Gearing up for summertime activities

Jackson Neal

Jackson Neal

After another rather mild California spring weather-wise, we are gearing up for summertime activities of BBQ, going to the beach and other fun social events with our friends. This year, in particular, I think we will appreciate the simplest of activities more than ever because we had been so restricted on what we could do since my ankle injury last September.

Brandee loves to cook and host events so I’m sure that we will be having our fair share of BBQ’s at our home which I look forward to very much. Another thing we are really looking forward to is taking Jack to the beach and let him walk in the sand. He has never been so we’re not sure if he will like it or not but we want him to experience this anyhow. He is a Labrador Retriever breed so typically they like the water and sand. We think he will like it and it will bring him a lot of joy in his life so we look forward to a trip to Santa Cruz sometime soon.

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Our furry children update, 6/10/2018

Back to Front: Jackson, Gracie, Bleu

Brandee and I continue enjoying being parents to our two dogs (Jack and Gracie) and one cat (Bleu). They are all a constant source of entertainment for us each and every day. Jack is getting much slower and less active in his old age but he seems happy and that’s what matters. We always give him extra special attention as he is the senior citizen of our bunch and he has to put up with two young sisters. He is a super good big brother to both Gracie and Bleu and we are so very proud of him.

Gracie is the one that is most obnoxious because she is always full of energy and getting into trouble. It’s just her spirit to be this way and it’s actually quite funny because her personality is 100+ miles-per minute where Jack is so laid-back and relaxed that it’s quite an interesting dynamic between the two of them. Gracie keeps Brandee busy nearly all day long which is very entertaining for me.

Bleu, on the other hand, just minds her own business a good majority of the time. Although Bleu is an indoor-outdoor cat, so she can come and go as she pleases, it gives us great comfort that mostly she likes to just hang out in our backyard and rarely wander off anywhere outside of our yard. It’s quite strange for a cat but it’s good to know that she’s safe.

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Layering Security is easy, effective and affordable so there is no excuse for a data breach

There was a day and age not so long ago that I might have a little compassion for a data breach, but there is ABSOLUTELY no longer any excuse for these sorts of things to happen. From a technological perspective there is no reason why organizations of all sizes can’t easily implement a highly-effective, yet also affordable cyber Layer Security and Bring Your Own Security (BYOS) strategy. Below I will illustrate these layers of security with specific examples of how modern technology could possibly have greatly reduced data security risk or eliminated a data security breach altogether.

Complications of data security becomes Easier: The compassion I once had for an unintentional oversight for a data security comes from personal past experience as a network administrator when managing IT security was overwhelming complicated. IT Security was, and still is, complicated because there are so many areas of potential exposure in today’s always-on, internet-connected, reality. It’s not easy to stay informed on the rapidly evolving security technologies available these days and I can appreciate this daunting challenge.

No longer should it be so complicated to implement a solid cyber security strategy with simple dashboards where administrators can easily establish, manage and control their entire multi-cloud environment, including on-premise storage, through one simple interface. The challenge of learning each individual cloud ecosystems terminology, back-end configuration as well managing user access can be delivered in a simple to understand Management Console dashboard. So ‘complicated technology’ is eliminated as any excuse for a data breach.

Laying security provides an Effective defense: Historically, there always have been silos of outstanding security products where organizations can build various layers of cyber security but these proved to be challenging for several reasons. This layering involved using different vendors which meant different business contracts with each, or it meant that each vendor was at a different phase of their product life-cycles or the interoperability between the systems wasn’t smooth or flaky at best.

However, using modern and innovative security solutions that are tightly integrated with many layers of security methods — bordering on the verge of ‘paranoid’ levels — makes it much easier for network administrators to address many of these areas of data exposure risks. Nowadays implementing a fully integrated, end-to-end IoT security layered platform from device to storage literally takes only minutes. This Security-as-a-Service technology leaves all the magic of these secure layers to the back-end system automation where the administrators or users themselves never have to get involved. This highest level of security paranoia just simply happens without worry so providing a fully layered security stack of technology. No longer is there any excuse for a data breach because these layers do not consist of many disconnected parts; it’s simply one secure IoT platform.

