Archive for April, 2022

Amazon Uses Alexa Voice Data To Target You With Ads

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 30, 2022 by itnerd

One of the reasons why I use Apple products is the fact that they appear to be privacy focused. I value my privacy and many others do. Which is why this report released last week that says that Amazon uses voice data from its Echo devices to serve targeted ads on its own platforms and the web:

The report, produced by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and Northeastern University, said the ways Amazon does this is inconsistent with its privacy policies. Titled, “Your Echos are Heard: Tracking, Profiling, and Ad Targeting in the Amazon Smart Speaker Ecosystem,” the report concludes that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect data from your interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers and share it with as many as 41 advertising partners. That data is then used to “infer user interests” and “serve targeted ads on-platform (Echo devices) as well as off-platform (web).” It also concludes that this type of data is in hot demand, leading to “30X higher ad bids from advertisers.” 

Amazon confirmed to The Verge that it does use voice data from Alexa interactions to inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads. “Similar to what you’d experience if you made a purchase on or requested a song through Amazon Music, if you ask Alexa to order paper towels or to play a song on Amazon Music, the record of that purchase or song play may inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads.” Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild said in an email. 

The company also confirmed there are targeted ads on its smart speakers. “Customers may receive interest-based ads when they use ad-supported premium content — like music, radio or news streams,” said Raemhild, pointing out that this is the same experience if they engaged with that content on other channels. She went on to say that Amazon does not share voice recordings with developers. “Developers get the information necessary to fulfill your requests within their skills, such as answers when you play a trivia skill, or the name of the song you want to play,” she said. “We do not share our customers’ personal information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent.” Amazon allows Alexa users to opt out of ad targeting as well (see sidebar).

This isn’t news. Amazon is known to find new and creative ways to monetize data. And the fact that they admit to doing this and act like it’s no big deal illustrates that. The only way that this behaviour by Amazon will change is if consumers don’t buy Amazon smart speakers. Because all Amazon understands and cares about is money.

Log4Shell Is A Wake Up Call For Cloud Security: Report

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 29, 2022 by itnerd

Valtix has released new research findings highlighting how cloud security leaders are changing the way they secure cloud workloads in the aftermath of Log4Shell. The research key findings include:

  1. 95% of IT leaders say Log4Shell was a wakeup call for cloud security, changing it permanently.
  2. 87% feel less confident about their cloud security now than they did prior to Log4Shell.
  3. 77% of IT leaders are still dealing with Log4J patches 3 months after the incident.
  4. 83% stated that Log4Shell has impacted their ability to address business needs. 
  5. 82% say visibility into active security threats in the cloud is usually obscured
  6. 86% agree it’s more challenging to secure workloads in a public cloud than in an on-prem data center
  7. Only 53% feel confident that all of their public cloud workloads and APIs are fully secured against attacks from the internet
  8. 79% agreeing that agent-based security solutions are difficult to operationalize in the cloud
  9. 88% stated that bringing network security appliances to the cloud is challenging to the cloud computing operating model

I have a pair of comments on this research. The first is from Edward Roberts, VP of Marketing for Neosec:

“As the digital transformation has evolved the adoption of cloud services and use of APIs has skyrocketed. APIs are the connective tissue for most businesses today. Since most organizations have no inventory of their APIs, it is therefore no surprise that many organizations feel their API estate is insecure.”

Sanjay Raja, VP of Solutions, Gurucul is next with some commentary:

“Too many security vendors that claim to better secure the cloud have major flaws in their capabilities. For one, many have simply “lifted and shifted” on-premise-based security software and appliances to be supported in the cloud without specifically building them to cater to fundamental architecture differences. This severely impacts deploying them correctly and much worse, limits their capabilities, especially when being leveraging and operated by security operations for the purposes of threat detection, investigation and response. This is one way attackers are finding security gaps, especially gaps in cloud threat detection solutions and programs, that allow them to leverage Log4J vulnerabilities in cloud environments. Another factor is that few security solutions can be deployed across multi-cloud architectures even if they can correlate across multi-cloud. This limits their deployability in complex environments. Threat attackers take that further to spread and effectively hide attack campaigns across multi-cloud architectures that very few solutions have security analytics for helping security teams identify the scope of such an attack”. 

