Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gone Phishing

Hopefully we all know what phishing is. For those who don't, wikipedia states that it "is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication." Basically people try to send you authentic looking emails to try to trick you in to giving up your bank user name and password. Phishing attacks have become extremely prevalent in the last few years. But today I realized that these attacks have reached a new level.

What made me realize this? Well I have received phishing emails in the past, but they were always for the large banking institutions and, for some reason, they all seemed to be obvious forgeries. But today I received convincing email from a local credit union, UCCU, linking to a website that was asking me to log in to my account. I quickly realized that this was a phishing attack. While I still realized this was fraudulent, it was the first time I received such an attack from a local bank. This means that those who who facilitate these attacks (are they called phishers?) are getting smarter. They are targeting members of a small bank in a small community.

This means that we need to be educating everyone about these attacks. Everyone needs to know that their bank will never ask for their login information. I would even suggest that they do not even click on links in their emails. Type the internet addresses on your own. As phishers are getting smarter, we need to further educate the internet population about this problem.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Internet Protection

Right now I am working a lot on my senior project, which will be finished and presented next April. The project is essentially a parental control solution for those who want to limit their computer usage. Additionally I am fighting with spyware that has infiltrated my parents work computers. Their employees have been given unrestricted access to the systems, and that was a bad idea. Because of these two events in my life I have been thinking a lot about how to keep people safe from the internet.

There are a lot of solutions that can be applied to a system to help protect users from the muck that wants to hurt them and their computers. One that I just started to use is OpenDNS. OpenDNS provides filtered DNS servers that don't resolve common sites that contain pornography, spyware or are phishing sites. You also get detailed logs of internet activity. A secure way to implement this is to change the DNS settings in your router.

It is also important to have anti-spyware and anti-virus software installed and up to date. There are lots of free solutions including adaware and AVG. This helps keep your system clean.

Finally a big problem is letting the users have full administrative access. This is one thing that I am changing on the computers I support. Administrator accounts now have passwords and user accounts don't have admin rights. This helps prevent system settings from being changed and keeps unwanted software from being installed.

While this is not a comprehensive list, if these guidelines are followed you and your computer will be much more protected from the internet mucky muck.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Good Ideas are Making Others Rich

I have had some good ideas in my time. The biggest problems with my ideas is that they are too technical for me. They are ideas that I don't have the skills to implement but I know that they are good ideas and would be really successful. Let take, for example, a new product by Google. Google recently announced a service called My Location that can locate mobile users of Google Maps without GPS. This is done by using information gathered from the cell tower in which our mobile device is communicating with to calculate your approximate location. This is ingenious and it was an idea that I had years ago.

I thought that I could implement this type of solution on BYU campus and create a person/item/inventory/whatever you want to keep track of locater. I just didn't have the skills to implement it and Google did. So they get all the glory. This has made me contemplate what I can do about the situation. I see two options. One is to try to patent these good ideas and sell them to people who can actually do them. The other option is to do nothing and just enjoy these innovations when they come out. Either way, I feel a little sense of gratification when I see that Google had the same idea I had.

Monday, November 12, 2007

How My World Was Flattened

A few weeks ago I was in the Denver airport with a handful of people that I had never met. They were college students from all over the country who, for the next two and a half days, had the same goal: to impress our hosts enough that they would want to hire us as employees for their company. As we were meeting new people, mingling, and trying to look like we had adequate social skills I was asked an interesting question after announcing that my major was IT. This student asked how I felt that all of my jobs were being sent out to China and India and how I expected to keep a job. I was shocked by the question. The goal of my education was to create myself in to such a desirable product that some great company would invest heavily in harvesting and honing my skills. But this student suggested that all I had done up to that point might be worth less than I expected, perhaps it was cheaper to entrust my job with someone in India or China.

I didn't quite know how to answer so I snickered while trying to hide a sudden concern for my career and said hey, I'm not worried, it's not like I'm going for a call center job or something. But deep down I wondered if he might be right. Is my job in danger of being outsourced or offshored?

Fortunately I was not doomed to wear such bleakly tinted glasses for long. I did not know much about offshoring and outsourcing but as I read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman I began to learn more and more of what it means to me. So armed with much more knowledge I can answer that question I was asked in Denver.

No, I am not afraid of my job being given to the highly skilled Indian or Chinese worker. It is true that these international workers can do many jobs that we do, but cheaper. Companies are seeing this and they are investing in this workforce. But that doesn't mean that they will fire me. On the contrary, they will need me even more. That is because those extra workers are increasing our productivity, output and changing the market. As they do that work from a distance there is so much more for us to do here at the home front. They are creating more work for me to do.

