Gary D's Take

My Personal Hacking Experience

My Personal Hacking Experience

Aug 5, 2012

Although having your social media account hacked (happened to be Twitter for me) is not as devastating as  having your bank account compromised, it teaches a lesson that we should all heed.

When I originally set up my personal Twitter account in 2007, I was “trying it out” and really didn’t take it too seriously. That was the year that Twitter hit a million users. Since then , Twitter has exploded to 500 million users.

I set up my Twitter account with an easy password that I could remember. Five years later, that password has been compromised. I don’t use it much anymore and never used it on anything that I was really concerned about. Since I link a lot of social media together , the “nice” person from Brazil who hacked me also tried to get into my Facebook and some other stuff. I had changed those passwords to stronger ones mostly (I am ashamed to say) at the request of the services themselves. I hadn’t gotten around to Twitter yet (or rather they hadn’t gotten around to me yet)

So far the damage has been minimal.Up until yesterday, I had the pleasure of following 2000+ random people from Brazil (Sao Paulo to be precise) who mostly Tweet in Spanish and Portuguese about rap music. Being the big fan of rap music that I am and being so fluent in Portuguese……I  set out to unfollow these folks. Easier said than done but I managed to find something called Manage Flitter that allows you to mass unfollow people. Great stuff! The Twitter shores are once again safe…..and Brazilian free. Manage Flitter has several built in filters that you can use, one is the “People Who Tweet in A Different Language” filter. Kind of makes me think that this has happened to someone else????

As annoying as this was, no real damage was done. Even if this person had done what I have heard has been done to others, and discussed my “well known” crack addiction or my sexual preferences (or lack of) publicly as me…(every one who “really” knows me is well aware of both those items)…it would still just be annoying. Going through the list of my “new best friends” was sort of entertaining. Along with the rappers and party people were several transsexuals and one real interesting account which is a resource for doctors who need information on the latest techniques for transgender surgery. I am still trying to decide if this was something designed to make me look bad or simply a reflection of my hackers personal tastes.

Who is to blame for my hacking experience? ME! I am a technology and social media consultant..I do this stuff for a living and I am supposed to know better. I screwed up…..Twitter isn’t to blame. Now my Brazilian hacker has some culpability obviously (God love him) but the responsibility for securing my accounts rests squarely on my pointy head. ARE YOU SECURE???? Unless you want to acquire a few thousand “new best friends” or are shopping for some transgender surgery…you had better take a hard look at the passwords and security settings of all your web based accounts. NOW!!

Will The Last IT Person Out The Door Please Turn Out The Lights…….

Will The Last IT Person Out The Door Please Turn Out The Lights…….

Mar 26, 2012

This may only be a reflection of the vacuum I have been living in for the last year , but I just became aware of something really disturbing. A new IT company came on my radar screen called 323  Technology Solutions.  They whimsically characterize themselves as “the best technology company you never heard of.” I thought , “Yeah Right!” since they had not appeared to me previously. As I perused the company profile I noticed a common denominator in the employees, they all used to work in IT at Ready Mix USA. ALL TEN OF THEM! WOW….so the IT department at Ready Mix just emptied out in 2011. Which coincides with the buyout of Ready Mix by CEMEX, a Mexican company that says it is the largest concrete maker in the world, in 2011. Once again , some may say DUH where have you been, but I was shocked. Over the years, I have had some dealings with Ready Mix and I had no idea.

The formation of 323 Technology also makes me think of another thing, none of these folks has been able to find suitable employment here in Birmingham so they started a company of their own. Being somewhat familiar , that really resonates with me.
So what does the future of IT in Birmingham look like? With the number of large corporation headquarters in Alabama shrinking and Regions as the only Fortune 500 company in the state , will we see the kind of corporate IT jobs represented by Ready Mix USA continue to go away?
On the bright side, the other thing that this kind of shift does is make IT talent available to more small companies. The expertise formerly contained in Ready Mix’s IT department is now available to many smaller companies.
Best of luck 323!

Think Before You Upload!

Think Before You Upload!

Jan 20, 2012


I was reading about the apprehension of “the Alabama Tea Bagger” the guy who dangled his genitals over a passed out LSU fan in a New Orleans Krystal after the BCS Championship game in New Orleans. Honestly I am sort of torn about this whole thing……yes it was a stupid thing to do. Have I seen stupider things?….OOH YEA! I think the real question is, was anyone hurt? Was that passed out LSU guy damaged in some way? No not really. Brian Downing appears to be the one with most of the damage. He has lost his job, he’s been clapped in irons and dragged into the dark depths of Orleans Parrish jail , he has been publicly humiliated before his friends , family and the world. Most likely he will be tried and convicted of sexual battery. Here is the statute from Louisiana describing the offense and the punishment which contains words like “hard labor” and “for the rest of his natural life”. Downing , if convicted , will serve some jail time and be permanently branded as a sex offender lumping him in with rapists and child molesters.  He will be electronically monitored forever and have to register where ever he goes.