Log4Shell has changed the game and forced companies to rethink their security in the cloud. Or at least it should force companies to rethink their security in the cloud. Business leaders should read this report and give their security a good hard look to make sure that they aren’t the next victim of the next exploit that comes along.

“Declaration For The Future Of The Internet” Signed By 56 Nations

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 29, 2022 by itnerd

Canada and the U.S. have joined about 56 nations in signing a commitment called the ‘Declaration for the Future of the Internet,’ to set new global rules for the internet that are underpinned by democratic values. The roughly 2,000-word document reflected a year or so of consultation by Biden administration officials with other governments, as well as with private-sector, academia, and civil-society representatives. 

In addition to its calls to refrain from “government-imposed internet shutdowns or degrading domestic internet access,” and “blocking or degrading access to lawful content, services, and applications on the internet,” the declaration backs measures to promote “affordable, inclusive, and reliable access to the internet,” plus a variety of privacy, security, and human-rights goals.

David Masson, Director of Enterprise Security at AI cyber security company, Darktrace had this comment:  

“People have been warning about the ‘Balkanisation’ of the internet for some time, splitting what should be a universal communication system into various blocs and areas of influence. At last, a group of democratic countries is taking steps to reverse some of the uglier aspects of the internet and insert some order and rules to support and promote positivity on the web.

The group of 56 countries will have to expand for this initiative to be successful. It will also take more effort to counter the opposing forces out there who see the protection of human rights, the promotion of the free flow of information, increased privacy, and any regulations for a growing global digital economy as threats to their order systems.”

This is going to be interesting to watch as I fully expect nations like China and Russia to push back on this, and seeing how they respond to this will be something to see. In the meantime, this in my opinion is a very positive move as long as the nations who sign on abide by this.

My HomeKit Setup – The 2022 Edition

Posted in Tips with tags , on April 29, 2022 by itnerd

This is an article that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and some of you have been asking for. Which is how I use HomeKit in my condo. Let’s start with what HomeKit is. This is Apple’s home automation platform which is part of iOS/iPadOS and to a limited extent macOS and watchOS that lets users configure, communicate with, and control smart-home appliances using Apple devices. It provides users with a way to automatically discover such devices and configure them. It’s got its flaws, which I will speak to in a bit, but it generally works fine.

First, let me describe my use case for HomeKit. I live in a 1000 square foot condo that has one door to enter and exit. The condo has two bedrooms. We use the master bedroom to sleep in, but we converted the second bedroom to a den for my wife and I to work in. Then we also have a living room and kitchen. The walls are concrete which makes Bluetooth and WiFi penetration a challenge. We decided that the master bedroom would have no smart home devices other than a HomePod Mini to stream audio or play a radio station. Everywhere else was fair game. We also wanted to build security into our HomeKit setup as long time readers will recall that my wife and I had a break in which cost us a MacBook Pro and a lot of jewelry among other items. While we had an IP enabled camera that alerted us to the break in, the police were not able to get there in time to capture the scumbags who broke into our place. So being able to detect when doors open and unauthorized parties are in the condo are a must. We don’t have to worry about windows as we are in a high rise.

With our use case out of the way, let’s get to the tech that powers our HomeKit setup. To fully leverage HomeKit, you will need a home hub which will allow you to control and automate your HomeKit devices from anywhere. It also acts as a connection point for Bluetooth based HomeKit devices as without it, those devices need your iPhone or iPad in range of it so that you can control them. WiFi based HomeKit devices don’t need a hub, but you may not be able to control them outside your home.

A HomeKit Hub can be any of the following:

  • An iPad that never leaves home. (I personally wouldn’t go this route because if the iPad loses power, dies or is stolen, you’re out of luck).
  • An Apple TV 4 or higher
  • A HomePod or HomePod Mini

In my case, I went the HomePod Mini route:

I have three HomePod Mini devices in my home as that was the path of least resistance for me. One in the living room, one in the den, and one in the bedroom. That’s due to the fact that I have three Bluetooth enabled devices that need something to connect to as Bluetooth signals don’t travel far in my condo due to the concrete walls that my condo has. Thus they act as repeaters for Bluetooth signals to cover use cases like mine which has the added bonus of speeding up the amount of time that it takes for a Bluetooth device to respond to commands that you give them. Thus if I could give you a piece of advice, you need to plan your HomeKit rollout to cover the use case of Bluetooth devices and purchase your home hubs based on that.

