March 11, 2017
March 8, 2017
By Robert Healy at America Speaks Ink
This week, the transparency organization, WikiLeaks, released an extraordinary number of documents that apparently came from the inner cyber sanctum of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Giving it the name Vault7, the trove of documents exposed to the world by WikiLeaks reveals a copious amount data relating to CIA hacking abilities, not just with regard to computers, but to the technological exploitation of various devices, including smartphones, iPads, smart TVs, and more.
The following statement was tweeted by WikiLeaks about the information:
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, Trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems, and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
There are a multitude of items for most people to be concerned about. Of these, the primary one is that the CIA seems to be lacking a serious security system to protect this kind of data from getting into the wrong hands. As WikiLeaks makes clear, whoever has the computer code has the power to inflict extraordinary damage across the globe, and no doubt could do so without having to leave the comfort of their own living room.
This is an extremely serious national security catastrophe representing a very clear and present danger to this nation no matter how anyone spins it, and it is monumentally bad news for the CIA, the U.S. government, and people everywhere because we have no way of knowing who else has this extraordinarily dangerous data or if it is already being set up and used by someone at this time.
The next prominent concern should make it clear that not every kind of technology should make its way into places it clearly does not belong. Using televisions as a means of spying on people is straight out of George Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and yet companies are installing their spy tech right into them.
Samsung’s “smart” televisions were specifically singled out in the CIA documents that were released, in which a program called “Weeping Angel” (a name apparently referencing the television show Doctor Who) can be used to compromise a Samsun F8000.
As reported in The Guardian:
The document dealing with Samsung televisions carries the CIA logo and is described as secret. It adds “USA/UK”. It says: “Accomplishments during joint workshop with MI5/BTSS (British Security Service) (week of June 16, 2014).”
It details how to fake it so that the television appears to be off but in reality can be used to monitor targets. It describes the television as being in “Fake Off” mode. Referring to UK involvement, it says: “Received sanitized source code from UK with comms and encryption removed.”
Though not specifically mentioned, it should be noted that earlier this year, television manufacturer Vizio was fined over $2 Million by the FTC for spying on 11 million customers. In an article about the infraction, The Washington Post stated:
According to the lawsuit, Vizio was literally watching its watchers — capturing “second-by-second information” about what people viewed on its smart TVs. That included data from cable, broadband, set-top boxes, over-the-air broadcasts, DVDs and streaming devices. Vizio also is accused of linking demographic information to the data and selling the data — including users’ sex, age and income — to companies that do targeted advertising.
These revelations should prove to be a lesson to everyone. If any of you have a “smart” TV in your home at this time, you might want to consider replacing it with a standard TV without all those technological bells and whistles. Well, if you value your (and your family’s) privacy in any way, that is.
The final concern should truly scare the hell out of everyone in the U.S. and throughout the world, because mentioned among the various aspects of hacking the CIA has developed for all of those various electronic devices like phones and TVs, this one stands out like a red flashing light: the ability to hack our cars and trucks.
In a CBS report on the WikiLeaks documents, they noted, “One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA’s interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated on-board computers.” In an additional report, they added, “Although WikiLeaks didn’t have details on how that might be used, it said the capability might allow the CIA to “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
This revelation immediately reminded me of a Wired article from 2015, in which two people, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, engaged in a successful experiment using a “zero-day exploit” (just one method mentioned in WikiLeaks’ statement above) to take control of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Andy Greenberg, author of the article, using a laptop computer. The article and their experiment made national headlines and Chrysler conducted a recall of 1.4 million vehicles as a result of their demonstration that the vehicle could be remotely hacked and controlled.
It also reminded me of the controversy that surfaced two years previous to the Jeep Cherokee experiment, surrounding the untimely death of Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings, whose article, “The Runaway General”, led to the downfall of General Stanley McChrystal.
Hastings’ Mercedes crashed in what authorities concluded was an accident resulting from traveling at high speed, but for others, it remains a mystery with numerous unanswered questions attached to it. Surveillance video posted by LA Weekly shows the vehicle passing by a pizzeria in its final moments before the fatal crash.
