Tech Talk: Sextortion is the Latest Email Scam


SextortionThe following article was published in today’s editions of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

The headline is racy, Sextortion. It’s the latest email scam circulating the internet and it certainly raises some eyebrows and causes anxiety for many recipients. The good news is it’s an email scam that sounds a lot worse than it is.

Here’s how it works. You receive an email with a subject containing a username and password you are either currently using or have used in the past. The message goes on to say that you recently visited an adult website and while you were there, the sender of this email installed malware on your computer. This malware allowed them to take control of your webcam and record you. Unless you agree to send a ransom in Bitcoin, the sender threatens to release the videos they have of you and the adult websites you have visited to your contact list.

The sender also employs a little odd humor, commenting on your good taste in adult videos you watch. That aside, there is nothing funny about this. This scam plays on your sense of privacy and prudence. It attempts to shame you into paying a ransom to protect your reputation. It’s just the latest example of extortion attempts via email.

So where are the bad guys getting your username and password? The first thing to confirm is whether the password is one you use currently. It may be. It may also be one you have not used for years.

So where are the bad guys getting your username and password?  The first thing to confirm is whether the password is one you use currently.  It may be.  It may also be one you have not used for years.  Most security researchers believe that the usernames and passwords are being obtained from databases on the Dark Web that have millions of compromised credentials, gathered from numerous data breaches that have taken place over the last ten or more years.  The problem is that many people don’t change their passwords often or use a unique password for each site you need a login for.  So, it’s quite likely that the password may still be in use, on at least some of the web sites that you visit.

The good news is there are no reports that anyone has actually had the threats in the email carried out. But the threat is what gets people to take action and in some cases, actually pay the demanded Bitcoin ransom. You should never do this as it just fuels these scams. All indications are this is an automated scam, mining data on Dark Web and crafting these email messages. If the bad guys behind this receive even a small fraction of the ransom they are demanding, they will make out pretty well. Don’t fall for the scam and help them make money.

So, what can you do to help protect yourself against email scams like this? Use a strong password, preferably a passphrase that consists of several words put together to create a strong passphrase that will be very difficult to hack. I recommend a bare minimum of 12 characters, mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password on more than one website. This is probably the most difficult thing to do, with all the username and password combinations you have. If you struggle with this one, look into a password manager to help you manage all the usernames and passwords you have. If you are not familiar with password managers, Google them and read user reviews to see if one may be good for you. Also, be sure to enable two factor authentication whenever it is an option, to further secure your logins.

Most importantly, if you get one of these messages, don’t panic and absolutely do not reply or send the ransom. The worst thing you can do is engage in an exchange with a hacker like this. Or pay them.

A Labor of Love


If you regularly follow my blog, you know I love technology.  You know that I also post an occassional personal thought and in this post, I’m combining both.

My wife Jennifer Shoer is a professional genealogist.  Her business, Reconnecting Relatives, helps answer questions that families have been asking for generations and reconnects lost family members with one another.  This is her labor of love, as technology is mine.  The most important thing I do, is support her research and be sure her technology is always doing what she needs it to do.

Technology has had a huge impact on the world of genealogical research.  The digitization of centuries of records, some becoming available for the first time since the end of the Cold Way, has revolutionized this research and lead to discovers that have impact beyond words.

My cousin Michael Shoer is another member of my family who has had the good fortune to pursue labors of love, first from his impressive career on the ground floor of CNN to his latest venture, Creative Word and Image, Inc. in Atlanta and his @boomzoom video channel on YouTube.  Michael creatively leverages technology to bring important messages and stories to life in effective ways.

Michael and Jennifer recently leveraged video technologies to bring an incredible missing piece of our family history to not just our family, but the world.  The ability to find this missing evidence was a breakthrough that Jennifer has been working on for years.  It’s an amazing discovery that has brought joy and sadness to our family in a profound way.  Most importantly, technology has allowed Michael and Jennifer to preserve this important historical record for generations to come.

This is why we all love what we do…

Goodbye Net Neutrality



Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority fo the citizens of this country support net neutrality, politics has prevailed over the will of the people.  Such is the state of our current political system.

We still live in the greatest democracy that humanity has ever known, but it is flawed.

The House of Representatives has so far, refused to act on the issue.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that the Senate voted to overturn the FCC repeal of net neutrality.  For that overturn to move forward, the House needed to act and they have not.  Should the House choose to act at some future date, then the President would also need to sign off.