Another thing to point out about home hubs is that if you have more than one, they are used in an “Active/Standby” configuration. As in if you have two home hubs, one is actively controlling everything. But if something happens to it, the second one will take over. My use case looks like this:

You can’t choose which HomePod Mini is the one that is the “connected” one. Which seems at first glance to be a #Fail. But what I believe that Apple is doing behind the scenes is picking the home hub with the best reception and performance to the router. I’ve observed that it tends to gravitate towards making the living room Home Pod Mini the connected one. I suspect that’s due to the fact that it is connected to an ASUS mesh WiFi node that is in close proximity (as in two feet away) to the Home Pod Mini in question which has direct access to the Internet. That would make that one the logical choice to be the one that runs the show. The HomePod Mini in the den is physically closer in proximity to the ASUS mesh WiFi node that’s in the den versus the one in the living room. But because the node in the den has to connect to the node in the living room to get out to the Internet, it’s not as good of a choice to be the connected Home Pod Mini as it has to make a extra hop to the Internet that the HomePod in the living room doesn’t have to make. And the one in the bedroom is the worst choice of the three as it is a room away from the ASUS mesh WiFi node in the den which is where it connects to the Internet from. All of that means that its reception isn’t as great as the first two HomePod Mini units on top of the fact that it has to make an extra hop to get to the Internet.

Another thing that I should point out is that two of the three HomePod Mini units that I have are plugged into Uninterruptible Power Supplies so that they will stay on even when the power goes out. Which means that assuming that my Rogers Internet connection is still live, I will be able to still see into my condo if I am away from home.

So with the home hubs out of the way, let’s move onto the devices that I have. I’ll start with my door:

This is the Onvis CS1 Security Alarm Contact Sensor. This is on the door to not only let my wife and I know when the door is opened or closed (as it will give us a notification on our iPhones and Apple Watches when a door is opened or closed, not to mention chime when the door is opened), but it also acts as our alarm system when we’re away from home or asleep as we have automations to arm and disarm the alarm. More on our automations later. This is the first Bluetooth only device that I have, and it required us to get a HomePod Mini for the living room so that it could connect to it.

Next up are a pair of HomeKit cameras that we have installed.

We have two Eve Security Cameras which are both powered from an Uninterruptible Power Supply and connect to WiFi so that they stay live even if power goes out. In terms of the WiFi part, I have them bonded ASUS mesh WiFi node that has direct access to the Internet so that they can stream effectively should I need to have a live look inside my condo while I am away from home. One thing that I should note is that these cameras use the 5 GHz WiFi band which means that they are less likely to have interference issues which would be the case if they were on the 2.4 Ghz WiFi band and are fast when it comes to streaming video as well. These are HomeKit only cameras and while they are not cheap (not that you want anything cheap for home security purposes), they work very well even in the dark. They have built in motion sensors to detect movement and will send notifications to our iPhones and Apple Watches should it detect a person. When we’re away from home, I have them set to record anything it detects to iCloud using HomeKit Secure Video which is part of iCloud+. But when we are at home, there’s no recording taking place.

Now over to lighting. I only have a couple of places where I use HomeKit lighting as I feel that I don’t need to have HomeKit enabled lights everywhere. The first place that I use HomeKit light is the living room:

I have a lamp attached to this iHome iSP6X Smart Plug. It works on 2.4 Ghz WiFi and allows me to turn the lights on and off. This bonded ASUS mesh WiFi node that has direct access to the Internet so that it doesn’t roam from node to node which seems to confuse it in such a way that it requires a reboot to get it working again. For the most part, the light gets turned on via an automation in the morning, and gets turned off in the evening via another automation. In short it lives a dull and boring life.

I have a pair of Sylvania Smart+ A19 Full Colour LED Bulbs which I have set up in the Home app to be seen as a single bulb:

The reason for doing this is that it makes it easier to turn the bulbs off and on as well as tweak the colour and brightness as you’re dealing with one set of controls and not two. These are Bluetooth bulbs which meant that I had to get a HomePod Mini for the den as they had problems staying connected to the either of the other two HomePod Minis that I have. I have had some other challenges in terms of them acting weird and stability, so these may not stick around in the long term. But I will give them an honest shot to see if my experience with them improves over the next few weeks. I currently have the brightness set to 80% as that gives the perfect amount of lighting for Zoom or Teams calls.

