As I said when I started writing this blog near the end of last year, I want to put an equal focus on work as well as life.  The same should be true for our staff as well.  We couldn’t be where we are at without their hard work and dedication.  It has been a blast to be able to grow our idea into a viable business that not only takes care of our customers, but provides a vehicle to earn a living for our incredible staff.  Therefore, every once in a while, you have to take a step back and have some fun.  We were able to do just that on Tuesday, July 28, we were able to do just that with our Choice Home Warranty Employee Appreciation Day.

It couldn’t have been better.  We had beautiful weather and were able to spend some time together just outside of our office.  The team helped put together a delicious BBQ lunch that we all were able to share over some great conversation.  We also had a company in to make ices for everyone named Rita’s Ices.  It was a great choice, as it gets a but warm here in New Jersey in late July.

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We also had a raffle for our staff with tons of fun prizes with the grand prize being a 48″ flat screen tv.  From my perspective, it was great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces during a day that was all about relaxing.  What I especially enjoyed was being able to meet some of the children of our staff as well.  At the end of the day, it was great for everyone to spend some time together, and I appreciate everyone helping to put it together.  Without a doubt it will be on our calendar for next year as well.

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