FBI Probes More Emails from Clinton’s Private Server

This is not a political blog. We cover technology. In an example of just how technology is tangled in our lives is the current presidential election. This year’s presidential election has been tied up and may hinge on something that we should all be aware of.

Email management.

I have spoken about it, I have written about it, and I have taught classes on it. Over the past 20 years we have all become so comfortable with it that we often use it unwisely. Countless people have lost their job over it. This included General David Petraeus who in the November of 2012 was forced to resign as Director of the CIA. Although there were other behaviors that resulted in this resignation, General Petraeus’ email management played a role as well.

Of course we all use email, both at home and at work for many topics. Most will not get you in trouble. However it is easier then you may think to get in legal trouble.

Who Our Next President Is May Rest on Email Management

Now less then 2 weeks from the election for the presidency of the United States one of the candidates is answering questions about her email management and the conversations found.

The FBI has uncovered new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, prompting federal authorities to investigate them.

The FBI discovered the emails as part of an “unrelated case,” FBI Director James Comey said in a letter to a congressional committee that was later tweeted on Friday.

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These emails “appear to be pertinent” to the FBI’s original investigation into Clinton’s private server use, which the agency wrapped up back in July, Comey said. Clinton, now the Democratic nominee for U.S. president, used the private server while she served as Secretary of State.

Comey said he agreed to allow the FBI to determine if the newly uncovered emails contain any classified information, “as well as to assess their importance” to its original investigation.

The FBI can’t say whether the emails are significant or how long the agency will take to probe them, he added.

On Friday, the FBI confirmed that a letter was sent out to members of Congress but declined to offer further comment.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said on Twitter the FBI had essentially reopened its investigation into Clinton’s private email server use.

“She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information,” he said in a statement.

He’s asking the U.S. director of national intelligence to suspend all classified briefings with Clinton until the matter is resolved.

Clinton and her presidential campaign have yet to respond to the FBI’s new investigation.

In July, the FBI concluded that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her use of a private email server, but the agency didn’t recommend filing any charges against her.

The FBI said Clinton’s server faced ongoing cyber threats from possible hackers, including phishing email attacks and failed login attempts. However, the agency found no evidence confirming that the server was ever compromised.

The letter from FBI’s director didn’t mention how the newly uncovered emails were obtained or where they came from.

However, recently stolen emails from a Clinton aide have been published through WikiLeaks and include allegedly thousands of private messages between U.S. officials and her staff.

The Fate of a Nation

What happens in the next 2 weeks no one knows. The course of the the most powerful nation this world has ever seen may rest on…. email.

Recent DDos Attack Exploits Internet of Things (IoT)

Last week I wrote about the cyber-attack that took out huge portions of the Internet has now led to a major product recall. Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, a Chinese electronics company, has acknowledged that weak default passwords on many of its devices were partly to blame for the October 21 attack.

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The components maker, which builds parts for everything from security cameras to digital recorders, said it would be recalling millions of Web-enabled cameras that were sold in the U.S. The company described the attack as a major blow to the Internet of Things movement, saying it has shaken customer confidence in the level of security of all Internet-capable devices.

Despite the surprise and devastation achieved during Friday’s attack, it was not inevitable. In fact, Hangzhou Xiongmai reported that it first became aware that some of its cameras had a security flaw last year. The company issued a firmware update to fix the issue last September and urged customers to change the password from the default setting.

Only devices that were sold before April 2015 failed to update their firmware. Those devices were still using the default password and were connected to the Internet when they were exploited.

Hangzhou Xiongmai has now agreed to recall up to 4 million products. While the company primarily makes components for industrial and commercial devices, such as surveillance equipment for banks, stores, and residential areas, most of the devices it sells in the U.S. are for personal and consumer use. That might explain why so many devices were running old firmware using the default password.

Dealing with the Internet of Things

Friday’s attack managed to take out huge parts of the Internet throughout the United States including popular sites such as Twitter and Netflix, by targeting Dyn Inc., a New Hampshire-based company responsible for providing much of the domain name service infrastructure in the US. The group responsible for the attack was able to overwhelm Dyn’s servers with a distributed denial of service attack.

To achieve their goal, the hackers used a malware tool known as Mirai to take control of IoT devices, such as security cameras, using Hangzhou Xiongmai’s hardware components to form a botnet. Once under the hackers’ control, the botnet was able to generate fake network traffic from tens of millions of IP addresses, overwhelming Dyn’s ability to respond.

This was one of the largest and most sophisticated attacks against a major Internet infrastructure provider in history. And the use of IoT devices, rather than laptops or desktops, may represent a chilling new development in the annals of cybercrime.

