Thursday, April 26, 2018

Perhaps this is the birth of an interest in Computer Security?
Taryn Luna reports on a hack and phish that may leave you wondering whether this was a politically motivated attack or just a garden variety attack.
Luna reports the the victim is Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, whose re-election campaign account was robbed in a multi-step scheme that began with a hack of his email account in February.
The hackers appeared to study the campaign’s email pattern of approving payments, pretended to be him and sent a fake invoice to his treasurer requesting $46,000 to a vaccine-related nonprofit organization in mid-February, Pan said. He said the responsible parties were able to block communications with other people to hide their trail.
The vaccine connection is what raises the possibility of possible political motivation. Luna explains:
Pan is a doctor and has drawn the ire of a fervent community of activists who oppose his legislative work to toughen vaccination requirements for school children. Pan said there’s no evidence to suggest anyone associated with the anti-vaccination movement was actually involved in the theft, but he’s suspicious given violent threats he’s endured and prior interactions with his opponents. Among other related legislation, Pan successfully removed personal belief exemptions for vaccines in 2015.
The senator’s treasurer was appropriately cautious when she received the request to send the check, but she did not know she was going back and forth in email with the criminals and not with her boss.
As a result of this incident the campaign now uses two-factor authentication for any such requests.
Read more here on SacBee.

This week my students are designing a data center. Here’s something else to consider.
Loud Sound From Fire Alarm System Shuts Down Nasdaq's Scandinavian Data Center
A loud sound emitted by a fire suppression system has destroyed the hard drives of a Swedish data center, downing Nasdaq operations across Northern Europe.
The incident took place in the early hours of Wednesday, April 18, and was caused by a gas-based fire suppression system that is typically deployed in data centers because of their ability to put out fires without destroying non-burnt equipment.
These systems work by releasing inert gas at high speeds, a mechanism usually accompanied by a loud whistle-like sound. With non-calibrated systems, this sound can get very loud, a big no-no in data centers, where loud sounds are known to affect performance, shut down, or even destroy hard drives.
The latter scenario is what happened on Wednesday night, as the sound produced by the errant release of the inert gas destroyed hard drives for around a third of the Nasdaq servers located in the Digiplex data center.
… A Digiplex spokesperson told Bleeping Computer that Nasdaq only rents space in the data center, and uses its own equipment . Nasdaq said there weren't enough servers in the whole of Sweden to replace the destroyed ones, and had to import new machines.

Next week, we’ll be discussing encryption.
Democrats raise security concerns over Trump cellphone use
Democrats are demanding answers from the Trump administration on steps being taken to prevent the president from falling victim to foreign hackers, suggesting his personal cellphone use poses a national security threat.
… “While cybersecurity is a universal concern, the President of the United States stands alone as the single-most valuable intelligence target on the planet,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) wrote.
“Our national security should not depend on whether the President clicks on a malicious link on Twitter or his text application, or the fortuity of foreign agencies not knowing his personal cell number,” they wrote.
CNN reported earlier this week that Trump has begun to more frequently use his personal mobile device to contact those advising him outside the White House.

Something for all my students.

Is it a Trump thing?
In Trump's first year, FISA court denied record number of surveillance orders
In its first year, the Trump administration kept one little-known courtroom in the capital busy.
… Annual data published Wednesday by the US Courts shows that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court last year denied 26 applications in full, and 50 applications in part.
That's compared to 21 orders between when the court was first formed in 1978 and President Barack Obama's final year in office in 2016.

I didn’t know that.
… A Manhattan judge ruled Wednesday that there’s nothing “outrageous” about throwing the president’s supporters out of bars — because the law doesn’t protect against political discrimination.

Not the first time I’ve heard this argument.
The Politicization of Our Security Institutions
The politicization of the FBI has been swift and extreme. According to Reuters polling, just two years ago, 84 percent of Republicans viewed the FBI favorably. By February 2018, 73 percent agreed that “members of the FBI and Department of Justice are working to delegitimize Trump through politically motivated investigations,” according to a new Reuters poll. Thanks to a president eroding long-standing norms and America’s extreme political polarization, the FBI may not be alone. We are at risk of becoming more similar to struggling democracies, where most security and law enforcement institutions are simply assumed to be aligned with a political party.
It is not difficult to imagine a near-future in which the American public sees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, sheriffs, many police forces, and the military as “Republican” institutions. In other words, the public would expect these institutions, as a matter of course, to tilt their analysis and actions towards helping their preferred party. Meanwhile, the public could come to see the FBI, more cerebral intelligence agencies such as that of the State Department and CIA, and big city police as “Democratic,” with the same politicized lean to their actions and public pronouncements.

Perspective. Any studies on the creation of new jobs in AI, VR, etc?
A study finds nearly half of jobs are vulnerable to automation
… A new working paper by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, employs a similar approach, looking at other developed economies. Its technique differs from Mr Frey and Mr Osborne’s study by assessing the automatability of each task within a given job, based on a survey of skills in 2015. Overall, the study finds that 14% of jobs across 32 countries are highly vulnerable, defined as having at least a 70% chance of automation. A further 32% were slightly less imperilled, with a probability between 50% and 70%. At current employment rates, that puts 210m jobs at risk across the 32 countries in the study.

A confusing meme. Was there a problem? We won’t know until late next year.
Finland set to scrap free money experiment after two-year trial
The Finnish Social Insurance Institute, often referred to as Kela, introduced a two-year trial of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in January 2017. The scheme saw its government pay a random sample of 2,000 unemployed citizens aged 25 to 58 a monthly payment of 560 euros ($684).
Kela's trial did not require the recipients of basic income to seek or accept employment, while those who took a job during this period would still continue to receive the same amount of cash.
However, Kela's request for extra funding to expand the two-year pilot to a group of employees this year was rejected by the government on Monday. Instead, the Finnish administration said it would prioritize other schemes in an effort to reform the Scandinavian country's social security system.
… The full results of the pilot are not scheduled to be released until late 2019, while Kela has vowed to stay in touch with the recipients of basic income to assess the long-term impact of the trial.

Perspective. Will others follow suit?
Ford dropping all but 2 cars from its North American dealerships
Ford said on Wednesday the only passenger car models it plans to keep on the market in North America will be the Mustang and the upcoming Ford Focus Active, a crossover-like hatchback that's slated to debut in 2019.
That means the Fiesta, Taurus, Fusion and the regular Focus will disappear in the United States and Canada.
Ford will, however, continue to offer its full gamut of trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

For the student toolkit. Works on Apple phones also.
How to scan without a scanner
… Microsoft Office Lens app uses your phone’s or table’s camera to take a picture of the document and then edit it to make it look scanned and it does all of that in a few seconds with a few steps. Another cool thing about the app is that once you “scan” the document you can export it in a file type that suites you or to a service of your choice. Also, using the OCR algorithm you can scan business card to convert them into contacts as well as photos that you need to have the text extracted.

An important tool.

No comments: