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Tag: safety

There Are Two Peoples – Part 1

Update: January 2, 2019

When I wrote this post in 2016, talk of integration between all these technologies was sparse. Now, it’s starting to emerge. ArsTechnica just shared a fantastic article (it’s about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and today’s world!!!) which made these connections. Take a look at their (entirely plausible) scenarios:

ArsTechnica Hitchhiker's Guide Article Clip - Alone Together

Sound familiar? Since I originally wrote this post, I’ve added a voice-responsive Sonos speaker network, an Apple Watch, an iPhone which also has an always-on microphone (Hey Siri!), and many more Echo units. Each have far more capabilities than in 2016. Some will gain more “personality”, others just add data to my “digital profile”, or what companies can analyze about me to provide assistance or marketing (the latter being the most common). Together, they bring us all closer to the future envisioned in this post and the ArsTechnica article.

So why care? Well, the longer you are divided (I’m not actually only talking about tech), the harder it is to relate to each other. And as tech gets smarter, and we use it more, the divide continues to expand.

Thankfully, my toaster remains emotionless and indifferent to my burnt toast.

Original Post

No, I’m not talking about the enormous political divide. Nor am I speaking on racial tensions. These are both important issues which we need to find common ground. For today, let’s look at something else separating this country (and elsewhere). And I’m betting you never considered it before.

Technology.

This isn’t a discussion on the “haves” and “have-nots”. That’s another topic altogether. When I say technology, I mean who uses what and how. Which of these are typical web-connected devices for you? Check off from the following:

  • Desktop
  • Laptop
  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • E-reader
  • Living room gaming system
  • Blu-ray player
  • Smart TV
  • Set-top box (Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, etc.)
  • Sound bar
  • Virtual assistant (Amazon Echo – “Alexa”)
  • Portable gaming system
  • Home automation devices (Smart lighting, thermostat, garage door opener, home security, etc.)
  • Activity tracker
  • Car
  • Other

If you’re on one side of the technology divide, you might have related to 4, maybe 5 of the items (or even fewer!).

I engage with 12 of these items on a regular basis.

And there are people far more connected than myself (we’re not even talking services right now). We connect with the world in a different way than those operating on a more “computer or human first” focus.

Life Automation

To me, it’s about how I can get everything to communicate so I can easily access any information I could possibly want, anywhere, anytime. When I step into my house, I can turn on my living room sound bar, tune it to a streaming app on my phone, then decide I’d rather switch over to the TV’s apps, all without ever touching a coffee table remote. In fact, were I feeling industrious, I could configure everything to do that automatically when my phone detects I’ve entered my house. Or once my security system was disabled. Or when I switched on a particular light. Or any combination of the above.

But…Why?

As you can see, engaging in a connected world is far beyond checking e-mail on the go. A common response I get when explaining these linkages to “regular” people is, “yeah, but why?” That’s fair, so here’s a scenario: Your grandmother (who lives alone) has her smart watch, sound bar, and lighting paired together: Suppose her watch detected no movement or unusual heart rates for a certain period of time. Knowing this isn’t her normal rhythms, it could tell the sound bar to play an alert tone (and repeatedly “tap” her wrist), flash the lighting inside the house, and automatically send you a text. If there is no response and her medical stats do not improve, the system contacts paramedics and her doctor. To assist the medics, the outside lighting has engaged in a soft pulsing, the front door was unlocked by you (after looking at the camera to ensure it’s the paramedics knocking) remotely, and the lights illuminated brightly in the room she was in.

Necessary. Not Required…ish.

Is this functionality essential to anyone’s life? No, but wouldn’t it offer reassurance knowing you had it? Nothing beyond food, oxygen, and water are essential. And neither was the Internet in its early days. In fact, you can avoid it today if you try hard enough. Your respiratory and digestive systems won’t care one bit. But are you missing out on new ways of learning about and engaging the world around you? Definitely.

The Divide

And that’s the point. If you are not connected, you’re not going to care about being so. And if you are, then you’re not going to understand why someone wouldn’t want to be. It’s the ultimate Catch-22.

