Sunday, February 9, 2014

Data Collection of Private Companies

While everyone is eying the government these days for privacy concerns, perhaps even worse are the unregulated and in some cases, completely unethical data collection of private companies. Mike Seay was used to receiving junk mail from OfficeMax®. That all changed the day he received an envelope addressed to:

"Mike Seay,
Daughter Killed in Car Crash.
Or Current Business"

While I'm sure OfficeMax® did not intend to display this information publicly, the question is, why did they even have it in their records and who are they associating with that this type of invasive behavior could even occur?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Google Contact Lens for Diabetics

Working to produce an easier and less painful way of monitoring blood sugar levels, Google's prototype contact lenses offer a ray of hope for those living with diabetes. Traditional methods of checking blood sugar involves painful pricks on fingers that must be performed regularly. Many diabetics are reluctant to test their blood sugar because of the pain but technology has a solution. The new Google contact lens monitors sugar levels through glucose in tears. The device actually checks the sugar level every second and may someday be a viable alternative to finger pocking and devices that operate on this principle.

Google is not actually alone trying to monitor blood sugar through implanted devices. In Israel, an installed chip in the body offers similar results without all the painful pocking and prodding. At this early stage, neither product has been cleared by the FDA and the road to approval can take significant time. Until a cure can be found, both devices offer a glimmer of hope that diabetes may someday be easier to live with.

Robert Haskell is a guest contributor that writes for

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Target Data Breach Occurred

New details have unleashed how the Target data breach occurred. Through a virus, software was installed on their POS system allowing card information (including pins) to be read. Once swiped, the encoded information on the magnetic stripe was intercepted and sent back through an open port. Normally all ports are closed to the outside. Port 80 is sometimes left open allowing for maintenance and other services to occur. Sophisticated software capable of tricking the network firewall and POS system bypassed Target's security. Upon inspection, the malware appeared to have roots from Petersburg, Russia but was sold on the black market for $2,000. A couple from Mexico who purchased the malicious code has been arrested.

Being a new threat, virus detectors failed to recognize the malicious code. With many DDOS attacks also originating from Russia, the signs are ominous. Large government agencies often counteract this by going on the offensive. As bad as things have been for the rollout of, it would have been far worse if they didn't at least conduct simulated attacks. Unfortunately, few companies have the resources of the federal government at their disposal. Even an army of programmers and IT professionals working 24/7 cannot guarantee a network will never be breached. All things considered, www truly is the wild, wild, west.

Robert Haskell is a guest contributor and writer for

Monday, January 13, 2014

Seniors Beware of Phone Scams!

Think you're too smart to be taken by a phone scam? Think again! Recently I heard of someone who was taken in by a common scam many people have heard about (including this person!) but an unexpected twist made it possible for the victim to still be deceived. The scam goes something like this:

A grandparent receives a call from his or her grandchild stating he/she has been incarcerated. Unable to turn against family, the grandparent agrees to help because the kid is too scared to speak to his or her parents. A lawyer representing the young adult informs the senior that the grandchild will remain incarcerated overnight unless money is wired. Unbeknownst to Grandma or Grandpa, an impersonator has leaned to imitate the child and knows just enough about the family to often fool a senior.

This kind of sick scam happens all the time. Even worse, once money is wired, it is rare that it will be recovered. Authorities are losing the battle against technology as even caller ID can no longer be trusted. Think your bank is calling you? Be careful as the actual ID that appears there and even in your text messages can be infiltrated!

Companies like Western Union® in my opinion could do more to stop this type of fraud. A reputable company goes above and beyond legal requirements to protect its customers. If it were my company, nobody would be allowed to send money without completing a long check list of precautionary checks. Extra surveillance cameras would be placed wherever money can be received. Larger sums of money would require a thumbprint or retina scan. In fact, nobody would even be permitted to receive money without being verified by several forms of ID. If the DMV can do it, why can't Western Union®? With fraud victims often reporting Western Union® seemed more concerned about scrutinizing the sender than the receiver, you have to wonder, do they really care or are they just looking out for themselves?

Robert Haskell writes for and is a guest writer for Consumer Thoughts.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Conserving Energy During a Cold Front

In this modern age of convenience, it's all too easy to forget the people that risk their lives keeping us safe and warm in our homes and businesses. The only thing worse than being without power during a cold front is being the person who has to restore it in the worst conditions!

Sure it's no picnic being without modern conveniences but imagine having to work outside in single digit temperatures with a minus 0 degrees wind chill. Weighing the potential risk, utility companies are asking people to conserve power now to reduce stress on the grid. It may not be fun doing without but inevitably many will find themselves in the cold and that hot shower or streaming download could probably wait.

Friday, January 3, 2014

How To Avoid Frostbite

Frostbite is a condition in which crystalline structures form either superficially or within the soft underlying tissues. It usually begins in the extremities such as the nose, fingers, toes, cheeks and ears. A mild case may be reversible but at its worst, frostbite can lead to severe tissue damage and amputation. Knowing how to protect yourself in extreme cold or after being exposed to cold is key to avoiding frostbite.

Early warning signs of frostbite include a painful tingling feeling; flushing and the affected areas may be white or grayish yellow. Upon a suspected case, experts suggest immersing the skin in warm (never hot) water. If the affected areas have thawed and later re-frozen, milder room temperature water is preferable and excessive heat from a stove or hot water bottle should be avoided. If water is not attainable, wrap the area(s) in warm clothes or blankets. 

Victims of frostbite are usually unaware of the condition until an observer points out an unusual coloration or swelling of the skin. If suspected, never massage the area as this may cause further damage to effected tissue. After thawing, the tissue may become flushed. Discontinue warming upon thawing. In severe cases where medical assistance is required and the feet are affected, do not attempt to thaw beforehand if walking is required. For more information on frostbite and other related injuries from the cold visit: 

Note the author of this work is not a medical expert and is merely presenting information with no implied guarantee. Always seek professional assistance from a physician if you or others believe you are in medical need.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Target® Data Breach and the Broader Implications

Quick to put the squeeze on retailers, credit card companies have no problem telling webmasters they need to beef up their security with PCI compliance. However, when it comes to their own security, these same companies have relied on outdated magnetic stripes on credit cards for years. In the UK, Canada and other countries, more secure chip-based cards are prevalent. The recent Target® security breach may have been due to the ease of reading data from these cards.

Although encrypted, magnetic stripes have been compromised before and it's troubling that the US still relies on a less secure technology. Granted this would mean replacing lots of hardware but if other countries can do it, why should the US settle for inferior technology?

Of course this does not excuse companies from using careless practices. In a recent credit card heist, a major insurer lost tons of personal information on laptops. Portability has always been risky and personal data should never be stored on any computer that is not bolted down in a locking cabinet. Failing to realize the seriousness of this, insurers have lost social security numbers on portable hard drives as well. Inside surveillance can help to watch personnel, night staff and cleaning crews but what good is this if the person doing the monitoring can't be trusted?

The best security systems employ undercover contractors to make sure monitors and monitoring systems have no security leaks. Recently, I lost a phone charger in my car after a valet attendant parked it at the emergency room. Although the hospital had a dedicated watchman equipped with security cameras, he failed to catch the theft. Was he negligent from being bored? Is there a blind spot in the surveillance cameras? Did he collaborate with the culprit? These are questions that an undercover security company can help answer but even a few items left deliberately unprotected can help you expose who you can trust and who is not doing their job.