Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is the Internet of Things?

You probably didn't notice anything different when you accessed the web on June 7th 2012, but a new and improved internet had replaced the old one virtually overnight. The new version, referred to as Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), had been in the works for years and will shepard in the next generation of internet usage where the various and sundry items of everyday life are connected. This is what is being referred by the moniker “The Internet of Things” as potentially every “thing” can be connected over the web.

To get to the point where the next generation of “things” could be connected, the old internet with a paltry 4.3 billion URLs available had to be replaced with the current version, which has trillions more addresses available, according to Vint Cerf, one of the original inventors of the internet. The explosion in available addresses paves the way for next paradigm of internet connectivity where everything from cattle on the north 40 to the refrigerator in the kitchen can be accessed.

The key to this new paradigm is the evolution of sensor technology, which has dramatically reduced prices while increasing their functionality to enable the assessment of local environments, provision of location data, and the ability to transmit information over the internet via wireless technology. The number of “things” that will be connected to the internet is estimated to reach 50 billion by the year 2020, which could spur the development of new industries, products and services dedicated to the simplification of connecting items in homes and business. In other words, the Internet of Things, despite its current low profile could be one of the biggest things to hit the web in a long time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

China Sneezes and the World Catches a Cold

The powers that be in China, after seeing growth heat up to 11.9 in the first quarter of the year, decided that is cooling down the economy with lending and investment curbs was needed to prevent overheating. These curbs went to work immediately, slowing the growth rate more sharply than expected with a result of reducing demand for U.S. and European factory machinery, industrial components from Asia and iron ore as well as other raw materials from Australia and Africa.
The timing of China’s slowdown comes at a bad time for exporters that have seen sales go slack just about everywhere else. Already a huge trading partner for many of these countries prior to the recessions that hit the U.S., Europe and others, China had taken a role as the only game town due to a stimulus-driven expansion program designed to compensate for slowing sales elsewhere.
Even with slowing growth China overtook Japan as the second-biggest economy in the second quarter. It is a buyer of 28 percent of Taiwan's exports, 25 percent of South Korea's and more than 20 percent of Australia's mining and raw materials production. Japan just reported sharply lower growth for its second quarter as the growth of exports was almost halved from the first quarter
That being said, it is the producers of iron ore for steel production and other construction-related raw materials which are expected to take the hardest hits from China’s self imposed slowdown. The winding down of a construction boom pushed by China's $586 billion stimulus program as well as billions of dollars in of bank lending is already being felt. These producers include Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil and parts of Africa.
New construction projects dwindled as Beijing wound down its stimulus and tightened credit in the second quarter to take the air out of inflating bubbles in real estate and stock prices, slashing demand for steel, cement and other construction related materials. Factory output slowed as well and is expected to head lower in the third quarter as well.
Overall, China’s import growth slowed by about one-third in July, sending tremors throughout the world as the most robust buyer of imported goods for many countries took a step back from the table. An example of the bind China’s slowdown is putting countries in is Taiwan, a major source of components for Chinese factories that make televisions and other electronics, which are in turn sent as finished products United States. China’s slower growth, combined with slowing sales in the U.S. at the same time could hit Taiwan’s manufacturing industries particularly hard.
China, at this point, sits in the enviable position of trying to restrain growth while the rest of the world either relies on them for their relatively healthy economies, such as Australia or tries to recover from recession, like the U.S. With China expecting slower growth over the next several quarters, it could be a rough ride for everyone.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Where We Were, Where Are, and Where We Need to Be

Quantifying the global warming problem is as easy as understanding three numbers; 275, 388, and 350.
* 275 – During all of human history, up until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Measuring in parts per million is a standard method of calculating the concentration of different gases in the atmosphere. This number provides the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules to all of the other molecules in the atmosphere. The 275 parts per million that carbon dioxide historically represented in the atmosphere was a relatively constant number. Its presence is also a necessity because without some carbon dioxide and other gases, heat would not be trapped in our atmosphere and the planet would be too cold for humans, plants and animals to survive.
* 388 – As humans began to burn fossil fuels to power the Industrial Revolution, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to rise slowly. Over the last 200 years, fossil fuels have become incorporated into many aspects of daily life including gasoline for cars, heating fuels, as a component of plastics, etc. The broad use of carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels has now increased the level of carbon dioxide to 388 parts per million, a level scientists now agree is an unsafe level if we are interested in preserving our way of life. The rise in atmospheric carbon has resulted in the warming of the Earth with results that include massive melting of glaciers, the disappearance of Arctic Sea ice, droughts, and a variety of extreme weather. Sea levels are also rising and the disappearance of beaches is already occurring. Left unchecked, the rise in sea levels could be as much as several meters this century, which would be a disaster of epic proportions.
* 350 – This is the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide that represents stasis for the world’s environment as well as the safety level for maximum carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Returning to this level will require that humans reduce their fossil fuel usage and replace it with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Taking these actions as well as improving agricultural and forestry practices around the world could get carbon levels back to the 350 level by the middle of the century.
The problem is, the longer we stay in the danger zone above 350 parts per million, the greater the risk for disastrous events. The time to start is now.

