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It’s Everybody’s Civil War

July 1, 2014

In my continuing series of notes about cyber-warfare, here’s another note that modern warfare includes psychological and some actual battle on the net as much as on the ground.  From the Register:

“Several new botnets using dynamic DNS have been detected, which might have been used for cyber espionage and targeted multi-staged cyber attacks, reportscyber intelligence outfit IntelCrawler.

IntelCrawler adds that harmful activity is concentrated in four Iraq cities: Baghdad Erbil, Basra and Mosul. A lot of malware is home-brewed and much of it has previously featured in the Syrian civil war, where ISIS has become a key player over recent months. A substantial segment of the command nodes used in the cyber-spying were hosted on no-IP domains that later became the target of a controversial Microsoft-led takedown operation this week, IntelCrawler adds.

If you hang around here enough, you know that cyber-intrusion has gone corporate.  You can get malware with 24/7 tech support and affordable monthly maintenance payments.  And taking the jihad to the net means that recruits don’t have to have a flair for travel to exotic locales with a penchant for sand, AK’s, and Reaper drones.  It appears that some of the recruits are merely providing computer time for the struggle.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see some bitcoin mining or trafficking going on to fund the effort to establish a caliphate.

I’m almost concerned that our ideological enemies are getting upper hand in on-the-ground cyber work.  While I’m sure that the US has a broad capability, I’m not positive that we’re actually testing the attack side of the systems as much as the terrorist cells, and certainly not as much as China or Russia.

This is more fodder for the future of wars that have very different borders, and the fact that US “soil” is already under sustained attack seems to be regarded pretty lightly by our citizens.

I Should Get It On Record

June 30, 2014

I’m not a fan of the, “corporations are people,” thing.  While I support the outcome of recent Supreme Court decisions, I think we’re setting a dangerous precedent that a corporation is a breathing entity.  I’d prefer to have the court rule that the owners of a company are people who can govern the company as they see fit.

A personal Mozilla/Firefox vomited their boss out the door.  A personal Big Oil company is evil, rather than an entity striving for profits.

So… I’m torn on where to go.  I think we need to more collectively view the goals of a corporation, or even a non-profit, for its need to stay in business to accomplish its business goal.  I suppose this wouldn’t be an issue of the government of the US hadn’t decided that it was a compassionate entity (thanks, GWB!) that needed to make personal decisions for 300 million people.

It’s the Money, Not the Principle

June 26, 2014

When I first saw a headline about a company called MonkeyParking, I figured it was some dumb racist angle, probably because the TV in the background was droning on about the Redskins.  Turns out it’s not about racism.  It’s about the government seeing someone make money that the government wants to make on its own, but couldn’t figure out how fast enough.

MonkeyParking, the Rome-based startup whose iPhone app is used to auction off public parking spaces in San Francisco, is refusing City Attorney Dennis Herrera‘s order for the company to halt operations here.

In a newly released statement, MonkeyParking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny, derided Herrera’s cease and desist letter as “an open violation of free speech.”

“I have the right to tell people if I am about to leave a parking spot, and they have the right to pay me for such information,” Dobrowolny said.

It appears that the company provides a subscription service where people can alert other service members where they’re about to give up a parking space, and this space would then theoretically be held until the second member showed up to claim it.  If you’ve ever tried to park in San Francisco, you could understand why this is such a genius idea.  While I can’t say that I’d pay money for it, I’m sure there are plenty of people who absolutely would.

So naturally, if there’s some company making money, some government is going to either want a piece of it or want to take it over.  It’s a natural tendency for some flunky in government to begrudge some citizens’ ability to monetize something.  Well, guess what, at least one set of citizens is going to fight back.  I can’t say how successful they’ll be, but at least not everyone rolls over.

Supply, Demand, and a Polite Belch

June 26, 2014

The WSJ has a disturbing report today.  Beer prices are at risk of going up.  Well, really hop prices, but it’s going to lead to a rise in beer prices.  I won’t panic, well, not much.

The article is currently locked online, so I won’t quote heavily here.  But I’m obviously not shocked.  I live in an area of about 200,000 people, and the hop fest last weekend had 18 breweries of various sizes pouring beer.  We affectionately call our area, “beervana.”  While that skews my take on the market, I do see that it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere these days and not find a local brew in the stores.  Even if the sizes are small, the mass of new brewers is pushing the limits of supply and demand for hops and grains, and this is likely to raise prices on both component and final price.

This is probably a good thing, at some level.  It’s going to push the industry to look for new, and better, supply options over time, and it’s all being done without government regulation of components.  At least for now.  While BATFE definitely crawls all over the back side of the beer and alcohol process, it has not done a lot of  stomping on the actual creation side, other than some definition work.

But it will push prices up in the short and likely long term.  I’ve been taken aback by the recent increase in prices for both craft and regular beers, and this is likely to only push up farther.  Oddly enough, it’s pushed me to go more often for an inexpensive wine for the evening over a nice beer, and that might server to push prices in different directions over time.

And all of this is happening because people make choices based on their wallets, both in the end consumption, and also in the creation of products.  I think that’s awesome.

