Tag: technology

Who is Steering the Ship?

Who is Steering the Ship?

 

  • Is the captain of a company the CEO?
  • Is it the board of directors?
  • Is it the Stockholders?

I would argue yes and no.  The customer most probably guides or “tugs” your ship through the turbulent waters of the industry you are in, more than you might think.

Since the driving force is out of your complete control, can your ship stand up to the pressures of high winds or traversing into territories which are uncharted? Is there a reef ahead waiting to break the spine of your vessel? Will Sirens lure your men into a false state of complacency?

While need necessitates the possible paths that you as the captain choose to follow, the infrastructure and robust nature of your data systems will be part of the viability of your success.

Companies must be robust enough to change directions or take on more massive task as the customer demands.  As an SME in Data processing (Information Systems) and Disaster Recovery, frequently I find through the audit process that the ship is traversing the waters without a rudder, and an engine that is held together with duct tape and bailing wire.

Some of the critical problems in this industry are human nature, underperforming CIO’s, and lackadaisical staff. Other issues often include a CIO taking on the job of CFO.

Encouraged by upper management to rain in cost, the CIO might look for ways to cut the budget using poor quality sheets, and used line, taken from derelict ships that have already made their way to Davy Jones locker.

When the proverbial fork in the road or in keeping with the metaphor, when the winds change, will your company be ready?

Often, Board Members or CEO’s look at disaster recovery like insurance.  It is much more than some policy that you purchase.

When you bring in a person or company, who specializes in Disaster Recovery many things happen.

The first two are a risk analysis and an audit of how you currently do business regarding Data processing. The scope, of course, can be more than just your data processing capabilities and often it is expanded to include all functions of your company.

Depending on the size of your company and its complexity this could be a project for a consultant, or it might include one or more FTE’s that maintain your ships viability into perpetuity.

While the Risk Analysis may or may not be a surprise to you, the audit will almost certainly be a surprise.  Nobody wants someone poking around in their business.

Frequently those in charge of the department will make themselves scarce.  While weekly meetings and deliverables are a must, I often find that an audit shakes things up, and that can be a good thing.  This process also exposes any weak links in the proverbial chain.

Your IT department is a dynamic part of your company and often is the engine which drives your ship. While frequently looked at as a cost center, without it, your company I dare say would die on the vine or flounder.

In the final examination of your company, we will discover if you are ready for the next opportunity or the next fork in the road.  We might also learn that you are treading water.

When the prevailing winds shift directions, will your ship be able to adjust?

Smooth Sailing!

© All Rights Reserved 2018

Scott Taylor

Advertisements
Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

 

This notice used to be no cause for alarm. Having been in the computer business for some time updates were always rather innocuous.

Novell was the first program that I dealt with that you had to read each and every “readme” and decide if you indeed wanted this patch or that.

Patches were not mandatory they were written for specific bugs or concerns.  The problem with patches like that are, they can only be applied during a “service window.”

A service window is a time of the day and week when ordinary people are sleeping or not thinking about work. Holidays were great times for service windows as applying a patch would be the least disruptive for business functions.  Midnight to five AM Saturday night into Sunday morning was usually a good time for a service window.

While Microsoft has taken the guesswork out of service windows, it would seem that Apple has as well.

You turn on your PC, and it says, applying updates, please stand by.

No matter how urgent your need is the updates will commence, and you will be patient.

With this latest phone update that crippled my one-year-old phone, I am a little gun-shy about taking any more updates from Apple. I am thrilled that they are going to repatriate billions of dollars bringing it into the US as well as providing jobs for Americans, I am not so excited with the fact that my phone is barely usable. The old 4S that I did not update is faster than my 6S.

To say that this practice of slowing down older product is reprehensible, does not begin to cover it.

I was seriously thinking about looking at an Android-based smartphone when I received an Apple watch for Christmas. Great Timing!

Now I have a watch that tells me when to stand and breath but works very slowly as far as my phone is concerned.

My first iPad worked just fine until I was going to give it to an older gentlemen to watch Netflix on or read Kindle stuff.  I reset it and managed to brick it as they don’t have any software that works with that OS, and they don’t have the version of OS for that iPad available.  Resetting it from a usable tablet to original killed it.

I don’t know why they cannot make the server smart enough to detect which product you have and offer you an IOS or apps that will work on that product?  Oh, wait I do to know.  They want you to buy more hardware!

I met Steve years ago while supporting Next Step Computers.  I wonder how he would feel about what is happening today.

I would imagine he would be ok with it.  Like the Schick razor they want to sell you new blades, or in this case more product into perpetuity.

I would think that consumer watchdog groups would be all over this nonsense. A thousand dollars for a phone is over the top, one should get more than a year out of it.

This Pc that I am writing from today, I built seven years ago.  When I designed it, I put in components that were capable of playing the most aggressive video game of the day.  Why?  Here we are seven years later with the latest version of Windows 10, and it is still plenty fast.

An important note to keep in mind.  Hardware is measured in MTBF which means Mean Time Between Failure.  Hard drives die!  Fans Die!  Power supplies Die!  Moral of this story is to keep your files backed up.  If your data are only on your PC, you are living dangerously.

By files I mean data.  Document and pictures, email PST files, excel documents and so forth.

Whether it is an apple update or windows update keep in mind that I have seen Microsoft updates brick computers.

As far as Apple is concerned, I am in hopes that they will correct their error and think twice about that kind of activity in the future.  To screw up their brand in such a cheap way is beneath them in so many ways.  If you want people to purchase, the latest greatest, make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. You might also work on the price!

-Best

 

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

 

“Doctor, when I do this it hurts.  My hair is thinning, and I am tired all the time.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, other than this strange growth on my neck. What can you give me to make it better?”

“We must run some test first to see if these symptoms are related and then figure out what is causing them.”

“You doctors are all alike, you just want to run my bill up with unnecessary test, so you can make a car payment or even a house payment.  Just prescribe something, and I will be on my way.”

The patient in the above dialogue is a Buffoon.

