Real American Hero

superyou_111As an IT Professional, you’re well aware of the near-term implications of your work. You keep networks up and running, safe from the grubby hands of hackers and malcontents around the globe. In your spare time, you seek a cure for cancer, provide for widows and orphans, and move the human race toward world peace and universal fiscal solvency. It’s what you do, and it’s all in a day’s work. You probably don’t have the time to study the finer points of our constitutional democracy, but did you know that you may one day emerge as a real American hero? (more…)

A Heartbeat Away

bitcoinAs an IT Professional and key voice in managing the ever-growing risks to your organization’s data, you probably have a number. Everybody’s got a number. The number represents the amount of money you would pay to simply make a problem go away. It’s a combination of risk/reward calculus and cost of doing business. How does that math change, though, when hackers hold your data for ransom? (more…)

An Apple a Day Keeps the FBI Away

appleRemember those annoying essays you had to write in high school and college English classes, the ones that ask you to take a position on some seismic cultural issue like capital punishment, abortion, or lip-synching? Well, maybe the first two. The news these days suggests that history is writing another of those epic essays, and the topic is one you can appreciate as an IT Professional. The question is, should Apple crack the phone to mine the data that might connect the killing dots. (more…)

Security Starts In The Home

titanicOr maybe the home office, where the perception might exist that the greatest threat to network and data security is a rogue Russian hacker or a disenfranchised neckbeard living in his mother’s basement. But that perception is just the tip of the iceberg, and too many organizations spend too much time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you want to see the problem more clearly, take a look around the office, from Agnes in Accounting to Stan the Man in Sales. From Reggie in Receiving to Ruth in Reception. The people on your staff are wonderful, devoted, and talented members of your team. They are also the biggest threat to your security. (more…)

Death By Internet

iot2015 was an interesting year for technology, especially the ever-expanding connection between cybersecurity and the Internet of Things. Consider the dangerous possibilities that emerge when we connect devices that have the capacity to take lives, including automobiles and medical devices. The reality when you connect devices for the first time is that you can’t anticipate all of the possible security risks. It’s like dealing with a really bright kid. You can’t think of enough things to tell him NOT to do. (more…)

New Technologies, New Faces, and Mixed Metaphors

staffingThe economy has been expanding. Maybe not as fast as you’d hoped, but expanding nonetheless. You may have noticed an increase in RFPs, or maybe you’ve seen more activity at trade shows that suggest the project gatekeepers are loosening their grip on the padlock. Get you some of that! (more…)

Left To Your Own Devices

byodTo facilitate the easy flow of data and ease the maintenance and setup burden of IT teams, many organizations have been moving toward BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. The policies and practices surrounding BYOD are difficult to navigate, especially with the ever-increasing footprint of the Internet of Things. In the face of expansion, though, and the reality that all of your employees now have personal devices, limiting access to company laptops and desktops, while infinitely more secure, seems downright parochial. As an IT professional, though, the safety and security of the data is paramount. (more…)

And The Award Goes To…

awardsIt’s awards season, our time of looking back to a previous year’s achievements across a variety of cultural disciplines. The Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the Peoples’ Choice Awards are just a few. As an IT professional, you’ve longed for more industry-specific recognition, and awards like “Best Pocket Protector in a Supporting Role” or “Best Line of Code in a Feature Length Composition” make your digital heart sing. (more…)

Cybersecurity Hangover

cybersecurity-hangoverAnother year in the rearview mirror. You raise a glass and toast your organization’s many accomplishments. You met or exceeded your revenue goals, maybe, or you successfully completed three projects and put four more on the books for 2016. You are blowing and going and the world is your oyster. Take a big sip of that success. You’ve earned it. Take another for growing your business and your staff in parallel. Oh, the hint of fruit in that bubbly is very nice. Take another for the solid performance of your IT staff, keeping your network and data at the fingertips of the heroes but safe from the sticky fingers of the bad guys. At least as far as you know. (more…)

The Gifts That Keep On Giving

startIsn’t it great to be back at work? The kids are back in school, the elf-on-the-shelf is back in the attic planning next year’s pranks, and all you’ve got left to look forward to are the credit card bills. Santa was a bit overzealous, perhaps, but the looks on their faces make it all worthwhile, am I right? (more…)

