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Wired World

All About the Technology Changes at CornerBarPR.com®

By Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR

Originally Posted

[Note from the Proprietor:  This column simply repeats most of our Chief Curmudgeon's Biting Commentary, "We've Upgraded; You Should, Too."  His Commentary was specifically focused on changes in, and upgrades to, CornerBarPR.com®, but its heavy technology content and the detailed explanations from our Chief Technical Security Advisor seem to fit right in with the purpose of Wired World, too. 

[Read it again, if you want to. Or don't. There's nothing new ...]

Oh, come on, guys! Our little enterprise is implementing all sorts of updates and upgrades and technological improvements at CornerBarPR.com® 2.0. Yet there you are, a bunch of supposedly brilliant geeks on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory"™, hunched over a laptop computer, looking puzzled at the changes. Contact us, and we'll try to explain them to you.  We'll use simple language for Howard ... 

We've Upgraded; You Should, Too

CornerBarPR.com has fallen victim to the technological revolution.

Depending on how you access CornerBarPR.com -- desktop computer, laptop computer, iPad, Nexus, cell phone, smoke signals, your television, telepathy, or tin cans on a string -- you'll find that our pages render just fine (often better than fine) on devices with different-sized screens. Actually, our site now should look really nice with screen "real estate" of any dimension.

This "we can view CornerBarPR.com on 'any platform'" capability is because we've moved the entire site to HTML 5 and are taking advantage of the new standard's "responsive design" features. That easy-to-describe change wasn't simply plug-and-play. It involved lots -- repeat, LOTS ... no, we mean REALLY REALLY LOTS -- of programming insight and effort. But now you can visit us using whatever technology platform you have handy. Pretty cool, huh? Lotsa lotsa other websites haven't even begun to take advantage of these advances.

We have new display and editing capabilities, making our site easier to manage, more up-to-date, much more user-friendly, and, on the occasions when we decide to do so, more magazine-like.  

Those, and many other behind-the-scenes technical improvements, are the reasons for our big-deal upgrade from CornerBarPR.com v. 1.0 to v. 2.0.

Everything will look lovely when our entire 700 or so web "pages" have been upgraded; as it turns out, that is quite a labor-intensive process, which we've decided not to outsource to India. It's a "word site," after all, and, well, you know about that language thing.

We've automated what we could, but, at the moment, not all the CornerBarPR.com 1.0 pages have been processed, and many of those imported into CornerBarPR.com 2.0 need a whole lot of manual editing -- automatic paragraphing and some formatting being major shortcomings. Right now, depending on what page you visit, you may see a lot of run-on text. The words will be there, of course, and the columns and articles will generally be right, but it won't be pretty and will be hard to read.

Be patient. We only have so many arms and legs.

Get your S in gear

Particularly observant readers may notice that our website URL now begins with HTTPS:, rather than simply HTTP:. That means we're using the latest encryption cipher throughout CornerBarPR.com -- part of a big-deal ongoing international effort to encrypt all website traffic on the Internet by default, in this post-Edward Snowden and Wikileaks environment.

Our Chief Technical Security Advisor has run CornerBarPR.com 2.0 through an industry-standard diagnostic test (a really comprehensive, technical beast), and it says our site's encryption is working well. He also supplied the lion's share of the technical information in this Commentary. And some of the humor! Thank you, Randy.

If you're still using Microsoft's Windows XP browser or early versions of Chrome or Android, we're certain you've noticed our changes, because, without the right protocols, you no longer are able to access CornerBarPR.com. We actually ran into this issue on Dr. Mrs. Chief Curmudgeon's cell phone.  

(We understand the irony: If you can't access our website, how could you read this message? Well, perhaps you have more than one browser, OK?)

We'll offer you a bit of techno-babble in a while, but first, a solution to the "old browser" problem:

Millie isn't all that should be thoroughly modern

Best, of course, is to upgrade your Windows XP browser to something more modern, like current versions of Firefox, Opera, Microsoft's Edge, or, if you must, the newest version of Internet Explorer. While we don't like IE, if you're going to use it, you'll need to get version 11, the latest and, allegedly, the last version of IE (it's available on Windows 7 or higher -- but not for long). Windows XP and Windows Vista users can't upgrade to a new-enough version of IE; they should just stop using IE and enjoy better, more secure browsers, like Firefox or Opera.

