Your Computer Is All Wet

Computer Chip

So I was at my first synagogue men’s club event last week.


A guy at the door was checking people in with a laptop lent by my friend, who is the head of the men’s club.


Sitting at the desk, the check-in guy had a cup of soda and at one point, it got knocked over and spilled on top of the MacAir. 


I raced over with some napkins to try and wipe it off quickly, and my friend grabbed his laptop and held it upside down to try and get the spill out.


For a while, the computer stayed on, but as I feared all the sugary stuff in the soda would do it in so it wouldn’t turn on again. 


I emailed my friend a number of times during the week to find out how his laptop was doing. 


He had made an appointment with AppleCare and they said they could fix it, but he said it would cost almost as much as a new computer. 


Also, they gave him a contact somewhere else that specializes in recovering the data/contents on the computer. 


The saga with the computer isn’t over, but on Shabbat my friend in synagogue said to me, “You know, you were the only one who contacted me to inquire how I was doing with the laptop.”


And he gave me a warm smile that said thank you for actually giving a damn. 


I thought to myself perhaps we only have a few real friends in the world and it’s not just about who gives us that old ada-boy at the fun events. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Insuring Against Cyber Attacks

Insuring Against Cyber Attacks

More and more, our technology is at risk of a cyber attack.

In fact, just today the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has hacked into the Navy’s unclassified network.

While we can fix the computers that were attacked, the damage done in terms of data exfiltration and malware infiltration is another matter.

To fix the computers, we can wipe them, swap out the drives, or actually replace the whole system.

But the security breaches still often impose lasting damage, since you can’t get the lost data or privacy information back or as they say “put the genie back in the bottle.”

Also, you aren’t always aware of hidden malware that can lie dormant, like a trojan horse, nor can you immediately contain the damage of a spreading computer virus, such as a zero-day attack.

According to Federal Times, on top of more traditional IT security precautions (firewalls, antivirus, network scanning tools, security settings, etc.), many organizations are taking out cybersecurity insurance policies.

With insurance coverage, you transfer the risk of cybersecurity penetrations to cover the costs of compromised data and provide for things like “breach notification to victims, legal costs and forensics, and investigative costs to remedy the breach.”

Unfortunately, because there is little actuarial data for calculating risks, catastrophic events such as “cyber espionage and attacks against SCADA industrial controls systems are usually not covered.

DHS has a section on their website that promotes cybersecurity insurance where they state that the Department of Commerce views cybersecurity insurance as an “effective, market-driven way of increasing cybersecurity,” because it promotes preventive measures and best practices in order to lower insurance premiums and limits company losses from an attack.

Moreover, according to the DHS Cybersecurity Insurance Workshop Readout Report (November 2012) cybersecurity insurance or risk transfer is the fourth leg of a comprehensive risk management framework that starts with risk acceptance, risk mitigation, and risk avoidance.

I really like the idea of cybersecurity insurance to help protect organizations from the impact of cybersecurity attacks and for promoting sound cybersecurity practices to begin with.

With cyber attacks, like with other catastrophes (fire, flood, accident, illness, and so on), we will never be able to fully eliminate the risks, but we can prepare ourselves by taking out insurance to help cover the costs of reconstituting and recovery.

Buying insurance for cybersecurity is not capitulating our security, but rather adding one more layer of constructive defense. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Resilience In The Face Of Disaster

Statue_of_liberty

This year when ball drops in Time Square next week to usher in the New Year, it will be a little different than in prior years, because rather than blanket cheer, there will be a good amount of consternation as we hit the debt limit of $16.4 trillion as well as the Fiscal Cliff where broad spending cuts and tax increases are to go into effect (whether in full, partial with some sort of deal, or in deferral).

Like the statue pictured here, the strength and resilience of the American people will be tested and we will need to stand tall and strong. 

In this context, it was interesting to read in Wired Magazine (January 2013) a interview with Andrew Zolli, the author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, an exploration of the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. 

Whether in response to natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy or man-made ones like the financial crisis and terrorism, we need to be prepared to adapt to disaster, respond and continue operations, and recover quickly to rebuild and grow. 

According to Zolli, we need shock absorbers for our social systems that can “anticipate events…sense their own state…and can reorganize to maintain their core purpose amid disruption.”

Adaptability is important, so that we can continue to operate in an emergency, but also vital is “self-repair” so we can “bounce back.”

