Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.aegisbiztech.com
The last presidential election was unlike any in my lifetime.
All predictions and polls wrong. FBI investigation right before Election Day. Crude language about women right before the election. A rogue candidate vs a political elitist. New revelations of social media ads bought by the Russians to influence voters.
The experts got it wrong, the entire time, as detailed in the Showtime documentary “Trumped.”
There are lots of obvious reasons why this happened, as well as not-so-obvious ones.
Psychometrics is the measurement of psychological traits and the “Big Five”: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (OCEAN).
Pay attention readers, because if you do not know this tale, it goes far down the rabbit hole, then blows all the rabbits up.
So, the hard part about developing models for the OCEAN traits was info; gathering actual data.
How do you do that during the 70s? 80s?
I will tell you how they do it now: internet and social media.
It makes the data collection a breeze and predicting behavior a real science. It would appear that a guy named Michal Kosinski was the forebear of this type of digital science; he developed predictive models of behavior analyzing likes on Facebook. He could predict your skin-color, sexual orientation, and political affiliation based on what you liked and did not like and of course factoring in other data points, age, gender, etc.
Basically, our interactions with social media are equal to a never-ending psychological questionnaire that allows those with the tools to analyze this data to know us better than our friends know us.
So, Kosinki had his methods down and he gets approached by a guy named Kogan wanting to use this method for a company he is allegedly representing named Strategic Communications Laboratory (SCL).
Kosinski is starting to figure out the power of his work and when he looks up what SCL does.
He then has a Fred Sandford moment: “This is the Big One, Elizabeth; I’m coming to join ya,” etc.
SCL focuses on psychological modeling; one of its focuses is influencing elections. Say what?
Allegedly, this company spun off a new U.S.-based company, Cambridge Analytica.
(Also of note, it is rumored that Kogan changed his name to Dr. Spectre and moved to Singapore.)
I think this column is going to have me end up hiding out in some foreign embassy. It is like a chess game with glow in the dark gummy bear pieces — very interesting and tasty.
Traditional political marketing efforts target people using demographics, targeting an entire subset, like females, for instance. This is not that.
Psychometrics can target white women who like Wu-Tang Clan, drink Jack Daniels, live in LA (lower Alabama), love gladiator movies and reruns of Hee-Haw. (Who doesn’t love those?)
This is very specific, and, for all intents and purposes, very effective.
How do you get to people? They show targeted/paid “dark posts” on social media and try to get people to the polls or keep them away from the polls.
For instance, think of a Miami neighborhood called Little Haiti, dark posts are bought and run to users in this area that focus on the failure of the Clinton Foundation to help with Haiti relief after the earthquakes. Or in an African-American neighborhood with targeting paid ads where Hillary in a comment refers to black males as “predators.” These specific people only see these dark posts.
There are targeted posts for everyone, either driving people to cast a ballot or to keep them home.
What did the Trump campaign pay these people? $100,000 in July. $250,000 in August. $5,000,000 in September.
What did they have before CA, some troll named Brad who was paid $1,500 to build the Trump for President website (sorry, Brad; you stink, man).
OK, so door-to-door Trump supporters could knock on a door, knowing what the people inside believe and give them a quick message that they already know they can relate to, and yes, it’s available on an easy to use app.
They did this concentrated effort in only 17 states — states they absolutely needed.
Door-to-door messaging to a receptive audience, one-on-one targeted posts that would be most likely received positively. This sounds like the political version of the New England Patriots.
Guess who is on the Board of Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon.
So, is this all BS? Maybe.
Maybe people just liked the crazy dude with sweet hair. Who knows?
More fake news craziness? It is said CA was also a big player in the Brexit campaign, too.
Maybe the sky is red, and maybe Al Gore was right all along, it is hot as hell for springtime.
Anyway, I don’t know much but I know this is not the last time we will hear about this subject.
Keep on rocking people. And long live those women who love the Wu-Tang Clan and Jack Daniels.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He writes for several organizations and can be reached at email@example.com.
