Friday, August 28, 2015

I Soon Found Out It Can Get You Into Trouble but it Can't Get You Out

"the devil's right hand, the devil's right hand; mama says the pistol is the devil's right hand...."

I have to tell you that today's post is really the result of a song that has stayed with me for about a year since hearing a friend's bluegrass band play it at a party.   The song is gripping and it is an intriguing story.  The line in the title above is just something I had to work into a post and of course inspiration wielded itself this week in a rather titanic fashion.

The Devil's Right Hand is a track off Steve Earle's 1988 album Copperhead Road.  Many of you have probably heard of the title track to the album.  Copperhead Road is Earle's highest charting hit, telling the tale of man who returns to his home in Tennessee and in the face of little opportunity decides to turn the family Moonshine business into selling marijuana.

The story of a young man running afoul of the law is a common theme in the Outlaw country world of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, etc and Steve Earle is/was a disciple.  Like Copperhead Road, the Devil's Right Hand tells of a flawed yet not particularly evil person who gives into temptation and suffers for it.

Suffering for temptation seems to be a common theme this week.  For weeks we have heard of the Ashley Madison hack by a group calling themselves the Impact Team.  About a week ago the individuals who were part of that hack finally released their Ashley Madison member files onto sites where the stolen data could be found.

It's not actually clear what the true motivations of the group are.  It certainly is not clearly evident that they are against cheating per se.  It is more likely that they are looking to out Ashley Madison and it's users as frauds.  The data may affirm the assertion that Ashley Madison is a fraudulent business model with an inordinate number of men and on the female side mostly prostitutes, fake profiles, and scammers.  On the user side the motivation may largely be a desire to out government officials, celebrities, or just those who they feel are hypocritical (such as preachers or hapless bloggers).  It is also likely that there is ultimately a monetary angle associated with extortion.  Regardless, the actions have created a firestorm of public curiosity and fear among those Ashley Madison users potentially identified within the data.

In the wake of this scandal Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman has resigned his position effective immediately.

The big question is then, what to do now?  I am certainly not the person to answer that question but given what I have been writing about here for 4+ years I guess I should say something (as I play Steve Earle's mantra on the other screen).

As with many things the actual data set provides no direct proof of anything and it exists on something called the "Dark Web."  The problem is that it is there and people know it and once people know something it is proverbially "the devil's right hand" and can be used to identify moral turpitude, to seek out a partner, or to just be mean.  More likely it becomes that wreck on the side of the road that nobody can turn their sight from.

Has Ryan been outed you ask?  The answer is as muddled as the story.  Yes my e-mail has been posted not just on the Dark Web but also on a local "do-good'er" site on the very accessible "public web."  As with Impact Team, the local site states it's purpose is to identify government officials. Thankfully I followed Riff's advise several years ago and used a unique "mischief" yahoo e-mail for my AM business.  Also, I never used my hometown on my AM profile.  I have a fairly common name and go by a nickname rather than my real name in life.  Bottom line is that you would have to be made aware of the do-good'er site, look for my name over pages of data, recognize my real name, and come to the conclusion that it could be me even though the town is 30+ miles away.  All that is not too likely.  Would Shannon scrutinize the available sites to identify Ryan, well that would require Shannon to think about me for over 20 minutes; something she hasn't done for over 10 years.

But don't get too comfy as it's fairly easy to manipulate and find data within the database if you know what to look for.  Within the local do-good'er site one can simply press "alt F" and search for something specific; a name, an address, etc.  Again, if you know what to look for it's right in front of you.

The ultimate question for you will be, who would be looking, why, and how evident will it be that the data is you even if it doesn't directly say so.

Troy Hunt - IT Blogger
I think the best information I have seen to understand what has been done, how it was done, and what to do in response is provided by the IT guru/blogger Troy Hunt (see his links below).

This is a really thorough and concise article about what is going on and how it has impacted lives.

Here is another article that talks more specifically about the data breach.

What seems to be apparent from Hunt's blog is that you should not go seeking the database even if you can acquire access to and know how to use a Tor browser.  First, you will open yourself up to malware.  Second, you will be handling stolen data and your search could open yourself up to being further compromised.  Even if you get the data, as Hunt says, "this simply isn't data that's consumable via your average person."

Hunt does offer a site "--have i been pwned?" that can let you know if your e-mail has been compromised by a hack (the Ashley Madison hack or others).  There are other sites that will offer this to you.  Do understand though, most of these sites (not Hunt's) have been launched in hopes of finding people who's addresses have been compromised and then offer them some form of "hoped for" security for a price.  In most cases they probably can't deliver the security you are hoping for.

