It happens all too often that small businesses, large corporations, and even government offices overlook gaps in security measures or even ignore them entirely.
A recent audit of Nevada’s Department of Administration’s Human Resource Management division revealed that the state office had personal records and information such as the Social Security numbers of over 145,000 current and former employees stored on unencrypted databases. Former employee computer user accounts had not been disabled, computer operating system security updates had not been performed, and copy machine hard drives were not routinely erased, leaving this information to be relatively open to outside threats. Much of this stems from poor communication between the state office and their IT provider, Enterprise Information Technology Services, who claimed they were unaware of the need for security measures to be enforced as well as a data encryption and erasure routine to be followed. This goes to show how crucial it is to effectively consider and communicate the needs of your business when putting its well-being in the hands of someone else.
As a business grows and changes, the concept of security tends to grow along with it. It is important to take a moment and ask what security means for your business:
Check out the Review Journal’s article here.
All of us who live in this interconnected world are familiar with the password polka. We have files or black books filled with the myriad passwords required for our activities from banking to fulfilling our pets’ medications. We attempt to log into sites which have inevitably required a password change two weeks ago. We try to change our passwords per the requirements of our benevolent policy overlords only to discover that we have already used that password, or we are required to use the special characters !@#&@ and one UPPERCASE.
!@$& is right.
One of the biggest frustrations we experience as both consumers and IT professionals has to do with this !@$&-ing dance. In fact, according to the Gartner Group, password resets consume 30% of all IT call volume. And at an estimated 25$ per call (Gartner estimates this amount to be higher at $70 per call) with an average of 1.75 calls per month per person (META Group), this places the cost to a company of 50 employees for password resets alone to nearly $8,000!
And this is where the frustration for the benevolent policy overlords begins. An aggressive password reset policy will undoubtedly increase this number, but $8,000 is small price to pay for the risk mitigation that comes with strong password rules. In fact the risk of exposure, data loss or other more nefarious problems is more or less limitless.
Using this logic, we as IT administrators should increase the strength of our password policies and consider the cost on the support end just the cost of doing business. I have personally run into sys admins who require insanely complex passwords that reset on very short schedules. These security minded individuals believe that the cost of a breach is so severe that end user frustration and support costs are not worthy of consideration.
–And, they would be right…If it weren’t for a couple of big problems.
The first that we incorrectly assess password strength based on our own fleshy weaknesses. Consider the following “complex” password: 1Dr@g0n!
This passes some of the most complex rule systems out there, but could be cracked by a bot running on a low-grade PC in about 3 days…more sophisticated attacks would demolish this password.
This problem is summed up beautifully by the folks at xkcd.com (a wonderfully nerdy web comic).
The other problem with using what we consider to be complex password policies is, as the comic so elegantly shows: we forget them. And when we forget them, we put them in our little black book, save them in a password file…with a password, probably, or simply write them down on a sticky and put it under our keyboard or on our monitor.
The last offense is obviously an unacceptable breach of password protection, but the sys admin would have no one to blame but herself. She created a password policy that broke the end-user thus leaving a huge hole in their security.
How do we get around this as both consumers and IT professionals? Well, here are a few suggestions:
There are many other authentication solutions to fit many applications, but they don’t all belong in the conversation about our some-time friend the password, so please forgive me if I have left your favorites out of the list. I hope this helps all of you dancing the password polka!
With the Clean Power Plan announced, I thought it might be interesting to see the current state of power generation throughout each part of the country. Check out these interactive charts and maps of the US’s sources of electricity.
Tired of waiting in long lines? Google recently added a feature that shows searchers the peak activity hours for millions of businesses.
This feature could definitely benefit those of us looking to avoid crazy grocery shopping hours or dining times at our favorite restaurants.
Check out this Fortune article to learn everything you need to know about Android’s Stagefright megabug.
A quick end-of-the-week blog post about Tesla’s recently announced plan to take progressive steps in creating efficient sustainability for the homes of tomorrow. Tesla’s Powerwall is intended to play a key role in moving away from the current means of power generation and supply by providing an efficient and simplified way of storing power generated by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.
From Tesla’s website: “Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening. It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply. Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.”
Think back to the last or most memorable time you lost an item or object essential to your daily life. Keys, wallets, a debit card pulled out to make an online purchase, or your favorite pen; these things have a mysterious way of getting lost in the void of time and space. When we finally find that one thing we were looking for, it seems like there is this great epiphany that strikes us: “Well, of course it would be here… It’s the last place I would ever check,” even though deep down we may be a little embarrassed that we know too well why a certain thing is in a certain place.
