Alison launches new courses on R Programming

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2017 by itnerd

Alison, one of the world’s largest free e-learning platforms, has launched two new courses on popular programming language R. Although R is sometimes seen as a simpler programming language than others, there is a steep learning curve to begin with as it uses a different syntax model to most common languages.

In the US, the average salary for an R programmer is paid between $76,000-100,000, and in the 2014 Dice Tech Salary Survey of over 17,000 technology professionals, the highest-paid IT skill was R programming.

The first course, Introduction to R for Data Science, is aimed at people who have a basic knowledge of data science that they want to expand on. It explains how R is used, and teaches the data structures and types found in R. The second course, R for Data Analysis, moves on to more sophisticated forms of data manipulation, with a strong focus on identifying underlying patterns and predicting trends in data-sets. Check it out today.


Breaking: DHS Employees Locked Out Of Their Networks

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2017 by itnerd

It’s not clear what’s going on, but news is filtering out that employees of the Department Of Homeland Security are locked out of some of the agency’s networks because their Personal Identity Verification cards are apparently not working:

Employees began experiencing problems logging into networks at 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday due to a problem related to the personal identify verification (PIV) cards used by federal workers and contractors to access certain information systems, one source said. At least four DHS buildings were affected, the source said, including locations used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Another source said the cards did not appear to be responsible. DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This could be a widespread technical issue, or something more sinister.It isn’t clear which at this point. But this is a story worth watching. As I get more info, I’ll post it here.

Loblaw Resets The Passwords Of ALL PC Points Users For Security Reasons

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2017 by itnerd

It seems that the hack of the Loblaw PC Points rewards program isn’t going away as every member of the rewards program have gotten e-mails over the weekend that Loblaw has reset their passwords. Meaning that even if they reset their passwords when the hack became public, they’ll have to do it again. Plus the PC Points website has this message communicating the same thing:


This is an indication that the company feels that passwords are the issue and likely continue to be an issue. As a result, they’ve taken this step to try and make the problem go away. Though you have to wonder if after making their users do this, will it address the issue or will this problem simply resurface.

I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens.

Verizon/Yahoo Deal To Take $350 Million Haircut

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2017 by itnerd

The news is out this morning that Verizon’s purchase of horribly insecure Yahoo is going ahead. But with a $350 million discount due to the latter’s inability to not get pwned by hackers:

Under the amended deal, Yahoo will be responsible for 50 per cent of any cash liabilities incurred following the closing related to government investigations and lawsuits related to the breaches. Liabilities arising from shareholder lawsuits and SEC investigations will continue to be the responsibility of Yahoo.

“The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favourable outcome for shareholders,” said Marni Walden, Verizon executive vice-president and president of product innovation and new businesses. “It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter.”

The security breaches raised concerns that people might decrease their usage of Yahoo e-mail and other digital services that Verizon is buying. A smaller audience makes Yahoo’s services less valuable because it reduces the opportunities to show ads – the main reason that Verizon struck the deal seven months ago.

You have to wonder why Verizon would even bother with this seeing as these breaches, one of which was as recent as last week, keep happening. There must really be something that Yahoo has that Verizon really wants as I would have pulled the plug on this mess ages ago. But Verizon doesn’t see things that way. And that’s why we’re here. It will be interesting to see if anything else happens that encourages Verizon to finally walk away from the deal.



BlackBerry Priv, Android Auto, And Other Oddities Of Life

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2017 by itnerd

Recently, I started to converse with an individual who had the BlackBerry Priv which refused to play nice with is recently purchased Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Now, my first thought was that seeing as the BlackBerry Priv is a Android device, it should work. But in his case, when you plugged it into the car via the USB port, the infotainment system said “not media compatible” which meant that the infotainment system is unable to talk to the device to figure out what it is. Now, he had done a lot of the troubleshooting for me, including running the update from Hyundai Canada that gives some owners of 2017 Hyundai Canada vehicles Apple CarPlay. But he wasn’t further ahead. Intrigued by this, I made a trip up to Newmarket Ontario to see this first hand.

