two beetles on green leaf

SQL Injection on WP Plugin

On March 13th, a SQL injection script was found in the WP Statistics plugin. WP Statistic is an open source plugin design to track visitors. It records IP addresses, referring sites, search engine terms, and location statistics. Per it’s WordPress.org, the plugin has over 600,000 installs. The Daily Swig reported that the plugin can break a WordPress site’s encryption keys and salts. Hackers can use automated tools like sqlmap. The flaw was found in admins accessing the “Pages” option to get statistics. This sends a request to a database and generates an SQL query. This function is normally reserved for administrators. But the flaw can be viewed by non-admins. The hacker can then input their own values into the database.

When the creators were alerted to the flaw, they quickly sanitized the bug and released a new patch.

person holding silver iphone 6

Facebook Privacy

Facebook’s philosophy is that society is in an age of information exhibitionism. In their view, people are not concerned with their information being shared. It is a time of openness and transparency. Per Facebook’s own terms of service, Facebook is paid by allowing advertisers to show users ads. The social network provides advertisers information on ad performance and interaction. Facebook also provides advertisers demographics and interest information of viewers. Information is what Facebook sells, so users do not have legitimate claims on privacy. When a user registers for an account, they need to agree to the terms of service. Facebook’s terms of service are clear that they will sell a user’s data. Users agree to give Facebook their name, their profile picture, and information.

Facebook has changed its privacy settings. They did so because of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Cambridge Analytica bought 87 million Facebook user data. This information assisted Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in their election campaigns. The data was also used by Brexit supporters to manipulate Facebook users. The data was gathered through a Facebook app called “this is your digital life.” Facebook has since suspended Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has ended partnerships with advertising data brokers.

Facebook has not changed what data they collect. They did make it easier for users to access and control their data being sold. Facebook redesigned its privacy settings from 30 locations to 1 location. The change was designed to make it more initiative and easier to navigate. One of the privacy settings is deleting old posts and pictures. Users can also delete old comments and likes. This information is sold to advertisers so they can tailor ads. Changing these settings will change what ads a user sees. Changing user settings with move people to different demographics. Old irrelevant data will not be used as true data about a user. Adjusting the privacy settings will also limit how someone can contact another user.

white iphone 5 c on white table

iProspect and Adidas

Internet media advertisement has changed. More people use smartphones than personal computers. It is a struggle for any company to get the attention of consumers. Companies need to find unique solutions. Companies also need to rethink their metrics to capitalize on hidden opportunities. A new type of advertisement firm is needed. One that specializes in e-commerce and social media. iProspect is this kind of advertisement firm.

iProspect is a global-wide digital-first end-to-end advertisement agency. iProspect focuses on SEO optimization, paid search engine ads, and mobile marketing. Companies submit their big data to iProspect. iProspect estimates the potential Return on Investment. Then iProspect implements their social media and internet campaign to drive sales. iProspect has a wide range of clients. Some of their clientele includes GM, Hilton Hotels, Neiman Marcus, and T-Mobile. The company has a history of revenue improvement.

Adidas hired iProspect to measure their data. The data determine how much search traffic resulted in a visit to a brick-and-mortar store. Adidas wanted to know how much revenue was gained from search clicks. iProspect estimated that 1 in 5 clicks resulted in a visit to a store. Out of that, only 13% of the physical traffic resulted in a sale. Each sale averaged 71 dollars in revenue. If iProspect can increase visitors from 13 percent to 20, revenue would increase. The average sale would be 80 dollars. Each click would have a value of 3.20 dollars in revenue. The Return on Investment, by using iProspect, would be 680 percent. It would behoove Adidas to use iProspect to increase their online presence.

Metrics and data are vital in a connected internet society. How people shop has changed. It is as important to have a strong web presence as well as a physical store. Companies like iProspect are there to capitalize on the internet frontier.

closeup photo of turned-on blue and white laptop computer

Cyberwar by Amy Zegar

BA 207 Introduction to E-Commerce

Amy Zegar, co-director of CISAC and Davies Family Senior Fellow, did a TEDx Talk on Cyberwarfare in 2015. Cyber attacks and cyber wars have escalated and evolved over the years. The U.S. Government placed cyber attacks on the top of their threat list. They did this after the attack by North Korea on Sony. The attack stopped the release The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogan. Terabytes of private information was stolen and released. Sony suffered because of this attack.

