IT has been particularly newsworthy lately, although not always for great reasons.
On today’s episode of PICNIC, host Kevin Conklin and Greg Mooney, the creator of the podcast and blog Defrag This, discuss the hottest IT news topics (which are mostly about data security).
Mooney’s Defrag This focuses around cybersecurity and how IT professionals can help protect themselves, either in the face of a breach or to prevent a breach from occurring. A lot of the recent podcast content discusses current events in IT.
But let’s face it, you really don’t want your security breach to land you in the news. “There’s a plethora of content on the blog on how IT teams can protect themselves, help their users, and train them,” Mooney said.
This podcast’s news roundup features personal privacy, security, the future direction of computing technology, and the intersection of cybercrime and politics.
We know that Apple wants us to put our whole lives on their smartphone. Which means privacy and security are two huge issues now and going forward.
Conklin admitted to reading the fine print on an Apple site.
“Apple recently beefed up this privacy section of their website,” he said. “And if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, it’s a pretty interesting read.”
The CliffsNotes version: They’re considering privacy a customer feature now.
Mooney is an iPhone user, too. “Apple is obviously a huge proponent of data protection, data privacy,” he said. “You can see that especially with their new privacy statements.”
Even though Conklin and Mooney said they kept all of their data on their phones, Mooney had a word of caution about security. “Obviously I see huge problem with this too, that we’re putting all of our lives on one device. So it’s really one vector point of attack for hackers.”
It looks like Apple is going to keep taking security seriously. Think multi-factor authentication.
“The basic idea is you need multiple ways to confirm that you’re actually who you say you are,” Conklin said. Today, your social security number and birth date just will not cut it, especially since hackers probably have that info anyway.
(Equifax anyone? How many Americans got screwed? Oh yeah, 143,000,000.)
But with multi-factor authentication, as long as your SSN is not the one thing that can prove you’re you, it isn’t a very important number anymore.
Cue two-factor authentication approaches and touch ID. “And the new iPhone, the $1,000 version, has face ID, which sounds pretty cool,” Conklin said.
Except for the—drumroll—privacy concerns. Apple took a little backlash for face ID at the conference a few weeks ago.
“There seems to be some security holes—or at least that’s what people think,” Mooney said. Rumors are you can unlock someone’s phone with a photo of them.
Apple’s working on it. One asset to their privacy website is they explain in detail all their security measures, including step-by-step instructions on how to set up two-factor identification for yourself. Which you should definitely do.
If everybody’s still talking about Equifax, what’s up with Deloitte?
“Earlier this week they came out publicly and said they were breached and hackers had gotten control of an admin account,” Mooney said. But the breach may have started in late 2016 or earlier.
So they sat on this info for almost a year? Yup.
“It brings up questions about when should a company notify the public when something goes wrong,” Mooney said.
“Back in March, they saw some suspicious activity in which several gigabytes of information or data was actually being exfiltrated off of their servers to some other unknown entity,” Mooney said.
Which makes the prevailing advice make sense: Assume you’ve been breached.
“We have to assume our data is out there, and we have to take a whole different stance on what we actually do,” Conklin said.
Some places are getting their legal act together. New legislation in Australia says you have to report if you’ve been breached. And GDPR in Europe made huge strides by saying your data belongs to you, not a company with access to it.
“I’d love to actually see some legally prescribed penalties for people losing 143 million records including Social Security numbers,” Conklin said.
Mooney hopes that can start on the state level. Meanwhile for business and for individuals, you just have to stay informed and stay guarded.
“The laws are really vague right now, especially in the U.S.,” Mooney observed. “So it will be interesting to see if anything comes out of this.”
Future Tech: Smart Homes
In the race to dominate the smart home market, who will win—Amazon, Google, or Apple?
They’ve all got new or shortly upcoming product release announcements. The latest is the suite of Echo products Amazon’s put out. Even all the way down the Amazon Look, which has a camera and is supposed to be able to offer you fashion advice.
A lot of people who already use their phones for everything are attracted to the smart home devices because they can do basically everything, music, movies, shopping, turn on your dishwasher, adjust your thermostat, whatever.
“I think the question becomes, Alexa, is there a product direction?” Conklin said. “Because it seems like a spaghetti test. We just take a whole bunch of products, throw them on the wall, and see what sticks.”
“Amazon seems to do that a lot when they release products,” Mooney agreed.
Both said they were interested in something that could play some decent music—speaker-wise and selection-wise.
Conklin is looking into the Echo Plus. “First, they have good speakers. (Nothing drives me crazier than having good songs through a crappy speaker.) And second, they’ve got a smart home hub in it.”
Alexa’s newest look launched just a week ahead of Google’s Home and Apple’s Home Pod with a December launch. Serious competition, indeed.
Smart home devices have come a long way from when it was a big deal to play the same music all throughout your house. Now they’ve redefined in-home entertainment in a serious and seriously competitive way.
A device that knows what room you’re in and moves the music with you. “Everyone will probably have some type of device like that in the next five years,” Mooney said.
And the next step? It’ll probably be AI. “Do something complex, do something meaningful, besides just minor, minor stuff,” Conklin said.
IT is everywhere, and nowhere less than social media. Of course, Facebook is being investigated because of the Russian probe and the fake ads during the U.S. Presidential election.
“Twitter’s up next to coming in next week to talk to the same committee,” Conklin said.
“But the goal of Russian cybercrime isn’t necessarily to steal data but it’s to make democracies unstable and less functional by sowing civil distress,” he said. Russian troll accounts that are active on social media have been identified as connected to a Russian cybercrime syndicate.
Inflammatory things on Facebook, such as “Share if you stand for the American flag,” could easily be coming from a Russian troll, Conklin said. “They’re pumping this stuff out just to divide the nation on these issues,” he said.
If you look at the comments on a conversation, it seems as though every one of them is a troll. “It just seems to be just trying to fuel an argument of some sort,” Mooney observed. “Now all this news is coming that the Russians have been behind a lot of it—I mean, it makes sense.”
The targeted trolls are being crafty. “They’re finding out what you like and they’re feeding it to you,” Conklin said.
Much like the algorithms underlying Facebook and Google, they show you more of what you like. “In the midst of all this garbage we see, we don’t know any more what’s real or politically inspired,” Conklin said. “It’s a cautionary tale.”
All of a sudden, after you can’t tell lies from the truth, you’ll find yourself agreeing what a good guy Putin is and how he should be king of Russia and it’s probably okay if he takes over Ukraine, Conklin joked.
“The next time you’re browsing Twitter or Facebook and you see a share that takes a political angler’s social position or even says it’s news, you’ve got to think about where it’s coming from,” Conklin said. “Just like a spearfishing email. Check the sources.”