Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Party’s Over: It’s A New Generation Now

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And so the fallout from Edward Snowden continues. As the saga draws on (is he about to become a Russian citizen or not?) we overlook the bigger story: the Internet, as we know it, is dead.

As reported in The Guardian, the Internet is facing several inexorable trends: balkanization along nationalistic lines, the outreach of governments and outright commercial control.

When first instituted, the Internet was regarded as an open, totally free place of informational exchange: an ‘Interzone’ of sorts (to coin William Gibson) but now as time marches on, this is no longer accurate. Now, China and other nations routinely censor and control input and output of Internet access: Twitter is throttled, Google is curbed along with a host of other outlets. In some nations, the notion of a free and open Internet is practically banned outright, while in the so-called bastions of freedom (United States, Great Britain and Western Europe as a whole) internet surveillance is now the norm.

In the meantime, we’re starting to see pricing schemes reflective of the (overlooked) class system: if you want more Internet access (or more speed / faster access) you can expect to pay more for it. Libraries both domestically and internationally are facing cutbacks and thus limiting even more access for those who do not possess a computer, while premiums are being put in place on those who wish to participate on the so-called medium of ‘free exchange’.

In John Naughton’s excellent article, “Edward Snowden’s Not the Story. The Fate of the Internet Is” (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet) these issues were illustrated with a striking clarity.

And if you think you’re safe reading this article, better start changing the way you think. Of course, there’s the old chestnut: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Wrong.

People make mistakes, especially in government, law enforcement and the military. It’s not too uncommon for wrongful arrests to take place; false accusations to spread or outright misunderstandings to take place leaving in the wake of ruined lives, reputations and personal financial disasters.

And now, as recently reported by Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA (National Security Agency) employees can readily access emails, phone records and other information. (Really? No kidding!) So if you’re a file clerk who happens to be working for the NSA, you can review your family, friends or neighbors phone records, internet trolling history or other information (such as keeping tabs on that girl who dumped you last month).

If you just happen to be involved in a domestic dispute or a lawsuit with a government or corporate entity, expect to see your records accessed and reviewed as a matter of course.

It’s obvious ‘file access’ of these and other types routinely take place in various levels of government within the United States beyond just the federal levels. Sometimes, data accessed is utilized for political purposes: somebody running for office seeking out information about their worthy adversary. Other times, it’s for personal reason: divorce, outright personal hostility and an agenda of revenge. Don’t think it can’t happen: it does – and it happens more often than folks care to admit, taking place beyond just the federal level as well. Local governments and their officials have increasingly been caught reviewing private citizen records, through such supposedly secure information bases as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), credit history lookups, billing histories along with a host of other sources.

But what is remarkable is the lack of public response. You’d think with Glenn Greenwald’s recent expose, they’d be a bigger outcry. In fact, just the opposite: we’re witnessing a generational change. What was once a sacred domain – privacy – is now becoming a thing of the past. Younger generations are surrendering their privacy in a multitude of ways – putting up pictures of their ‘lost’ weekend  on Facebook; running commentary and personal attacks on social boards; personal commentary depicting their sexual activity or other ‘personal ‘ issues on their Twitter accounts – the list goes on.

Although privacy is still a sore point with a number of folks, the younger generation coming up are akin to those old timers who lived during the atomic age: expecting a blow up to happen, the atomic age generation held a diffident viewpoint of life with an expectation of being blown up at some point. Now, in the age of Big Brother, the younger generation is becoming inured to the notion of being watched 24 x 7, going about their business and even posting some of their more intimate scenes in public settings because, well, that’s what a lot of people do.

This one of the fallout of living in the Age of Surveillance: one becomes used to being watched and, in fact, embraces it to the point where they simply let it all hang out. Expecting our records to be reviewed and exposed is something many now expect. Sure, folks aren’t thrilled by it, but what are you gonna do about it? – so goes the argument.

