Internet Security Can No Longer Be Optionally Supported

Courtesy of XKCD

With the recent documentation and exploitation of the “Heartbleed” computer security bug a new light has been shed on the backbone of digital world. Many of the largest companies in the world rely on software developed as an open source project dedicated to the common good. The downside to this model is that without proper funding things like “Heartbleed” can occur. This should be a wake-up call that companies (and Governments) should take a look at their critical infrastructure and make sure to allocate resources to the core pieces.

“Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher who saved the Internet from a similarly fundamental flaw back in 2008, says that Heartbleed shows that it’s time to get “serious about figuring out what software has become Critical Infrastructure to the global economy, and dedicating genuine resources to supporting that code.”[1]

Below is just an example of how the impact of resource allocations will affect the digital future.

“The sad truth is that open source software — which underpins vast swathes of the net — has a serious sustainability problem. While well-known projects such as Linux, Mozilla, and the Apache web server enjoy hundreds of millions of dollars of funding, there are many other important projects that just don’t have the necessary money — or people — behind them. Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, reported revenues of more than $300 million in 2012. But the OpenSSL Software Foundation, which raises money for the project’s software development, has never raised more than $1 million in a year; its developers have never all been in the same room. And it’s just one example.[2]”

Essentially we need to prioritize and support those efforts that keep the digital age blinking. Computer systems today are comprised of hundreds, thousands or even millions of lines of code and with all the complexity comes in the increased risk for compromise. All it take as in this case is an unknown error passes scrutiny and sits idol until someone nefarious decides to exploit it and use it compromise computer systems and devices. I add devices because this does not just stop at the enterprise level software or consumer desktops, but also the millions of smart devices we use daily. Now is the time to take a step forward and protect ourselves before we get caught… agan.

Source [1]
Source [2]

Anonimity is not Anonomous Anymore

Anonomity_Data

With the dawn of social media and the ever present internet our worlds have actually gotten smaller. By smaller I mean our worlds have become so connected that it no longer takes weeks or months for a communication to leave the United States and reach a country on the other side of the world. With the advent of new and innovative technology we have been forced relinquish some level of control over our personal digital identity (a digital currency – privacy for access). How often did you read the paper “Terms of Service” or “User Agreement” before you had technology providing more complex agreements requiring compliance before you signed up for a service? Now if you would read these closely you would find confusing scripts of text that allow the company to record, interpret/edit and utilize much of your user data and personal works for their own purpose and gain. This has greatly increase how much of who we are is shared with the world and how easily others can identify us based on smaller and smaller sets of data. It comes down to being easier to gather large amounts of data and cross reference this to identify “anonymous” people.

 

In the article published “Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility 1” researches showed how easily it is to uniquely identify people based on a dataset as a small as four points.

 

“in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier’s antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. 1”

 

“in other words, to extract the complete location information for a single person from an ‘anonymized’ data set of more than a million people, all you would need to do is place him or her within a couple of hundred yards of a cellphone transmitter, sometime over the course of an hour, four times in one year. A few Twitter posts would probably provide all the information you needed, if they contained specific information about the person’s whereabouts. 2”

 

Scared yet. I would say in the last 5 years we have seen the growth of two the largest aggregators of data the world has ever seen. Yes, I am referring to Google and Facebook and using a commonly quoted phrase from Stan Lee “with great power, comes great responsibility” can highlight our new found angst, displeasure or downright opposition to changes in the privacy statements and practices of companies.

 

NOTE: You can search and find countless articles of the uproar over the changes simply because it relates to what is shared with who for Facebook, Instagram, and others.

 

Consider this example of how MySpace was used as a conduit of seemingly innocuous information proved to be a security risk to the U.S. Government.

“The U.S. government isn’t the only institution to notice. Early in the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers of the social networking generation uploaded to their MySpace profiles pictures of camp life in the war zones. Innocuous photos of troops horsing around in front of tent cities, bunkers, outposts, motor pools, and operations centers circulated freely on what was then described as “a place for friends.”

