Blake Dowling – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com

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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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. Dropbox.com — 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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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?

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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 Hotmail.com 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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: A call for low(er) tech

Our professional relationships — politics, sports, entertainment, and business — are all dominated by technology.

Did you get my text? Did you get my email? Did you see my tweet?

Personal relationships have taken a step backward because of technology. I am not saying that tech is not cool, however, there is nothing better than good, old-fashioned communication, especially in situations — like saying thank you.

Don’t hit the thank you button, do it in person, in a handwritten note, or on the phone.

The other day, I got a call from the team at the Florida Justice Association, who we have worked with for a couple of years. John Brazzell asked me if they could take our staff to lunch.

So today, six of our staff (and eight or so of theirs) went down to Taco Republic in midtown Tallahassee and broke bread together. It was a great time. It was great to talk about each other’s lives instead of the usual discussion about the latest technology or political happenings.

Myself with FJA, Executive Director, Paul Jess.

FJA’s Executive Director Paul Jess served in the U.S. Navy and our team member Michael Harris told him about his service in the Marine Corp.

It was great to hear them share their experiences while they were in service of our great nation. Paul told me that their corporate culture is built on things like saying thank you. Bravo to you sir, as that is a rare thing in today’s world.

Do you get countless invitations from various vendors wanting me to sign up for their next webinar, or an email loaded with too much content, they usually get ignored. But the ones that take a minute to call and offer to stop by, that’s how you do it. SonicWALL (who makes firewalls) called last year about a new program they have, and they offered to come to the office and talk about it.

We invited clients, we brought in lunch, there were giveaways for everyone that attended. I was impressed, and we are a loyal client because of efforts like that.

I am not suggesting get rid of tech, just dial it down.

Sonic Wall and Aegis

Twitter would have been very boring recently during early signing day yesterday in college football or the recent tax plan, or Net Neutrality announcement.

Whatever your preferred platform on social media, it is a great place to get the up-to-the-second message on all things politics and sports (and technology). Tech etiquette should be a required course, not just with social media platforms and communication tools. Also, put the phone down in meetings. It’s not just kids that can’t get off their phones to listen to anything. It is adults to who sit through meetings just staring at their phone.

It’s just a tad rude, it is now policy in our office to put phones down during meetings, it’s all about respect.

Same with email, it’s a strong platform for quick bursts of information or sharing documents but if a situation is heated, don’t use email or text.

Same with saying thank you, if you really want to communicate don’t forget to do it person. Or if you are a city/county/state/federal employee asking for free skybox tickets, don’t put it in a text. Do it in person.

This is an attempt at humor so laugh or move on.

Thank you to the FJA team for being outstanding, and happy holidays, (a belated) Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to each of every one of you especially Peter and Phil at Florida Politics.

 

Signing off for the year, see you in 2018. Cheers!

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Net neutrality

The last U.S. president made some changes to the internet and how it is regulated; the new president is now reverting to what the law was before that. Some people are protesting; some are celebrating.

As one might say, a standard day in a democracy.

So, based on this, maybe you are drawing your lines in the sand — based on political affiliation. The left sees it as giving business too much control; the right sees it as deregulation and letting the businesses be in charge.

I think, in cases like this, you have to throw out who backs what, and think about what is best for you.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 oversees telecommunication services and information services.

Brad Swanson

From 1996-2015, the internet was in the information services category. In 2015, it was changed to a telecommunication service, much like a public utility.

If you want a deeper dive into the subject, consult the Federal Communications Commission website. It is like the Morrison’s Cafeteria of info on the topic. Info (or creamed corn) for days.

Who better to weigh in on net neutrality than the president of the Florida Internet and Television Association? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Brad Swanson.

Brad weighed in on the topic in detail over the summer and his (as well as the requests of others) were heard.

Swanson had the following to say about this week’s development: “Bottom line, this vote puts everybody involved with the internet back in the game of innovating and a better experience for the user.”

And then, Hollywood has to weigh in; “hellscape” might be an exaggeration, but what’s a debate without letting everyone say their piece.

Before 2015 the effort in this regard was bipartisan, led by Mr. Saxophone himself, Bill Clinton; the success and growth achieved were beyond significant during the pioneer days of this industry.

It is mind-boggling to think this industry is only 20+ years old. From the hissing, static sound of AOL dial-up, to watching Netflix on your phone seamlessly just about anywhere in 2017.

What a ride.

So, we will see how it plays out. In the meantime, enjoy the best internet experience the world has to offer.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies; he can be reached at Dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Blake Dowling: Knightscope, AI and security

About three years ago, I first started writing about artificial intelligence and the various applications of such.

And since then, there’s been much to write about: Starship robot delivery services (introduced to me by the team at Greenberg Traurig), Google (Waymo) self-driving cars, Watson from IBM diagnosing illnesses, various AI legal aids for lawyers, lobbyists and legislators to help with various analytical functions.

I have been waiting for more weaponized and security oriented AI to pop up; that is what Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla/SpaceX) – among others who fear AI – have been ranting about for years.

According to The Guardian, Elon breaks it down like this: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful,” said Musk. “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

I have seen all the Terminator films (at least twice), with the exception of the most recent one, Terminator Genisys. Not very good, right beyond Saved by the Bell: The Movie in Hollywood-horsepower index.

Anyway, we all know what AI gone crazy looks like thanks to Hollywood: Skynet, and the like. End of road.

People tend to forget AI done right can solve a lot of problems.

For example, there is a new line of AI-based security products on the market designed to take the strain off security. Picture a huge parking lot, mall, airport commuter lot etc. One of the automated security bots by Knightscope could take this repetitive task of patrolling these spaces out of human hands.

At five years old, Knightscope is Straight Outta Silicon Valley. Its AI devices are installed with sensors and cameras to send information to security command; then, actual security guards are sent to the scene if needed. One of its more advanced models can even detect firearms.

I can certainly see where Elon’s mind if going. The often-debated scenario of those for and against AI of the self-driving car going down the road with its human passenger and someone from the local carnival jumps in front of the car. Does it take the passenger over the rails to his/her demise, or take out the carnie?

These are real questions for our time. Do you want machines making choices like this?

However the other side is I think a robot patrolling the mall parking lot late at night and that is all good for me and my family. How about another twist? You have a carry-permit for your firearm? This robot recognizes you as hostile and chased you down?

Lawsuits, legislation, and a lot of regulation awaits this type of tech. Nevertheless, it’s exciting.

It might even save your life one day. Or blow up humanity; but I doubt it.

We will see. Merry Christmas.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, he can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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