Blake Dowling, Author at 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: Smart delivery – a new disruption

The Leon County Research and Development Authority called the other day and asked me to give a chat about artificial intelligence.

I gave them the standard JJ-from-Good-Times response … Dyn-o-mite! … love to, thanks for thinking about me!

They had read something on AI I had put together for INFLUENCE Magazine last year and thought I would be a great “expert” on the subject.

I am no expert, ladies and gents, but I am a true believer in the cause that one should embrace all things.

So, I set out on a perilous journey to find something interesting to discuss with these fabulous folks. What you will read here is my dramatic exploration into a world of machines and the discovery that the Terminator series is a prophecy and we are all doomed! Just being dramatic to get your attention.

We may be doomed, we may be blessed, we will see where the future takes us, in the meantime …

I was talking to the team at Greenberg Traurig (Leslie Dughi, Gus Corbella and Michael Moody); they asked me if I had heard of Starship Technologies.

My first thought was “terrible name, folks,” with an image in my head of Starship Troopers (Denise Richards rocks, she should have won an award for her gutsy performance). But diving in, I was intrigued by what these cats were up to.

Starship was founded by the team that brought you Skype, and what they bring to the market is called a Personal Delivery Device (PDD) which they say will “transform” local delivery.

These wicked little bots are on wheels, cruising the sidewalks to bring whatever you seek. They can carry the about three bags of groceries and head straight to your door.

Partners in this venture range from Mercedes to Just Eat, both of whom (for obvious reasons) would like to get in on the ground floor.

If you are going to have a robot on wheels, it might as well be a Mertz: The best robot or nothing.

So, what are the uses? Grocery stores, FedEx, and restaurants, for starters. Other things to consider; the robot is locked, so robbing it would be difficult.

How far along are these folks? They have commercial trials going on in the U.S., Germany and Switzerland right now. So far, their robots have traveled 9,500 miles in 56 cities, all without any recorded incidents, while encountering an estimated 1,700,000 people.

Electrically powered, these robots have zero emissions, so that the lefty green crowd can applaud. They operate as true robots, learning routes and sharing routes with the other robots (Skynet-like world take over), and they have a range of about 3 miles before needing to return home for a charge (and secretly plan to take over the world, presumably).

Keep an eye on the Virginia legislature, which is on the verge of approving the use of PDDs on sidewalks statewide.

All kidding aside, “disruption” is a word used in tech all the time. Well, here we go again. This is awesome, cool and is happening now.

Look to see these disruptors potentially hit the streets in force next year; and get ready for a Starship heading your way soon – pending some massive lobbying.

To close today’s piece, let’s stick to the Starship theme and roll out some 80s lyrics …

And we can build this dream together

Standing strong forever

Nothing’s gonna stop us now

And if this world runs out of lovers

We’ll still have each other

Nothing’s gonna stop us now

STARSHIP – Nothing’s going to stop us now – 1986 (from the “Mannequin” soundtrack, for which it is well suited. Arrrgh.)


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: Drones, drones everywhere — Super Bowl to Prison

Yay sports!

Or “yay ball,” as one of my techie staff members used to say (she had zero interest in football, etc.)

Yay sports, indeed. This weekend was awesome for sports, with the most thrilling Super Bowl ever. And I also attended the Kentucky-Florida basketball game; what a battle in the brand-new Gville arena.

If you love hoops, watching 6 of the top 10 teams get knocked out Saturday was exciting; for Gator fans, a 20-point whipping of Kentucky (doesn’t happen often) so we get to enjoy that one for a while.

Fast forward to Sunday; seeing Lady Gaga bring the thunder in her Super Bowl halftime performance, then wondering how she got on the roof.


Also, on another subject, a huge shoutout to LG for her message of unity and being pro-America. So many haters out there nowadays. Best country ever, 42 years as a resident. No plans to leave — regardless of Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump or whoever is in the White House.

I would stay even if Lady Gaga was president. Cool outfit she was rocking; very presidential.


