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Posts Tagged Cyber Security

Self-Driving Cars

Last week my son and I sat down to watch the first Transformers movie. He thought it was so cool to see real cars driving themselves, which made me think of how that might become a reality shortly, minus them turning into robots. Currently, only California, Florida, Nevada, Washington D.C. and Michigan allow the testing of self-driving cars. There are many debates on the pros and cons of such vehicles, and both sides have valid points.

A huge benefit of having self-driving cars would be the reduction of vehicle accidents. This technology could also help millions of people who, for various reasons, are unable to drive. In the United States alone there are roughly 5.5 million car crashes per year, which equals out to about one death every 15 minutes or 88 deaths per day. Out of those accidents, 81% were caused by human error. As many of these accidents are preventable, and an alarming number of them are a result of distracted driving, speeding, failing to follow road laws, or driving while tired, drunk, or under the influence of drugs. If these human errors could be removed from the equation, then we could see fewer accidents and vehicle-related deaths. It is estimated that if 10% of cars on the road were self-driving, then there would be 211,000 fewer crashes and 1,100 lives saved. If that number increased to 20%, then there would be 4,220,000 fewer crashes and 21,700 lives saved. Other benefits of self-driving cars include the reduction of time spent commuting, road congestion, and a substantial decrease in insurance premiums.

To get an idea of how self-driving cars could soon be a reality, Google already has high functioning prototypes driving around the Silicon Valley. These vehicles have successfully driven over 3,200,500 km with only 11 minor accidents. Seven involved another vehicle rear-ending the Google car, two were sideswipes, and one involved another vehicle travelling through a red light. This is very impressive after you factor in that the average motorist drives about 25,000 km a year.

There are some downfalls to self-driving cars, one of which is the most dangerous, the security of the vehicle’s software. The possibility of a car being hacked and taken control of is a very serious and concerning issue, especially when there is so much cyber insecurity. This also spirals into the safety of the user’s privacy, as self-driving cars would rely on collecting and sharing location whereabouts and other data. Another problematic issue involves different weather conditions. Heavy rain can interfere with the car’s roof-mounted laser sensor, and snow-covered roads can affect the vehicle’s cameras. Other concerns include the loss of jobs, such as taxi and freight transport drivers.

 

No one knows if there will be more pros than cons if self-driving cars become a reality but for now, we will all just have to wait and see where the road to self-driving cars leads us.

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Should We Be Saying No To Pokémon Go?

The creators of Pokémon have done it again. Since being created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri, Pokémon has become the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind Nintendo’s Mario franchise. The franchise began as a video game for the original Game Boy, developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. The franchise has since expanded to trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys.

The newest edition to the franchise is Pokémon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game allowing players to capture, battle, and train their Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices. It has quickly become one of the most used smart device apps after launching, surpassing the previous record held by Candy Crush in the United States.

So should we be saying no to downloading Pokémon Go or should we be encouraging others to download it and play? Is it a safe or dangerous game? Some of the praise Pokémon Go has been receiving includes the overall game experience (as it is a new type of gaming), the incentive to get out in the real world and, in my option, one of the most significant benefits, the potential of improving mental and physical health.

ChrisMcClelland

My daughter with her Pokemon.

Now some of the complaints I have heard range from small problems with technical issues that have been experienced such as constant crashes and server issues to larger and more dangerous problems such as serious incidents of accidents and public nuisance. There have been reports of people complaining about exercise-induced pain shortly after the game launched as many people went from little to no exercise to miles of walking and long periods of standing. Some of the more serious incidents that have been reported include people being hit by a vehicle or causing accidents by not paying attention. However, the biggest concern with Pokémon Go is its security issues.

The risks range from reported cases of malware and exploits to concerns about the publisher’s storage and use of players’ personal data, to reported cases of real-world bad guys using the game’s system of visible Pokémon ‘lures’ (which can draw huge crowds) as a honeypot for armed robberies. The malware issue is only a problem for people downloading the game when it has not yet been released in their country and can be easily prevented by downloading the game from reliable sources. For the other issues, there is not much you can do except for knowing the risks before agreeing to an app privacy policy. Pokémon Go is not the only app that asks for access to personal information, but it is important to know what they are asking to use it for.

