Tales from an Ethical Hacker

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multimedia01-8262013Many have already started their Christmas shopping but who can forget last year’s holiday season. Target suffered a major hack that stole debit and credit data for around 40 million accounts. This year has seen several major hacks. Around February, 233 million user on Ebay had their information stolen. During the summer, Healthcare.gov had a security breach. In September, Home Depot warned that 56 million accounts were at risk due to hacking. August saw hacker access and distribute hundreds of personal photos of celebrities on the website 4chan. And just last week, a hacker group called Guardians of Peace targeted Sony Pictures. In addition, to sending threatening messages to Sony employees, the group stole an estimated 100 terrabytes of sensitive data from the company.

MAJOR CYBER ATTACKS OF 2014

 00113.mp4.Still001There are certainly those online who aim to do harm. These malicious hackers, called black hats, work alone or in groups tosteal finances, information, or just create chaos. However, the government and private companies have found the best way to combat black hats is with ethical hackers, also known as white hats. This digital warfare is fought between black and white hats online, everyday.

Sources:

Zetter, K. “Sony Got Hacked: What We Know and Don’t Know So Far”. Wired. Published December 3, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2014/12/sony-hack-what-we-know/ on December 6, 2014.

Wallace, G. “Target Credit Card Hack: What You Need to Know”. CNN. Published December 23, 2013. Retrieved from  http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/22/news/companies/target-credit-card-hack/ on December 6, 2014.

Lipka, M. “56 Million Accounts at Risk in Home Depot Hack”. CBS News. Published September 18, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/56-million-accounts-at-risk-in-home-depot-hack/ on December 6, 2014.

Yardon, D. “Hacker Breaced Healthcare.gov Insurance Site.” Wall Street Journal. Published September 4, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/hacker-breached-healthcare-gov-insurance-site-1409861043 on December 6, 2014.

Arthur, C. “Naked Celebrity Hack: Security Experts Focus on iCloud Backup Theory”. The Guardian. Published September 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/01/naked-celebrity-hack-icloud-backup-jennifer-lawrence on December 6, 2014.

10 Commandments’ Future Remains Unclear

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24176535_SAThe future of a controversial Oklahoma monument continues to be debated. Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze sponsored a bill in 2009 to have a 10 commandments display installed on the State Capitol’s grounds. His family privately funded the memorial, which was finally erected in November of 2012.

Rep. Mike Ritze speaks about newly installed 10 commandments monument

Despite Oklahoma being firmly in the Bible belt, the display has received numerous complaints. Organizations like American Civil Liberties Union and American Atheists have filed lawsuits in response to the placement of the memorial. The ACLU states in their petition they, “declare the placement of the Ten Commandments Monument to be in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution, and as such, an illegal appropriation of public property in support of religion.”

ACLU files suit to remove 10 commandments monument

In addition, various religious organizations have sought equality by having monuments erected representing their beliefs. A New York Satanist group known as the Satanic Temple has crowd funded and lobbied for their own statue to be installed. Similarly, the Universal Society of Hinduism applied for the installment of a Hindu god monument.

Satanist group unveils design for Oklahoma State capitol monument

Hindu organization applies for memorial to be built Oklahoma State capitol grounds

The controversy over the 10 commandments and religious monuments has sparked discussion over the separation of faith and the State. An Oklahoma district judge dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit that the display was unconstitutional. The ACLU disagrees with the ruling. The organization is now taking their appeal to Oklahoma’s Supreme Court.

While the debate surrounding the 10 commandments monument still stands, the statue does not. Last month, the memorial was dramatically destroyed in a bizarre act of vandalism.

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Churches offer family friendly Halloween activities

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It was Halloween night and hundreds of families were going to church. Scores of princesses, superheroes, and even an Ebola victim lined up for candy and games. Dressed as Superman, I passed out Bibles next to a plinko board, one of several fair games setup. These children were skipping traditional trick-or-treating to, instead, visit Trunk-or-Treat.