So when the congressional hearings start, don’t expect me to be happy…

Glass Travel, Stones, and Updated Adages

June 23, 2014

I travel pretty extensively for work.  I do it in part because it’s necessary, and in part because I live nearly four hours away from my office.  I mostly monitor my commutes because I’m conscious of how much travel wears on my body and my household.  I don’t begrudge or demean anyone for having to travel for work, and I wonder what in the world some environmentalists (including people in my own company who travel and feel guilty about it) are thinking.

So when a leading environmentalist gets busted for talking out of one side of the mouth… hey, grab the popcorn!

A Greenpeace senior executive commutes to work by plane despite the organisation’s anti-air travel campaign, it emerged yesterday.

Pascal Husting, Greenpeace International’s programme director, has been flying 250 miles between Luxembourg and Amsterdam at the charity’s expense since 2012.

Each trip costs Greenpeace £200 and would generate 142kg of carbon dioxide emissions, according to airline KLM.

This doesn’t seem to me to be like a problem.  An executive has to travel to maintain the team integrity.  I did that almost every week for two years not that long ago.  The funnier part is that Greenpeace has been kvetching about travel by airplane for quite a while, and therefore the guy has to twist himself into a pretzel to explain that it’s not really HIS problem, but EVERYONE ELSE’S problem.

But Mr Husting defended the arrangement and said he would rather not take the journey but it was necessary because the alternative is a twelve hour round trip by train.

He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I spend half my life on Skype and video conference calls.

‘But as a senior manager, the people who work in my team sometimes need to meet me in the flesh, that’s why I’ve been going to Amsterdam twice a month while my team was being restructured.’

He said that from September he would switch to making the trip once a month by train due to ‘the work of restructuring my team coming to an end, and with my kids a little older’.

Mr Husting’s travel arrangements were revealed just days after Greenpeace was forced to apologise for losing £3million of public donations in an unauthorised currency dealing.

Do you like that last paragraph I threw in for fun?  So the organization can’t handle its money, and its executives are double-dealing weasels, but everything is just fine with the organization.  Even his boss tried to explain it away.  He’s a valuable employee with special circumstances, so the compromise has to be made.  That’s great.  In any business, I think those types of decisions are made every day.  It’s just funny watching this organization whine about every other company making decisions like this when they make the same ones themselves.

So, go ahead, guys.  Feel free to hop on that plane to do your business.  Just lay off me doing the same, thanks.

Getting Lucky With Customers?

June 20, 2014

About time, but not for the reasons most people think:

Pressure from US lawmakers has convinced Microsoft and Google to add a kill switch to their smartphone operating systems in a move to deter the larcenous.

The pressure came from “Secure our Smartphones” (SOS), an organization set up by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who were concerned about rampant smartphone theft in their cities.

The group had already convinced Apple to add the technology to iOS, but now such systems will be installed on 97 per cent of the smartphones in the US following the announcement.

There’s a bunch of stuff in here about how thefts have gone down over time, but I’m a bit skeptical.  Honestly, do you think phone thieves really know which models have kill switches?  No, at the street level, they probably just continue to steal phones.  There might be less money on the back end, so they’re focusing elsewhere, but I can’t imagine some petty criminal checking model numbers from ten feet away before trying to grab a phone.  I’ll be nice and humor the statistics, I suppose.

But really, this is likely to make a major customer of cell phones very happy… Corporations that do a lot of business on cell phones have been clamoring for a way to blow data off a phone.  After a few years of feet-dragging, this is likely to make big changes in the way companies handle the use of phones and the way data can be used remotely.

And all of this because government intervened?  Okay, I might have to be nice to government for a change.  Nah.

Whither Diversity?

June 18, 2014

I’ve long been a proponent of women in the tech workforce.  When I do my work in tech education, I like to see more women/girls getting into technology… mostly because more girls being interested in technology means that more boys will be interested in technology.

But filling the front-end of the pipeline doesn’t necessarily mean results immediately, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee any results.  Check out Yahoo, for instance:

The Purple Palace published the report online on Tuesday, breaking down its employees along both gender and ethnicity lines in its tech, non-tech and leadership divisions.

Much like Google, Yahoo! has fielded a workforce which is, by and large, male and either white or Asian. The company reported that its global operation was 85 per cent male in tech positions and 15 per cent female. Women accounted for a larger share of non-tech positions, with 52 per cent of roles.

If you haven’t seen the Google numbers:

The numbers at Yahoo! bear a striking resemblance to those at Google, which claims that men account for 70 per cent of its total workforce and 79 per cent of leadership roles. Much like Yahoo!, Google counts most of its female employees in administrative “non-tech” job categories.

The utopia of tech HR departments is a workforce that mirrors the world.  Well, go check the schools.  That’s not going to happen anytime soon.  The fallback is that the company matches the tech profiles of IT graduates, which is also a far cry from reality.  Getting a degree doesn’t appear to mean that you actually work in the field, and the field itself certainly doesn’t match what’s already in the workforce.

So, I’d expect that plenty of people will continue to look for solutions. The answer is to take the long view, and to keep tracking.  While results aren’t soon, they’re growing from where they were years ago.  But to that point, we in tech have a responsibility to drive the point harder to the places where decisions are being made.  If we catch kids in middle school, they’re more likely to at least start down the path.  Then it’s up to us to keep them on it.


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