Such devices are expected to proliferate in the coming years, and many continue to lack sufficient security safeguards. Friday’s attack may prove to be only a glimpse of what’s to come.

Microsoft Surface Woes in New England

Microsoft has a problem in New England.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has spent his career destroying the hopes and dreams of the competition. If that was not enough he is now angry with Microsoft and their Surface tablets.

Microsoft entered into a $400 million deal with the NFL back in mid-2013, beating out Apple and other tablet makers. The goal was simple: To bring the NFL into the 21st century and provide coaches and players with the most up-to-date information possible, in real time, on the field field during games.

The deal has been a mixed bag. The NFL started using Surface Pro 2 tablets during the month in which Microsoft launched a much improved Surface Pro 3, and on-air commentators, players and coaches continued to refer to the devices as iPads for years, giving Apple free publicity and rightly upsetting the big wigs at Microsoft.

Things have only gotten worse.

That is because this week, Coach Belichick went on an extended rant about his bad experiences with Surface, and declared that he would no longer use the devices.

The most heated issue prior to this latest problem occurred back in January, when the Patriots lost the AFC Championship by two points to my Denver Broncos who of course went on to win Super Bowl 50. The morning after the loss, Belichick complained about the many ways and times in which the Surface tablets the Patriots were using kept failing, most notably during a Broncos touchdown drive.

You can read my article that I posted after that great AFC championship where I wrote about the Surface problems on the Patriot’s sideline that day.

he malfunctions were so bad that the NFL required the Patriots to shut down all of their Surfaces during that drive, while the suddenly surging Broncos were not required to do so. So they were blind, so to speak, while technicians tried to solve the problem.

Belichick didn’t actually blame the Surface tablets for the loss but he repeatedly noted that these kinds of issues were “common”.

“I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said this week, and about 10 days after he had an infamous on-field hissy fit in which he tried to destroy one of the failing devices. “They’re just too undependable.”

“I just can’t take it anymore,” he noted, adding that he would “stick with [paper] pictures,” which “several other [NFL] coaches do as well,” presumably for the same reason.

Is the Surface a Victim of Circumstances? 

Bill Belichick is 64 years old, and while many will believe that age and perhaps technology phobia plays into his worldview, don’t be fooled. Say what you will about the man, but he is among the winnigest of NFL coaches in history and his team has been the most feared adversary in the league for the past decade and a half.

To be fair, the Surface failures often involve communications equipment, which Belichick has explained is complex, with numerous on-field systems often interfering with each other. There are days when the game starts and the equipment is still not working, he says, despite hours of testing.

Not Ready for “NFL” Prime Time?

The thing that resonates with me is that the complexity and unreliability of using a Surface outweighs its benefits when considering the fast paced – high stakes of NFL games. High end technology, like Microsoft’s Surface tablets are complex and can become unreliable which will drive coaching staffs crazy as the game moves on – even if their tablets are locked up or rebooting.

“It’s basically a problem every week,” Belichick said. “For me, it’s a personal decision. I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process. But it just doesn’t work for me, and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”

Unfortunately Microsoft’s Surface may be “trusted by the pros,” as Microsoft’s Surface NFL web site claims. It’s just not trusted by the best head coach in the NFL.

Galaxy Note 7 Banned from Flights

This is a first. A smartphone has been banned from flights. Samsung’s much maligned Galaxy Note 7 has been finally put out of it’s misery with Samsung recalling these devices.

The US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have now banned the device on all flights �?to, from, or within” the United States – even if they’re turned off, and regardless of whether they’re on carry-on or checked luggage.

n fact, you can’t have a Note 7 at all if you’re so much stepping onto a flight, and if you try to sneak one in on checked luggage, you can face fines. Airlines are to deny boarding unless you rid yourself of your $900 device.

If you somehow do sneak a phone onto a plane, you will be instructed to keep the device off and on your person at all times, not in luggage.

The ban goes into effect today, October 15, at 12 PM ET. That’s not exactly much time to get the word out to every flier. Given 1 million people are apparently still using their Note 7’s, the TSA is going to have a field day with confiscated devices.

You can read statement in full at the source link below. And if you haven’t done so already, please just exchange your phone for something less incendiary already.

Technology Stops Many Southwest Airlines Flights

Technology surrounds us. Without it things just do not happen. Even those among us who try to not rely on technology often find themselves impacted by how it works – or how it does not. You can see how technology impacts our everyday lives by learning about Southwest Airline’s woes yesterday that left thousands stranded.

Southwest Airlines in Dallas said yesterday that performance issues with its technology systems had led to flight delays.

