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November 2010

At Least WikiLeaks Didn't Find Any Bestiality


In 2001, a network administrator who I worked with at one of the largest, most prestigious law firms in the United States, and whose headquarters was located in Chicago decided to do a search of all of the employee folders on one of the main servers where each employee saved their “personal” files, for any file that ended in JPG, MOV, or AVI, or in other words, any photo or video files.  He was not looking for anything in particular, but instead just to see what types of things the partners and associates at this firm were looking at.  Like almost every employee in that I.T. department he had full access to every file, every piece of information, no matter how mundane or sensitive that information was to the person or the firm.  Major case files, major pieces of discovery, major evidence that could easily be copied on to a DVD and passed along to the opposing council, were all available to every person in that I.T. Department, completely unrestricted in any way.  The only thing stopping anyone in that department from stealing any data they wanted to and passing it along to anyone they wanted to was the confidentiality agreement each employee signed, and a certain level of blind trust, not any real network security or restrictions to data, just trust.  What was most interesting about what that network administrator found that day, when he searched for every photo or video file that was in the home folders of some of the highest paid partners and associates at this firm, was not the amount of sensitive legal evidence that could have been stolen and passed to council or the press, yes that was there, but instead the amount of pornography, racist or offensive “humor”, or even illegal materials that could ruin the careers of any one of those lawyers.  And it wasn’t just a handful of photos and videos that were found, it was thousands.  One attorney’s folder actually contained a video of a woman having intercourse with a horse.  This law firm was lucky.  Nothing was ever done with what was found, no one was turned in for having inappropriate materials, although they could have and probably should have, and the I.T. Department had a good laugh at the attorney’s expense, which I’m sure is some kind of HR violation right there.  The files that were found were all copied for safe keeping and deleted from the attorney’s folders with certain confidence that no one would be coming to us to complain, “Where is my video of a woman screwing a horse?!”  And even if that video was evidence in a case, it was not the proper place for evidence to be stored.
If you think I am trying to make some point here about what is appropriate or not appropriate to save  on your work computer, or any type of commentary on the morality of attorneys, then you are wrong.  Personally, having worked in Information Technology, I always find it amazing the types of things I find on the computers that people use for work. A work computer is the property of the company you work for and so is everything on it, so keep that in mind next time you are thinking about checking out on your company laptop.  The point I am making here is simple.  What just happened to the U.S. Government with the release of tens of thousands of documents, that supposedly were considered secure but instead were easily obtainable by anyone of the 600,000 persons with security clearance to those electronic network based files, was a WikiLeaks accident just waiting to happen, and if you think the data at your own company is secure for even just one heartbeat, you are wrong.  The data at your own company not only can be stolen but I will go so far to say, to some degree, it has been.  Keep in mind, the U.S. government was not hacked into by international foreign spies, or by operatives working for Al Qeada.  The information obtained, stolen, and given to WikiLeaks was done so by a U.S. soldier working internally inside the I.T. structure of the supposedly secure computer network of the U.S. military and government.  The files leaked to the world were simply copied off a server and on to one or more DVD disks, and no one knew about it until it became international news, and a nightmare not just for the Obama administration but also governments and individuals around the world.   The biggest threat to any organization whether private or public is not external threats but internal ones.  Employees today have far too much access to the information stored on company networks and any person who has worked in any I.T. department for any decent amount of time will tell you that the WikiLeaks indecent doesn’t surprise them at all, in fact they will tell you that they are surprised it didn’t happen sooner. With USB flash drives available up to 64 gigabytes a person could easily walk out of a company with millions of confidential and damaging documents without ever being noticed.  And to complicate things further, the trend towards outsourcing the administration of company servers and data farms to third party firms that have no vested interest in the data they are administering is like handing the keys to your house to a group of strangers and hoping they don’t steal your jewelry.  According to Perimeter E-Security, a security firm based in Milford, CT,  who each year publishes their list of the Top 10 Threats to Information Security, “Malicious Insiders” are the number two threat for 2010, only to be beaten by “Malware”, and falling from the number one spot last year.  According to this report:

“Malicious insiders were listed as the #1 threat for 2009 and were listed as a rising threat. According to a survey released in October of 2009 by Actimize and reported by DarkReading, nearly 80% of financial institutions worldwide say the insider threat problem has increased in the wake of the economic downturn. 70% of financial institutions reported incidents of insider fraud in the last 10 months. Nearly half of the banks in the Actimize survey say they are losing 1 to 4 percent of their total revenues to insider fraud.”
This report also cites a number of specific incidents including:

  • The University Medical Center in Las Vegas learned that an employee allegedly leaked confidential patient data including Social Security numbers, billing data, and full descriptions of injuries and it has been reported that the information was sold.
  • A T-Mobile employee stole customer records and sold them to a data broker who in turn sold the data to T-Mobile competitors. It included millions of records that contained valuable information such as account expiration date so competitors could target those customers at the time they may look for a new provider.
  • Former Bank of New York Mellon employee Adeniyi Adeyemi was indicted on identity theft charges. He was charged with grand larceny, identity theft, and money laundering after stealing and using New York Mellon employee information. He opened phony bank and brokerage accounts where he deposited stolen money.