Our company now offers intrusion testing, customized training as the standard enterprise-level security bundles are not enough. With clients with no international ties, we block all IP addresses outside the U.S., as so many threats originate offshore.
A few years ago, I was chatting with a professor in Tel Aviv, who told me that spam was invented in Israel. So, where do you think the best spam filter is from? He was right then, but these days products from afar (like Kaspersky Anti-Virus software) have been exposed themselves.
I am not suggesting an America-first approach to cybersecurity, but maybe a NATO-first.
Most ransomware encrypts files and to get the files back, you are supposed to pay a ransom. We always recommend not paying, and go to a backup — which you should always have — to restore the affected data.
Some new attacks will see ransomware as a diversion.
Files will get infected, and while your IT staff is struggling to deal with that, a Trojan dives in — stealing credit card numbers or something else stored locally.
Other ransomware blackmails you: pay us, or we send your photos to your contact list. Threats get more devious and, of course, good ol’ spam with infected links will still come through. That is if you do not have proper security in place, and people yet click these things.
The U.S. is still better off than most of the world, as a whole, we have more legit deployments of software, which means security updates are patched and current (if managed correctly). Plus, most professionals recognize that there is an issue and are taking action. But there are still those out there on their XP machines with no backup clicking up a storm. Don’t be that person.
#Don’tBeThatPerson that ignores security and clicks on everything, because they will eventually think up a name for the Merriam-Webster 2018 Dictionary for you and it won’t be flattering.
US-CERT has become aware of several key management vulnerabilities in the 4-way handshake of the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) security protocol. The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection and others. Note that as protocol-level issues, most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected. The CERT/CC and the reporting researcher KU Leuven will be publicly disclosing these vulnerabilities on 16 October 2017.
If you have someone managing your tech, and they are current with updates, or you have auto updates, the Windows patch on October 10 should have made this issue a non-issue.
If you are running an out-of-date operating system, check with your information technology professional for the appropriate patches, etc.
If you do not have the auto update features turned on, now is a good time. The good news, possible perps must be in proximity of you (and your device) to attempt to defraud you. So, this is not a look-out-for-problems-overseas-type threat.
The good news, possible perps must be in proximity of you (and your device) to attempt to defraud you. So, this is not a look-out-for-problems-overseas-type threat.
A good rule of thumb is to stay off free Wi-Fi, non-password protected networks, not just during this threat but always. We send way too much sensitive data back and forth; this is just another vulnerability where someone (or several individuals) will try and criminalize computing.
Auto-updates on? Staying off public Wi-Fi?
You are now free to move about the cabin, so to speak.
Equifax has your info from banks, creditors, and public records, it is their job to have your info and not lose it, but that’s not important right now (a little Airplane movie humor for you).
The CEO of the firm resigned, the breach is being called massive, almost 140 million citizens of the world affected. Mainly in Canada, the U.S. and England. And like a relative who knits, the gifts just keep coming.
After the breach, Equifax provided a fraud-checking website, which also turned out to be vulnerable to hacking.
It’s like the Airplane movie of breaches, it just keeps going.
So what happened? Let’s dive in so you can try to prevent this from happening to your office, campaign, constituents, clients, etc.
The notice was about applying a patch, and for all intents and purposes, they failed to do so. Fast forward to July, when suspicious activities were noticed but, too late.
Security patches for websites, software and operating systems are created for a reason. Embrace them. In the short-term, be on the lookout.
There is only one official site by Equifax that you can go to officially check to see if your data was compromised: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
If someone calls claiming to be from Equifax, ignore them, hang up, and report the phone number to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Attorney General’s Office. If you receive a link claiming to be from Equifax, delete it.
Data theft rings are going crazy right now harvesting your info because people panicked and are trying to do the right thing. However, by panicking, they are giving away their sensitive info to try to see if their info has been compromised. It’s like a Wes Anderson film, irony, comedy everywhere.
