Disgusting, But Sadly Expected

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Hackers are hard at work trying to scam you with phishing campaigns related to the horrific Parkland, FL school shooting incident last week.  As disgusting as this is, it’s become the new norm.  A shocking tragedy takes place and hackers come out of the woodwork, trying to trick unsuspecting people with fake fundraising and news links and stories.  It’s all about the scam.

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You may receive email messages asking for donations, sharing new information about the incident or links to new videos and news reports.  Be very suspect of anything you receive that references a recent tragic event liks this.

If you want to research news stories or donate to charitable funds setup in response to the tragedy, please go directly to the web site of the organization you wish to support or the site of the news source.  Don’t click email links that could take you to compromised sites that the hackers are using to try to steal your payment or other information.

Be vigilant against these heartless and slimy operators, both at home and at work.

Olympic Technology is Going for Gold

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This post was originally published in today’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

The Olympics taking place in PyeongChang is a spectacle of technology that is giving us a glimpse into our future. With technological powerhouses like Samsung being one of South Korea’s most well known exports, it’s no wonder technology is taking center stage.

Intel Olympics Drone TechnologyThis awesome display of technology is not without its pitfalls. On the first day of this year’s Olympics, hackers took center stage, breaking into some Olympic technology and causing the office website of the 2018 Winter Games to be taken down overnight. As of now, there does not appear to have been any serious breach, but investigators are still at work and we may not know what has really happened during the Olympic Games until well after the Olympic torch has been extinguished in PyeongChang.

One of the massive challenges for technology at an event like the Olympics is security. It’s even more of a challenge due to the nature of the event. A temporary sporting event that brings the attention of the world on a small part of the host country for a short window of time. Talk about a target of opportunity.

Olympic Games are put on by local organizing committees under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC. Technology contracts are awarded to multiple companies by the local organizing committee and are often decentralized, meaning each vendor chosen must secure their own networks. This brings multiple players to the table and multiple vulnerabilities. Intel, Samsung, Visa, Atos, Korea Telecom, Comcast, NBC and more all have extensive technology infrastructures in place at the Olympics. Even clothier Ralph Lauren has introduced technology to Team USA’s uniforms for this year’s Winter Olympics. The jackets Team USA will be wearing include active heating technology to keep the athlete’s warm.

Multiple organizations and government agencies have warned attendees to steer clear of public WiFi and be on alert for all manner of cyber scams. Some have gone so far as to recommend turning off WiFi and Bluetooth while at the Games, to avoid what are known as drive-by attacks, where a hacker may theoretically access your device to steal information and use it as part of a larger attack.

There will be plenty of technological marvels on display, from Intel’s amazing drone light shows to Samsung’s robots. A robot even carried the Olympic Torch for part of the relay leading up to the lighting of the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies one week ago. Technology will also be available to the athletes to help them tune their performance and maximize their experience. Suits with smart sensors will provide a level of athletic performance feedback not previously seen. It will be interesting to see if any competitors make changes based on this new information that will be available.

Another first for these Olympics is that all of the technology systems running and broadcasting the games will be Cloud based. You won’t find the temporary data centers that powered past games. This year, critical systems will all be physically away from the games in Cloud data centers. There are some fifty critical applications behind this year’s Olympic experience, all out in the Cloud.

Even with this reliance on the Cloud, there will still be well over three thousand IT workers on the ground in PyeongChang supporting the games. Whether things are based in the Cloud or not, you still need an on-site IT infrastructure to enable everything from accurately capturing race times to broadcasting the events live online and to television viewers worldwide.

For spectators who are in PyeongChang, Intel is providing virtual reality experiences from the athlete’s point of view. Imagine putting on a virtual reality headset and finding yourself hurtling down a slalom course at 70 to 80 mph. You can if you want to.

I mentioned Visa earlier as one of the technology companies on display at the Olympics. Yes, Visa is a financial services company, mostly known for issuing debit and credit cards. In PyeongChang, Visa is showcasing payment technologies of the future. There are contactless payment terminals throughout the venues. Visa provided special rings to the athletes that have embedded payment technology, allowing an athlete to simply wave their hand over a payment terminal to pay for something. Visa even has smart gloves in use so that when you are outside, you won’t have to take your gloves off to pay for something. Just place your hand near a payment terminal and make your payment.

The Olympics are always a great event, showcases known and unknown athletes and great stories of triumph and defeat. Technology is giving us a glimpse into the future as well this year, except the future is now.

Yup, the Olympics are Being Hacked

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PyeongChang OlympicsThe good news is that no known damage has been done, but it didn’t take long for bad actors to attempt to disrupt the Olympic Games currently underway in PyeongChang.  In fact, a yet to be identified hacker disrupted some servers during the opening ceremony that ultimately led to the web site for this years games being taken down overnight that first day.