The Manhattan Project

nycThe District Attorney for New York County and Manhattan is officially calling for smartphones to be equipped with a backdoor. Boing Boing reported last week that the DA’s efforts to ensure law enforcement access to stored data on all tablets and smartphones has the support of law enforcement officials in The UK and The Netherlands. So there’s that. But while the DA’s office goes to great lengths to affirm that access under search warrant would not violate human or civil rights, the report does not address the very real problem on the tech side. If you put a chink in the armor, it seems, wouldn’t you invite other, less hospitable elements to the party? (more…)

Holding Your Breath for Ransom

drForrester Research suggests that Ransomware will hit medical devices as early as 2017. Motherboard reported in November that the technology commonly deployed to hold your data ransom, usually payable in Bitcoin, will soon make its way into your pacemaker, drug pump, or any device that uses IoT to enhance the healthcare experience. Ransomware is effective largely because it demands a payment that is proximate to what its victims might have to pay to resolve the issue otherwise, making it cost effective to simply pay the ransom to release your data. That scenario is changed dramatically when the ransom note is received as the heart monitor weakens overhead and nears flatline. (more…)

Ho Ho Hold On Just A Minute

santaAs an IT professional, you are familiar with social engineering. You’ve probably even had specific training on social engineering and the ubiquitous threat it poses to your network. As a result, you look suspiciously at Melvin, the new facilities guy, as he makes small talk with Raynell at the front desk. Is that a thumb drive on his big key ring? (more…)

Turkey On A Sleigh

turkeyWelcome to the Tweener, that brief window of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when shopping reaches a fevered pitch, tensions run high, and Jim from Sales makes his way back to his office from seven months on the golf course to close deals before year end. Ho, Ho, Holy Cow, what a year it’s been.
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That Time Again Already?

santaIt’s the beginning of the holiday season. The radio stations switched to Christmas carols around Halloween, Santa is ringing a bell over a red bucket on every street corner, and we haven’t even carved the first of the annual pair of turkeys, much less cleared the freezer of last year’s fruitcakes from Aunt Eunice. Our only consolation, apparently, is the conspicuous consumption masking itself as Black Friday.
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Bet Your Bottom Bitcoin

bitcoinImagine owning a slice of the future, like buying an ownership stake in the Internet in the early 1990s or swapping pizza for shares to keep an early Apple startup going and fed. As technology has rapidly advanced, we’ve all missed opportunities, and probably hitched our wagon to a few falling stars as well, all in the name of changing the world and moving the human ball forward.

 

 

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Acting on CyberTerrorism

ransomAs an IT professional, you are the leading edge of your organization’s defense against all things cyber. You’ve got John Wayne’s swagger, Liam Neeson’s focus, Harrison Ford’s nimbility, Harvey Keitel’s calm sense of urgency, and Samuel L. Jackson’s patent inability to suffer fools. Say what again. I dare you. I double dare you.

 

 

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Penetrating Proximity

chaseYou’re an IT professional, so you know the man behind the curtain. In some cases you are the man behind the curtain. But I bet you still tense up if somebody’s standing a little too close when you’re at the ATM. You still get curious when others get curious about your personal information, like your address or phone number or date of birth. And if they ask for your SSN, the hair on the back of your neck stands up. All natural responses for someone at the leading edge of cyber defense.

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Very Personal Assistant

coffee
 Ever wonder what your team is doing when they are just out of earshot? Ever wonder what they’re talking about when the earbuds are deployed and their attention is elsewhere? Sure you have. It’s human nature. But hackers can now use inhuman technology to address those curiosities, leaving you to reconcile the creepy insecurity.

