Somewhere Between Sliced Turkey and Santa Claus

 

Working SantaYour organization has weathered some storms, am I right? The valleys between the peaks, when sales slow and payroll weighs heavy on the mind. You’ve hired through the good times and had to cut back in the lean times, but you’ve steadied the ship and there’s quite a bit to be thankful for as you try to recover from Aunt Eunice’s cornbread stuffing. And how about some steady quarterly earnings and revenue growth to go with that maize? That would be the best gift of all to slide down the chimney in a couple of weeks. (more…)

Wait, Is It Monday Already?

 

Cyber MondayCyber Monday. The masterful creation of marketing professionals, designed to tap your wallet before the turkey and dressing settle in your tummy. Think of the sheer volume of sensitive consumer information that wafted through the ether on that day, searching out bargains and tantalizing hackers. Imagine the millions of people walking through a big mall with their purses and wallets wide open and you begin to get the picture. But who doesn’t love a deal? And in today’s digital, global, Internet-of-Things, consumption-driven economy, who are we to argue with the ease with which we transact? Apparently 2016 set a new record for cyber-grab. Go team! (more…)

Veterans Day

Millions of American military veterans have honored us with their service.  Tomorrow, we set aside a special day to honor them and thank them for all they have done.

 

As an Air Force veteran, I have seen and experienced firsthand the demands and rewards of military service.  Frequent and extended periods of separation from their families, challenging compensation levels and demanding work schedules are difficult for everyone – especially our veterans.   Despite these challenges, I saw the deep patriotism, pride, and commitment these men and women have made to protect our freedom.  On Veterans Day, we honor and thank our colleagues, clients, friends, and family members for their dedicated service to our nation. (more…)

And In Other News

circusWhile the world has been watching the American political circus over the past several years, a recurring question put forth by all parties has been, “Can this or that person be trusted with the nuclear codes?” This is an important question, no doubt, but one that overshadows an even more significant question. Granted, the President is the single gatekeeper to the national arsenal, but enemies foreign and domestic seem to be making their own keys to nuclear infrastructure these days. (more…)

REM and the Lyrical State of Cybersecurity

Way back when, in a world before the Internet, when information moved by postal truck and mere facsimile, there strode upon the earth an alternative rock band whose words were even more prescient now than when they first uttered them. And while REM exited stage left, their pronouncement that “It’s the end of the world as we know it” enjoys fresh relevance with each wave of technological advance. (more…)

Dyn-A-Mite!

dynamiteA closer look at recent chaotic events surrounding the DDoS attacks on Dyn DNS reveals some frightening things about our rapidly growing dependence on the Internet. A recent NY Times article does a great job of explicating the events in layman’s terms, including the warning, “And the threats will continue long after Election Day for a nation that increasingly keeps its data in the cloud and has oftentimes kept its head in the sand.” (more…)

All Motivated with No Place to Go

Using digital tablet double exposureAn election cycle is great for reminding citizens what they’re looking for in a leader, a party, and a government. Granted, we don’t need endless election cycles, but a democratic republic depends on an educated and motivated citizenry. So we’ve got that going for us.

 

As IT professionals, you might have a vested interest in the actions and attentions of government. At some level, investments in infrastructure and mechanisms can only be made by governments, and the responsibility for maintaining that infrastructure falls to them as well. Think of roads and bridges. And the Internet has evolved into a really complex infrastructure, a road that bridges cultures around the globe. Without legislating the access and traffic, at some level governments need to do what they can to facilitate safe and steady flow of information and opportunity. (more…)

Blue Skies and Fireflies

Businessman using his tablet phone on airplane. Business travel and communication concept.If you have flown lately, you might have noticed a new wrinkle in the use of cell phones in flight. In addition to limiting use to airplane mode on those devices so equipped, the crew currently prohibits the use of or charging of any Samsung Note 7 device at any point while aboard the plane. CNET offers a brief explanation here for why that message has been added to the mix with making sure your tables and seats are in the upright and locked position. (more…)

Be Driven to Be the Driver

Mad Max Rolling Thunder

American truck speeding on freeway, blurred motion.Have you ever been passed by a big rig and thought to yourself how glad you were that somebody was at the helm of that rolling bundle of death? Have you ever seen a roadside littered with billboards advertising legal services for victims of crashes involving big rigs? Maybe seen the ads on television? If so, you probably take little solace in the idea that big rigs are evolving toward autonomous operation only slightly more slowly than cars, and most new cars already come equipped with the required hardware. Put on a hockey mask and crank a chainsaw, cause you got a real massacre on your hands. (more…)