One of the first questions to be brought up concerning Michael Hastings’ death was whether it was possible that his car had been tampered with or if it could have been hijacked remotely. The matter had been put to rest as far as the official record is concerned, with any such thoughts dismissed as being in the realm of conspiracy theory.
But we are reminded by the former head of U.S. counterterrorism during President George W. Bush’s administration, Richard Clarke, that the idea cannot be so quickly discarded as officials would have us believe. As he stated to Huffington Post, “in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber-attack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it,” and added that “I think you’d probably need the very best of the U.S. government intelligence or law enforcement officials to discover it.”
And now we have definitive proof, courtesy of WikiLeaks, that the CIA is actively developing that exact kind of capability, to hack vehicles for the purpose of undetectable assassinations. Who is to say it didn’t already exist at the time that Hastings’ car had crashed, but that it is actively being improved as newer, more sophisticated technologies are introduced into newer models of cars and trucks? How far-fetched can this be now that we actually know about it?
No doubt there will be more revelations to come from these documents as they are vetted and written about and discussed by various outlets in the future, but from what we already know, it’s quite enough to shake the Earth under our feet and rattle us out of our complacency when it comes to the intrusive nature of the various technologies we are using in our lives.
This has been a massively loud wake-up call for everyone. Do not let this fall into the media’s well-honed memory-hole. We need action regarding these revelations from our elected officials, and we need it now.
By Robert Healy at America Speaks Ink –
January 10, 2017
By Shelly Palmer on LinkedIn: Published on October 16, 2016
Yahoo recently reported the largest hack in history, WikiLeaks is releasing hacked DNC emails at an alarming rate, and according to NBC News “the Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.” Are we on the brink of the First Cyber World War? Even if the current rhetoric just exacerbates unofficial nation-state-backed cyberterrorism, there is still a significant danger. Are you prepared to function offline? If not, it’s time for some serious business continuity planning, a few muster drills and, most importantly, a tactical approach to disaster recovery.
My Company Does All That for Me
Most well-run businesses have some version of a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). The concept has been around forever. But what is your personal DRP? What if you were locked out of your main email account? What if you did not have access to online banking? What if you could not get online? What if the location-based services on your smartphone would not function? No maps, no Waze, no Uber, no Lyft, etc.? Do you even own a paper map?
Not for nothing, I don’t think strong passwords are going to cut it anymore. It’s time to back up your computer and your smartphone and to do your best to safeguard your important files, pictures, recordings and videos (especially original material that cannot be replaced).
Quite a bit has been written about how to back up your data. I won’t rehash it here. The general theory is to have your data replicated in a couple of places. Services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, iCloud, and the like all offer various versions of instantaneous syncing between your local storage and the cloud. But most smart people also backup locally to an external drive with tools such as Time Machine (Mac) or File History and Windows Backup and Restore (Windows 10). A backup on a local, physical hard drive that is not connected to the public Internet is a very good idea.
If you’ve opted in to paperless billing, you should also consider printing out bank statements and any other financial or medical documents that you are likely to need if you are cut off from your cloud storage or if your files are maliciously erased.
I Can Always Access the Cloud
While it’s true that there are multiple ways to access your cloud services (Wired or wireless Internet at home or work, public WiFi, a friend’s Wired or WiFi connection, the 3G or 4G wireless networks, etc.), it is possible for a cyber-attack to damage or destroy both wired and wireless connectivity at the same time.
A natural disaster caused it to happen in New York City on Monday, October 29, 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. By midnight, power was knocked out below 39th Street – it did not return for a week. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone lines stopped working as their battery backups drained. Even the old copper wire telephone network was down where the cables were submerged. Cell service was gone by late Tuesday evening and spotty (if you could charge your phone) until the end of the week. All VoIP phone communication was down by Wednesday. There was no Internet, no power, no water pressure, no traffic lights, no street lights, no basic social services – and Manhattan got off easy. The effects were much, much worse in the greater New York Metro and in New Jersey.
