A Look Back At 2018 In Tech

Standard

The following was published in yesterday’s edition of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

2018 has been quite a year for technology. While mostly good, there was also some pretty bad press for technology this past year.

Data breaches, privacy concerns and infiltration of social media platforms certainlypexels-photo-273011 highlighted the bad. Facebook, Google and others have been repeatedly grilled on Capitol Hill this year, mostly for good reason. Facebook has had perhaps their worst year since their meteoric rise to the top of the social media ladder. Concerns about Facebook were worsened by revelations that nefarious influence campaigns took advantage of serious privacy shortcomings within the platform’s ecosystem.

2018 started with the revelation of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws in nearly all of the chips that power computers. While the concern was valid, the impact was quickly contained and patched. As the new year took hold, more concerns came to light about potential foreign influence across the technology industry. From the before mentioned social media issues to concerns that companies like Huawei, ZTE and others could be embedding spy technology within their products, the year was off to a rocky start for tech.

Two of the biggest tech stories of the year are the arrival of GDPR, the strict European data privacy law and the reversal of net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission. Europe’s GDPR or General Data Privacy Regulation, places the most stringent requirements yet on the protection of personal information. It reaches across borders and continents so that even if a company exists outside the European Union, if they employ just one citizen of the EU, they must comply.

With the number of households cutting the cable cord and moving to online only live TV and streaming services, the repeal of net neutrality rules raised a huge red flag. The concern is that high speed Internet providers would make deals with content providers and make some content available quickly and smoothly and other content painstakingly slow to frustrate the consumer into using the preferred content. There are some real concerns that some of this may be playing out, but so far, it does not seem to be so blatant as to draw legal attention. Time will tell, but the intersection of regulation and technology is front and center.

Hands free technology improved dramatically this year. Smartphones are safer than ever, provided you take advantage of their handsfree capabilities, especially in the car. Wireless power has also come on strong this year, allowing you to charge your favorite tech just by playing it on a charging pad. Maybe the battle for the charger will finally be over.

Collaboration tools really took off in 2018. Platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams have redefined the collaborative workplace. The ability to communicate in real time, whether in or out of the office and share content, have never been easier or more productive.

Personal devices continued to mature this year. The Apple Watch, now in its fourth iteration, has become the smart watch of choice. The capabilities and battery life continue to get better with every release. Similarly, smartphones like the iPhone or Galaxy Note are so powerful they may be the only device you need. Smartphones, tablets, wearable and portable PC’s continue to get smaller, lighter, more powerful and more capable, allowing you to do nearly anything that you can imagine almost anywhere at any time.

With all this technology comes the need for an ever more skilled technology workforce. We need the skilled labor force to continue to design, develop and support the technologies of today and what’s yet to come. Our schools need to rethink current curriculums to be sure that we are grooming the workforce of the future before the future passes us by.

It’s been a great year for technology, despite the high-profile headlines that expose the inevitable dangers that these same technologies may bring. In my next article, I’ll look forward into what 2019 may hold for technology developments. In the meantime, my best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year.

An Undersea Data Center

Standard

You read that right, an underwater data center has been created by Microsoft.  Yes, that Microsoft.

The so called “submarine data center” is a giant tube packed with a whopping 864 servers.  The ocean will offer natural cooling to the data center that sits on the ocean floor off the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland.  Cooling is one of the most expensive components of a traditional data center, so this renewable aspect of cooling should cut down on a major cost component.

The tube is about the size of a shipping container and is designed to the deployed rapidly off the coast of major cities allowing for more expansion of cloud capabilities.  What’s not yet clear is how any hardware or power failures would be addressed in a large tube that sits about 100 feet below the ocean surface.

Microsoft plans to monitor this new prototype data center for a year, to determine it’s future viability.  While Microsoft is touting the renewable energy aspects of this development, one does have to wonder if there will be any heat bleeding from the tube and any ambient noise coming from within that could disrupt the marine ecosystem where these tubes are placed.  It will be interesting to see what is learned over the coming year.

sunk-data-center

Here is a link to more details, including videos and photos of the data center.  It’s worth a look and read.

https://news.microsoft.com/features/under-the-sea-microsoft-tests-a-datacenter-thats-quick-to-deploy-could-provide-internet-connectivity-for-years/

The Vote Happens Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Standard

This is absolutely our last chance to tell the Senate to vote to overturn the repeal of net neutrality.  It is critical that this message be sent loudly and clearly as if the Senate votes to overturn, the House and President need to follow.  This has become a partisan issue when it never should have been.  Over 86% of American’s do NOT support the repeal, yet right along party lines, Democrats overwhelmingly agree and Republicans overwhelmingly support the repeal.  Clearly send them all a message to listen to their constituents over their party!