There is no need to comment on a flying drone pug, is there?

So, how are there lights in the sky above the game?

My dad lives in Houston and the only flights he says are allowed around the Dome game weekend are Military Black Hawk choppers. So, what are those lights again?

Drones, my friend.

Each dot is actually a flying drone, part of Intel’s Shooting Star Drone squad. Each one is about a foot long and covered in LED lights. The drones are all programmed from a central location that runs a dance routine.

Talk about a big stage, taking account the fact that security was as tight as any game in history, the stadium is in Houston Hobby Airport’s flight path, as well as the aforementioned aircraft ban around the stadium.

How about this, it really didn’t happen during the Super Bowl. The drone show was taped the week earlier and overlaid into the live broadcast for the TV audience.

That is the world we live in. Princess Leia is in Rouge One looking 19 and drones are on the television, but not live. POW!

In years to come, drones change the way we do a lot of things: weaponized drones, real-estate drones and cargo drones.

What’s next? How about reconnaissance drones for missing persons lost in the woods? Drones for agriculture, police, elections (dropping pamphlets) and firefighting.

Cartels down south are early adapters of this kind of tech for drug smuggling at borders and in prisons.

Think about it, a drone operator a mile away from a prison packs up a drone with Oxycodone, weed and the like, flies it over the walls of the prison, dropping the package into the common area. Pickups are smooth and no one gets shanked.

Same with drugs at the border: fly it, drop it, head back to base for another. Drones fly low and are small, making radar useless.

Prisons are beginning to use low-tech countermeasures, with nets over a facility’s yard. Meanwhile, high-tech options like DroneShield are rolling out, and others — like the DroneGun — can disable a drone by jamming it.

Although as done tech moves forward, I am sure some Polk County residents will take them out with a high-powered rifle.

With any new tech, it is very interesting and cool to see where the journey goes, but also scary to see how bad guys will take advantage.

Enjoy the day when a drone brings you a pizza. And if you ever see something like that heading your way, duck and cover, brother.

(By then, though, it’s most likely too late.)


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at

Blake Dowling: The Russian (hackers) are coming

We hear about the Russian mob and Russian hackers all the time, especially in politics and technology.

The Russian mob is all over the dark web selling ransomware toolkits and fake credit cards. The Russians created ransomware, a threat that continues to wreak havoc all over the world in various forms.

We can’t all be comedian Bert Kreischer and be friends with the Russian mob. Nice work, Machine.

See the Showtime special about Bert in Russia if you dare. I knew Bert when he was a young Florida State frat boy (ATO) and was always up for a rowdy evening.

You can see the clip here; be warned, it contains adult language.

Moving on …

In recent years, talk has moved from the Russian mob and hackers to the Russian government.

We all know the stories about the Democratic National Committee emails and stories of our new POTUS (An acronym I hate, by the way. So annoying. I used it just to bother myself).

So, what is really going on? Is the Russian state backing hackers to cause chaos around the globe, interfering with our elections, communications and media? It would certainly appear so.

Let’s be real, their president does not mess around; their Olympic Athletes are more juiced up than an Orange Grove, and their attempts at hacking appear to be legit, but the Kremlin has always denied involvement.

Bulgaria, Germany, France, Britain and the U.S. – all targets of various types of cyber-attacks.

Last month, a joint report by the National Security Agency, CIA, and FBI concluded that the Russian intelligence services did, in fact, target U.S. organizations involved with our most recent presidential election.

Their goal? To create chaos, steer public opinion and disrupt our democratic processes.

This type of warfare has been going on for years, but in the past year, it has really taken a more public spin. A few years ago, China, for example, might be trying to hack into Boeing to steal plans for the latest Boeing-Saab TX jet. Or they may hack the energy grid, which I think they did.

The public usually doesn’t hear about it.

Now with resources like WikiLeaks, Twitter and so many others and the people are in the know, and it is nerve-wracking to hear regularly that foreign entities are knocking on our door, looking to do us harm.

