May 29, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
Like most IT professionals, I get too much email. Yes - we block spam (over 92% of inbound email traffic from the Internet at last check). But still, unwanted “stuff” gets through…
At home, I use Gmail, and Google does a decent job at separating out the unwanted spam. Nevertheless…, I occasionally check the spam folder to see if any non-spam (important email) is in the wrong place. Some of these funny messages came from there as well.
Recently I decided, if you can’t beat the spammers, I might as well just relax on Memorial Day Weekend and enjoy a good laugh on them. Here are my favorite spam messages in two categories: Funniest and “Give Me a Break…”
1) Hurry – Limited Time Opportunity to Stop Emails Like This One
2) Warning: Reading this email will be hazardous to your boredom
3) Free Money: Just Pay Shipping & Handling Charges
4) Tired of Cloud Computing Mumbo Jumbo? Check Out My Digital Gumbo
5) R U 4 Real?
Get Real: (Or, I’m not clicking )
1) Title: Mony For U
Text - I am Koh Beng Seng from Bank of China have a deal of 65.5m and am ready to share 50/50 see attachment for details if interested. (Tip: Please…. Don’t click on this attachment.)
2) Blog As An Expert in Ten Minutes - Here’s How
3) All the Online Storage You Want For Free
(Comment: China in the address did not instill confidence. They even offered to check my file contents for "safety." Huh?)
4) Thanks For The Order!
(Comment: What Order? The text had a link with the note that looked like a Google URL, but the details showed the link went elsewhere. Of course, I didn’t click. Don’t be fooled by address “aliases” that may first appear to be genuine.)
5) WIN $500: We Need Your Expert Opinion
(Comment: Some offer cash drawings, others T-shirts or even a free iPad without a drawing. While the survey may be legit, so are government ethics rules. Besides, do they really think I’ll give away sensitive cybersecurity information for a T-shirt? Delete!)
One more thing, some spam contains a link “to be removed from this email list.” Clicking on that link is one of the surest ways to get more spam - nor should you send them an email to remove you from their list. (This confirms that the email address is valid and their message is getting through, so they often sell the address to others for a higher profit.)
We might as well smile at these spam messages, because we haven't been able to fully stop them from coming yet.
Any funny spam (or hard to believe emails) come your way? Please share by leaving a comment.
May 21, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
This has been a rough week for our technology operations. The various headlines about two different (and unrelated) Michigan government outages tell you why our team is a bit behind on our sleep. The good news is that our critical Secretary of State systems are up and offices are open and helping customers. I’m happy again on a beautiful spring Saturday morning in Lansing.
Here are a few of the background articles covering the outages this week:
I know, enquiring minds want to know the “nitty gritty” about what caused the outages in the first place and specific details regarding what happened and how we recovered. That will come soon enough, with a detailed “Root Cause Analysis” (RCA) being performed on each situation. We owe those formal details to our agency customers and the public that was impacted. This RCA report will include steps we are taking to reduce the risk of such incidents reoccurring.
I also hope to do a longer article on this topic later this summer, with some behind the scenes conversations and perspectives on how we responded so quickly from two back-to-back situations. But for now, I felt I owed my blog readers an acknowledgement that the incidents did happen in Michigan – and say a few words about the Michigan outage articles. It was not a fun week. When it rains it pours.
While I’m all too aware of the reality that bad things happen in every technology organization, the key is how our teams respond and come back when apps are down. As I mentioned in an article last September, all government operations must be prepared for outages given various scenarios. (Though, I must admit, I never expected to be in this situation eight months later.)
As I have written over the years, this isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last time, that unplanned outages happen. However, the difference between these two outages and situations like the blackout of 2003 is that public perception and expectations are not the same. When large parts of the Northeast USA lost power, the public understood why services were down. But when an outage occurs as a result of internal people, process, or technology failures, all eyes are on your team to get back up quickly and effectively.