The final HomeKit device that I have is this:

This TCL 43″ Class 4-Series 4K UHD HDR ROKU Smart TV which is powered by RokuOS got HomeKit compatibility a couple of software updates ago. Though at times, HomeKit support has been problematic. In any case it allows me to turn on and off the TV as well as control inputs. But the extent that I use HomeKit functionality is to turn the TV on and off via some automations that I have as there is no value to doing anything else via HomeKit as the support that this TV has for HomeKit is very limited.

Speaking of automations, I use four of them which I set up in the Home app:

Leave: This is an automation that activates when everyone has left home as it uses location services on our iPhones to determine where everyone is so that it can run the automation. It’s also supposed to use Apple Watches as well to determine the location of everyone, but my wife and I have never seen that work. Thus we assume it’s a bug that Apple needs to fix as according to Apple’s own documentation, that use case is supposed to work. In any case, when everyone leaves home, the following happens:

  • A notification appears on our iPhones and Apple Watches with a request to arm the alarm system.
  • If the TV is on it is turned off.
  • All the cameras are set to “stream and record” so that anything that is detected by the cameras is recorded to iCloud.

It usually activates when we are roughly a block away from home. Or I can activate it using Siri or via the Home app. If I go the Siri route, it will turn on the alarm without the need to click anything.

Arrive: This is the opposite of “Leave” and operates as follows:

  • A notification appears with a request to disarm the alarm system. There’s no way that I can find to do this automatically.
  • All the cameras are set to “stream” so that there is no recording taking place while we are home.

An interesting quirk about these two automations are that I can use Siri to run the Leave automation, but I cannot use Siri to run the Arrive automation unless I unlock my iPhone to do it. Which means I can’t use Siri while I am driving for example to run the automation. This is due to the fact that unlocking a HomeKit compatible doorknob or disarming a HomeKit compatible alarm system requires you to use what Apple calls a “personal device” to do it, such as an iPhone or Apple Watch. Likely because you have to unlock your phone to run the automation, which serves as a form of authentication. In the case of the Apple Watch, the watch locks automatically when you take it off your wrist. Thus to use it you have to put in a passcode after you put it one which is a form of authentication as well. I suppose that I can see why this use case exists as this stops someone using Siri from disarming an alarm system and opening doors via a “Hey Siri” command and breaking into your home.

Good Night: This is an automation that allows us do the following just before going to bed:

  • If the den and living room lights are on, they are turned off.
  • If the TV is on, it is turned off.
  • The alarm system is armed. We do this as we would be alerted if someone tries to break in while we are asleep.

I can activate this via a “Hey Siri” command or via the Home app.

Good Morning: This is what is run when we wake up in the morning. And it only works from a iPhone or Apple Watch for the same reasons that I described above.

  • The den and living room lights are turned on.
  • The alarm system is disarmed.

Now I will admit that my use case is pretty simple. But how simple or complex your use case happens to be will be driven by things like the number of devices and what you’re trying to do. For example if we had multiple windows that we had to monitor or multiple doors to monitor, it would make the setup a lot more complex because there would be more devices in play. My advice is to spend a lot of time experimenting until you find what works for you. I also recommend carefully picking your HomeKit devices as some are really good, and some are not as good.

So that’s my HomeKit setup. If you have any questions or suggestions as to how I can improve it, leave a comment and share your thoughts.

GitHub Provides An Update On Their Security Incident Involving Stolen OAuth User Tokens

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 29, 2022 by itnerd

Remember when I posted a story about GitHub releasing a security alert for an attack campaign using stolen OAuth user tokens issued by two third-party OAuth integrators? Well there was an update to that post that shares some additional details:

GitHub’s analysis of the attacker’s behavior reveals the following activities carried out on using stolen OAuth app tokens:

1. The attacker authenticated to the GitHub API using the stolen OAuth tokens issued to Heroku and Travis CI.
2. For most people who had the affected Heroku or Travis CI OAuth apps authorized in their GitHub accounts, the attacker listed all the user’s organizations.
3. The attacker then selectively chose targets based on the listed organizations.
4. The attacker listed the private repositories for user accounts of interest.
5. The attacker then proceeded to clone some of those private repositories.

This pattern of behavior suggests the attacker was only listing organizations in order to identify accounts to selectively target for listing and downloading private repositories. GitHub believes these attacks were highly targeted based on the available information and our analysis of the attacker behavior using the compromised OAuth tokens issued to Travis CI and Heroku.