Steven Adair, of the security company Volexity, said in an interview with ZDNet: “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes. We assess the Russian intelligence services would have seen their election influence campaign as at least a qualified success because of their perceived ability to impact public discussion.”

We are just now seeing the beginning of this type of war, so set your firewall to block all IP addresses outside of the U.S., support whatever funds are needed for state, local and federal cyber task forces, and keep that password complicated.

Don’t be like Bert; he took Russian 1,2 and 3 at FSU, and never learned a word.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. You can reach him here:

Blake Dowling: Tech, politics & the Simpsons

The marriage of technology and politics is like the pairing of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise – a big mess (minus the Scientology shenanigans of course).

Hillary emails, Trump tweets, Ashley Madison’s hack … there’s always something to keep your eye on. Always will be.

With breaches and exposure around every corner, certain key figures inside our government use apps for communication that disappear after a certain amount of time. If any of you readers in Florida Politics-land have teenagers, I’m sure you’ve seen Snapchat on their phone.

Unlike texts, where you can read what they are up to, Snapchat messages vanish.

Well, now there is a Snapchat for adults, and one of those messaging apps is called Signal.

Signal uses end-to-end encrypted messaging; providers keep no record of private communications.

That’s all good to keep national security concerns (and illicit affairs) on the down low? Not so fast.

There’s a little thing called the “Presidential Records Act.” It requires elected officials to keep track of all communications.

For those who care about this sort of thing, it’s driving them crazy – Kitty-Dukakis-guzzling-rubbing-alcohol sort of crazy.

Experts say these officials are breaking retention laws and hiding from public scrutiny. The whole deal is a recipe for corruption, they warn.

Here’s some advice for all involved. If you don’t want anyone to see it, don’t put it in writing, don’t say it on the phone. Ane when you talk in person and cover your mouth like an NFL coach on the sidelines. Capish?

Get on Predict It, and take your best guess on how long before an official charge is made. A month? A week? Place your bets.

If you aren’t familiar with Predict It, you’re really missing the boat. Think Vegas + politics.

Forget sports betting, try making a bet on how many tweets Trump will spit out in a week.

The app is advertised as a “real-money political prediction market.” If you think you know politics, log on — before Predict It becomes illegal too, that is.

There is a lot to take in here. Let’s close with America’s favorite animated family — The Simpsons.

Did you know that in an episode aired 2000 (“Bart to the Future”), guess who was president? That’s right, Donald Trump.

It’s all real folks, and it’s coming at you like a warm can of Budweiser shaken for about five minutes. You just can’t make this stuff up, it’s called 2017.

Who knows? Maybe I will run for office. Let’s do this!


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at

Star Wars: Rogue One brings hope, inspiration with CGI movie magic

I saw the new Star Wars flick last week. Loved it. Like really loved it, as much as Luke loved shooting Womp Rats on Tatooine.

I figured I would wait until the crowds thinned a little bit and not see the film in the first few weeks after release. I remember, as a kid, standing in line on the opening night of “Return of the Jedi” at Porter Square Mall in Dothan, Alabama; with what seemed like tens of thousands of people.

In Dothan, you didn’t get crowds like that, unless it was the Peanut Festival. Yes, that is a real thing and, yes, it was a rager. Think concert-rodeo-fair super-sized combo kind of event, ‘Bama style.

You know, Dothan is the peanut capital of the world, but … moving on.

If you haven’t seen “Star Wars: Rogue One,” go ahead and stop reading HERE.

I had read the prequel to Rouge One, called “Catalyst,” so I was very familiar with the scientific work of Dr. Erso, the fall of the Republic and turning into the Empire. Also, Rogue One is a prequel to a New Hope. So, it would appear they dig prequels. Bouncing around from planet to planet was cool.

Rogue One was a very in-depth look at a behind-the-scenes look at the Empire and the power structure. The same with the Rebellion, you got to see several layers deep in what was really going on a long time ago in that famed galaxy far, far away.