Oddly enough, I get this same kind of rhetoric when I am called out to come up with a disaster recovery plan and discover that they have many other issues.

“Do you think you can fix these issues we are having?”

“What are some of the issues?”

“Computers drop off the network for no reason.  Printers often don’t get their print jobs, we think it is the printer, so we keep calling Cannon out, but they never fix it! The internet is slow and sometimes unresponsive.  Our phones don’t always work.  The phone vendor keeps telling us it is not his problem but you know those vendors, get your money and then forget they know you.  My lead guy tells me we need more internet bandwidth, would that fix it?”

“It sounds like you have some serious issues, when would you like me to start?”

“Start?  Just go push the right button and fix it!  How long will it take?”

“It depends on what I find.”

“What do you charge?”

“$125 an hour unless you would like to have me out here on a contract for a set amount of time.”

“What would you charge if I contract with you for two hours.”

“$250, (and it may be more if I have to deal with stupid nonsense like this, while I am working.)

“Truly I get this kind of stuff from CIO’s no less.”

The old joke about a thousand dollars regarding kicking a computer to make it work is just a joke.  While that might end up being the final diagnosis (which I doubt), this is a mindset from those who have no idea of what they are talking about.

Truly if it is from someone outside of IT, it is not their fault. Their job is to run the company, turn a profit or drive the business to produce more of what they do.  It is not to run IT.  Now if the CIO has this dialogue with you as a consultant then you have issues.

Some people are in high up positions because of who they knew and not what they knew.  Some are there because their parents own the company.  I personally try to stay out of situations like that because it hardly ever ends well.  I have done it many times in the past.  One of the most frustrating things is working for a guy “CIO” who did not even have a computer at home.  He knew little about computers or technology other than green screen 5250 stuff as a programmer, using RPG or Cobol.

When I walk in your door to resolve an issue or create a disaster recovery plan, there are things that I want to see.

  • Up to date network map.
  • A runbook
  • I will want to see the recent logs from the servers.
  • I will want to see your notes from the change control committee. (living document)
  • I will ask about your issues from the past to current. Are there pain points and what are they?
  • I will want to know what you would like to see as a deliverable. (an end goal)
  • I will want to know about your business model, so I can best position you for the future.
  • I will ask about the age of the hardware and what your hardware asset management looks like.
  • I will also want to know the same about your software. S.A.M.
  • I will want to see the licenses for the software that you have and I will want to see where the software is and when, if ever was it updated.

If you asked your CIO for these things, could he provide them?

As the CEO, ignorance is not an option.  There are seldom good surprises in business.

There are many other things I will want to have handy before I even begin to diagnose, troubleshoot or create a disaster recovery plan.  One of the most effusive displays of frustration from a client was when I discovered through digging that someone had spliced network cable improperly and it would need to be replaced.  Cat 5 to Cat 3 no less.

Yes, I will want to know about the cable plant. Was it installed all at one time or has it evolved over the years?   When you climb into the overhead ceiling to find a gob of electrical tape or even scotch tape holding network cable together, that will make your blood run cold.  If they are that stupid or cheap unless they are under new management or are willing to hand you the checkbook, you probably should just walk away.  Life is too short.

When I talk with potential customers, I can get a sense of their knowledge level quick enough.  How is that done?

I was in data processing long before Bill Gates was a household name.  Steve Jobs was still a criminal selling blue boxes made in his garage and CPM was the operating system.  What I do is not cheap but, it is worth it.  Most companies that have a disaster if not resolved within three days go out of business.

“We live in Dallas Texas, what kind of disaster could we have that would put us out of  business?”

The disaster that I see the most often was caused by employee error.  I do a risk assessment as part of the deliverable which many companies need for their insurance provider.

Now that we are in 2018 is this the year that you pay attention to your network and other infrastructure?  Is this the year that you look at security both digital and physical? “yes, I do that too.”

If you like my blog, please consider following me.

-Best

 

When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

 

 

Today I thought I would talk about a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of most CFO’s.  Money and budgets.

 

In the IT ARENA as it were all hardware has a lifespan.

 

  • Desktops 5 years
  • Laptops 3 years
  • Tablets, PDA’s and phones about 2. *

 

HAM or Hardware Asset Management is close cousins to SAM or Software asset management.

Many that I deal with in this industry are loath to do either of these.

 

Why?

What seems so intuitive to a business minded person is out in left field to the IT Manager.

 

While most hardcore IT people will undoubtedly have the updated newest most magnificent PC at home, they will be loath to keep the hardware at work current.  Either budgetary constraints, lack of planning on their IT staff, laziness or foolishness on managements parts while keeping the dinosaurs alive.

IT is a moving target.

One of my clients was experiencing a strange anomaly on one of their machines.  I was there for other reasons, and they ask me if I had ever seen anything like it.

 

On occasion, the mouse pointer would change with some strange addition to it, making the original tip Indistinguishable from where it should be pointing.

 

Nobody has seen everything and the same is true for me.  Offering my services, as they did not have the time for this, I did the usual stuff.

After hours of doing my routine including removing the hard drive and running scans on it outside of its operating system, the problem looked more and more like hardware.  Faulty graphics adapter perhaps.

After moving the PC into the shop, the problem disappeared.

Going back to the work area where the PC was, under the desk was an old UPS.  Taking the UPS into the shop and checking it out, I soon discovered that the sine wave of 60 cycles was anything but clean and, it was not holding the right voltages even though the battery was good.   Upon further investigation, I learned that they had a routine of replacing batteries in old UPS’s and putting them back out.

Putting a new ups under the ladies desk, solved the problem.  It was a $79 solution which should have been automatic.

I don’t want to go into the weeds here, but electronics have a lifespan.  Things called MOV’s for one (metal oxide Varistor) are sacrificial devices that are designed to clamp power spikes keeping them from going downstream, in this case, into your PC and monitor.  They have a finite lifespan.

UPS’s or Uninterruptable power supplies are insurance.  When the battery dies, replace them.

