Blake Dowling – Florida Politics

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at or at

Blake Dowling: Facebook’s brand takes another beating

Have you heard of Cambridge Analytica or psychometrics?

I weighed in on the topic in 2017 after the election. Psychometrics follows online traits and data collection from social media versus old-school methods of gathering information like a questionnaire. The goal of gathering this info is to develop predictive models of behavior so that you might be able to know who someone was going to vote for etc.

You can dive into my 2017 column here.

Cambridge Analytica is back in the news this week; apparently, they were up to more than originally suggested during the election.

It’s all going back to how Facebook data was allegedly used and collected. Cambridge Analytica says it properly obtained user data from a psychology professor who then passed it to them. They say the data was deleted when it was discovered that they should not have had it in the first place. Others say it was used improperly.

The UK government is on the case and pushing hard.

According to CNN and the BBC: “UK cyber officials are asking for a warrant to enter Cambridge Analytica’s offices in London and audit its data.” They are also examining Facebook’s response to the unauthorized use of its data.

“We’re looking at whether or not Facebook secured and safeguarded personal information on the platform and whether when they found out about the loss of the data they acted robustly and whether people were informed,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told BBC radio Tuesday.

Regardless what happened, it was alleged and Facebook is taking the hits. They are hosting an employee Q&A event this week, so staff can ask questions. Meanwhile, the stock price has fallen approximately 10 percent.

Other reports allege the last U.S. president’s team was doing the exact same thing, but with Facebook’s blessing.

Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie speaks his mind.

That’s not really the Atlanta airport smoking lounge, but it is a nice little fish tank of sad smokers.

Rumors are flying left and right (no political pun intended whatsoever J) and it will take months to get to the bottom of this. Where there is smoke, there is fire and the Facebook brand is looking these days like a smoking section in the Atlanta airport.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Internet safety, social media and schools

Last week, I took to the road and Friday afternoon had me in Gainesville meeting with the Florida School Boards Association and NEOLA, where I attended a policy seminar on critical technology issues hosted by the Alachua County School District.

It was a great chance for the audience to hear from experts on social media, internet safety and cybersecurity.

Also, it was a great chance to visit my alma mater and tell a couple of quick Sister Hazel stories from my time in the music business.

I was part of a three-person panel including Jacey Kaps, an attorney with Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell and moderated by FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina.

On cybersecurity as it relates to our state’s schools, Andrea had the following to say:

“Cybersecurity is real in Florida school districts; the need to protect sensitive student and employee data is something that districts didn’t even have to think about 10 years ago.  The landscape continues to change and evolve, requiring districts to change and evolve with it. Additionally, districts are recognizing the need to develop solid policies and guidelines, which provide guardrails for communication with social media that ensures all parties are protected.  These are all new considerations for school districts, but crucial to keep people and information protected.”

Responsible social media use certainly hit home with the group; hands went up left and right when it came to sharing examples of what the audience had seen in their districts, such as cyberbullying.

For parents and educators, it is important to gauge what is the appropriate age for a smartphone, as well as having active social media accounts.

While opinions certainly vary on this topic, a good rule of thumb is “the older the better.” More on cyberbullying can be found on

When the time came to discuss the technical threat landscape, we dove in from all angles: security offerings, the dark web, ransomware and phishing schemes.

Our schools, students, teachers and administrators all face the same threats seen in business and politics. Maybe even more so, as budgets are not always available to keep up with the latest and newest issues.

Jacey added:

“Good data handling practices start from the top down with a commitment from leadership to learn about, train, and support the overall privacy program.  Whenever possible, data security should be part of the overall architecture of the network from the ground up. Updating of older technologies provides a window for integrating the tools to protect privacy.  Since data breaches are a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if,’ having a well written actionable response plan is of vital importance.”

As for physical security in our state’s schools, there are obvious steps currently underway. This week, the Florida House spent 7 hours debating what steps should be taken.

WW2 vet Sidney Walton protests at the Capitol.

As new measures roll out, anyone involved in The Process needs to remember that cybersecurity measures and budgets are also needed to keep our students safe. Also, we must stay vigilant look out for warning signs of any kind and also consider every aspect of the web. Public opinion would seem to point to a higher age for a purchase of a gun.

I don’t disagree.

Consider this, to get a gun shipped to your door, you only need be old enough to figure out how to access the dark web.