So what is the advice?

Even though I am not qualified to render an opinion here are some things to consider:

*     Assume you can be found given the time and the inclination by a motivated individual.
*     That being said you may need to panic or you may not need to panic.  Let's face it, for some out there you may have permission or nobody may care what you may be doing on AM.
*     If you used a "real" e-mail from work or one your spouse, partner, or friends will recognize for your AM membership it may be time to have that "come to Jesus" discussion with those that may very well find out.  That holds true if you used your home in your profile and your home is small enough or your name distinctive enough to make your membership easily evident.  However, understand you will never be able to put that Genie back in the bottle so take a lot of time to consider your decision.  Perhaps you have anonymous friends out here on the bloggosphere you can go to for advice and support.
*     Is there a really good reason for people to find you and identify you either because of your position in life or because they don't like you?  How proactive will such individuals be to find you?
*     Don't worry so much about what is on the Dark Web but be vigilant in finding local "public web" sites that may have extracted the data and are now displaying as sorted information.
*     You may want to go ahead and cancel that AM membership and any associated e-mail addresses.  Certainly, if you keep your AM profile change to a different town.
*     Can I get rid of data on the web?  The best analogy I've seen speaking to this is that data on the web is like pee in a pool.  In theory you may be able to reacquire some data and get it contained.  However data, like pee, dissipates into the vast web (water of the pool) and realistically cannot be contained or resealed (or unpeed).  The best you can hope for is that the data (or pee) will be dissipated and immersed into the quantity of the pool.  At some point only someone seeking the data (or pee) will be able to find that data.  And they will have to have a black light, for the pee that is!
*     Most importantly - review why you are still on AM.  I will always affirm that not all people on AM are wrong, we all have a story.  But if you have been on for some time is this still serving a need?  If it is only treating a symptom consider trying to cure the disease that led you there.  Times like this are always good to reassess, my best advice is to use this time and this event thusly.

Some notes on Ashley Madison:

*     Running through comments on the local "do-good'er" site I see people are misinterpreting the data.  The do-good'er site displayed all "paying" AM members.  Comment after comment affirmed the belief that AM is all men.  Of course the unknowing don't know that AM only takes payment from men so if you sort data on paying members you will only yield men.  This event will produce a lot of misinformation.  However, this does feel like a seminal moment for social media.  While it may blow over for the rank and file member, I can't see the fear rolling back out to sea.  It won't stop cheating and it's prevalence on the web, but I certainly can see some retrenchment on sites that brazenly advertise, advocate for, and coin phrases such as "married dating."  Hubris draws attention and Ashley Madison was quite brazen.  Of course as I have found out AM is not just men and certainly not only prostitutes.  It is full of stories, full of good and bad people, and full of people looking for hope in an easy "turn-key" package.  Is it the best place for that?  Probably not.  But it is what it is.  For me I have clutched this proverbial pistol, the Devil's Right Hand, as much as anyone and now I don't find it as adventurous as it once was.

But as I consider the fate of those on Ashley Madison and consider the other news of the day yesterday, I think the pain of our Devil's Right Hand pales in comparison to the tragedy that occured to the south of us.

Of course Earle's true meaning in "the Devil's Right Hand" is not to simply avoid temptation but to properly respect, if not fear, the pistol.  For in the hands of the wrong individual the pistol, the Devil's Right Hand, not only turns the tempted to tragedy but often drags the innocent along for the painful ride.

So as much as the AM hack is fascinating we might pause and consider the innocent and assess how we might best advocate for them.

If there are any IT guru's out there I would love to get your comments, not only for myself but for other readers.

What seems to be Hunt's biggest criticism of Ashley Madison is their lack of support to customers.  They have a bounty over the hackers and I'm sure they will seek legal retribution if they hackers are found (and if there is a court in Canada that will hear the case).  But I think if I were to make a philosophical comment on Ashley Madison right now it would be:

"I soon found out it can get you into trouble but it can't get you out!"

While Steve Earle's version is wonderful I have to say I like Johnny Cash's version just a bit better.  The rich rawness Carter brings to a song, illuminates the stark reality of the story.  The bluegrass version is even better but I guess I better not post a video of my friends band!  :)

"my very first pistol was a cap and ball Colt
Shoot as fast as lightnin' but it loads a might slow
Loads a might slow and I soon found out
It can get you into trouble but it can't get you out.....