Recycle them after you remove the battery and dispose of it accordingly.   I would bet that all over every office building they have surge protectors that are no longer functioning.  For the same reason, they too have an MOV across the 120V AC line.  They die!

I have written about PC’s lifespan before, so I don’t want to repeat myself.

Hardware Asset Management protects the company in many ways.

You should never put an old machine at someone desk having them limp by with a clunker when they need a Corvette. The software today is memory and CPU intensive with the ever growing demands of anti-virus software and the numerous updates, it is worse.

Soft dollars are real.  If you have employees that cannot work because their network is down, that is real money!

Employing a good software deployment strategy along with keeping the same model of machine in the business is wise, and worth looking into.

Software and Hardware management are critical pieces of a business strategy.

One client I had, bought whatever was on sale on New Egg.  Support was a bloody nightmare and oh by the way, why do you think it is on sale?

Always purchase from a VAR, and build that relationship with them.  You may need them one day!

Leasing vs. owning is worth looking into for many reasons.  Bottom line, you change out the PC’s every few years, and you get the same PC to support throughout the company.

The clunkers end up on eBay and eventually, someone somewhere will be playing solitaire on it.   Today’s Corvettes are tomorrow Clunkers, simple truth! 

Depending on the size of your company software licensing needs to be evaluated and care taken to make sure that you are in compliance. An enterprise license is excellent to have if you are large enough. Software and licensing are evolving daily it seems, with lease being the operative word.  Subscription services much like antivirus software is commonplace, ensuring a revenue stream for the developers.

Gone are the days of buying a box of software with a few floppy disk and using it forever.

I was visiting some friend when I saw an old 486 computer sitting on his mother’s desk.

My first computer was a Kaypro, and I went through the 8088 @4.7 mhz to GHz and beyond.  To see the old 486 running with Solitaire on the screen and windows version three, you could see the mindset and how it evolved.

I recently trashed (recycled) a bin full of disks with programs, backups, and god only knows what all.  The next week I tossed an entire bookshelf full of technical books from Novell to MSCE windows NT stuff.  Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours studying in the bin.  SAD

Your PC is not too dissimilar from your car.  You don’t buy it as a thing but as a resource. When your vehicle starts to spend more time in the shop than on the road, you trade it in.  The same is true of your PC, Laptop and the rest.

Somewhere in my closet I still have a 16mg stick of memory that I paid over $500 for back in the early 80’s.  $500 back then was a lot of cash.  The stick of memory is nothing.  What it did for me was why I bought it.

If you are not connected to the internet as long as you can keep your 486 running, and it does what you need it to do, it is viable.  If you still have a copy of lotus 123, you too can relive the days of / .. 🙂

 

*  2 years on the average portable device is recommended because they are portable, and often dropped.  If you budget 2 years, you can indeed budget correctly.

 

If you find my blogs helpful or entertaining, please follow me.

 

-Best

Why should you use Rent-A-Geeks for your disaster recovery drills?

Why should you use Rent-A-Geeks for your disaster recovery drills?

 

The pushback I get on this one topic is phenomenal.  Their IT people who know their boss better than I, always question the need for a disaster recovery audit in the first place.

“I Get it!  To them, that is synonymous with taking your shoebox full of tax information to the IRS and asking them for an audit. Please let me suffer through an audit because I love pain!”

So who in their right mind would do it?

I can think of no better argument than Puerto Rico.  That island was wiped off the map.  They have no power grid left.  They have no data communications and let’s face it; It will take years for them to recover.

I had customers there, but I bet that those businesses may no longer be viable.

They are requesting of all things truck drivers, among their many lists of needs.  Why?

Their truck drivers were affected by the buss’s called Irma and then Maria.

I am speaking to the owners of businesses with this next sentence. “Folks, your IT guy that tells you that you don’t need an outside firm or audit, is setting you up for disaster.”

Objectivity is essential.  You need an honest assessment by someone who does not have a dog in that fight.

If a team of rent-a-geeks cannot restore your company at a warm site, the DR plan that you think you have is worthless. It may satisfy the ISO folks or the other government or banking or insurance companies, but the sad truth is, in an actual Disaster your people may not be around to add their collective knowledge to the process.

One client did not even look at one I prepared for them.  When I asked if he wanted to go over it he shook his head.  “No, I just need something for the auditor to show that we have one.”

My reports go to you the customer, nowhere else.  My recommendations are put forth in a clear, concise manner that you will not need your IT guy to explain to you.  Read and understand my blogs on the topic and then ask the critical questions.  If you hold your SA’s feet to the fire or your CIO’s feet to the fire, you will far better off than most of the firms I deal with.

One firms CIO that I worked with was not suited for desktop wizard much less the end all be all guru of all things technology.  Now if numbers are what interested the CEO, this was his guy.  He could pinch a nickel with the best of them. “Penny wise pound foolish,” should be on this man’s card.

It does not take an Irma or Maria to sink your business.  It only takes a Ted or Bob or a fire of some small part in the computer room to decimate your company.  Assume nothing!  Do you have the right employees doing the job?

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, and if you have the ability, you might consider donating something to some of the excellent organizations who are working so hard to bring some relief to those affected.

Having lived through Alicia, I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

 

-Best

 

 

Ready, Fire …Aim

Ready, Fire …Aim

After the recent storms, one might have guessed that my phone has been busy.  Firstly let me say that Disaster Recovery by its very title is a bit of a misnomer.  While I have some abilities to recover lost data using some forensic skills developed over decades of twiddling bits, that is not really disaster recovery.

Disaster Recovery and business continuity are about planning for an event which may or may not happen.  The “plan” assumes that your business systems will be affected negatively and puts forth a tested strategy to recover from the said event.

With the recent devastation by hurricanes and earthquakes, one would think that those businesses not affected would be learning from those that were.  If you search my blogs on this site, you will see that I have laid out

Do not ask him or her, are we covered just in case, ask them specific questions laid out in this blog here.