The U.S. military soon realized that foreign intelligence services, sympathetic to America’s enemies and savvy to the social revolution, could collect these photographs by the thousands and build detailed, full-color maps of American military bases. During the Cold War, this would have required the insertion of first-rate spies, briefcases filled with cash, and elaborate blackmail schemes. In the age of radical transparency, all it would take is a MySpace account to know exactly where to fire the mortar round to inflict maximum damage on the United States. 3”

Why is all this important? Because moving forward one of the most valuable assets to a person will be their digital identity. Our digital identity shows the world who we are, what we stand for, our likes, dislikes, our family, archives our personal lives as they occur, serves as references for jobs, and variety of other societal measures. We must be vigilant in understand how our online or basic living activities (cell phone usage, internet browsing, online purchases, in-store purchases) can be tag, analyzed and synthesized so someone can build a digital file on who we are.

  1. http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/130325/srep01376/full/srep01376.html

  2. http://gigaom.com/2013/03/28/when-theres-no-such-thing-as-anonymous-data-does-privacy-just-mean-security/

  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/deep-state-on-social-networking-privacy-2013-7

Nest Thermostat

Nest ThermostatYou may be apprehensive at first because of the price tag (usually around $249) but do your research and understand the payback and you might be surprised. There are rebates and you should always check your local energy provider and federal resources. I wanted to write this article to highlight what I felt were the benefits and some drawbacks of the Nest Thermostat.

 

Benefits

– Interface is very easy to navigate

– Setup and assembly was easy to understand and informative

– One (if not the) easiest thermostat to program

– You can access your thermostat from anywhere (pending wifi connection).

– You will save money. Even if you keep a similar temperature level as before

– Auto away feature

 

Drawbacks

– Setting temporary setpoints hard to understand / accomplish

– Price versus competitors

– Auto away feature (pets)

 

Rebates

– Nest National Grid Rebate https://www.nest.com/energy-partners/national-grid/

– List of Nest Rebates by Location https://community.nest.com/thread/1023

– Programmable Thermostat Rebates http://en.openei.org/wiki/List_of_Programmable_Thermostats_Incentives

 

Saving Money

Even if you keep the same temperature levels as you did before you purchase the Nest you will save money. This is because the nest has some powerful features built to make it automatic and easy to save money. These are the auto-away feature which will “automatically turns to an energy-efficient Away temperature when you’re gone.[1]”

 

Moving on to the next phase – Nest Energy Services

 

“Today — on Earth Day — Nest is announcing what may be viewed as the second stage of its strategy. Now that is has invaded thousands of homes with its smart device and gathered data about its customers’ climate and living habits, Nest can begin using its powers in a new way. This summer the company will roll out a series of programs called the Nest Energy Services.[2]”

 

Essentially your Nest will be able to meet and mitigate the strenuous energy demand during peak times. It will work in partnership with local utility companies to help prevent blackouts from occurring by shifting demand.

 

“But Nest’s more exotic services focus directly on tackling the demands of air-conditioning a home in summer. The most dramatic is Rush Hour Rewards, which kicks in only a few times a year, during the late summer afternoons when consumption peaks.[2]”

 

These programs can be successful if just a small fraction of available participants choose to try the service (which allows customers to opt-out at any time) by helping both the utility companies manage energy supply constraints and customers save money by limiting use during peak rate times.

 

Resources

  1. http://nest.com/

  2. https://www.nest.com/energy-partners/national-grid/

  3. https://community.nest.com/thread/1023

  4. http://en.openei.org/wiki/List_of_Programmable_Thermostats_Incentives

  5. http://nest.com/living-with-nest/

  6. http://www.wired.com/business/2013/04/nest-energy-services/

 

The Office Finale

The_Office

This past week we received some closure in the 9 year running of the US show The Office. I have to say (no spoilers) that the outcome of the finale was much more rewarding than many of the other closings for shows I have seen. From the early moments of season 1 & 2 where we met Michael Scott, Dwight, Jim, Pam, Oscar, Angela, Kevin, Creed, and the rest of the gang it has been a wild ride.

