Please Watch This Video

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As the title of this blog says, “along with a few personal posts from time to time.”

I was so moved by this speech, I feel compelled to share it on this blog, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with IT.  It’s message is far more important.

This is Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, United States Air Force Academy. This man is a Leader! This man is a Hero! This man gives me hope for our nation.

Please watch this video.

Kaspersky, Lenovo, Should You Be Worried?

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BannedThere has been a lot of press this week about the US government’s decision to formally ban the use of software from Kaspersky Lab.  The ban arises from concerns that the company may have ties to the Russian government, specifically the intelligence services.  Concerns that Kaspersky denies.

These concerns don’t just involve the government.  Also this week, Best Buy removed Kaspersky products from their shelves, saying they will no longer sell the software due to these concerns.

This is reminiscent of concerns about Lenovo, the Chinese-owned computer company that purchased IBM‘s personal computer business back in 2005.  Several government agencies, both in the United States as well as some other countries, issued warnings or outright bans on Lenovo computers out of concern that the Chinese government may have placed “bugs” in the computers for intelligence or industrial espionage purposes.

With the number of high tech firms based in foreign countries, the landscape has certainly changed.  It’s not practical to think that you can only use hardware and software that is manufactured entirely in the United States.  In fact, it is extremely difficult to find a piece of computer hardware that does not have at least a part of it made in China these days.  Even if you purchase as US brand, like Dell or HP, you are almost certainly buying a computer that was made in China, at least partially.

Based on that, it’s tough to consider these bans as able to be effective.  The fact is that so much of our technology is, in one way or another, flowing through countries with whom the United States may have concerns about.  The very nature of technology in today’s interconnected world, also makes it nearly impossible to guarantee that a state actor does not or could not have the capability to infiltrate those systems, be they hardware or software.

This does not even touch on the fact that many companies, in the United States and abroad, rely on foreign workers to fill open technology jobs that far exceed the available workforce in these countries.  These individuals could pose insider threats to the companies they are brought in to work for.

At the end of the day, technology is a truly global industry.  No one country can truly control the source and methods of production for every piece of technology in use within their borders.  This extends to the human capital involved in designing, manufacturing, implementing, maintaining and supporting this same technology.

I’m not saying I think these bans or concerns are fool hardy.  Quite the contrary.  They reflect reality and are a real concern, especially within government circles.  I’m simply concerned that banning certain manufacturers may lull businesses and individuals into a false sense of security by not having those products in their environments.

iPhone X Brings Man to Tears

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A little iPhone humor for your Wednesday morning, albeit at Apple‘s expense.

A good friend of mine from the UK shared this today and I could not resist sharing it here on my blog.

No doubt many will have strong feelings about the new iPhone X and iPhone 8‘s announced yesterday.  What are your thoughts?  Please let me know, I’d love to hear them.

I’m gathering data for a more complete post about the new iPhone’s which I hope to post over the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

Warning: The linked article contains some profanity, so please don’t click through if this may offend you.

Here’s the link to the article.  For the record, like the subject in this article, I also have a year old iPhone 7.   WowEmoji

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Never Forget

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I will never forget that day.  Just two days prior, on Sunday, September 9th, we celebrated my Dad’s, my Aunt’s and my Son’s birthdays.  It was a special one for my Dad, his 80th, and we had a family gathering at Saunders on Rye Harbor, which is no longer there.  It was a beautiful day, as was that Tuesday morning, September 11th, 16 years ago today.

I was driving to work when I got a call from my wife saying that one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire.  She said the news was saying a plane hit it, that it may be terrorism.  I thought it was retaliation for the conviction of the blind Sheik behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center.  The fear in her voice was palpable and I turned around and headed for home.  After listening to a bit of the news, I called the office and suggested everyone go home to be with their families.  Something wasn’t right about this, but I had no idea what was already in motion.

I walked through the garage door and that sweet little two year old boy who had sat in his grandfather’s lap and stuck his hand right into the frosting on their cake just two days before, reached for me.  As I took him from my wife, the second plane struck.  He pointed at the TV and said “plane” and then buried his head in my shoulder crying as the flames burst from tower two.  We were in shock, like so many others that beautiful morning that was ripped away from us all in a senseless act of brutal hatred and mass murder.

Later that day, I would see a caravan of Crown Victoria’s speed past our home.  I hoped they were heading to the neighborhood elementary school where our two daughters were.  The school was on lockdown and parents were asked to stay away.  It was felt it would be best to let the kids proceed with a seemingly normal day to also allow parents time to grasp what was happening and figure out a way to talk with their children about it.  I feared those cars driving by for a worse reason.  Sadly, I was right.  The phone rang not a few minutes later, confirming that a neighbor around the corner was the co-pilot of American 11 that morning.  The shock and horror deepened.

That next morning was another beautiful clear day.  I was taking out the trash and realized the silence was surreal.  We live near an airport and under a major trans Atlantic flight path.  The sky was eerily quiet that morning until a dull rumble became the distinct growl of an F-15 as it came into view, heading north, making a large arc as it turned for the return south toward Boston.

This year, I had the opportunity to visit the National 9/11 Memorial, a small part of which is depicted in the image above.  I was there with my oldest daughter who was 10 in 2001 and is now a beautiful 26 year old woman and that sweet little two year old boy, who has blossomed into a handsome, strong and tall 18 year old man.  It was a moving, emotional, sad yet necessary visit.  We found the name of our former neighbor and a former professor from my alma mater.

Sixteen years feels like yesterday.  I know people who lost people and some who are still grappling with the post traumatic stress of being in Manhattan that day.  My children have grown into adulthood during a terrible time in human history.  Our middle daughter, now 21, is a rookie police officer, trying to help make the world a better place.  The divisiveness of intolerance and religious hatred have spread around the world and across the United States of America.  It makes me sad, but I refuse to lose hope.  Humanity has to be better than this and not just on days like today, when everyone talks about national unity and coming together for one another, whether in the wake of a horrible terrorist attack or in the calm after a pair of terrible storms.