Enterprise Security commoditized and now Affordable for everyone: ‘The Cloud’ has, unquestionably, delivered on the great promise of bringing technology and services which were once only affordable to large enterprise customers and now to organizations of all sizes. This is a shared cost of the cloud economy business model. For example, Salesforce delivers enterprise level CRM services, Amazon delivers enterprise Web Services (AWS) infrastructure and Google provides enterprise class business applications, all at great scale and with the highest levels of reliability. The common denominator where these companies can offer such enterprise services at such affordable costs is that ‘the cloud’ allows everyone to share in the costs, yet also share in the benefits. The same concept of offering enterprise grade salesforce automation, infrastructure services and business applications can now be applied to an Enterprise Data Security strategy which is affordable for everyone. For this reason, that traditionally enterprise class security was only available to organizations with large spending budgets is absolutely not an excuse for a data breach.

Now that we’ve taken a look at three factors which eliminate any excuse for a potential data breach, let’s take a look at each layer in a bit more detail and cite a recent example.

  • Bring your Own, always-on, data Encryption

Data breaches are not always the result of some nefarious black-hat hacker trying to steal your most sensitive corporate data. Sometimes honest mistakes happen such as is the case where the Pentagon exposed some of its data on Amazon server(1). This is an example where the complications of a Data Security implementation were overlooked or ignored. In this particular case anyone that had an Amazon Web Services account had access to the data stored because of a misconfiguration. It’s not that the technology wouldn’t have worked but there are just simply too many honest ways to misconfigure security settings.

This would not have happened if the Pentagon had implemented encryption security that wasn’t tied exclusively with Amazon’s Web Service user accounts and brought their own data encryption technology while still using the exact same Amazon S3 storage system they are currently utilize so no change in workflow. They could just have automatically enforced an encrypted secure strategy with technology that is not optional, it’s always-on as a default and cannot be misconfigured.

  • Virtual, non-Physical, Key Encryption System

Another example of most likely an honest mistake is where Uber Got Hacked Because It Left Its Security Key Out In Public(2) and the consequences are wide ranging where now Uber Is Already Getting Sued Over Its Gigantic Data Breach.(3) In this particular situation the traditional approach of using password security ‘keys’ led directly to a ransom demand, and consequent payment, to a nefarious hacker. Using traditional security key management methodology, password ‘keys’ are similar to a username/password combination or a physical software ‘key’ file that locks (encrypts) and unlocks (decrypts) files or your car door. The risk is that with a physical asset and storing ‘keys’ in this manner, there exists the possibility of exposure no matter how safe an organization attempts to store these keys. It’s like if you left the keys to your front door on the front porch of your home.

With a modern, cloud-first, approach there would be no physical key to compromise, and thus further reduce risk data breach exposure. While keys are still necessary to encrypt and decrypt files, the idea of physical keys should be a thing of the past. Ideally the keys should be only temporary used in memory and then instantly destroyed when not needed. This is the best approach available and can be achieved when people seriously consider new types of innovation instead of the standard ‘herd mentality’ by just continuing to do things as they’ve always been done. The golden rule should be that you can’t break what’s not there.

  • Biometrics Multi-Factor Authentication

Other times the technology itself exposes risks as was the case with Western Digital (WD) where it was suggested from SEC Consult Vulnerability Lab as a Top tip: Unplug your WD My Cloud boxen – now(4). Western Digital provides network-attached storage (NAS) solutions and an easy way to use these WD devices is through a web interface. In this particular breach it was verified that there is a known vulnerability where hackers can bypass username/password authentication and get direct access to the root file system and all the data stored on these NAS devices.

Nowadays nearly all mobile phones and even computers have cameras and microphones. Facial and Voice Recognition are becoming more mainstream with the likes of Amazon Alexa, Google Voice and Microsoft Cortana and technology exists where users can easily register their face and/or voice as another form of user authentication. In this case, a second form of authentication, instead of just only username/password authentication, such as Face or Voice would have prevented unauthorized access to the data on these devices. Also, while passwords might be easily guessed if not using a strong password, face and voice is much harder to duplicate. Today’s modern technology can allow a user to register their Face or Voice in just a few minutes and further reduce the risk of a potential data breach with this multi-factor authentication approach to an overall cyber security strategy.