In her talk, Ms. Zertag listed three classes of cyber attacks. The first one as thief of intellectual property form American Corporations. The IP from U.S. private businesses gives the economic an edge over others. The second class of attack is a tax on infrastructure. An attack like this would cause disruptions to the American way of life. The third class of attack is one that degrades or disables our military. A disruption like this limits the U.S. Military ability to defend the country. The military cannot attack when their interests are threatened.

Ms. Zertag states that there are “no safe neighborhoods” online. In real life, police officers patrol the city. The military defends the United States. The police and military are government owned monopolies on security. But the private sector owns 85% of cyberspace. The government cannot reach in and defend those sectors. It is up to private businesses to work with the government for cyber defense.

The internet has, as Ms. Zertag put it, a “huge attack surface.” The internet is one location where people communication, shop, and manage their finances. It is also a place where people can steal, sell illegal products, and commit other crimes. It is a centralized location. The internet was never designed to have safe spaces. Researchers and developers created the internet to share unregulated information.

Since the start of the internet, internet traffic has tripled. Development of smart devices has increased the reliance of the internet. Appliances will soon be autonomous. Driverless cars will become more popular. In the health field, smart devices will be implanted to record health vitals. The coding rule of thumb is that there is one defect for every 2,500 lines of code. The defects in code are tested by hackers and random bots. When the error in code is discovered, it is exploited. The more code is used in programing devices, the more susceptible a network is to a cyber-attack.

There are five key differences between cyber warfare and traditional warfare. The first difference is that the more powerful a network, the more vulnerable. The more connected a society is, the more they will lose due to a cyber attack. Because 85% of the internet is owned by the private sector, the government cannot work alone. The government must rely on support of private corporations and other nations to handle cyber attacks. Since society has become more connected worldwide, the attack surface is broad. The last difference is that victims do not know they are victims until it is too late. Some cyber attacks are slow and unnoticeable by their intended victims. Until the crime is committed, there is no notice of a cyber attack. Traditional warfare as the advantage of seeing the enemy. In cyber attacks, the enemy often are anonymous.

orange paper clip on black surface

Groupon

BA 207 Intro to E-Commerce

Groupon is an e-commerce marketplace where local businesses offer deals. Retailers offer deals on travel, dining, car care, health services, and more. Some big businesses can afford media advertisements. A small business can leverage its advertisement reach with Groupon. Group on capitalizes on smartphone users, which makes up about 83% of social media users.

Groupon has many modern e-commerce tools. Some of these tools are in their Groupon Merchant application. This application offers a point-of-sale system and a payment processing system. Groupon Merchant has an inventory tracking system. Groupon also offers the ability for customers to have their purchases delivered. If delivery is not available, then the product is at a nearby store.

There are some advantages to using Groupon. Groupon allows users to browse through a local store’s inventory on their smartphones. Offering a delivery service saves businesses from hiring a deliverer. Groupon is well known. Local businesses have an advertisement market not available to larger businesses.

I have used Groupon before. I enjoyed the deals I found on it. I removed the app because my phone was bombarded with alerts. This triggered my FOMO and I had to remove it. I am using it again because I am going on a road trip. Finding local deals will provide an opportunity to explore what city I am in. I did revisit the app. The first deals I found were for local hotels, care car, and tanning package deals. I would like to continue to use Groupon after my trip if I do not get so many alerts.

There are some disadvantages to using Groupon. Customers may not view a local business’s website because what they want is on Groupon. Groupon does take a percentage of the profits. This is difficult because the retailer has already cut the cost of their product. Paying a cut to Groupon will make a product unprofitable.

white and black Amazon Echo dot

Echo and Home

BA 207 Intro to E-Commerce

Amazon was the first to produce a voice-controlled device. This device called Echo is connected to a user’s Amazon account. The Echo was designed as a voice-controlled speaker for the Amazon Fire TV. It has evolved to be a digital personal assistant.