Following this series of notifications, GitHub will have completed directly notifying each affected user for whom we were able to detect abuse using the stolen OAuth tokens.

In short, these were targeted attacks using OAuth tokens that effectively gives the attacker to ability to do a complete account takeover. Which is of course bad.

Yariv Shivek, VP of Product, Neosec had this comment on this news from GitHub:

“OAuth tokens and API keys are often stolen, leading to complete account takeover. When account takeover is for an admin account, the problems inside a business are exacerbated. But having your customers or business partners compromised and their identities assumed is a problem that is hard to detect. How can you know who’s using a token they present to your API? In this OAuth world, do you really know who’s connecting to which API on behalf of whom? Understanding the context of use of these APIs is fast becoming an essential requirement for protecting your business.”

GitHub has posted this blog post on the Best practices to keep your projects secure. But companies or individuals should do more to ensure that their GitHub repositories are actually secure. Because if they don’t, they could be the next target of a threat actor.

“Five Eyes” Puts Out Cybersecurity Advisory That Highlights Microsoft Products In A Bad Way

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 28, 2022 by itnerd

 There’s a Cybersecurity Advisory that was released yesterday jointly by the cybersecurity authorities of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom who are also known as the “Five Eyes” and includes major agencies like the NSA, FBI, CISA, CIA. The advisory details the 15 most common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) exploited by hackers in 2021: 

Globally, in 2021, malicious cyber actors targeted internet-facing systems, such as email servers and virtual private network (VPN) servers, with exploits of newly disclosed vulnerabilities. For most of the top exploited vulnerabilities, researchers or other actors released proof of concept (POC) code within two weeks of the vulnerability’s disclosure, likely facilitating exploitation by a broader range of malicious actors.

To a lesser extent, malicious cyber actors continued to exploit publicly known, dated software vulnerabilities—some of which were also routinely exploited in 2020 or earlier. The exploitation of older vulnerabilities demonstrates the continued risk to organizations that fail to patch software in a timely manner or are using software that is no longer supported by a vendor.

Of those top 15 CVEs, an alarming 9 are due to deficiencies in Microsoft designed, operated, and owned systems, including 7 CVEs within Microsoft’s Exchange Server. The advisory also notes a broader list of frequently exploited CVEs, another four of which are from Microsoft. This is a concerning and frightening number of easily exploitable vulnerabilities in an operating system that bills itself as the world’s premiere defense against cyberattacks.

If you run Exchange Server, you should be taking a look at this advisory. The bad guys are clearly exploiting these vulnerabilities, which means that you need to be actively defending against them. And even if you aren’t running Microsoft Exchange, this advisory is still worth reading as it will give you some places to look to ensure that you have the best protections from getting pwned.

Sage Announces Brand Refresh

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 28, 2022 by itnerd

Sage the leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and mid-sized businesses, today announced its brand refresh. The refresh comes as a symbol of the company’s evolution, and a reflection of the changing needs of small and mid-size businesses globally.     

The updated brand represents Sage’s new purpose – to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive. This starts with its customers and a commitment to fuel SMB confidence by focusing on simplicity and insight, with a human touch to help business flow.     

SMBs say they are toughened up and ready to face the future post COVID but the complexities of running a business in today’s uncertain world are adding a new type of pressure. SMBs say they need an easier way to keep all the balls in the air and Sage research shows 49% are looking for companies like Sage to simplify business processes and give them a greater sense of control.   

As a symbol of the changes that the refreshed brand represents, Sage today announces a series of experiences focused on delivering insights and smarter decision making to fuel confidence:   

  • Sage Membership: Every Sage customer now gets automatic access to the benefits of Sage Membership, starting with Member Masterclass rolling out this May. Member Masterclass offers human insights through talks and articles from the world’s leading experts and trailblazers on the challenges that are most important for businesses today—created exclusively for Sage customers and partners and available for a limited time to everyone. Based on current challenges faced by SMBs globally, Season 1 will tackle the competition for talent.
  • New digital network services: Sage will double down on its commitment to make business simpler through a range of new services in the digital network, including giving SMBs access to essential accounting and bookkeeping tools directly via their bank app or web browser. Sage Accounting and Compliance as a Service (ACaaS) will launch in the UK in May. 
  • New partnerships: Sage will continue to invest in communities and create unique customer experiences that deliver on its purpose, delivering business simplicity and faster, more accurate decision making to its customers. As an Official Supporter of the Rugby World Cup 2023, Sage, with partner Parthéna Consultants, will provide software to France 2023. Further partnerships will be announced in the coming months.

