Federal contractors begin early shutdown preparations

This one kicked my spider-sense into overdrive. An article on Government Executive (and mirrored on Federal Soup) says “The president of the Professional Services Council (PSC), which represents 400 services and information technology organizations that provide services to federal agencies, said contractors should now begin planning for a government shutdown.”

Um… what?

There have been six government shutdowns in the past 36 years. 1981 (one day), 1984 (one afternoon), 1986 (one afternoon), 1990 (two days over the Columbus day weekend), 1995-1996 (twenty seven days) and in 2013 (fifteen days). The majority of them were based on “concerns” between a divided executive and legislative branch (Republicans and Democrats on alternate sides of the coin) that were eventually resolved.

So why the early red flag over a government that currently has a majority party in control of the House, Senate and Executive office?

David Berteau, “who served for 14 years at the Defense Department before becoming president of the Professional Services Council… speculated Congress would likely pass some sort of spending bill to avoid a shutdown in October, but did not guess as to whether President Trump would sign it.”

Ah hah. In other words, all bets are off.

The PSC is already putting plans in motion for an October 2nd shutdown and urging that contractors “should also begin to think through questions such as how they will notify their employees of a stop work order, their ability to pay employees while not receiving government reimbursements, whether they will be able to enter a federal facility even if their work is slated to continue and what tasks will not continue once federal employees are furloughed.”

October second would be the day the doors close if the shutdown takes place this year. If you know someone that would be affected by another government shutdown, you might want to tell them the PSC is already sounding the alarm.

A 70 year old video is more important than ever

A tweet by @OmanReagan lead me to an amazing video from 1947. The movie is only 17 minutes long, but this 70 year old video needs to be re-broadcast right now.

Take a moment and watch. Jump ahead to the 2 minute 2 second mark to get the main story.

 

Sound familiar?

White supremacy is evil. Racism is evil. Nazis are evil. End of discussion.

 

“Moscow Mules” from a copper cup are probably poisoning you

In the grand tradition of Russia, the trendy "Moscow Mule" drink that's served in a copper cup has a pretty good chance of poisoning you.

In a recent article on both The Washington Post and The Hill, a "Moscow Mule" is actually a fairly acidic drink, with a pH "well below 6.0". The "better call 911" part is that "copper should not come into contact with acidic foods with a pH below 6" because copper will leech into the drink (or food) it comes in contact with.

That mule kick? Copper poisoning! Hee-haw!

"Symptoms of copper poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and jaundice. Severe poisoning can cause liver failure and death.”

The solution is pretty simple – drink "Moscow Mules" from "copper mugs lined on the inside with another metal, like nickel or stainless steel."

Better yet, have a Guinness.

Ask Mondelez how much a successful cyber attack costs

I’m that IT guy. No you can’t have Facebook at your work PC. No you can’t access the company Wi-Fi network with your personal device. No you can’t remote access the work servers from any PC you want to. No you can’t skip this month’s security training.

Know why I’m such a pain? Because one slip up on my part will bring the company crashing down.

Ask Mondelez, the snack maker that owns Oreos and Cadbury, what the cost of a successful cyber attack is. According to an article on Food Business News, it was an immediate $7.1 million loss, another $150 million in lost sales, and an ongoing “to be determined” repair cost.

Back in June, Mondelez got hit with the ransomware strain “Petya”. The effects were immediate and brutal. Production came to a complete stop, and the company scrambled for weeks trying to remove the ransomware infection from their company servers.

According to Food Business News, “The malware affected a significant portion of the company’s global Windows-based applications and its sales, distribution and financial networks across the company.”

“Although the company believes it has now largely contained the disruption and restored a majority of its affected systems, the company anticipates additional work during the second half of 2017 as the company continues to recover and further enhance the security of its systems. For the second quarter, the company estimates that the malware incident had a negative impact of 2.3% on its net revenue growth and 2.4% on its organic revenue growth. The company also incurred incremental expenses of $7.1 million as a result of the incident.”

The worst part? “In an Aug. 2 conference call with investment analysts, Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer, said Mondelez was not yet “back to normal.”

June. July. August. And an untold number of months to go.

Yes, IT guys like me are a royal pain. It’s not because we want to be. It’s because we know what will happen if a cyber attack is actually successful.

Stem cells in the brain’s hypothalamus control how fast aging occurs

In a very interesting news article on Technology Networks, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine “have found that stem cells in the brain’s hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body.”

The article is a straightforward read on a potentially world-changing research project.

“Einstein researchers made the surprising finding that the hypothalamus also regulates aging throughout the body. Now, the scientists have pinpointed the cells in the hypothalamus that control aging: a tiny population of adult neural stem cells, which were known to be responsible for forming new brain neurons.”