All in, it is estimated that Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damages in the US alone. A cyber-attack wouldn’t destroy buildings or roadways, so you might think it would not be as costly. But that would depend on the extent of the damage and the duration of the event.
Data Doomsday Scenarios
I wrote an article in February last year entitled Data Doomsday Preppers, which was my reaction to the thesis of NatGeo’s “Doomsday Preppers” TV show. In homage to all of the cyber-tough-talk this week, let’s re-examine some of the data doomsday scenarios from my previous post.
- 20 million Americans wake up to find their bank account balances at zero.
- 20 million other Americans wake up to find random balances that exceed their wildest expectations. For example: a $25,000 balance where the day before it was $3,800 (the Federal Reserve, US Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service’s 2014 estimate for the average American family savings account balance).
- 30 million other Americans wake up to find out their hard drives have been erased and their data is gone.
- Retailers or financial institutions tell 30 million other Americans that their credit cards are canceled because of a data breach, and they will not be replaced for weeks because of the sheer volume of cards that need to be reissued.
- The top 500 websites are all hit with massive, unrelenting DDOS attacks.
- The top 10 health insurance providers lose 30 percent of their patient records due to the release of a super cyber weapon.
- 25 percent of federal prison records are erased or altered.
- $300 billion in cash goes missing from the US financial system.
- And, just for fun, hackers cause an algo-trading flash crash that takes 50 percent off the DJIA by 11am (as if any of the above would not be enough to cause a regular stock market crash).
None of this may ever happen. In fact, it probably won’t. What will happen is something no one has thought of (or prepared for). That’s the nature of a successful attack.
So back up your data. Practice a day offline. And make sure you know whom to contact, how to contact them and what to do when (not if) something unfortunate happens in our data-dependent, online world.
About Shelly Palmer
Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on augmented intelligence and data-driven decision-making. He is Fox 5 New York’s on-air tech and digital media expert and a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com or subscribe to our daily email http://ow.ly/WsHcb
January 9, 2017
“As our society grows more and more interconnected — utilizing innovative new technologies that make life more convenient — we continue to expose ourselves to greater risks of cyber attack.” By: Javier Ortiz – Falcon Cyber Investments.
With the digitization of practically all aspects of our day-to-day lives, from banking to healthcare to government, we must be steadfast in the protection of our personal information to prevent cyber hacks and identity theft.
The number of cyber attacks has drastically increased over the past few years. Consider last week’s news that (in the 3/2014 OPM hack) at least 4 million (revised to 20+ million) current and former federal employees have had their personal data (including Security Clearance applications) breached, probably (now confirmed) by China.
Or consider that recently the Internal Revenue Service, one of the United States’ most archetypal institutions, was breached by what the U.S. government now believes were Russian criminals, exposing the personal information (including Social Security numbers) and tax returns of more than 100,000 Americans. With the simplicity of filing your taxes online now comes the threat of foreign actors and criminals stealing and selling your information as well as your identity. This is a very dangerous and serious problem.
Today’s “Internet of Things,” a concept describing how we live in a maze of interconnected data networks fed by billions of smart devices, exposes us to great risk. People no longer think twice about engaging in personal banking on their iPhones or sending sensitive documents over email. The growth of these new technologies has outpaced our ability to secure our information. We need our security systems and processes to catch up.
Once reserved for machine-to-machine communication, technology now allows us to make “things” intelligent — from phones to watches to healthcare devices — all gathering data and storing it in a “cloud.” Your phone, too, knows where you are, all of the time, and could let someone else know — without your knowledge or consent. For a society so ingrained in privacy and freedoms, we don’t seem to mind technology serving as “Big Brother.”
Every device, including our vehicles, is susceptible to attack. With the rise of in-car navigation systems and even smarter in-car technology, like GM’s “Connected Car Services,” we are opening up even more vessels of assault. Soon you’ll be seeing your car perform a Vehicle Health Monitor, communicating diagnostics to your dealership and even booking your appointment, all through apps built directly into the dashboard.
