Informational Blog

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Finding Humanity in Big Data

At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, I was assigned as the Senior Intelligence Officer for the 1st Battlefield Coordination Detachment (1st BCD) at the Combined Air Operations Center on Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.  As the name of our unit implies, our mission was to coordinate ground and air operations for the invasion of Iraq.  This was a monumental task and the amount of information that passed through our desks was almost unfathomable.  It is difficult to paint a complete picture, but we were coordinating the movement of two entire Armies; with hundreds of thousands of ground troops, from multiple nations; hundreds of air assets, ranging from combat, intelligence, refueling, command/control and troop transport aircraft to Army helicopters and drones.  On top of all that, everything was constantly and simultaneously moving.  Talk about big data.

In order to monitor all this activity, we had no less than about 15 separate battlefield operations systems daisy-chained together, but with fewer than that many soldiers on shift to operate all the computers.  Information was flying across the screens faster than the ticker at the New York Stock Exchange.  The Combined Air Force Component Command used a system of kill boxes to coordinate air interdiction targets on the battlefield and it was the 1st BCD’s mission to deconflict fires between the ground and air component commands.  The air and ground components agreed to open a certain kill box north of Baghdad, which meant that everyone agreed there were no friendly forces in the area.  However, out of the thousands of icons representing maneuver forces on the ground, I noticed a small blue blip on the screen.  Fortunately, just before the invasion, the Army fielded the Blue Force Tracking system, which was an emitter to show where units were located.  I did a quick investigation and discovered a U.S. Special Operations Detachment operating well forward of the main battle area (as Green Berets are supposed to do), so I denied opening the kill box.  If the Blue Force Tracking system was not fielded, if one of the battlefield operations systems did not work properly, and if I stepped away from my station for a few minutes, that SOF detachment would likely have been destroyed.  There is perhaps nothing more tragic in war than friendly or civilian casualties.

In business, it is hard to detect the human element in big data.  We tend to focus on processing massive amounts of information as quickly as possible.  However, as leaders we must look at our systems from the customers’ perspective.  Customers have a lot of online choices these days, but a human touch goes a long way to earning lasting loyalty.  An occasional personal note or phone call to a customer following an online transaction adds humanity to big data; especially if there is a negative experience.  People see that and know the company values them as a person, rather than just a transaction or anonymous account number.

Ascension has the expertise to assist your company in customer relationship management.  We can help your company with the transformation between technology and cultural changes.

By John Winters, Colonel U.S. Army {Retired}

NEW PRIVACY LAWS AFFECT BUSINESS TODAY

Currently the Washington State Legislative will likely pass a very strong Consumer Data Privacy law. As many of you know, California has already made the first step in clear language dictating that businesses must change the manner in which Consumer data is managed and protected. That legislation is called California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Many other states are in the process of legislation this year like CCPA and/or GDPR.

With the California current law and Washington’s new law, Consumers have rights to the following:  

  • Personal Information Rights
    • Requiring business not to sell their personal data
    • Requiring opt IN rather than Opt OUT practices
  • Right to be Forgotten
    • A Consumer can require a business to permanently remove any and all Personal Information 
  • Right to Know
    • Personal Information disclosure by company to a person of what personal information exists and how it is used
  • Right to equal service and price
    • Consumer will have the right to object to any profiling, direct marketing and statistical research on current or historical Consumer data. Including clear restrictions on any discriminatory actions by a company against Consumers who wish to exercise their right to privacy.


In our discussions with Policy makers, Washington state as well as other states will have adopted very strong data privacy laws that protects consumer’s. We encourage business to begin considering how to accommodate these near-term changes. 

For more Privacy related information please request below:

(This information will not be resold or used in any other way, other than to contact you regarding Privacy Legislation)

Cyber Security: A Process Primer

Without question, we are seeing security become top of mind for leadership.  Many organizations are becoming fearful of the almost certain prospect, that they will become victims of a data breach and/or ransom-ware in the near future.    More than ever, firms need to take an offensive position and actively secure their organizations–the first step is knowledge.

Here is a primer for developing and managing a Cyber Security process to help you and your firm become more secure. This is a straight-forward process, we use at Ascension, to help companies achieve high levels of security compliance.

Ascension Cyber Security Process

Unfortunately, after a breach, leaders call us to help them recover. I hear many of them say:

“What really happened? Are we responsible? Why did I get targeted?

Please feel free to call and ask any and all questions you may have regarding Cyber Security.

Paul Scott 425-750-0760 paul@ascension-tg.com

Industrial Systems Vulnerable to Hackers!

Security Week, a well respected online new service, announced that ” Several major industrial and automation solutions providers have issued advisories in response to the recently disclosed Wind River VxWorks vulnerabilities dubbed Urgent/11.

It is reported that Company’s with systems from the following have issued notices and/or advisories regarding this Zero Day vulnerability.

At Ascension, we are working to insure ourselves and our clients are protecting both corporate and individual data. Again, I think we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough our systems and the persons affected. Please Ponder this question and free to call or comment. Thank you

Sharks are in the water for our data! Are you worried?

Earlier this year, I attended a Security Summit here in Seattle. There was a statistic sited that placed Cyber Security and Privacy Policy into the top three concerns for CEOs in America. PWC, sited this statistic in a recent 2019 CEO Survey (2) Also, only 38% of CEO’s surveyed, felt comfortable with their respective Cyber Security posture.

I know when I formed my first Security Program Office in the early 2000’s, I never observed security and/or privacy on the list of my peers and top leaders of the organizations. However, today security has become top of mind. Many leaders are now worried about their respective jobs as well as their companies’ reputation.