The Echo can do things like answer questions, relay recipes for cooking, and shop on Amazon.com. Echo can broadcast news, weather reports, and songs from popular music sites. It can connect to smart lighting systems to control lighting fixtures. The device can also create lists and add items to calendars.

Echo uses a cloud base voice service called Alexa. Alexa stores voice command history and learn from its user. There are some concerns over privacy with Alexa. Alexa uses the recorded history to recommend products to its user. The voice commands are used to create marketing materials. But, the user has control over the information Alexa stores. Users can delete their voice command history either in bulk or one at a time. This information is also deleted from Amazon’s servers.

Amazon released a developer kit for the Echo. This feature is designed to help Amazon remain ahead of companies like Google or Apple. The developer kit, called Alexa Skills, helps make Echo multi-functional in the future. Echo occupies 70% of the market share in the voice-controlled market. Having that edge over other tech companies is important in a fast-changing market.

Echo Plus is an evolved version of Echo. Echo Plus is a hub that connects to other smart appliances. Appliances are becoming “smart” due to a drive to connect everything. Amazon entered this growing market by creating a device to act as a network hub. Echo Plus can operate all smart devices from one location.

Google has a device called Google Home. Home offers some of the functions that the Echo contains. Home provides answers to questions, controls smart devices, and plays music. Home also reads books, schedules appointments, and manages alarms. Home will also send alerts and directions to a user’s smartphone. Home is not connected to an online store like Echo is connected to Amazon.com.

macbook pro displaying facebook page

Pinterest and Lens

BA 207 Intro to E-Commerce

Pinterest has evolved from an image-collecting social network to a visual search tool. As a visual search tool, Pinterest competes with Google. Like Google, users can find images. The images on Pinterest features links to the source of the images, like Google. And like Google, Pinterest will also give related images to the topic the user is searching for. Pinterest is different because businesses can create visual showrooms for their products. Google can only show images and links to where to buy products.

One of Pinterest’s focuses is mobile devices. The company wants to challenge Google in search advertising revenue. To do so, Pinterest invested in Lens, a deep learning-assisted visual search engine. Lens is a tool used to search for clothing, home decor, and recipes. It learns from its users and recommends like-type products. Because of Lens’ effectiveness, Pinterest implemented it for their image browsing site. Pinterest uses Lens as a collaboration tool with other businesses. Through a partnership with Samsung, Pinterest works with retailers like Home Depot and Target. When a customer takes a picture of an object, the phone will find like-type items at nearby stores. This is an option not offered by Google. Users are not able to submit images and receive recommendations.

With users posting and sharing images, Pinterest has opened itself up to Copywrite infringement issues. The Pin It tool lets users find random images and share them, with little regulation. Despite TOS statements and automatic citations, users continue to share stolen images. It is up to the content creators to take the appropriate steps to remove the images. But that is difficult to do because of the amount of legal tape a creator needs to cut through. Few creators have challenged Pinterest. The task is difficult due to the size of Pinterest, which is what the company counts on.

Response to The Persuaders

The Persuaders is an episode of PBS’ Frontline which focuses on how marketing firms found new and effective ways to advertise among the advertising clutter in society. Marketers face the dilemma that people are unaffected by advertising. Ads are everywhere and people no longer pay attention. This “immunity” forces advertisement firms to find unique ways to promote their products.

The first part of the Frontline episode follows Song, a subdivision of Delta Airline, in their attempt to market themselves. Frontline also investigates new marketing techniques to “break through” to new customers. Some companies employ “Branded Marketing,” in which a television or movie blends their product within a storyline. FedEx interwove itself as a “character” in the movie, Castaway. Starbucks did the same in the Sean Penn movie, I am Sam. Other companies hire linguists, anthropologists, and brain researchers to discover techniques to influence the consumers.

The second part of “The Persuaders” reports on Dr. Clotaire Rapaille and his formula for marketing success based on his theories about how the reptilian part of the human brain works. Dr. Rapaille theorizes that people’s choices are imprinted since childbirth and dictates our shopping habits. He is sought after by marketing firms to discover more effective methods of advertisement.