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Photo by Sarah Draper

Halloween at Edmond First Baptist Church was a unique contrast to the activities I remember of my youth. I recall memories of shuffling along poor lit neighborhoods, knocking on strangers’ doors, and always being slightly scared of what might happen. The news never made it any easier. Leading up to Halloween, I would hear reports of poisoned candy, child abductions, and other terrifying crimes. EFBC’s Trunk-or-Treat was the celebration I wished I had when I was younger. It was safe, well lit, and had more candy than a kid could hope for.

Greeting each child at the plinko game, Jeremy Duffle helped orchestrate Trunk-or-Treat. While this was his first time at the event, Jeremy heard of the growing trend among churches to provide a trick-or-treat alternative, “A lot of churches are offering this now as kind of a safe haven to bring their families and their kids in, to basically bypass the strange neighborhood or scary dark corner aspect of trick-or-treating.”

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Photo by Sarah Draper

EFBC was certainly not alone in providing family friendly Fall events. Houses of worship across the country are reaching out to neighborhoods with fall festivals and Halloween night activities. In the Oklahoma City Metro, many churches opened themselves up to their communities.

  • Douglas Boulevard United Methodist Church hosted its own Trunk-or-Treat.
  • Putnam City Baptist Church sponsored FestiFall, a similar event with games and candy.
  • Mayfair Heights United Methodist Church held a Fall Festival featuring a craft show and bake sell. 

(Source: NewsOK)

“What it’s doing is it’s giving our people, the people of this church, an avenue to reach out to those that they would never come in contact with before. It gave us a blank canvas to reach a lot of different people and in a very safe setting,” Jeremy said.

Safety is a major concern for many during Halloween night. Unfortunately, this Halloween saw the tragic deaths and injuries of children across the country. One incident in California led to the death of three teenage girls when struck by an SUV (Source: ABC). Another vehicular accident in California left a father dead and his son injured (Source: LA Times).

At EFBC’s Trunk or Treat, there were no fast moving cars. Police were present. Dozens of caring volunteers kept watch. Children orderly went from activity to activity. I observed hundreds of families attending. They were enjoying themselves and carefree. They were happy and safe. Jeremy agrees, “I think it went really well. We had a huge turnout.”

Trick-or-treating remains as traditional to Halloween as Jack-O-Lanterns and candy apples. However, churches are finding new ways to give families a safe atmosphere for costumed fun. Trunk-or-Treat and other Fall festivals are relevant ways for churches to give back to the communities they are in. The compassion of churches opening their doors will ripple throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, giving further opportunities to touch lives. As I watched children walking away with candy and a new Bible, I sensed that this small blessing of loving thy neighbor could have a tremendous impact in each child’s life.

 

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Sources:

Duffle, Jeremy. Personal Interview. November 2nd, 2014

Staff Reports. (2014, Oct. 25). Oklahoma City-area churches offer festivals and other fall activities. Retrieved November 2nd, 2014 from http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-area-churches-offer-festivals-and-other-fall-activities/article/5359417

Pierce, Harold. (2014, Nov. 4). Halloween crash victim was Irvine lawyer, devoted father. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/orangecounty/la-me-11-05-irvine-halloween-20141105-story.html 

Dillon, Raquel Maria. (2014, Nov. 4). Man charged in Hit-Run Halloween Deaths of 3 Teens. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/girls-13-killed-halloween-mourned-family-26670726

#BeMoreDigital

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Last week, I had the pleasure to attend OBEA’s Student Day held at OETA. I was greatly impressed by the presentation on the growth of digital content by OETA’s own digital/social media producers. Their works apire to change PBS’s image of being old-fashioned and attract millenials with technology/pop culture content via online videos. Their digital content strategy was presented under the hashtag “BeMoreDigital.”