Yes is not a satisfactory answer, demand the details and the proof.  I don’t care how much of a friend he or she is, demand the evidence.  The devil is in the details, and the last thing you want is a bunch of excuses.

I am learning from phone calls that too many have been assured that they are covered, and that is very possibly why today they are looking for ways to recover data from destroyed equipment.

Disaster recovery is not some dark magic spell cast under the voodoo magic of bits and bytes in the wiring closet or back part of the computer room.  The bottom line is to test it, whatever your people come up with, check it.  Keep checking it until you can recover your business with outside contractors and hardware with data and documents prepared by your staff.  There is to be no input from you or your staff during the test.  The hurricane, earthquake, fire, attack from zombies or employee error took you and them away from the scene. The plan provided must work!

This is why we who do this insist that companies use “best practice” standards in the industry when creating your individual networks and systems.

One such company has a senior IT staff littered with programmers.  These people think they know more than Microsoft.  Using kludges from Unix, Linux and other programming wizardry to subvert some of the basic tenants of networking, they have made their network so unique that it will depend on them to be there to recover.

If it is not broken, don’t fix it!

Writing programs that workaround things like DNS is just crazy stuff and now it is dependent on the network never changing, at all.

If your data is successfully mirrored offsite, an excellent team of engineers might get you going in weeks, not days if you have failed to follow best practices.  While your data might eventually be usable, you and your company will be on the sidelines as most businesses do not recover from such a catastrophe.

Folks I have been at this since 1982, I have learned a thing or two in those years.  Ask your team the questions or be prepared for unpleasant surprises should you ever face a business stopping event.

Got to go and explain once again what disaster recovery is and is not.

-Best

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

 

As a technology minded person, I often wondered about those who design cordless devices.  In particular, I am addressing phones.  I assume some government agency somewhere spent millions of your tax dollars to come up with what someone thinks are safe levels of radiation.

Maybe these people know more than the rest of us, or maybe they don’t.

Case in point.

The standard cordless phone in 2017 most probably transmits to the base either at 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz.  While your phone may advertise the higher frequency of 5.4 GHz that is most probably from the base to the phone.

Split frequency designs like this are prudent as it takes more power to transmit higher frequencies.

Now, these cell phones that we all carry around transmit either in the 850 MHz range or 1.8 ~1.9 GHz range.

MHz (Mega Hertz) stands for millions of cycles per second,  GHz is (Giga Hertz) or billions of cycles per second.  So every second depending upon the frequency, the RF (radio frequency) cycles millions or billions of time.  IE 2.4 GHz is 2 billion, four hundred million, cycles per second.

Frequency should not be confused or conflated with power.

Power for our conversation today is watts.  How much power or how many watts of RF (radio frequency) are we talking about?

Cell phones transmit up to 1.7 watts of power.

Cordless phones transmit as much and possibly more than a cell phone.  The interesting aspect of this is there is this DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology that has been around for a little while now.  They sell it as a plus but European studies have shown this might be more hazardous to your health than its predecessor.

The base of this technology is transmitting full power all the time whether your phone is in use or not. If the base is next to your bed or on your desk you are constantly bombarded with 5.4 GHz or at the least 2.4 GHz of radiated power in the form of RF.

Move it away from your body.

Why am I writing about this?

Ever since the first cell phones came out I wondered what they were doing and why.  These phones are always talking to the cell towers announcing their availability and telling them where they are while checking in.  The phone was and is smart enough to adjust its power level depending upon what is needed to communicate with the tower effectively.  The reasons are many but the main idea is to “talk” with one cell tower at a time.

My phone, even today will often time be warm in my pocket, or just sitting on the desk.

While we really have no idea what a smartphone is doing all the time, you can bet if it is warm, it is transmitting something.

IMG_4513

I built this little device with a few diodes.  I will not belabor the technical aspects of this device other than to say it does not have any batteries.  These devices are passive in that the only way that they are energized would be by outside energy fields or EM (electromagnetic) forces.

I got the idea from the crystal radio of my youth.  Yes, I built one and housed it inside a pen casing.  With a single diode and a coil and very little know how I had a radio that would pick up local radio stations and never needed a battery.

Since my original device that I designed and built years ago, I found this version on the internet for a few dollars.

Setting this thing on top of my phone it soon became obvious that the cell phone is transmitting constantly.

  • Is it looking for data?
  • Is the phone talking to the tower?
  • Is the phone talking to my Wi-Fi network?

The answer is yes.  We really have no idea if the phone is doing anything else in the (tin foil hat category).

Now with 1.7 watts of RF at 2GHz, give or take, right next to your ear hole, one has to wonder if that is healthy.

Out of curiosity, I moved my device around the phone to discover that the most of the radiation or highest amounts come out of the phone right by the earpiece.  Why?

Knowing RF and the possible link to brain tumors, lymphoma and other nasty things why would the engineers put the transmitting antenna where it would be closest to your head?

This is the iPhone 6S.

IMG_4506

My curiosity got the best of me so I checked my cordless phones.

IMG_4513

The light powered strictly by RF from the phone is very bright, right on the ear hole and down by the mouthpiece, the light, or power output is nonexistent.

IMG_4510

Imagine that your phone has enough RF power to illuminate an LED to full intensity and that energy is being pumped into your head right through your ear hole and of course next to your skull.

Tell me; why in the hell would you not put the antenna at the base of the phone where it would be furthest away from the body/brain?  The energy required to light the led dissipates with distance.  Logic would dictate that the less energy radiated close to your brain would be a good thing.

The pictures speak for themselves but now you know what you are looking at.

What can we do?

First off, we should ask the government for our money back that they paid for these studies.  One would think that if they can come up with SAR (specific absorption rate) and what is safe that just maybe they might have said, “you know, you phone makers should place the transmitter/antenna away from their brains.”

It is kind of like that commercial where the bank is being robbed and the guard says, “Oh I am not a guard, just a monitor… you are being robbed.”  What good is the FCC if they cannot think outside the box? The government, which they are part of, is to protect its citizens from faulty designs, much like the Corvair of the 60’s.  Where is Ralph Nader these days?