Make your voice heard by clicking here.

Take Action

This May Be Last Chance to Save Net Neutrality

Standard

The following was published in yesterday’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

On May 3, I had the honor of testifying before a U.S. Senate field hearing about net neutrality. The hearing was held by Senator Jeanne Shaheen as a member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Facebook_profile2It was an official hearing with six witnesses, including Portsmouth City Councilor Nancy Pearson, director of the Center for Women and Enterprise in Nashua, Portsmouth City Councilor Joshua Cyr, director of Education and Acceleration at Alpha Loft in Portsmouth, Robert Zakon, co-founder and chief technology officer of the Zakon Group in North Conway, Zach Luse, founder of Paragon Digital Marketing in Keene and Lisa Drake, director of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry.

The hearing, “Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses,” was held at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The hearing was kicked off by Stan Waddell, UNH’s chief information officer. He talked about the importance of net neutrality to higher education and UNH in particular. Sen. Shaheen read an opening statement and then each witness gave a statement followed by interactive questions and answers between the senator and witnesses.

Unlike the recent hearings surrounding Facebook in Washington, D.C., I was impressed with Sen. Shaheen’s understanding of the issue and its impact on New Hampshire and really, the entire global economy. She was well prepared and well versed on the matter at hand. Her questions were pointed and important, and the ensuing discussion was valuable for all in attendance. The entire hearing will be recorded on the Congressional Record as will each of the written testimonies submitted.

The main reason for the hearing was to gather more data and input on the impact of repealing net neutrality rules put in place several years ago. If you have been following this issue, you know in 2015, the FCC passed rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from throttling, blocking or charging content companies for faster response on the ISP’s network, what’s commonly referred to as paid prioritization. The FCC repealed those rules and Congress is debating whether to overturn that repeal. The first step toward such action will be a vote in the Senate using something called a Congressional Review Act, which would be a vote to reverse the repeal and reinstate net neutrality protections.

If the Senate passes this measure, it moves to the House, where it would also have to vote to reverse the repeal. From there, it requires the President’s signature. This should not be a partisan issue, but it has become one. It’s become a fight between Democrats and Republicans without regard to the will of the people.

More than 86 percent of Americans support net neutrality and want to see the repeal overturned. People making their voices heard have built the momentum that led to a historic accomplishment earlier this week when the Senate produced enough signatories to force a vote on the Senate floor. That vote is expected to take place this coming week. There is still time to make your voice heard. It does not matter that the New Hampshire and Maine senatorial delegations are in support of this measure. Take the time to contact them and let them know you support their actions. Visit www.battleforthenet.com and follow the easy steps to register your support.

The Senate only needs one more vote to pass and it is expected that it will. From there, the pressure needs to be maintained so the House follows suit. From there, the president needs to be clear it’s the will of the people that net neutrality be forever protected and that this is not a political issue. It’s an issue at the core of freedom of speech, entrepreneurialism and economic competitiveness. Please do your part and make your voice heard. Thank you.

Your Voice Is More Important Than Ever

Standard

Today, the U.S. Senate made history.  Senators successfully submitted a discharge petition, a picture of which is below, that will force a Senate vote next week to save #netneutrality.  This is a key outcome from the Senate field hearing that I particpated in last week.

Senate Discharge

Senate Discharge forcing vote on #netneutrality. From @JRosenworcel, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The country is clear, with more than 86% of citizens supporting maintaining net neutrality rules enacted by the FCC in 2015.  Those rules prohibit providers of Internet access from throttling, blocking or using paid prioritization to deliver content across the Internet.

Please take action and make your voice heard.  50 Senators are in support of this action, but 51 are needed for it to pass.  All 48 Democrats are in support as is Independent Senator Angus King of Maine along with his fell Mainer, Republican Senator Susan Collins.  Most observers believe any one of a number of moderate Republican Senators will deliver the needed 51st vote to pass.  From there, the measure heads to the House, which will need significant outreach to get the needed 58 additional Representatives to support.  From there, it will require the President’s signature.

The only way to assure net neutrality is preserved is to put pressure on Congress by making your voice heard.  This is not a political issue, this is a fundamental first amendment issue.  Please make your voice heard by going to:

www.battleforthenet.com and take action!

“Congress is fast approaching one of the most consequential votes on internet policy and free expression this century,” Demand Progress Director of Communications Mark Stanley said in a statement. “Lawmakers are going to have to make a choice, and the sides are clear. They can join with big cable companies that want to control the internet for profit. Or they can stand with the millions of Americans who rely on the open internet for news, entertainment and communication, as well as small business owners who depend on it for their livelihoods.”