My most-less-than-proud moment occurred back when I was first getting into the job market. I was super excited for my first job interview ever. I made sure to get some fancy new clothes to look sharp and got a professional haircut rather than doing the usual self-cut. I woke up early, made sure to eat a solid breakfast (a microwave breakfast croissant and a glass of orange juice), and made sure I was “done-up” as much as I felt I could be. I then decided to relax. To prepare myself mentally, I sat down on the couch and watched cartoons for a good 30-40 minutes or so before realizing I was going to be running late if I stayed to watch the rest of my show. I turned off the TV, got up to leave, patted my left pocket, and then my right. My keys were missing.
I ran upstairs to my room to check if I left my keys on my nightstand. Nothing. Then the bathroom. No keys. I rushed downstairs and began thinking, “Maybe I left them by the sink? on the couch maybe?” I looked EVERYWHERE with no luck and I had to leave now if I wanted to make it on time. At this point I had no choice but to get a ride from a neighbor. I practically jumped out of my neighbor’s car, giving a wave and a “Thank you! I’ll walk home!” as I sped for the doors… of a restaurant. My contact only specified an address and suite number which MapQuest failed to tell me was a Panera Bread. I gained my composure, walked into the restaurant, and looked around, hoping to see my contact (whose picture I had seen on his website). He wasn’t there yet. I sat down at an open table and waited.
15 minutes later my contact showed up out of breath, explaining his wife had accidentally taken his car keys that morning and that he did everything in his power to get to the interview as soon as possible (I didn’t have a phone at the time so he had no way of telling me the situation). He was sincerely apologetic, to which I confessed I too was late because my keys were missing. We had a bit of a laugh over it, got down to business with the lunch interview, and things went rather well (even though his offer ended up being less than desirable by the end of the interview). We parted ways and I walked 6 miles home. As soon as I got home, I plopped down on my bed. I was too tired to look for my keys at the moment so I just took a nap to recuperate from the self-induced stress.
When I woke up, I went downstairs, watched TV, sorted through jobs listings online, and carried on with my usual routine until my stomach began to growl around dinner time. I checked the fridge, passing up on leftovers and anything that required more than 5 minutes of my time to prepare, which led to me back to where my morning started: the freezer. I nearly fell flat on my back as I opened the freezer door. I just started laughing, shaking my head, and my face burning up. My sister ran over to see what was going on; she thought I was going crazy or something. I simply pointed at the top rack of the freezer, from which my frosted car keys dangled.
Is there some object or item that is always growing legs and running off when you aren’t looking? Or maybe it already has legs and keeps getting away?Tell us about your funniest or most memorable time of losing something – your phone, a pet, a toothbrush, whatever! Our favorite story will grant its teller a Tile – A device that can tether your most treasured belongings to your smartphone so that you can know their whereabouts and save a little worry and time from your daily life.
Check out Tile’s website for more info on the device and how it works with your phone.
3D printing has become a major focus in the tech world and has advanced to a point where what once took weeks or days can now be done in only a few hours, but it still isn’t enough. Tiny models and flimsy plastic-plated armors to be used at Comic-Con are a great, but how far can this process really take us? A crucial issue with the current state of 3D printing is that it is basically a repetition of 2D printing until a three-dimensional model or form is created. Current 3D prints still take a significantly large amount of time, are structurally and mechanically weak, and material options are vastly limited, leaving more to be desired. After all, our goal is to eventually get to a point where we can replicate an object material for material, gram for gram, cubic nanometer for cubic nanometer.
Carbon3D Inc. has developed a different method of 3D “growing” that takes a big leap forward in creating and recreating objects in a fraction of the time it takes with current 3D-printing technology, all while maintaining structural soundness and strength. Carbon3D feels that their CLIP – Continuous Liquid Interface Production – process of growing parts rather than printing them layer-by-layer could not just give the world fast and efficient 3D copying and printing, but also create a clear path 3D Manufacturing.
For a more in-depth discussion on Carbon3D’s work, check out the video below from Joseph DeSimone’s TED talk.
Feel free to also take a look at Carbon3D’s website for more details.
With the development of self-driving cars in recent years, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds for our roads… and its laws. Lead developers in self-driving technology no doubt have the intention of shipping their product as soon as possible and although they may face opposition from car and driving enthusiasts, the facts of the matter are that self-driving vehicles are likely to be part of our near-future everyday lives and safer than a human-driven vehicle.
Take a look at the ReadWrite and Huffington Post articles regarding a brief outline and direction of self-driving cars and find out what some development leads have been saying about our future with their vehicles .
How Robot Drivers Will Save Us From Ourselves
Elon Musk Says Human-Driven Cars Could Become Illegal
So how should we feel about this? If the automated process is faster, safer, and simpler, would it not make sense to embrace this development or does this rob us of something that has become a major part of our functioning society on both social and business levels?
A quick post about something appealing to the senses. An art exhibit in Madrid recently opened that displays 3-dimensional replicas of masterpieces for the visually impaired. Each work is accompanied by text written in Braille as well as an audio guide.
Feel free to take a look at the Washington Post article about the exhibit for stills and more information.