 

If you have never seen the show consider picking it up on Netflix/Hulu Plus but be ready for those moments when you feel anxious for Michael as he tries so hard to be “The Worlds Best Boss” a joke referenced in almost the entire series. My special favorites are “Diversity Day” (or how not to do Diversity Day), “Basketball,” “The Merger,” “Weightloss,” “Golden Ticket,” “Michael Scott Paper Company,” “Scott’s Tots,” “Goodbye Michael”, and “Search Committee”

 

It must be said that when Michael Scott (Steve Carell) left the show after Season 7 things slowed down and the show took a different turn focusing more on the lives of the different characters outside of work.

 

Things we learned from the office:

  • Best Office Pranks (Jello stapler, fake desk, etc)

  • It takes courage to be real with others and it can often hurt

  • Paper as boring as it may seem is inherently interesting when surrounded by cameras

  • Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

  • Follow your dreams


It was fun while it lasted… That what she said.

Gamification in Healthcare

I am currently taking the Gamification MOOC (massively open online course) through Coursera and have begun to fundamentally understand the intricacies and impact that Gamification does and could have on the world. Listening to professor Kevin Werback @kwerb expound upon the fundamentals of the concepts it becomes clearer that we have and will continue to utilize these concepts to connect game elements to our daily lives.

 

One interesting note about the concept of Gamification is how readily accepted and potentially fast moving this concept can become because of the newer generations affinity and understanding of technology and modern games. Kids today are growing up gamified. They are participating in games and they don’t even know it.

 

One niche that I think as a society we could benefit from is the introducing of gamification to health care which could provide motivation in an area that has the potential wins for those paying for healthcare and those utilizing healthcare. A large preventative cost of healthcare can be refined and controlled by making healthier people and rewarding them both intrinsically (better health) and extrinsically (money savings passed on to consumers) we can create a situation that is win-win for many sides. It will be interesting to watch how this topic evolves as entities begin to understand the broad sweeping changes that can be implemented from a gamified system integrated in the healthcare sector.

 

 

Side Note:

If you haven’t yet considered it take a look at taking an online MOOC through one of the many sites that offer them (Coursera, edX, Udacity, etc) consider it if you want to keep your mind fresh and learn topics from leading minds for free.

I am a runner…

First, I want to express my deepest sympathy to all those affected by the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.

 

#RunForBoston – A hashtag to show support and solidarity for the victims. I hope this can be an inspiration and motivation to runners and survivors alike. If you’re interested you can log your miles here.

 

I am a runner, but I don’t like running. This may sound counter-intuitive but to me this was a reality I needed to understand and accept so that I could move beyond motivation to achieve life changing results. I was motivated to begin running after a series of test results kept indicating that I needed to lower my BMI and increase my cardiovascular fitness. I found that I was intimidated by the prospects of running due to the sheer amount of exertion and perceived difficulty of the task. However, I was surprised at the process and how I became accustomed to making changes.

 

Running begins with two feet. Yes, I mean the two feet you use to run but also the literal two feet (one in front of the other) to move your body farther (and sometimes faster). When I began running it was more like a fast walking with intermittent slow and fast periods. I could not run for more than 2 minutes at a time and I was quite sore after. Slowly the process became easier and I was able to increase my endurance and ability. But one thing to note is it is never easy to run. It takes a great deal of personal motivation each time to lace up, get out, and will myself to move in an unnatural motion for an extended period of time. It’s soooo much easier to choose to stay in bed or sit on the couch than go out and put a few miles on my running shoes.

 

It all has a purpose. Even with what seems to be the world working against me sometimes I find great satisfaction when I achieve that which I set out to accomplish. Finishing a run has a great sense of accomplishment and every time I run I feel myself getting and staying healthier. There is also a great community of both avid and aspiring runners that are always willing to say “Hi” on the road, answer questions or provide tips and support.

 

Find your own motivation. Whatever it is that might motivate you I encourage you to use it to help move you to action. We each have a different style or process but the end results will be the same. Running will provide very tangible results for the work that you put into it and I wish you the best on your journey.