A Made-for-TV Reality

Cable News is Not Enough

Mixing the newsThis election cycle will go down in history as one of the strangest in American history. Both candidates face low favorability numbers and they remain statistically close in most of the polls. This is widely known to anyone who watches cable news programs, mainly because those networks tend to recycle the news over and over again, day after day, and week after week. No reason to blame the networks, though, because that’s the business model. And, quite frankly, there is only so much human activity that is newsworthy, though they seem to always push those boundaries as well. (more…)

Going Rogue

It’s Not Just for Sarah Palin

citiBack in the day, when heartless senior management pointed out the flaws of the working man, the most retribution he would reasonably fear is that his car would get keyed in the parking lot. Sure, it’s a 1972 Corvette Stingray, but it’s still just a car. And that’s about as far as it would go. Nowadays, disgruntled employees swing a much bigger hammer, and the key they carry now slides down your network and leaves a scratchy mess the size of Texas. Literally. (more…)

The Golden Age of Cyber

zerodaysHave you ever been watching an action/adventure film and noticed the lag in technology? Like Tom Cruise suspended above a top-secret console pulling a floppy disc from his bag of tricks, or some other actor who knows nothing about cybersecurity delivering well-scripted lines that ring hollow? Maybe, generations from now, people will look back at our current relationship with the digital world with the same wonder with which we view science fiction. 2084 may make 1984 look quaint and anachronistic, but shouldn’t popular culture facilitate the general public’s understanding of the risks in the ether? Shouldn’t Hollywood do a better job of revealing cybersecurity experts to be the rock stars that you are? Am I right? (more…)

Get Your Head in the Game

helmetRemember the old days, when military pilots wore wool-lined leather helmets and big, clunky headsets? Probably not, since those practices tapered off after World War Two. By the time fighter pilots came into your field of vision, it was probably Tom Cruise singing “You’ve lost that loving feeling” while Goose couldn’t eject from the backseat. It didn’t end well for Goose, but you have to remember ICEMAN and MAVERICK in bold print on the helmets as the frosty colleagues pulled together to fight off the Russians and save the day. In addition to the monogram, the helmets had been upgraded to include oxygen masks and room for the really cool aviator sunglasses. Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full. (more…)

Jackware In The Box

carjackFans of this blog — and let’s be honest, who isn’t a fan? — will recall a recent post that detailed the carjacking of a Jeep Cherokee from several miles away. It was an effort to demonstrate the security vulnerability of cars equipped with wireless access points and other IoT equipment. And it worked. Cars were recalled, security issues were addressed, and we now have an additional lens through which to view rapidly advancing car technology. But what if the car is advancing beyond us, the drivers? (more…)

Open Says A Me

2faPasswords are the first line of defense for critical network infrastructure. Building an organizational expectation for strong password use in no longer seen as an option. It is now a requirement. If you can get your staff to deploy 8-12 characters randomly selected from all varieties available, that’s $uPer GrE@+. (more…)

Bond. Cyber Bond.

cyber bondsCapitalism is a wonderful thing. Free markets have helped humans identify and meet demands by supplying the products and services that envelop an economy. It is also worth noting that necessity is often called the mother of invention, and cybersecurity is not removed from the influence of this type of thinking. (more…)

At the Crossroads

crossroadsRobert Johnson is believed to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Legend has it the devil offered Johnson in trade a well-tuned guitar and a peculiar gift for singing the blues. His songs have been made famous by Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones, among others. Despite this oft-intoned gift, Johnson suffered an early departure from this world, though one shudders at the thought of such talent descending eternally southward into fire and brimstone, a musical fate we’d more readily assign to boy bands and pre-pubescent pop stars. (more…)

Politics as Unusual

Regardless of your political affiliation or your favorite — or least unfavorite — candidate, the 2016 election cycle has been anything but predictable. If this were a circus, it would be a very good one. Instead, though, it is the pinnacle of the democratic mechanism by which we choose our leadership. That is a sobering reality that could make you reach for the bottle. (more…)

Organizational Climate Change

CrisisPlanning is part of business, and the emerging changes in our physical world certainly play into that. Unexpected rains and flooding seem to strike different regions of the country with increasing frequency, and the usual threats like hurricanes and tornadoes haven’t completely resigned the stage. (more…)

