Extortion At Work

Hacker_at_work_2 A new twist from hackers at work is locking your documents and threatening to delete them all unless you pay up a ransom. That is what happened to more than a thousand employees at several security related companies and government organizations. Ransom at work gives the details on some of the companies hit by this attack. The technique was to lure employees to a fake job opening and then infect the pc with a trojan (NTOS.exe) that looks for personal data and uploads it to a website repository, then encrypts everything on your pc. Here's the ransom note they leave on your pc:

Hello, your files are encrypted with RSA-4096 algorithm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSA).

You will need at least few years to decrypt these files without our software. All your private information for last 3 months were collected and sent to us.

To decrypt your files you need to buy our software. The price is $300.

To buy our software please contact us at: xxxxxxx@xxxxx.com and provide us your personal code -xxxxxxxxx. After successful purchase we will send your decrypting tool, and your private information will be deleted from our system.

If you will not contact us until 07/15/2007 your private information will be shared and you will lost all your data.

Glamorous team

The advice from security experts:

if you've fallen victim to Gpcode or any other type of ransomware, you should never pay up under any circumstances. Always contact your antivirus provider and make sure you back up your data on a regular basis.

Working Moms Prefer Part-Time

A new study on working mothers shows that their ideal choice is to work part-time.Working_moms 60% want to work part-time but 75% work full-time.

Results from the new study:

  • 60% of working mothers think part-time is their best option. (Up from 48% 10 years ago.)
  • 21% of women with children under 18 think full-time is the best choice.
  • 19% think that not working at all is the best option.

Latest figures on working mothers:

75% of working mothers work full-time.

The discrepancy between what women want and what is currently available to them in the workplace represents a huge opportunity for companies to attract and retain these employees. What women want is benefits and flexible schedules. Companies willing to provide them will win out in the long run.

Small Software Companies - One Day Results

Yesterday, Baseline picked the 10 fastest growing small software companies. Today several of these companies had a nice bump up in their price, 16.74% for SOFO. Here's the one day snapshot for the ten:

Ten Fastest Growing Software Companies

According to Baseline Briefings Magazine, here are the ten fastest growing small software companies.

  1. J. L. Halsey (JLHY.OB) - Email Marketing - 1003% Sales Growth
  2. Vertical Communications (VRCC.OB) - Business Phone Systems - 218% Sales Growth
  3. Park City Group (PCYG.OB) - Perishable Food Management Sofware - 95% Sales Growth
  4. Saba Software (SABA) - Human Capital Management - 69% Sales Growth
  5. Opsware (OPSW) - Data Center Automation - 67% Sales Growth
  6. Sonic Foundry (SOFO) - Content Management Software - 51% Sales Growth
  7. Netsol Technologies (NTWK) - Auto Finance, Leasing Software - 50% Sales Growth
  8. Commvault Systems (CVLT) - Data Management - 38% Sales Growth
  9. Concur Technologies (CNQR) - Corporate Travel Software - 35% Sales Growth
  10. Unica Corp (UNCA) - Marketing Management Software - 30% Sales Growth

You can see the article and a slide show here: Baseline Top Ten Small Software Companies
And here is a Yahoo list of the stock symbols: Top Ten Small Software Companies

Treasury Report: US is Insolvent

A new report from the US Treasury Department  (pdf) released 12/15/06 claims that the United States owes 4 times what it makes each year. On page 152, in section "The Nations Fiscal Imbalance", GAO Chief Walker states:

...the U.S. government’s total reported liabilities, net social insurance commitments, and other fiscal exposures continue to grow and now total approximately $50 trillion, representing approximately four times the Nation’s total output (GDP) in fiscal year 2006, up from about $20 trillion, or two times GDP in fiscal year 2000.

He further states that the situation is unsustainable:

As this long-term fiscal imbalance continues to grow, the retirement of the baby boom generation is closer to becoming a reality with the first wave of boomers eligible for early retirement under Social Security in 2008. Given these and other factors, it seems clear that the nation’s current fiscal path is unsustainable and that tough choices by the President and the Congress are necessary in order to address the nation’s large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance.

The tough choices that the President and Congress must face amount to three choices:

  1. Raise taxes
  2. Lower government spending (less benefits)
  3. Print more money (Inflate the dollar)

Chances are good that there will be some combination of the three coming soon.