In regard to this conversation, we are just beginning a long journey; I hope all sides can forge ahead to do what’s best for the safety of our schools, digitally and physically.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at

Blake Dowling: The pleasure — and pain — of Facebook

Facebook has been a modern American success story that continues to break boundaries and reinvent itself.

They have also been in the news a lot lately, not for innovation, but what some people are calling, pay-to-play, exclusion, the “Facebook Apocalypse,” and more.

Some publishers and advertisers are not happy, as the platform jacks up rates and pulls the plug on what people see organically.

Users are also not happy as they see too many ads. Facebook had 2 million advertisers in 2016 — with over 5 million now. Good problem to have, but how they are handling it is, for us, a wait-and-see moment.

Go back a few years in the Facebook world; pay-and-advertise was rarely mentioned. Back then, there were lots of other talks: organic, connect, share … yadda yadda yadda.

See this quote below, taken from a 2009 Wired article: “So give me an example. A year or two from now, what might you be able to do on Facebook that would be an example of what you’re talking about — if you’re a small business. Or a large business, for that matter?”

Mark Zuckerberg: “You should be able to connect to a business in the same way that you connect to a friend, or a person on the site, and then that business should be able to publish things in the same way that that happens for people you care about.”

Anyway, Facebook’s success is cool and inspiring.

However, we all need to be prepared for changes.

I have been part of several conversations in the Chamber, charity, political, publishing and business sectors, all of which basically say, in their opinion, is it all shifting.

So, let’s play a hypothetical game.

If the Florida Politics’ Facebook page posts my column under the new system, not all the page followers would automatically see my column.

But isn’t that the whole point of sharing things on the page?

However, if you pay, you then can open the gates a little further (refer to the Grinch image below, borrowed from the nice people at

Let’s not forget; Facebook has some issues to tighten up.

The New York Times weighed in again on the story of the Russian ad buys to stir discord in the Process. Speaking of which, it’s going to be more relentless the next time; so, study up on their tactics.

Also new in the social media political front, advertisers will now have to say who paid for them. That sounds familiar. Great idea.

This blog pokes fun at that.

So, Facebook is part of the world: politics, business, pictures of your neighbor’s cat named Frito, blogs about Knight Rider, rants on everything (maybe FB should make political ranters pay-to-play; there’s an idea for you, Zuck).

Before our eyes, the Facebook story unfolds. And just like everyone else, they will stumble — that’s OK by me.

You certainly cannot make everyone happy; hopefully, Facebook will find a way to continue its great American success story.

I will be rooting for them all the way. That is unless they don’t share my columns.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Taking a short break to talk Han Solo

There are a lot of hot topics raging throughout the state, nation and the world right now.

Debates are raging, protests are happening, as it can (and should) in a Democracy. These are serious times, with serious issues on the table.

But this column is going to steer the other way, giving you a short break from all that.

I am talking about Han Solo.

Last night, while watching one of the most miserable college basketball games in a while (17 first-half points by the Unrowdy Reptiles) I received a video:

Granted, I hadn’t given much thought to the idea of a new Star Wars Solo film, as Rouge One was one the best films in the franchise that I still enjoy re-watching; I am still trying to figure out what in the world was going on in the Last Jedi.

Luke has always really been a big whiner, “I want power converters … blah blah blah.”

Also, where did all the rebellion ships go? There are some holes in the story.

Nevertheless, after watching the short Beastie Boys infused trailer, I couldn’t be more excited.

Just kidding.

In regard to Mr. Solo, here’s what I know: He was in the Imperial Academy, then he wasn’t; he saved a Wookie and the two went off into the Galaxy, wreaking havoc like Robin Hood and Little John (sans woods), giving to the poor.

So while we take a break from our lives to enjoy these films we think we are getting away from business and politics. HA! There is more business and political judgment and analysis in a Star Wars Film than in a White House news conference.

Is Richard Nixon the Emperor? Ewoks the Viet Cong? Imperial Officers have British accents … why? The C3PO-Hillary Clinton connection? The Trade Federation and Newt Gingrich?

Back to Solo. The first time we see him on camera, he tells Luke: “I ain’t in this for your revolution kid, I expect to get paid.” Yet, our reluctant hero repeatedly sacrifices for the greater good.

So, our hero encompasses all sides of the political spectrum, taking ideologies of the right and left and blends them into a perfect interstellar smuggler, freedom fighter, etc.