As the film progressed, in walks Grand Moff Tarkin — looking straight outta 1979.

All the Botox in the world can’t pull that off, not to mention that actor Peter Cushing is dead. So how did Lucas Film/Disney bring back the only bad guy that could tell Vader to pipe down?

The technology is known as computer generated imagery (CGI). The type of tech compiles computer graphics to build 3-D images that are both static and dynamic. In this case, a compilation of images leads to the resurrection of the No. 3 Imperial baddie.

But before Rogue One, we must go back to 1968 to a group of Russians. The same Russians that laughed at Nasa’s multimillion-dollar space pen that could write in zero gravity. The Ruskies had a 10-cent alternative: “we take pencil to space.”

So, in ‘68 a team of scientists, led by N. Konstantinov, developed high-level math in which they could move a digital cat across a computer screen. Winning.

By 1976, the tech had made its way to the big screen in the film future world, and by this point, the ball was really rolling.

“Superman,” “Aliens,” “Black Hole” really pushed the boundaries of its use and set the bar for what is possible, which, essentially, is anything. The slow-mo bullet effect in the “Matrix” films. That’s CGI tech, too.

This type of special effect changed movies then — and is 100 percent changing the game now. The ability to bring back imagery from our childhoods even cooler than it was then is awe-inspiring.

When I saw the end of Rogue One, I was 100 percent choked up to see the return of our beloved Princess. The world was certainly a better place with her in it.

As we played Star Wars on the playground in Dothan in 1980 — or as my wife and I enjoyed last weekend — the franchise always brought entertainment, hope and inspiration, as good versus evil waged war.

In loving memory of Carrie Fisher: may The Force be with us all.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He writes for several organizations. You may reach him here:

Tech, food and disruption: Hotels on the front lines of innovation

Like Ryan Lochte at a Rio gas station – 2017 is on.

We are 100 percent set for takeoff. Engines are roaring and what should we expect from technology in this grand year? There are three things you can always count on, breaches, innovation and disruption.

Let’s dive into innovation, shall we? (More swimming puns, ha!)

The hotel industry is usually on the front lines of innovation. The W in DC encourages you to use your smartphone as your room key, the Grand Bohemian in Orlando texts you about all things in regards to your stay. The Epicurean in Tampa takes it to the next level. We wheeled in around 6 p.m. and the young man who took our luggage took us to what I thought was the front desk; it was a wine station.

This development was greeted with genuine appreciation from Mrs. Dowling and me as we just got out of evening traffic.

So, pinot noir in hand, I followed the hotel staff member onto the elevator. He told us all about the property and after exiting the elevator, we went straight to room 333.

He produced a tablet from somewhere and zing, mobile check-in; giving us our keys from the comfort of our room. Innovative and awesome. No lines, no hassle, no delay. If lodging is needed on our next visit to Tampa, The Epicurean is the spot.

We had to be at our Outback Bowl tailgate early the next morning for breakfast Budweisers (don’t buy aluminum bottles) and Chicken and Waffles (courtesy of Chef Iverson), but upon our return to the property later in the day we noticed some other innovative twists.

The Epicurean Theater on the ground floor offered guests actual cooking classes with a room looking like a Food Network set, with theater-style seating for attendees.

What a unique experience to dive into the foodie world.

Speaking of culinary delights, the hotel was literally built around food, as Bern’s Steakhouse is across the street. The goal was to provide out of town dining guests a genuinely overnight dining experience. Bern’s offers cut-to-order steaks (in a class of their own), and they have the largest privately held wine collection in the world.

I checked into a property a few days after the recent presidential election and within the mirror in the bathroom was a small, built-in flat-screen TV.

So, you can watch CNBC, Fox News, CNN or Sanford and Son while getting dressed. I must have this for the house very soon. Too cool.

As you travel around the great state of Florida and visit wonderful properties like the Vinoy in St. Pete, Hotel Duval in Tallahassee, the above-mentioned Epicurean, or the Grand Bohemian (check out the art there), make sure you are enjoying the technology at your disposal; it will only enhance your experience.