It would be very easy for all of us to focus on the person or persons who reportedly stole this information, or the founder of WikiLeaks who made the choice to publish this information for the world to see but the reality is, it is the government who opened up their networks to far too many individuals and made it far too easy for this information to get out.  Should we be surprised that there were secret deals made behind closed doors, or that the CIA is involved in things that could be considered illegal or even immoral, or that foreign leaders presented their views to the public in one way but communicated entirely different messages in “private”?  There is an old saying that goes, “ignorance is bliss.” Quite frankly I depend on the fact that we don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes nor should we.  International politics is a dirty, stinky world and it is these behind closed doors where private deals and conversations make politics function.  The problem is that to get us to the places that we need to be, whether it is a peace in the middle east or nuclear disarmament, trade agreements or the search for terrorists, it is counterproductive for us to know the details of every e-mail and covert operations that is happening around the world.  All that we really need to know is that peace was made, deals were formed, hostages were released, and our troops came home.  How it all happens is something that we are better off not knowing because if we did, much of what is now history may not have happened. The individuals who are responsible for leaking this information should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if for no other reason than they broke the law, but they are merely a symptom of a larger problem that effects governments and private organizations around the world and that is the security of our internal networks and who is given keys to the kingdom.  Without serious action taken in both the private and public sectors “Malicious Insiders” will continue to be one of the top two threats to network security and this will not be the last we will hear from WikiLeaks.