All of this is bad enough, but add into the mix the notion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and bizarre (disturbing) alliances – such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Amazon coming together (see my prior post on this development), along with Google’s all-out effort’s to develop AI (likewise posting earlier), things are taking on a darker trend: it will soon be more than just being able to read your information, but actually read who you are – and what you’re really about, even if you don’t know yourself.

Prediction: expect to see Internet profiling to become the new norm. Just as we’ve witnessed the distasteful practice of racial profiling undertaking by State law enforcement officials on the national highways, we can expect to see something similar taking place in the coming years via our records, our book and music purchases along with any other activity we undertake.

So next time, if you can, remember to bend over and give the camera a moon; we all could use a laugh.

Let’s all give the AI’s something to mull over.

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The CIA and Jeff Bezos: Working Together For (Our?) / The Future

Never mind the NSA and PRISM: this is the real overlooked story.
Back in October of 2012 I wrote this blog article regarding the (quietly) announced a partnership between the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Jeff Bezos of Amazon coming together to create a ‘cloud computing solution based on a AI (Artificial Intelligence) / Quantum Computer system (!).
Aside from the fact that work on this project is being done outside of the US territory (Vancouver, British Columbia – outside of US jurisdiction) it leaves one asking why the secrecy (the best secrets are those casually announced – and then totally overlooked)? And now, in light of the Snowden affair, it’s apparent that this is the real story for if and when you think about it, the power of being able to know what people are reading gives you a leg on on knowing how they think – something which even PRISM cannot do.
Minority Report is getting a little closer to reality, and if you don’t believe that, then read this blog piece and ask yourself: why would the CIA want to work with Amazon to create their own “cloud computing solution”? The CIA could do one just as well on their own – or so you’d think,…
Something to think about the next time you order something from Amazon.

shockwaveriderblog

In one of my prior posts I spoke at length regarding the recent efforts by the cool folks at the University of California – Berkeley who were able to fool a number of ‘qubits’ into allowing them to see if the proverbial cat (as in Schroedinger’s Cat) was alive or dead. In the words of Penny (from the television show “The Big Bang Theory”) ‘the cat is alive!’

And apparently the cat is alive – in more ways than one. Recently, what just leaked out is an ongoing ‘joint effort’ by none other than Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame (as in the founder and CEO, etc.) allying himself with none other than the United States Central Intelligence Agency – aka the CIA.

Amazon and the CIA in a business alliance?

Holy Sh*t, Batman!

And all of this is taking place in none other than a Canadian technology firm based out of Vancouver…

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“Don’t Fire Until You See The Bits of Their Data!”

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(Well, maybe General Putnam didn’t say that at Bunker Hill, but if he were around today, he’d probably would,…!)

Happy July 4th and smile for the camera – or at the folks who are busy watching you, courtesy of your tax dollars – or at the potential hackers who want to take you for all that you’re worth (kind of wish that the folks at the NSA would spend more time going after those guys, instead of watching us, but I digress,…).

Regardless of how you may or may not feel, privacy is a resource that is quickly becoming rare – like that of an old Armagnac or fine scotch – leaving those of the older, more refined generation to sit back and reminisce more and more about the good ol’ days when one didn’t have to worry about somebody looking over their shoulders – unlike say, the newer generation who’s not afraid to let it all hang out and put those pic’s of doing themselves in during yet another ‘unofficial’ office party on their Facebook page.

Regardless if you’re the old person who hollers at the kids sticking their nosy access points on your PCS bill or somebody who’s cutting edge and isn’t afraid to let it all hang out, privacy is a resource everyone has to seriously consider – particularly when you’re doing any kind of business transactions – and for good reason. It’s bad enough to worry if somebody has your credit card and goes out purchasing a pile of items using your funds, but what happens when a competitor ‘borrows’ one of your ideas from your Dropbox account – and all because you thought that it was safe from outside eyes?

And so, in keeping with the good old American value of TANSTAAFL – “There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” we of Shockwaveriderblog stand up and raise the flag proudly and stick it up the nose of those who are busy trying to get our homework answers when they should be doing it on their own anyhow! With this in mindlisted below are some useful, easy and effective tools for your home / personal use as well as for some businesses to consider employing.