Microsoft has announced their intent to end IE for all Windows versions, in favor of Edge -- but Edge only is available on Windows 8 or newer. In other words (thank you for the complexity, Microsoft), Windows 7 users of Internet Explorer soon will be out of luck.

There are other browsers out there, too (if you use Safari, be sure you have v. 7 or newer); in each case, the latest (highest-numbered) version would be best.

Go ahead, bite the bullet. Upgrade.

And if you have a cell phone using Android 4.3 or below, simply download Firefox or Opera browsers from the Google Play Store and use the new browsers to access CornerBarPR.com and the growing number of HTTPS: websites, rather than defaulting to 4.3's built-in, outdated version of the Chrome browser.  Or get a newer phone ...

Here's a little bit of "the why": The stock web browser (Chrome) on Android 4.3 and earlier is only capable of TLS 1.0 encryption, but TLS 1.0 is getting a bit long in the tooth and is becoming more vulnerable with each passing day. CornerBarPR.com currently is configured to require either TLS 1.1 or 1.2. Installing Firefox or Opera, or using a phone with any new version of Android, adds support for both TLS 1.1 and 1.2.

Now, for the terminally geeky:

There are two parts to encryption on the Internet: the encryption protocol used and the encryption cipher.

Um, 3.0, or 1.0, or 1.1, or 1.2?

The four protocols in wide use are SSL 3.0, TLS 1.0, TLS 1.1, and TLS 1.2. (Okay, if you must know, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and TLS means Transport Layer Security. Feel better?) SSL 3.0 is hopelessly riddled with problems, and its usage is steadily dropping. TLS 1.0 is quickly approaching the same problematic status as SSL 3.0.

Only TLS 1.1 and 1.2 (which are required to access CornerBarPR.com) have no known vulnerabilities. Next on the list is upgrading our email system to TLS 1.2.

Current encryption ciphers range from easily crackable (within seconds) to impossible to crack (requiring hundreds of years) -- even with all of the worldwide computing power thrown at them to try to crack a given cipher. So, the protocols create the foundation over which the ciphers operate. Got that?

There's more:

You'd think this minimal primer on encryption protocols and ciphers was pretty straightforward, but it turns out that TLS 1.0 and a few of the ciphers are in something of a limbo status right now. They're known to be vulnerable, but many sites are still leaving them enabled [Not us!], because those sites are trying to accommodate folks who are running Windows XP with incredibly old versions of Internet Explorer.

Of course, this downgrades the overall benefits of encryption for everyone else who is running modern operating systems [That's us!] and web browsers.  

Many XP users are getting the message, though: If they want to continue with Windows XP, despite it no longer being supported by Microsoft (brave souls -- or foolish), they need to at least use Firefox or Chrome, which can then handle TLS 1.1 and 1.2.  

Future-proofing your knowledge of credit cards: You probably have encountered new procedures for using credit cards at retail businesses -- restaurants and department stores and such. That business is protecting you (and themselves), by following the PCI-DSS (the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) mandate that all merchants who accept credit card payments had to stop using SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0 by mid 2016. But, because of the XP problem, PCI-DSS has ended up "giving in," pushing the drop-dead date back to mid 2018.  

Foiling the NSA

If you're paranoid about security, like we are, you'll find it cool to learn that TLS 1.1 and 1.2, when combined with strong ciphers, currently are unbreakable by government agencies or hackers. That's right: If you are using TLS 1.1 or 1.2, the NSA isn't getting into your business.  At least not yet.

[The fact that the NSA is trying to get cell phone and other technology manufacturers to install "back doors" for their convenience, to allow our government to rummage around in your device when they have an itch, is an annoying discussion deferred until another day.]

Because CornerBarPR.com uses those advanced TLS standards -- as we've said several times, above -- you can rest easy, and enjoy the fact that our use of encryption deprives snooping employers of the ability to see when you're goofing off -- ahem! educating yourself -- on our website.

We could, of course, enable the older TLS 1.0 standard on CornerBarPR.com. It would make our site more accessible to XP users running old Internet Explorer versions and older Android devices (version 4.3 or older). It would have made Dr. Mrs. Curmudgeon happy. But we've opted for the higher security of the advanced TLS standards.

Just upgrade your browser, and you'll be happy, too. And safer.

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