Ukrainian Hacker Strikes Again. Creepy Hacker Community Compromises Apple iCloud.

A wave of high profile security breaches was recently discovered, potentially affecting millions of people. Each attack had a unique footprint, giving us an interesting glimpse into the scary world of cyber crime.

Somewhere in the PR offices of the Goodwill, the Department of Health and Human Services, and The Home Depot, a crisis-management specialist is enjoying a small moment of thanks. On the one hand, they’ve probably had a pretty terrible week, dealing with the press and trying to explain the causes and impacts of major security breaches within their organizations. On the other hand, they are probably considering themselves lucky. They know that the best way to divert attention away from their own crises is for another, more interesting crisis to hit at the same time.  Fortunately for them, their unspoken prayers were answered. At the same time stories broke about their breaches, it was revealed that naked photographs of high profile, female celebrities were stolen from Apple’s iCloud service.  Hacking + Apple + celebrities + naked selfies = a four-of-a-kind in the tech news world, and trumps even news about a security breach that might be bigger than Target’s 2013 attack. Let’s face it, Jennifer Lawrence has a lot more charisma than Home Depot credit card numbers.

Although this string of hacks might have been an unexpected deus ex machina for a few lucky PR professionals, for the rest of us, it’s a really scary series of events that forces us to take a step back and ask the question: is anything safe online? Let’s review each of these breaches and see what we can learn from them so we can be better protected ourselves in cyber space.

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Self-Organizing Kilobots Attack!

Harvard University recently developed swarm-intelligent micro-bots that can self-organize and accomplish simple tasks. This is a great illustration of the possibilities of emergent phenomenon.

Harvard researchers developed a system of 1,024 micro-robots that move using vibration and can self-organize to accomplish simple tasks, like forming the shape of a wrench or a star. The swarm system is based on biological systems (like ants!) who display complex behavior by following a handful of simple rules. The feat was considered a breakthrough due to the large number of bots in the swarm. Previous micro-bot swarms were less than 100.

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CIA’s Top Security Innovator Proposes Some Ideas That Are Crazy Enough to Work

Dan Geer, the top security chief at the CIA’s VC firm In-Q-Tel, gave a thought provoking keynote at this year’s Black Hat security conference, arguing that thoughtful government regulation was the best hope for shoring up our cyber defense. He may just be right.

The Iconoclast

Dan Geer has never been one to walk away from a fight. In 2003, he was fired from security firm @Stake after authoring a report released by the Computer and Communications Industry Association arguing that Microsoft’s monopoly over of the desktop was a national security threat. Given that Microsoft was a client of @Stake at the time, it’s not a shocker that he didn’t make employee of the month. Somewhat humorously, in an interview with Computerworld after the incident, Dan remarked, “It’s not as if there’s a procedure to check everything with marketing.”  Somehow I think a guy with degrees from MIT and Harvard didn’t need to check-in with marketing to gauge what his firm’s reaction to the paper would be.

Fortunately for the Black Hat audience (and those of us who watched the presentation online), Dan continued to live up to his reputation. He outlined a 10-point policy recommendation (well summarized here) for improving cyber security. In the preamble leading up to the policy recommendations, he made two key points that provide critical support for his policy argument:

  1. The pace of technology change is happening so quickly now that security generalists can no longer keep up. Highly specialized security experts and governments are now needed to protect our information assets.
  1. If you want to increase information security, you have to be pragmatic and willing to make compromises. As Dan succinctly put it: “In nothing else is it more apt to say that our choices are Freedom, Security, Convenience—Choose Two.”

These points are important to keep in mind when listening to his presentation because they provide critical context for his potentially unpalatable policy recommendations.

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Traditional Project Management is 100 Years Old. It’s Time to Upgrade.

Project management as it’s practiced today is a throwback from the industrial revolution and it hinders innovation in today’s fast-paced, digitally-disruptive world. Agile project management is its logical successor, but managers need to embrace it as more than just a software methodology.