It is amazing to me that they did scientific studies to figure out how much tissue would cook or be damaged by rf.  Then they came up with the acronym SAR and finally did nothing more about it.  “Look for a phone with a low SAR rating.”  Are there labels, using this phone can cause brain cancer?”

What is so germane about 2.4 GHz and why am I sounding a little stressed about this?

That box in your kitchen that burns popcorn so nicely happens to work in that same frequency range.

Since there are millions of microwave ovens out there the FCC put broadband Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and many other unlicensed transmitters that the public uses in that same frequency range as the microwave oven.   Part of your license on each piece of equipment reads something to the effect that this device must accept and deal with  RFI or radiofrequency interference.

How does the microwave oven work and what does that have to do with my phone?

Microwave energy excites the molecules in stuff causing them to move faster.  Much like rubbing your hands together you get friction which causes heat.  That is how a microwave heats your lean cuisine dinner or left-overs from Sunday Brunch.  Yes it uses more power but I ask you, would you stick your head in your microwave to see how long it takes to fry your brains?  Consider the cell phone or cordless phone like a microwave crock pot, it might take longer but eventually, something is bound to be heated up.

Just for you people who think that I am a tin foil hat kind of person think of this one. 

How many of our urchins you call grade schoolers now have the very latest iPhone sticking out of the back pocket.  A trip to any mall will answer this question.  Even if it is a hand me down generation 5, it puts out all sorts of power right next to that thinner more malleable skull and younger more tender, still forming brain tissue.

Then there is this whole blood brain barrier thing that doctors talk about.  Does it really seem like a wise idea to put that kind of power that close to those newly formed brain cells?  They are future tax payers you know. Wink wink…

Possibly one of them will say, “someone should really put the transmitter in the base of this thing away from my brain.” Will it take a child to figure this out?  Maybe a riot on the Berkly campus to get the attention of corporate america who might tend to overlook such things.

I know, I am gettin my tin foil out… 

With telecommunications being a multi-trillion dollar industry it is no wonder that this is overlooked.  Much like the back scatter x-ray porn scanners at the airport which virtually strip search you, there is a greater good.  Bombarding our bodies with ionizing radiation is not harmful as long as the government says that it is ok. (sarcasm)

Calling attention to it might cost Nokia or Apple or Panasonic a few dollars.  What is the big deal about a few brain tumors, “can you hear me now?”

Since industry will probably not respond, how can you protect yourself?

Blue Tooth technology also uses RF in the same 2.4 GHz range but the power is very low.  A class one transmitter uses about 1mw or Millie Watt.  There is a newer headset that wraps around your neck with the earpiece extending from them.  That would put the blue tooth transceiver around your neck away from your brain.

Try to always use a headset or speakerphone, and if they still have them, a corded phone.

Use e-mail or text and by all means try talking to people face to face.  I know that is a radical concept but, I don’t think you are in danger of getting exposed to radiation that way.

About the device…

While the original crystal radio of my day used a 1N34 germanium diode this device uses nine 1SS86 diodes one tied to the other with an LED as one of the diodes.  The legs are purposefully left long like that as they act as the antenna to capture any energy that might be present.

If you are creative you could make it look like a bug with a tail and a head that glowed.  Just a thought.

I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this.  Just a person who thinks common sense is in limited supply.  These days we too readily accept that which is, without asking why.  Ask Why!

Cheers!

Scott

 

What If?

What If?

Every day someone finds something.  This day was no exception.  The more creative the attack the more interesting the day.  If you call that number they try to get you to give them $199.00 to unlock your computer.

You can send me some money if you like but, here is the fix for this…

CTL ALT DEL , task manager, kill the process, aka browser and then do not restore the page when you reload the browser.

I am not affiliated with CCleaner but I sell a heck of a lot of it for them.  Install it and let it clean your browser after every use.  $25 a year and damn well worth it!

As one might use an explicative to emphasize a point, I often use a somewhat tawdry analogy for this purpose.  Surfing the web with inadequate anti-virus software is like “hooking up with a stranger” without using protection.   Not only is it idiotic, but dangerous!

Having been in Data Processing, or the IT business since before Steve Jobs or Bill Gates was a household name, I know a thing or two.  The scars on my back are from arrows taken in the trenches of digital mayhem. This bedlam was caused by such things as bosses wanting to be on the bleeding edge, to software not ready for prime time, been there done that.

Free antivirus software is not worth what you pay for it!  

The best security software is going to have a price or cost to it.  Why?  It takes many engineers, coders, and much research to create and maintain a massive program like anti-virus software.  Who is going to do that for free?  More importantly, why?

While someone might write an app for free, to get their name out there; anti-virus software takes a village.

Much like hiring someone to sell your home, you don’t hire someone who does it part-time or as a hobby. If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.  If you want to sell your home, hire someone who’s lively hood depends upon them being successful.  You want a secure computer, hire or purchase the product with the most to lose if it fails.

There is much more to the process of considering which product to purchase but, free is not a reason.  I would argue that free is a cause to eliminate that choice.

The reality is that the internet has become the wild west.  The bullet that finds you can come from almost anywhere. Every company that uses computers should have a security officer.  His or her job should be to focus their attention on threats out there and the best way to keep them from affecting that company.

I find it surprising that politicians are screaming about Russian hacking of our computers.  What the hell do you expect?  You just assume that someone with a certification gives a damn!?

What worked in 1982 does not work now.  Having a “PC Wizard, or your grandchildren” working for you is tantamount to a trapeze act, blindfolded and working without a net.  Insurance companies and credit card companies are now aware of this and demanding your strategies to be secure in the world of cyber threats.  They should audit you, and they should hire folks like me who know what to look for.

White Hat hacking allows us an inside look at what one might expect.  We learn many ways to infiltrate a company.  The same applies to the TSA in homeland security.  While I would probably choose a job to be that guy that test the security systems of the homeland, airports and such, it is much easier to check companies.