But first we raise these important caveats:

1. Use at your own risk. Don’t blame us if you didn’t follow the instructions or things didn’t come out as expected. Read and follow carefully, using these tools as you would a gun: always assume it’s loaded – and they are: with your information and data.

2. Software alone is never an answer: it’s how you mange your staff, inclusive of training, employee awareness and effective IT policy.  One good example is banning the usage of USB thumb drives in an office setting to prevent the spread of viruses as well as preventing any installation of trojans or bots, along with keeping any documents managed with a controlled setting, to name a few policy points worth enforcing.

3. Always read the fine print and know exactly what your needs are before you go and get something. Often, people buy the biggest and the baddest for the simple reason they feel it is the biggest and the baddest they want – when, in fact if they did their homework, they would’ve saved both time and money if they did just a little more homework and gotten something that works just as well – if not better – for a lot less time, trouble and money.

It’s not about being paranoid: it’s just about being cautious and using common sense: besides, do you want to wind up in a lawsuit arguing about why your lack of security awareness lead to a major loss in revenue, loss of stockholder confidence – or your job?

It’s a competitive world out here – but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sleep over it.

Here are some tools worth serous consideration:

The Taskboard (www.taskboard.co). The Taskboard is an inexpensive app which puts all of your financials (college savings, mortgage, car payments, checking account, utilities, 401K’s, etc.) under one simple, easy to use app. With the Taskboard, the authorized user enters their information; once entered only the authorized user can view the accounts, pay their bills / deposit money and monitor their activities. Also, since the data entered stays with the user (i.e, it doesn’t go through a website or an online service) nobody but the user can see / access their accounts. The Taskboard is designed only as an account manager: it cannot hold any real-time information regarding user account activity. Just make sure you don’t lose your password as only you, the user, will have access to any information: your password is not kept with the folks at Taskboard Enterprises…!

Digital Quick (www.digitalquick.com) DigitalQuick makes it easy to protect your personal and business files in the cloud and desktop. With Digital Quick, you protect, control, and audit your files by knowing who and when your files were accessed, along with a wide range of other actions which make this a rather kick-ass piece of work that any home or small to mid-size business employing Dropbox should really consider. Best of all, Digital Quick’s encryption is strong, making it a tough little nut for ay hacker to crack – that is, unless they happen to have a Big Blue supercomputer or so laying around,…!

Titan File (www.titanfile.com) A relatively new company, Titan File is for larger entities, and offers some serious legs to anyone who wants to manage their information at an enterprise-wise level as arguably Titan File is a full-blown ECM solution.  As Titan File puts it:

Titan File lets you organize information around people and context instead of files and folders, making it easy for you to find what you need – whenever you need it. We also let you drag and drop files from various sources into communication channels to make sure that you always have your projects, colleagues and clients with you, everywhere you go.

Your information is stored encrypted in the same secure facility where the government stores health records. We do it in a way that separates logical and physical storage so that no one can get an unauthorized access to your files or files of your clients and colleagues. 

Know who, where, how and when had access to the shared information. You get the benefits of a true real-time and cross platform application. You will be immediately notified whenever a new activity (such as a client uploading a new file or a colleague leaving a message for you) happens. We support access from majority of modern mobile devices, allowing you to remain connected.

Need we say more?

DocStar (www.docstar.com) is a full blown / bona fide ECM solution that’s being used by major entities such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) along with a host of other entities, both big and small.  Speaking as a records manager, DocStar is a serious solution. With DocStar, your files are encrypted, secured, and you can program your DocStar software set to do a wide range of services and file management, even to the point of creating your own workflow solutions (i.e, how you want your documents / files to be seen and managed by whom for what purpose, etc.) – and BTW: DocStar also offers a cloud solution worth checking out. DocStar’s audit trail is strong and also has a unique feature in that DocStar links with the U.S. Postal Service to confirm any and all documents being stored on the DocStar system is indeed, a bona fide copy of that document; this comes in VERY handy when/if you or your company have a court appearance and need to show actual documentation: with DocStar the documents stored on the system are indeed the real thing.