Even with just the “basics” in today’s new cars — automatic braking, parking and lane assist, keyless entry, Bluetooth and a cellular connection — hackers might be able to transform digital commands into an out-of-control weapon. The automotive industry is working to add more security features to protect against the wireless “hackability” of cars, but in many ways and with many of these innovations, we’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse.
In a perfect world, the solution would be to reduce our “attack surface” — a fancy term that for many means having fewer devices connected to the Internet. But as we have become over-reliant on technology to complete everyday tasks, we remain vulnerable to the system. Instead of limiting entry points, we’re expanding them.
Even the most private of our information, our medical history and data, is being hacked and exploited by nefarious actors. With the rise of wearable and other health technology devices linked to the Internet, now able to transmit data directly to your doctor, millions of individuals’ health and financial information is at risk. We no longer live in just an “Internet of Things,” but now also in an “Internet of People.”
In fact, of all the data valuable to cyber criminals, your health records are their most prized, as medical records and information are more usable and last longer than information swiped from your credit card. In underground criminal marketplaces, individual credit card information is worth $1, while a medical record goes for as much as $50.
Insecure technology poses significant costs on our society, and cyber attacks are most certainly not a victimless crime. A study last year by the McAfee, a security firm that part of Intel Security, estimates that cybercrime and economic espionage costs the world economy more than $445 billion annually, not including the toll identity theft takes individually.
For us consumers, the first thing we must recognize is that the Internet is not going away, that it will continue to grow and that each of us is responsible for how we use our Internet-connected devices.
Secondly, we need to learn about how to best use our Internet devices — be they computers, phones, even cars or refrigerators — so that we can protect ourselves from hackers.
Finally, we must demand that our banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers and everyone who asks for our personal information tell us how they will secure it. The more that consumers demand better cyber security the less prone they will be to hackers.
We live in a brave new world — industry and consumers should be working together to benefit from technological advances, while also protecting our privacy.
Javier Ortiz is a Republican strategist, a principal at Falcon Cyber Investments, and an adviser on public policy and regulations for a Washington, D.C. based global law firm.
Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add…
December 1, 2016
by Charles J. Sykes
Despite good intentions and wishful thinking, the reality of the failure of schools is easily and readily documented. Charles J. Sykes, the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids, looks beyond the usual favorite scapegoats of the education establishment-parents, society, and money to reveal how the schools themselves can no longer evade blame for America’s educational decline.
The education reforms of the 1990s are not new. Such ideas, the latest being Outcome-Based Education, “have been tested and retested for decades in thousands of schools. And they have failed.” Even 40 years ago, progressive educational philosophy revealed its fundamental denial of absolutes, objective standards, a priori knowledge, and eternal truths. The present, according to educationists, is the only reality worth knowing.
A natural outgrowth of this Postmodern philosophy is the dominant assumption among educationists that children are “frail and easily damaged psychological growths” that need to be liberated from “oppressive” influences such as family, traditional morality, and even conventional spelling and grammar. Literature and history are no longer important guideposts; moral courage, arduous choices, and virtue are useless. Feelings, say the educationists of today, are the only necessary compass.
This emphasis on feelings inevitably means that schools often infringe on the privacy of families, such as courses encouraging children to report on family problems. “America’s schools,” charges Sykes, “have become backwaters of amateur psychologizing.” The school becomes a “village,” where children are taught they should turn to the schools’ “experts,” instead of parents.
Ironically, Americans routinely dismiss mounting evidence, insisting that their own children and local schools are immune to the so-called crisis. All Americans should set aside their doubts and read this penetrating and comprehensive critique of the nation’s schools. The education of America’s children involves issues that affect every American. “I am convinced,” says Sykes, “that the defining cultural and political debates of the decade will center around the so-called school wars, which will be fought out in the elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools.”