For myself, I like the idea of a game that promotes users from all around the world to have fun, socialize, and get fit as they play and explore. I’d just like to see some stronger regulations and openness from developers of these apps towards privacy and security.

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Electronic Advice For Your Device

PhoneAs I prepare my packing list for an upcoming vacation (one that I’ve actually been counting the days down until it arrives), I realize that the first few items I wrote down were my phone, tablet and other electronic devices. That sparked a rollercoaster of questions in my head. What would I do without my phone and other devices? How would I keep up with current events? How would I maintain contact with family and friends (and maybe work)? What did people do before they had electronic devices? Then a more interesting question popped into my head; how safe are my devices both at home and abroad?

There are two categories of safety concerns involving electronic devices. The first category is the loss or theft of the device and the second category is cyber security. If your device goes missing or is hacked, all the valuable information on it could fall into the hands of the wrong person. Both of these categories can result in your identity being stolen and/or monetary losses, plus there is an added inconvenience of replacing your device and dealing with the issues that were caused by the loss.

I decided to do some research on ways to prevent issues from occurring in either category, and pass on the tips I have learned.

Category #1 – For the loss or theft of your device:

Do:

  • Treat electronic devices like cash
  • Put secure passcodes on any device that will allow it
  • Carry the device in something less conspicuous

Don’t:

  • Leave electronic devices unattended, even just for a moment – do not assume they will be safe in your hotel room or in a hotel safe
  • Leave them in a car
  • Use your device too much in public
  • Keep passwords on the devices

 

Category #2 – Cyber security:

Do:

  • Remove personal or important information from your electronic devices that you will not require when traveling
  • Turn off devices or put them in ‘sleep’ or ‘airplane’ mode when they are not being used
  • Put passcodes on any device that will allow it
  • Change any and all passwords you may have used abroad

Don’t:

  • Use public Internet connections for personal or sensitive communication
  • Leave electronic devices unattended, even just for a moment
  • Lend your devices to anyone you do not know very well
  • Send sensitive messages or information via email or text

Now I can finish writing the rest of my packing list and hopefully the next time you go on a trip (even if it’s just a day trip), you can feel comfortable bringing your electronic devices. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit; you never know when you might need it.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Cyber Security

If there is one topic prominent in today’s security world it is ‘cyber security‘. Many articles, webinars and seminars centre around the question of how to best protect information systems from theft or damage to the hardware, software, and to the information on them.

The consequences of insufficient protection have become clear through several stories that have hit the media; large companies losing data resulting in direct financial and reputational damages. The biggest retail hack in U.S. history occured at the end of 2013 and resulted in 40 million stolen credit card numbers. In the days prior to Thanksgiving 2013, someone installed malware in Target’s security and payments system designed to steal every credit card used at the company’s 1,797 U.S. stores. During the busy holiday shopping season, consumers were unaware that the malware was capturing their credit card numbers and storing it on a Target server commandeered by the hackers.

Even more frightening is what may happen in the future as illustrated by several investigative writers.

Ted Koppel’s book – ‘Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath‘ – published in October 2015, highlights a significant risk – a catastrophic shutdown of one or more U.S. power grids. Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but also likely and the United States is shockingly unprepared.

This concept is not far fetched as proof was recently found that a cyber attack took down a power grid. A destructive malware app known as ‘BlackEnergy’ caused a power outage on the Ukrainian power grid this past December, resulting in a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people. Ukrainian officials have blamed Russia for the cyber attack. A CNN article states that U.S. systems aren’t any more protected than those breached in Ukraine.

Koppel asks us to imagine a blackout that could last months – where millions of Americans over several states are without running water, refrigeration, light, and a dwindling supply of food and medical supplies. A blackout could shutdown banks, challenge the police as they’ve never been before, and lead to widespread looting.

Closer to home and on a smaller scale, similar incidents are happening frequently but seldom make the news. This is because companies don’t want others to know that they did not protect their IT environment, as they should have. A small non-profit company found itself recently involuntarily advertising for Islamic States. Their website had been hacked and articles glorifying the IS ideology had been placed. Another company saw credit card payments from their customers land in a newly created bank account, set up through hackers. This led to considerable damage, primarily from a reputational standpoint.

Several steps can be taken to improve the security of IT systems. It is essential to at least understand and evaluate the risks, look at the options for mitigation and make smart business decisions.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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