  • Strip files of their digital identity and store in a manner safe even when stolen

Lastly, when all else fails, such as where Oxford and Cambridge Club data breach: 5,000 members’ data compromised after backup hard drive stolen(5) then you have to be assured that these nefarious hackers can’t understand your data even when they are in physical possession of the content. Just assume an absolute worst-case scenario where (a) multi-factor authentication was circumvented, (b) unauthorized data decryption was achieved with brute force and (c) the hacker was in physical possession of your content where you can’t erase or take any counter-measures. In this case you certainly don’t want your files to appear as recognizable files such as a PDF medical record, a legal agreement document or a financial spreadsheet.

So how can you achieve this? Using innovative security technology, you would strip these PDF, DOCX or XLXS files of their digital identity, meaning absolutely no metadata about the objects themselves is available to the hacker. No obvious file extensions such as ‘.pdf’ are ever exposed. Then filenames themselves are cleansed of their real name such as ‘credit card numbers.xls’ and each object is split into completely random folders/sub-folders and files which render these items completely unusable to the hackers. In fact, to ensure a security level past the paranoid level a single object can be striped across multiple backend storage systems to provide a true hybrid storage solution.

In summary, I hope that you can appreciate that implementing an innovative, modern, cloud-first, Bring Your Own Security (BYOS) data security strategy provides no excuse for breaches. In a perfect world a combination of all the above layers of security which fits seamlessly into existing user workflows, that is easy to implement from a technical perspective and is affordable to everyone is cyber security euphoria.

I would not want to be the next person or organization that has to deal with one of these security breaches when the technology is available to avoid such disaster. There are two distinctly different ROI’s from my perspective. The obvious ROI is ‘Return on Investment’ by using technology to improve business process to enhance productivity, decrease operational costs and create a competitive advantage which is rather easy to measure. And then there is the second, not so obvious ROI, which is reduced ‘Risk of Investigation’ through a lax data security strategy. I just wish during my personal experience as a network administrator that the technology existed which would provide the maximum ROI to both extremes. The bottom line is that a sound cyber security strategy is the responsibility of everyone in an organization from CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO, employees to partners and providers so everyone must careful consider and participate in securing data. There is simply no excuse for a data breach.


1. Pentagon exposed some of its data on Amazon server

2. Uber Got Hacked Because It Left Its Security Key Out In Public

3. Uber Is Already Getting Sued Over Its Gigantic Data Breach

“Uber failed to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach,”

4. Top tip: Unplug your WD My Cloud boxen – now

5. Oxford and Cambridge Club data breach: 5,000 members’ data compromised after backup hard drive stolen

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Cloud Storage Cyber Security for the price of a Cup of Coffee

Do you think that having an enterprise-grade cloud storage cyber security system is expensive? Think again because this level of access to some of the most sophisticated cyber security technology can cost less than a cup of Coffee.

Like most of you when I hear such a claim of incredible availability to a product or service for this sort of an unbelievable affordable cost, I would naturally be suspicious. For this reason, in this article, I would like to explain the business economics of why this is possible and realistic. It is amazing, yet absolutely true, that organizations of all sizes can now implement a comprehensive cloud storage security solution so affordably.