A Republican Guide to Handing the President His Ass


So, how do I put this tactfully? Awe forget it, there is no way to put this tactfully.  Obama got his ass handed to him on a silver platter Tuesday.  At his news conference the next day he looked like a wet puppy dog standing in the rain that just got struck by lightning.  The correspondent from Fox News looked happier then Glenn Beck does after he pleasures himself to a photo of Sarah Palin.  The Republicans, the Tea Party, Fox News, they did it, so go ahead guys gloat, no really it’s ok, I understand.  After all you did get your asses handed to you two years ago and we did plenty of gloating at that time, so go ahead, I’ll wait………Are you done? Good, now shut the fuck up because here’s the deal.  You didn’t win.  I know what you are saying to yourself.  “What, are you on crack Brian?  We won the house.  Nancy Pelosi is out, we run things now.  The people spoke and the people told Obama NO!  This was a direct repudiation of Obama’s reckless policies!  We are taking this country back!  How’s that hopey changy thing working for you now!? Palin for President, Palin for President! WE WON!”  Let me say this again, You…didn’t…win.  Oh sure, you took the house, but you didn’t win.
One of my favorite shows is The Apprentice.  Inevitably on each season there are one or two people who do nothing but complain.  They are no help to the team, and think they know everything and week after week they skate by while someone else takes the fall.  Then comes the week when it’s their turn to step up to the plate and be project manager, and prove that they know better than everyone else, and prove that they are not all talk, and nine out of ten times, when the task is over, when the talking is finished, when they get to the board room, they lose, and The Donald says to them those two words that no one in that board room ever wants to hear, “You’re Fired.”  You see, while it may seem like the Republicans won, what happened on Tuesday was actually the best of scenarios for President Obama and the Democrats because now the Republicans have power.  And the Republican and Tea Party candidates who got elected, who vowed to take back this country can no longer simply blame President Obama and the Democrats for the issues that face this country.  The Republicans can no longer just sit back and say “no” to every initiative that the President tries to push through.  It’s easy to let the President take the fall for all of the issues facing our nation when you have no power to do anything about it, but now the Republicans have the power and with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability. 
The reality is that the Republicans took the elections that they did, in the numbers that they did, not because “the people rejected the failed policies of Obama”, but instead for a number of reason, the first being that President Obama overestimated the American public’s  ability to wait for change.  Obama, like every presidential candidate has done, promised change on a scale that was epic in proportion.  The people expected Obama to swoop in like super hero, create jobs out of thin air, and magically turn around the economy.  But what the President neglected to tell everyone was that it just does not happen in less than two years.  To turn around an economy and restore the amount of jobs that were lost during the Bush era takes time.  After Obama got done fighting to become president he thought all he had to do now was govern and the people would wait for the results.  He was wrong.  What he did not expect was the amount of continued fight and venomous opposition he would receive from those on the other side. He did not expect a Republican party that would do anything it could to stop every initiative that the Democrats put through.  He did not expect a Republican party that would refuse to find any middle ground with the Democrats on any issue.  He did not expect A Tea Party movement funded by billionaires and corporations that spread lies about health care reform.  He did not expect town hall meetings that were drowned out by republican protesters who were instructed on exactly what to say to make those meetings as unproductive as possible.   He did not expect a major “News” organization to actively participate in and broadcast in their entirety “Tea Party” rallies.  He did not expect ongoing campaigns designed to discredit everything from his religion to his citizenship, but this is what he got and more.  The mistake the President made was not beating them at their own game. It became clear early on that the Republicans, the Tea Partiers and Fox News were not going to do what has traditionally happened in the past and accept who ever won the election as their leader and give that person their full support. 
The president neglected to realize that the campaign was not over, the fight was just beginning and he needed to be just as vocal if not more vocal then his opposition was.  To put it simply, the Republicans yelled louder, while the President didn’t yell at all, and by the time he started, it was already too late.  It didn’t seem to matter that the middle class received the largest tax break in decades. It didn’t seem to matter that the Stimulus Package prevented our country from slipping further into a depression.  It didn’t seem to matter that 30 million more people who could not get health insurance in the past now could, or that no one could be denied health insurance for pre-existing conditions. It did not seem to matter that preventive medicine is now free, or that there is no longer a co-pay on birth control. It did not seem to matter that women are now guaranteed equal pay in the workplace, or that the balance on student loans will be erased after twenty years of on time payments.  It did not seem to matter that millions of jobs were saved by keeping GM and Chrysler in business, or that the ban on stem cell research was over turned.  It didn’t seem to matter that the President Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America's Veterans, or that he Signed the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care 4 million children who were previously uninsured, or that he banned the Bush Administration’s approved use of torture as a method of interrogation by our armed forces, or that he established the Credit Card Bill of Rights, preventing  credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases on customers, or that he increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act, or that he expanded hate crime law in the US to include sexual orientation through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or that he signed a financial reform law establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans, or that he cut prescription drug cost for medicare recipients by 50%, or that he appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history!  I just did not seem to matter!  But why?  Because President Obama did all of these great things and more in less than two years, but didn’t tell anyone.
You didn’t win.  You didn’t win because blaming the President is now over, the Republicans are now responsible and unless jobs are created and our economy improves they will be accountable as well. You didn’t win because by lying about everything from the President’s religion to his proposed “Death Panels” you disrespected the American people and did them a disservice.  You didn’t win because if President Obama is prevented from passing even one piece of ground breaking legislation even remotely similar to the type of legislation he was able to get passed in less than two years, then all of us will have lost.  I’m sorry, but you didn’t win.




This Is Who You Should Vote For.


