The Semantics Of Passwords

One of the hallmarks of successful cybersecurity is an organization’s ability to protect its assets while making them fully available to staff. The right people accessing the right data and moving the human ball forward. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. A key ingredient to that stuff is a mechanism that encourages and requires robust passwords at the consumer level. Not the general consumer, of course, but the staff who consumes your data in order to help your business thrive.

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Beyond The Political

Politics is one of those topics best avoided among polite company, and this post in no way espouses particular views or partisan sentiments. It is difficult to talk about federal efforts to enhance cybersecurity without drawing attention to national politics, but that is what we hope to do. (more…)

Harvey The Unimaginable

Back in the day, there was an offbeat Broadway show about an imaginary rabbit that occupied the house and lives of good people. It just sort of seeped in, like a rising tide, from the basement. That rabbit’s name was Harvey, and he was seen only by those who really wanted or needed to see him. (more…)

Riding Along On Easy Street

Your organization is a well-oiled machine. It’s nimble, responsive, and ready to follow in any direction you lead. Or lean. In many ways, it’s like a Segway. You don’t want to get too far ahead of it, and if you stay behind it, the machine will simply stand still. You have to confidently lean in the direction you want it to go, and you have to trust it to respond accordingly. When you reach that level of synergy, you and your Segway — your organization — become one.

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The Swede Smell Of Cyber

Checking into the hotel in Stockholm, visiting Scandinavia with the family, I couldn’t help notice the local papers. On the cover, above the fold, was the face of a man frustrated with a recent turn of events. Even though I couldn’t read the words — I don’t know Swedish — I could tell the man was a politician. It was that kind of picture. Given the current state of American politics, it was almost refreshing to see another country swimming in scandal. Imagine my surprise, though, when I discovered the punchline. There were no prostitutes or drunken junkets. There was only cyber. But it was just as messy.

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Cat Stevens: Cybersecurity Hero

Though he now performs under a different name, Cat Stevens once had his finger on the hippy, singer-songwriter pulse in America. Naturally, this made him something of a cyber savant as well. Naturally. It was his early encouragement of software and firmware updates and the direct correlation between those and network security. And he worked all of this early magic into his lyrics. Specifically one line, which suggested that, “The patches make the goodbyes harder still.” Many assumed he was only referring to the blue jeans of our passing youth, faded blue into the sky. But give that joint a rest and read between the lines.

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The Future of Cyber- Part Two

During a recent talk at The Chautauqua Institution, Denise Zheng held forth on the nature of cyber conflict: past, present, and future. A Senior Fellow and the Director of Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zheng has some interesting perspectives on the nature of cyber threats going forward. The concept of deterrence, for example is complicated, at least on a national or global scale. “Deterrence requires attribution supported by evidence, further supported by classified information and practices,” Zheng suggests, and governments know that for every action there is a reaction, often deploying the same technology. So global resolution of cyber threat potential seems problematic.

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The Future of Cyber- Part One

During a recent talk at The Chautauqua Institution, Denise Zheng held forth on the nature of cyber conflict: past, present, and future. A Senior Fellow and the Director of Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zheng has also worked as a senate staffer on the Homeland Security Committee, in the Computer Associates software engineering process, and, most recently, on cyber moonshots at DARPA. So her perspective on cyber reflects and informs those of consumers, governments, and leading edge developers. (more…)

Marsha Marsha Marsha!

You would think it would’ve been Jan Brady who wreaked havoc on the world this summer, trying anything to get the attention that always goes to Marsha. But, alas, it was Cindy, a tropical storm that stormed off the gulf coast like a teenager scorned, leaving a trail of devastation that even Gladys couldn’t fix. Homes were destroyed, businesses damaged, and lives lost, reminding us of the serious punch that Mother Nature can pack when she wants to. If you’re reading this, you’re among the lucky.

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The Smaller They Are, The Harder They Fall

While the media streams constantly with news of big-name breaches that threaten the global economy to the core, an even more significant story grows on the outer banks of public awareness. Sure, the big banks and retailers have lots of data to steal, but they also have the resources to protect their networks. The same is not always true of smaller enterprises. Perhaps in recognition of this, ransomware attacks on small businesses are increasing in greater numbers than their Goliath counterparts, according to Small Business Trends.