The Olympics are a particularly complicated even to safeguard.  Numerous IT related vendors are working together to manage a very robust IT infrastructure that is temporary.  Everything is done under the auspices of the local Olympic organizing committee, which is also a temporary entity.

Personally, a permanent home for the Olympic Games would go a long way to making cybersecurity less of a concern, but I’m not sure the politics of such a move are going to allow that in the foreseeable future, but this is another topic altogether.

For now, the Olympics seem to be safe, though several instances of vaious malware have been detected within the various networks in use.  The vendors and organizing committee are working dilligently to be sure that nothing more malicious is in play, but given the tensions between the Korea’s and general geopolitical tensions around the world, the Olympics being a target was more of a sure thing that any one athlete winning gold.

Super Friday at Onepath New England

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It’s the Friday before the Super Bowl, so of course it’s time for an office Super Bowl party!  We’ve closed our other New England offices and brought the entire New England team together in our North Andover hub for a fun day of collaboration.

Everyone wore their favorite Patriot’s gear and we decorated and had lots of fun game day foods.  Doreen worked her magic once again and several people brought in food items to share.

 

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The office door made it quite clear what would be found on the other side 🙂

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Lots of Patriots jerseys of past and present greats.

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All the screens looped Super Bowl LI highlights to set the mood.

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Balloons and decorations are everywhere.

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Ken brought in his Super Bowl Champion hats from the first five, hoping to add a sixth.

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The kitchen was appropriately decorated for the day.

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Doreen worked her magic under Trin’s watchful (or distracted) eye.

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Little doubt who we are rooting for!

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Doreen’s Stadium.

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Doreen’s Super Bowl Masterpiece!

The Blitz for Six will hopefully be complete this Sunday.  Go Pats!

 

 

CompTIA Statement on SOTU

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CompTIA has released an excellent statement, commenting on last nights State of the Union address to Congress.  Regardless of your politics, the statement puts forth some excellent ideas for working with the current administration to advance technology issues that have impact on every American citizen and business.

You may read the statement here.

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How Did You Weather The Bomb Cyclone?

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

BombCyclone2By the time you read this, you will have hopefully survived the “Bomb Cyclone” that rolled through on Thursday. I got a kick out of all the reports in various media about the storm’s “wicked cold” and “polar vortex.” It’s winter in New England. You never know what’s coming and when.

Storms like this provide a stark reminder that businesses don’t stop due to weather. Successful companies need to be able to operate through storms like this and ensure their staffs are able to work wherever and whenever they need to.

Successful companies today, employ a range of strategies to remain functional throughout any event that could impact their offices or staff. This is mostly done by leveraging Cloud or data center services to disperse the organization’s business systems across geographies in order to insulate the business from a catastrophic event in any one geography.

To put this in layman’s terms, this means not relying on a computing infrastructure that is solely located in the company’s sole office location. That’s how it used to be done, but not today. In the past, especially for smaller businesses, but for much medium- and larger-sized organization as well, a single location would be where you would find one or more servers that run all of the business systems. Email servers, file systems, printing, databases, accounting applications, any proprietary software would all be on these servers. If the office was not accessible, neither were the systems unless the business invested in power infrastructure, like generators, to keep the servers running the event of a power outage. This would also require robust remote access infrastructures, so that employees would be able to access these resources.

Today, this is accomplished very differently and quite cost effectively. Smart businesses have servers and systems offsite, in the Cloud, a private or public data center or a combination of these. Many companies have moved to Office 365 or Google G Suite, mostly for email, but potentially other productivity applications and services as well. With email moved offsite and into a data center infrastructure managed by industry giants Microsoft and Google, you can be assured you will not lose your ability to electronically communicate when a storm runs through your local regions. Email has become a primary form of communication for both internal and external contacts. Ensuring this capability is “always on” is more critical than it has ever been.

Having critical business systems offsite also ensures availability. When your applications are running in the Cloud or a data center, your systems will be more accessible than they would be if they were only located within your office. Hardly any business that considers itself a small- or medium-sized could afford to maintain the highly available and redundant infrastructure that exists in the Cloud and other data centers. The power and connectivity capabilities within these sites are truly impressive. They are all designed to ensure uptime and availability, regardless what may be happening.

While the above addresses the systems your teams use every day to accomplish their goals, telecommunication requirements are often overlooked. It’s equally important to make sure callers are able to call your organization and get through to someone throughout an extreme event, be it weather, natural disaster or other. Having a redundant telecommunications infrastructure will further ensure your customer experience is consistent through any event that might otherwise negatively impact the business.

If you or your teams experienced any issues during this last storm that should be a clear sign you need to review how your company is structured to ensure employees, customers and business partners are able to continue to work together and support one another, regardless of environmental or other events that would otherwise interrupt this. Make 2018 the year that your business embraces truly high availability and redundancy.

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.

 

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