Over seventy year ago, the world said we must Never Forget.  For the last 16 years, we have been saying Never Forget on this hallowed day.  Never Forget and take action to make the world a better place for all people, everywhere, period.

Follow-up Advice from the Equifax Hack

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Following up on my previous post about the giant Equifax hack, I wanted to share some additional recommendations from my friends at KnowBe4.

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“Cyber criminals have stolen 143 million credit records in the recent hacking scandal at big-three credit bureau Equifax. At this point you have to assume that the bad guys have highly personal information that they can use to trick you. You need to watch out for the following things:

  • Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised.
  • Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information.
  • Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union.
  • Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen.

Here are 5 things you can do to prevent identity theft:

  • First sign up for credit monitoring (there are many companies providing that service including Equifax but we cannot recommend that).
  • Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.
  • If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, here is a site where you can learn more about how to protect yourself: www.idtheftcenter.org. You can also call the center’s toll-free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center’s services are free.

And as always, Think Before You Click! “

Some additional things to keep in mind.  It’s still very early in the process of assessing the impact of this hack.  I’ll post more updates as I learn more.

For now, the above advice is good to consider.  This hack is unique because a credit bureau track just about every piece of information needed to compromise your credit and your identity.  You don’t have to be an actual customer of Equifax for them to have this data on your personal identity.  We have to assume that your personal information is now in the hackers hands and likely for sale on the Dark Web to those looking to steal identities.

It appears that Equifax was hacked due to a web-app vulnerability.  This is why it is critically important that your business scan for these types of vulnerabilities.  It’s not just about penetration testing and vulnerability scans.  Yes, they are important, but so are scans against any web facing systems you have that allow access to confidential information.  These web-apps need to be regularly scanned to be sure they are safe and most importantly, so is the information behind them.

If your business does not have a proactive cyber security scanning program in place, this should be a glaring warning that you need one.  If a company as large and technically savvy as Equifax can be hacked, so can your business.

September is National Preparedness Month

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National Preparedness Month 2017 Logo [JPG]One the heels of yesterday’s post about hurricane preparedness, I wanted to also share the following timely information and resources.

Every year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) together with the Department of Homeland Security declared September National Preparedness Month.  This years theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

From the Ready.gov website, National Preparedness Month is defined as follows:

“We should all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship.”

Each week has a plan and this weeks plan is “Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends.”

Here is a brief, 60 second, video on the topic:

Use the following links to download the latest versions of these helpful planning guides:

For Inidividuals:

Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids-Ready Kids

Emergency Supply List

“Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information to Get Ready”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For Pet Owners”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For Older Americans”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For People With Disabilities.”

“Commuter Emergency Plan”

For Businesses:

“Prepare For Emergencies Now; Information for Businesses”

Ready Business Poster

Business Continuity Plan

Business Impact Analysis Worksheet

Continuity Resource Worksheet

Emergency Response Plan

Emergency Response Plan Resources

Insurance Discussion Coverage Form

Program Coordinator Committee Worksheet

Risk Assessment Table

Be sure to check back next week for next weeks National Preparedness Month theme.

 

 

 

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

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bridge-hurricane-121029On the heels of Hurricane Harvey and the impending landfall of the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Irma, it appears we are in for a very active hurricane season.  Is your business prepared should a hurricane strike your location?  What about your family?  It’s important to plan now, before a hurricane is imminent.  As Irma is showing us, the path may be unpredictable and the warning time may not be as long we would like, to properly prepare.

I heard Harvey referred to as a once in a thousand year storm.  Some reports are saying Irma could be even more devastating, making that once in thousand look more like twice in three weeks.  Our weather patterns continue to change and unfortunately, are seeming to become more dangerous.

I have gathered several resources for your reference, to help you be as prepared as possible, should you find yourself in the path of hurricane this season.  While these resources are all focused on hurricane’s, they also lay out prudent steps to take, regardless the threat.  Hurricane’s, windstorms, blizzards, tornado’s…potential damaging weather events goes one.  Take time now to make your plan and be prepared.

  • The first resource comes from my friend and colleague Chuck Poole of PalmTech Computer Solutions in West Palm Beach, FL.  Chuck and his team are potentially right in Irma’s path.  Chuck has published a very informative checklist for his clients, which you may review here.
  • The Ready.gov website of the Department of Homeland Security has a great hurricane resource page at this link.  On the right hand side, you will also find links to all manner of additional threat resources you may need to consider being prepared for.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains a hurricane preparedness site here.  This site has several links that will take you to valuable information and resources.
  • The American Red Cross publishes an excellent Hurricane Safety Checklist that is primarily geared to families, but is useful for organizations as well.  You may download the checklist from the linked title.
  • Finally, FEMA also runs a program called America’s PrepareAthon! which is a community based campaign to raise awareness and help individuals and organizations be prepared.  This program has published a playbook titled Prepare Your Organization for a Hurricane, which you may download from the linked title.

It’s still too early to know for certain if Irma will hit the United States, though all indications are that it will.  The resources above are all excellent and I recommend you review them all and develop your plan, regardless of Irma’s final path.

As I’m sure you suspect, I have a personal plan in place that absolutely includes safeguarding my digital assets and critical equipment, as well as my family and home, to the extent it is possible to safeguard a home.  Onepath, the company I work for, also maintains robust plans for all manner of situations and assists our clients doing the same.  If your business needs help developing a robust plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about how Onepath can help you prepare, maintain and recover, should you be impacted.

As my mother always said, “Better to have a plan and not need it than need a plan and not have it.”