I read articles about how different local TV stations utilize digital content. The biggest take away is that there are no hard rules. We are all pilgrims in a new land. Some stations utilize social media and digital content for promoting the brand or main content platform (broadcast, newspaper, etc). Others are creating innovating original content that suppliments other works. Neither is right or wrong but both need to happen to be effective.

In the early 2000’s, it was said that we were in a culture of two screens. We watched TV and surfed the net simultaneously. For a rather recent term, we are already beyond that. We are now in the era of three screens. The smartphone has joined the family.

Its the State of the Union. I watch the president speak live from my television. I read live commentaries from political analysts on news sites. I tweet followers and read tweets by the public. I am monitoring and dialoguing on multiple platforms to get a deeper understanding.

Depth. That is what is being desired with digital content. Audiences may see traditional journalism platforms as too 2-dimensional. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans were getting news from computers with 54% saying they received it from mobile devices in 2013. Digital content allows more immediate and deeper coverage of stories. Check cnn.com. Articles often feature a video below the header, story highlights on the side, and additional hyperlinked content throughout the piece. This gives a consumer to gain a deeper understanding than a newscast would allow. Even twitter’s limited 140 characters allows video, photos, and links to be incorporated. Audiences want depth and digital content does that.

News organizations and Digital Media companies already recognize this. The Pew Research Center indicates a significant hiring boom with many Digital News organizations like Vice, Mashable, and the Huffington Post. Even traditional news outlets are training and hiring journalists who can produce and post digital content. These media companies understand that surviving means being more digital.

Creating exclusive content is one of the strongest ways of being more digital. Utilizing social media for promotions and engaging the audience is good but what is most attractive is adding depth. OETA started several digital programs like the “Idea Channel,” and “The Okie Nerd Geekcast.” I’ve seen some local stations post content during the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” that swept the nation. News organizations post exclusive reporter packages, full-length interviews, behind-the-scenes segments, and other content on digital platforms.

As the faculty advisor for a student-run TV station, I reflect on digital strategy I could employ. News 30 is the weekly cable access news program, run by students at Oklahoma Baptist University, for the city of Shawnee. With only one newscast per week, I see great applications of the challenge to be more digital. I envision daily 3-5 minute newscasts, exclusive reporter packages, spotlights on local residents and organizations. I believe that embracing digital content allows for hyper-local journalism that a community will gather around. I look forward to its implementation at OBU.

I do not ring the death bell for traditional journalism venues. Research, actually, shows their growth. I do recognize that new platforms are available and these platforms have an audience. For journalists to continue to engage the public with news, we need to get online. We need to #bemoredigital.

A Caged Bird

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chirya

Her weekdays begin by arriving into the office in business casual. She assists clients until lunch, enjoys her break at a local deli, then back to work till close. Afternoons are spent watching Netflix with her husband. Saturday, she favors shopping in Oklahoma City’s best malls. Sunday, of course, she will be found attending church. The life of a typical American woman. However, Chirya is not an American woman. Chirya is a Pakistani Christian, a permanent resident living in Oklahoma.

Pakistani. Christian. Two words that appear to be antonyms of each other. However, for a minority in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan these two words come together.

*Pakistan has a population of over 150-million.

*Islam is the state religion of Pakistan.

*Muslims comprise over 96 percent of the population.

*Christians amount to only 1.6 percent of the population.

(Source: Library of Congress)

Now living in the US for a little over two years, Chirya has spent most of her life living in both Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. She summarizes her time in the Middle East with one word, “fragile”. Chirya, a third generation Christian, lived in fear and suffered persecution by the Muslim majority and a society that devalued women.

Chirya was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Compared to the freedoms she experiences in America, life for a girl in Pakistan is difficult. “It is a conservative culture, living in a Muslim country…There are somethings that Christians and Muslims both believe like there’s not a lot of freedom for girls…Some people just think that as soon as they turn 16 or 18 they should arrange their marriages.”