“Researchers injected hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of middle-aged mice whose stem cells had been destroyed as well as into the brains of normal old mice. In both groups of animals, the treatment slowed or reversed various measures of aging.”

There’s still a very long way to go before this even becomes feasible for human trials, but the idea that we now know where the aging process is taking place in the brain and how to slightly reverse it is absolutely amazing.

The article and links to the Albert Einstein findings are here.

California has banned all state-funded travel to Texas

California has banned all state-funded travel to Texas over discriminatory laws in regards to LGBT rights.

Other states included in the ban are Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

In an article on Government Technology, there is a growing concern on how this ban will affect the partnerships California has with these states in addition to how (and if) the ban will affect sporting events and what possible retaliatory actions  will come from the states currently under the ban.

In the GT article, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was quoted as saying “Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights. Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century.”

“According to the press release: “AB 1887 prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or against same-sex couples or their families… This restriction applies to state agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California and the California State University.””

While California is no stranger to asserting its’ beliefs through the application of trade law, things will become complex very quickly if the banned states petition to the current federal administration. Unless this is handled with tact and measured diplomacy, this could be the spark that ignites a nationwide inter-state trade war.

SAMHSA’s national report on US behavioral health conditions is now available

SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) just released their report on the prevalence of behavioral health conditions. This report includes the rate of serious mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance use, underage drinking and the percentages of those who seek treatment for these conditions in the United States.

The report is “one of a series of national and state reports that provide a snapshot of behavioral health in the United States. The reports present a set of substance use and mental health indicators as measured through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), sponsored by SAMHSA. This array of indicators provides a unique overview of the nation’s behavioral health at a point in time as well as a mechanism for tracking change and trends over time.”

The report “is divided into sections based on content areas and age groups. It begins with sections on substance use, mental health, and mental health treatment among youths aged 12 to 17, followed by a section on mental health and mental health service use among adults aged 18 or older. Next are sections on substance use, misuse, use disorders, and treatment among youths and adults.”

Though it is not stated in their introduction, the report also has details on race/ethnicity use in addition to the age range mentioned above.

Note: The report was just published this month, but the information is based on their disclosed 2015 findings.

If you are interested in national behavioral health trends, the report is available for free here.

FOSCAM cameras compromised. Affected models should be disconnected.

In a press release yesterday afternoon, Foscam officially announced their branded cameras manufactured by China-based Shenzhen Foscam have severe security vulnerabilities “which leave users vulnerable to hacks which allow attackers to remotely take-over cameras, live stream, download stored files and even compromise other devices located on the local network.”

Foscam recommends “disconnecting your current Foscam branded cameras from the internet until these issues have been resolved”

The models affected are:

  • Foscam R2
  • Foscam C1
  • Foscam C1 Lite
  • Foscam C2
  • Foscam FI9800
  • Foscam FI9826P
  • Foscam FI9828P
  • Foscam FI9851P
  • Foscam FI9853EP
  • Foscam FI9901EP
  • Foscam FI9903P
  • Foscam FI9928P

“The vulnerabilities affect “Foscam” branded cameras and cameras manufactured by China-based Shenzhen Foscam only. The vulnerabilities DO NOT affect Amcrest or FDT branded cameras which are produced by a separate factory and R&D team led by US-based Amcrest (formerly Foscam US and now Amcrest), which is totally unrelated to China-based Shenzhen Foscam.”

There is a damning report by FSecure [.pdf download] on the exact vulnerabilities found on the affected Foscam cameras. For starters, there’s hidden Telnet functionality, hidden hard-coded credentials for the web user interface, the FTP server account to the cameras have a hard-coded password, and the configuration back-up file is protected by hard-coded credentials. Any one of those is a very bad thing, but for all of those hard-coded backdoors to be on every camera system and on all models coming from one location? “Suspicious” would be a kind word.

Like I ranted about master passwords and again on master backdoors, hardware and software with embedded hard coded and/or universal master passwords are a big problem. Regardless of the original intent of having a master password and/or backdoor, once that “core” password gets out, that product is now fair game for anyone for any purpose anywhere anytime.

Good thing everyone on the internet is kind and rational. Oh, wait, that was just that one day back in 1989. Nevermind.

New research site shows your city and state spending

There’s a new website that lets you check on the demographics, government spending, financial overview, debt, and general information of any city and/or state in the United States.

Head over to cleargov.com and type in any place you want information about. Some locations will have multiple years to choose from and additional information available if you are a government employee.

According to the information on the “about” page, the site was “launched in June of 2015 with the goal of helping average citizens better understand how their tax dollars are spent and how their local government is performing. Our vision is that through better understanding citizens will want to get more involved in their local government and help drive positive change.”