IoT Endpoint Protection:

  • Application interface costs drastically decreased: One of the first costly challenges for cloud storage security is something rather easy to understand and this is how to ensure that each endpoint is secure. By endpoint this simply means devices at the front-end of a network that initially consume data to back-end devices of a network that store the data, or each ‘end’ for creating, storing and utilizing information. Therefore, you would look for one solution that is truly ubiquitous and can run on all devices including iOS and Android mobile devices and all flavors of operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac via a web browser that is universally supported. When one solution supports all these endpoints then there is no additional development efforts required.
  • Bring Your Own Security to commoditized cloud storage: Another way that cloud storage security can be highly effective, yet still affordable is using a Bring Your Own Security (BYOS) strategy to commoditized cloud storage. Cloud Storage providers such as Amazon, Google, Oracle, IBM, Alibaba and others have built massive cloud storage infrastructure and are competing like crazy for market share so why not take advantage of this competition to your advantage? Now you can by bringing several key security functions including a Unified Virtual Key Encryption strategy, File Obfuscation and physical file segregation at the individual object level among these Multi-Cloud Repositories. This affords organizations of all sizes the mutual benefit of getting massive amounts of cloud storage from any one, or all of these providers, and also the benefit to easily apply your own enterprise-grade cloud security policy across these different storage vendors.


  • Reduced price through a shared costs business model: Just like the cloud storage providers can offer these incredible amounts of storage space at such an affordable cost, cloud storage cyber security can now be offered in the same manner. Everyone participates in the costs of on-going product development, maintenance and supporting the infrastructure through a software subscription monetization model. This financial arrangement is analogous to some high budget movie that costs millions of dollars to produce, distribute and promote. There is no way in the world that one person would pay millions of dollars to watch this movie, but since this is a shared expense among many people through the purchase of movie tickets then it affords everyone the opportunity to see this blockbuster film but at an affordable cost shared by all.
  • No dedicated labor expense for technical resources: Long gone are the days of complicated cyber security technologies that require dedicated technical resources to install, configure and manage. In today’s modern age of cloud cyber security computing, organizations just simply subscribe to a service and literally, in minutes, can be utilizing these secure hybrid cloud storage capabilities. With Simplified Management Consoles that are easy to understand it does not take software engineers or years of technical training to manage these systems. When changes or modifications are required to the security system such as adding/removing users, adding/modifying additional storage or providing sharing folder/file permissions then these systems can be easily operated by a knowledge work that needs no specific training on the nuances of cyber security, yet still ensure no bad unintentional consequences.

Roadmap Flexibility and Scalability: 

  • Reduced liability risk and simplified compliance/regulation: The intangible costs of decreasing risk are something rather difficult to measure yet this has to certainly considered when an organization takes into account all aspects of the business. It’s well-known that the costs of attorneys, lawyers and going through an eDiscovery process associated with lawsuits over data breaches is expensive and has driven, or will drive, breached companies out of business forever. This is a real-world fact. So, having a solid cyber security IoT Endpoint technology with many layers of defense that rivals true cyber breach paranoia, greatly helps with audits and risk compliance. This layered security is not simply a checkbox on an audit survey, but real, defendable methodology that can assist if justifying risk reduction of data breaches. One excellent example is deploying a Universal Virtual Key Encryption system which eliminates physical encryption keys. If they simply don’t exist then they can not be compromised. This one example using a new approach to Key Management can save organizations hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars expense for the technology itself as well as the labor safe guards for physical keys.
  • Tremendous costs savings affords for more functionality: Over time, the total savings of a BYOS strategy for a multi-cloud environment really begins to make such a positive impact to the financial bottom line that organizations consider re-investing some of these savings. Since these savings were a direct result of a solid cloud storage security strategy then the obvious area of added functionality is to even further enhance the overall cyber security portfolio through complimentary capability such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). By investing in EDR portfolio capability such as real-time dashboard analytics, proactive responses/alerts and actions or intrusion monitoring then powerful insights can be gleaned to further enhance the business process, certainly from a security perspective, but also to enhance an organizations worker productivity.

In summary, coffee is great and I’m not advocating abandoning your morning cup of java if that helps you get going in the morning. I just use this reference to illustrate the fact that to implement an enterprise-grade cloud storage cyber security solution is not only highly effective, but also extremely affordable at only pennies per day. Is your data security worth only a fraction of a Cup of Coffee?

Picture courtesy of OddTodd is a humorous website about a cartoonist guy named Todd that was once laid-off and then parlayed his funny character and cartoon skills into a successful career. OddTodd really likes his Coff-ay too!
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Blockchain for Healthcare


Let me start this story and cut right to the chase. At my recent physical therapy visit there was an error in my medical record chart.

