Safety first, online.

think-safety-first-when-online

Yesterday I started helping a friend of mine to recover his facebook account. The process is still on. His account is hacked. The linked email account is hacked too. The hacker is sending messages to his friend list asking for weird things.

This can easily happen to you. There were recent hacks in to many accounts of FB. But hey, it is not just FB, there are multiple breaches every day in many digital services.

Have a good digital hygiene.

Here’s a previous post of mine. Change your password. Make it a better password. 

I have posted this earlier too. If you or a friend of yours is affected by hacking and online harassment, drop me a email ( isura.silva@gmail.com ) with details and links.

Doing the impossible

In a brainstorming session at a recent workshop, I listened to a banter between two participants. It made me laugh. It was also profound.

A: “It’s a dream you are proposing. It’s impossible. How can we make impossible happen?”

B: ” You mean, you don’t know how to do the impossible?”

A: ” yes, that is why it is called impossible”

B: “well the way to do the impossible is to do it. “

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Neil inside spacecraft Gemini 8 , in 1969

Later in that day I watched “First Man”, the movie about Neil Armstrong. As a kid, when I learnt about Neil, it was just a fact. Neil was the first man on moon. On that day in 1969, 530 million people watched him take the ‘giant leap for mankind.’

The movie shredded my perceptions about landing on moon. I never knew the hardships in many fronts. How Neil struggled at home with sick kids. His daughter died at age two suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Never knew about his wife’s enormous strength and endurance. How he lost 3 of his fellow astronauts from a fire in a testing capsule. Never knew he escaped near death in many a missions. How thousands of NASA team members worked day and night to achieve the impossible, while citizens marched against mega budgets dedicated to moon landing, which could have gone in to pressing needs in America like poverty and racial tension.

It was impossible to go to moon, until that very moment Neil landed on Moon.

The more we run from our fears, the bigger they get. Yet, when we go right in to them, fears evaporate and vanish.

Why we need after 6 months review.

SAMSUNG CSC

Youtube is flooded with celebrity state tech reviewers. I watch a lot of them. I learn a lot. But there’s a catch.

A new phone comes to market. They rush to do the ‘first-to-do’ unboxing and reviews. I found out all those new giga specs on paper that is celebrated , seldom translate in to durable performance, let’s say after 6 months.

So what we really need to watch is phone reviews after 6 months of usage. To do that, reviewers actually have to use a phone for 6 months. A rarity.  There are plenty of reviews from not-celebrity tech enthusiasts. If you are frugal about your spending on phones, and you want good value, those reviews are your life savers.

I am so much happy with Galaxy Note 5, which still serves me well for more than 2 years. How did I make the decision? I watched a ‘Note 5 after 6 months review’ in Youtube, two years ago.

Do we really care about our data ?

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It’s 3 days since the facebook data hackIt appears there’s so much more to the consequences than we thought. Because facebook is larger than life with more than 2 billion accounts and we are so connected to it for our daily work and life, we carry on despite all the warnings out there. The activists, governments and policy makers do not have much leverage in the face of rapid fire technological advances. There’s a concern, but nobody seems to know how to keep ourselves connected and secure at the same time. Let’s try with basic hygiene as a starter in this blog post.

So what can we do to gain some control of our FB data ?

Beginner Steps:

I strongly suggest you,

  1. Change FB password now.
  2. Don’t use facebook login for other apps like airbnb, booking.com, spotify etc. At least in future don’t use facebook login for other apps.

Advance Steps:

  1. Go to  Facebook’s ‘Security and login’ page in your settings which tells you where your account has been logged in from. If you see a login from a location you do not recognise, you might have been hacked.
  2. Don’t use same password for different social media accounts and websites. Change it to individual, confusing ones. Long passwords with words that make no sense, numbers and special characters, such as &!#@?, are much safer than simpler ones with phrases like family and friends
  3. Use 2 factor authentication – go to the ‘Security and login’ page in your Facebook account settings and set up two-factor authentication. When this feature is activated you will get an SMS to your phone, if someone is logging in to your account from an unknown device or location.

I was logged out of Facebook

zuck

I was at a conference today (September 28, 2018). I wanted to post something on Facebook. In my phone, I felt some kind of a lag when opening facebook app. Then FB app logged me out and asked me to log in .

Strange, I thought.

I typed my password and logged in. Then FB messenger asked me to do the same thing.

Weird, I thought.

Back home, I opened facebook on my laptop. FB logged me out and asked me to log in. Again.

Then a news article caught my eye. I immediately changed my password.

Facebook Network is Breached, Putting 50 Million Users’ Data at Risk

More than 90 million Facebook users were forced to log out of their accounts early Friday, a common safety measure taken when accounts have been compromised.

Facebook said it did not know the origin or identity of the attackers, nor had it fully assessed the scope of the attack. The company said it was still in the beginning stages of its investigation.

Facebook said the attackers had exploited a bug in the site’s “view as” feature, which allows users to to view their own profiles as if they were someone else. The feature was built to give users move control over their privacy.

It appears that my FB account has been compromised. If I did not see this news article, I would have carried on with my life, not knowing the data leakage that has happened for 90 million FB users world wide, out of which I was one.

The magnanimity of data breaches are too complex for ordinary minds to comprehend. The most brilliant minds at FB succumbs to attacks like this time to time. Yet under the radar there are cyber attacks on a daily basis, if not every minute. Most of them are averted.

