Journalist’s experiment to prove that passwords are dying goes horribly wrong

twitter_breakWall Street Journal journalist Christopher Mims attempted to prove the dwindling importance of passwords by giving out his Twitter password to the public. The results were not what he expected.

Mims claimed that passwords as a form of authentication were becoming obsolete by heralding device-based authentication as a true means of keeping accounts secure. Device-based authentication uses a personal device, such as a smartphone, instead of a text-based password to access sensitive information. He argued that hackers can obtain a password, but a physical device can be disabled if lost and is further secured via PIN or biometric data, such as a fingerprint.

Mims also emphasized the power of two-factor authentication, which most online services offer, including Google, Yahoo, Steam and Facebook. Two-factor authentication requires you to prove your identity with both a password and another form of verification, which usually a randomly generated numerical code that is sent as a text message to your phone number for you to enter as verification on the website or service you’re trying to access. The idea is that only you yourself would have that phone number in your possession, and therefore only you could gain access to the code. Two-factor verification is certainly a valid and powerful tool in keeping your accounts safe, and Mims’ experiment proved it at the expense of some unfortunate consequences.

As soon as his password was posted to the public, Mim’s phone was constantly buzzing with verification requests at a frequency of 2 text messages per minute. Each text indicated someone other than him was trying to access his Twitter account. Eventually, Mims decided to switch from text-based verifications to app-based ones through Twitter’s official iPhone app. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), this exposed a glaring flaw in Twitter’s two-factor authentication process. When sending verification requests to the user’s phone, Twitter would reveal that user’s phone number to those attempting to access the account.

So while Mims’ Twitter account was never actually hacked, his phone number had been compromised. This opened him up to a number of attacks and pranks, as one can imagine.

Mims’ stunt attracted the criticism of other journalists, accusing him of writing a “click bait” article and simply vying for attention. New York Magazine tech writer Kevin Roose even mocked the experiment on Twitter, posting “Cool contest: mug @mims for his phone, and you get his twitter account too!”

Following the barrage of texts and phone calls Mims received as a result of his experiment gone awry, his overworked phone disconnected from service, and he was eventually forced to change his phone number altogether.

Two days after his initial article, Mims wrote a follow-up piece containing a modicum of regret. Mims still believes that passwords are no longer a viable form of protection, which is true to a point. He uses the rest of the piece to offer general security tips and focuses on the flaw in Twitter’s security system that exposed his phone number in the first place. The revelation of this weakness is probably the best thing to come out of this ordeal.

In the end, Mims Twitter account remained uncompromised, proving the security of two-factor authentication. This embarrassing experiment, however, shows that you can’t just rely on a single element to keep your data safe. You have to be more knowledgeable, use a password manager, never use the same password on multiple accounts, be careful of who you share your data with, and always be on your guard. And, please, never challenge a hacker, no matter how secure your data may seem. If they’re determined, they’ll find a way in.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Weekend Events for the Family

ExtraNewLogo640This weekend there are many family activities to choose from here in Paris.

For those who enjoy monster trucks, there is a Monster Truck Rally at the Paris Rodeo Arena. The gates open at 6pm and the show starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for children.

Those looking for a bit of culture can attend “The White Liars/Black Comedy” at the Paris Community Theatre. The 2014-15 season opener is actually two plays both equally hilarious and entertaining. Performances are Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19th at 7:30pm and a Sunday matinee at 2:30pm. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the box office or online at pctonstage.com.

The 30th Annual “Tour de Paris” bicycle rally is on Saturday morning beginning at 8am at the Love Civic Center. Even if you are not a rider, it is fun to go downtown and line the square to wave and cheer the riders on!

Also downtown on Saturday is the Toys for Tots Christmas in July Toy Drive from 11am-5pm. Join several of the Downtown stores as they support gather toys. Boxes will be located in Paris Baby and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Look for the flags and Christmas wreaths.

 

PRMC microbiology supervisor says farewell after 45 years

DanaHoog01Friday was Dana Hoog’s last day as supervisor of the microbiology lab at Paris Regional Medical Center after 45 years on the job.

“One day, I decided it was time,” she said. “I’m ready to do something else. I like to work in the yard, and I’ve got other projects I’d like to do.”