Happy New Year!


Blake Dowling the CEO at Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee and he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him here:


Blake Dowling: Hacking, weaponized artificial intelligence, ransomware and other fun just for you

Breaches, hacking, ransomware, cyber threats, weaponized AI, smart toothbrushes are but a few examples of scary tech out there to make your day less than fantastic.

Weapons systems that think on its own are in production, with governments racing to catch up on how to regulate these fast-paced advancements.

Police and military already use drones and robots to eliminate threats, but (as far as we know) it’s hardware controlled by humans.

For example, in the Republic of Texas, police this year loaded a robot with explosives and — in true Lone Star State fashion — blew a sniper from whence he came. Who knows how many lives this effort saved?

That robot was controlled by a human. What happens when the robot can think on its own?

Maybe it decides it does not identify with being a robot, turning off the explosives?

Even if governments of the world (minus North Korea, Yemen, California, and Russia) enacted bans on this type of tech, what would stop rogue nations from creating their own? What vicious circle will we see here?

If such rouge nations start deploying them, we might have to implement them ourselves as a countermeasure.

Around and around we go. Scary stuff.

Maybe Stephen Hawking knew the 411 when, back in 2014, he said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Moving on to ransomware.

The first CryptoLocker threat was devious. Click on a fake UPS or American Express site, and your files are encrypted. The originator of the threat then offers you the encryption keys — if you pay a ransom.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

The latest version of ransomware, however, moves from devious to “Emperor Palpatine” mode. This one is called Popcorn Time.

Popcorn Time follows the same pattern as CryptoLocker, but with a twist.

In a true Dark Side manner, Popcorn Time creators also want to recruit you to become a loyal member of their version of the Sith. Once your files are encrypted, they ask you to pay the ransom or send a link containing the same virus to two people that you know.

If those people download the virus, they will give you the keys to unlock your files.


Talk about playing on people’s dark side (the trail of puns just keeps coming).

Security is only as good as the weakest link in the chain; generally, users have weak chains (who hasn’t come across a phishing email ever?). Ransomware is resolved relatively quickly, by relying on data backups.

It should go without saying, although you may be shocked by how many people fail at this.

Backups should also be redundant, copies of anything important both in the cloud (though a lot of malware can look for any drive associated with your computer, even Google Drive) and burned to a disc (surefire method).

Or you can go BC and chisel it into rock tablets in cuneiform (Moses knew what he was doing).

Cyber threats are out there, and if backed by a nation state with almost unlimited resources (like Russia), they will get you. Just ask former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It’s like hitting the town with Johnny Manziel — sooner or later, the cops are going to get involved.

As mentioned above, backups are essential. Make sure they are redundant, keep passwords long and complicated (like a letter from the IRS); use two-factor authentication with financial institutions, and don’t send anything in an email you don’t want people to see.

Also, keep your anti-virus and anti-spam solutions up to date; have an enterprise-level firewall deployed at your office. We set ours (and our clients) to block any traffic not coming from the U.S. This is a great front line of security as so many cyber threats originate in Africa, Russia, China, etc.

Be safe out there, and Happy New Year!


Blake Dowling is CEO at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published monthly. Contact him at or at

Blake Dowling: Amazon Go storefront, the next big disruption in retail, society

When it comes to the home theater experience, we used to rent movies from Blockbuster and Movie Gallery. VHS came and went. Then DVD, which is gone (for the most part).

In regards to transportation, there are still taxi cabs out there, but everyone I know contacts Uber to get a ride.

Have you bought a CD lately? I know plenty of music execs who wish they could turn back the clock when there were huge margins on tapes, LPs and CDs.

And in the world of politics, Hillary Clinton was all set to become President, but here we are.

Granted the last one isn’t so much about technology but, for whatever reason, the experts didn’t see it coming.

Disruption can take on many forms.