The convenience of reaching out to your friends online comes at a cost. Only when we are faced with these kind of a breach, we realise how much we are connected and how much we have taken that luxury for granted.

UPDATE: September 29.

When I logged in to FB, I was greeted with this message from FB.

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.00.31 AM

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.01.25 AM

Why we need curators for a better internet.

With internet we have seen the dramatic shift from hierarchy to networks. From centralised control to decentralised control, powered by humans from sharing and consuming things they never thought they would. People now share not just their diaries, but innermost feelings/ data: from political views, religious views, medical reports, their finances, secrets of family and friends to sexual desires.

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With many aspects of our lives shared and consumed due to easy access to internet, we think our problems can get solved. Some smaller problems, yes. Major issues in our societies are still unresolved. Chaos reign.

Access to information, a knowledge base is just a start. To get the best for a society we need some dose of top down approach. It’s a must.

Ok, when I say top down, it’s not the traditional command and control hierarchy. It’s much more nuanced. It’s a ‘middleman’ role. “Internet removes the middleman in everything”, I hear this a lot. Not really.

If you look closer at groups that stood the test of time and increased their impact on their domains, you will find a small number of “middle men” with in an army of contributors. Let’s look at wikipedia. While there are millions of writers who contribute to wikipedia, there are around 2000 editors ( a small number compared to millions) who are doing the major edits. These editors prune, polish and establish guidelines so that billions of readers can trust wikipedia. These editors are middlemen. If you don’t like the word middlemen, call them ‘curators’. Because actually their role fits best of a curator. (definition of curator: a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.)

Curator’s role is to enhance trust of their community by reducing the noise. Look deep in to communities like open office, Linux, Google maps and Reddit, you will find a small set of curators who keep sanity in the community.

Let’s look at some of the biggest issues in the world right now. Would we be able to get curators ( experts from many domains) to filter out the right type of issues we should focus on? What would it look like ?

 

Do I have control over this?

Motivation is plenty on internet with inspiring quotes to adrenalin pumping videos. We watch them daily on our social media feeds. It’s like drugs. You need more and more each day to feel the kick. Why?

Your motivation is directly linked with how much control you have over your work and surroundings. When you have motivation, you jump and do things.

That’s why people gossip about sports and politics. Gossip is all we can do, because we don’t have control over what happens in sports and politics. We are spectators, nothing more.

Think about office gossip. It’s kind of the same. When we do not have control over our work and environment, we opt for gossip. It’s easy. But when we are clear about what we have to do and given control, we are hungry for work. We stretch and do things that were impossible at the beginning. The confidence built from doing even a simple thing adds up to drive us to the next thing.

Employability – What’s wrong with Sri Lankan degree?

I will start this blog post with a must read article on employability.

5 steps that could help freshers bag jobs in greater numbers. It focuses on Indian context. If you are lazy to read it, here’s the bombshell.

Graduate unemployability: For years, employers used degrees as a lazy filter to shortlist interview candidates. But, now that it is clear a degree is not what it used to be—60% of taxi drivers in Korea, 31% of retail sales clerks in the US, and 15% of high-end security guards in India now have a degree—employers are shifting their focus to employability and skills. This means candidates from outside the top institutions, or those without degrees, can differentiate themselves through certifications, soft skills, apprenticeships, projects, work experience, career growth, and more.

Almost all Sri Lankan employers I meet complain about candidates not having right skills and attitude, not just among freshers but also among seniors. Degrees are not relevant, they say.

Yet the young generation toil away their money and time in to getting a degree, and employers keep on picking degree holders. Why is this ?

One person gave an explanation that seems fit. ” We do not have enough pressure yet to work more. Look at India, they have enough pressure to be relevant, because if you do not work well,  many are in the line to take your job”

Well then I read the most bizarre thing. Forget pressure, we are rewarding the lazy.

Sri Lanka’s unemployed graduates who are not disabled but are not contributing to the nation in gainful employment will get a 20,000 rupee monthly allowance from the state starting from July 2018.

The government will recruit 5,000 graduate who apparently cannot find a gainful job and pay them 20,000 rupees a month from July.

They will be recruited for ‘training’, the government said.

Filters needed.

I was at a hospital. I asked for an injection showing the prescription. She looked at the paper, said that I have to bring the vial. She went back to the phone screen. She did not see my face. I was a disturbance.

I went to a shop. Asked for the thing. He did not obviously wanted to be taken away from the TV series he was watching. He said ‘No’. Went back to the screen. Customers are most unwelcome.

I had similar experiences in banks, government offices, and street corner shops. Basically everywhere.

It’s time to create filters and get out of the personal bubbles while you are working. When you are serving people. When you are having a conversation with someone. Because it is not so visible to you. Because you are inside the bubble. Someone has to give you the feedback. My feedback was from my wife. When someone says that you are too addicted to the screen, you better think and have filters. Do not shrug it off.

I wish you the same – a satire

I removed my birthday from online accounts. I was successful.

New year wishes are here to stay. No way to avoid it. In fact getting bigger and messier by the year.

WhatsApp, viber, messenger, sms ( still gets a few) and social media feeds go crazy. I want to ‘wish you the same’, but alas there is no reply-all button for wishing back. Will people get offended if I don’t wish them back? There’s like 200 generic send-all wishes. Should I post a ‘thank you all for wishing me a happy new year. I’m sorry I won’t be able to wish each one of you personally. Have a wonderful year’. Only celebrities do that kind of things. Or is it?

I wish you the same. Not kidding.