The last part of the Frontline episode investigates how politics are using the new marketing methods to influence voters. Using a technique called “Narrowcasting,” political strategists (like Frank Luntz) can manipulate language to either clarify or cloud issues like global warming. In fact, The Persuaders demonstrated how changing the term “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” lessens the severity of the issue to the American voter. Furthermore, Political groups can deliver poignant and customized messages to specialized demographics rather than the community. This develops a sense of self over community within a voter.

I feel that The Persuaders Frontline episode is remarkable yet extremely disturbing. In the pursuit of selling products, marketers have discovered an effective method to deliver messages subversively. This is an amazing study in how the human brain works. However, it is a double-edged sword. I believe that empowering companies to psychologically manipulate their consumers creates a culture of people who can no longer think for themselves. A person’s identity and sense of individuality help develop critical thinking skills. If we’re manipulated subconsciously then we begin to be robbed of our ability to make logical decisions. We become psychologically dependent on businesses to dictate our likes and dislikes, much like how cults control people (which was referenced in The Persuaders); except our cults become Nike or Apple.

The Persuaders reported on a data collecting company called Acxiom. The company uses computer farms to mine data so they can predict the shopping habits of every American. The data mining is the “Gold Standard” for commercial advertisers. In fact, data mining has been an effective marketing ploy for myself, despite my lack of interest in watching television and movies. Online shopping sites such as Amazon frequently recommend additional items related to my purchases. I buy tablets and phones and, when I could afford it, accessories for them. I also purchase website themes and scripts. There is no doubt that my data has been mined by algorithms created by companies like Acxiom. In fact, my wife’s devices have a completely different set of ads due to her clothing and jewelry purchases.

In today’s age of interconnectivity, I don’t believe anyone is immune to advertisements. However, I believe that we need to be aware of how modern-day marketing works so we don’t abandon our critical thinking skills. Like anything, advertisements would ideally be received in moderation.

Investing in the Chocolate Market

Summary

As with any other consumable, the price of chocolate is driven by supply and demand. According to a market business report by Son Nguyen & Nickie Coker, “The masses, enthralled with better-quality treats, have become accustomed to spending an extra $2 or $3 every day on luxury options (Nguyen).” Chocolate is the second dominating specialty product that is wanted and consumed daily, next to coffee.

Background

Chocolate is a loved product worldwide. It is a 500-year-old sixty-billion-dollar industry, as reported by The Oxford Club’s website, Investment U (https://www.investmentu.com/article/detail/30459/investing-in-chocolate). Additionally, the demand for premium dark chocolate has risen since 2008, after the recession. Recent promising studies suggest that dark chocolate may help lower cardiovascular disease risks (Zucchi).  Not only does chocolate have a long history of sales but also has health benefits.

The Chocolate Market

Who buys chocolate? Nearly 50 percent of all chocolate is consumed by Europeans. A blog by CNN’s Freedom project titled “Who Consumes the Most Chocolate” reports that Europe makes up 49.32% of this industry. North America takes up 24.22% (with the United States at 20.19%). The third highest consumer is Asia and Oceania (which includes Australia) at 14.19%. Forbes magazine reports that within Europe’ market, the average Switzerland consumer consumes 19.8 pounds of chocolate yearly (McCarthy). Germany customers consume 17.4 pounds and Irish customers eat 16.3 pounds.

Despite stereotypes, there is no discernible difference between men and women chocolate consumers. A U.K. Study conducted found that although 91% of women admitted to consuming chocolate, 87% of men who were polled also ate chocolate (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/).  In an article by Slate magazine, there is no scientific basis in gender bias chocolate cravings:

“Research on whether women like chocolate more than men has yielded mixed results, in part because craving—the term researchers tend to use when talking about chocolate proclivities—is an inherently subjective phenomenon (Anderson). “

Chocolate remains a supermarket impulse buy. Roy Morgan Marketing (an Australian firm) conducted a survey on where shoppers purchase their chocolate bars. The survey concluded that “4.9 million Aussies bought at least one chocolate bar from a supermarket in any given four-week period – accounting for more than three-quarters (76%) of the chocolate-bar buying public (Roy Morgan). “

Delish.com reports that 90 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold for Halloween. Easter time 71 million pounds are sold and Valentine’s Day 60 million pounds (Tannenbaum). Referring to a chocolate industry report by Franchise Help, “Seasonal candy is a major driver of the confectionary industry, and in 2014 accounted for over 21% of sales – over $7 billion.”