We now have a new one, which is about to ruffle some serious feathers and it won’t just affect grocery stores, but retail in general.

Imagine a grocery store experience where you just walk into and grab what you need and leave. It’s opening in 2017. It’s called Amazon Go. It’s real, so to all the experts out there, take note.

Here’s how it works: After entering the store, you scan an app. Select items to put into your cart and the store tracks what you pick up. You already have an Amazon account, so it’s just a matter of sensors tracking you correctly.

The Amazon Go storefront is small; it is not a Wal-Mart type of set up. It has essentials and — for downtown residents of a major city — it seems like a perfect fit.

For example, I was shopping at Publix on Spring Street this past weekend, just before the SEC Game in Atlanta. If you could take the lines and congestion out of that place on a busy day, it would be wicked.

The ways in which this type of disruption would affect retail (and our society) seem to be endless. Where to start on the domino effect? Let’s see there are over 3 million cashiers employed in our country making minimum wage. With that wage about to go up, retail execs are bound to be thinking can’t we automate this? The self-checkout kiosks were just the beginning of a labor issue for the cashiers.

What about criminals? Those who misbehave with tech are drooling over this as well. Credit card numbers and personal info are being zapped around rampantly.

Or what about someone just walking into the Amazon Go store without scanning the app. In that scenario, I could imagine some rambunctious teens stealing beer. In this kind of world, I suppose you must have a significant security presence.

How will other stores catch up? Publix, for instance, doesn’t have your credit card info on file. And, personally, I don’t want them to have it.

In the past four years, I have had two credit cards digitally stolen. The first time it happened, American Express did an excellent job notifying me via the AMX app. Once I declined the purchase through the app, I soon received a phone call with details.

In hindsight, it was kind of funny: “Mr. Dowling, are you in Milan attempting to purchase a fur coat?”

That would be a negative, boss. Thanks for the heads up.

The other incident was more recent; the local bank involved was just as meticulous.

Hopefully, these types of stores will offer anti-skimming devices throughout the location to block the possibility of digital theft.

This is going to be a significant movement, and all eyes will be on both Amazon and this Seattle storefront to see where they succeed and where they fail.

Disruption never stops; who knows what’s next?

Personally, a grocery store with no line sounds like heaven. Clean up on aisle 4, LOL.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee; he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him at

Blake Dowling: Apps for everything

dowling-11-30I think I have downloaded more apps in the past five years than anyone in the southern United States. When the kids were younger, new game? Done. Five a day, we would play incessantly, then delete.

The gaming app 100 Balls took over two weeks of our life; Stack took a few weeks. Jet Pack Joy Ride might have robbed our family of actual months. Anyway, as the kids got older, it’s more about functionality these days.

Although Zombie Highway still pulls me back in sometimes, I try to get out, and they pull me back in (as the saying goes).

As far as must-have solid apps, here is my go-to list: WatchESPN, Xfinity (I can change the channel while on the road, the kids wonder why they are suddenly watching Air Wolf … Ha Ha!), dowling-11-30_2AMX, The Bible app is great, Delta, The Score, Twitter, and Insta.

For political junkies out there, make sure to check first for your news (duh).

After that, check out Politomix, which streamlines all political news worldwide 24/7, or Pocket Justice, which details over 600 constitutional law cases (they should have called this “party time,” because it sounds like the fun doesn’t stop).

iCitizen is another cool app for all things politics.

I have football season tickets with some fraternity brothers from back in the old days. The old days are defined as a time before smartphones, email, and social media – BT (Before Tech) for short.

It was a glorious time to be digitally anonymous. Those days are over now, and – for better or worse – tech is here to stay.

dowling-11-30_3In regards to my season ticket holding group we use an app called SplitCost, which comes in handy 4 dividing up expenses: New generator costs A, dinner out was B, 4 cases of gin costs C.

You create a group name in SplitCost and enter each members name and costs accordingly. It defines who owes in red and who is owed in green. This app can be used for anything requiring a shared bill. Check that one out, for sure.