Don’t panic, check the official site and consider freezing your credit. Equifax will do it for free until the end of November.
Also, if you have been breached, trash all your existing passwords, and start over.
Also, monitor your financial situation carefully and look out for any financial hanky panky.
We hear about breaches all the time, but this one was different. It was big; really big.
I put together a column for INFLUENCE Magazine (should be out soon) about political paid digital advertising and microtargeting.
It is a complicated process of getting in front of certain demographics that would take hours of survey questions — using old-school focus groups — for TV ads.
Now, with all the data collected by social media platforms, it has become an easier process with software specifically designed to get in front of the targeted audience.
Speaking of TV, I saw a cool example of TV advertising that leverages mobility while getting the message out. It was an ad for North Florida law firm Fonvielle Lewis Messer and McConnaughhay; the ad is basically a video of a text message thread between two individuals, using emojis to make sure it attracts a younger crowd. Nice work.
If you have the budget for a multiplatform ad campaign of print, TV and digital you can really get your brand out there.
Back to paid digital advertising; make sure you include paid Facebook ads to the mix, as it works.
If you don’t believe me — why do you think the Russians bought thousands of Facebook ads during the 2016 campaign?
News surfaced this month that the company is preparing to hand over approximately 3,000 ads to Congress purchased by Russian operatives.
What were they up to? I think you know, but just in case, let’s bring in some experts …
According to The Washington Post, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said he hoped the public would be able to review the ad campaign.
“I think the American people should see a representative sample of these ads to see how cynical the Russians were using these ads to sow division within our society,” he said. Schiff had not yet seen the ads but was briefed on them, he said, including the ones mentioning “things like Black Lives Matter.”
At this point, 470 fake Facebook pages purchased over $100,000 in ads and they aren’t specific at all.
It’s not like they say, “I’m with her” or “Let’s make America Great Again.” They are hitting on the hot topics that those on Facebook get fired up over. Considering over 2 billion people a month see Facebook, there is a lot to consider.
The idea of microtargeting audiences via social media is in its infancy, but we will see more and more, and not just from the Russians.
This time around, the losers would be Bernie and our entire American Society, the Russkies rolled out some digital nonsense to have us focus on what divides us not what makes us great. This is a tough pill to swallow, but it is a fact. Don’t you miss the days when all you saw in an election was a slew of mailers (and the occasional horrible TV ad) about how so-and-so is the worst?
Or a parody video of a famous film?
People wouldn’t sink to those depths would they, ahhhhh.
This topic requires a deep dive if you want to learn it all, hopefully, this piece (as well as my INFLUENCE Magazine column) will serve as a good introduction for you. Enjoy another great weekend of college football … and just maybe we will see some fall weather one day?
For the next threat, both our state and nation are constantly sleeping with one eye open.
The threat landscape consists of digital, cultural, and of course good old Mother Nature. At the top of the list: hurricanes, terrorism, human trafficking, and even the current opioid epidemic in Florida.
Tech Industry leaders and our government are doing their part to help — when possible.
Lately, Twitter has been a hotbed for recruiting young folks to ISIS. To counter that effort, the company shuts down any accounts created to promote extremism or violence.
Hopefully, Abu (see below) was first on the list.
Some of those that were cyber-yanked were at the request of the government, but Twitter removes others on its own. They have automated tools to look for that type of content, as well as actual humans who view activity — called “content moderators.” Talk about a tough gig.
Twitter is reporting that they shut down over 300,000 accounts in the past six months for just this reason. Man, our world is certainly full of a**holes; 300,000 hate-filled social media accounts is staggering to consider.
And just this morning, I was reading about the positive work of Operation Airdrop in Florida. They are bringing supplies to the state’s rural areas affected by Irma, people without power, fuel, access to grocery stores, etc. since the storm hit.
Then there is this glaring stat from Twitter about negativity in our world.
Oh, well, it’s a good reminder (if your head is in the sand) to get it out of there, and always be on the lookout for trouble.