What the Freeh Report Says About Penn State University and the NCAA

The "Freeh Report" a detailed examination of the sexual abuse scandal and cover up at Penn State University " a 267-page message about the danger of unchecked sports power." according to Tom Goldman of NPR. The report, conducted by the law firm of former FBI director Louis Freeh, exposes the culture and cover up of the scandal, which reached the highest levels of authority at the university.

The report states that the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, had been informed about an accusation in December 1997 that longtime Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been seen molesting a young boy while showering with him in the Penn State locker room. Instead of taking the initiative to investigate the accusations, Spanier stood down saying that looking into the accusations wouldn't be the "humane" way to handle the situation.

At approximately the same time, Spanier was lowering the boom on Penn State running back Curtis Enis and his agent Jeff Nalley because Nalley had bought a suit for Enis to wear on an ESPN awards show. Spanier declared Enis ineligible for the upcoming Citrus Bowl and Nalley was reported to the NCAA and declared as "persona non grata" at Penn State. Spanier said at the time "He fooled around with the integrity of the university, and I won't stand for that."

While enabling Sandusky to continue molesting young boys, Spanier used his positions on the NCAA Board of Directors and the NCAA management council to consistently oppose reforms created to provide assistance to athletes for admissions and other reforms aimed at helping athletes from disadvantaged programs and high schools.

His non-action regarding Sandusky while opposing anything that empowered athletes while trumpeting the superiority of Penn State's morality and ethical standards stands as the epitome of hypocrisy at the highest ranks of both Penn State and the NCAA. Two of the people under Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley have already been indicted for their roles in the scandal. It is entirely possible that Spanier will be indicted as well. For the victims that suffered Sandusky's attacks because Spanier thought it wouldn't be "humane" to intervene, an indictment might just be another step down the road to closure.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Anthony Ricigliano: How to Innovate your own Business into Existence

Innovation isn’t the province of a select few. It exists in everyone waiting to be discovered. Learning any new skill always takes time and it's the same with developing an innovative mindset.  Don’t be disappointed if you’re not innovating 24/7 immediately. It will take a bit of practice and probably a couple of changes in the way you go about your day. Here are a few ideas on how to bring innovation into your life to bring your own business into existence.
* Ignore the doubters – Don't listen to other people that cast doubts on what you’re trying to do. People cast doubts for a variety of reasons and most of those will have nothing to with you. If you’re working on a new business, don't waste your time and effort trying to convince people that you’re doing the right thing. The great entrepreneurs never listened to the doubters and neither should you.
* Seek guidance – Getting a mentor or guidance from someone that has done what you want to do can give you confidence in what you’re trying to accomplish and help you avoid common mistakes.
* Commit the time – Spend time on your project because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do it either. This will require some time management and discipline to make sure you can fit everything in to your life.
* No excuses – Make do with what you’ve got and don’t get bogged down because you don’t have the hottest IPad on the market. Many people use fewer tools as they become more proficient at their craft. You may have to be resourceful but that’s also a part of being innovative.
* Develop your passion – In starting a new business, you may be caught up in learning the ropes and executing your plan. If you’re truly doing something you want to do, your passion will likely build as you become more proficient and your belief than you can succeed strengthens. This passion can turn you into an unstoppable force under the right conditions.
* Don't worry if you’re not inspired 24/7 – Not everything you do in your business will provide inspiration. If you’re following your passion, inspiration will arrive at the most unexpected times. For example, JK Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter while she was stuck on a train that was in the middle of a four hour delay.
* Take care of yourself – You’re at your best, at your most creative, and you are most innovative when you’re healthy. Great things and ideas can come when you’re exercising so don’t think of it as time that you’re taking away from your business.
Keep in mind that your business is your business and that you’re doing these things for your own satisfaction and not anybody else's. A little success will bring the doubters around soon enough.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Social Engineering by Anthony Ricigliano

Anthony Ricigliano - Anthony Ricigliano News and Advice:

Just when you thought you had your company resources locked down tight, a new type of security breach rears its ugly head. Social engineering is taking corporate theft to a personal level. Unlike a traditional hacker who works from a remote area to slip through your electronic defenses without any desire to walk through your actual doors, social engineers use both low- and high-tech strategies to exploit any weakness in your “human firewall.”

By launching an unrelenting assault on any weaknesses in your processes or employees, these unscrupulous groups or individuals almost always find a way in before they’re detected, if they’re detected at all. However, all is not lost. The best protection against social engineering attacks is to educate your employees about this growing threat in addition to developing a strong security program that takes every possible weakness into account.

What Exactly is a Social Engineering Attack?