Some personal tips:

  1. Start slow and work up – Running for 2 minutes is better than sitting on the couch for 2 hours.

  2. Sign up for a race a few months out – It helps to have something to work towards.

  3. Get good shoes – You will notice the difference if you have proper fitting shoes.

  4. Prepare for each run – Prepare both mentally and physically know what you want to accomplish and always stretch.

  5. Don’t let a bad run discourage you – Always persevere and keep looking ahead.

  6. Find a friend – Personal I run alone, but often when running races I like to find someone to challenge myself against and keep motivated.


I’m a runner, but I don’t like running. I don’t think I am the only one and I am not afraid to admit it. I still work hard at running longer and faster and getting more healthier. I wish you all the best in your journey as well.

6.2 Billion Dollar Excel Mistake

Excel_Error

A lesson to all budgets managers, bean counters, and finance guru’s it’s the little things that matter and always have someone check your work. I think this is a bit disingenuous to blame a software program from calculating something wrong when it’s usually the fingers typing the numbers or developing the formulas that usually matters.

“An unnamed overworked staffer in London copied and pasted the wrong figures into an Excel spreadsheet, throwing the firm’s risk models out of whack.” From: JPMorgan’s London Whale review: Inside job

 

“One key measure was added when it should have been averaged. The result: Risk officers at JPMorgan believed the credit derivatives bets were half as risky as they actually were. So, I guess, CEO Jamie Dimon can pass $3.1 billion off on Excel. The rest is still on him.” From: Damn Excel! How the ‘most important software application of all time’ is ruining the world

Why I still read hard cover books & magazines

Yes, I have found great convenience in the changing digital trend of having the ability to carry and access a nearly unlimited number of books on my devices (currently an iPad). When I travel I can read multiple book simultaneously (not at the exact same time) and don’t have to carry the bulk and be limited by choice. However, there comes a time when still picking up a book or magazine allows me to concentrate on topic at hand and relax more effectively.

 

The Web. I find that I have shifted most of my news reading to the web where I can browse and search for items I find most relevant. The web and various news aggregator sites provide me the ability to refine the news channels I am most interested in.

 

Digital books. Most of the books I purchase digitally are biographies and fiction reading for pleasure.  Often I like to read and bounce between a few books while reading them and when I travel I can bring any number of books to keep my interest depending on my mood. Another unique feature of digital books is that I can share with my partner our collection and she can read the same book on her kindle as I am reading on the iPad kindle app. This becomes useful because we don’t need to know “who has it” to make the sharing work. Additionally as noted above searching has become a very convenient feature that has increased productivity and effectiveness as I can search quickly for a key paragraph, excerpt or quote.

 

Hard copies. There are still some items that I prefer the analog version. Textbooks especially those dealing with resources and web development I find particularly useful to have a copy I can lay on my desk and refer as it is easier for reference and concentration. Additionally I do enjoy our local paper in hard copy while I sit nostalgically (I’d like to think) reading while waiting for lunch to arrive but more importantly I am unplugging. When I want to relax a component of that is finding stimulation from non-tech items so my brain can think differently.


What I see happening as things continue to evolve is that our childrens children will find ways to evolve their learning and cognition to make better use of the digital media provided for them. However, I do not see the art of picking up an (actual) book, magazine or newspaper going the way of the vinyl record being squeezed into obscurity but complementing the future offerings.

Problem is not the Google Self-Driving Cars but the Gawkers

 

Response to: Google’s Self-Driving Robot Cars Are Ruining My Commute

I found it an amusing and interesting article because the title appeared logical as to the root cause of concern expressed by Ashlee Vance. However, I found myself mildly amused at the true cause for concern regarding the robot fleet of automatic self-driving vehicles. What’s happening is that it’s the others. It’s the regular drivers who want to know “how that thing works.” This is what’s causing the problems as noted by Ashlee here:

The situation gets worse when people pass a Google car and take their eyes off the road while they try to analyze what exactly is next to them. The humans swerve. They drift. They’ve turned the area around my house into a game of Frogger.

But as the author notes it is a small price to pay and one that as a society will be faced to confront as more cars and newer technology finds it way to the masses. This is a problem that Google is well familar with as they have forged ahead and created some rather unique technology. Recently with the introduction of Google Glass and not so recent Google Street View Car.