cyber security


All you did was click on a link to a website, now there's a flashing screen telling you all your information is locked up, and you have to buy software to fix it. 

That's called scareware or ransomware; it's annoying and scary when we encounter it as individuals.  But it's being done on a larger scale now, with computer hackers holding up local governments and other entities, demanding large amounts of money in return for the continued use of their computer systems.


Maybe you're really careful with the information you put online.  You don't share your name with websites, and certainly not your social security number.  You're anonymous, right? 

Maybe not, recent research shows.  Scientific American recently published an article about the research; just your gender, birthdate, and zip code can be enough to strip away your anonymity most of the time. 

Journalist Sophie Bushwick wrote the SA article. 


Every click on the web can communicate your choices to computers, which then use algorithms to help you with next choices.  Which may be great if you're shopping for shoes or music, but a bit more concerning when the decisions reach the point of life and death. 

Doctors, pilots, and judges are among the people who rely more on computers for decisions now.  Kartik Hosanagar explains the situation fully in his book A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control


We like our time on the Web, but there's a near-constant concern about what we give, in addition to what we get.  At this point, we give away our data, unless we're extremely cautious. 

In February, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a "data dividend," in which people would get paid for surrendering their data online.  Details have yet to be worked out. 

But the Center for Digital Democracy has some ideas about privacy and the appropriate uses of our personal information. 


You probably get used to the way the Internet works... you look up one topic, one time, and next thing you know, all the ads on your browser pages relate to that topics.  So what other information about you is being collected? 

The issue of "surveillance capitalism" is being taken up by a project called "The New Organs," which investigates and publicizes what corporations do with our information. 

Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain are the names behind the project. 


Nobody is firing guns, but the Russians certainly seem to be engaged in a cyber war with the United States. 

The efforts to create argument and discord extend into the vaccination debate here.  Researchers reported recently that Twitter bots and trolls got involved in passing along information, solid and not, to amp up the battle between pro- and anti-vaccination forces.  And it's been going on for years. 


"Identify theft will explode."  That chilling phrase is just one of several predictions made for this year by Internet security expert Tom Kelly. 

He is the CEO of ID Experts, based in Portland, and he is not encouraged by what he sees in the handling of data by social media sites. 

His predictions are presented in a recent post at Morning Consult


When a country uses a bomb, the world knows.  When a country uses cyber warfare instead... well, our intelligence services say Russia did, and Vladimir Putin says it did not. 

That's one of the major differences in an age that allows warfare through computers.  It's no accident that security correspondent David E. Sanger calls his new book The Perfect Weapon

It's subtitled War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.  No soldiers need apply; hackers step forward. 

Wikimedia Commons

Before you click on that cute GIF of the fuzzy kitten, you might want to hear a few words from Mike Ahmadi. 

He is well acquainted with the baits and lures used by hackers to get people to surrender critical information over the web, sometimes real money. 

Southern Oregon University was recently victimized in a scam that resulted in nearly $2 Million dollars being wired to a fraudster by mistake. 

Mike Ahmadi sees such activity all the time in his job helping big companies protect their computers and all the information they hold. 

Being The Bad Guys On Purpose: "Red Team"

Dec 9, 2015
Basic Books

There comes a point in just about every organization when someone asks of a plan: "is it bulletproof?" 

And rather than find out the hard way, many organizations, public and private, set up a "red team" to act like an adversary and test the capabilities of a plan or product. 

We get a look inside the process of choosing and running a Red Team from the book of that name by security expert Micah Zenko. 

He traces the practice back to the Catholic church of centuries ago, and shows how such teams can provide an effective hedge against trouble. 

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden continues to celebrate the passage of the USA Freedom Act, but says there's more to do.

The federal government's power to collect phone call data and hold it expired at the end of May. 

Congress had to scramble to pass a new program, but it does not restore the power to hold the data, phone companies will hold it instead. 

Wyden worked for a long time to stop the federal collection.  And he says the efforts to find the balance between security and privacy do not end there.

Catching The Catfishers

Jul 16, 2014
Career Press

Not everybody relishes the wild-west nature of the Internet. 

Sure, it's fun to see old friends on Facebook, but how much information on you is being collected?  Short answer: a lot. 

Tyler Cohen Wood works for the Department of Defense on cyber-security and social media issues.