These concepts for resiliency in emergency management are similar to how Government Computer News (December 2012) describes the desire for building autonomous self-healing computer systems that can defend and recover from attacks. 

The notion is that when our computer systems are under cyber attack, we need to be able to defend them in an automated way to counter the threats in a timely fashion. 

Thus, acccording to GCN, we need IT systems that have situational monitoring for self awareness, real-time identification of an attack, continuous learning to adapt and defend againt changing attack patterns, and self-healing to recover from them. 

Thus, bouncing back from social and cyber disasters really requires similar resilience, and for some challenges, it may be sooner than later that we are tested. 😉

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Reaching The Victims Of Disaster

I watched on TV, a congressman from Staten Island talk about the complex response to Hurricane Sandy–in particular, how people whose homes were flooded and were without power could not contact authorities for the help they desperately needed

Going on two weeks after the storm, the Congressman explained how engineers and architects were in turn going door to door to find out who needed help and what could be done–but this was slow and cumbersome. 

Today, I am reading in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (30 Oct. 2012) about an organization that “matches volunteers with people affected by disasters.”‘

Recovers.org does this by establishing local recovery sites for communities (e.g. townname.recover.org) on a subscription model.

By establishing recovery sites to manage relief efforts–without waiting for government or aid groups–recovers.org enables self-sufficiency for communities in the face of disaster.

Moreover, by working at the grassroots level and going straight to neighborhood organizations such as houses or worship or community centers to serve as site administrators–those who know their community and who needs help–Recovers aims to bypass the “redtape.”

The recovery sites they establish, include features for:

– Searchable volunteer database that matches skills of volunteers to needs in the community

– Disaster Dashboard that aids in information sharing between victims and responders

– Donation mechanism where 100% goes directly to the areas affected, rather than to a relief organization

Recovers is the brainchild of someone whose own home was destroyed in a tornado in 2011, and who understands the logistical chaos that can ensue without proper recovery coordination on the ground!

I like the idea of this community Recovery portal for coordinating relief efforts through volunteers and donations, and see this as complementary to the formal FEMA DisasterAssistance.gov site for applying for various forms of assistance and checking claims.

Still though, the fundamental problem exists when you have no power–you can’t logon to recover.org or disasterassistance.gov–you are still cut-off and in need of help. So it looks like we are back to the drawing board on this one again.

As a vision for the future, we need the ability to establish to remote wireless charging generally-speaking for all, but specifically for communities struck by disaster, so they can call out for help and we can actually hear them and provide a timely respond!  😉

The Heat Is On But Something Is Off

Mall

The Huffington Post (28 June 2012) ran an article this weekend called “Land of the Free, Home of the Unprepared.”

This at a time, when the United States East Coast is battling a heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees for days running.

Emergencies have been declared in many states, including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, as well as in Washington, D.C.

On top of that, an early weekend storm with hurricane-force winds took out the power for millions!

Utilities described the damage to the power grid as “catastrophic” with restoration taking up to a week for some.

People were seeking refuge from the heat with no power at home for airconditioning, refrigeration, or telecommunications.

Everywhere–at Starbucks (the garbage was piled high), Barnes and Nobles, the Mall, people were sprawled out in chairs and even on the floors, and were powering up their devices wherever they could find an outlet.

Moreover, there were long lines at gas stations and supermarkets, where power was working for some.

Many street lights were out at intersections and many other stores were either closed or only taking cash.

While catastrophes do happen including natural disasters, the frequency, duration, and impact in the Washington, D.C. area–the Capital of the United States–is ridiculously high.

I could not help thinking that if something more serious struck–whether terrorism, pandemic flu, a serious earthquake, or whatever, 11 years after 9/11, we seem really ill prepared.

We need to get our game on, not only when the heat is up, but for disaster preparedness in general.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Boy Loses Arm, Girl Loses Memory

Aftershock3

I had the opportunity to watch an absolutely brilliant movie called Aftershock (2010) about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) that leveled the city and killed more than 240,000 people in China.

The movie is beautifully filmed and the events recreated with tremendous clarity–I could feel as if I was there and I literally cried for the these poor people.

In the film a women is saved in the quake by her husband who dies trying to go back into the falling building to save their children–twins, a boy and a girl, age 6–who themselves end up buried under the rubble.

The mother begs others to save (both) her children, but a rescuer tells her that when they try to move the concrete slab that’s pinning them down–this way or that–it will mean that one of her children will die.

