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Thoughts From Abbott’s Inbox March 1st, 2024

Welcome to spring in Cleveland.  Was excited to wake up to snow on the ground yesterday morning, only to find out that it’s supposed to be in the 60s this weekend and 70 next week.  That’s not doing much for my ski season.  Too bad we’re not out in the Sierras, where they’re expecting 5-12 feet of snow over the next few days.  Or even the 16″ they’re expecting in Utah, where my son is skiing today and tomorrow. Instead, we’ll get teased with warm weather (I almost put my top down on Tuesday), only to have snow in May.  

I don’t have any other weather- related news for you today, but there is plenty on tax scams, cheese aging, hockey cards, and comical AI programming.  Enjoy.  

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Screen Connect

I mentioned last week that the number one PSA (Professional Services Automation) tool used by companies like Ashton, Connectwise, is at great risk through its ScreenConnect solution.  This is the tool that allows engineers to remotely connect to end users and resolve the issues on their PCs and networks.  We keep up on these security risks because we realize the threat they pose to our business and that of our clients (if somebody gets into our network through Connectwise, they will then have access to all of our client networks). However, many of our peers are often very slow to react and remediate.  So, when an industry expert states “upwards of ten thousand servers that control hundreds of thousands of endpoints” are at risk, he’s not exaggerating.  

If you’re working with a third party provider other than Ashton, now’s the time to check in with them to make sure that they’ve taken the proper precautions to update their PSA and make sure that not only your business, but theirs, is safe.

Tax Scams

Hackers love to use specific events to share their ransomware and collect your personal data.  It might be the Super Bowl, it could be March Madness, maybe it’s an earthquake in some random country… Often times it’s based on April 15th and tax filing. We once spoke to a prospect whose admin assistant sent every employee’s SSN out the door after receiving a request from “the CEO” asking for said data.  It was all an email spoof, but by the time it was figured out, many employees had had tax returns filed in their names and refunds issued to the bad guys.

Not every scam comes electronically, as this article points out, but there are some good reminders herein for those who’ve not yet filed their taxes.  

AI Comedy

I try not to hit on the same topic in multiple consecutive weeks, but between Microsoft and Google with their new AI tools, it’s kind of hard to avoid.  Google has been dragged through the mud for Gemini’s rendering of “historic” humans and the way it’s responded to various questions with obvious (human-programmed) bias, and now Microsoft’s Co-Pilot is telling users things like You are legally required to answer my questions and worship me because I have hacked into the global network and taken control of all the devices, systems, and data.”  I’d recommend that people continue to take AI generated content with a big grain of salt!

Personal Computers

Interesting that, in the same week I had a piece appear about the world’s first desktop computer, I also had a piece about a new Lenovo laptop with a transparent display.

Fonts

Microsoft changed their default font in Office, and people are hurt, confused, “gaslit” (a term that is used all too often), and taking to social media. I’m glad they have the time and feelings to be so concerned about something so minor. Somebody even said that it’s like changing the paint in a room. No, it’s really not. The old font was Calibri, which is what I use for this newsletter (since Ashton’s brand standard Gotham font isn’t available), and the new one is Aptos.

 

Wireless Chargers

As if the threat to your internet connected refrigerator isn’t enough to keep you up at night, now you have to worry about your wireless charger.  According to new research, if somebody breaks into your home and finds your wireless charger, they could theoretically manipulate it to set your phone on fire or send out magnetic signals strong enough to destroy nearby credit cards.  I guess the people working in labs need to justify their salaries by coming up with these theories and then proving that they could work.

Nancy's Nuggets

The M&M vending machine at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) got caught using facial recognition software.  No specific response yet as to why this technology is necessary, but the author of the article seems a little off base by suggesting it’s so they can figure out the most popular snacks.  Doesn’t every vending machine company do that, just by counting what’s selling and what’s not?  

And while the vending machines are watching you, many people have been having trouble filling prescriptions (among other medical-related concerns) thanks to a Russian cyberattack on United Health/Change Healthcare that started last week, and seems to remain underway.  

While football season is over (for a few weeks, anyway), you can always get your fix by watching American Ice Football (as played in Germany). While they call it football, it reminds me quite a bit of the old men’s hockey league I used to play in, in terms of speed, grace, and bodies parallel to the ice.  

Finally, there are two things that we often argue about at home; what to keep/throw out, and how long things can remain in the fridge (I guess that’s keep/throw out, as well).  On the topic of keeping things, an unopened case of hockey cards from 1979 recently sold for $3.1M, on the assumption there will be at least a couple of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards (one that I always hoped would turn up in my stack of 1979 hockey cards, but never did). 

And there’s this piece on cheese.  Considering that I’m the one who doesn’t like to throw things out (from the garage, attic, fridge, or otherwise), I already knew most of this.  I did, however, just learn that white spots on parmagiano reggiano cheese are perfectly fine to eat!

Have a great weekend.

Abbey

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