Unforunately, at Ascension, we have leaders calling us, after such a breach or security incident has happen. It is difficult to watch CxO’s asking themselves, “What happened? Why did I get targeted?” Assessment is the first step to preventing this situation.

Feel free to comment: “Are you worried about CyberSecurity?

Please do not give company or personal specifics, unless you wish to call me.

Have a great day! Paul Scott

CItations:

(2) Price Waterhouse Cooper (2019 Published). US CEO agenda 2019. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/ceo-agenda/ceo-survey.html

Capital One Data Breach…Who’s protecting your wallet?

As I was reading my Wall Street Journal online this evening. I can see that Data Breach concerns are becoming louder this year than anytime in the past. In a article “Capital One Cyber Staff Raised Concerns Before Hack” (1) the authors shared indications that before the Capital One Data Breach, there were a number of concerns voiced by staff and others. Issues such as high staff turnover, even at the top levels of the organization. Also, improper or possibly negligent configurations of security related software were slow to be implemented. Capital One’s slogan is “What in your wallet?” It’s catchy! However, I think we all wished that the data in our wallet’s should stay in our wallet!

At Ascension, we find new clients sharing similar issues or concerns. CyberSecurity is not easy nor is it sexy. However, in today’s world, CyberSecurity and Privacy are now a cost of doing business for almost any endeavor. Leadership and technical staff alike, need to focus reasonable and consistant energy on CyberSecurity for the security of their respective customers. Security Assessments are essential to understanding the problem.

Assessment is the first step in understand how your company fairs with regard to CyberSecurity and Privacy. Feel free to comment whether you believe assessments are helpful?

Good Day, Paul

CItations:

(1) Andriotis , AnnaMaria, and Rachel Louise Ensign. “Capital One Cyber Staff Raised Concerns Before Hack.” Capital One Cyber Staff Raised Concerns Before Hack, Wall Street Journel, Aug. 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/capital-one-cyber-staff-raised-concerns-before-hack-11565906781?mod=djemalertNEWS

The plot thickens — Not just Capital One Breached, possibly 30 more companies breached.

It appears that prosecutors have stated that the Seattle Employee arrested for the Capital One 106 Million User Breach, also “include(s) not only data stolen from Capital One, but also multiple terabytes of data stolen by Thompson from more than 30 other companies, educational institutions, and other entities. “

Geekwire, which has done a stellar job of coverage, uploading a copy of a UNITED STATES’ MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR DETENTION filed on the 13th of this month. See https://www.scribd.com/document/421871863/Aug-13-memorandum-for-Paige-Thompson-case

As I stated last week, “Estimating the cost to the company is typically, at least $100 to $150 per user, it would be easy to estimate the initial cost to Capital One will be well over $100M, and most likely upward of $200M, when you factor in all the internal remediations and legel cost that are never recovered by any company.” Now with 30 possible other companies breached, the businesses may be forced to pay over 500 Million or more.

Seattle employee at the center of major Data Breach

Copy of Compliant Header filed July 27, 2019

This morning over a cup of coffee, I gazing at the front page of my Wall Street Journal. Casually scanning the stories. Something caught my eye; the Wall Street Journal stated that a Seattleite is at the center of a Major Data Breach. Here from Seattle, a former Amazon employee has been arrested, in connection with the Capital One Breach affecting 106 Million Card Applicants. Wow

Estimating the cost to the company is typically, at least $100 to $150 per user, it would be easy to estimate the initial cost to Capital One will be well over $100M, and most likely upward of $200M, when you factor in all the internal remediations and legel cost that are never recovered by any company.

CyberSecurity seems like an impossible task. I will grant you that it is not an easy task; but I will say that focus and diligence is our best tactic so far. We cannot hide our faces in the sand anymore. We must confront these issues and do our best to protect both our companies information as well as our customer’s data. I believe we should all ponder how to become more secure and act accordingly in an expeditious fashion. This wordgram may help you ponder and reflect on this issue.

At Ascension, we are working to insure ourselves and our clients are protecting both corporate and individual data. Again, I think we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough to protect customer and/or business information? Ponder this question and free free to comment. Thank you

Are you responsible…

 Are we really protecting our company's and customer data?
Are we really protecting our company’s and customer data?

A movie was just released on Netflix, called The Great Hack“, which was directed by Noujaim & Amer. This movie describing how Cambridge Analytica was able to change the outcomes of elections here and abroad. As I watched the movie, I was first taken by the right vs. left political commentary–finding myself riled up, like most of us concerned with the devisive nature of politics in America today.

However, as I listened to the journalist from the UK publication, The Guardian. I began to recognize the deeper and far more insidious consequence. The real issue is protecting personal data from nafarious uses against the person themselves. What companies like Cambridge Analytica did and do, is exploit user data against the person’s themselves. Brittany Kaiser of Cambridge Analytica, spoke plainly, stating that firms like her’s, used People’s personal data, targeted against that person to change their personal views without their knowledge, understanding or consent. She called it “Weapons Grade Communications.” Wow!

This movie, coupled with the recent $5 Billion Dollar fine levied against FaceBook, has many of us asking the important question: I’m I really protecting my company’s customers data appropriately?

At Ascension, we are working daily to make sure ourselves and our clients are protecting both corporate and individual data in an appropriate manner. Lately, many of our new clients are asking themselves, “Are we really protecting our company’s and customer’s data?”

I would ask you: “Are you responsible….and if so, what are you going do about it?”

Thank you for listening to my opinions. Paul Scott