Fascinating read in Newsweek from Michael O’Connor can be found here.

I don’t know where Mr. Solo would stand on government corruption, taxes or gun control but I know his character has inspired us all in some way.

Here’s to Kurt Russell for taking another part in some western, and for Tom Selleck not being interested.

Could you imagine that George Lucas also wanted Tom as Indiana Jones too?

All that so that I don’t blame you could become America’s Hero.

Our problems aren’t going away, so let’s try and work through the process to make the world a better place – get ready for some more Star Wars, which is, as of this writing, 91 days, 9 hours, 9 minutes and 9 seconds.

That is a lot of 9s for 9:50 p.m. America. Good night.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: The new threat … cryptojacking

The latest cyberthreat …

This is a nice sequel to my bitcoin article last month. Everyone loves a sequel right? Except for Smokey and the Bandit 3. (Come on man. Burt wasn’t even in the movie.)

OK, there is a new cyber threat that involves criminals diving into the bitcoin mining world. Part 1 is here.

Just like anything that pops up, criminals are bound to jump in and see how to monetize the situation.

Bitcoin mining is no exception.

If you have kept up to date on mining, it takes a lot of computing horsepower. So, where do criminals fit into the picture? They steal that horsepower from your PC.

Cryptojacking is the name of the process; now it’s a thing.

Basically, to mine bitcoin, you need some serious computing power. So, cryptojacking is defined as the secret use of your computing device to mine currency. You are infected in a much different way than most cyberthreats.

This is not coming to you through an open port on your firewall, not an email with a malicious link; you can get it just by web browsing and not even know it. Hackers even found a way to embed the Showtime website with malicious code and take over computers without either side knowing.

You can read more here.

The English government got hit hard this week, and we are going to see a lot more of this type of thing in 2018. Lots of info here.

How to stop this threat? Consult your IT pro, or if you are a pro, monitor your Task Manager, where you can view CPU and memory usage.

If it is peaking and you have only the Burt Reynolds fan site open (just kidding … but there is one), you may have a problem. There are settings to block this type of threat, but Step 1 is knowing about it.

Be safe out there, and stay away from sequels, except Star Wars of course. Ninety-nine days until Solo. The end.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at

Blake Dowling: FBI gets busy in Tallahassee

After a 2-year investigation in Tallahassee, the FBI is getting down to business.

At this point, no one has been proven guilty of anything. But that hasn’t stopped the circus. Step down! Guilty! Off with their heads! Schemer! Dilly Dilly to the Pit of Misery with you!

Points of order to consider. When on the front page for something devious, is it a media requirement to pick the most unflattering picture available? The ayes have it.

Also, buckle up, as this process will take a long, long time. In Pennsylvania, a city corruption case has been dragging on for years.

There will be plenty of time for snarky front pages; don’t come out of the gate too fast, folks. But this is the world we are in.

Is our Capital City full of corruption? Is this the tip of the iceberg? This week, WCTV asked me to weigh in on the story.

My first response — no, thank you.

But the reporter insisted her story was more about the tech side of the situation. OK, I’m on the bus; I’ll buy a ticket and take that ride.

She wanted to know if, during investigations, Apple and other cloud providers are cooperative.

Absolutely, they are. — a common cloud storage company — offers a graph of government requests over a 5-year period. It’s slightly on the uptick.

Politicians aren’t the only ones who text things they shouldn’t be, so are everyday folks, as well drug dealers and cybercriminals.

While cloud providers have a responsibility to protect client data, they also have a responsibility to cooperate with law enforcement whenever requested.

During the battle between Apple and the FBI over the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, the landscape became unclear. It was a different situation. The FBI wanted Apple to hack into one individual device. Not access cloud files or info, but what was on his phone, which they could not get into. At least at first.

“No thanks,” the company said, as that meant developing a hack which — if misplaced — could potentially make every iPhone vulnerable. A battle waged.

Read more in The Washington Post.

With that, this case will go on for a long time. More names will be thrown out there. Hopefully, most will be vindicated.

However, if the FBI was undercover on the case for almost two years, someone was up to something.

I believe FBI policy dictates that every few months, agents must show evidence gathered. If there is something to it, the operation is funded for more time (allegedly).

So … as a rule of thumb: don’t text, email, photograph anything you wouldn’t want your kindergarten teacher to read. Don’t pose for pics with the “hang loose” hand symbol and be wary of small people in Las Vegas hotel rooms with paddles (and cameras).