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Hillary’s Email and National Security

emailAs Republicans try to make political hay while the sun shines on Hillary’s private email server, another national security issue rears its ugly head from the latest batch of those released emails. The AP reported last month that Russian hackers tried to access Hillary’s private server at least five times while she was secretary of state. The attempts in 2011 were disguised as fake New York State traffic tickets and, if opened, would have embedded malware that would allow foreign nationals to control her server and access all of the information stored there. (more…)

The Shh of IT

planeA couple of weekends ago, a network failure at Southwest Airlines wreaked havoc and tested the smiles of the usually happy airline and customer base. Check-in functions typically performed by their website and app had to be handled manually, slowing the process to a crawl and delaying over 500 of the 3600 flights scheduled for the 12-hour period. (more…)

Half a Million Reasons

dollarsYou run a tight ship. You’re like the Admiral Nimitz of the IT space. You work closely with management to maximize resources. You know the projects already on the books for 2016, and you’re fighting for every penny, trying to keep the c-suite focused on the future, aware of the dangers that lurk in the ether and the need to guard against them. They just won’t listen to reason! (more…)

Building a Better Team

teamAs an IT professional and keen business observer, you’re always scouting talent. You like to recruit good people as you find them, not as you need them. Your savvy and swagger often assure the corner offices that you’ve got everything under control, even as they tell you about the seven new projects they’ve landed for next year. You’d like to celebrate, but you’ve got networks to manage, managers to network, and emails to return.

And you’re going to need more people. (more…)

Can’t Put Your Finger On It

fingerYou’re an IT professional, so the wonders of technology are not lost on you. If there’s an app for that, you want to know about it. And the emergence of biometric security features on phones and IoT devices is right in your wheelhouse. At first blush, you recognize the stellar, seemingly impenetrable fortress that is the fingerprint. And unlike passwords and social security numbers, we can’t change our fingerprints. That’s like the ultimate cryptology at your fingertips. But still, there is that nagging little voice that says even that can be hacked. (more…)

A Thousand-Year Flood

hurricaneColumbia, SC is a sleepy little town by most accounts, except when the Gamecocks win at home. The state capitol of South Carolina, Columbia has a vibrant business community and service-sector economy. Until about a week ago, it’s distance from the ocean insulated it from the seasonal hurricane fray. But that was last week. (more…)

A Cyber War on Women

houseU.S. House of Representatives Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine told Congress last week what every male IT professional has been saying for years: There are not enough women in this business. The larger context of her comments was the ongoing global cyberwar we seem to be fighting and the notion that arming ourselves with mostly men in this battle is, quite literally, a half-brained idea. Women, she suggests, bring unique skills and strengths to bear on these and other situations, and we should work toward a greater balance between men, women, and minorities. (more…)

Planning for Natural Chaos

Nature’s Good Side

disasterHow confident are you that that your network would survive a lightning strike or even a one-hour power outage? Let’s say you’re pretty sure you’ve got the right things in place to weather the storm. Have you tested your strategy in the last month? Year? At any point since the Reagan Administration? (more…)

Known Unknowns and State Dinners

whitehouseYou’re an IT expert, department head, and management guru. You eat complications for lunch and challenges for dessert, but have you ever really gotten that stellar mind of yours around budgeting? You know about the known knowns, and the known unknowns can be accounted for, but that last category of unknown unknowns stumped even Dick Cheney. And the unknowns in the IT space get more complex every day. (more…)

Katrina and the Waves

wavesIn 1985, when IT was an emerging career track and Steve Jobs was resigning from Apple, the British sent Katrina and the Waves across the big pond, walking on sunshine. Fast forward 20 years and we encountered a completely different Katrina and much bigger waves, leaving folks stranded on rooftops and walking on the Superdome. Who knew popular music could be so prescient? (more…)

Government Contractors and APTs

APTThe last several months have seen an increase in the reported breaches of government or related networks. The University of Virginia network was breached recently by Chinese hackers, mainly, it is thought, because of their connection to DoD, Intelligence, and other government contractors, programs, and facilities.