Conclusion

A focus market for chocolate sales would be based on Europe, specifically Switzerland. The product would ideally be marketed to both men and women. The chocolate product would ideally be sold in grocery stores or convenience stores as an impulse purchase. Lastly, the best opportunity to increase sales of chocolate would be Halloween.

References

Anderson, L.V. “What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?” Slate Magazine, Amazon Associates, 13 Feb. 2012, www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/valentine_s_day_do_women_crave_chocolate_or_is_that_a_stereotype_.html.

McCarthy, Niall. “The World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers [Infographic].” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 July 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/07/22/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-consumers-infographic/#538584554484.

Nguyen, Son, and Nickie Coker. “Gourmet Chocolate.” Gourmet Chocolate -, SBDCNet News, 2006, http://www.sbdcnet.org/small-business-research-reports/gourmet-chocolate.

Tannenbaum, Kiri. “8 Facts About Chocolate.” Delish, Hearst Communications, Inc., 28 Aug. 2017, www.delish.com/food/news/a39015/facts-about-chocolate/.

“Chocolate Industry Analysis 2018 – Cost & Trends.” Franchise Help, FranchiseHelp Holdings LLC, 16 May 2016, http://www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/chocolate-industry-analysis-2018-cost-trends/.

“Vast Majority of Chocolate-Bar Buyers Get Their Fix from Supermarkets.” Roy Morgan, Roy Morgan, 7 Oct. 2015, www.roymorgan.com/findings/6492-chocolate-bars-at-the-supermarket-june-2015-201510062257.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/.

Zucchi, CFA Kristina. “What Drives The Price Of Chocolate?” Investopedia, Investopedia, LLC., 16 July 2015, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/071615/what-drives-price-chocolate.asp.

Chocolate Demographics by Region

BA-223-0-10288

Market Chosen: Chocolate

Segmentation Model: Demographics by Region

Chocolate is an 83 billion industry worldwide (“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” 2012).

Segments

Europe: 49.32% = 40.94 Billion

North America: 24.22% = 20.10 Billion

Asia and Oceania: 14.49% = 12.03 Billion

South America: 8.68% = 7.20 Billion

Africa:  3.28% = 2.72 Billion

Reasoning

Chocolate is the most popular where it is the rarest and the country with the most wealth. In an article by Slate Magazine, the writer reports on why Switzerland consumes and produces the most chocolate products. “Few cocoa-producing countries are big chocolate consumers because chocolate is a luxury,” notes Brian Palmer, “wealthy Western Europe constitutes 6 percent of the world’s population, but eats 45 percent of its chocolate.” Africa, which produces 2/3’s of the world’s chocolate (Maverick), only consumes 3.28% of the product. Many South American countries such as Peru and Mexico are the top exporters of cocoa, which explains why South America is the second least consumer of chocolate.

References

Mattyasovszky, Miklos. “Top 10 Cocoa Producing Countries.” WorldAtlas, WorldAtlas, 22 Apr. 2015, www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-10-cocoa-producing-countries.html.

Maverick, J.B. “The 4 Countries That Produce the Most Chocolate.” Investopedia, Investopedia, LLC., 30 Sept. 2015, www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/093015/4-countries-produce-most-chocolate.asp.

Palmer, Brian. “Switzerland Is the Last Place on Earth Where You’d Grow Cocoa. So Why Do the Swiss Eat So Much Chocolate?” Slate Magazine, The Slate Group, 11 Oct. 2012, www.slate.com/articles/life/explainer/2012/10/nobel_prize_and_chocolate_why_the_swiss_eat_and_produce_so_much_chocolate.html.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/.