Social engineering looks for any weakness, no matter how small, in your human firewall. This multi-dimensional approach uses the following strategies to gain entry into your organization either physically or virtually:
• Use small pieces of information as building blocks to learn even more
• Repetitive attacks
• Leverage technology
• Use of social skills and knowledge of basic human psychology

Social engineers are patient and detail oriented. They run through an endless cycle of finding information, developing a plan based on that information, executing the attack, and analyzing any new information. Each time, any new knowledge is used as a launch platform for the next cycle of attacks. This continues until the individual or group breaks into your facility, gets caught, or gives up. Needless to say, they rarely give up.

How Do Social Engineers Get Their Information?

They get tiny bits of information from all over the place and put it all together to create a complete picture of your business. In fact, when they’re done, they may know more about your operation than many of your employees. Here are some methods that have been used in the past:
• Google -Social engineers use Google Earth, Google Street View, and similar sites to “case the joint.”
• Phone Calls – With a simple phone call, social engineers can find unpublished locations, the names of important employees, and whether an employee is in the office or on vacation.
• The Company Website - With just a few clicks, social engineers can find the names, titles, email addresses, pictures, background, and phone numbers of the company’s top executives.
• Social Networks - Facebook, Monster, and LinkedIn are a social engineer’s best friend. In addition to looking at pages belonging to employees, these experts connect to the pages of friends and family, too.
• Campaign Contributions – This is public record and can give an insight into an employee’s personality or political tendencies.
• Impersonating a Vendor or Maintenance Person– Some companies don’t bother to verify every representative if they appear legitimate, and maintenance people often go unnoticed.
• Faking, Spoofing, or Stealing Electronic Credentials

Social engineers take this information and use a variety of techniques to either get more information or gain access to important company resources. They may befriend an employee, impersonate someone in a position of authority, threaten an employee in some way, or simply beg for help. By knowing how to use one piece of information to get more, how to read people for potential weaknesses, and how to manipulate any situation, Social Engineers can often achieve their goals without detection.

What Can I Do to Protect My Organization?

To combat the social engineer’s four-pronged attack strategy, implement a similar plan of your own. Your security program should include the following four constantly-repeating steps:
• Observe – Open your eyes and really look at your operation to find weak points.
• Document – Document what is happening as well as what should happen.
• Educate – Don’t think that your employees will completely understand the document. Teach them good practices and procedures with a hands-on approach.
• Test – Test the system to make sure it’s working as expected. This can include posing questions from time to time or launching a test attack.
• Refinement – Continue to circle back through the process to refine the program.

Here are a few best practices to include in every social engineering defense program:
• Verify Information – Trust your employees, your customers, and your vendors, but verify everything.
• Denial Should Be the Default – If there is any question, deny access to both physical and electronic resources. Make sure everything is locked down.
• Create a Notification Process – Give your employees a tool to use if they think they may have been the subject of a social engineering attack. This could be as simple as a number to call or an email to send. Include a method that passes communications up and down the chain of command if an attack is suspected.
• Restrict USB and CD access to prevent infections from viruses and other malicious code.

By using a mixture of both simple and complex methods, social engineers are available to learn an amazing amount of information about a company and launch sophisticated attacks. Educating your employees and continuing to improve your security procedures is the best way to thwart their efforts.

Anthony Ricigliano

Anthony Ricigliano: Five Fracking Facts

As the proponents of "fracking" (short for hydraulic fracturing) continue to tout its virtues, the side opposing fracking continues to press forward with its own information on why the practice should either be heavily regulated or stopped altogether. The practice, which pumps water, sand, and a cocktail of viscous fluids into shale formations to release hydrocarbons, has prompted both factual and widely exaggerated claims from proponent and opponents so taking a look at some unassailable fracking facts may be a good place to start.

These facts include:

1) The cocktail of viscous fluids used for fracking can contain several components that should not come anywhere near a supply of drinking water. These chemicals include antifreeze, a variety of oil-based products, soap, and diesel fuel.

2) Fracking that is conducted at deep enough levels will not affect aquifers and wells that are thousands of feet above the shale formation. This is due to the fact that cracks caused by the fracking process typically do not reach further than a thousand feet from the location where fracking is occurring.

3) Natural gas can accumulate and rise to the surface naturally. This is particularly true when a sandstone formation rests on top of one composed of hydrocarbon-bearing shale.

4) Fracking
can cause problems that are avoidable with planning and restraint. There needs to be regular monitoring of retention pits and well sites to prevent dumping and leaks into drinking water supplies. Fracking should be avoided in situations where the shale formation sits close to the surface or is separated from the surface by porous formations like sandstone.

5) The fracking process in a vacuum is not unsafe. Like any other extraction process there is a time and place factor that should be observed, which basically comes down to using common sense. Where there is the potential for problems, fracking should be avoided. Where the process can extract hydrocarbons efficiently without exposing the surrounding areas to harm, it can be employed.

The two sides of the debate remain polar opposites in any conversation regarding the safety of fracking. Maybe, by starting with the facts of the technique, the proponents and the opponents of fracking can find some middle ground that allows for safe extraction while doing no harm to the surrounding environment.