Monday, September 18, 2017

Where Was their Encryption? Equifax Was Lax

Equifax Had Patch, Didn't Install It, according to USA Today/
Chicago Sun-Times, 09/15/2017. The fix was available
MONTHS before hackers stole info from the credit-reporting
agency. An industry group discovered the vulnerability, shared
a fix for it, but Equifax never installed it. For four months or more
Equifax neglected to inform authorities and the public about the
biggest hack in U.S. history--to their account holders. Why did
they wait and what sort of safeguards had they employed? The
usual technique is encryption, which is often very effective
but not always impregnable.

The policies of the three main credit reporting agencies and
the banks bear heightened scrutiny, holding our most sensitive
and important information. Some banks have contacted
customers in the wake of the Equifax fracas, others are
staying silent. Lawsuits are in the offing, senators also
threatening official congressional consequences.

Equifax and the other two agencies boast very unfriendly
customer practices and restrictions. Why shouldn't we
check our credit every day if we want to? Try that and
see what  happens to your rating. No penalty should
attach to a customer account simply because the account
holder, whose information IT IS, wishes to check it.

Perhaps some good will eventually result from this dangerous
chaos--policy corrections customers can benefit from, and
applaud.

Until then, we can all see that Equifax was lax.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bombs and Missiles and Threats, Oh My! End the Korean War NOW

Mr. Un set off a hydrogen bomb recently, to the horror and
consternation of the world outside the DPRK. Not particularly
concerned with life or limb or even his legacy, he inches us all
ever closer to WWIII. Simultaneously, Mr. Trump equals Un's
saber rattling in intensity, threats and military exercises off
the Korean peninsula escalating the madness.

Let's delve into these egotistical crazies to see how they
are even their own worst enemies, to say nothing of ours:
if we are brought to war, their legacies will be unalterably
forever trashed. It is difficult to see how either of them
could be pleased by such  an outcome, but I have a
certain solution destined to favorably enshrine them in
the annals of history: Negotiate an end to the Korean War
which dates back to 1953.

North and South Korea are armed to the teeth just
outside the DMZ. There has never been a peace
treaty between these countries or the United States,
merely an armistice or truce. None of these nations
has seriously attempted to end this dangerous state
of affairs, irresponsible and incompetent leaders
apparently content to allow tensions and ill will
to continue for lo these many decades.

This just won't do; do your jobs, leaders
and diplomats, end this ridiculous war NOW
...and bring some sorely needed peace to the
planet.

September 11, 2001 and the Three Who Knew: Nobody Listened

FBI incompetence and personal politics heavily contributed to
the World Trade Center 911 tragedy. Al Qaeda had attacked
the Center previously in 1993, but little follow up allowed the
much  more deadly and ambitious plan to succeed eight years
later.

FBI professionals in three offices, New York City, Minneapolis
and Phoenix reported troubling information that never reached
the highest levels. If the three reports had been put together
we might have saved the over three thousand lives we lost
that early Fall day back in 2001.

Who were the three who knew? In the NYC FBI office,
John O'Neill had warned Al Qaeda might try to finish the
job at the Trade Center it began in 1993. O'Neill had
political enemies at the Bureau who eventually engineered
his firing; he became head of security at the World Trade
Center, dying there on 911. He told friends something
big was coming soon, based on his six years of tracking
terrorists like bin Laden. But at FBI HQ, he was ignored
due to personality conflicts and a few mistakes (leaving
an FBI cell and briefcase unsupervised).

In Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley had good intel regarding
extremist Moussaoui, also ignored. She was an FBI
attorney who had worked in the field for the FBI.
Just three weeks before 911 her office discovered
Moussaoui paid $8,000 for flight school instruction,
specifically, commercial airline plane training. They
arrested him but superiors refused requests to
investigate his laptop. An agent in the Phoenix FBI
office urged his supervisors to investigate Middle
Eastern men who had enrolled at American flight
schools and might be connected to bin Laden...
to no effect.

Think what it may have meant to coordinate
the intel from these THREE offices: flight school
admission policy changed to deny students who
asked for instruction merely to fly large planes
without takeoff and landing training, background
screening stepped up.