This is the third article in a 3-part series:
1. Is Your Company Operating from an Industrial-Era Playbook?
2. Why Performance-Based Compensation Doesn't Work
3. Traditional Project Management Needs and Upgrade (This article)

Don’t worry—we’ve all done it. If fact, most of us are still are doing it. Actually, most of us are doing it and still think it’s okay to do it.

No, I’m not talking about sneaking in a little TMZ while we’re at work. I’m talking about using Microsoft Project or Excel to make a project plan—something far worse for productivity than the worker time lost by following the latest celebrity break-ups.

Okay, I admit it: I use Microsoft Project Gantt charts at POP for planning small internal projects. And this isn’t really a problem because the time horizon for these projects is short, the complexity manageable, the impact of delays relatively minor, and the amount of uncertainty fairly limited. In short, it’s a simple tool for a simple problem.

But what happens when the project gets more complicated? When the environment in which the product operates is constantly changing? When deliverables are complex and require significant collaboration across teams and partners? When money is on the line and people’s careers hang in the balance? That’s when the Gantt chart starts to break down.

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Welcome to the 21st Century: Why Performance-Based Compensation Doesn’t Work Today

The science is crystal clear: performance-based compensation hasn’t worked for decades. So why is business still addicted to it?

This is the second article in a 3-part series:
1. Is Your Company Operating from an Industrial-Era Playbook?
2. Why Performance-Based Compensation Doesn't Work (This article)
3. Traditional Project Management Needs and Upgrade

Almost all companies today have a compensation program for at least some employees based on performance. From CEOs who are awarded bonuses for hitting a target share price to bike messengers who are paid by the delivery, performance-based compensation is widespread today.

Clearly, given the ubiquity of performance-based compensation, one would assume that a great of deal of research has been conducted to assess the efficacy of this model. Why would all of these smart business leaders follow practices that don’t work? That would be crazy. And if you made that assumption you would at least be partially correct: decades of research have been conducted to determine if performance-based compensation works. The problem is that, according to author Alfie Kohn writing for the Harvard Business Review, the research all confirms the opposite conclusion:

As for productivity, at least two dozen studies over the last three decades have conclusively shown that people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task or for doing that task successfully simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all.

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Is Your Company Unwittingly Operating from an Industrial-Era Playbook?

Many core business practices commonplace today are rooted in techniques developed during the turn of the twentieth century and are hindering companies from staying competitive in a business environment characterized by extreme uncertainty.

This is the first article in a 3-part series:
1. Is Your Company Operating from an Industrial-Era Playbook? (This article)
2. Why Performance-Based Compensation Doesn't Work
3. Traditional Project Management Needs and Upgrade

A natural result of human evolution is the desire for man to establish control over the world around him. Ever since the earliest days of civilization, long before science, man conducted rituals to foretell the future and performed ceremonies to control the environment. Fortunately for us, we learned a thing or two along the way, developed science, and switched from rain dances to irrigation systems.

In fact, we were so successful using science to control our world, it was only a matter of time before we applied scientific principles to business. In the early 1900s, management pioneers like Fredrick Taylor, Henri Fayol and Henry Gantt led the charge. Taylor, acknowledged as the father of scientific management, realized that factory workers became more productive when their compensation was tied to their output, and thus developed the concept of piece rates. Fayol, considered the father of modern business administration and project management, defined the five essential functions of project management:

  1. To forecast and plan
  2. To organize
  3. To command or direct
  4. To coordinate

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Never Ending Digital Disruption is the New Normal

Technological change is increasing at a such crazy pace, the disrupters themselves are facing existential threats from new upstarts. How can established companies hope to compete in this new world of constant change?

The rate at which technology is advancing is increasing at an exponential rate. At first glance, this is not new news. We all know that technology is changing quickly. The Internet came along and transformed the business landscape. Old guard companies like Blockbuster (est. 1985), Tower Records (est. 1960), Newsweek (est. 1933), Barnes & Noble (est. 1873) and Best Buy (est. 1966) got hammered. Then came the iPhone. The era of the smart phone began.

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