The airline said it began experiencing intermittent performance issues in the afternoon with multiple technology systems as a result of an outage. “We are now managing flight delays across our system, with a temporary ground stop in place for those flights that have not left the gate,” it said in a statement.

The airline’s website also had a notice saying, “We’re working hard to get you where you want to be….Thank you for your patience,” suggesting that online reservations, check-ins and other customer services would not be immediately possible. Users were asked not to refresh their browsers as they would be automatically transferred to the site as soon as possible.

“Once our systems resume full functionality, we’re offering flexible accommodations for rebooking your travel. Please stay tuned for more,” the airline said in a Twitter message.

With luck normal operations will hopefully to be restored on today. The airline said in a second statement late last night that it will reduce the number of flights departing after 9:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Wednesday in an effort to fully restore its system for the next day’s operation. The airline said the computer issues had resulted in 600 to 700 canceled and delayed flights across its network.

About 836 Southwest flights were delayed in October in what was also described as a  problem related to the airline’s technology systems. Employees had to work around issues with primary systems and used back-up procedures to get customers and their checked luggage to their intended destinations, the airline said.

Floppy Discs Live at the DoD

Here is a surprising story and one that demonstrates how government can lag behind in respect to technology – although this is ridiculous. Prepare yourself.

America’s nuclear arsenal is still being controlled by an outdated computer system that takes 8-inch floppy disks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The title of the report on the government’s information technology infrastructure — “Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems” — is what I would classify as an understatement.

“Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old,” the report says.

One of those very old systems is the Pentagon’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which coordinates US nuclear forces like nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Failry important stuff would you not agree?  As the report clearly states, it is running on an IBM Series/1, a minicomputer that started out with 16K of memory. What?!

It also has a disk drive that uses 8-inch floppy disks. For anyone younger then 30 here is what these floppy disks look like:

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Many of us already were aware that these antique systems were in use since at least 2014, when CBS aired a report on the day-to-day life of nuclear missile launch officers. At the time, the Air Force told CBS using such aging equipment was actually a good thing, “since no modern day hacker would ever be able to break in to old equipment that’s not connected to the Internet.”  I did not agree when I heard this in 2014 and I still do not.

Thankfully two years later it looks like this is finally changing.

It has recently been reported that that the Department of Defense is planing to update “data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017.

Better late then never I guess.

Verizon Workers On Strike

This past Wednesday nearly 40,000 East Coast communications and electrical workers from Massachusetts to Virginia went on strike. Because of this Verizon has put a temporary hold on new fiber optic network installations and activated non-union employees and business partners to help with customer service.

Negotiations have been going on for 10 months and have gone nowhere between members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Verizon of course already had contingency plans in place and were “ready” when workers called a strike this week. The striking unions say they have been unable to reach agreements with Verizon over issues including the offshoring of jobs, use of lower-wage contractors over union employees and extended job transfers that require workers to spends months away from their families.

A Changing Infrastructure 

This strike and the failed negotiations (to this point) really demonstrates the changing  telecommunications infrastructure. The change from a wireline legacy to fiber (fios) is bringing incredible changes to the way we communicate with each other and of of course the Verizon workforce is struggling to adapt.

As mobile and wireless services have grown, telecoms have struggled with their legacy wireline businesses. In 2014, for instance, Verizon reduced its wireline business workforce by 2,300 with the aim of improving efficiency.

Despite changes in the industry, however, Verizon has continued to see wireline revenues grow. Fueled in part by its Fios fiber-to-the-home network service, Verizon’s wireline business revenues totaled $16.1 billion in 2015, compared to $15.6 billion in 2014.

The Strike’s Impact – Today

Rather than putting in equipment for new customers now that union installers and other workers are on strike, Verizon has stated that their current focus is on “serving our existing customer base.” This more then likely means new fios installs will be on hold – or delayed at the very least.

A Matter of Politics

To make this situation even worse the dispute between Verizon and the unions has become a political issue. Last month, 20 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to Verizon chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam urging the company to “work toward progress in the current round of collective bargaining with its unions.” And this past week, both contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination — Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton stopped at several strike locations to voice their support for the workers.

LastPass & LogMeIn Join Forces

LogMein has purchased LastPass. LastPass, in my opinion has been the best password manager available. Many are concerned that this merger could be bad news for LastPass. Will it be?

The sale is expected to close in the coming weeks, after which LastPass’ services will continue to be supported in the near term. Over the long term, LastPass will keep operating under its own brand name while also incorporating the product line of Meldium, another identity management firm acquired by LogMeIn last year, the firm said.

In addition, the entire LastPass team will continue working on the company’s products as a new LogMeIn unit. Founded in 2008 and based in Fairfax, Virginia, LastPass reportedly has around 7 million users.