As Lawrence Kotlikoff pointed out in his paper titled “Is the US Bankrupt?” posted to the St. Louis Federal Reserve website, the insolvency of the US will minimally require some combination of lowered entitlement payouts and higher taxes.

What This Means For Employees
What this means to employees is that the spending power of their take home pay will be reduced, there will be more fees and co-payments cropping up (since fees and co payments are easier to slip through than taxes), their benefits will be reduced, and prices will go up.

Combine this situation with the falling housing market and employees will be left with less money, more expenses, and more debt (especially for employees with adjustable rate mortgages and those that cashed in and spent their equity).

What This Means For Employers
What this means for employers is higher costs for benefits as companies are forced to fill the gap between reduced federal benefits and increased benefit costs. Higher borrowing costs, higher raw material costs, higher payroll costs. Human resource professionals should expect to see more employee bankruptcy and related financial issues.

Slides Instead of Stairs

Slides_not_stairs No elevators needed... to go down at least. Turbine Hall in Britain has a five story slide and four smaller slides visitors can use to travel between floors.

Visitors will be able to sit in canvas sacks and slide from the fifth floor to the ground, accelerating to 30mph. Three chutes depart from each of the main levels.

Höller said: "Going down can be like being under the influence of a drug, a thrilling experience, but it is also a fast and efficient way of getting from A to B. It's a playground for the body and the brain. It's art and it's not art."

Höller's proposition is that slides could and perhaps should be incorporated
into existing architecture and future buildings ... because the frequent act of sliding could bring about untold changes in our everyday behaviour and outlook.

Cell Phones Lower Sperm Counts

A new study links heavy cell phone use with lowered sperm counts in men.

In a study led by researchers from The Cleveland Clinic, men who used their cell phones the most had poorer sperm quality than those who used them the least.

The lowest average sperm counts seemed to be in men who had the most cell phone use (more than four hours a day); those who didn’t use cell phones seemed to have the highest.

Border Patrol May Confiscate Work Laptops

Business travelers have a new issue to worry about. U.S. border patrols have the right to search and seize your laptops and are doing it more frequently now. The searches are no longer just for explosives or other contraband. Now the searches include the content of the PC, including pictures and emails. Once confiscated, a laptop may or may not be returned.

Appeals are under way in some cases, but the law is clear. “They don’t need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law. They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations,” said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients.

Laptops may be scrutinized and subject to a “forensic analysis” under the so-called border search exemption, which allows searches of people entering the United States and their possessions “without probable cause, reasonable suspicion or a warrant,” a federal court ruled in July.

Aside from the inconvenience of losing your laptop during travel, this issue brings up several other issues.

  1. Employees may arrive at their destination without the needed tools and data to perform their job.
  2. Company or customer confidential data may be subject to an unknown number of eyes as it travels through the government confiscation process.

Tips to lessen the impact of a laptop confiscation.

  1. Backup data to alternate devices, such as thumb drives.
  2. Email and/or overnight mail data and/or equipment to the destination ahead of the employee.
  3. Encrypt sensitive data on laptops - this should already be done anyways to avoid litigation and other problems from loss or theft of equipment.
  4. Make sure travel laptops are cleaned of all personal/questionable data prior to travel or return travel, especially photos and browser caches and histories. If companies have separate laptops designated specifically for travel, this will avoid the inevitable conflicts arising from the requirement to remove all personal data and images that the employee may not want to part with.

Latest Employee Turnover Rates

Employee_turnover_rates The latest voluntary employment turnover rates are available at Nobscot Corporation's website. Data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) up to August 2006. Total separation rates are available for the same period. Voluntary turnover rates for calendar year 2005  and Total separation rates for calendar 2005 are also available. Findings from the site:

Overall U.S. voluntary turnover increased slightly to 23.4% annually, up from 22.7% the previous year. The highest turnover by far is still in the Accommodation and Food Services sector at 56.4% and the Leisure and Hospitality sector at 52.2%. Sectors that saw the highest increase in turnover were Accommodation and Food Services, up 7% from the previous year, Leisure and Hospitality, up 5.4% and Information, up 4.5%. The only sectors seeing a (slight) decrease in turnover were Real Estate, Natural Resources and Mining, and Professional and Business Services.

In the Government sector, turnover was up slightly at 8.2% with the Federal sector increasing the most to 9.3% up from 5.7%. Regionally, all areas were up slightly except the Northeast which saw a slight decrease.