As James Cronin’s book “The Passage” says: All Eyes. (It’s worth a read if you’re into post-apocalypse vampires.)
Thank you Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for zero tolerance for this type of behavior.
If you visit FloridaPolitics.com regularly, I am sure you have read pieces on Attorney General Pam Bondi and her office fighting the good fight regarding our state’s opioid crisis.
They have a new ally in this fight in the form of an app — called OD Map.
Why is this data important? There were 52,000 overdoses in 2015, mostly from heroin, oxy, or some type of pain medication. If hospitals and other agencies can get overdose stats in real time, they can take more proactive measures to save lives.
For example, they can have the drug Naloxone on hand in areas spiking with overdoses. Naloxone is the FDA-approved medication used to block or reverse effects of an opioid overdose.
Also, for law enforcement, if there is an area with lots of overdoes, it might be time to send in undercover FBI agent Mike Miller to help shut down dealers. (That’s a little North Florida CRA investigation humor for you).
Last week, I wrote about some hurricane apps last week – Waze, Zello, etc. – so we won’t go back there.
Just remember, technology (apps, artificial intelligence and more) is always available to help (when used properly) in the global fight against all things evil, ridiculous and just plain wrong.
Irma was a monster; some parts of the state were lucky, others were not. My prayers are with all those impacted by the storm.
Shout outs to our state and local leaders for keeping everyone in the loop; a lot was learned from Hermine last year. I personally thought Gov. Rick Scott did a great job with communication and his relentless messaging. That is what it’s about. Keep the people in the loop. Same with county officials, they also did a great job.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was also all over the place keeping the people in the know.
Nice work Government.
On Monday, I was talking on Twitter with Skip Foster of the Tallahassee Democrat about Irma (during the storm), because you honestly could not get a straight answer on the Weather Channel for what was about to happen in North Florida (meaning that after a rough sunrise, we got hit).
Skip was like “look at the radar,” it’s gone. Meanwhile, several other media outlets were still saying the worst was yet to come. It was what they were saying all weekend.
But then … poof … never mind, show’s over folks.
I don’t think I ever need to see another reporter doing the “I’m in the really strong wind stance” while covering a storm. Really? Isn’t that sensationalism at its core? I only want to see it if it’s Geraldo (that guy can cover anything).
But, seriously, when a storm is barreling down on you, it would be nice to just have the facts. Thanks, Skip.
So, as for the facts next time, grab the latest app and keep informed when a storm rolls around.
For crisp hurricane coverage, try Storm Radar — hurricane tracker, updates, radar etc. — it’s sharp and easy to navigate.
For finding fuel, which is still an issue, try GasBuddy, it will tell you where to find gas, and in the non-storm world, it can help you find the cheapest gas.
Another monster app that is really helping people in places like the Keys where cell towers are destroyed is called Zello. As long as there is a wireless network of some kind going (you can use your cellphone as a hot spot, you know), you can use this walkie-talkie app to communicate with others that have it. Innovation at its finest. Very cool.
Considering our interstates are still clogged, Waze can help navigate the roads and find shortcuts when available. These apps can all help you bring some calm, before, during and after the storm.
Lastly, you need Bottle Flip, a time-wasting gem of an app, for something to do besides watch the trees bend into Cirque De Soleil/Forest Road Show-like shapes.
Current high score 228. Try and beat it.
I wish our state and island neighbors a speedy recovery, help where you can and prayers for all those who were in the path of this storm and the next one, whenever that comes.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blake enjoys electricity, cold beverages, television and fuel for his car. The end.
On Friday, I was chatting with the ABC 27 WTXL team about Irma, and what you should do about your mobile devices in case of a power outage.
For the best experience, get a generator, and keep everything charged up 24/7.
But, if you don’t have one available, here are a few tips to get the most juice out of your mobile device.