Most importantly, I want to thank our recovery teams who did an outstanding job of responding from the moment that these outages were reported. We have an excellent staff that “got going” when the “going got tough.” The communication demonstrated between the technology and business staff was a good sign of successful teamwork. Several of them worked more than 24-hours straight, and I am proud and thankful for their efforts.
More to come on this topic in the future. But for now, I’m hearing my kids laugh again. I’m enjoying the sunshine. I’m smiling again in Lansing. Now I get to mow my lawn.
May 14, 2011 By Dan Lohrmann
I was recently asked: “What’s the next big thing in technology?”
My colleague wanted to know what will be hot a year or two from now that isn’t yet on the radar for most government leaders, end users at work or teenagers at home. Over lunch, my longtime friend who was asking the tough questions challenged me to:
“Step out and take more chances in your blogs like a few years back. You’ve lost that bleeding to leading edge swagger. Where’s that government visionary I know?”
Ouch! (I was feeling a bit uneasy at this point.) I initially thought, “With friends like this…”
Actually, I realized that he had a point. Not much lately on what's coming tommorrow. So I went back and reread earlier articles on cloud computing, identity management, smart phones and social networking in government. (I know, I should have written that 2007 article on social networking about Facebook and not MySpace – but that’s what happens when you pick particular vendors over industry trends. The first to market isn’t always the top winner.)
But moving back to the question at hand, my winner of “the next big thing” award is: digital wallets.
(Yes, “digital wallets” does qualify as virtually unknown, since my eighteen year old daughter responded, “Huh? Will I have to read a blog on this?”)
First, here are a few definitions. According to Wikipedia,
“A digital wallet (also known as an e-wallet) allows users to make electronic commerce transactions quickly and securely.
A digital wallet functions much like a physical wallet. The digital wallet was first conceived as a method of storing various forms of electronic money (e-cash), but with little popularity of such e-cash services, the digital wallet has evolved into a service that provides internet users with a convenient way to store and use online shopping information.
The term “digital wallet” is also increasingly being used to describe mobile phones, especially smartphones, that store an individual’s credentials and utilize wireless technologies such as near field communication (NFC) to carry out financial transactions….”
The rest of the developed world is already using this technology more than consumers and governments in the US and Canada. “Forrester, an independent market research company, reported from a 2010 online survey that less than 6 percent of American adults have ever used mobile payment. In Japan and Korea, however, the practice is widespread. According to consulting company Accenture, 69 percent of respondents to their recent survey in Asia said they favor using cell phones for most of their payments, compared with only 26 percent in Europe and the U.S.”
The New York Times and LA Times each ran articles on Visa’s implementation plans for digital wallets in the USA this fall. The LA Times reported, “Visa said its digital wallet would be able to handle payments online, using a phone, on social networks and person-to-person payments as well.”
An Emory University website said this about e-wallets, “Consumers are not required to fill out order forms on each site when they purchase an item because the information has already been stored and is automatically updated and entered into the order fields across merchant sites when using a digital wallet. Consumers also benefit when using digital wallets because their information is encrypted — or protected by a private software code. And merchants benefit by receiving protection against fraud.”
I recently saw this concept in action at Detroit Airport when e-tickets on a smartphone were used by several passengers to board a Delta flight. (No doubt, this solution is greener with no paper needed.) But while the process may seem fairly simple, the implications for governments are huge.
For example, think about all the credit card payments that your government makes and receives. Will they accept these new payment types at government offices?
Or, what about mobile device policies and/or acceptable use policies for government employees and contractors? Will government issued blackberries or iPhones be used as personal e-Wallets for employee purchases at home? What if security issues arise or the devices gets hacked? The lines between work and home will become blurred even further.
On the other hand, the opportunities for efficiency, savings and positive innovation are evident. From paying for public transportation to reducing fraud in credit card transactions, many aspects of this topic will ensure that we are discussing this digital wallet topic for years to come. Imagine if there was no longer the need for passing around credit card numbers and expiration dates.
It may be slow at first, but get ready for the next big thing for your smartphone to do (or become). I suggest we start thinking about digital wallets now. They’re coming soon to a government near you.
Any thoughts or experiences with digital wallets?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.