Ancestry Breach Confirmed, What You Need to Know

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Ancestry.com has confirmed a breach of their decommissioned RootsWeb service.

Security researcher Troy Hunt (@TroyHunt), who I have considerable respect for, discovered the breach and informed Ancestry. He has further commented that the company has handled this breach in exemplary fashion.

The breach involves an exposed file containing usernames, passwords and email addresses of 300,000 users of the RootsWeb service.

Ancestry says it has notified any impacted user, so if you ever used RootsWeb, you should have heard from Ancestry by now. That said, I believe it would be prudent to change your password on any Ancestry.com service that you use, whether or not you have been notified of a risk. Yes, this is abundantly cautious, but a reasonable step to take.

It’s encouraging to see the company respond well and aggressively to this breach. Other organizations will learn from how Ancestry has handled this.

The incident is still being investigated. It is not thought to be more widespread than what has been confirmed to date. Should I learn anything to the contrary, I will post an update.

3/8 of an Inch

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That’s what its come to.  The phone book, once an inches thick trove of valuable information is now a 3/8 of an inch book barely a fraction of what it once was.

I remember when being a Yellow Pages sales representative was one of the most coveted sales jobs there way.  These reps would make a healthy living, selling yellow page ads to businesses large and small.  If you didn’t have an actual ad, as opposed to just a listing, you could count on your competitors getting more business than you.

PhoneBookBoy have things changed.  Peeking out of the snow the other day was a small bag with the following inside: the latest edition of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire area phone book.  To play on a cliché, this is not your father’s phone book.  There are no white pages listing for residential phone numbers.  Those are only available online.  What white pages there are only contain business listings, plus the ads on the venerable yellow pages.

To give some perspective on just how small the phone book has become, take a look at it alongside a toy fidget spinner.  Wow!

PhoneBookSpinner

Will this be the last year of the phone book?  I don’t see it lasting for many more.  In my case, I opted out of receiving one in the future as this one went out with the curbside recycling this morning.  Times they are a changin’.

Tech Trends of 2017 and Ones to Watch in 2018

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The following was published in the December 24, 2017 issues of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

Earlier this month, I participated in one of three annual meetings of the board of directors of the Computing Technology Industry Association, CompTIA. I am presently the Immediate past chairman of CompTIA and remain on the board in support of the current chairwoman.

Tech TrendsDuring this month’s meeting, we undertook an exercise to identify key trends that impacted technology over the last year as well as those we think will have a key impact in the coming year. Our board is made up of a diverse set of individuals across the IT industry. I’m so proud that our board is an excellent example of diversity in our makeup. We always try to have appropriate representation of the industry, and our current board may be our most diverse in terms of business focus, size of company, race, gender, nationality and even generation. It made our discussions truly thought provoking as leaders from household name companies and ones you have never heard of shared their perspective.

In two press releases issued this week, CompTIA summarized these trends and I wanted to share them with you hear. It is a fitting look back at 2017 and forward to 2018 and the impact of technology on our lives.

2017 was certainly an interesting year for technology. Social media, specifically Twitter and its impact on global affairs rose to the daily spotlight, driven by President Trump’s need to tweet. It put short messages at the forefront of the international dialog about everything from politics to war.

Natural disasters certainly made their impact in 2017. Estimates indicate 15 events that totaled more than $1 billion in damages. Technology factored heavily into these events, from forecasting to recovery. Communication was the primary need throughout and improved technology kept us connected to those that needed our help.

Voice technology was an active segment in 2017 as voice assistants continues to penetrate the market, primarily in consumer applications. Many analysts expect evolving voice technologies to make an impact in the business sector over the coming year as new applications come to market.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have been very active in the second half of the year. Bitcoin has generated a groundswell of interest as its value has skyrocketed. Blockchain has gained tremendous traction in 2017, in part because it’s seen as enabling more assurances around data integrity and business process.

Looking forward to 2018, the board identified several trends that will impact technology. Among them are artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Artificial intelligence holds the potential to improve business processes based on machine learning. Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are a great example of artificial intelligence become mainstream. Applications that can analyze and correct potentially negative events in near real-time hold tremendous potential to help avoid industrial accidents and other similar events.

Cybersecurity will remain hot in 2018, especially with new regulations coming online, like the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which sets the standards to regulate the protection of EU citizen’s private information. The EU is taking a lead that frankly, our own government should have, years ago. It will be interesting to see if GDPR becomes the new standard by which companies are held.