The brand and the values that drive Sage will also come to life through its £10m investment in NewcastleGateshead Quays. The Sage will launch in 2024 – a pioneering community-focused, state of the art arena (Sage Arena), exhibition and conference centre (Sage ICC), showcasing the best of the region to a global audience. £300m+ development will provide a £70m annual boost to the local economy and create 2,000 jobs. Sage will encourage local SMBs and Sage customers to contribute to the development and operation of the site and benefit from working spaces, priority access and promotional opportunities   

The refresh includes a new brand architecture, visual and verbal identity, and product portfolio migration strategy. Sage customers will experience the refreshed brand online and in products starting from today with a full roll out expected to continue until the end of the year. Out of home and broadcast advertising will start from May.  

Review: Kensington Contour 2.0 Business Laptop Backpack

Posted in Products with tags on April 28, 2022 by itnerd

When I travel I tend to use a laptop case. In fact, the laptop case that I have had for well over 15 years has not only served me well, but it is in amazing condition. But since getting my hands on the Kensington Contour 2.0 Business Laptop Backpack, I am thinking about retiring it. More on that in a second. First let’s get to the backpack:

So this looks like your typical backpack. It’s made of water resistant 1680D ballistic polyester. There’s nothing special here. Right? Well, that’s not so.

For starters it opens up like this so that you can leave your laptop AND tablet in your backpack while going through an airport security checkpoint.

Though my version is for laptops up to 15.6″, my 16″ MacBook Pro fit just fine. There’s also a tablet pocket in front of the pocket for the notebook.

If you were going someplace overnight and you wanted to travel light, I can see a change of clothes fitting in here with ease.

Here is the backpack in a more “normal” configuration. Both sides have polyester with velcro attached that allows it to get into the flat configuration that you saw earlier.

The zippers for this section has hoops so that you can lock them and secure the contents.

There’s a port for those people who still use wired headphones.

Here you can see a zippered pocket that is not easily seen. You can pop sunglasses or perhaps valuables in there.

There’s a compartment where you can store, pens, your phone, and other random items. And there’s a strap with a hook for something that you don’t want rattling about.

What puts this laptop into “top tier” is the fact that it comes with an RFID blocking section. Drop your passport or anything else with an RFID chip in here and it will be safe from threat actors who might try to scan it.

There are two zippered pockets on either side of the backpack. One has mesh that allows you to pop a water bottle into it. The other has a pocket for small items.

There’s another zippered pocket for smaller items. By the way, this Kensington logo is the only noticeable logo on the backpack. While there are logos on the zippers, the branding is pretty minimal and low key. Bonus points for that.

Moving to the back, there’s a strap that allows you to slide the backpack through the handle of your carry on. That’s a feature I really like when travelling.

Above and below that is padding that’s designed to get rid of heat. The straps also are designed to do the same thing as well. It also moves the backpack into a body hugging position which makes it easier on your back. That of course assumes that you take the time and effort to adjust the straps properly. I should also note that the padding feels really great when I wear the backpack.

I have to admit that this is a well designed backpack that once the world stops ending, I can see myself using when travelling. The build quality is excellent, which means that I wouldn’t have any concerns about it falling apart or getting damaged. I should note that there are two other versions of this backpack. There’s one for 14″ laptops, and one for 17″ laptops. So it is highly likely that Kensington has a Contour 2.0 backpack that fits your needs. My version has an MSRP of $114.99 CDN which isn’t cheap. But in my opinion it’s worth it given the feature set and the quality that this backpack has.

State of Ransomware 2022 Report Released By Sophos

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 27, 2022 by itnerd

Sophos has released the State of Ransomware 2022 report, which surveyed 5600 mid-sized organizations across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The 2022 report shows that 66% of organizations were hit with a ransomware attack in 2021, a 37% increase from 2020. Additional key findings include:

  • The average ransom paid by organizations that had data encrypted increased nearly five-fold to $812,360
  • 11% of organizations surveyed admitted paying ransoms of over $1M or over in 2021, up 4% from 2020.
  • 46% of organizations which had data encrypted in a ransomware attack paid the extortion demand. 
  • 26% of organizations that were able to restore encrypted data using backups still paid ransom

I think the part of this that bothers me is the fact that the ransom was paid as if enough organizations had prevention methods in place, robust backup strategies and took the stance that they don’t pay the ransom, nobody would bother with ransomware.