This is who you should vote for.  Oh, I already know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that I’m going to tell you to vote Democrat.  You’re thinking, why am I even bothering, after all Brian Dann is about as far left as Glenn Beck is right.  You may even be thinking, who the hell is Brian Dann to be telling me who I should vote for. Some of you may even be thinking, who the hell is Brian Dann. And if that is what you’re thinking, you’re right. So, this is who you should vote for.  But before I get to that let me just ask you this.  Is there really anything that I can write at this moment that could make you change who you are going to vote for?  Haven’t you by this point really made up your mind, and isn’t it true that over the next two days, no matter how many negative political ads that you see on the TV, or hear on the radio, you are not going to change what you are going to do when you step into that voting booth on November 2nd?  Isn’t it true that by this time you have mostly tuned out those political ads narrated by that guy with the deep gravelly voice that paints their opponent as the worst thing that could possibly happen to this country since 9/11?  And isn’t it true that it would be completely presumptuous of me to think that for me to tell you who you should vote for would make one god damn bit of difference in this election on Tuesday?
The gods honest truth is this.  I don’t care what party any politician associates themselves with.  I don’t care what the opposition is saying about them or what half truths the supposedly fair and balanced media has twisted about them.  The truth is that for anyone to decide to devote their life to serving the public  by running for political office takes a certain type of individual.  The truth is that for all of the bad things that people say about politicians, at least in the beginning, before all of the lobbyists and special interest groups get to them, or before they become overly consumed with their own perceived political power and forget that they are supposed to be representing the people in their districts, they are all essentially good people.  The truth is that they align themselves with a certain political party, be it republican or democrat because they intend to support the agenda of that party.  And the truth is that all of the negative rhetoric that we hear in every political ad, year after year, does not mean a single thing because for one, anyone can say whatever they want about their opponent in a political ad, and it does not make it true, and for two, most politicians are essentially good people at least in the beginning assuming they are not tied to the mob, or their name does not rhyme with Shmod Zgloyavich.  The real problem with our system of electing politicians is that we rely too much on political ads and political pundits who put way too much time and energy into spreading lies about whoever it is that they want to bring down.  The sad truth is that if Glenn Beck keeps saying over and over, day after day that Obama is a racist, socialist, Muslim who hates America and was born in Kenya people will start to believe it, and they have.  If enough people started claiming that the earth was flat and kept hammering that message over and over again, day after day, you would end up with a segment of the population who no matter what scientific proof is presented to them, would believe that the earth is indeed flat.  And this is exactly what politicians count on.  They count on the fact that no matter how false and misleading their ads are, people will believe it long enough to cast their vote.  FOX news depends on the fact that human beings are gullible and that regardless of the facts, as long as they present their message in a format that somewhat resembles news, it will influence enough of the population to push through their agenda for them.  Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite when news people presented the day’s news, unbiased as simply facts. In today’s twenty-four hour news channels there is a constant need to fill time and space and today the pundits and fear mongers outnumber the actual unbiased news.  Today we base our votes on what news channel we watch because each station presents the “news” with its own built in bias instead of simply the facts, and the line between news and opinion is gone, because unlike in the old days when on my local CBS news at 10 they would announce “and now perspective with Walter Jacobson,” at which time we knew we were about to get Walters opinion on things, we no longer can tell when it is news and when it is perspective. 
And this brings us to Jon Stewart. If you ask Jon Stewart what he is he will tell you that he is a comedian.  But if you ask the American people that question, which Time Magazine actually did in July of 2009, they will tell you that he is the most trusted News Anchor in America. (Time Mag Poll)Yes that is right, not Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, or Katie Couric… Jon Stewart.  Now I like Jon Stewart.  If you are a loyal reader of NorthShoreDad you know that I regularly feature videos from the Daily Show, and I do so because I believe that Stewart, is more than just a funny man.  He has a way of exposing the media and the politicians for who they really are, with a rare honesty that is frequently non existent in today’s journalism, and uses humor to stress the hypocrisy that often exists in today’s world.  But Americans most trusted News Anchor?  I believe that the fact that this poll by Time Magazine yielded the results that it did is much more of a reflection on today’s state of journalism then it is on Jon Stewart’s prowess as a news man.  And to this I believe that Stewart himself would agree.  Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, or Katie Couric should have been one of the winners of that poll and the fact that not a single FOX news anchor was even mentioned in this poll says a tremendous amount about the “Fair and balanced” claim of Fox news.    The reality is that we can no longer depend on what the news reports to us, whether that news is from FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS.  The reality is that any story that has any trace of politics in it is rarely reported without some sort of spin or angle to it.  The reality is that if we really want to know what is going on with any political figure or issue we must do our own research and forget what is reported by anyone.  We can’t blame the politicians because we expect them to run negative ads and anyone who solely bases their vote on what is said in a political ad is a fool and deserves whatever they get.
So this is who you should vote for… no one.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you do not vote.  That would be stupid and if you choose not to vote then don’t complain when the person who wins isn’t the one you wanted. What I am suggesting is that instead of voting for a person, vote for a party.  Why, because no matter what crazy negative thing you hear about any of the candidates, the bottom line is that when that person gets into office, they are going to support whatever the agenda is of whatever party they are a part of.  And if you feel that your values are more in line with the Democrats then you should vote for the Democratic candidates.  And if you feel that your values are more in line with the Republicans, then you should vote Democrat. (Oops I meant Republican)  
But to those who voted Democrat in the last election and are considering switching their vote tomorrow I say this.  You are dissatisfied, I get it.  You didn’t get everything that was promised and everything that you wanted, I get it.  Unemployment is still high, foreclosures are still happening, healthcare reform was passed but didn’t go far enough, and Wall Street is still robbing us blind, I get it.  George W. Bush and the Republicans financially destroyed this country decimated our reputation around the world and you wanted President Obama to fix it all in less than two years, I get it. But before you pout all the way to the polls and stomp your feet because you didn’t get your way,  before you start to cry because you wanted three scoops of ice cream and Papa Obama only gave you two, realize that the Democrats want to do something about it, and given the time they will.  The Republicans won’t and only want to return us to the George W. Bush policies that brought this country to its political knees.  Believe all of the rhetoric that FOX News, The Tea Party, and Sarah Palin keep spewing about how we need to take back our country, then remember that two years ago we already did. Then step into that voting booth, cast your vote for the party you believe in.  That is who you should you vote for.