How technology is acquired will continue to evolve in 2018. Subscription models for software have become the norm. Traditional companies like Adobe, the company behind the PDF standard, no longer offers software to purchase. Instead, you have to subscribe to a monthly subscription to use. Some hardware companies are experiencing with subscription models as well. This is not only happening in the technology industry. I recently read an article that the car maker Volvo plans to introduce a subscription model for one of its cars in 2019. That will be interesting.

Another significant trend for 2018 is something we have labeled “experience.” As in customer experience. The experience of how a customer acquires, deploys and maintains technology is expected to be a major focus over the coming year. Providers of technology services need to drive value by aligning their services to support the business strategies of the customer. The total experience of the customer will determine whether the service provider is a successful business partner or not.

It’s been another great year for the technology industry and 2018 looks to build on this success and take it to yet another new level. It truly is a great time to be in the technology industry. Best wishes this holiday season. As this will be my last column of 2017, I want to thank you for reading and contacting over the year. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

IT Themes for 2018 from CompTIA

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The following press release was issued by CompTIA today.  I’m very pleased to have been quoted in the section on “From product sales to service subscriptions.”

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 CompTIA Board of Directors Identifies Six Tech Themes to Watch in 2018

 Downers Grove, Ill., December 21, 2017 – Artificial intelligence (AI) will stake out a larger role; a greater emphasis will be placed on the user experience with technology; and protecting personal data and information will become more critical in 2018, according to the board of directors of CompTIA, the leading technology industry association.

The new year will also see technology companies focused on new government regulations and requirements, led by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); evolving their business models to rely more on the sale of “as a service” subscriptions; and taking new actions to combat cyber threats.

The CompTIA directors at a board meeting earlier this month spent time trading ideas and debating the impact of nearly 20 trends likely to impact the technology industry in 2018. Six themes rose to the top of the consensus list of technology trends to watch.

Artificial intelligence (AI) expands its presence – A recent CompTIA survey found that one in four companies make regular use of AI in areas such as machine learning, virtual assistants, workflow tools, and in the automation of processes and tasks. Another 19 percent of organizations expect to adopt AI in the next year.

More focus on optimizing the customer experience – Options for acquiring technology have expanded, driving providers to find new ways to maintain relationships with current customers and acquire new clients. Optimizing customer experiences with technology is a crucial step in maintaining and building relationships; but it requires a thorough understanding of both user expectations and business objectives.

“The emergence of technologies that enhance the customer experience will be an important tech theme for companies wanting to stay ahead of the competition in 2018,” said Dan Shapero, founder, ClikCloud Digital Marketing. “Companies using artificial intelligence, chat, call center and mobile web to enrich customer experience will reap the benefit of increased customer loyalty, greater efficiency and higher margins in the foreseeable future.”

Protecting personal privacy – The security and personal privacy challenges associated with how consumer information is collected, used, analyzed, and shared will grow in importance as millions of new interconnected devices come online through the expansion of the Internet of Things, smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.

Government requirements and regulations – The pace of innovation greatly exceeds the speed at which governments can adopt, alter, expand or eliminate policies and regulations. This can create inherent tensions between technologies entering the market – often at the demand of customers – and governments’ ability to regulate. In 2018 one of the biggest regulatory issues technology companies will face is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the new primary law that will regulate how companies protect European Union citizens’ personal data.

“Government regulation becomes more stringent when it feels the need to do a better job of protecting people than it deems the industry it’s regulating is doing,” said Tracy Pound, managing director, Maximity. “The GDPR is intended to provide consistent enforcement of data protection rules that increase an individuals’ rights to control data held about them; and to ensure that companies holding data can demonstrate accountability for that data and have good governance processes in place. It applies to any company that processes, stores or transmits personal data belonging to EU residents. It will still apply to the UK post Brexit, making it a global issue rather than a European one.

“With industry surveys stating that less than 10 percent of companies are prepared for the GDPR, this is a significant opportunity for tech companies to reinforce being a true trusted business advisor by providing insights and services that help clients navigate the new regulation in order to help them minimize the risk of data breaches and to demonstrate compliance,” Pound continued. “With maximum fines of 4 percent of global turnover or €20 million, tech companies and their clients need to wake up to the volume of preparatory work in documenting systems, educating staff, bringing policies and procedures for processing data up to date and making changes to be ready for the deadline of 25th May 2018. Expecting this to go away and to do nothing is a game of Russian Roulette.”

From product sales to service subscriptions – The “everything-as-a-service” model is not a new phenomenon. But the subscription service model continues to evolve as businesses expand their reliance on the technology ecosystem. In this fast-changing market many companies – traditional technology firms and new market entrants alike – are striving to carve out their niche.

