M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘security

Is American intelligence on the right track?

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a report on the annual national intelligence assessment. In it, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told senators that al-Qaida could be receding to purely symbolic status, leaving the United States with the challenge of confronting numerous new, harder-to-get-a-grip-on security threats.

Read the details here and let me know whether you agree. And if so, how should Washington refocus its intelligence resources?

We also have a poll on Facebook: Is the U.S. safer today?

Written by Alex

January 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm

DHS says don’t call us. Really.

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The Department of Homeland Security has a reputation among journalists and other government officials for being hard to get a straight answer from. For instance, there was its highly publicized refusal, in the face of repeated attempts by reporters and state and local governments, to say one way or the other whether local authorities could opt out of an immigration program called Secure Communities.

Now, Federal Times, a newspaper and website devoted to covering the workings of the federal government, reports that DHS won’t even give it the work phone numbers and email addresses of its public affairs officers — the people it pays to deal with the press and the public.

The reason? In a response to a Freedom of Information request for public numbers and addresses, DHS said revealing the information — which would simply allow citizens and journalists to reach spokesmen for the government at their government offices — would be an invasion of privacy. Federal Times said DHS cited the provision of FOI law that is supposed to protect medical records.

Tales of a DHS FOIA (Federal Times)

Written by Alex

September 30, 2011 at 9:10 am

Posted in Journalism

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Foreign computer tech comes pre-infected for your convenience

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Over at Technolog, I’ve posted a followup on amazing comments at yesterday’s House cybersecurity hearing, during which a top official of the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that computer hardware and software is already being imported to the United States preloaded with spyware and security-sabotaging components.

U.S. official says pre-infected computer tech entering country (Alex Johnson/Technolog)

Written by Alex

July 8, 2011 at 11:58 am

Florida college students’, staff members’ personal data exposed

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The central library system for Florida’s public colleges is sending out e-mail notices this week to as many as 126,000 summer school students, faculty and staff at six colleges disclosing that it exposed their personal information online from May 29 to June 2.

Investigators with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office discovered that “some personal information had been accessed by unauthorized persons and that some was available through Google until the search engine was notified,” the College Center for Library Automation said.

“The records of these institutions were contained in temporary work files that were being processed by CCLA at the time of exposure” during a software upgrade, it said.

While “CCLA has found no indication that the data has actually been obtained or misused,” it urged students, faculty and staff at the six institutions — Broward College, Florida State College-Jacksonville, Northwest Florida State College, Pensacola State College, South Florida Community College and Tallahassee Community College — to immediately place fraud alerts on their credit files.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

August 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Take the Trouble to Change Your Passwords

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An important reminder from my colleague Bob Sullivan:

“When consumers use the same password across multiple sites, hacking becomes trivially easy. If a criminal breaks into a smaller Web site — say a site created by a local grocery store — and grabs a cache of passwords, their next step is always the major banking Web sites.”

Full story (msnbc.com)

Written by Alex

February 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

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