The end.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Amazon Go is here

Writing about tech, threats and innovation, it is pretty common that some ideas (or threats) out there really don’t materialize.

Like one more season of Saved by the Bell, it just doesn’t need to happen.

(It would be called Saved by the Bell – Middle Age Years, I reckon.)

Dumb jokes aside, I wrote about the Amazon Go concept two years ago — the idea of a store with no traditional check-out process. Guess what? It’s here.

Today on LinkedIn, I read a post from Sachs Media executive Ryan Cohn declaring the first Amazon Go store is open to the public; they were able to make the walk-in-walk-out concept a reality.

No lines! Thank you, technology.

Is it perfect? Not yet.

I saw a great comment from a shopper who said, “I think I just shoplifted.” He had two items when he left the store, but when they sent his digital receipt, it only showed one. Ooops.

Amazon had the following to say about that scenario via The Washington Post:

“’It happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened,’ Gianna Puerini, Amazon Go’s vice president, told CNBC. ‘I’ve been doing this a year and I have yet to get an error. So, we’ve tried to make it super easy on the rare occasion that does happen either to remove it or enjoy breakfast on us.’”

This pic is fake news, so laugh, it’s funny.

Got it, #freestuff if they make a mistake.

That sounds like a reasonable approach if you have one store in its first year, but maybe not sustainable for a world takeover.

Moving from shoplifting to disruption: How is the rest of the industry responding?

Kroger launched a quick response with an expansion of their “Scan Bag and Go” tech in 400 stores. Each shopper gets a handheld scanner to scan your own items as you go which is new. Most stores only go as so far as a self-checking kiosk.

So as the Grocery Grand Prix heads around the first 100 laps, Amazon has the lead and it doesn’t look to be giving it up anytime soon.

Plus, they just bought a grocery store chain, so I have a feeling Whole Foods is about to have a whole lotta different experience for their shoppers in the next two years.

Also, let’s keep an eye on a potential dark horse for the No. 2 in the race.

Here’s a pic of Robomart, the store that drives to you – and it’s driverless.

So, there you have it. Mind blown yet?


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Beware the dark web

Are you bored with your career in politics?  Is lobbying getting old? Tired of asking people for money on the fundraising trail?

Have you considered cybercrime?

Alexzander Cazes thought it sounded like a great idea. If you haven’t heard of Alpha Bay it will most likely be a movie in the next couple of years, MTV or Lifetime will be all over this story. This is a story about the dark web and if you need to know about it.

Despite my sarcastic intro, I am being very serious, for your staff’s well-being, your children, you need to know what’s going on out there.

It’s scary.

Last year, according to the Department of Justice website, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year — taking down the largest darknet marketplace in history,” said

So how does the largest darknet marketplace in history start?

Meet Canadian citizen Alexzander Cazes, he ran a tech company in Montreal called EBX Technologies. He had the bright idea to start a marketplace where you can find not so good things (drugs, guns) online.

Alpha bay pushed opiates to the public; as Floridians, we know how lethal and dire access to those drugs can be.

This is not found via Google or traditional search engines. Places like this exist on the dark web where you can be more anonymous.

Photo via a social media post by Alex Cazes.

During Cazes’ rise as a cybercriminal, he had some not-so-mastermind ideas. Remember in Goodfellas when after the heist they say don’t go buy anything flashy and the guy buys the Caddie? Alex did things like this. Not just buy them, but he would post pictures online in his new Lambo.

Those pictures can be geo-traced, so this (among other blunders) lead to his downfall.

One of the homes owned by Alex Cazes.

Alpha Bay launched in 2014 and last year had over 400,000 users globally. Cazes and his wife amassed a fortune of millions including a hotel, multiple residences in Thailand and Canada, luxury cars, etc.

It all ended rather abruptly last year.

Cazes had servers that linked all the vendors on Alpha Bay (he did not sell the objects on the site, he provided a peer-to-peer network for people to buy and sell and he took a commission) at his office.

He also included his email address in each new account welcoming them to Alpha Bay; throw in the photos on social media and you have a fiery trail of criminality to follow.

The trail led to Thailand, and July 5, his home was raided by a multinational task force who took him into custody.

It was said at the time of arrest, he was working on the site and all his millions in cryptocurrency were seized as well, as nothing was encrypted.