As for professional messaging apps, Slack seems to be the up-and-comer with the most noise around it, with users who really like it.

Slack is a solid replacement for internal organizational email; it is also searchable, so you don’t lose any functionality. Slack is also free, making it certainly worth a look.

In the kitchen, you should check out BigOven. It is like most recipe apps but takes it to the next level.

Select a recipe and, like magic, the app sends you a grocery list – taking some of the chore out of cooking up something new.

Sometimes, exercise can get tedious – straight up boring – so download Zombies, Run!, which turns your daily workout into an all-out run-for-your-life-type experience.

OK, we have covered apps for politics, entertainment, messaging, gaming, cooking, exercise, travel, religion and finance. That’s all she wrote, man.

Hopefully, you find a use of one or two of these.


dowling-11-30_4Blake Dowling is CEO at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns appear in publications for several organizations. Contact him at or


Blake Dowling: This Halloween, tech can be really scary

ernest-movies-halloweenTechnology can be scary.

That said, my Halloween column focuses on some frightening examples of tech gone awry; some you might find scarier (dumb scary) than an Ernest movie.

Who remembers those? AWFUL.

Others are disturbing in a more realistic way.

I recently noticed an email alert about a fake “blue screen of death.” An email comes in looking like it’s from Microsoft. You click on the icon that looks very close to the Microsoft Security Essentials Icon. It immediately runs malware that takes over your computer, complete with a blue screen and a phone number at the bottom to call for support. If you call the number, they remote access into your machine to “fix” the issue.

But in fact, they are just liberating your data as fast as they can.

self-driving-cars-halloweenSelf-driving cars can certainly be scary.

Imagine an automated car rolling down the highway at 85 miles per hour. And it gets hacked; a luxury item instantly weaponized.

Russians and other nation-states are constantly looking for weaknesses in our technical infrastructure; this could certainly be a natural space to target once (if) this tech becomes mainstream.

Opportunities to wreak havoc are endless.

Ever hear of Shodan?

shodanShodan is a search engine that allows a user — through a variety of filters — to find specific types of computers (webcams, routers, servers, etc.) connected to the internet. Scary enough.

Shodan also can identify devices with weak security settings, the perfect target for criminals. It could show the user, webcams, routers, air conditioning units (as in last year’s Target hack), or any other nontraditional network entry point.

Granted, Shodan was not designed as a tool for criminals, but neither was the computer. By identifying vulnerabilities, a hacker knows where to get in — the next step is how.

A complex password is a move in the right direction. There are a dozen solid password management and creation tools, which can make this task easier and more secure.

Check out LastPass; it is robust and very cool.

What is scarier than killer robots? Nothing really.

The military and police use robots for bomb disposal to avoid putting our brave men and women who serve in danger.

This summer, at a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, a sniper appeared (seemingly out of nowhere) and began shooting police officers. After a long standoff, a police robot was dispatched to “terminate” the shooter. It did so with extreme force. In fact, that was done by delivering a large payload of explosives to end the situation.

I am glad this happened: it ended the standoff with no additional lives lost.

However, what if such a robot — with that kind of skill set — was hacked?

In a more day-to-day fight; how about your phone blowing up in your pocket?

samsung-note-7Welcome to the short-lived world of the Samsung Note 7 smartphone.

In the wake of multiple cases of a Note 7 emitting smoke, exploding, etc., a flight was canceled, and the plane evacuated, because of one of these bad boys. Long story short, Samsung no longer makes them anymore.

Know what’s scary … really scary? Samsung has no clue what caused this to happen.

It’s a frightening world out there, full of hackers, drones, AI, robots, Ernest movies, exploding phones, and all sorts of other shenanigans.

I leave you with two pieces of Halloween advice: update/change/enhance your password, and don’t dress like a scary clown — you could get shot.

Thankfully, I believe the world responded accordingly, and is over the spooky clown craze.

Happy Halloween.


Blake Dowling is CEO at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at or at

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