One of the first things she plans to do is take part in a family trip to Hawaii with her son and daughter-in-law. The idea of leaving work has not really impacted her just yet, but she said once she gets back and settles down, it might start feeling weird not having to punch a clock.

“I’ve always kept my interest. I live and breathe it. It’s kind of a part of me,” she said. “It’s probably going to be like, ‘What happened here?’”

Hoog is certified as a medical technologist and a specialist in microbiology with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. She started as a generalist, working in the blood bank, chemistry, microbiology and other areas of the lab. She “morphed into” microbiology in the 1980s, largely because no one else wanted to do it.

“I enjoy the work. It’s very challenging,” she said. “Microbiology is the growing of organisms to see what’s causing infection.”

Given that her job is basically looking for what makes people sick and helping to determine the best treatment, there is little surprise Hoog has seen a lot of odd things over the years. She said one of the strangest was looking for parasites in a child’s stool sample. What she found puzzled her, and she wasn’t sure her prognosis was correct until she consulted an expert – in this case, a veterinarian. The child had a dog tapeworm.

“The child had been eating the dog food, and the dog had fleas,” she said. “We’ve seen worms in diapers that were still alive. You want to talk about freaky, that was freaky.”

DanaHoog03Hoog has been interested in medicine since she was a freshman in high school, but she knew she didn’t want to be a doctor because of the years of training and long hours. The decision cemented when she had an opportunity to attend a couple of presentations on career day of her junior year in high school. She picked flight attendant and medical technologist. The medical presentation left her with little doubt where her career would take her.

After attending Paris Junior College and University of Texas, she spent 13 months training on rotation at Baylor in Dallas before graduating with a degree in medical technology. While “medical technology” is a more general term now, then it meant specifically lab equipment.

Hoog started her medical career in February 1969 at McCuistion Regional Medical Center. Her family was here, but she did not intend to remain in Paris for more than a couple of years. But she wound up getting married, raising a family and settling here. Unless they moved or she commuted a great distance, the hospital was the only place for her to work. The camaraderie and support of her co-workers has meant a great deal over the years.

“I loved where I worked, and the people I worked with,” she said. “There are about six other people who have been here 30 and 35 years I have worked with all that time. So that was a big part of it.”

The biggest change in that time is the reliance on computers and automated procedures, she said.

“In the distant past – I hate to put it that way, but it’s true – we did the testing in actual test tubes,” she said. “Now the machines run most of it.”

The transition came slowly. The first laboratory computers did not work well and “bombed horribly,” but technology advanced. Hoog said she has never had a problem adapting with it.

DanaHoog02“It is a little scary when you’re so manual,” she said. “It always worked out. We have embraced it.”

These days, most lab work is is more or less completely automated, although Hoog said microbiology still requires some manual input and decision making.

“You have to look at it and say, ‘This is a respiratory specimen. Is this ordinary bacteria or something else?’” she said.

The next big thing will likely be molecular testing to look at the DNA and RNA of infectious organisms. It’s already being done in some areas, Hoog said, and it speeds up the microbiology lab work a great deal. Which is important, as the trend in medicine is to not keep anyone in the hospital any longer than necessary. The more traditional method, as is done here, is to take a sample and grow cultures, which can take a couple of days.

“You can do a glucose test in about 10 minutes, but if you’re going to grow a culture and see if a person is infected, that’s going to take 36 to 48 hours,” she said. “We’re still a little on the slow side.”

Council addresses west Paris issues

City Manager John Godwin

City Manager John Godwin

Monday’s City Council session dealt largely with West Paris.

Council members denied two requests for mobile homes. The first was from Charles Braswell for an empty lot on Maple Avenue. The Planning & Zoning Commission and staff recommended denial.

Braswell said his inlaws own the property; he planned to put the mobile home there as rental property.

“It’s not junk. There’s a mobile home park approximately three houses from where I propose to put this. From Maple Avenue to 19th, there are mobile homes scattered through there,” he said. “I’m trying to put something on the lot that’s taxable. I don’t think it’ll hurt the neighborhood.”

Others disagreed. James Price asked the council to deny the request, asking why west Paris is the only area with mobile homes.

“Get off our backs in District 2. We love our land over there,” he said. “Put it over in Morningside. I bet you won’t do that, will you?”