At this point, all we can do is bombard the House and White House with plea’s to listen to their continuents and vote to overturn the FCC’s repeal.  For now, we are left to sit back and see if the large broadband Internet providers change the way their networks operate or if costs begin to rise in order to maintain unfettered access to all of the Internet.  Only time will tell.  Hopefully, watchdog groups will keep an eye on this, as there is still a transparency requirments, so providers must disclose if they begin to prioritize traffic.

Keep the pressure up at a grass roots level.  It’s never to late to save net neutrality, but as of today, the prior protections are officially no more.

An Undersea Data Center


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.


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

Yes! We did it! But there’s more to be done.


Yes!I am thrilled to report that U.S. Senate has voted to overturn the FCC repeal of net neutrality rules.  Thank you to everyone who read my posts and took action to make your voice hear.  While this is a great victory, sadly it only gets us to first base, using a baseball analogy.  To get to second base, the measure will now go to the U.S. House, where it faces more opposition.  Three Republican Senators voted based on the desire of their constituents to protect net neutrality.  Thank you Senators Collins, Murkowski and Kennedy for representing your voters over your party.  It’s sad more Senators did not do the same, but that is the state of hostile politics in our nation today.

Now we need to flood the House, especially the Repulican Representatives, to encourage them to vote in support of the repeal.  Only then will the measure move to the President’s desk for signature.  That’s the rounding of third base we need to ensure net neutrality does not go away on June 11.  That’s the home run we need, so if you have a Republican representative, please contact them, repeatedly, and remind them 86% of American’s support overturning this repeal.  The will of the people is clear and is has nothing to do with any political party.  It has to do with what is right for this country, our citizens and our economy.

Thank you for what you’ve done to date.  Please keep the pressure on!  The voice of the people is able to be heard.  Today’s vote proves it.

Go to to contact your Representative about the upcoming vote in the House.

The Vote Happens Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 16, 2018


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


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 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


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: 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



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  Thank you!

Senate Testimony Recap


On Thursday morning, May 3rd, I had the honor and privelage of being a witness before a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship at the University of New Hampshire.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen listens to my testimony during the hearing. To my right are fellow witnesses Robert Zakon and Nancy Pearson.

The hearing, titled Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses was run by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  Additional witnesses testifying alongside me were Robert Zakon, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer at Zakon Group, LLC in North Conway, NH, Nancy Pearson, Director at the Center from Women & Enterprise in Nashua, NH, Zach Luse, Founder at Paragon Digital Marketing in Keene, NH, Lisa Drake, Director of Sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry, NH and Joshua Cyr, Director of Education & Acceleration at Alpha Loft in Portsmouth, NH.

I was very pleased to see how engaged and informed Senator Shaheen is on the topic of net neutrality.  Each of the panelists testifying brought a unique and important perspective on the issue.  In the end, two significant and unified themes emerged.  One, that businesses need permanent predictability around net neutrality rules.  It will negatively impact the economy of this nation and viability of many businesses if these rules continue to be enacted and repealed at the whim of the political party in power.  Two, that blocking, throttling or otherwise limiting or restricting access will create a pay to play environment that will stifle innovation and harm small businesses.

Senator Shaheen asked pointed and important questions of the panel and the quality of the discussion that ensued could not have been better. The hearing was recorded and will be entered into the permanent Congressional record. Each witness submitted written testimony, which will also be entered into the permanent record. Below are links to press coverage of the hearing, including pictures. Following that is my written testimony.

Shaheen touts net neutrality at UNH forum

Net neutrality topic of field hearing at UNH

Following is my written testimony:

Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses

MJ Shoer

Director, Client Engagement &vCIO


Senator Shaheen,

First, thank you for holding this field hearing, allowing local businesses the opportunity to share our

concerns with you in a very direct way. My name is MJ Shoer and I am the Director of Client

Engagement and vCIO for Onepath, a national provider of managed IT services to small and mid-sized businesses. Locally, we have three offices in New England, with our New Hampshire office being located in Bedford, NH. I hope to share a unique perspective with you on this important issue.

For just shy of twenty years, I owned my own managed IT services business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In December of 2015, I merged into a larger firm, headquartered in Massachusetts that was also a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) and Internet Service Provider (ISP) and in May of last year, that business was acquired by Onepath. In each of these three companies, we ourselves as well as our over seven hundred clients are directly impacted by net neutrality or the lack of it. I also serve as the Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of Directors for CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the global non-profit trade association representing the information technology industry. In this capacity, I have been exposed to our members diverse, and sometimes conflicting positions on this issue. As a CompTIA member, I have also visited your DC office several times as part of

CompTIA’s annual DC Fly-In to talk about issues of importance to the tech industry.