She cannot choose, but at the risk of losing both children, she finally says “save my son.”

The girl hears her beneath the rubble–and tears are running down her face with the emotional devastation of not being chosen by her own mother for life.

The mother carries what she believes is her daughter’s dead body and lays it next to the husband–she weeps and begs forgiveness.

The story continues with rebirth and renewal…the boy survives but loses his arm in the quake and the girl also lives but loses her memory (first from post-traumatic stress–she can’t even talk–then apparently from the anger at her mother’s choice).

Each child faces a daunting future with their disabilities–the boy physically and the girl emotionally, but each fights to overcome and ultimately succeed.

The boy who is feared can never do anything with only one arm–ends up with a  successful business, family, home, car, and caring for his heart-broken mother.

The girl who is raised by army foster parents struggles to forgive her mother–“it’s not that I don’t remember, it’s that I can’t forget”–and after 32 years finally goes back and heals with her.

The mother never remarries–she stays married in her mind to the man who loved her so much and sacrificed his life for hers.  And she stays in Tangshan–never moving, waiting somehow for her daughter to return–from the (un)dead–but she is emotionally haunted all the years waiting and morning–“You don’t know what losing something means until you’ve lost it.”

The brother and sister finally find each other as part of the Tangshan Rescue Team–they each go back to save others buried in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed almost another 70,000.

Some amazing themes from the movie:

– “You’re family is always your family,” even despite wrongs that we do to each other, we are challenged to somehow find forgiveness and to love and extend ourselves for those who have given so much to us.

– “Some people are living, others only suffer.” After the earthquake, as with any such disaster, the living question why they survived and other didn’t. Similarly, we frequently ask ourselves, why some people seem to have it “so good,” while others don’t. But as we learn, each of us has our own mission and challenges to fulfill.

– Disabilities or disadvantages–physical or emotional–may leave others or ourselves thinking that we couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed, but over time and with persistence we can overcome a missing arms or a broken heart, if we continue to have faith and do the right things.

I loved this movie–and the progression from the horrific destruction of the earthquake to the restoration and renewal of life over many years of struggle was a lesson in both humility of what we mortals are in the face of a trembling ground beneath us or the sometimes horrible choices we have to make, and the fortitude we must show in overcoming these.

(Source Photo: here)

>Social Order In Chaos And In Calm

Less than two months after devastating earthquakes on 12 January 2010 toppled much of Port-Au-Price, Haiti leaving more than 220,000 dead and 1.3 million homeless, there are indications of social order reemerging (WSJ 8 March 2010).

The rise of social order in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake is occurring in the tent cities that have sprung up and is especially amazing given that the formal government is still in disarray.

In the tent cities, “committees agitate to secure food, water and supplies in high demand from international aid organizations.”

In one encampment, the makeshift “President” of the tent city of 2,000 stated: “we knew we wouldn’t receive any assistance unless we formed a committee…there is no government but us.”

So the people organized and formed an “executive committee,” took a census, provided aid organizations lists of their residents to help in the distribution of aid, and have even started to issue identification cards. Committees are also setting up people to work as security guards for “keeping the peace.”

To me, there are many lessons from this story of hope and reemergence:

1.Order prevails over chaos:Even amidst some of the most horrific events shattering lives and communities, social order takes root again and drives away the surrounding chaos. While conditions on the ground are still horrific, people realize that they are stronger planning and working together for the greater good than wallowing in a state of pandemonium and fighting each other.

2.Governance emerges even in the absence of government: Structured decision-making is so basic to societal functioning that it emerges even in the absence of strong formal government institutions. So certainly with government intact and vital, we need to establish sound governance to meet the needs of our constituents in a transparent, organized, and just fashion.

3.“Where there is life, there is hope”—this is an old saying that I used to hear at home from my parents and grandparents and it seems appropriate with the dire situation in Haiti. Despite so much death and suffering there, the people who survived, have reason to be hopeful in the future. They are alive to see another day—and despite its enormous challenges—can rebuild and make for a better tomorrow.

These lessons are consistent with the notion to me of what enterprise architecture is all about—the creation of order out of chaos and the institution of meaningful planning and governance as the basis for ongoing sustainment and advancement of the institutions they support.

Finally, it shouldn’t take a disaster like an earthquake for any of us to realize that these elements of social order are the basic building blocks that we all depend on to survive and thrive.

 

The real question is why in disaster we eventually band together, but in times of calm we tear each other apart?