But this is not all. You might still wonder why a company would keep me around to do what the cheap labor is doing. The thing is I wont be doing what they can do anymore. As they pump out all of this work, I will be growing and adapting to the change they are making in the market. I will no longer be doing the same thing that they are doing. I feel that one of my biggest strengths is that I am able to learn. I have used my time in college to learn how to learn. I am very good at learning new things as obstacles are placed in my way. I am adaptable and can shift in this dynamic market.

As the world flattens and markets shift, new opportunities arise. Industries exist now that never would have been imagined ten or fifteen years ago. I will be in the middle of this continual change and growth and will have all of the benefits of the flat world at my disposal. I am not afraid of my job being given to cheap laborers in 3rd world countries. I am eager to take the reins of these new markets. So as we outsource, my opportunities will only grow, as long as I grow with them.

That is what Thomas Friedman taught me about my job. This is what I look forward to as a graduate with a degree in Information Technology. This is why I am not afraid of my career being outsourced.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A New Business Model for Watching TV

For some reason the media industry is always resistant to change. When radio stations began broadcasting music the industry feared people would no longer go to concerts. When VCRs and video tapes were released the movie industry thought that it would kill the movie theater business and ruin the industry. When music became digitalized and people were sharing their music with their long distance neighbors the recording industry thought that soon, no one would purchase music. But their fears were unfounded. Radio brought music to everyone, VCRs made classics out of blockbusters and paved a new road for revenue and digitalized music opened new paths for distribution and helped the new and independent artists find a presence.

Now there is new change. Media is continuing to digitize and people are turning to the internet to watch their favorite TV shows. Initially people began to share TV shows that had been downloaded, commercial free and crystal clear. TV studios feared lost revenue. But this change, like the previous, is here to stay. The TV industry simply needs to find their business model. Already we are seeing networks trying to build this new model. Everyone needs to follow suit and embrace this channel. Instead of driving people to download commercial free versions of their TV shows offer them an easy and high quality avenue. A place with ads that you can not skip, and perhaps even require you to click to acknowledge. Networks, the digital revolution is not going away. Embrace it and mold it in to the model that works for all of us. Otherwise you will simply be blowing off a lot of hot air and not making any money from it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Is iTunes losing its foundation?

Every week I read of another video or music industry bigwig complaining about iTunes and its business model. There are constant rumblings of unhappy companies deciding against renewing contracts or deciding to terminate partnerships with Apple. Universal didn't renew their contract. Warner and Sony are rumored to do the same. The chief executive of NBC, another company not renewing an iTunes contract, recently flamed Apple saying "that Apple has destroyed the music business - in terms of pricing - and if we don't take control, they'll do the same thing on the video side."

iTunes, the supreme source for digital video and music, is losing industry support. The business model that was so successful the past 5 years is becoming unattractive to some and Apple has shown it is unwilling to budge. Companies are transitioning from offering paid downloads to ad funded online videos. Just this week one such download service backed by NBC, Universal and Fox was launched and is gaining praise. Apple is unwilling to change so the media guys are looking to cut out the middleman. Apple really needs to be careful. If they keep driving their content creators away, their library will dwindle and customers will look elsewhere. Online and on demand video is poised to do what digital music downloads have done in the past decade. Apple better figure it out or watch the market shift to the next guy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Enforcing Title IX in Computer Science

A certain senator suggested using Title IX on math, science and technology fields to do what the law has done to collegiate sports. Let's explore what may happen if Title IX was enforced by legislation on these majors, seeing what has happened to collegiate sports since the 70s. Title IX found that the many universities were spending too much on mens sports and not enough on womens. Many were forced to cut back the funding of some mens sports while they had to pump money in to womens sports. Some results: over 100 mens gymnastics programs have been dropped as well as 170 wrestling teams.

How would this affect technology majors? Would the IT and ISYS majors be cut so that the university could even things out? Would CS be required to accept as many women as men? Would scholarships for women in tech majors be handed out like hot dogs at a BUYSA activity while men would be better off panning for gold in the Provo river? I'm not really sure but I don't think legislation is the answer to getting women in technology. People would find it absurd if you required the nursing program to accept as many men as women. Schools of technology simply need to do all they can to entice both men and women to study their disciplines and then accept the dice how they fall.