The first thing I must do is understand you.  More importantly, know that entity many of us in the biz call “users.”

Too many infiltrations are accomplished with something called click bait.   “Ten pictures that should never have been made public…” With half a picture of some scantily clad woman visible, how many will click?

Human nature dictates men will want to see what the camera saw. “Boom, you’re infected.”

Good antivirus software will stop any activity created by software manipulation but, the caveat or keyword there is “good.”  What if you bought the bargain basement software or just used the free stuff?

For the coders to write the fix, someone must fall prey to it, report it, and then they must institute a fix.  That is why Software of this type is never static.  Updates are consistent and often.  New threats are released hourly.  To run a company dedicated to this is no small task.

Maybe you own a plant which produces widgets.  Your widgets are better than others, and your competition wants the skinny.  You hired someone like me for your IT manager or CIO so they cannot get in through your firewalls.  Your safe, or so you think.  Industrial espionage is rife in the competitive world of gadgets and widgets.  If I want in bad enough, I will contract one of my guys to write a program that will hide on a computer until certain key phrases are typed, and then it will activate.

“Wait, you said my firewall is secure, Fort Knox secure!”

“Why yes I did, so I am going to place this little program on a thumb drive and…I am going to put some naughty pictures on it with some commercial looking writing on the outside of the device to make the person who picks it up from the parking lot where I dropped it, think that they have something juicy.”

Possibly just tossing a thumb drive out the window of my car near the parking lot with a few files on it, and the Trojan would be enough to get me into your network.  I will purchase some chrome colored or fancy looking thumb drive to be sure that it is spotted.  I will know when the landscape folks work, so I make sure and plant it after they have done their thing so that one of your employees will find it.

Maybe I send one of my spies out to places that your guys eat and leave the drive on the table by the ashtray or the salt and pepper shaker at the table they eat every week on a given day and time.

Possibly I get one of my people inside your company, hired by you.  They install some remotely controlled program like Team Viewer on their PC and Viola; you are hacked.

Because your IT guy is so sure that his firewall is good enough, or your engineers are so demanding that he left the USB ports open for use by them, with lax policies he leaves your company vulnerable too.

How do we stop the threats?

One way we do this is with training.  Every employee should sit through CE training on the essential use of the corporate computers.  This is information that they can bring home and share.  Education is by far the best tool one can have in their arsenal.

All of the policies are trumpeted for them to hear and before they leave they sign a document saying they will adhere to them.  With it harder and harder to fire people these days, that too is one more tool in your belt.  Good employees, you want to keep, those that prove lacking, they need to go.

I could easily make the argument that good computing practices are patriotic.  I could certainly apply this to purchasing respectable anti-virus software and creating policies and procedures that protect your business but, the bottom line is, in the end, it will save the company money.

I was making this argument to a CEO of a good-sized company when he stopped me and said, but viruses help your bottom line too.

I argued that I would much rather use my time and talents to design safe environments for companies like his than put out fires.   It is considerably less expensive to install a good fire retardant system then to try and rebuild.  Yes, a metaphor for using robust best practice standards in computing vs. reacting to noise.

Noise is the result of a problem created by an event that was unplanned or caused by employee error.

A good security person is somewhat paranoid and is always asking, what if?  I do this in disaster recovery scenarios balancing those “what if’s” against statistics and a risks assessment.

With proper education, we can mitigate the employee errors.  Using proper procedures and policies, we can diminish the unplanned events, i.e. viruses or other malicious code.

When I run into companies that think free antivirus software is adequate, it makes me a little crazy.  If they are a public company, trust me, I will not purchase their stock.  Flirting with disaster out of sheer frugality or ignorance is idiotic.

If you keep your guys around because you like them, think again.  I may love some folks, but I would not hire them for certain positions if I could find someone better.  I don’t have to like you, for you to work for me.  If you are the best person for the job, you get the job.  P&L trumps feelings!  Feelings can be costly and can be a liability.  Logic in business is your ally.  Logic must always be forefront when making business decisions.

I have walked away from companies who have their kids working for them.  By hiring the children, you open yourself up to losses that could be untold.  One company had their children not doing the paperwork necessary to complete the task, thus losing money in that department.  Hiring me to do an analysis, it did not take long to find the problem.  I fired her children after trying to work with them.  I kid you not one of them actually cried in my office after telling him time after time he must do all of the job.  A grown man crying!  There is no crying in IT.  Either perform the work or get the hell out!  Either do all of the job or learn to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”   Is that too tough?  I felt for the kid but, feelings do not dictate policy.

Do your kids a favor and don’t hire them.  The real world does not work that way so why in the world handicap them, and make them believe that it does?

Over the years there are best practices that have been created by time trusted procedures and policies.

Some are things like:

  • Hardware Asset management.
  • Software Asset Management
  • Security both physical and digital

I could write a book on the subject, but I will spare you the details.

Today, now more than ever we must harden our networks.  We must have sound policies and procedures in place, and they must be adhered to.  Documentation is essential, and it must be updated.

I don’t relish firing people but, sometimes their people are the problem, and the CEO is so far removed from the process they just don’t know it.  If training can fix it, I am all for it.  Attitude too plays a crucial role in the process, and I will not tolerate a crappy attitude.  Life is too short, and the subject matter is too important.

I love the HR folks because often they are the gatekeepers, saving the CEO from disaster.  Good HR folks are worth their weight in silver.  Gold, maybe not, so let’s stick with silver. Worthy people are not that hard to find as many would have you believe.  Upright people are around, but they may not have everything that you are looking for immediately.

Instant gratification is an expensive luxury and can be elusive at best.  Where employees are concerned, I want to start with a “good foundation.”

We place certifications above character, and that is part of our modern day conundrum.

I hired a grocery store manager and trained him for a job in IT.  He had little experience in the job I hired him for, so why did I hire him?

He had the right attitude and wanted to learn.

I had the time to train him.

The money used for training him was penny’s compared to hiring exactly what I was looking for.