The first thing that I noticed is that the BlackBerry Priv when plugged into the car wasn’t visible to the Android Auto instance that was installed on the car. That said to me that this wasn’t an Android Auto problem. The second thing that I noticed is that the car couldn’t see any of the media on the device. I reasoned that this was due to the BlackBerry Priv not being able to switch into MTP or Media Transfer Protocol mode properly which is what is required for the phone and the infotainment system to talk to each other. That was further confirmed when I observed that when the phone was plugged in, a notification would display that it was in charging mode. When I tapped the notification, it gave me the option to switch to MTP. But when I did that, I observed it trying to do so and failing. Then the infotainment system would give the “not media compatible” error message. However, there was one occasion where upon connecting it, it did work and Android Auto popped up fine. But I was unable to replicate that success again.

What I believed was going on was that BlackBerry had altered the behavior of how Android interacts with the USB ports in the interest securing the device from being hacked via the USB port, and that was affecting the ability to connect to Android Auto. How to overcome that I honestly had no idea. But based on what I observed, the owner of the phone was able to come up with a way around this issue. He put the phone into developer mode and enable USB debugging mode. By doing that, Android Auto now works. Likely because he’s bypassing the security that BlackBerry puts on the device.

Here’s why what he did is a #fail:

  1. The fact that developer mode even exists on a phone that is supposed to be secure is a #fail because he was able to bypass some of the security that the BlackBerry Priv offers via instructions found easily using Google. If you can do that, how truly secure can the phone be?
  2. It’s pretty clear that BlackBerry didn’t test the Priv out with Android Auto before shipping it. That seems to be backed up by people who own VW’s or Honda products among others who are having similar issues. What’s doubly strange is that a lot of infotainment systems in cars have the QNX operating system running on them, and BlackBerry owns QNX. You’d think that one BlackBerry product would talk to another BlackBerry product. But clearly that’s not the case.

But what’s really problematic about this whole situation is that this person could have been caught in the middle of two companies pointing fingers at each other had he pursued this on his own. In other words, Hyundai would blame BlackBerry, and vice versa with no real resolution to the issue. Not to pump my own tires here, but you have to wonder what might have happened to this person had I not got involved to provide some assistance.

I have an offer to the folks at BlackBerry. The person I worked with on this is a fan of your products. I am willing to put you in touch with him so that you can fix this issue for him and all your customers. Seeing as he’s within 90 minutes of your headquarters in Waterloo, this is a great opportunity to see this first hand. You’d really score some brownie points with him and I’d post a very positive follow up on that front. Just reach out to me and we can get the ball rolling. Seriously. While you’re at it, you may want to look at the fact that developer mode even exists on this device as that’s a bit of a problem from a security standpoint as illustrated here.

So how about it BlackBerry? Will you take me up on my offer?

Introducing Brightspark: The Ultimate Lighting Safety for Cyclists

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 20, 2017 by itnerd

If you’re a passionate cyclist like we are, safety likely ranks high among your concerns.

Especially since cycling lighting systems haven’t changed much in the last 100 years, while roads have gotten more and more crowded.

Introducing Brightspark: The Ultimate Lighting Safety for Cyclists – the first revolutionary system that puts safety concerns to bed. Brightspark has an output of up to 600 lumens per pair, which makes you more visible to drivers.


Its flashing lights resemble the turn signals used by motorcycles and cars, while the addition of red roadway lasers projects red arrows on the road to let drivers know when you’re turning. And it’s incredibly easy to use!

This rechargeable headlight set just launched on Indiegogo, so now’s your chance to be one of the first Brightspark owners in the world. Bonus: you can purchase the product with a HUGE discount.


Guest Post: NordVPN Has 10 Tips on How to Protect One’s Financial Accounts

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 19, 2017 by itnerd

Identity theft was higher in 2016 than ever before. In the U.S. alone, around 15.4 million consumers were hit with some kind of ID theft in 2016, compared to 13.1 million in 2015.

Since credit cards became much harder to clone – due to EMV chips – most criminals moved to online purchase hacking. And since online shopping does not require physical credit cards, online fraud went up by 40% in the U.S. in 2016.