Oh well here is Steve Earle's version as well:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

All Things Considered I'm Doing Just Fine

Sometimes things end abruptly and spectacularly, like Evil Knieval's last jump. Sometimes they just fade away over an excruciatingly and unnecessarily long time, like a Rick Perry Presidential candidacy.  Sometimes they just end with little fanfare and we just move on.  The other day our XM Radio subscription was due on the car I generally drive.  We have some added expenses this fall and it just seemed as if it was a cost we could stand to avoid.  And so one day last week the XM radio music just ended.  I spent the rest of the week brooding that once again Ryan was the one forgoing something he enjoys for the betterment of the family.  While it may seem like a little thing on the surface, quite literally, a majority of my posts are shaped by the very music that hits me at a certain moment, or rather mood, as I drive to work, drive home, drive to meet Sandee, or just drive.  Now the fuel that so often drove this blog had just run dry and yes with little fanfare or so it seemed.

That Friday we went to the County Fair.  I love the County Fair.  I love seeing the girls happy.  I love Kettle Korn.  I love to people watch.  I love the fact that I figuratively unzip my skull, take out my neo-cortex, and leave it at home and just exist as I watch the tractor pull or the blue ribbon prized tomato at the 4-H exhibit.

Walking up to the tractor pull I heard a country song I like and have not heard for some time.  I have not heard it because I now so often listen to XM radio.  It reminded me of those years gone by when I listened to terrestrial radio and a local Classic Country station was one of my favorites.

The song goes "the way I feel I should be losing my mind, but all things considered... I'm doing just fine."

Yep, we are entering the most stressful time of year in my life.  Work is at a peak in terms of volume with so many projects coming to head and the busy season ready to jump off at full steam.  The girls are starting school and, as is always the case, I'm in flux as to what to do with Shannon and Sandee.

That song reminded me of an easier time and in the moment I was happy.

I thought of blogging later that night as I watched the demolition derby.  It's at these times I tend to get ideas, seeing crazy sights, silly people.  Most days now blogging seems like such a chore, homework if you will.  Every time I think about it I say it's time to stop.  And then at moments such as this an idea hits me and I know I'll have to write about it.  Blogging is homework too often for me now.  The end is nigh but for now I still have a few more posts in me.

As I look upon the silliness of the Demolition Derby I think about the silly games in our lives and want to write Old flame posts or posts about Ashley Madison theories, those things still tickle my fancy.  One reason I thought about my last "Old Flames" post about Jules is that I was going to see her at a reunion of sorts.  I got an e-vite from Jules a few weeks ago for an annual BBQ she and her husband were hosting.  It was on the last free weekend night of the summer so I told her we would be there.  It ended up being a great party.  There were lots of kids so my daughters enjoyed it.  Shannon was happy because there was Sangria.  I was happy because there were a lot of old friends.  I didn't get to talk to Jules very much.  In fact I spent more time talking to her husband.  I've always like him, he is a great guy, she is lucky.  But he is VERY lucky because Jules is still really good looking and he looks like Uncle Fester.  I thought about Jules a lot.  In some since I think there is an alternative Universe where I'm with her and happy.  But I also know me and I'm restless and picky.  She is cute and sweet, absolutely nothing wrong with her; everything is OK.  Your average husband would count himself lucky to have a wife as attractive as Jules.  But I guess nothing is spectacular or jaw dropping and I always was attracted to spectacular, even when it got in the way of getting laid quite often.

Among my old college friends this night Shannon was spectacular.  She is that Jennifer Anniston who really truly looks better in her 40's than she did in college.  That's usually magazine *ullshit to get women to buy magazines but for some women like Shannon it's true.  I know you ladies out there are thinking I'm an ass, that I'm being irreverent; but this is one of those stream of consciousness posts where I have to get some stuff out.  The really ironic thing is that all these female college friends of mine got their degrees from Big State U, just like me.  Big State U is one of the top public universities in the country.  Yet Shannon, this startlingly attractive women with a Liberal Arts degree from Regional Public (@ Hyphen) University, is out-earning all of us.  Most of my female friends from college are "stay at home mom's."  Shannon seemed not only attractive and alluring but ultra powerful in that moment.  Just the other day a mom outside of dance asked me where she was this week.  I started to say Dallas but remembered that was last week.  I couldn't remember where she was Philly? Boston? Oh right.... Charlotte.  Simply put, she is that fatal attraction that I can't quit pursuing.  We don't get along but we have pushed each other to great heights.  Everyone was very happy we came and insisted we come back soon.  I have to add that the next day Jules wrote to me on Facebook and told me how all the boys wanted to know about the cute little blond girl (my youngest) who was beating them at basketball.  Yes she is my little Shannon, already making the boys suffer.

