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So Much for Cyber Security

October 13, 2014

Hey, have you used a credit card lately?  Maybe to have lunch?

Dairy Queen has admitted to being hacked, six weeks after reports first surfaced that the US fast-food chain’s tills were compromised.

“We discovered evidence that the systems of some DQ locations and one Orange Julius location were infected with the widely-reported Backoff malware that is targeting retailers across the country,” the company said in a statement. “The investigation revealed that a third-party vendor’s compromised account credentials were used to access systems at those locations.”

Or maybe you needed to grab some inexpensive kitchen items for the dorm room?

Discount store Kmart admitted some customers’ payment cards have likely been “compromised” as it became the latest mega retailer to fall victim to cyber-crims.

The parent of the chain, Sears Holding Corp, said the IT team discovered late Thursday that its payment systems had been breached, and further investigations indicate this had started early last month.

Let’s not forget Home Depot, and pretty much everyone else out there that uses standard point-of-sale terminals.  Let’s face it, folks, electronic payments at retail are not secure right now.  And they probably won’t be for a while.  It’s not a bad thing that every company in the world, big or small, has access to standardized hardware and software that enables cashless transactions.  But right now, those systems are full of holes that are just being discovered and exploited, and its your convenience at risk.

Yes, convenience.  Sure, we all have to pay more because the processing companies are going to have to spend a pile more money to secure or replace systems.  It’s really the constant change of card numbers and system changes that will make life difficult for a while.  Eventually the systems will be secured against existing attacks.  And then the attackers will find new ways inside the system.  This is just another facet of the cyber war that’s ongoing, and we’re all mostly bystanders in the line of fire.

Honestly, I’ve been vectoring more to paying in cash recently, and I don’t see a real need to change that direction.  Sure, some electronic transactions still need to be made, and I’m debating just getting a simple bank card that’s linked to a small debit account.  It probably will do me a lot better in terms of budgeting, and I’m only vulnerable for a small amount over time.  That won’t keep me secure, but at least I can reduce the attack profile.  And we’ll have to start thinking that way more, since I think it’ll only be a couple years before the attacks on faceless corporations shift to attacks on specific humans on a mass scale.

Cold, Hard Reasoning

October 11, 2014

I just thought this post on the benefits of using cash from Dave Ramsey is very good.  I’m a fan of using cash… or not using cash as the case may be.

You spend less when you use cash. Plastic doesn’t hurt like cash. Once you’ve spent some quality time with Benjamin Franklin, you’ll think twice before sending him to a cold, hard cash-register coffin. To stretch his life a bit, you’ll shop around, look for deals, and naturally spend less.

I have to admit, there’s a big difference in having $50 in my wallet.  If it’s a mix of 10′s, 5′s, and such, it disappears a lot faster than if I have a single $50.  And when the cash is out, then I’m out of easy ways to spend.  Maybe it’s just that I’m a cheapskate, but it’s a lot harder to spend money than it is to swipe a card.

Besides, it’s a lot harder to track.  But maybe that’s just me.

Your Best Guess is as Good as Mine

October 2, 2014

Interesting article, I think NRO pointed it out to me (or maybe their Twitter feed, or maybe I clicked a mail… it’s been open for a couple hours now).  I’ve often thought that an over-complicated model throws in as much error as a simple guess, and this article agrees with that assumption.

This resistance to state-of-the-art statistical models has frustrated the academics. So, a decade ago, marketing professor Florian von Wangenheim (now at the ETH Zurich technical university in Switzerland) and his then-student Markus Wübben (now an executive at a tech incubator in Berlin) set out, in Wangenheim’s words, to “convince companies to use these models.”

To do this, Wübben and Wangenheim tested the predictive accuracy of Pareto/NBD and the relatedBG/NBD model against simpler methods like the “hiatus heuristic” — the academic term for looking at how long it’s been since a customer last bought anything — using data from an apparel retailer, a global airline, and the online CD retailer CDNow (from before it was acquired by Amazon in 2001). What they found surprised them. As they reported in a paper published in 2008, rule-of-thumb methods were generally as good or even slightly better at predicting individual customer behavior than sophisticated models.

I know a bunch of data geeks who are probably wincing at this, but I don’t think that’s the point.  Data is always good, and validating that data in any variety of ways is a huge need in any strategy.  But the point is that a lot of good business people have an innate understanding of measurement that works for their business.  Using data to validate that is a great way to certify instinct.