Despite being from a Christian household, Chirya still lived in a society where marriages are often arranged. Pakistan, like the rest of the Greater Middle East, is a honor and shame society. Girls are expected to submit themselves to their family’s decisions. Often, parents will arrange to marry their daughters young to preserve their honor. Rumors of their girls seeing boys or displaying independence will be seen as shameful. Among the most conservative beliefs, honor can only be restored by the execution of the daughter.

PREGNANT PAKISTANI WOMAN STONED BY FAMILY

Fighting back tears, Chirya recounts how her own father attempted to arrange her marriage. “I was in grade 10 and he thought that it will be too disgraceful for him if I get to know a guy, if I have a boyfriend or fall in love. He was afraid of all these things because of how his reputation would be affected.”

Ultimately, Chirya was given the choice to marry freely but she still suffered from gender inequality. “Growing up in that conservative culture, you always feel like you are not treated equal to men. Men have all kinds of freedom and girls are always restricted…There is always a kind of line you cannot cross.”

Chirya grew up dominated by a male-centered culture. However, nothing caused more fear than living under persecution from the Muslim majority. Her home country of Pakistan is ranked 8th for persecution against Christians (Source: Open Doors). Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but many Pakistani Christians feel this is an empty promise (Source: Library of Congress). “Its true that the Pakistani government gives freedom to Christians to build churches and practice their religion but there has always been some kind of clash and persecution.”

The persecution of Christians in Pakistan and throughout the Middle East takes many forms. To Chirya, all Muslim countries are the same. Personal and professional discrimination of Christians is commonplace. Chirya cites examples of Muslims excluding her from their social circles during her college years in Pakistan. After college, she moved to the United Arab Emirates, working as an English instructor. One of the few Christian employees, she found herself passed up for promotion by her juniors, despite her status as senior faculty. “Why was I not considered? ‘Because I’m Christian?’ That’s the first question that comes in your mind. I felt hurt. I felt I was not recognized, my abilities and my talent.”

There is more to fear than discrimination. On average, 180 Christians worldwide are killed every month for their beliefs (Source: Open Doors). This number continues to grow as turmoil in the Middle East leads to violence against minority groups. Islamists have taken advantage of the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war and conquest of ISIS. Muslim extremists are slaughtering Christians with little opposition as ISIS’s forces and ideology spread across the Middle East. However, some killings are government sanctioned. Pakistan, among several Muslim nations, have harsh blasphemy laws. An accusation of blasphemy against Islamic beliefs can lead to the death penalty, regardless of lack of evidence.

IRAQI CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED BY ISIS

CHRISTIAN WOMAN SENTENCED TO DEATH IN BLASPHEMY CASE

Muslim anti-Christian mob burns homes in Lahore, Pakistan. From Reuters.

Muslim anti-Christian mob burns homes in Lahore, Pakistan. From Reuters.

Chirya and her family have suffered loss from Muslim extremists. “My Uncle’s place, where he lived, they burnt the whole community…Our relatives in Peshawar were going to church and just a bomb explosion happened. We lost four of them.”

HOMES BURNT IN ANTI-CHRISTIAN RIOTS

SUICIDE BOMBERS KILL 81 IN CHURCH BLAST

Chirya may live in America but feels no peace. While she is safer, her family continues to live in nations where persecution of Christians is rampant. Her voice is one of a countless multitude who must endure religious persecution and gender inequality. All she asks of her fellow Pakistanis is to, “Live and let others live.”