The Series Continues

I’m not expecting to change any minds or inspire you to finally connect that TV to your wireless network, just hoping to open some eyes to the developments you might have missed. This will be a three-part series focusing next on the social aspect, where your credit union can develop closer and deeper relationships with members (and new ones!), then concluding with a look to a future we can hardly imagine. And if you’re thinking, “psshhh, I use Facebook and have a Twitter account, what can he possibly show me?” Well, when was the last time you used Twitter to solve a member’s issue, sent a Snapchat of your branch team rendered into your local team’s mascot, or hosted a potential member meet up at a city park to catch rare Pokemon?

Until next time, see you on the interwebz!

Image credit: https://openclipart.org/image/2400px/svg_to_png/242221/remix-fossasia-2016-contest2.png

Ransomware. What is it and should you be concerned?

Update: September 21, 2021 – Without giving this article a full rewrite, it’s obvious things have gone exactly as anticipated. Ransomware attacks are commonplace and big business. Millions of dollars an attack, big.

Who have targets included? Hospitals, power companies, water treatment facilities, oil pipelines, even feedstock management systems. And now the major players claim to have morals, while jeopardizing food supplies.

Original Ransomware Article

If you’ve been keeping an eye on cybersecurity or computer safety news lately, there is a good chance the term ransomware has crossed your vision. So we’ve got phishing (not the band), malware, viruses, worms, and now ransomware?

First, the primer: Ransomware is a form of malware, which in some circles is also considered a virus. Still confused? So am I.

Primer, even more basic version: Ransomware locks your computer unless you pay some bad guy.

Less basic primer: Ransomware is computer code which, once on your system, makes it so that you can’t access any of your files. The creator gives you an option to get the key, or program to unlock all your files, for a fee. This fee goes up the longer you wait, making it no less than a ransom demand. Hence, malware which asks for a ransom: Ransomware.

Who would do such a thing? There’s always people looking to cause mayhem and make a buck as a result. Some of them also happen to be skilled in computer programming. Sure, they’d serve the world better by designing code to help reduce poverty or hunger, but, crime is often easier.

Are you vulnerable to ransomware? Yes. Any computer, which, in a chain of connections, has a link to the Internet, can be infected. Yeah, it can spread from one computer to another in your network on its own. Then it deletes your backups. Even having all security updates installed isn’t enough (Macs tend to block them within 24 hours of discovery). Is no one safe?

How do you get ransomware? One of the more common ways is through an “evil” Word document. You think it’s an executive letter, invoice, or timetable, and you open the e-mail attachment.

For you to get infected, Word then prompts that the file has a macro and asks if you’d like to run it. You, thinking it’s an essential aspect of the file, say yes (It bothers me that Office programs don’t display the file before this prompt). And your day just got really bad. Even NAFCU is warning credit unions about this infection strategy.

What can you do to avoid ransomware? The old computer security strategies hold true (but the main threats are to your network, though work-from-home and understaffed IT contributes):

  • Don’t open e-mails from addresses you don’t recognize. If you do, definitely don’t open attachments in those messages. Also, ensure that HTML content isn’t set to automatically load when reading the message (Steps for Outlook 2010/2013, OS X MailiOS Mail).
  • When opening Office documents from those you know, always defer to No if it asks to run macros. If the file seems to need it, ask the sender to confirm.
  • If an e-mail file extension isn’t what you think it should be (JPG, PNG, GIF, PSD for images, as an example), ask the sender to confirm.
  • Ensure all computers within your workplace are current in security updates. And not just for the operating system, but software programs installed, too.
  • Avoid visiting questionable websites, but if you must, use an archaic computer (too old to be infected) or an obscure operating system (ie. BeOS).
    • On second thought, just avoid the suspicious sites. You can also check a reputation monitoring service like Web of Trust prior to visiting.
  • Be extremely careful when using USB drives to transfer data to more secure (ie. non-connected or connected with member data) computers.
  • Train your staff on computer safety…regularly. We can all get fooled. You know those, “A lost Saudi prince wants to share their $400,000,000 with you” e-mails? You still get them because people still fall for them.
  • If your password is “password” or “12345”, change it right now. I’ll wait.
  • Use common sense. If something seems off, your instincts are probably right.

As mentioned in the above article, one ransomware developer brought in a confirmed $45,000 after only 3 weeks of infections. It’s big business and is only going to grow further. Knowledge is power and sharing this information with your members can help them avoid costly headaches as well.

Image credit: http://hackwhiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/encryption-img.png

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