He did not have the bad habits that come with so many “experts”  with the certifications, and their egos.

He ran a grocery store and let me tell you; he was not afraid of work!

Back in the day, we had interns or apprentices.  Folks, we need to look carefully at that once again.  I have hired many over the years that had the right attitude and the skill set to learn.  American people are out there struggling, and we won’t give them a chance.  Why?  Instant gratification.  We need someone who can step into the job right now, and we run with minimum employees because of what?  Because it is so expensive to have employees.

That is one of the things we need to push back on Congress and health care to fix, but the reality is, internships and apprentices I think are essential to finding and creating good employees.

Every job fair that I go to has thousands of workers looking for work.  If you can’t find them, you are not looking!  I spot good employees daily.  There are times I would love to go work for a recruiter just because I can spot talent!

Are they the exact racehorse ready for the Derby today?  Maybe not, but can they be trained?  There are virtual diamonds in the rough everywhere, looking for a chance! We are begging to bring in more H1B folks instead of taking care of our own.  That is not very damned patriotic if you ask me!

Our schools are a disaster in my opinion.  In speaking with college graduates today, I am frequently amazed at just how ignorant and totally out of touch with reality that they are.  Someone somewhere screwed them to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for an education that is worthless.  When they think voting for a socialist is a good idea, they were screwed by their college and should demand their money back!

Today we have kids tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and they cannot find a job.  I know of several college grades making much less than $15 an hour.  Our educational system needs an overhaul.

As quickly as a company can get a process documented and packaged, they send it overseas via a VPN over the internet, sending jobs out of the country.

Trades are being overlooked for white collar jobs which are going the same way.  IT jobs are vanishing in the states.  Virtual IT shops are set up in some foreign country, hiring an English speaking American to act as a liaison between them and their Indian or other counterparts.  With an American point of contact, it is then up to the American to manage the folks in another country who speak little English, making little money, to be the IT shop for these American companies.  This same person puts an American face on their business while working with their client managing the “noise.”

“Do you see any security risk there?”

You have no clue where your intellectual property is going or who is seeing it.  Maybe you have a contract but so what.  Much like HIPAA was created to protect your health information, do you honestly feel as if your information is secure?  If you do, you are fooling yourself.  Read the documents you sign when you visit the doctor.  You sign things saying that your information is protected and then you sign a document which pretty much gives them a pass to do whatever they want to do with your information.  Smoke and mirrors.

Doctors and hospitals are hacked and the information is stolen all too often.  Why?  How?  Piss poor planning on someone’s part. Using some cheap method to get things done perhaps?

Your contract with your Virtual IT company is as worthless as the paper it was printed on.  Yes, that deal might make you feel better but, know if you are a developer, someone in some other country has your work and if they can use it, they will.

I want to touch on Software Asset Management as it is germane to this subject.  All of the subjects are salient, but that one, in particular, is in the case of security.

There are tools which you can use to inventory every program on every PC.  Why?  Why would you want to do this?

Licensing of software is an issue, but more importantly, you should want to know what is on those PCs.  The first time I did this for a company I was struck with the reality of the sheer number of programs designed for remote control of a PC, that was active.

In this world we live in, corporations can ill afford to have the wild west inside their computer networks.  Besides the games and other foolishness that was identified, the risk to the infrastructure was phenomenal. The company is liable for every program on their PC’s, no matter who put it there.  If they are audited for their licenses, and someone like myself does an audit and finds them, they must then produce that license.  Can you?  Can you put your hands on all of your licenses?

Ignorance is no excuse!

Having been part of the evolution of the business process, dating back to the secretary and the typewriter to current day, I have seen the learning curve first hand.  Fighting the first virus on a network before there was anti-virus software; asking “what if” became second nature.

Back when Gregg shorthand was used, a business letter cost an average of $100.00 back then.  Now we type out e-mails with the ease of few keystrokes and dictation is a thing of history.  Technology has improved the business process, but the bad guys have found a way to make it interesting.

The very tools we use to make our lives easier are under constant threat by evil forces that look for ways to extort money or steal your property either through the exploitation of your network, or your employees themselves.

We use the cloud as if it were a hard drive in some vault in our closet.  We send information to the cloud without a clue where the cloud is and who has access to it.  Why we don’t encrypt that data before it leaves our computers is beyond me.  If I were a villain, I would be looking for ways to infiltrate the “cloud.”

“What if?”

The opinions expressed are my own as well as the intellectual value of the information put forth for your consumption.

© All Rights Reserved 2017

 

Netflix Scam

Netflix Scam

 

No Netflix is not the problem, a phishing scam, however, is out that you should be aware of.

Since so many of us now receive our entertainment over the internet, it is a good gamble that you might have Netflix.

Again many of us have it set up to bill once a month from some sort of banking institution whether it be your bank, credit card or PayPal. The e-mail looks like it came from Netflix until you look a little closer at the sent from.

Netflix AT dallas180.arvixeshared.com  (don’t e-mail to it…)

You will notice it is not Netflix.com

The message is telling you that they were unable to get your payment info and if you don’t update the info soon you will lose Netflix.

Then, of course, there is a link that they want you to follow.

God only knows how many will fall for this. Considering it was sent to tens of thousands you can bet a percentage will click and update. Always check to see that the sending e-mail is legitimate. IE Netflix.com and, hover over the link and make sure it stays Netflix.com and not something like I posted.

If you question it at all, call the institution or get online, not following any link from an e-mail and check for yourself. Once they get money from your account, if that is indeed their ploy it will be gone. The ploy could simply be to get you to click so they can put some sort of virus or cookie on your computer. E-mail is an excellent way to get infected, and because the scheme requires input from you, your protection might just allow it.

Practice safe computing… -Best

 

Hidden White House camera catches Trump’s leaker!

Hidden White House camera catches Trump’s leaker!

 

 

Did I get you to click, did I get your attention?