This was no big deal for me other than just setting the record straight with the therapist but, as you might imagine, it could have negative implications for the person whom this important information is most likely missing from their medical record chart because it was in my chart instead of theirs.

How or why this happened is something I can not know for sure but I can only assume it was an honest mistake. Everyone gets busy or distracted at times during their work day and somehow these records ended-up in my chart and not this other patient.

However, the big question I consider in situations like this is ‘what can be done to avoid this sort of medical record records mistake in the future?’. This was my immediate thought after I noticed the look on my physical therapist face when he realized the mistake. Let me briefly explain.

I was at my first physical therapy appointment since ‘ankle’ surgery a few months ago where I was the fortunate recipient of several titanium plates and complimentary screws. As the nice therapist was asking the normal background questions that are to be expected, and I was answering accordingly, he then asked a stunner.

He asked, “well, Kevin, you have a lot of metal in that ankle so how is the other metal in your knee feeling?”.

Naturally shocked, I said, “uhhh, sorry sir, no metal in my knee and no surgery on my knee ever”. I then turned to my wife and said, “Honey, you see this is prime example of where a Blockchain for Healthcare could have prevented such a mistake in my medical record”. We both had a chuckle then we moved on to the rest of my ankle rehab session.

However, and in all seriousness, this simple little incident is a real-world example that likely happens on a regular basis all across the country and all around the world. It simply should not happen with today’s modern technological innovations.

Specifically, I’m referring to a few simple modern technological concepts that are real, possible and should be implemented for the better accuracy of not only medical records, but in every business and all industries. These concepts are Digital Ledger Technology (DLT), Smart Contracts and Consensus or to summarize, Blockchain.

Why wouldn’t have this erroneous record made it into my medical chart when it wasn’t truly linked to me? In a blockchain it’s really easy to understand how this could have been prevented through a ‘consensus’ network. Consensus in blockchain, and there are several ways to arrive at consensus, is just like you might imagine in that there is basically a consensus decision among peers of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular question or request. So, in my specific case, when the incorrect knee surgery chart information was being submitted into my medical record chart the system itself should have formed a consensus that this was not a valid transaction and not allowed it. Ideally it would have kicked off an exception workflow process for handling such situations.

Consensus is formed by a network of distributed computers (i.e. ‘cloud computing’) using Smart Contracts. Smart Contracts, as it relates to blockchain, are basically decision makers. Software developers and/or organizations themselves, which have deep knowledge of their particular vertical markets, can rather easily create Smart Contracts which can allow computers to make informed decisions based on all the intelligent data available. And, believe me, there is a lot of electronic data in Healthcare that can be made intelligent through various techniques and that affords great opportunity for really smart decisions to be made that can be nearly fully automated.

And then, finally, after Consensus is arrived upon by using Smart Contracts then a Digital Ledger is either updated or not. A Digital Ledger is a shared, current real-time state of ‘truth’. This is like a gigantic distributed database where each computer in a blockchain has its own copy of the database and it is always updated to reflect the most accurate version of the ‘truth’, whatever that may be. The Digital Ledger is always synced among peer members and updated (i.e. adding ‘blocks to the chain’) with the latest version.

In my particular case, my medical record Digital Ledger would include all previous interactions and transactions recorded about my medical history including emergency room records, primary doctor records, surgery records and even my dental records. This is an example of four data sources, however in a real blockchain this could have been hundreds, thousands or millions of computers all working together to make informed, smart consensus decisions. Just imagine how difficult it would be to try and trick a blockchain of any significant size? You would have to reverse-engineer the ledgers of all these verified transactions previously recorded.

As the blockchain grows and gains other supporting nodes, data and more horsepower, then this only increases the level of tamper-resistance, more granular decisions can be formed based on more data and no single point of failure for data.

For these reasons, this is why Blockchain for Healthcare has a bright future in making positive life decisions with intelligent data and can also help prevent medical record mistakes.

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