Turn off Wi-Fi, your phone is constantly looking for wireless networks, and this takes horsepower to do. Also, don’t have 20 windows open, look for the news you need from the Weather Channel app and (of course) FloridaPolitics.com, but stay off Instagram, and Pandora (streaming is bad for power consumption). That can wait until civilization returns to normal. We don’t need to see your Insta pic of your storm supplies: “Look he has bourbon and soup, how cute.” No.
Be smart with the power that you have, if a tree falls on your garage, you will be glad you can call your insurance company to report it and take photos of the scene.
As the storm gets closer, make sure you at full charge for tablets and phones. Also, if you have any USB battery packs, plug those in so they are ready for the recharge when needed. You may have a few from conferences you forgot about; go dig them out of the drawer. They are sold out at the store, so don’t bother.
To that end, I almost saw two people go to town over D batteries this morning. Come on now.
It will be tempting to stream TV Monday on those mobile devices (if the power is out), but keep in mind that kills power. Keep streaming to small bursts and rely on websites for the latest weather news.
Also, if power is on, but the cable is out, you might get the bright idea to plug your phone into your TV and stream away. I did this for the Ole Miss — FSU game last year via WatchESPN.
But when the bill came — oops. My data plan is pretty robust, but steaming eight hours of TV kicked it over the max.
Go to your settings function (iPhone), click “Battery” and put it on low power mode; this is a must. Also, hit the Display and Brightness section (also under settings) and make it dim. These two acts alone will give you tons of extra juice for emergency communication, and even some solitaire. That doesn’t use much power, just a few hands though.
Irma will be as bad as it gets, hit the roads if you can and get out of harm’s way. All the cellphone power in the world cannot battle 9-foot storm surges. Check on your neighbors, be kind to strangers, and be careful out there.
We will see how it goes over the next few days and my prayers to all of those in the path. Stay safe.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at email@example.com. He is bummed that the Gators are not playing Saturday, but he understands (sigh).
Last week, I chatted with legal ace and FloridaPolitics.com contributor Florence Snyder.
We discussed what happens when technology and innovation in business stop assisting the process and becomes a nuisance (or worse).
One example is when a security company calls you during the day, you see the name pop up on your phone; you panic, thinking you are being robbed or your house is on fire.
You quickly answer to learn it’s only a short, automated survey.
How about texts with updates? I love getting texts from Haute Headz (haircut spot in Tallahassee) about an upcoming appointment; it’s a great reminder. I do not love a text from Walgreens telling me that my prescription is read and, when I arrive, they never heard of me. This happened again just yesterday.
Figure it out, already.
Obviously, a sense of balance is just as important in business as it is in life. Finding the perfect mix of tech to give harmony versus hysterics (or hostility).
At our firm, we offer a web portal where clients can access all things via an intranet. Even then, I make sure to give out my cell number also to each organization we serve; sometimes, you just need someone to answer the phone.
I am certainly not claiming anything near perfection, but we strike a good balance.
I recall a few years ago when my grandfather JD — who was well into his 90s — received a call from J.C. Penney about a past-due account. He politely told them it was not, but they insisted, informing him they were going to put a negative mark on his credit. This got JD fired up. He then unloaded a barrage of colorful language on that J.C. Penney rep (it would have made Andrew Dice Clay blush).
Bottom line is this: JD was a client for 60 years, and should have been treated with more courtesy. Right or wrong.
JC Penny would have been lucky if their problems stopped with my grandfather, but they certainly have not.
Florence shared another very personal story from 10 years ago involving her mother’s Book of the Month Club package, which arrived three days after she died. She called the company’s 800 number.
Florence, who had not slept in days, was crying.
I could almost hear the operator tapping keys as she expressed condolences while searching for the obit.
Seconds later, the operator said: “I’ve canceled your mom’s membership. Keep the books and do not worry about the bill. It’s taken care of. I am so sorry for your loss.”
That’s how you do it. Balance, email alerts, mobile apps, texting, websites with good ol’ fashioned face-to-face customer service.
Thanks to Florence for sharing her experiences with me (and us); I look forward to our next dialogue.