Government contractors seem especially vulnerable these days, particularly to APTs, so let’s take a look at this threat with fresh eyes. (more…)

An Affair to Remember

madisonImagine your life as a conservative, family values politician, or maybe even a minister, leading a flock of faithful men and women, your devoted wife at your side and pictures of the children on the desk behind you. That’s the “Before” picture, the one you see in your mind before the Ashley Madison hack and data dump, before the world connected your name and address and, in some cases, your most intimate details with the online presence designed to optimize invisibility. The “After” picture? Well, that one’s still in process, but the smiles evaporated quickly, and it’s an image that’s likely to stick with you for a long time. (more…)

Planning for DEFCON Twelve

Inevitably Incidental

redphoneIn response to the ever-increasing number of high-profile cybersecurity breaches, The White House has formed the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center to coordinate cyber threat data and assessments. Regardless of your position on government intervention, the move reflects a heightened national awareness of the pervasive nature of cyberthreats in our world.  (more…)

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Boys (and Girls) of Summer

bcpSummer’s almost over. The kids are making their way back to school, and the parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Time has flown over the last three months, leaving in its wake a sandy, chlorine-smelling, airplane-riding, summer-camping, barefooted, late-sleeping bundle of teenage angst. Good times, am I right? But while time has flown by, you may have noticed that none of the lawn furniture or street signs or mobile homes have. Flown by, that is. Because we have had a relatively mild hurricane season so far. Well, last winter was mild too, until January checked in. (more…)

Changing Hands or Changing Plans

 

networkdesignYour business has been rocking along, but the tide of change is rising. Maybe your stellar sales team has lined up a truckload of projects and you’ve got to expand your network. Maybe you’re facing an ownership change and need to make the upgrades the previous owners didn’t favor. Or maybe you’re starting a new venture, from the ground up with the sky as the limit, and you need network architecture that takes you to the moon. ICS can help with that. (more…)

The First Time It Crosses Your Mind

 

hackerSomeone asked a reputed “Captain of Industry” when it was appropriate to fire somebody. His response was simple. “The first time is crosses your mind,” he said. If you supervise people, lead a team, herd vendors, or manage customer relationships, you’ve probably asked yourself the same question, and maybe you came up with a better answer. It is more likely that you made an effort to avoid conflict and hoped for the best. Human nature. (more…)

Stagefright

The Golden Age of Yesterday

stagefrightRemember way back, when flip phones roamed the earth and the threat of trojans could be quarantined in the CPUs and laptops in your life? The innocence dissipated with the dawn of smartphones in 2007. Then the deluge of apps ushered in all manner of new threats, but at least you could, in theory, control your exposure by limiting the apps you used and practicing robust password security. Good times, gone the way of the brick and the bag phone. (more…)

Ghost in the Machine

machineYou’re probably recalling where you were the first time you heard Sting and The Police, or what the funky red graphics were on the cover of that album. That’s what most folks recall. We are, after all, Spirits in the Material World. The expression was actually coined by Gilbert Ryle in his 1949 book The Concept of Mind, an examination of Rene Descartes’ dualistic separation of mind and body. At the core of this philosophical marvel is the notion that the mind and body work independently of one another, and their connection is speculative at best. This concept takes on new relevance in the digital world.

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A Swing and a Miss!

baseballJune is usually a big month for baseball, but sometimes the biggest news is found beyond the box scores. This year the boys of summer, or at least their front office representatives, took a swing at a slider and hit a really foul ball, making the statistics-obsessed management of America’s game seem like child’s play.

Allegedly, the St. Louis Cardinals hacked the Houston Astros, breaching interior databases that housed trade speculations, scouting reports, and other sensitive, proprietary information about the team. The breach is still under investigation, so the reasons behind the attack remain as elusive as a knuckle ball. It seems likely, though, that the Cardinals were mining Astro data in hopes of building a better team. Or maybe a senseless jab by disgruntled former colleagues.

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Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Joey, Have You Ever Been in a Turkish Prison?

planeThe 1980s comedy franchise Airplane does a great job of spoofing the more dramatic Airport and, to a lesser extent, The Poseidon Adventure. At a time when truly global travel was emerging for the general public, there remained in the hearts of many a fear of the complexity of travel, a fear that has almost completely evaporated in the travel world we take for granted these days. Airplane turned chaos into comedy, exploiting the potential for danger and the human love of a train wreck. (more…)

Welcome to Fergus Falls!

usbThe thumb drive sits on the edge of the table, carefully wrapped in cellophane and surrounded by the other promotional materials from the SWAG bag left by the Chamber of Commerce. It was a very nice gesture, and you’re giving serious thought to the guided tour of local brewpubs pictured in one of the brochures, but you eye the thumb drive with suspicion. And rightfully so. (more…)

Internet of Things

SOC it to You!