Many have e-mailed me asking where I have been as my phone has been busy.  What I just did with that title is called phishing.   No, I am not infecting you, as the matter of fact if you read this you might very well be better off!

Had I said something even more audacious using Ivanka’s name and Nude in that title more of you would have clicked.

Those that write worms and Trojans and other malevolent spyware know how to prey upon your weakness.  They studied the human heart enough to know that we cannot resist a story like this, especially if it is something negative about Trump.  They manipulate you through your emotions.

Once you click on a link, many firewalls and antivirus software’s will assume that you know what you are doing and let you click, thus screwing up your computer and possibly give you something to “wannacry” about.

Yes, I specialize in disaster recovery, but if someone has not taken me or someone like myself up on these services before the crises and they suffer a loss, They might want to cry!

CIO’s and their teams must provide the company with several layers of protection which includes the best anti-virus software on the market.  It includes making sure that all systems are patched and up to date.  The companies that are the most vulnerable are the companies who take IT and what it does for granted, not supplying them the resources that they might need.  These businesses that have someone in their IT department who is lackluster in keeping up with updates is another.  Maybe they fail to stay informed of threats making their company fair game for the people inside the castle who click on the shiny red button or trinket of knowledge; looking for scandalous information on a person that they hate or a nude picture of their daughter or wife.

Human nature is predictable which is what the evil dudes depend on.  You too know human nature if you are a human.  There are few good surprises in business and even fewer in the IT industry. Vigilance on your IT crews part must be elevated as the threats are more dangerous and more frequent.

I have an article called Attention CEO-CIO and so forth, read that.  I don’t want to waste my time writing it all over again.  It is full of good information.

Develop and test a DR plan.

Use technology only to give your employees access to what they need and not what they want. Be judicious with updates, checking of logs and the software that is in your domain.

  • What is on each PC?
  • Do they need it?
  • Do you have licenses for it?
  • Do you have that software updated and in a vault in case the worst happens?

Using a program like Spiceworks not only can you account for all of your hardware but you can get a listing of every executable on each PC.  This information is an eye-opener.  Frequently the CEO will ask, what do they need that for?

That is a good question, but the real wake-up calls are, is it legal? What is it and where did it come from? What does it do?

I find remote control software on PC’s that is waiting for some remote PC to dial in and take over the PC which if left attached to the network, lets the villain into everything!

This is where I have been and will most likely be again as the threats are more often now than ever before.

Those of you that follow my blog know of what I speak. Vigilance is not a nice thing if you have time.  Attention to Security is mandatory.  It is much easier and cheaper to fix what you have now vs. trying to restore what you have with an untested backup solution.

“How do I do that, we don’t have time?”

If that is your answer, you probably ought not to be where you are at.

Hire a technical crew (preferably from your vendors which you should have a relationship with) give them the backups in an offsite facility designed for such things and tell them to restore your company.

You have a person there to take notes, but not to assist them, for practical reasons that man went under the bus with the rest of your IT employees.   When they get your company “live;” you then bring in a Skelton crew. Have them perform their functions at that site, and again take notes.

I can almost guarantee it will never get to the point of your employees headed to the hot site to test things unless of course, you are one of the few who is vigilant.

The purpose of the exercise is to figure out what the deficits are and then create a plan to fix it.

“Our stuff is configured so that we would need to be there to make it work?”

I have seen it, and that is not smart.  Best Practice is around for that reason.  Your company must be using “best practice methodologies” as those are what SME’s  will be expecting.  You don’t want some outside firm to guess at what you have done and try to put band-aids on stuff.  In the event, your IT folks do get hit by the bus you want to be able to hire SME’s and have them quickly take your documentation and step in, while your IT guy recovers or you replace him or her.

  • Don’t fall for bogus click baits
  • Don’t surf the web carelessly at work
  • No Nigerian prince wants to give you money
  • The IRS will not send you an E-mail telling you to look at this attachment.
  • Buy install and maintain the best antivirus on the market.
  • Have an inventory of your purchased software, know where the licenses are and the updated software disk.

“I just download the software when I need it.”

“Your internet is down, and will not be restored for three weeks…where is that software going to come from?”

Just when I think I have seen and heard it all, I am amazed at the stupidity or ignorance that abounds in this industry. Folks, if your ego cannot afford to look at how you are doing things, possibly you are in the wrong job.

I had finished advising a client recently and was still in earshot when I hear the CIO tell his boss that I was not correct and making too much out of it!  WTF!  This guy was so egocentric or afraid for his job that his ego could not handle the fact that he was wrong about so many things that he lied to his boss and put the company in harm’s way!  I was not wrong!

Look, I have no dog in the fight!  I am going to call them as I see them and what you do after that is on you.  If your IT guy hung the moon; good for you! When the feces hits the rotating oscillator, I would love to be a fly on the wall when he tries to talk his way out of it.

A short story totally out of left field is this.  We have all seen drivers text or do something with that smartphone going down the road.  If you haven’t maybe you are texting and driving and I am talking about you!

Driving up 45 from Houston, during a thunderstorm, there was this fuel truck, 18 wheeler doing the dance.  You know the dance where they are all over their lane occasionally dipping into the next lane or possibly onto the shoulder. I saw him in my mirror as he was advancing close to me.  Getting out of his way, I noticed as he passed me that yes, he had his phone in his hand.

This was a fuel truck; you know the kind with the volatile product in it!  Slowing way the hell down I let him pass.  Ten miles down the road there he was, stuck in the ditch.  He ran off the shoulder into the rain-soaked ditch and buried it! Now, this could have been so much worse!

“Do you think he called his boss and said.” Funny thing, I was texting my wife a grocery list and the next thing you know I am stuck in the ditch, isn’t that a knee slapper?”

“No, he will tell him that someone cut him off and if he has an otherwise good track record his boss will buy the lie!”

IT guys with ego problems are like that, as was this one guy. Trust but verify!

Look at that other article and ask your folks some of those questions and see what they say.

Hope you don’t WANNACRY and that all of your employees don’t click on stupid things.

 

-Best