• Category Archives Professional
  • Blog Posts of a more professional nature.

  • How Much Damage Can the OPM Hackers Do With a Million Fingerprints?

    The Office of Personnel Management announced last week that the personal data for 21.5 million people had been stolen. But for national security professionals and cybersecurity experts, the more troubling issue is the theft of 1.1 million fingerprints.

    Much of their concern rests with the permanent nature of fingerprints and the uncertainty about just how the hackers intend to use them. Unlike a Social Security number, address, or password, fingerprints cannot be changed—once they are hacked, they’re hacked for good. And government officials have less understanding about what adversaries could do or want to do with fingerprints, a knowledge gap that undergirds just how frightening many view the mass lifting of them from OPM.

    “It’s probably the biggest counterintelligence threat in my lifetime,” said Jim Penrose, former chief of the Operational Discovery Center at the National Security Agency and now an executive vice president at the cybersecurity company Darktrace. “There’s no situation we’ve had like this before, the compromise of our fingerprints. And it doesn’t have any easy remedy or fix in the world of intelligence.”

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  • Office of Personnel Management IT Was Running Out of… China

    The House Oversight Committee’s hearings on the massive OPM data breach have been absolutely astounding. The rank incompetence on display at this agency was mind-boggling.

    The government knew security was wide open for years, and did nothing. It’s a wonder they weren’t hacked before now. As committee chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) but it, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”

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  • ‘Collective Panic’ Spreads Among Federal Employees Over OPM Hack

    The first reports of the massive penetration of Office of Personnel Management files and security clearance applications — apparently by Chinese hackers most likely working for, or with, that country’s military intelligence apparatus — included grumbles from the affected employees that the administration didn’t handle the situation very well.

    Those early grumbles were but the snap responses of a few individual employees the media chose at random. Now that the millions of people potentially affected by the hack have been given a few days to digest the news and consider the Administration’s response, their attitude has soured into what government employees described to BuzzFeed as “collective panic.”

    It is interesting that the mainstream press has not exerted itself to collect a wide range of responses. Usually they’re all about the human-interest angle. Every news organization could easily talk to dozens, or hundreds, of federal employees and produce a piece like BuzzFeed’s, but they have not.

    Tellingly, only former government employees jeopardized by the hack were willing to go on the record with BuzzFeed. Current employees insisted on remaining anonymous.

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  • Windows 10 seems to run faster than OS X on the new MacBook

    Image Credit: wccftech.com

     

    Love the new MacBook‘s svelte design, but not a fan of OS X 10.10 Yosemite? There’s good news: According to a new test, Windows 10 apparently runs more smoothly on the new MacBook.

    Alex King, a computer science student studying at Tufts University, spent a month with the new 12-inch MacBook and provided some insightful new details about running the beta version of Windows 10 on it.

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  • FTC staff report details how Google skewed its own search results

    Image Credit: harishares

     

    …But Marissa Mayer, who was then a Google vice president, said Google didn’t use click-through rates to determine the ranking for its own specialized-search sites, because they would rank too low, according to the staff report. Ms. Mayer is now chief executive of Yahoo Inc. A Yahoo spokeswoman didn’t immediately make her available for comment.

    Instead, Google would “automatically boost” its own sites for certain specialized searches that otherwise would favor rivals, the FTC found. If a comparison-shopping site was supposed to rank highly, Google Product Search was placed above it. When Yelp was deemed relevant to a user’s search query, Google Local would pop up on top of the results page, the staff wrote.

    Other regulators have found similar practices. European antitrust authorities in 2013 said Google had a different, “specialized” search algorithm for ranking its own content.

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  • New Film Exposes the Real Steve Jobs (Not the False “Post-Death” Construct)

    We hear how Jobs threw a tantrum when his high school girlfriend got pregnant; we’re told that around the time Apple’s IPO made him worth $200 million, Jobs lied in order to deny his paternity and was angry about paying $500 a month in child support. We hear how he alternately cajoled and bullied the tech reporters who were given a misplaced prototype of the iPhone 4, then pushed law enforcement to retaliate by breaking into a reporter’s house and taking crates of possessions. We’re walked through illegal and/or unseemly maneuvering to do with backdated stock options and profits hidden from the taxman.