Tiniest Horse

Smallest_horse The world's smallest horse stands at 17 inches. Thumbelina is a dwarf of a miniature horse.

CEO Stole From 401K Accounts

The CEO of 1Point Solutions is alleged to have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from client 401K and retirement accounts for his own personal use. 1Point provides and administers 401k and retirement plans for companies.

The revelations make clear that the estimated 40,000 people with retirement or other types of benefits managed by 1Point will not receive checks for what they are owed any time soon, McLemore said.

According to court documents that McLemore filed Tuesday, employee 401(k) money and other funds coming to 1Point from about 40 companies among its 700 clients were at times co-mingled in a single "1Point 401K" account at Fifth Third Bank.

Employee 401(k) funds were then used to pay Stokes' business and personal expenses...

City Prosecutor Caught Naked

A city prosecutor in Ohio was caught on video tape walking around the office in his birthday suit two days in a row. He was arrested and charged with two counts of indecency. A security guard was monitoring the cameras when he noticed the naked man.

40 Thousand Dollar Typo

Check your typing and then check it again. A Michigan county made an embarrassing typo in their November 7th elections material that 5 proofreaders in the office overlooked. They spelled "public" without the "L" and now must reprint 170,000 ballots at a cost of $40,000.

Here are some tips to better spelling.

Bring Your Worms To Work

Worms_at_work Bring your worms to work and bring compost home for your garden. California is starting a Zero Waste Initiative to reduce waste and encourage reuse and recycling. One of those efforts involves recycling food scraps using composting and vermicomposting (using worms to compost the food scraps).

Californians throw away more than 5 million tons of food scraps each year.  That’s 16 percent of all disposed materials going into landfills from businesses, residents, and institutions such as schools and prisons. Although green material collection programs have been implemented in many cities and counties, management of food scraps provides additional opportunities to help meet the State’s diversion goals as well as provide greater uses for this resource. A suggested order for food scrap management is to (1) prevent food waste, (2) feed people, (3) convert to animal feed and/or rendering, and (4) compost.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

Pumpkin_carving How to carve a pumpkin in 3-D and what tools to use.

Why We Sleep - To Forget

A neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin has discovered that, contrary to prevailing opinion, sleep is not to reinforce memories, but to weaken memories so that we can forget unneeded information.

The theory is unorthodox, but it does make a certain amount of sense. Without the ability to pare away unneeded information as we sleep, our brains would face a serious energy shortage as well as a space crunch: Stronger synapses are typically bigger, and real estate in the brain is precious. By proportionally weakening synapses, the brain ensures that they retain the same strength relative to each other. So when we wake up each morning, all of our synapses are weaker, and some have vanished. With them, our smallest memories from each day may be lost forever.

Googleplex Office Life

Googleplex Ever wonder what it's like to work at Google? Lots of pets, games, couches, exercise balls, and free food. Lots of Googleplex photos here.

Online Check Scams

Beware of the latest online check scams disguised as job offers. This scam resulted from the person submitting her resume to an online job board. The scammer offered her a job depositing checks (that turned out to be worthless) and wiring most of the money. She would keep a percentage as her payment.

Online check scams have similar traits:

  • The scammer asks you to cash checks, keep a percentage, and wire the rest back. The checks are phony but you wired real money, so when the check you deposited bounces, you have to pay the bank back the amount you wired.
  • The scammer pays you much more than the asking price of what you are selling, asking you to wire the difference back. As above, the checks are fraudulent, so you lose your product and the difference you wired back.

Cell Phones Double As Breathalizer

Some companies in Japan are using cell phones with built in breath testers to make sure their employees are not driving under the influence.

The new system, which uses NTT DoCoMo's FOMA third-generation cell phone equipped with a breath analyzer, is easy to use. First, the driver makes a video-phone call to his or her company and breathes into the analyzer connected to the cell phone. The video image showing the driver blowing into the analyzer and data regarding the alcohol concentration on his or her breath are transmitted to the company and confirmed by computer there.

What have you done for your IT Manager lately?

A new survey of 141 IT managers reports that most managers feel that bureaucracy is the biggest roadblock to their success. Some other findings:

  • 1/3 of managers wish they had learned new skills.
  • 20% felt that taking more risks would have helped their career.
  • 2/3 felt they should have asked more questions.