IoTImagine a small chip with an oddly configured pin out footprint, originally designed to connect serial to USB. Now tweak the ROM on that chip, infuse it with a dash of RAM and a sprinkle of flash memory, and you have just actuated SOC, or system on a chip. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. You can buy the chips for about $5 and use them to connect devices to the old interwebs. That’s right. A $5 chip is now a gateway to the holy grail of network security. (more…)

If It Ends in Y, It Could Be A Monday

calendarThink of today as Monday. Maybe you’re just back from a long holiday weekend. You’ve celebrated the birth of a nation, perhaps, and the chili dogs are still waging war, keeping the spirit of rest and relaxation alive and well. Now the battle takes a twist as you rattle down the list. These are the projects you face today, the fires that demand your immediate attention, like the chili dogs.
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Follow the Money

moneyLooking for a good business model with a market poised to explode in the next five years? No, it’s not the latest social media platform or even a cryptocurrency. It’s cybercrime, and your business is rapidly becoming their business. (more…)

Hacking the IRS History

April 15th lurks in the shadows of every year, as inescapable as the Grim Reaper and only slightly less popular. The IRS has conflict in its DNA, as our nation’s first revenue commission was established in 1862 to pay for the Civil War. Repealed ten years later and even ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1895, the IRS began collecting income taxes in 1913, after the 16th Amendment was ratified, and the steady gathering of data began.

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Internet of Wings

Ever feel like somebody else is in control of your life, flying the airplane that is your body through the friendly skies of your daily routine? Well, if you’re on the same plane with Chris Roberts, you might just be living beyond the metaphor. Chris likes to fly big airplanes, with real people on them. But Chris Roberts is not a pilot.

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Like It Never Even Existed

Joplin, Missouri is like a barbell. Downtown retains an interesting mix of history and mid-rise offices while, several miles to the south, the medical complex and commercial corridor almost glistens with new construction. In the middle, a once-vibrant residential area known as South Joplin, is a mix of random new commercial buildings and tract homes, with its former glory wiped away, along with any hint of vegetation, by a Category Five tornado in 2011. All the infrastructure is new, but any visitor would know immediately that the previous iteration of this neighborhood had been stricken from the record. (more…)

Rolling Like a Rockefeller

First Quarter results are in the books, and the contracts you hunted late into last year have borne fruit. Like the Robber Barons of yesteryear, you have a dogged commitment to your industry, though sometimes you wish you had cornered the oil market instead. Because, like the scions of the Gilded Age in American history, you are trying to build trust in a marketplace that often seems more like the wild, wild west. Nevertheless, the horizon seems rife with opportunity and your sales team is all fishing and no cutting bait.  (more…)

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Even in the face of increasing network breaches, we distance ourselves from the threat. It’s a big box retailer or a global bank that’s been violated, not us. Our data and personal information might be in danger, but we assuage our fears with the sense and song that the sun’ll come out tomorrow and we’ll face the new day with purpose, repair the damage, and get on with our lives. What happens, though, when the cyber breach threatens a human heartbeat? (more…)

The Talent Pool

In the fifth of six predictions for IT staffing in 2015, CIO suggests that a robust economy and job market will encourage more full-time employees to seek part-time or freelance work. This trend, they suggest, will repeat similar movement in the previous cycle and reap benefits for both employers, who have the ability to identify and deploy specific needs and talents, and employees, who maximize the return on their particular skill sets. For the sake of argument (and this blog post) let’s assume the predictions are spot on. How does your organization take advantage of the shifting talent pool? (more…)

Calm Before the Storm

The blue skies above a small bay in early April offer no inkling of the potential chaos lurking in the wings. Just inland from the Gulf of Mexico, tourists comb the backwaters for fish and fun as the manatees swim languidly beneath them, timeless watchmen of the water and the weather. Smoke rises from stacks in the distance, a reminder that even the best nature offers stands in the path of progress. Like the manatees, we must adapt to changes in our world, and our world is probably changing more rapidly than we imagine. (more…)

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