BREXIT and The Unbearable Lightness of Leaving

UK flagYour organization is an island of traditional values and modern technology. Your staff speaks a language that is unique to the industry and has a shop culture that has evolved from the first day you opened for business. You’ve conquered the universe, winning large contracts and making connections that have ushered in waves of revenue and progress. You’ve forged alliances with others in our global economy that strengthen both parties. You’ve faced unruly vendors and cut ties when necessary, and you’ve battled the mighty when compelled to do so, especially when industry momentum was threatened. (more…)

The Ubiquity of Remote Access

remote accessForget about the Internet of Things. Yeah, like that’s possible. But set that aside for the moment. Another stark reality of our new global economy and digital footpath is the flourishing of remote access. Road Warriors access their office PCs from business travel hotels from Scranton to Sacramento while small businesses choose NAS over cloud services, reaping the many benefits of local data control and network accessibility but facing the daunting reality of localized vulnerabilities. (more…)

Crazy Cousin Guccifer

Every family’s got at least one, a crazy uncle or distant cousin who adopts a scorched earth perspective when exiting the reservation or joining the circus or moving to Iowa to invest in an earthworm farm. You don’t hear much from them for a while, but the names and stories get opened up at family weddings and funerals, reunions marked by distant sadness and curiosity. Guccifer, aka Marcel Lazar, is a Romanian hacker who may seem new to the family, but his name should sound familiar very soon if not already. (more…)

I’m with the Government, and I’m Here to Hold a Hearing

dcWe hear a lot about homeland security, both the pursuit and the official government department. The TSA is probably the latter’s most visible, and often most toxic, representative, especially when you see the little old lady victimized by the random full body search. The work they do is important, but a lot of it never sees the light of day. That can be good or bad. On a slow day, though, you can witness the machinations that propel our homeland into great security, because a recent Senate Homeland Security Committee meeting was recorded and is viewable here. Granted, it’s a couple hours of your life you’ll never get back, but whatever inflates your balloon. (more…)

It’s Graduation Season

The waypoints on our life journeys are marked by ceremony. Weddings, funerals, births and Baptisms, and, from time to time, graduations. High school and college seem to be the major events, but the zealous have introduced kindergarten, grade school, middle school, and traffic school to the mix. So congratulations to those who wiped the points off their driving record with 8 hours of vehicular remediation, Your future is, indeed, bright. (more…)

Ransomware Exposed: Sextortion

Ransomware is not new. It’s been around for a while, and clever hackers have found ways to extort just the right amount of money to make it worth your while to settle. The balance is somewhere between what the data is worth and what it would cost you to recover it through normal machinations. Traditionally they’ve kept the number low enough that is was cheaper to pay up and walk away. An easy decision, perhaps, when the data is just that. Data. (more…)

Hackers Prove Patient But Swift

Breaching a global bank network is no smash and grab operation. As organizations focus and fund their cybersecurity resources with even greater alacrity, the bad guys have to continue to polish the edge of their sword, patiently waiting for the right opportunities to score bigger and bigger hits. Such is the case with the recent — and second — attack on Swift, the global messaging network banks use to move money around. If you think you’re covering all your bases and keeping your data out of harm’s way, you may be giving yesterday’s news and last week’s security protocols too much play. Hackers, in one small way, are like PGA Tour Pros: These Guys Are Good. (more…)

A Coppertone Moment

It’s the official beginning of summer, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from the far reaches of North America are making their way across the USA in a Chevrolet, migrating to the seasonal climes and exotic beverage offerings of coastal communities across the Southeast. Escaping the more — perhaps presumably — mundane and pedestrian challenges of their normal lives, many tourists engage in atypical behavior, casting inhibitions to the wind and embracing the larger world in various stages of sobriety and dress. It’s all umbrella drinks and beach reads, kids running amok and minivans loaded with folding chairs and inflatables. Now imagine your data sitting next to that family in Denny’s. You know the one. (more…)

Authentic Intelligence

Over the last holiday season, around the IT water cooler, the talk inevitably turned to the cool new gadgets that impressed the mortals and blew the minds of Luddites everywhere. That talk was all about Artificial Intelligence and the need to more efficiently sell shoes. IT folks are way too immersed in AI to get bogged down in practical application, but Marketing and Sales were all over it, both in search and point of sale.  (more…)

Grab That High Voltage Line, Again

As thrilling as it might have been for the relatively few men and women who successfully navigated the Ashley Madison portal to extramarital affairs, nothing can compare to the thrill of seeing your name and vital statistics on view in the public square, again. But that is the ruling of a District Court Judge in Eastern Missouri, who determined that “embarrassment” was not sufficient cause for the plaintiffs to proceed as “John Does” in their suit against Avid Dating Life, Inc. for not protecting their sensitive data. This New York Times article will get you up to speed, if necessary. (more…)

60 Minutes of Cyberthreat

It was a beautiful Sunday, a great day to be outside enjoying the wonder of nature. Maybe you played golf, or maybe you got two tractors stuck trying to cut firebreaks into quail woods that desperately awaited a prescribed burn, probably wishing you had chosen to play golf instead. Don’t ask.
At any rate, Sunday evening rolls around and you settle in for a little light television to bring the weekend to a close without letting Monday rush the gates ahead of schedule. And then it happens.