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  • Intel: Moore’s Law will continue through 7nm chips

    Eventually, the conventional ways of manufacturing microprocessors, graphics chips, and other silicon components will run out of steam. According to Intel researchers speaking at the ISSCC conference this week, however, we still have headroom for a few more years.

    Intel plans to present several papers this week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, one of the key academic conferences for papers on chip design. Intel senior fellow Mark Bohr will also appear on a panel Monday night to discuss the challenges of moving from today’s 14nm chips to the 10nm manufacturing node and beyond.

    In a conference call with reporters, Bohr said that Intel believes that the current pace of semiconductor technology can continue beyond 10nm technology (expected in 2016) or so, and that 7nm manufacturing (expected in 2018) can be done without moving to expensive, esoteric manufacturing methods like ultraviolet lasers.

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  • The Canary In Big Blue’s Mainframe: Why IBM’s Q3 Bust Marks A Turning Point

    IBM has long been a poster boy for the untoward effects of central bank financial repression. For most of this century the once and faded king of tech has been in a modality of slow liquidation, leveraging up its balance sheet with cheap debt to fund stock buybacks, dividends and accounting-driven two-bit M&A deals. This morning that destructive strategy—–pursued by two incompetent CEOs in a row—–came to a thundering crash. IBM is now down by 7% and deserves to go far lower.

    Perhaps even the robo-traders have had enough—–given that IBM reported its 10th straight quarter of negative revenue growth, a $4.7 billion write-down of its chips business and a huge 12% miss on even the street’s phony “ex-items” earnings number. But the canary in Big Blue’s mainframe was undoubtedly one simple thing, as Zero Hedge cogently noted:

    “…..the buyback “strategy” finally hit a brick wall.”

    After repurchasing an average of $6 billion shares during each of the past three quarters, buybacks dropped to only $1.7 billion in Q3. And the latter marked the lowest anualized repurchase rate since 2009. Likewise, for the first time in 10 quarters IBM’s net debt also stopped growing.

    But the dismal charts above are only the most recent manifestation of IBM’s self-liquidation. During the 31 quarters since the end of 2006, IBM has spent $111 billion on share buybacks and another $23 billion on dividends. And it goes without saying that this staggering total of $134 billion, which was pumped into the coffers of the fast money traders who rent Big Blues shares and the mutual fund and institutional investors who index them, did accomplish wonders for its stock price. The latter vaulted in nearly a perfect chart climb from $100 to $200 per share before it recent slide.

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  • One in three jobs will be taken by software or robots by 2025

    Gartner sees things like robots and drones replacing a third of all workers by 2025, and whether you want to believe it or not, is entirely your business.

    Take drones, for instance.

    “One day, a drone may be your eyes and ears,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner’s research director. In five years, drones will be a standard part of operations in many industries, used in agriculture, geographical surveys and oil and gas pipeline inspections.

    “Drones are just one of many kinds of emerging technologies that extend well beyond the traditional information technology world — these are smart machines,” said Sondergaard.

    Smart machines are an emerging “super class” of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, both the physical and the intellectual kind, said Sondergaard. Machines, for instance, have been grading multiple choice for years, but now they are grading essays and unstructured text.

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  • Every Wi-Fi User in US May Have $10,000 Wiretapping Claim Against Google

    Google’s secret Wi-Fi sniffing has prompted a class-action lawsuit that could force the company to pay up to $10,000 for each time it snatched data from unprotected hotspots, court documents show.

    The lawsuit, which was filed by an Oregon woman and a Washington man in a Portland, Ore., federal court on Monday, accused Google of violating federal privacy and data acquisition laws.

    “When Google created its data collection systems on its GSV [Google Street View] vehicles, it included wireless packet sniffers that, in addition to collecting the user’s unique or chosen Wi-Fi network name (SSID information), the unique number given to the user’s hardware used to broadcast a user’s Wi-Fi signal (MAC address, the GSV data collection systems also collected data consisting of all or part of any documents, e-mails, video, audio, and VoIP information being sent over the network by the user [payload data],” the lawsuit stated.

    On Tuesday, the same plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent Google from deleting the data, a move the company has said it would make “as soon possible.” Oral arguments on the restraining order are scheduled for Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Janice Stewart.

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