Wickr (www.mywickr.com) As the folks at Wickr put it, “The Internet is forever. Your private communications don´t need to be.” So true that,…. WIckr is an app (Apple and soon Android) that works when you and those whom you’re communicating with also has Wickr. Wickr is essentially a ‘read once’ message that self-destructs on your pre-set timeframe (Mission Impossible, anyone?). Send a message to another Wickr user that you have in your Wickr directory, they read the message and after the pre-approved timeframe, the message self destructs: completely gone.  At the Wickr website:

Only the receiver is able to decrypt the message once it was sent. Wickr does not have the decryption keys. Send and receive text, photos, videos, voice and pdfs,… Wickr uses AES256 to protect data and ECDH521 for the key exchange. RSA4096 is also used as a backup and for legacy app versions. Wickr also uses SHA256 for hashing and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Encryption keys are used only once then destroyed by the sender’s phone. Each message is encrypted with its own unique key and no two users can have the same AES256 or ECDH521 keys ever. Our servers do not have the decryption keys, only the intended recipient(s) on the intended devices can decrypt the messages. Wickr has hundreds of thousands of downloads in over 113 countries. Celebrities, royalty, reporters, feds, lawyers, doctors, investors and teens are the early adopters.

BTW: it’s worth noting that Wickr’s encryption exceeds NSA Suite B Compliancy (Compliance for Top Secret communication).

Burner App (http://burnerapp.com) is a cool app (iPhone; Android version out soon) that’s useful in several ways, not the least of which you can use your existing regular phone and have a / or a series of private lines that act as though they’re also your own number (note: when using the app, you’re still using your regular phone plans’ airtime). This is very handy when you’re signing up for services and programs and don’t want to give away your regular number to potential marketeers.  With the Burner App, whenever you receive an incoming call from a ‘burn’ number that you’ve assigned for a specific purpose, you can answer it accordingly – and do so knowing that your actual phone number won’t be compromised. Bear in mind, though, as the folks at Burner App point out:

We do keep backups of our data and should the records be subpoenaed, we will cooperate with law enforcement. Remember these records are all tied to your primary phone number. Burner is great if you are trying to protect your phone number from other people. If you are trying to protect your phone number or conversations from the police or equivalent, it’s probably best to seek another solution. 

Evoice (www.evoice.com) is not a software package or app, but rather a service that you pay to have a / or a series of toll free numbers. A handy feature for small business seeking to have a good toll free phone service without the costs or hassle of managing answering service staff. What make Evoice stand out though, is it’s price tag, ease of use and the ability to forward your phone messages to an assigned email account that converts your voice messages into texts that you can read. Thus, wherever you are, you’ll be able to receive phone calls, read them in a text format knowing that you have a degree of separation from the caller(s).

Burner phone (https://www.burnerphone.us) Wish I had this back in the days when I was managing political / election campaigns in New Jersey; would’ve made those clandestine payoffs and midnight meetings at the local diners a lot easier (just kidding) (well, kind of anyhow)…! It’s a simple, thirty (30) day kit that gives you a disposable phone with a charger, 16 hours of talk time, nationwide coverage (more or less) along with the promise that any and all personal information involved with the phone that you use destroyed completely after thirty days. And what’s most interesting is that they accept Bitcoin as a means of payment (somehow, I keep hearing the old Judas Priest refrain, “Breaking the law! Breaking the law!“) but seriously, if you want to make sure that the private business you’re conducting really stays private (welcome to Las Vegas!) then maybe this is something that you need to consider.

To learn more how you can take advantage of these and other tools, let us know; there’s a lot out there and these are only the surface of the tools / services available to you and yours.

Contact us if you want to learn more; love to hear and learn as well as teach.

Happy July 4th!