Red Alert for Net Neutrality

Standard

970x90(1)

In just a few days, sometime mid-month, the United States Senate will vote on whether to block the FCC‘s decision to roll back net neutrality protections.  As you know, I testified at a Senate Field Hearing last week about this.  You can read my posts Participating in Our Democracy, It Happened This Morning and Senate Testimony Recap right here on my blog.  I believe strongly that net neutrality needs to be protected.  While I would prefer to see Congress enact permanent legislation protecting net neutrality, the Senate is taking the first step by voting on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the FCC repeal.

Starting tomorrow, May 9th, many sites on the Internet will be going red to raise awareness and encourage consitituents to contact their lawmakers to express their support for this action.

Please take action by going to www.battleforthenet.com.  Thank you!

It Happened This Morning

Standard

SBC Logo

 

 

From Politico, May 3, 2018

TODAY: NET NEUTRALITY FIELD HEARING — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this morning will host a Senate Small Business Committee field hearing that examines the effect of the FCC’s net neutrality rollback on small businesses. The panel, which will take place at the University of New Hampshire, will include testimony from business leaders including Zach Luse, CEO of Paragon Digital Marketing, and Lisa Drake, director of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield Farm. “Today, small businesses can reach customers throughout the world at the click of a button. Net neutrality has been a linchpin of that success,” Shaheen will say, according to prepared remarks. Thousands of small businesses have signed onto a letter that calls on Congress to preserve the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules by supporting a measure that aims to undo the agency’s repeal via the Congressional Review Act. We’re tracking.

I testified at this hearing this morning.  I will recap the hearing and post my written testimony later.  Stay tuned…

Should You Delete Your Facebook Account?

Standard

The following was published in today’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

Should you delete your Facebook account?

Probably not, though thousands of Facebook users are in the wake of the data-sharing controversy involving Cambridge Analytica, a British firm that specializes in data mining. In a nutshell, the firm scours the internet for your digital history and uses that information to build a psychographic profile of you others may want to purchase from it. In the case of the current controversy involving Facebook, the profile data was used by the Trump presidential campaign to influence voter behavior.

FB

In this April 2013 photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook is reeling after allegations a political consulting firm working for the Trump campaign got data inappropriately from millions of Facebook users. [AP photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file]

This is not a political article. I am not going to wade into the right or wrong, the candidate or conspiracy theories.

The fundamental issue is whether Facebook intentionally shared user data with Cambridge Analytica or if it was duped by Cambridge Analytica, which many believe took advantages of weaknesses in Facebook’s data privacy to assemble a remarkably detailed portrait of some 50 million Facebook users without necessarily having their permission.

How did this happen? You know those fun quizzes that pop up on Facebook and ask you to answer a bunch of questions like how many U.S. states you have visited? Those are driven by apps developed by other companies, not Facebook, but use the Facebook platform to get you to play along. When you do, you click to allow that app to access your Facebook profile. When you do, sometimes those apps are allowed to access profile data on your friends and possibly even their friends. This is how things spread like wildfire online.

While many users are angry with Facebook and deleting their accounts, that really doesn’t address the root of the issue. It may also cut off a useful communication tool that keeps people in touch across the globe. My family, which is large and dispersed around the world, relies on Facebook to stay in touch and share family stories, historical and in real-time. I don’t want to give that up. If you’re like me, here are some steps to take to secure your Facebook profile and not fall victim to questionable companies accessing your Facebook profile without your knowledge.

For this article, I’m focusing on using Facebook on a web browser on a computer, not a mobile device. The good news is Facebook announced this week it is significantly enhancing its privacy tools to allow users to take complete control of what is shared and what is not. This revamp will bring all these settings together on one screen and be seamless whether you are changing settings from a computer or mobile device. For now, you may have to hunt around some menus on mobile devices to find these settings.

Step one is to click on the down arrow next to the help icon (a question mark) and select Settings. Next, click on Apps near the bottom of the menu of options on the left side of the screen. The first section you will notice is labeled “Logged in with Facebook.” Here you will see a bunch of icons. Be sure to click Show All. You may be surprised to see how many outside apps you have allowed to connect to your Facebook account. This is where it starts. When you hover your mouse over one of the apps, you’ll have access to a pencil icon, to edit the settings for this app or a checkbox to select the app. If you are not sure what an app is there for, I recommend selecting it. Select all the apps you want to get rid of and click Remove to delete them all at once. Deleted apps will no longer have access to your Facebook profile. If you decide to click on the pencil to edit the apps permissions, you can select what parts of your Facebook profile you want the app to have access to. Finally, if you see Only Me, Friends or Public, that tells you who else on Facebook is able to see that you use that app. Only Me is your safest setting.

