Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

5 Ways Data Science and the Intelligent Web can help Schools and Education

without comments

5 ways to...This past week, I shared a simplified introduction to what is done with data science/machine learning/data mining/predictive analytics work, and the major tasks / roles.  This coming week I’m going to share about how I think data science combined with the “intelligent web” (sometimes called Web 3.0 or above) can benefit human education and thus humanity.  Some of these ideas can be done at the school level, others are probably better done by vendors, and yet others are best done by governmental organizations or associations.  But each of them can make a big difference, if done well and ethically.  And to not keep you too much in suspense, here are the ones I’ll be posting about this week:

Read the rest of this entry »

Why any Emergency Alert System that has a Smartphone App Panic Button that only uses the Internet is a Death waiting to Happen

without comments

Our school has been researching various emergency alert systems so that if an emergency happens, we have a manner that staff can quickly and reliably communicate to our administration that there is a problem, and that we can then quickly send out messages as appropriate to our students.

Most emergency alert systems have a smartphone app with some form of panic button.  This is great, except for the fact that these systems all only use the phone’s internet connection, and if that internet connection is not working, then they fail.

Here are two quick scenarios that demonstrate the problem.  The first is very real.  On our campus, we are in a neighborhood known to have drive-by shootings.  My smartphone most of the time is connected to our wi-fi, but as I move around the campus, there are places where my phone has such a poor wi-fi connection that nothing goes through, but the connection is not so bad that it switches to my phone carrier’s internet.  And one of these parts of campus is where we have had students get into a verbal altercation with some neighbors, and there were threats of gun violence.   While nothing happened at that time, we know it could.  And if I was there, trying to de-escalate the situation, but I wanted to have something I could quickly do on my phone to say there was a problem, the panic button would fail me with any system that only used the Internet as its communication.

Another scenario that is quite real is when someone is not by any wi-fi and they have no Internet connection at all, and they have a problem that they need to hit a panic button on.  Again, this would put that person’s life at risk, because no matter how good the rest of the system is, this weakest link of the communication chain would cause huge problems.

So what is the solution?  It is actually rather simple.  Emergency Alert Systems should have a backup of using SMS (text messaging).  We know that during Hurricane Katrina, while most cell functions were not working, SMS still was.  This is described well in the article “SMS does SOS” (https://fcw.com/articles/2006/04/03/sms-does-sos.aspx)

SMS only allows for short messages, but I’m sure a well-engineered solution could encode a client to server set of messages that could be sent out (probably looking like gibberish to humans), if the internet connection fails.  It could even send out a human readable version also, if the system was well designed.  And it could include GPS data, as long as the app was well designed.

Written by Jacob Walker

February 22nd, 2017 at 9:58 am

My Review of the Aspen SIS from Follett based Upon a Short Demo

with 2 comments

Yesterday, I saw a demo of the Aspen SIS from Follett.  For full disclosure, Dylan Holcomb, the Sales Consultant who came out, was a friend of mine from high school, but honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be an SIS that we would be interested in, especially because the price tag is high for the size of school that Highlands Community Charter currently is.  But, after seeing how Aspen works, and how they addressed my blog article about the 3 features that SIS providers are missing, it is on our school’s radar as a potential. Here is a quick review of what I was impressed with, and what things I still think they could do better.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

February 18th, 2016 at 11:59 am

My Email to On the Media and Followup to the New York Times

without comments

Yesterday, after posting my blog entry about The New York Times, I wrote to “On the Media”, one of my favorite NPR shows, and also a follow up email to The New York Times.  I hope at least one of these two news organizations will take my concerns seriously…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

February 5th, 2016 at 11:59 am

Posted in Security

The New York Times Makes No Acknowledgement of Being Down, but it Looks Like their Website is Fixed

with one comment

As I have been posting about recently, The New York Times had one of their websites down for about a week (at least), which I contacted them about.   They sent me a generic response, and it appears their Mapping America website is working again.  This is very disappointing to me, and in my eyes tarnishes their journalistic reputation, because if they had wrong facts in an article, they would normally make an acknowledgement of this, and correct it.  With a website being down, they should also at least make a public acknowledgement.   The Public Editor also never got back with me, which suggests that this person / office either doesn’t care, or hasn’t been given enough resources, or is so technologically illiterate that they don’t understand why this is a big deal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

February 4th, 2016 at 4:50 am

Posted in Security

My Email to the New York Times regarding one of its Websites being Down for Nearly a Week

without comments

As I posted last week, it’s Mapping America site has not been working, either giving intermittent “503 errors” that the service in unavailable, or just showing a blank map.  I didn’t contact them at first, as I wanted to give them a chance to detect and solve their own problem (which I assumed they would do).  But now that it has been nearly a week since I first saw the problem, and they are still having the problem, I contacted them today, with the following email sent to their tech team and their Public Editor (who acts in a role similar to an ombudsman).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

February 1st, 2016 at 11:59 am

Can we be sure the New York Times has sufficient security to not get hacked again?

with 2 comments

First, I want to say, that I have no credible evidence that the New York Times has been hacked again; like they were in 2013.  But the fact that one of their websites (the wonderful Mapping America site) has not been working for 12 hours, without any apparent response from them, gives me reason to think they don’t even know that part of their website isn’t working (and I tried it on 3 web browsers, and the error is a server side error):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

January 27th, 2016 at 9:39 am

Posted in Security

Three Missing Features in Most Student Information Systems (SIS)

with one comment

There is a paradox:  Humanity’s most developed organizations and systems are based upon what is learned in our education systems; yet, the field of education lags behind nearly all others.  One such area I have seen, is how feature-poor Student Information Systems (SIS) are.  Despite such systems being case studies in many database books, most of these systems do not use any data science methods to improve operations.  Specifically, I have usually not seen active security, predictive analytics, nor even resource optimization as features.  Here is why these are important to have, and my invitation for SIS providers to come into the 21st century.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

January 7th, 2016 at 9:42 am

The 10+ Cyber Security Practices all Businesses and other Organizations Should Have In Place

without comments

I have been reading recently several sets of “immutable laws” about security, and it is clear that in cyber security, just like real life security, that the locks we place on doors (such as passwords) and the walls we erect, will almost always have a way of being broken, or a flaw (security hole).  Thus, these need to be viewed only as the first line of defense, and that every company and organization needs to have a heavy second and third line of defense, which is to have active intruder detection and alarms when an intruder is detected.   If these additional line of defenses had been better in place, nearly all of the recent MAJOR hacks might have had far less damage done.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

September 23rd, 2015 at 11:59 am

Posted in Security

The Hiroshima Virus: A Short Story of Science and Society

without comments

It was 100 years to the date of Japanese surrender after the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   One might consider the atomic bomb to be a zero day exploit, as no one else had really known.  But even if at the time it had been more widely known, there was no protection.  Such was the Hiroshima Virus, in which some think it was a Japanese hacker, others say China in trying to make Japan look bad, and most not knowing at all as the roads, the lights, and the net were dark, and over 1,200,000 are dead, ten times the murders of the “bomb”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Walker

August 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm