• Cameron Banga | Cyberpunk Hacking & Security

    Cameron Banga Magnets Cyberpunk Security

    Keeping up with information technology can often be a tough and daunting task. In today's world of consistent and increasingly sophisticated online attacks it's essential for not only I.T. professionals, but essentially all users of technology to have some basic level of understanding with respect to internet data security.

    This harsh reality becomes difficult, as our dependence upon mobile phones, tablets and cloud services grows. In the past, due to limited internet access and rare access to mobile devices, individual users had very few ways in which attackers could gain priviledged access to a person's private information. But today, in an ever connected world of smartphones and wearable technology, the risk and available data has multiplied. Nearly every person today with a smart device of any sort lives in a world where personal banking information, private communications and detailed medical history are all available either on a physical device, or stored on a remote cloud server. And regardless as to where this data sits, it's often open for attack from many criminals across the planet.

    With these cold facts in mind, it's as important as ever for users to learn about how to best protect oneself on the internet. We live in a world that is becoming more connected every day, in so far that many people are now connecting their lightbulbs, garage doors, baby monitors, and even refrigerators on the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Not only will a potential robber know when you post pictures of your beach vacation on Facebook, but it will become inevitable that they'll be able to potentially know when the food in your house expires all through elaborate internet attacks, making it increasingly easy to avoid food poisoning when grabbing a quick snack while stopping to take valuables.

    As much as this sort of full out personal cyber warfare seems like science fiction and implausible, it's important to understand as an individual user, the gravity that accompanies a future where every private detail of our seemingly mundane lives is logged and tracked through smart devices. There is a lot of potential risk involved, which makes it increasingly important to become educated and remain current on internet privacy and security issues.

    As such, it was an honor and extremely enjoyable opportunity to talk about computer security, hacking, and our connected future during a Duneland Innovators Meetup. The most crucial key to personal information security is education. Technology moves extremely fast, and it's essential to remain current with potential risks and concerns. Thus, giving a talk to like-minded individuals locally was a great way to hopefully encourage others to take such considerations seriously. It's my hope that with continued discussions in the future, and increased interest and communication amongst technology enthusiasts locally, we can use such dialog to create a strong body of technology literate, security concerned computer users here in Northwest Indiana. And that over time such a group helps to keep fellow region citizens educated and safe.

    Cameron Banga | Cyberpunk Hacking & Security

    Cameron Banga speaks on Cyberpunk #Hacking & #Security in this #video#tech #nwIndiana #infosec

    Posted by Duneland Innovators on Thursday, January 7, 2016
  • Drug crisis poses challenge for Indiana lawmakers

    The most vexing issue for the General Assembly in the coming session may not have anything to do with roads or RFRA.

    In a recent conversation I had with State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, he spent some time discussing the state's drug crisis. The issue came to the forefront this year with Indiana earning dubious recognition for having the most methamphetamine labs in the country.

    We're not talking about the giant labs run by crime syndicates, as portrayed in the TV series "Breaking Bad." State Police say 99 percent of the labs are run by addicts. In one case, an active meth lab was found in a backpack in the bathroom of a Muncie Walmart. Part of the problem, Moseley said, is people who go from pharmacy to pharmacy purchasing the allergy medicine used to manufacture meth.

    Last month, House Speaker Brian Bosma said he would advocate for a bill requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, the ingredient in current over-the-counter medicines like Claritin-D and Allegra-D. It would be an inconvenience to allergy sufferers, but it's a measure that has proven successful in other states in reducing meth manufacturing.

    Moseley also touched on the issue of heroin addiction and the public health approach of needle exchanges. Indiana ended its ban on needle exchangesthis year, but only in response to an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana's Scott County. Though needle exchanges have been proven successful in reducing the spread of infectious diseases, the Scott County program was approved reluctantly on a temporary basis. State approval would be required to expand the program to another county.

    Why not allow counties to institute needle exchange programs on their own if county health departments deem it a benefit? One only needs to look at the zero-tolerance approach exemplified by the search and seizure case before the Indiana Supreme Court where a man was convicted of a felony from having a single painkiller pill he collected among the possessions of a deceased relative. 

    The slow walk by Indiana of the obvious needle exchange solution reflects the central problem in Indiana's unsuccessful approach to drugs. The notion that drugs are a law enforcement issue first and a public health issue second needs to be reversed. If Indiana is to reverse the grim statistics, lawmakers must take a bold approach that puts public health and help for addicts first.

  • Gary's Christmas Gift

    I suggested not long ago that revitalizing Gary could be done, in spite of everything. Well, it appears I’m not the only one who thinks so.

    Gary was selected as one of seven U.S. cities to receive aid from the National Main Street Center. The Center, which focuses on historic districts of communities, will assist all seven cities in developing effective strategies for revitalization.

    This is just a start, but it is certainly good news. It’s especially good to hear after all the bad news of the past year, such as the violence the city’s seen in past months and the uncertainties of the local steel industry.

    But—and let me stress how much I hate being cynical—the language of the Center describing fixing up historical downtowns can’t help but make me think of the “g-word,” a word and subject that’s become heated in recent years.

    You know, “gentrification.”

    I’m not saying new businesses and people coming into a community are bad things. However, I think any plans to improve a community should help the people already in it, rather than price them out of their homes and force them to relocate without much change in their fortunes.

    Gary is a long way off from facing this issue, no doubt. After seeing it play out in big cities, though, should this be the beginning of a long-term revitalization of Gary, we should keep this issue in mind throughout the duration of the process and not forget about the people of the city.

    That said, and lest I sound like too much of a cynic, let me reiterate that I think this is a very good thing for the city, and a nice bit of good news right before Christmas.

  • Jean Shepherd and the Region's pride in its inferiority

    Once again this Christmas season, Northwest Indiana will celebrate native satirist Jean Shepherd, whose stories of growing up in Hammond were immortalized in "A Christmas Story."

    The Indiana Welcome Center is currently hosting its exhibit, "A Christmas Story Comes Home" with events planned throughout December. A play based on "A Christmas Story" is being performed at Munster's Theatre at the Center.

    As much as we celebrate "Shep," the guy didn't care much for the Region, "a place people never really come to, but mostly want to leave," he once wrote. Shepherd himself left and never came back, only revisiting memories of his hometown for his popular stories. In describing Hammond, he wrote, "It clings precariously to the underbody of Chicago like a barnacle clings to the rotting hulk of a tramp steamer."

    And yet, the ascendance of "A Christmas Story" into a holiday classic has become a distinct point of pride for Northwest Indiana with every leg lamp sold. The joke is on us, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

    Take the current trending Twitter hashtag started by local social media satirist @RegionRatRants -- #RegionThanks. The effort quickly morphed into a heartfelt exercise in self-deprecating humor and an accounting of the beloved dining spots that contribute to our collective girth. Local politics, pollution, traffic, weather all became large targets for our Twitter community's collective sarcasm.

    Look deeper, however, and you'll see more than just jokes.

    Underlying all the complaining quips is pride. Others may have left, but we're still here -- defiantly. Our toughness and resilience is built from everything our environment dishes out. But we're also underestimated by outsiders, who miss the massive potential in our location, resources and people.

    When it comes to the rest of the state, we're ignored, except when Indiana is looking for infrastructure to sell off. We're not the sophisticated, shiny city across Lake Michigan or a snooty North Shore suburb. 

    We're Northwest Indiana and we know exactly who we are. You can't insult us, because we've already crafted that joke in a far more clever manner. 

  • Of teens and vaping

    people society culture taxes vaping

    Indiana’s western border towns may soon no longer be the destinations they have long been for Illinois smokers.

    Currently, taxes on cigarettes in our state stand at $0.99 per pack, half that of Illinois. But there is talk in the statehouse about increasing that by a dollar, which would actually push taxes a cent higher than our westward neighbor.

    Supporters are touting the potential for reducing smokers in the state. But the taxes will likely go toward fixing state roads, and to me, that seems like a more likely reason this has come up than public health. Roads are paid for through gasoline taxes, which no politician wants to raise and become the bad guy in the eyes of the public. But raising taxes on something commonly despised, like cigarettes, is often okay by most voters.

    Maybe such a ban would reduce the number of smokers in Indiana. But as our state picks up this old fight, there’s some disconcerting news from the new frontier of smoking: Apparently, 70 percent of teenagers are exposed to advertising for e-cigarettes, which is not subjected to heavy restrictions like that for tobacco products. What’s more worrisome about this is that perception seems to be that e-cigs or “vaping” aren’t harmful like regular smoking (on that note, does anyone else remember vaping being advertised as a way for smokers to wean themselves of their addiction, or did I just imagine that?).

    Taking on e-cigarettes today is trickier than it was for tobacco. Banning TV commercials and regulating print ads may have been a big step in yesteryear. It still might be, but the world is a little different today. The Internet and social media are enormous marketing tools, users of which tend to skew younger. Frankly, it’s hard to regulate that without getting into some free speech issues.

    Short of outright criminalizing it, treating it like tobacco—mandatory warning labels, taxes, and bans in public places—and hoping for the best might be all we can do. Once a person reaches adulthood, if they still want to vape knowing the hits their health and wallet will take, it’s on them.

  • RFRA by another name

    The week before Thanksgiving, Indiana Senate Republicans introduced a bill aimed at expanding LGBT protections in the state. Or so they say.

    Senate Bill 100 does, in fact, add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination laws. However, the bill has many exemptions that remove much of its teeth.

    Religious organizations—including charities, schools, and adoption agencies—are still allowed to refuse service to LGBT people. All businesses with fewer than four employees can also refuse on religious grounds to provide services related to marriages to same-sex couples. In addition, public and private organizations are able to determine their own restroom policies, specifically as they pertain to transgender people. And localities within the state cannot pass any further protections.

    When you actually read it, this bill doesn’t seem much different than RFRA.

    Proponents of this law and RFRA before it claim this is about preserving religious freedom, not antigay discrimination. To put that claim to the test, let’s compare it to protections against other forms of discrimination.

    I’ve stated before how the Civil Rights Act doesn’t mention LGBT protections, but it does contain an exemption for religious organizations. However, it only stipulates that religious organizations have a right to only hire a follower of their religion if the nature of the job demands it. They still cannot discriminate based on race, nationality, or gender, in hiring practices or providing services.

    If sexual orientation or gender identity are truly equally protected, they would be subject to those same terms, without exemption. Anything less is de facto legalized discrimination.