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Cash in the Caymans

Businessman with a briefcase full of money in the hands of on gray backgroundAs an IT Professional, you make a good living. Sure, you could always make more, but on a relative scale, you’re doing okay. What you’re probably not doing is trying to shelter your assets and income in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands or hidden accounts in Switzerland or Singapore. Few are engaged in such a process, but the rest of us are often fascinated by the thought of it. We read novels and watch movies about Swiss bank accounts and the extraordinary layers of secrecy that envelop access to such accounts. Rare is the revelation of those account holders, and rarer still the air that most of those folks breathe. And along came the Internet. (more…)

Bite from the Apple

Which interests outweigh the others? Should the U.S. Government be able to force Apple to assist in breaching the iPhone used by a terrorist? Or should consumers rest assured that, even when their feet are held to the fire, private companies can hold the line about their intellectual property and the security of their products? What was set to be a contentious and landmark legal battle has now been relegated to the moot court and debate team practice file. (more…)

Real American Hero

superyou_111As an IT Professional, you’re well aware of the near-term implications of your work. You keep networks up and running, safe from the grubby hands of hackers and malcontents around the globe. In your spare time, you seek a cure for cancer, provide for widows and orphans, and move the human race toward world peace and universal fiscal solvency. It’s what you do, and it’s all in a day’s work. You probably don’t have the time to study the finer points of our constitutional democracy, but did you know that you may one day emerge as a real American hero? (more…)

A Heartbeat Away

bitcoinAs an IT Professional and key voice in managing the ever-growing risks to your organization’s data, you probably have a number. Everybody’s got a number. The number represents the amount of money you would pay to simply make a problem go away. It’s a combination of risk/reward calculus and cost of doing business. How does that math change, though, when hackers hold your data for ransom? (more…)

An Apple a Day Keeps the FBI Away

appleRemember those annoying essays you had to write in high school and college English classes, the ones that ask you to take a position on some seismic cultural issue like capital punishment, abortion, or lip-synching? Well, maybe the first two. The news these days suggests that history is writing another of those epic essays, and the topic is one you can appreciate as an IT Professional. The question is, should Apple crack the phone to mine the data that might connect the killing dots. (more…)

Security Starts In The Home

titanicOr maybe the home office, where the perception might exist that the greatest threat to network and data security is a rogue Russian hacker or a disenfranchised neckbeard living in his mother’s basement. But that perception is just the tip of the iceberg, and too many organizations spend too much time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you want to see the problem more clearly, take a look around the office, from Agnes in Accounting to Stan the Man in Sales. From Reggie in Receiving to Ruth in Reception. The people on your staff are wonderful, devoted, and talented members of your team. They are also the biggest threat to your security. (more…)

Death By Internet

iot2015 was an interesting year for technology, especially the ever-expanding connection between cybersecurity and the Internet of Things. Consider the dangerous possibilities that emerge when we connect devices that have the capacity to take lives, including automobiles and medical devices. The reality when you connect devices for the first time is that you can’t anticipate all of the possible security risks. It’s like dealing with a really bright kid. You can’t think of enough things to tell him NOT to do. (more…)

New Technologies, New Faces, and Mixed Metaphors

staffingThe economy has been expanding. Maybe not as fast as you’d hoped, but expanding nonetheless. You may have noticed an increase in RFPs, or maybe you’ve seen more activity at trade shows that suggest the project gatekeepers are loosening their grip on the padlock. Get you some of that! (more…)

Left To Your Own Devices

byodTo facilitate the easy flow of data and ease the maintenance and setup burden of IT teams, many organizations have been moving toward BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. The policies and practices surrounding BYOD are difficult to navigate, especially with the ever-increasing footprint of the Internet of Things. In the face of expansion, though, and the reality that all of your employees now have personal devices, limiting access to company laptops and desktops, while infinitely more secure, seems downright parochial. As an IT professional, though, the safety and security of the data is paramount. (more…)