Hackers have various ways to steal identity information online. One of the most troubling and increasingly popular ones is financial account takeover. It can happen even if Internet users utilize two-factor authentication, involving text message or token app. Account takeover is a much more serious identity theft than credit card fraud. Credit card fraud is much easier to resolve – it’s often enough to simply place one call to the bank. Account takeover is much more complicated, and this method of identity theft has doubled in one year.

Unfortunately, large scale account takeovers can happen without the user’s knowledge or involvement – for example, when criminals hack into massive amounts of customer data, such a bank’s database.

However, in most cases, account takeovers, as well as the old-fashion credit card information theft, could be prevented if consumers were more careful when performing any financial transactions or when shopping online.

People who shop online are twice as likely to fall victims to identity theft. Many consumers shop online without any added protection, and sometimes even on open Wi-Fi networks, which are very easy to hack into. There are many ways online shopping can become hazardous to any user. For example, a website one found online may be a spoofed fraudulent website set up by hackers to steal the data. Or the online store where one shops may not be using a secure encryption protocol to ensure that their customers’ details are safe during the payment process. Or a customer’s account on the shopping site may get compromised, giving the hacker access to the account.

In order to stay safe when shopping online or performing any other transaction that exposes personal details, there are some simple tips. NordVPN, a VPN service provider that helps secure online experience, advises to follow these simple steps:

1. https

The first thing one should always see while making an online payment is whether the payment gateway has an https URL. The ‘s’ in the URL means that it is a secure protocol and your data is encrypted on the site.

2. Stay away from public hotspots

It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous it is to share one’s personal or financial information with any website or any person over the Internet while using a public connection. Public Wi-Fi networks are common hunting grounds for attackers and data snoopers who try to access users’ personal information. Since public networks have negligible security, users should try to avoid using them while making online payments – or if they really have to, then they must use a VPN – a Virtual Private Network.

3. Use a VPN

VPNs encrypt all the data shared between the Internet and VPN server. The encrypted data is sent through a secure tunnel to a VPN server in the country of a user’s choice, and their real IP address is hidden. VPNs are one of essential security mechanism to protect personal online data from prying eyes. NordVPN is a VPN with most advanced encryption protocols, extensive global coverage and no logs policy.

4. Use mobile or e-wallets

E-wallets are said to make online checkouts simpler and more secure. Payment processors, such as Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Wallet and others are already starting to implement this one-click method of payment.

5. Consider a more advanced option: cryptocurrency wallet

For added security, it’s always an option to use cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin. For example, Blockchain, a technology underpinning bitcoin cryptocurrency, is making it much harder for hackers to decipher financial transactions. Blockchain records financial transactions, and, instead of storing this data in one place, it distributes its cryptographic blocks through the network of computers – which makes it much more difficult to access to hackers.

6. Enable two-factor authentication with online accounts. Signing up for tw0-factor authentication with online accounts makes it harder for fraudsters to steal one’s identity. And even if it’s not foolproof protection  from hackers, having a two-factor authentication is definitely better than signing in without it.

7. Add account alerts. Account alerts are another way of self-protection. Whenever there is unusual activity on the account, the account owner will be notified.

8. Stronger Passwords

The future of online shopping will most likely involve biometrics – thumbprints and retina scans – which will eventually replace passwords. However, before that happens, the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords. A strong password contains at least 10 characters, lower and upper case letters, numbers and characters. Since they are difficult to remember, password managers can help. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into someone’s account.

9. Clean data from a public computer

If a user is working on a shared device, or especially a public computer, they must delete all the data when the session is finished. This involves deleting browsing history and downloaded files. It’s never a good idea to save passwords on public computers or to enter sensitive information. At the end of the session, the computer must be restarted.

10.  Anti-virus updates

A computer must be up to date with the most modern anti-virus and firewall software to protect from the newest potential hacker-installed malware and viruses that could also be used to steal one’s personal data.

Being vigilant can help a lot when one shops online. Whenever a website requests for more information than is usually required, like Social Security number or any other kind of personal information, it usually spells fraud. Users should always be cautious before giving away their personal or financial details anywhere on the Internet.