Sources:

Federal Research Division (2005). Library of Congress Country Profile of Pakistan. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Pakistan.pdf

Open Doors USA (2014). World Watch List. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from http://www.worldwatchlist.us/world-watch-list-countries/

Open Doors USA (2013). 2014 Quick Facts. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/about-us/quick-faqs

 

The Maddening State of News Media

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“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!” So begins the book of Ecclesiastes and my assesment of the current state of the news media. With over a decade in journalism and mass communication, I find that genuine journalism is slowly being strangled by the very organizations dedicated to it. I’m not alone. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll indicates only 36% of Americans believe the media is accurate. In 1999, 125 senior journalists were polled. 70% of the respondents felt more negatively about most news organizations (Daily Source). What could lead to such ill-favor? “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10. News has always been plagued with walking the line between being a community service and making profit. After all, journalists have to eat. However, recent trends have tipped the scale for profit to drive the news.

Innovation and recent technology have made news more accessible than ever. However, this has led to a insane battle amongst news organizations to maintain ratings and revenue. The growth of 24-hour news networks turned a rat-race into something even worse. Air time was given to news pundits. Sensationalism and entertainment put in a suit and called a journalist. Bill O Reilly, Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh and many others drew in ratings and money. This has now become the state of 24-hour news networks. For example, MSNBC’s primetime schedule is entirely comprised of pundits (MSNBC). Where’s the news?

Newspapers aren’t above criticism either. The higher profit and effeciency of consolidation is why nearly 80% of all newspapers are owned by mult-newspaper chains. Does the public notice? Why, yes! A study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors revealed that 59% of Americans saw newspapers caring more about profit than public good (Daily Source).

The local news fairs no better. The poor local news station must not only battle rivals but also must contend with the audience shift towards online media. This has created an environment where short deadlines and late-breaking news trump logic and integrity. Its that very environment that incidents like the one at KTVU-TV occur. In 2013, an Asiana flight crashed in San Francisco, killing 3. The National Transportation Safety Board released the names of the four pilots on the flight. KTVU-TV, desparate to be first, bypassed any critical review and went on air. The names? Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Li Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow (SF Gate). Better yet, justwatch it. While this may be an extreme example, journalism suffers when ratings and money drive it. My time in newsrooms saw daily lapses in thinking and integrity by both my own station and others. Too many times have I seen news directors push crews to get on-air with no confirmed info. I have been rushed to take the news vehicles out or go in the chopper to cover unconfirmed news, only to be returned later after discovering it to be a false alarm. The pressure to be live and late-breaking is felt by journalists everywhere. A study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that 34% of the surveyed journalists said the “rush to deadline,” was a major factor in mistakes. The remainder cited company issues with carelessness, inexperience, being overworked, and understaffed as primary reasons (Daily Source).

Confidence in the media has been shaken. In a Gallup poll, TV and print journalism have both dropped in public confidence by more than 10% in the past 10 years (Gallup). The studies show it. The public and many journalists know that the state of news media is profit-driven and sloppy. So why don’t more journalists make a stand against the system? Sadly, the answer is once again money. In the age of consolidation, either drink the company kool-aid or lose your job. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

What I truly believe will bring about real change is the consumer’s response. In this fast-food diet world, consumers just simply don’t seem to care they are being malnourished with poor news. We know its bad for us. We can state it during a poll or survey. However, we continue to be consumers of the journalistic equivalent of a Big Mac. We simply don’t care. More people have viewed Gangam Style than the first US black president’s inauguration. That is the state of journalism. Its meaningless until consumers demand better. Its meaningless until news organizations prioritize community over profit. Its meaningless until journalists can pour themselves into telling good stories instead of making the deadline.

Sources:

Daily Source. (2014, September 17). Current Problems in the Media. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from http://www.dailysource.org/about/problems#.VERNy_nF-wl

MSNBC. MSNBC TV Schedule. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from http://www.msnbc.com/schedule

Matier. Ross. (2013, July 24). KTVU firings over airing of prank Asiana pilots’ names. Retrieved October 19th, 2014 from http://blog.sfgate.com/matierandross/2013/07/24/2074/

Dugan, Andrew. Americans Confidence in News Media Remains Low. Retrieved October 19th, 2014 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/171740/americans-confidence-news-media-remains-low.aspx