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The worst passwords of 2020, and other tech stories you may have missed

By December 23, 2020No Comments

(This post originally appeared on Accounting Today)

No more robots checking inventory at WalMart, Hubspot for QuickBooks, and eight other recent developments in technology, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

1. These are the worst passwords of 2020

Digital security company NordPass released data indicating what the company considered to be the worst passwords of the past year based on how often the passwords were used, how quickly they were able to be figured out, and how often they had been exposed. The company also compared the worst passwords from the previous year as compared to this year in order to analyze how their ranks have changed. The top three worst passwords — according to the data — were 123456, 123456789, and picture 1, to name a few. (Source: NordPass)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: You’ve been reading — and I’ve been reporting — on the significant rise in malware, like ransomware, over the past few years. Many small businesses have been affected and some so seriously that they were put out of business. There are ways to reduce your exposure but one of the simplest is having your employees use better, and different, passwords. I recently signed up with a password manager and have been making the effort to change every password to something much stronger while keeping them all unique. I’ll be asking my employees to do the same. You should too. Steps like this will save your business the disruptive costs of being hacked.

2. Intuit introduces HubSpot for QuickBooks

Intuit has revealed a new integration with CRM HubSpot and QuickBooks Online in an effort to add more efficient customer communication in light of the challenges brought on by the coronavirus. While the offer is only accessible to QuickBooks Online Advanced customers for now, Intuit is planning to further the collaboration with HubSpot in order to provide more solutions that will help businesses as they continue to scale. Both companies will continue to work on spreading the word on the collaboration and focus their work on helping businesses navigate managing customers and payments. (Source: Accounting Today)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: HubSpot is a hugely popular marketing application with strong customer relationship management capabilities. If you’re seeking to integrate your QuickBooks Online system, then you might as well take advantage of a tool from the maker of the application.

3. Google launches Small Business Advisors Program

Google last month rolled out a beta-version of their new program for small businesses — known as Small Business Advisors — that will assist in helping businesses in their marketing strategy on the search engine platform. Small Business Advisors will provide 50-minute sessions that will focus on personalized consulting from Analytics, YouTube, Ads, and Google My Business. The new program will be available to small businesses who operate in the U.S. and already have an open and active Google account. (Source: Search Engine Land)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I have questions. Can this program assure us that our ads won’t be overshadowed by bigger brands spending millions of dollars? What more can Google be doing to create a level playing for small businesses and their larger, corporate competitors? Also, an advisor is fine, but what can be done to help small businesses actually implement the advice? Perhaps you have the same concerns.

4. Construction tech startups poised to shake up $1.3T industry

There continues to be a rise in tech startups focusing on construction due to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Construction companies have experienced particularly difficult obstacles, with many construction projects and sites throughout the country at a standstill through the height of the many shutdowns. While heated debates as to whether or not construction workers should be categorized as essential workers raged on, tech startups got to work and started tackling problems brought on by COVID-19. These startups are focusing on construction categories such as project conception, designing, and engineering. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to the TechCrunch piece, design software such as Spacemaker AI can help developers create site proposals, while construction loan financing software such as Built Technologies and Rabbet are helping developers manage the draw process in a more efficient manner. There are many others mentioned in this article, which is a worthwhile read for anyone running a construction business, or advising one.

5. Engineer sentenced stealing $10M from Microsoft

Volodymyr Kvashuk — a former Microsoft software engineer — was recently sentenced to a term of nine years in prison after stealing over $10 million from the company’s online store in the form of store credit. Over the course of 2016 through 2018, the engineer was in charge of testing the online ordering process to help monitor and ensure all was operating properly. While the testing software prohibited physical shipments to testers, a loophole allowed for testers to buy gift cards virtually. Through the virtual purchases, Kvashuk stole enough to buy a $1.6 million home and a $160,000 Tesla. (Source: ARS Technica)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Even the biggest companies with the best technologies can still get duped. Microsoft may not even miss the $10 million, but employee theft like this could cripple a small business. I offered a few suggestions for protecting yourself here.

6. Apple unveils Macs with new chip

This past month, Apple held an event to provide more information on its transition from Intel processors to its own ARM-based Apple Silicon processor, and they revealed which machines will be first in line to receive the chip. With the transition primed to start by the end of this year and conclude by the end of 2022, the first new processor will be the Apple M1 and will combine memory, GPU, CPU along with additional elements into its 5nm chip. Apple’s MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro will be the first three Macs that will have the new M1 chip. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Great new hardware coming soon from Apple. If your business or your clients use these products, you may want to delay purchasing until these new items become available.

7. Google to factor page speed, experience into search results

Google has confirmed that soon, when they rank search outcomes, they will begin to consider the speed of web pages along with additional metrics that detail experience users are having. Beginning in May of next year, visual stability, interactivity, and load time are going to be added to the way that search results will be ranked by Google. Current elements such as HTTPS-security, safe-browsing, and mobile compatibility will continue to be factors in the way pages are ranked. (Source: 9 to 5 Google)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s a good time to get with your web designers and test your site. If you’re failing in any of the above metrics, your web rankings — and your business — will suffer.

8. Walmart abandons robots checking inventories

Walmart announced that they have decided to cancel their original plans to have robots to track and check inventory after they discovered that actual human employees were capable of performing the tasks just as well. The robots tested were able to scan several pieces of inventory at once and were able to avoid running into things using built in 3D imaging, all while checking items that have been misplaced, pricing, as well as keeping track of overall stock. With the lockdowns due to the pandemic, however, Walmart realized that their employees who had been putting together online delivery orders from their stores were also able to gather data regarding inventory. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: But wait! I thought robots were taking over the world and would end society as we know it! Hmm, that thinking seems a little premature. The reality is that it will be many years before we have reliable non-humans performing human tasks. But it won’t be long before robots can satisfactorily track and check inventory as well as a human. Frankly, as humans, we’re better than that anyway, right?

9. Video conferencing startup Vowel raises $4.3M

Vowel — a video conferencing startup — recently raised $4.3 million and is looking to compete with video conferencing giants like Zoom and others. (Source: Business Insider)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to the startup, the goal is to create a more efficient and cohesive video conferencing experience for those working remotely, with advanced features such as the ability to provide transcripts and the ability to annotate meetings in order to let participants search content after a meeting, making it easier for members who couldn’t attend, as well as simplifying the process of setting meetings. Will this be enough to use them?

10. Netflix raises prices

Netflix recently raised prices on both their premium and standard plans to $17.99 per month for premium and $13.99 for standard. Previously the standard plan cost $12.99 while the premium plan was $15.99 a month. Customers will see the changes reflected in their upcoming bills in the next two months and will also get an alert one month before the change occurs. The basic Netflix plan will stay at $8.99 per month, which remains the same as when the entry-level option was rolled out in 2019. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This scares me. Why? Because Netflix is a cloud company. It delivers an online service. And — quietly — they just increased their prices without much opposition. What are you going to do? Give up another season of “Ozark?” Never! But for a business owner, the risk is what happens when the companies providing our cloud applications do the same thing. We’ve got little means to stop them. Beware of this and do your best to negotiate long term contracts.

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