Again, it may have meant three thousand lives saved
if the right people had heeded and acted. Since
then, Ms. Rowley has appeared before the Senate,
her testimony resulting in policies and practices
being tightened at the FBI.

Will workers in the field be heard in future? I
wonder: jealousy and incompetence can't be
rooted out by a few policy alterations.

This September 11th marks 16 years of relative
national security since 911...maybe someone IS
finally listening.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Telling Book: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

For a change of pace if not subject, herewith, a book review:

The Struggle for Mastery in Europe by A J P Taylor takes
Europe from 1848 to 1918. The plethora of multiple treaties,
small and larger wars, meddling in each other's affairs ad
infinitum, not forgetting the constant lying and pride puffing up
is alarming, outrageous and depressing. What strikes the
reader most is how none of the issues which caused such
behavior has been resolved, just as the Civil War here
(-1865!) has not completely brought the races together.

Author Taylor, a British intellectual, provides generous
footnotes, bibliography and an explanatory index. He
also enjoys a sly sense of humor when recounting the
motives and actions of the various monarchs and
ministers of the European nations. It is shocking to
learn how these leaders thought they could simply
take over smaller countries at their whim, haggling
over who got what at whim--who cared about the
hapless millions in their wake? They ventured far
from Europe with adventures in Asia and Africa,
sometimes with little practical to gain except some
illusory prestige.

This is an important book, one I recommend,
with lessons to learn for today's tensions and
actions.

...still struggling for mastery, yet rarely achieving
it, our world leaders really ought to read Taylor's
work. They might be surprised to find themselves
therein.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ever After: Beware of World Wars

The  after effects of both world wars are still with us, many
decades later. WWII directly led to the Cold War and the
Korean War, 70 years ago. The combatants in 1953
signed an armistice, NOT a peace treaty; hostilities have
broken out along the DMZ and the 38th parallel on
occasion, with tensions now at their most inflamed.

The Most Worrying Facts:

(1) The United States has an official first nuclear strike
policy, enacted in 1980 by President Carter as PD 59,
followed by PD 60 and PD 61.

(2) We are technically still at war with North Korea,
have been since 1953.

(3)  Mr. Un has increased his nuclear capabilities.
North Korea's Mr. Un  is unstable and young, a
bad combination in a nuclear-enabled adversary.

...an unholy brew, requiring great deft statecraft which
neither Trump nor Un possesses.

Isn't it high time to sign the definitive peace treaty
ending this last hot ember of the Cold War and
World War Two?


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do North Korea and the United States Want War?

World War III, here we come: one irresponsible statement after
another by Un and Trump, both of whom I regard as sanity
challenged. They seem to find bellicose rants and threats as
a form of fun for them, taking the rest of us along for a ride,
unwilling as we all may be. We must stop these two lunatics
to ensure our own safety and that of the generations to come.

It is time to impeach the Donald and find ways to "deactivate"
Mr. Un, likely through a mechanism in the U.N. Security
Council. It is also the moment for Russia and China to step
up, as they are in danger from Un's nukes as well, even
though they aren't actually being targeted. Missiles gone
awry could well land in China or Russia--as we have seen,
many of North Korea's missiles end up in unexpected places.

Wake up, world! The very future of the planet and all who
live here are in great peril; every adult in each country must
make themselves heard. If we want peace and not war,
ACT NOW..


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Voter Information Trump Desires Does Not Exist

Hey, voters, remember what your ballot looked like?
Has your name ever appeared on any ballot you
have cast? I'm betting the answer is NO. Yet
PBS and other media outlets haven't pointed out
this basic fact--there is no way to know who voted
for Hillary and who voted for Trump, period. The
different states have said they won't surrender their
information, chiefly names and addresses in the judges'
binders--but even if they give up every shred of voter
data they possess, it won't help the Donald.

We have never collected such information. Each ballot
is submitted anonymously, sans name, gender, address.
All that can be known is who was voted for, never by
whom. So why is this voter commission in existence?

What has happened to the sense of the country?
Is everyone high on stupid pills? Let's get down to
brass tacks, which should include the president, who
obviously has forgotten that which he hungers for
does not now exist, and never has.