Cazes died in prison a week later.

It was a sad tale, someone seduced by crime and Cazes’ story could have gone another direction.

This is not intended to be a lecture, he made his choices. But be prepared; someone else will be out there with another devious website.

We need to keep a watchful eye on those in our lives to make sure they are not lured to such places.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Who is listening?

The political world has been full of scandals over the years regarding spying and eavesdropping.

President Richard Nixon certainly ranks at the top of the list.

Our current President may or may not be taping calls and meetings. Lots of U.S. presidents have taped conversations.

Opinions differ on the practice, good documentation versus flat out wrong — or illegal, in some cases.

Then you have the National Security Agency, allegedly, taping, tracking monitoring all things cellphone.

The Washington Post outlined very high-tech info on some of those practices.

But what happens when it’s in your backyard? It’s not something in our nation’s capital but in our state Capitol. This week some disturbing updates on last years news popped up in regards to eavesdropping.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat story that broke this week on a situation from last year in which spy cams were discovered on the property of the Tennyson Condominiums.

Allegedly, the planting of these cameras could date back to Frank the Tank — former Sen. Frank Artiles — and his rumored hiring of this group below to plant the device to monitor possible rivals.

The idea of targeting our elected officials in this manner is disturbing. For other residents of the Tennyson, the breach of security and privacy is unforgivable. But it is nothing new.

Surveillance, taping, recording, listening, accusing and stalking have always been a part of the process. However, with the technical tools available these days, it is spooky times 10.

So … you may be thinking everyone is watching everyone, and we might just be in the middle of a surveillance state. You aren’t too wrong.

Check out our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and get on board with some conspiracies, although there is nothing from the U.S. House of Representatives site about spying on Americans regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702?

As we make our way into 2018, be advised — someone is watching and maybe recording everything we do.

On the plus side, by knowing the camera is on, maybe some folks out there will behave more appropriately.

Lord knows, in the news last year, there has been enough bad behavior for a lifetime.

Or maybe it will all become illegal in the coming years. Enjoy your weekend — and smile for the camera.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Session, bitcoin and digital currency

Now that the 2018 Legislative Session is in full swing, lawmakers and lobbyists have taken over our great city.

Last night, I bumped into a couple of lobbyists I know, who were hiding from the masses at Whole Foods. Which is genius.

Whole Foods has it figured out, they have sports on by the deli, and pour beer and wine, so you can hang out and have a beverage. Dilly-Dilly indeed.

You can also buy a steak from the meat market, and they’ll cook it up for you on the premises. Love it.

Plus, nothing makes inflated prices seem much for reasonable than downing a couple of 10 percent IPAs.

Back to the lobbyists; we talked shop for a minute when the dialogue switched to digital currencies.

One of the gents mentioned he had seen a 500 percent increase in his digital currency investment. Fantastic. He also shared a video (you must watch) for a very simple and comedic description of digital currencies.

“Shut up Margaret, you didn’t understand any of that!” … comic gold, courtesy of Late Night with Seth Meyers.

This all began back in the dark ages of 2008; someone named Satoshi Nakamoto announced to the world: “I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.”

For the official definition — bitcoin is a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

There are various types of cryptocurrencies but this is the one you hear about most often.

As of April 2017, one bitcoin is worth $1,223 – a considerable jump from late 2016, when it was around $770 (according to Investopedia). Last month it spiked up to $20,000. To summarize there are two ways to get into bitcoin: mining and investing. Investors go to an exchange and purchase bitcoin at the market value. Miners setup powerful computers and get paid for the work that the computers produce.

There are bitcoin ATM’s around the state of Florida in use right now.

In our state, the legal and judicial ramifications are under scrutiny as criminals love new ways of doing things. They jumped into digital currencies quickly – as the transactions are more anonymous – which is why new laws were put in place last year to address this issue.

According to the Miami Herald: “Cybercriminals have taken advantage of our antiquated laws for too long,” said Miami Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who sponsored the bill. “Bitcoin bypasses the traditional banking system, and our state’s laws simply had not caught up to the upsurge in criminality in the world of cyber-currency.”

Is this the future of the investing? Maybe.

However, be advised that some digital currencies have seen 80 percent swings in value in a single day. This is not your grandmother’s blue-chip stock.

Where is this all going? The only thing I can say for certain is where it is not going – away.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at

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