Yet there is still the one woman that threads the needle.  Yes I still see Sandee, albeit more as friends than lovers.  She is as sweet as Jules and a beautiful as Shannon.  I wish I could let go and fall to her.  Her husband has left for a job out of state for an undefined amount of time.  They are selling their house.  This is the time.  She may leave him or she may go to him.  I think she would like to stay here and have me sweep her away but she dares not ask.  I think she knows the obligation I feel to my daughters and perhaps senses the bewitching spell Shannon holds over me.  I know I could be happy with her, I'm just not sure I can break free.

Speaking of my girls, I continue to be amazed that people I've helped to raise can be so exceptional.  I know that is typical parent talk but when your daughter is asked to participate in one of the top 5 of something in the entire country you stop and wonder how did this happen.  Is she really that good?  Do I need to do more to facilitate and support her or should I just get out of the way and not screw it up.  Would I let her go off to study her passion in a town half way across the country?  Thankfully, she realized she was not ready to leave mom and dad so we postponed the inevitable for now.

Which brings me back to the blog.  So much life to live.  So much of my life I've told.  So much of my life being lived over and over.  Only so many times you can tell the same story before it becomes old.  How much more do you want to read.  Seems like what I go through on a daily basis is so much monotony that it's hardly worth the effort, particularly when it feels like homework.

Work?  Omg, I could never have imagined I would be doing the things I'm doing daily.  Or perhaps even more unbelievable that people in high places would be looking to me for answers.  It's truly a "be careful what you wish for" deal.  Every day I'm pushed to my mental capacity and that is a great thing.  But it's been some time since I questioned my abilities.  I'll push through, I'm persistent that way but the high of not being quite sure is a rush in itself.  Perhaps the thirst for success on new fields is what replaces the high of blogging or Ashley Madison.

Oh yeah, Ashley Madison Status!  A lot of bad stuff is going down for old Ashley Madison isn't it.  I suppose I should write about that, right?  That would be something interesting, not homework.  I'll probably do that.  Yep, my e-mail was "outed" according to a link.

The ironic thing is I checked my e-mail when I saw Renee share a link on Facebook.  Her post stated "stop messin' around!"  Ironic that it was her that led me to think about what could be out there.  She did the noble thing though and got a divorce and now she is happy with a new guy.

Here is where you can check to see if your e-mail was listed.  I sure am glad I took Riff's advise and got a secret "naughty stuff-only" e-mail address!

Funny thing I saw another Facebook post today that caught my eye.  A lady from my neighborhood posted that she was traveling to Europe to hike the Alps.  She said it would be the closest she could get to God without flying.  She went on to say that she was a sinner and that hopefully she will return home a better person for doing it.  I wrote about her once,  I saw her on Ashley Madison.  She sent me her picture, thankfully I didn't send her mine.  For two years I've know she was there.  I've seen her, her husband, and her family knowing that she is on Ashley Madison.  I certainly never confronted her.  Who am I to cast a stone and I was certainly glad I preserved my anonymity.

Yesh, all this just makes me want to write about food.  Which brings me to our last trip of the summer back to Miami.  I've told you about Puerto Sagua now let me tell you very briefly about my other now favorite restaurant in Miami, the Daily Creative Food Company!  Best omelets and pancakes in the world no doubt (get the Cuban with chorizo, peppers, onions, and black beans)!  But if you dare, order the Elvis - peanut butter, banana, local organic honey, and maple cured bacon on Texas Toast!

Well sorry to have such a pity party today for Ryan, things really aren't that bad.  You know I've been reconnecting with that old Classic Country radio station I used to love.  Yesterday I was in such a rush and then "Gentle on My Mind" (Glenn Campbell) played and I felt fine.  This morning I was driving in to check on work and I remembered that on Saturday and Sunday morning the station plays bluegrass.  The next song was the Del McCoury Band playing "Sweet Appalachia."  It almost brought a tear to my eye and I remembered seeing Del McCoury at the West Virginia State Fair so many years ago and I was at peace.   I guess when you really think about it -

"the way I feel I should be losing my mind
but all things considered....
I'm doin' just fine!"   :)