The next sections are more broad in nature, but critically important to taking control of your profile. I recommend you click Edit on each section and read the descriptions, so you can make appropriate decisions about whether to allow some of these settings to be on or turned off. Turning a setting off may prevent you from logging into non-Facebook services where you have used your Facebook profile as your login to that service.

Just this week, Facebook completely disabled the settings known as Apps Other Use. This was one of the primary vehicles used by Cambridge Analytica to get at so much data. This former feature allowed an app that a Facebook friend of yours used to access your profile and harvest that data, even though you may have never used that app. This is really what has people and regulators up in arms and Facebook has acknowledged the fundamental flaw in allowing this in the first place.

Facebook is making daily changes to respond to the outcry and reassure users privacy is important to the company. Whether it succeeds in regaining trust will take time to assess. For now, taking these simple steps to further secure your Facebook profile from prying eyes is the right thing to do. Don’t just do this once and forget about it. Keep watch for more developments on this and more ways to secure yourself online as the dust settles from this latest breach of public trust.

Recap: CyberSecure My Business Webinar

Standard

CSMB.png

Last week, I posted about a Free CyberSecure My Business Webinar that took place this past Tuesday, March 13th.  I wanted to follow up that post with a quick summary of what was presented on the webinar.

The webinar was presented by the National Cyber Security Alliance.  Presenters were from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, security vendor Trend Micro, the Small Business Administration and the Michigan Small Business Development Center.

The presented from NIST focused on the five major functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.  The NIST framework is the defacto standard for defining cybersecurity needs.  The five functions are as follows:

  1. IDENTIFY assets you need to protect.
  2. PROTECT assets and limit impact.
  3. DETECT security problems.
  4. RESPOND to an incident.
  5. RECOVER from an incident.

The presented from Trend Micro talked about a new phenomenon they have termed the “Double Whammy.”  Esentially, this is when one cyberattack actually masks another and the second attack is the one that is designed to do the actual damage.  Another key point the presenter made was that if you get infected with malware, you can’t be confident that you’ve removed it all.  Your best bet is to replace the machine.  The presenter almost pointed to the website nomoreransom.org where some of the major cybersecurity companies have collaborated to publish decryption keys for known ransomware outbreaks.  Of course, the bad guys develop new ransomware faster than the site can keep up with, but this is a good start at what amounts to a crowdsourced defense.

The presented from the SBA shared the wealth of cybersecurity resources that the agency makes available to businesses.  He made a point to reference the SBA’s Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit, to help people maintain a safe social media presence for themselves and their businesses.

The presenter from the Michigan Small Business Development Center showed a web site they have put together to help their constituents address cybersecurity concerns.  This is part of local outreach activities that the SBA supports.

He also shared the following bullets, which are great reminders for any response to a cybersecurity incident.

Process to Follow:

  • Identify
  • Contain
  • Investigate
  • Remediate
  • Communicate
  • Review Lessons Learned

People to Notify:

  • Cyber Security Expert & IT
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Vendors
  • Attorney
  • Law Enforcement

Technologies to Help Mitigate Risk:

  • Encryption (full disk, files, folders, email, VPN)
  • Mutli-Factor Authentication (MFA, 2FA)
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM)
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Intrusion Prevention/Intrusion Detection Systems (IPS/IDS)

Key Takeaways:

  • Have a Business Continuity Plan
    • Incident Response Plan
    • Disaster Recovery Plan
  • Identify Key Assets
  • Choose Protection Considering Based On:
    • Budget
    • Industry Requirements
    • Capacity
    • Legal Restrictions

I know there is a lot of information in this post.  If you were not able to make this webinar, I wanted to share a good summary to help you review your own cybersecurity posture.  Please check the links and leverage this great content to help improve your cybersecurity.  Stay Safe Online.

Tesla’s Cloud Systems Hacked

Standard

Tesla Logo 2One of the most upstart and well known tech companies of late is Tesla.  Everyone knows their name and their vehicles and battery systems have been very well received by the market.

Tesla not only produces technically advanced products, they heavily leverage technology to do so.  News emerged this week that security researchers have discovered that Tesla’s Cloud platform has been exploited by hackers to mine crtypocurrencies.  This took place within Tesla’s infrastructure hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS).  The hack appears to have been done to leverage Tesla’s resources in AWS for other purposes.  However, there is a concern that some vehicle data was exposed as a result.

To Tesla’s credit, they responded very quickly and issued the following response to technology news site ZDNet:

“We maintain a bug bounty program to encourage this type of research, and we addressed this vulnerability within hours of learning about it. The impact seems to be limited to internally-used engineering test cars only, and our initial investigation found no indication that customer privacy or vehicle safety or security was compromised in any way.”

Good for Tesla for addressing this so quickly and tranparently.  They have done a great job of owning the issue and responding appropriately.  A good lesson for others to follow.