One point, though… once you get enough data to justify your pre-conceived conclusion, keep digging for a while longer.  I’ve seen a lot of validation justify a practice that doesn’t take in all the factors, so I’m a strong proponent of using all the data available to find all the right conclusions.  There, now the data geeks can relax.

If Technology Has It’s Way…

September 26, 2014

Hey, if you live in the middle of nowhere, specifically the middle of nowhere surrounded by the sea, and you can’t get a regular delivery on a ferry, what do you do?  You look for disruptive technology.

The trial is a DHL Parcel research project that flies to Juist, a tiny North Sea island (just 7km long) off the German mainland, from Norddeich harbour. Flights take place only at certain times of day with the parcelcopter flying the 12km in restricted airspace with no overflying of houses. There is a ground station for the flight which is in constant contact with air traffic controllers.

This non-urban delivery trial restriction gets over the risk of collisions with other manned or unmanned aircraft. Birds are still a hazard though.

Drones are a touchy subject, because they started in the military as ways to blow something up.  But military applications are a great way to do pathfinding for civilian applications, and here’s an innovative solution that shows that small, unmanned devices are a good possibility for moving packages in dangerous areas.  This is just a pilot, and not a fool-proof application yet.  A bad storm can kill a pilotless drone as fast as it can a small plane, but I think there’s a lot of possibilities with technology that will come to fruition over time.

Score another one for technology.  Go for it, people.

Thanks for Tuning In

September 25, 2014

I’m in a really busy spate of work right now.  I’ll be back in a few more days.

Back to Rule ZERO

September 1, 2014

Yea, I’ve been light on posting, but the last post was pretty relevant given this news.

As most of you probably know, someone somewhere dumped a deluge of purported nude photographs of a number of female celebrities online yesterday. The victims include the likes of Kate Upton, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Krysten Ritter, Yvonne Strahovski, and Teresa Palmer. But the focal point for this story has been Hunger Games/American Hustle actress Jennifer Lawrence, since the Oscar winning actress is perhaps the most famous actress on the planet right now. Without going into sordid details ( Justice and Grande have said the photos claimed to be of them are fake, other victims have confirmed theirs are real), I’d like to make two very specific points. Ms. Lawrence and the other victims have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of the contents of the photos or the nature in which they were leaked. The story itself should not be addressed as if it were a scandal, but rather what it is: A sex crime involving theft of personal property and the exploitation of the female body.

I feel for these poor ladies.  They had private data stolen and leaked online.  If it was banking information, they could be out millions of dollars.  But instead, it’s pictures of them in compromising clothing, or lack thereof.  I’m not going to go look for any of it, they’re probably embarrassed enough as is for someone else to search on it.


I’m not even getting into taking pictures of yourself on a phone that anyone could steal, or worse having that data auto-back-up to the web.  Just… just…

Someone’s going to complain that I’m being mean and not being considerate of the ladies who were being self-empowering, or who were going to later use the photos to scan for cancer or something.  Look, there’s little good that can possibly happen from someone taking a picture that they wouldn’t show tot their mother.

People, just stop.

Oh, and I hope they find the jerk that got the data and drop him (and I’m nearly positive it’s a him) in a room with all of those nice ladies and a dozen baseball bats.


Let’s Talk About RULE ZERO

August 22, 2014

I saw the headline in the Daily Mail the other day, and I skipped it.  Then I thought about it.  Okay, I’ll make a comment.  Here’s the headline:

‘Horrified’ Dating Naked contestant sues VH1 after network failed to blur out her crotch before episode aired

 So, let’s unpack this a bit…

  • There’s a show called “Dating Naked” on television.
  • Contestants actually agree to be taped for some period of time naked with people they really don’t know
  • This video is edited and then shown on the above-mentioned show
  • Contestants are then “horrified” that they might actually be shown naked

I’m sure there are plenty of people who would state that there’s a rule one involved here: make sure you get to screen the video before you might be shown naked.

I’m all for RULE ZERO.  Don’t ever let someone take a picture or video of you naked.  Ever.

Here’s one of the best lines from the article:

Ms Nizewitz also told the Post that the incident ruined a ‘budding relationship.’ She said the man she was dating never called her again after the show aired.

‘He was employed, Jewish, in his 30s and that’s pretty much ideal,’ Nizewitz said.

So you don’t think that agreeing to appear naked on a show might not have turned said person off in the first place?

And lest you think that this is a one-off stupid, there’s always the headline about the upcoming show about people having sex in a box and then talking about it.  No, I won’t link to that one.

And people wonder why I keep moving farther back in the woods…


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