“As the ‘as-a-service’ model of technology acquisition continues to mature, traditional resellers are facing significant changes to their established business models,” said MJ Shoer, director, client engagement, and virtual CIO, Onepath. “While there will always be a need to make capital acquisitions of technology, subscription models are now the norm and some traditional customers are now procuring their technology from multiple sources. This requires that technology solution providers drive value by helping our customers understand and leverage this evolving market trend. We also need to help our customers leverage technology to improve their workflows and business processes to gain a competitive edge.

“Technology solution providers also need to adapt to the changing security landscape,” Shoer added. “While many traditional MSPs are building security practices within their existing business structure, this leads to concerns about the fox watching the hen house. How technology solution providers bring security services to their customers while ensuring the integrity of those services will be paramount to providing the type of services most customers will require, especially with increasing government regulation like GDPR and others.”

Cyber readiness – Video gaming communities, hotels, fast-food restaurants, retailers, healthcare providers, educational institutions, government agencies, and business services providers were just some of the victims of cyber-attacks and data breaches in 2017. Despite improvements on many fronts, threats show no signs of abating. In fact, evidence suggests that things will get worse before they get better, with the attacks growing in both frequency and virulence.

“Going into the new year we expect cybercriminals to stick with the malware that makes them the most money: ransomware,” said Scott Barlow, vice president, Global MSP, Sophos. “In fact, according to recent research by Sophos, 2018 could potentially bring the explosion of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). These hacking kits, designed to make cybercrime accessible to anyone regardless of skill, will drive global ransomware levels through the roof.”

As the leading trade association for the technology industry association CompTIA provides a vast selection of education and training materials, research and market intelligence, webinars and conferences, business best practices, member communities and advisory councils, and more on a wide range of technology topics. Visit www.comptia.org to learn more.

CompTIA: Building the Foundation for Technology’s Future

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is the world’s leading technology association, with approximately 2,000 member companies, 3,000 academic and training partners, over 100,000 registered users and more than two million IT certifications issued. CompTIA’s unparalleled range of programs foster workforce skills development and generate critical knowledge and insight – building the foundation for technology’s future. Visit CompTIA online, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more.

Contact:

Steven Ostrowski
CompTIA
sostrowski@comptia.org­
630-678-8468

Apple, Please Fix Do Not Disturb While Driving

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Back in late September, I posted about 2 Excellent iOS 11 Features to Enable.  One of those features is Do Not Disturb While Driving.  Well, after using this feature for a few months, I’m sorry to save it is flawed and desperately in need of an update to address a few serious shortcomings.

WazeI use Waze, pretty much every day, as it is far superior to the built in navigation in my car.  The problem is that by having Waze open, Do Not Disturb will not enable.  Why?  Because the feature requires that your phone be locked.  This just doesn’t make sense.

Android phones have had this type of feature, mainly through 3rd party apps, for years.  Due to Apple‘s strict control over the iOS operating system, which I support, iPhone‘s have not.  This is admittedly Apple’s first attempt to address this need, but it lacks some proper planning and is a flawed implementation.

Many states, like my home state of New Hampshire, have or are enacting hands-free laws, which is a great thing.  The amount of incidents involving distracted drivers using their phones has become an epidemic.  You see it on the road every day.

The premise of this feature is that you can’t use your phone, except as a hands-free device, nor will you get any pop-up notifications that would distract you, while you are driving.  Great concept, flawed implementation.  Here’s my real world experience over the last few months.

With Waze open, Do Not Disturb While Driving will not activate.  I have it set to automatically activate when my iPhone connects to my car’s Bluetooth audio system.  Once I determined this was happening, I placed an icon to manually enable Do Not Disturb While Driving manually from the Control Center.  While this does enable it, it does not work reliably, again, because I have Waze active on my iPhone.  Only some text messages receive the auto-reply that I have configured.  Most do not.  I also get every pop-up notification, which is a distraction.

Here is how it should work.  You should be able to set app exceptions that are allowed to be running and still allow Do Not Disturb While Driving to function properly.  It should not be dependent on the phone being locked.  I should be able to get in my car, open Waze, put my phone on it’s mount, connect it to vehicle power and as soon as it connects to my Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb While Driving should activate.  I should not receive ANY pop-up notifications until I have turned off the car or pressed the home button and clicked the I’m Not Driving pop-up that displays when Do Not Disturb While Driving is active.  Anyone who sends me a text message, should receive my configured auto-reply and the very cool feature, an additional notification informing them if they send the message again with the word urgent, it will come through and notify me.  This is s smart emergency notification option.