LastPass Addresses Concerns of It’s Users

“LastPass has a great business, a beloved and award-winning product, millions of loyal users, and thousands of great business customers — they are synonymous with the category,” said LogMeIn chairman and CEO Michael Simon in a statement. “We believe this transaction instantly gives us a market leading position in password management, while also providing a highly favorable foundation for delivering the next generation of identity and access management solutions to individuals, teams and companies.”

Addressing customers of the LastPass freemium service on his own company’s blog, LastPass CEO Joe Siegrist noted, “I want to personally assure you that this is good news for our users.” Siegrist said despite the acquisition LastPass has “no plans to change our existing business model.” He added that the deal “provides us with access to resources that will enable us to innovate faster.”

LastPass has long billed its service as “the last password you’ll have to remember”. The service for the most part works as promised. It works via a browser add-on that encrypts and saves users’ passwords for various Web sites. That approach reduces the security risks that people incur by using the same passwords for multiple sites.

Passwords Continue to Dominate

Today standard passwords remain more usable and even more secure than other methods.

Passwords are either correct or wrong, there is no threshold acceptance or rejection values. If the password is strong and complex they will continue to provide excellent security.

LogMeIn is a strong tech company that hopefully will continue to support and enhance LastPass.

Happy Birthday Windows 95

Twenty years ago, Microsoft changed our world. On August 24, 1995, Windows 95 was released to the public, beginning a revolution that has helped shape the technology world for the next two decades.

Of course it was not the first version of Windows. Home computing had been around for more than a decade with 95 was launched, but none before had the same impact. As well as being a technological breakthrough, introducing features that still define Microsoft’s operating system today, Windows 95 was an unprecedented cultural phenomenon.

Bill Gates and Jay Leno at the Microsoft Windows 95 opening at Microsoft Place on Aug. 24, 1995.

For possibly the first time, a software launch became a massive global event. Enthusiasts queued around the block on Windows 95’s release day to pick up a copy, a sight now more commonly associated with the release of a new iPhone.

If Windows 95 was only about glitz we wouldn’t be remembering it so fondly today. It was also a pivotal moment, not only in the history of Microsoft, but in personal computing as well.

Introducing features such as the Start Menu, which became so popular that Microsoft was forced to reinstate it in the latest version of Windows after removing it in 2012. The taskbar also set the tone for how a computer in the internet age should work.

Microsoft’s software was a leap forward in graphic design, and worked with almost all the hardware on the market, as well as being released with perfect timing. Not only were home computers becoming rapidly more affordable, consumers were beginning to realize that there was more to PCs than spreadsheets.

Windows 95 was followed a week later by Internet Explorer, which became many people’s first web browser. Consumers also began to accept that computers could be used to find a wealth of information and communicate with long-lost friends, and for entertainment.

PC sales subsequently boomed.

Microsoft and their chief executive Bill Gates, was the face of this revolution. In 1998, it became the world’s biggest company.

Last month, just in time for Windows 95’s 20th birthday, Microsoft launched Windows 10, the first overhaul of the software in three years.

Microsoft’s New Mobility First Vision

If you do not believe that the “cloud” is for real or that it is a tech fad you may want to start re-thinking that. For me personally, I really never had a problem accepting this. After all, as I have written many times right here on this fine technology blog, the “cloud” or more accurately “mobility in computing” is the next evolution in computer technology. We are in the early days of it, that is for sure but that is the direction we are all heading, some sooner then later.

Mobility is the road that will be well traveled very shortly for most everyone.

Microsoft Vision Gets Clearer

Microsoft just made this vision even clearer. In a recent memo from Microsoft’s CEO, Natya Nadella he touched on Microsoft’s new vision for the future. Woven throughout Nadella’s memo was an emphasis on Microsoft’s place in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

“The transformation we are driving across our businesses is designed to enable Microsoft and our customers to thrive in this world,” Nadella said. “It’s important to note that our worldview for mobile-first is not just about the mobility of devices; it’s centered on the mobility of experiences that, in turn, are orchestrated by the cloud.”

The company should aim to appeal to “dual-use” customers by helping them improve their productivity both at work and “in the rest of their life activities with other people,” Nadella said.

Another goal, will be for Microsoft to “build the best instatiation” of its vision through its Windows platform and devices, he added. With its Windows 10 operating system set for release on June 29, Microsoft will seek to “delight our customers, increase distribution of our services, drive gross margin, enable fundamentally new product categories, and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly,” Nadella said.

You can see, I am not the only one seeing where this computing transformation is heading.

Mobility with less emphasis on physical on-premises hardware is where we are all heading.

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