When I read the legal parts I thought “OK that is what he did.” but I also thought it might be a little harsh for a crime of stupidity that left no one hurt. You can’t even make a case for the LSU guy being “psychically damaged or mentally scarred” HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS WHEN IT HAPPENED. Now did it disturb him when he saw the video on the web? Of course it did! “Oh my gosh , I got blasted and passed out in a Krystal and some Alabama guy dangled his business in my face!” Will the intoxicated LSU fan be OK? Aside from his other obvious self inflicted issues, yeah I think he’ll survive.Will he have some problems stemming from his involvement in this? Yes I believe he will. Would you want to be “that guy”? What do you think being “that guy” on your resume will do for you? Nothing good I’m sure.

Hopefully, Downing will be shown some compassion and cooler heads will prevail. Hopefully the LSU fan will use this and turn his life around. Certainly the furor will fade when “the next big thing” hits the web.

So why is this a big deal? Because it went viral on YouTube! All this havoc is only possible because of technology. Handy video on your smart phone, the internet and video sharing have all come together to destroy one poor stupid SOB and make another one the laughing stock of the world.

The moral of the story here is: Remember the enormous power you hold in your hand when you pull out your smart phone.Think before you upload that video boys and girls.

Welcome To The “We gotcha NOW” Network!

I recently changed sell phone providers. (Yes this is the first of many intentional misspellings). Here is my take on picking a wireless provider.They are all equally bad. You WILL have dropped calls, you WILL have phone issues ranging from bad equipment to dead end upgrade paths. No matter which one you pick there will be places where it  WON”T WORK. AND none of them will work worth a flip out in the boonies where I live. Over the years, I have tried everybody but Verizon. Why you ask have I not given Verizon a go? I have several friends who have used Verizon and from their experience, I have concluded that while it may work a little better for the most part they too have the same issues I described above. And since Verizon is unabashedly more expensive than everybody but AT&T, I really don’t see the point. Also I have noticed that like AT&T, Verizon doesn’t work AT ALL at my house. Which brings me to my major criteria for sell phone provider choice…..price. If everybody is equally bad, then you pick the one that gives you a better deal. I had been with T-Mobile for many years but as everyone has noticed, they have been gradually creeping up in price for years. I looked at Sprint and found I could reduce my bill by $50 dollars a month. My daughter wanted a new phone and so I switched. So far so much the same ole stuff but at 50 bucks a month less so I am good.

Interestingly enough, recently I had a major disruption of phone and Internet at my house caused by the air-gap created when the gas company decided to run their new line right through the underground cable that brings AT&T to my house. ( I am working now off a self installed temp service because AT&T has assured me that they will have my problem resolved no later than Monday at 5pm….the cable was cut the previous Tuesday by the way) Before installing the temp fix , I contemplated using the tether on my Android phone to get “a little Internet” little because as I previously mentioned, nobody works well at my house. I couldn’t seem to make it work so I called tech support where I was told they “don’t support” tethering. They were kind enough to offer their “mobile hot spot feature” which would turn my phone into a slow oversubscribed wifi hot spot that would support several devices at a crawl at my house for” just 29.99 a month”. I naturally declined. I have since read posts all over the Internet about the terrible wrong that Sprint has perpetrated on all their customers by stopping free unlimited tethering. GIVE ME A BREAK! Here is my take on it, Sprint…I am OK with you trying to exploit a perceived revenue opportunity as long as you are OK with me… not buying it, waiting for someone to come up with a clever way to get around it (and they will) and making fun of you for doing it.  That’s the American way! I was actually very amused as the Sprint tech support rep and I chuckled together about the “wonderful feature” and the 30 dollar price tag. Her reaction kind of leads me to believe that they aren’t getting many takers? Like Mama used to say, “You might as well laugh” right? Did I have the impression that I would be able to do this when I signed up? Yes. Will I forgo thirty dollars of the fifty I am saving to have it? NO. Am I outraged because Sprint has disenfranchised me from my God given right to tether? Of course not. Will I go back to another carrier because of it? No of course I won’t. This is a business transaction and all they owe me is a reasonable attempt to provide the base service I signed up for…period. Sell phone, Internet and cable TV are not like life liberty and the pursuit of happiness…they are not inalienable rights handed down to us by God. Just like my situation with my buried telephone cable….am I happy that AT&T will take 6 days to come look at my issue and tell me they will take another week to fix it…no I’m not but this is a business transaction so my other option is to take my business elsewhere or live with it… I am not going to be indignant and whine that they have violated my constitutional rights or something equally stupid. So Sprint……although you may think you’ve “got me now”….that will only happen if I let you.