And The Award Goes To…

awardsIt’s awards season, our time of looking back to a previous year’s achievements across a variety of cultural disciplines. The Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the Peoples’ Choice Awards are just a few. As an IT professional, you’ve longed for more industry-specific recognition, and awards like “Best Pocket Protector in a Supporting Role” or “Best Line of Code in a Feature Length Composition” make your digital heart sing. (more…)

Cybersecurity Hangover

cybersecurity-hangoverAnother year in the rearview mirror. You raise a glass and toast your organization’s many accomplishments. You met or exceeded your revenue goals, maybe, or you successfully completed three projects and put four more on the books for 2016. You are blowing and going and the world is your oyster. Take a big sip of that success. You’ve earned it. Take another for growing your business and your staff in parallel. Oh, the hint of fruit in that bubbly is very nice. Take another for the solid performance of your IT staff, keeping your network and data at the fingertips of the heroes but safe from the sticky fingers of the bad guys. At least as far as you know. (more…)

The Gifts That Keep On Giving

startIsn’t it great to be back at work? The kids are back in school, the elf-on-the-shelf is back in the attic planning next year’s pranks, and all you’ve got left to look forward to are the credit card bills. Santa was a bit overzealous, perhaps, but the looks on their faces make it all worthwhile, am I right? (more…)

The Manhattan Project

nycThe District Attorney for New York County and Manhattan is officially calling for smartphones to be equipped with a backdoor. Boing Boing reported last week that the DA’s efforts to ensure law enforcement access to stored data on all tablets and smartphones has the support of law enforcement officials in The UK and The Netherlands. So there’s that. But while the DA’s office goes to great lengths to affirm that access under search warrant would not violate human or civil rights, the report does not address the very real problem on the tech side. If you put a chink in the armor, it seems, wouldn’t you invite other, less hospitable elements to the party? (more…)

Holding Your Breath for Ransom

drForrester Research suggests that Ransomware will hit medical devices as early as 2017. Motherboard reported in November that the technology commonly deployed to hold your data ransom, usually payable in Bitcoin, will soon make its way into your pacemaker, drug pump, or any device that uses IoT to enhance the healthcare experience. Ransomware is effective largely because it demands a payment that is proximate to what its victims might have to pay to resolve the issue otherwise, making it cost effective to simply pay the ransom to release your data. That scenario is changed dramatically when the ransom note is received as the heart monitor weakens overhead and nears flatline. (more…)

Ho Ho Hold On Just A Minute

santaAs an IT professional, you are familiar with social engineering. You’ve probably even had specific training on social engineering and the ubiquitous threat it poses to your network. As a result, you look suspiciously at Melvin, the new facilities guy, as he makes small talk with Raynell at the front desk. Is that a thumb drive on his big key ring? (more…)

Turkey On A Sleigh

turkeyWelcome to the Tweener, that brief window of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when shopping reaches a fevered pitch, tensions run high, and Jim from Sales makes his way back to his office from seven months on the golf course to close deals before year end. Ho, Ho, Holy Cow, what a year it’s been.
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That Time Again Already?

santaIt’s the beginning of the holiday season. The radio stations switched to Christmas carols around Halloween, Santa is ringing a bell over a red bucket on every street corner, and we haven’t even carved the first of the annual pair of turkeys, much less cleared the freezer of last year’s fruitcakes from Aunt Eunice. Our only consolation, apparently, is the conspicuous consumption masking itself as Black Friday.
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Bet Your Bottom Bitcoin

bitcoinImagine owning a slice of the future, like buying an ownership stake in the Internet in the early 1990s or swapping pizza for shares to keep an early Apple startup going and fed. As technology has rapidly advanced, we’ve all missed opportunities, and probably hitched our wagon to a few falling stars as well, all in the name of changing the world and moving the human ball forward.

 

 

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Acting on CyberTerrorism

ransomAs an IT professional, you are the leading edge of your organization’s defense against all things cyber. You’ve got John Wayne’s swagger, Liam Neeson’s focus, Harrison Ford’s nimbility, Harvey Keitel’s calm sense of urgency, and Samuel L. Jackson’s patent inability to suffer fools. Say what again. I dare you. I double dare you.

 

 

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Penetrating Proximity

chaseYou’re an IT professional, so you know the man behind the curtain. In some cases you are the man behind the curtain. But I bet you still tense up if somebody’s standing a little too close when you’re at the ATM. You still get curious when others get curious about your personal information, like your address or phone number or date of birth. And if they ask for your SSN, the hair on the back of your neck stands up. All natural responses for someone at the leading edge of cyber defense.

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