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No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

As remarkable as adware can be, both from the marketing side and the consumer side, the fact that banner ads and other promotions stem directly from your search habits is really the least of your worries. Imagine if the ads began to deploy code that controlled your computer, changed your default browser, and tracked your search habits for a Chinese marketing firm? (more…)

It’s A Family Affair

If you grew up in a large family, you know the sensation. Lots of aunts and uncles and thousands of cousins you saw on a limited basis, like every other year or so at a family reunion somewhere. Some of those kids were really weird, and they seem to come by it pretty naturally, since Uncle Fred and Aunt Eunice popped out of the RV with a gin and tonic in one hand and a fistful of political conspiracy theories in the other. Who knew Tolstoy was the second gun on the grassy knoll?

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Hacking Up Your Tex-Mex

Some breaches are just tough to stomach, and earlier this year that was especially true at Chipotle Mexican Grill stores across the country. Drawing details from a recent story on The Verge, every state in the Chipotle Nation, it seems, was affected by a credit card POS breach that garnered the hackers sensitive account information. No word yet on whether they wanted black beans or pinto beans with that data.

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Camp Songs For IT Professionals

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high. If you’re lucky, the old memories from summer camp return to the fore, as nostalgia delivers you from the daily stress of network security and constant threats.

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The Business Side Of Cyberthreats

The Wall Street Journal is not a publication prone to hyperbole, so a recent headline in the May 18th Business & Finance section screamed for attention. “Cyberthreats Breed Deep Unease” was the title of the article. The media would have us believe that all the really bad things seem to happen to multinationals or political parties. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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When Cybersecurity Is Mainstream

Let’s face it. Most IT Departments feel undervalued or ignored. Like lawyers, you try to avoid them at cocktail parties until you need one. At least that’s the way it was in the old days, like back in 2015 or so. With the ever-advancing wave of cyberthreats and our reluctance to reduce the epic size of our digital footprints, cybersecurity is entering the mainstream in new and surprising ways. Consider a long but thorough examination of the current state of cybersecurity in, of all places, The New Yorker. Known more for it’s insights into western philosophy and the Upper Easy Side, even The New Yorker has recognized the growing ubiquitousness of cyberthreats. Have you?

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Hacking Ain’t What it Used to Be

Do you remember 1986? The first class was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster rocked our world, and Top Gun was the highest grossing film of the year. That year also brought us the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a law that many have suggested hasn’t kept up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. After all, ARPANET was in its infancy in 1983, and the World Wide Web wouldn’t become a consumer reality until around 1990. Protecting isolated computers is a wildly different thing from keeping networked devices secure in the IOT world. (more…)

The Imperfect Storm

There’s a storm brewing, potential chaos lurking in the wings. And I’m not talking about politics. Though, if we’re being honest, there’s a storm brewing there, too. We can argue cause and effect, but the world is changing in palpable ways, probably more rapidly than we imagine. (more…)

When The Chips Are Down

Ever had that feeling that someone is watching you, like the door is ajar and folks just passing by the office can see everything on your desk? Have you felt that way for the last seven years? If so, you’re not alone, especially if your computers use Intel chips with vPro technology. According to a recent Ars Technica report, Intel has only recently provided a patch to a backdoor in your network that has been open since the year Facebook was launched. Think about that.

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Arraigned On The Planes Of Spain

Back when Julie Andrews was in her theatrical prime, there was more than just The Sound of Music in the hills. In My Fair Lady, she repeated “the rains in Spain stay mainly on the plains” in an effort to lose her cockney accent. One could argue that Eliza Doolittle was trying to escape her past and enjoy the liberty associated with a new identity, a new language, a new sense of freedom. The same might be said of Peter Yuryevich Levashov, a Russian hacker whose fingerprints are said to be found on such exploits as the Russian intrusion into our 2016 elections. (more…)

Not What You Think It Is

Some things are exactly what you expect. A ballpene hammer, for example, is difficult to mistake for anything else. But if someone hammers your online presence, littering comment and review boxes with inaccurate characterizations of your business, the picture seen by your customers and prospects is very different from what you might imagine. (more…)

Introverted Social Media

Even if we could isolate the recent activity of Russian hackers, imagine a mainstream marketplace for nefarious services provided by invisible people paid in Bitcoin.The information you seek is mined from the personal profiles and accounts of your target audience, whether that audience is a cheating spouse or a rebellious teenager with a hidden social media presence. It’s a complete violation of privacy, and we feed our own vulnerability with every trace of our digital footprint. (more…)

Is That Toaster Listening To Us?