The Impact Of Communal Decline Upon Education by Philip Atkinson (April 2007)
Contemporary education is failing in three blatant ways:
1. Failure To Impose Discipline: Clear thinking is the result of disciplined thoughts. If pupils are not forced to discipline their behavior, then they will not discipline their thoughts and so will be unable to think clearly; this is the very opposite of the purpose of education.
2. Failure To Demand Respect For Teachers: If a lesson is to be heeded the teacher must have the respect of the pupils. In the year 2000, the awed respect that children of my generation (the 1950s) had for their teachers has been replaced by the opposite. School children no longer fear their teacher, for their erstwhile master is now their servant. The cane has been discarded to be replaced by the panic button. Teachers no longer command and demand, but amuse and appease. This must undermine the whole purpose of education.
3. Failure To Teach Essential Subjects: The most important lesson for every child is that of learning to read and write, for the use of language is the ability to think. Nonetheless, the education system has abandoned the traditional teaching of reading and writing, with its fixed spelling and grammar, so no longer teaches citizens how to either communicate or think clearly.
A Public Declaration Of Ignorance
On Saturday, November 11th, 2000, the Brisbane paper The Courier-Mail reported that a Harvard history student did not know that there had been two world wars. In an article titled “History lost in the past” journalist Peter Charlton claimed that in answer to a question posed by distinguished historian Simon Schama to his history seminar about the different foreign policy of Italy in World War I and World War II, one student replied:
“Was there more than one world war last century?”
An answer that contradicts any claim of historical education about the twentieth century, as well as revealing an inability to perform simple arithmetic. The nature of the two world wars has so dominated the twentieth century, that not to know there were two world wars is not to know twentieth-century history. While claiming in the year 2000 that the years 1914-1918, or 1939-1946, belonged to the last century, is to expose an inability to perform simple arithmetic. Either error contradicts the notion that this student has been educated, while the student’s presence in a prestigious American university that demands an entrance exam, must raise grave doubts about the integrity of the American education system.
The enormity of the student error raises doubt about the quality of education, and this suspicion is confirmed by the large numbers of works condemning the abysmal state of the education system in the western world.
The Dumbing Down of America’s Colleges by Phyllis Schlafly:
Finally, a prestigious group of college professors has come right out and said that the emperor (i.e., the Imperial University) has no clothes. Many have long suspected that college education has been dramatically dumbed down (like the public schools), but few have had the courage to say so.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS), the nation’s leading higher-education reform organization, has just published a devastating 65-page report on its investigation of the courses offered and required at 50 top undergraduate colleges and universities. The NAS used U.S. News & World Report‘s annual listing of “America’s Best Colleges” (including both private and public). All figures cited below refer to those 50 elite institutions in the particular years chosen for comparison, 1914, 1939, 1964, and 1993.
The NAS concludes that students no longer learn the common core of knowledge once taken for granted as essential to a liberal-arts education. The universities have simply purged from the curriculum many of the required courses that formerly taught students the historical, cultural, political and scientific basics of our society.
The number of mandatory courses has been dramatically reduced from an average of 9.9 in 1914 to 7.3 in 1939, to 6.9 in 1964, and to 2.5 in 1993. The formerly universal requirement that students take a basic survey course in several important areas has virtually vanished.
Universities now offer very few courses that require prerequisites, which means that very few college courses now require any advance knowledge or preparation. In 1914, universities offered an average of only 23 courses per institution that did not require a prerequisite course; in 1964 the figure had risen to 127; today, the number is 582.
Only 12 percent of universities now require a thesis or comprehensive examination to get a bachelor’s degree. As late as 1964, more than half of universities did.
The college year has been shortened by about one-fourth (leaving more time for spring break and other frivolities, but, of course, without any reduction in tuition price or professors’ salaries). In 1914, college classes were in session an average of 204 days a year; by 1939 the number had dropped to 195; in 1964, to 191; and today students and teachers are expected to show up in class only 156 days per academic year.
Maybe the reason why young people can’t write good English is that so few colleges teach writing anymore. In 1914, nearly all universities had required courses in English composition; by 1964 the figure was 86 percent; today, it’s only 36 percent.