I have two comments on this. The first is from Saryu Nayyar, CEO and Founder of Gurucul:

“It’s clear that ransomware is an escalating threat that costs organizations worldwide dearly. It’s not just the cost of paying the ransom, which is a staggering $1M or more. It’s also the cost of business disruption or loss, and the time required to restore data and operations. Almost half of all organizations paid the extortion demands if their data was encrypted. The lesson is clear: you will end up paying for ransomware one way or the other. Either you’ll pay cyber criminals to get your data back, or you’ll pay for protection. It is infinitely better and less costly to implement security controls to detect and stop malware payloads, including ransomware. True machine learning powered behavior analytics is a proven cyber defense that will prevent ransomware from getting ahold of your data and your business. Exact revenge by strengthening your defenses.”

Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust adds to this:

“The frequency and cost of ransomware attacks have been rising steadily for years in a row, but 2020 saw an acceleration in this trend which has continued until now. Although concerning, it isn’t surprising – from the COVID pandemic to international conflict and the continued growth of darknet markets, multiple factors have exacerbated the incidence of malicious cyberactivity.”

“Above all, organizations have largely neglected digital surfaces like Web and mobile apps which are increasingly used by cyber actors to target their employees. At the Media Trust, we have observed an alarming rise in digital attacks based on polymorphic and obfuscated code, rapid URL shifting and other advanced techniques to deliver ransomware, phishing attacks, and more.”

Ransomware isn’t going away anytime soon. Thus organizations need to take action on multiple fronts to protect themselves. And if the worst happens, they should make the option of paying the ransom a non-starter. The sooner that happens, the better off we will all be.

TELUS Brings Wearable, Discreet Personal Security to Canada Through Partnership With invisaWear

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 27, 2022 by itnerd

Today, TELUS launched TELUS SmartWear Security, a line of discreet wearable accessories that provides our customers with emergency support, 24/7 monitoring, and peace of mind wherever they go. In partnership with US-based tech brand invisaWear, TELUS SmartWear Security provides customers with a stylish personal safety device disguised as jewelry or a key charm powered by TELUS’ world-leading wireless network, and TELUS SmartHome Security’s 24/7 monitoring team. TELUS SmartWear Security is the latest innovation in our comprehensive line of security solutions to bring customers a greater sense of security at home or on the go.

TELUS SmartWear Security is managed through an easy-to-use smartphone app, which provides customers with quick access to alerts and updates. The app provides 24/7 monitoring, instantly connecting your smartphone to TELUS’ monitoring service. Customers can tailor TELUS SmartWear Security with a selection of alert modes in the app. In the event of an emergency, once the device is double clicked, TELUS SmartWear Security will alert your preselected five emergency contacts or connect you immediately to our 24/7 monitoring team for emergency assistance, where the TELUS agent will stay on the line with you.

TELUS SmartWear Security features include: 

  • Notify Emergency Contacts: Send notifications, GPS location, and SMS updates to up to five emergency contacts.
  • Reassurance Calls: 24/7 access to a professional emergency response TELUS agent by phone. They will stay with you on the phone anytime you feel unsafe.
  • Live Chat SMS: 24/7 access to a two-way SMS conversation with a professional emergency response TELUS agent. They will stay with you and provide assistance discreetly through text.  
  • Activity Tracking: Be proactive about your safety by inviting our monitoring team and your emergency contacts to track you via GPS for up to 4 hours. You will then alert the app once you’re safe and no longer need tracking, and if the timer expires before you have responded, agents will alert your emergency contacts and share your location with local law enforcement.

For every new subscription of TELUS SmartWear Security, TELUS will donate a SmartWear device and one-year subscription to the TELUS Mobility for Good®, providing wireless connectivity to marginalized individuals, including Indigenous women at risk of or experiencing violence. TELUS will donate a maximum of 250 devices and subscriptions.

TELUS SmartWear Security is available across Canada, excluding Quebec. Full pricing and product details can be found at