Mary Davenport, who lives one street over, worried about the precedent it might set if this request was approved.

“I live in an area where there are several vacant lots. My concern is if this is zoned here one street over, who’s to say the lots across the street from me will not be bought and someone will try to put a mobile home there?” she said. “West Paris does not need any more run down. We need build up, and we need clean up.”

Ray Banks said he opposed it even though it was “nowhere even close to me.”

“We keep saying west Paris needs to be improved,” he said. “We cannot improve west Paris if we keep putting rental mobile homes there.”

Councilman Edwin Pickle said he thought the city had adopted a policy concerning mobile homes, but City Attorney Kent McIlyar said it had been discussed without ever being approved.

The Planning & Zoning Commission is looking at a moratorium on all mobile homes for several months while a subcommittee looks at a policy, Engineering Director Shawn Napier said.

The second request needed to be denied or tabled because it was an incomplete submission, City Planner Alan Efrussy said. The applicant, Terry Arnold, planned to get the zoning and permission for a mobile home and then buy one to place on West Campbell, but a specific use permit does not allow for that approach, he said.

Both request were unanimously denied.

In other business, Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said the city needs to take care of drainage ditches. They were a problem before the ice storm and worse after, she said. A heavy rainstorm or two could start flooding homes.

“Those drainage ditches were put there for a purpose,” she said. “Paris has flooded, and we strongly urge that all these little drainage areas that were put in – they have been there a long time – they need to be cleaned out so we don’t have to worry about flooding.”

Councilman Benny Plata asked if any work is being done now to clean out the ditches. City Manager John Godwin said there is some, but the parks department is primarily busy working on parks. The city got behind in cleaning up after the ice storm and has remained backlogged, he said. Godwin promised to bring a report to the next council meeting.

Lancaster also sought to have the city mow along the “Safe Sidewalks for Kids.”

“We built these Safe Sidewalks going to the elementary schools to keep kids out of the streets,” she said. “We had a young man killed on Graham because he was riding his bicycle in the street going to school. The problem is we are seeing really high weeds growing all along there, and I’m seeing some children avoiding that and going in the street.”

Godwin said it would be taken care of.

TxDOT releases new app to help drivers save money, reduce emissions

– ‘Roadcents’ app supports effort to protect air quality, track vehicle maintenance

It has now become much easier to keep your vehicles road-ready, while also saving money at the pump, as TxDOT has announced this month the release of their new web-based smartphone app — ‘Roadcents.org’ — which offers helpful hints on operating efficiency for your vehicles and tips on how to reduce tailpipe emissions that contribute to the rising amount of air pollution, according to TxDOT spokesman Tim McAlavy.

TxDOT_Color_LOGO“A vehicle in peak condition will produce fewer emissions, reduce the chance of a roadside breakdown and improve gas mileage,” TxDOT travel information division director, Margo Richards, said. “Saving money on gas this summer, while also helping the environment, is something all motorists can appreciate.”

TxDOT says that “Roadcents” is a Web-based app for your mobile device or computer that offers drivers tools to track vehicle maintenance, as well as calculate the amount of money that can be saved by changing their vehicle maintenance habits and driving.

“Drivers also can receive email alerts when their vehicles are scheduled for maintenance, find nearby auto repair facilities and gas stations, and get tips on what to do in case of a roadside breakdown or collision,” TxDOT spokesman Tim McAlavy said.

According to TxDOT, continuing to drive a vehicle that is in need of maintenance could add more than $100 to your annual gas spending, while under-inflated tires can increase your vehicle’s exhaust emissions, adding an extra $90 a year to fuel costs.

“Poor driving habits, such as speeding and rapid starts and stops, also can cost a driver as much as $900 a year in gas,” McAlavy said.

Since 2002, TxDOT’s “Drive Clean Across Texas” campaign — now known as “Drive Clean Texas” — has urged drivers to take simple steps to keep their vehicle in shape to reduce emissions that affect our state’s air quality, TxDOT officials said.

“To use “Roadcents,” visit DriveCleanTexas.org, create an account and enter vehicle information,” McAlavy said. “The website offers additional ideas on reducing air pollution and saving money at the gas pump.”