Ditto for math. In 1914, 82 percent of the universities had traditional mathematics requirements; by 1964 only 36 percent did; now, only 12 percent do. In 1914, 1939 and 1964, more than 70 percent of the institutions required at least one course in the natural sciences; that figure has now fallen to only 34 percent.
Maybe the reason why the federal guidelines on the teaching of American history turned out to be such a travesty was that most college graduates haven’t studied any history. In 1914, 90 percent of our elite colleges required history; in 1939 and 1964 more than 50 percent did, but now only one of the 50 schools has a required history course.
Literature courses were required at 75 percent of the institutions in 1914, and at 50 percent in 1939 and 1964. Today, not one of the “best” institutions has a literature requirement.
Meanwhile, the total number of courses offered at undergraduate institutions has increased by a factor of five since 1914, and has doubled since 1964, but that doesn’t mean more opportunities to become an educated citizen. The majority of these additional courses are on narrow and idiosyncratic subjects of interest to the professors but almost worthless to the students. The total includes such trendy and trivial courses as Stanford’s “Gender and Science” (which purports to study science free from outdated male assumptions), and Georgetown’s “Unspeakable Lives: Gay and Lesbian Narratives.”
Here are some examples of courses given at Yale University for which students can receive college credit: “Gender and the Politics of Resistance: Feminism, Capitalism, and the Third World.” “Gender and Technology.” “Feminist Perspectives on Literature.” “Lesbian and Gay Theater Performance.” “The Literature of AIDS.” “Contemporary Lesbian and Gay Arts and Culture.” “Constructing Lesbian Identities.” Such courses are just propaganda and entertainment masquerading as education.
The result is that our best colleges and universities no longer turn out graduates who have an elementary knowledge of our civilization and its heritage. They do not learn the basic facts of our country’s history, political and economic systems, philosophic traditions, and literary and artistic legacies.
Quite apart from the fraud of charging an exorbitant $100,000 for a devalued diploma is the fact that we are in danger of losing the national cohesion of a known and shared heritage which has sustained and nourished our unique institutions of freedom within a limited, constitutional government.
The New York Times quoted a critic of this NAS report as arguing that”the real agenda of higher education today is the concern with problem-solving, critical thinking, communicating and learning how to value.”
But how are students going to engage in all those thoughtful processes when their knowledge is so pathetically limited and their composition and communication skills are almost non-existent?
In addition, there is the dumbing down inherent in giving courses that are not college courses at all but are designed to teach students what they didn’t learn in high school. Sometimes these courses are called “remedial,” but the institutions prefer euphemisms such as “second tier” and “sub-freshman.” Such courses were unheard of prior to 1939, and only three institutions offered them in 1964. Today such non-college-level courses are offered in 70 percent of the elite universities, and most of them award college credit.
California state legislators recently discovered the high cost to the taxpayers of the remedial education courses given at the state universities. Last year, 60 percent of new students needed remedial help. California legislators assert that students have been the victims of consumer fraud perpetrated on them by the high schools that gave them high grades. The legislators want to send the invoice for the cost of the remedial courses to the high schools that deceived their students by giving them a 3.8 or higher grade-point average.
The 1996 Governors Education Summit at Palisades, New York, spent two days discussing “standards” for what students should learn in public schools. Longtime American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker gave this concept a reality check. He said that when, as a teacher, he assigned homework to his class, the pupils invariably responded in chorus, “Does it count on our grade?” He pointed out the fact of human nature that standards aren’t going to make any difference if, no matter what students learn or don’t learn, they can still get admitted to nearly all U.S. colleges and universities.
The standards question in the public schools could be resolved if colleges and universities would abolish their remedial courses and admit only students capable of doing college work. But they won’t because of the easy flow of taxpayers’ money, which makes it so profitable for colleges and universities to admit all the students they can and then send the bill to the taxpayers.
Dumbing Down Our Kids:
Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add
by Charles J. Sykes