I’ve sent this feedback to Apple and am hoping they will fix this in an update soon.  I’ll be monitoring this situation and will update you as I learn more.  In the meantime, stay safe and only use your phone hands-free while driving.  Your fellow drivers, riders and pedestrians thank you.

Clever!

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I received this holiday greeting from CompTIA today.  Talk about a clever twist on a traditional holiday theme.  I love this, so had to share.

Thanks CompTIA!  Warm wishes for a connected holiday season to one and all!

Wreath

What’s Next for Net Neutrality

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NetNeutralityCongressUnless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules yesterday.  Sadly, this was a partisan vote, with the three Republican Commissioners voting to repeal and the two Democratic Commissioners voting to keep the rules in place.  This is not and should not be a political issue.  The vote represents just about everything that is wrong with our government today.  The party is more important than the constituency.  I’m not going to get in to the political issues around this vote.  Instead, I’m going to focus on what this means for the average consumer and business user of the Internet.

In the near term, nothing should change. The Net Neutrality rules that were repealed were in place to assure that no Internet Service Provider (ISP) would be able to block or throttle the ability to reach anything on the Internet.  It also prevented an ISP from charging content providers or end users, higher fees in order to access everything online.  The repeal of these rules means this could all change.  As a friend of mine put it, it would be as if the brand of car you own dictates how fast you may drive.  For example, Ford‘s are limited to only driving 40 MPH on highways, but Lexus‘ are able to drive 85 MPH.  If you own a Lexus, you’ll get where you are going faster than if you buy a Ford.  That’s the thrust of the issue.

The arguments around this issue are many and there is host of misinformation being circulated to back up any given position.  These rules were only put in place a few years ago and are widely referred to as “Obama-era” rules.  There in lies one of the fundamental problems, in my opinion.  This ties the rules to one person, a former president, a member of the opposing party to the one in power today and simply politicizes the entire matter.  The fact of the matter is that there have been some form of Net Neutrality rules in place for many years.  They were strengthened a few years ago in response to an ISP blocking content that threatened its business and resulting legal battles.

The argument that the rules were not needed because there are no issues is partly true and partly false.  The Internet has been largely open and unrestricted, but there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.  From the consolidation of media and technology companies to emerging business models that challenge established norms, the potential for Net Neutrality issues is growing daily.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who I have written about before, referred to the vote as a “rash decision” that puts the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”  She may be right, especially about that last part.  Some statistics show as many as 85% of the American public opposed the repeal.  If the Commissioners were putting people over party, you would think they would have upheld the rules.  But I digress.

Will you see any immediate changes?  I don’t think so.  First of all, the changes will take weeks to put in place.  ISP’s, wireless carriers and other businesses involved in the delivery of Internet services will need to evaluate their business models and potential risks should they elect to make any changes based on the repeal.  One could imagine significant public backlash should an ISP like Comcast change their plans to require either content providers or consumers to pay higher fee in order to have access to certain sites and services online.  You would think they will think long and hard about the implications of changing how they deliver Internet service.

Several State Attorneys General have said they will file lawsuits to try to stop the repeal from taking effect.  At this early date, it’s unclear if this could be successful.  Many members of both the House and Senate have said they will consider legislation to restore the rules.  Several groups, including watchdogs and trade associations have said they may also file suit.

This entire issue is likely to become messier before it settles down.  For now, you should not have anything to worry about.  In the meantime, I’ll keep tabs on this issue and post updates as I learn more.

 

Net Neutrality Falls :(

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Mad FaceThe FCC has voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules.  I’ll do my best to sort out what this will really mean for consumers and businesses over the coming days.  To those that took action to try to change the FCC’s intent, thank you!  Your efforts were not wasted.  Congress may still take action, time will tell.

 

Today Is Our Last Chance!

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When people speak up, good things happen.  Today is your last opportunity to make your voice heard and compel the FCC to vote NOT to repeal Net Neutrality rules currently in place.  The FCC votes tomorrow, December 14.  Today is your last chance to make your voice heard.

Please go to www.battleforthenet.com and contact your members of Congress and urge them to let the FCC know their constituents do not support this roll back.  Contact the FCC Commissioners and let them know as well.

If we all make our voices heard, we can make a difference.

www.battleforthenet.com

Even though this is a serious matter, here’s a light hearted video that talks about what’s at stake.