In the interest of your organization’s OPSEC, step away from the microwave before you answer this question. There is no telling who might be listening right now. And if you’ve ever had Russian dressing on your salad, be sure you state that explicitly. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Here’s the question: How confident are you that your cybersecurity practices are up to speed? (more…)

Who’s Baking Your Cookies?

So you say you’re not a Yahoo user, that the news of their latest breach is no concern of yours. That sound about right? Well, you may be right, but consider also that the exploit used in the latest breach (early February) has far-reaching implications for anyone who takes even the first step onto the Internet. (more…)

Who’s Watching The Watchers?

It’s been a strange month or two in the world, and that’s not simply a political statement. There is a very real sense that somebody’s watching, all of us, all the time, and that we should take that for granted. Increasingly, it seems, that voyeurism extends beyond our digital footprint and into our everyday physical spaces. While novelists and science fiction authors have been seizing on the approach of these days for decades, the Luddites are always the last to know. But, you might ask, who is watching the watchers? Apparently, that would be Wikileaks. (more…)

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Hacker trying to hack into phoneStand against the wall. That’s the common advice given to tourists when they start to make calls on their smartphones in foreign lands. It’s not the roaming charges you have to look out for any longer. It’s now the roaming thieves who want to steal your phone in broad daylight and compound the pain by phishing your account information to unlock, wipe, and resell the phone. By standing against the wall, you limit the access and cover your blind side. Sadly, the stories are anything but rare. (more…)

Bundle Up To Avoid The Cold

Forest covered in snowWith every passing week, it seems, cyberthreats and hacks inundate the news cycle and bring home the absolute insecurity that most of us experience (or should) when we take even the smallest of baby steps with our digital footprints. Of late, it’s the Russians who seem to take center stage, hacking our politics and manipulating our elections. Though we could debate the extent of the success, nobody seems to doubt the intent any longer. If those chilly diplomatic breezes seem to intimate a second cold war, will cyber be the weapon of choice? Is it already?

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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…)

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…)

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…)

Half a Million Reasons

dollarsYou run a tight ship. You’re like the Admiral Nimitz of the IT space. You work closely with management to maximize resources. You know the projects already on the books for 2016, and you’re fighting for every penny, trying to keep the c-suite focused on the future, aware of the dangers that lurk in the ether and the need to guard against them. They just won’t listen to reason! (more…)

Building a Better Team

teamAs an IT professional and keen business observer, you’re always scouting talent. You like to recruit good people as you find them, not as you need them. Your savvy and swagger often assure the corner offices that you’ve got everything under control, even as they tell you about the seven new projects they’ve landed for next year. You’d like to celebrate, but you’ve got networks to manage, managers to network, and emails to return.

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A Cyber War on Women

houseU.S. House of Representatives Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine told Congress last week what every male IT professional has been saying for years: There are not enough women in this business. The larger context of her comments was the ongoing global cyberwar we seem to be fighting and the notion that arming ourselves with mostly men in this battle is, quite literally, a half-brained idea. Women, she suggests, bring unique skills and strengths to bear on these and other situations, and we should work toward a greater balance between men, women, and minorities. (more…)

A River Runs Through IT

Analysts and journalists tell us that there are two types of networks, those that have been hacked and those that will be soon. Security experts suggest that the second category might not exist at all, as the percentage of organizations, big and small, that have been breached zeroes in on 100. The trolls get smarter and more patient as we increase our vulnerability by an ever-expanding digital footprint, even while many organizations take no significant steps to assess their exposure and protect their data. Denial. It’s no longer just a river in Egypt.

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The Plymouth Rock of Cybersecurity

Your 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 and Michael have rowed your boat ashore, leaving the roiling seas of fiscal uncertainty behind you. Welcome to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrim. How about some steady quarterly earnings and revenue growth to go with that maize? (more…)

Restricting the Social Media Diet

If we use social media in the hiring process, does employee presence in that space increase organization vulnerability?

 

Increasingly, recruiters and employers are using social media to screen candidates. On the bright side, candidates can and are rewarded for the creativity and writing skills they display. The dark side is the overwhelming tendency to dismiss candidates whose expressed views or social habits differ from the employer’s. Like it or not, this seems to be the new normal.

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