I’d like to take a moment to quickly frame up the history of this issue and its concern for the business community here in New Hampshire and really, across the entire globe. In 1995, I was part of the first company to bring dial-up Internet access to the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Within days, not months or years, we had direct competition, with multiple ISP’s springing up and providing choice. Fast forward to today, 23 years later and our choices are more restrictive than ever. In Portsmouth, for example, there is really only one high speed ISP that can cover the entire city and that company is Comcast. So one part of this issue is about competitive access options. While there is some competition for business Internet access, there is really none for consumers.

Comcast owns NBC Universal and has a streaming app that subscribers may use to watch Comcast’s Xfinity content online or away from their home. Under the prior rules of net neutrality, Comcast was required to provide unrestricted access for any subscriber to any site on the Internet. Consider that Verizon is a major Comcast competitor, as is any other ISP. While Comcast’s television services allow

you to watch network television like ABC, CBS and NBC, consider this possible scenario we face with no net neutrality rules in place.

I decide to jump on the “cutting the cord” movement and cancel my Comcast TV services and only retain my Comcast broadband Internet access service. I want to use, a free email and search service that Verizon now owns. I also want to use Hulu, which competes with Google, a company that Comcast haWithout net neutrality, Comcast is able to throttle my bandwidth to sites they would rather I not go to. Think of a 4 lane highway like Interstate 95. Comcast routes my Internet traffic across this large highway

so I can get to NBC quickly and with no delays. But say I want to watch something on ABC. Comcast routes that Internet traffic onto Route 1 and I have to travel across multiple signaled intersections, so I may have to stop or go very slowly to get to where I want to go. So slowly in fact, that I might just give up and not go there anymore. Hopefully that word pictures makes the issue crystal clear. It really is that simple.

The impact to small and start-up companies could be catastrophic. The Internet has been a great equalizer in many ways. Small businesses have sprung up and offered competitiveness and innovation the likes of which we have not seen before. A lack of net neutrality is a very real threat to our economic competitiveness as small business, entrepreneurs and a nation.

I’d also like to take moment to share a broader perspective on the issue from my perspective as a Board member of CompTIA. For several years now CompTIA has supported a legislative solution to net neutrality. Its diverse membership includes companies from across the tech industry, from ISPs to edge providers to equipment manufacturers and everything in between. These members have come together to support two core principles: 1) that the internet should be a place where all businesses, regardless of

size, can compete with one another on a level playing field; and 2) that consumers should be able to access whatever legal content they want without worrying that their ISP might block or slow down that


CompTIA and its members want certainty over how the internet is regulated. As such Congress needs to act to prevent this latest round of changes from taking effect. Principles this important should not be subject to the whims of whichever party sits in the White House at any given time. Beyond that, Congress needs to pass net neutrality legislation that prohibits blocking, throttling and anticompetitive conduct by ISP’s. And the only way to achieve this goal is through true bipartisan cooperation to reach a

well-crafted and settled legislative approach to achieve our core principles of competition and access.

The FCC’s decision to repeal their net neutrality rules and reclassify broadband internet access service as an information service placed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in charge of policing net neutrality violations. But the FTC’s authority in this space is limited. Its consumer protection and antitrust enforcement powers aren’t broad enough to tackle the full slate of potential net neutrality violations. Legislation is necessary to help fill in the gaps.

In recent months we have also seen several states introduce net neutrality legislation and two even passed these bills into law. Six states have taken a different path and addressed net neutrality through executive order. Unfortunately, these state approaches vary. While some give enforcement authority to various state bodies, others attempt to create a certification process for ensuring ISPs are maintaining net neutrality, and still others identify fines. A state-by-state patchwork of laws will create a compliance

nightmare for ISPs, particularly small ones, especially since internet traffic is not bound by state boundaries. States also lack the technical expertise to properly formulate and enforce such rules. Not to mention that these laws may not even be enforceable, as the FCC’s order expressly preempts states from passing net neutrality laws.

In conclusion, the only workable long-term solution to achieving net neutrality is bipartisan federal legislation. This will benefit New Hampshire business, my clients and those of my competitors and businesses of all sizes across this nation. Thank you.