Liz Holliday

Communications Specialist
Archive for November, 2014

Exchanging Biometrics For School Lunches

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — If students in North Adams want something from the lunch line, they now must leave an impression of their finger.

The North Adams School District is now scanning fingers to identify lunch accounts in all of its schools this year, beginning next week at Greylock Elementary School.

It’s called Biometric Identification, and the district says many schools across the nation are beginning to use it instead of pin numbers or identification cards, both of which can be easily forgotten or stolen by students.

And while recent computer hackings may be fresh in parent’s minds, the district says the setup is completely encrypted and sure to protect student information — it even allows parents to track their child’s lunch purchases online.

But some parents in the district worry it is an invasion of privacy and are choosing to opt their children out.

North Adams is the first in Berkshire County to get the system, which cost about $10,000, according to Nicholas.

The director of North Adam’s Food Services, Corbett Nicholas, explains that the encrypted program works off of a grid to identify specific finger prints, converting it to binary code to be paired with the students lunch account.

The point of it all? Enabling children to always have access to their accounts, even when they forget pass codes or identification cards, and allowing parents to view the accounts in real time on the web.

And though Nicholas admits he is aware of some parent concern, he says the finger prints are never stored.

“It’s not a finger print in any way, no finger print can be recreated from the template that this software and scanner create,” he said.

YikYak And The False Bomb Attack

ALBANY, N.Y. – A bomb threat on an anonymous social networking site has led to a felony arrest of a UAlbany student.

Police at the University at Albany say they received several calls about an anonymous post on the social networking site Yik Yak, threatening to bomb the campus.

Yik Yak is a location based online application that allows users to send messages anonymously to anyone within a 1.5 mile radius of the post.

UAlbany freshman Zac Gamello says he uses Yik Yak to see what peers are talking about. As he explains, the app is similar to Twitter.

“You can just put up a quick little message and you have all different people replying to you,” said Gamello.

But while most messages are harmless, sometimes what is meant to be a joke goes too far.

“This individual probably thought that there was going to be some protection, they were going to be somewhat anonymous,” said Reg Harnish with Greycastle Security.

Harnish says those who believe they will remain anonymous are wrong. University police say they contacted Yik Yak as soon as they became aware of the threat Tuesday afternoon and were able to track the threat back to a male student within about four hours.

When it became clear the student, whose name has not been released, was not a threat, he was charged with falsely reporting a crime — a federal offense.

“I think we underestimate just how serious the impact can be,” said Harnish.

The school says this incident serves as a warning that bomb threats are never funny, something Gamello says most students already know.

“You can’t say that kind of stuff in today’s world, because there are definitely consequences and they have the technology to track it back to you,” said Gamello.

UAlbany Police were the first to admit that the Yik Yak app does have a good side, by giving students an anonymous way to talk through feelings of addiction and depression-giving them a community to support them. However, if at any point if a user threatens themselves or others, police say that is when the privilege of being anonymous will be revoked.

This most recent threat isn’t the only time the app has caused some controversy in the Capital Region. The Shenendehowa Central School District dealt with a similar online threat last month.

Cyber Security Tips In The Post Target, Home Depot Breach Era

Home depot has not confirmed a breach has been made, but is stressing that customers should be on high alert to possible fraudulent charges. The important thing to keep in mind here is that whether it’s Home Deport or Target–there are things consumer can do to keep accounts safe.

Reg Harnish has worked in the cyber security field for more than 10 years. He says while news of a possible Home Depot security breach may be the most recent, this sort of crime happens all the time.

“Potentially the point of sale devices were compromised,” Harnish, said. “Or potentially cyber criminals got in to the environment at Home Depot were able to pull credit card or debit card information there.”

But before you go cutting up your credit cards and vowing to only use cash again, Harnish says there is another way; like changing passwords every 90 days, and keeping a different password for every account you have online. Additionally he says that many website now offer a double point of entry to help keep people with stolen passwords out of your information.

“When you log into Facebook, it can send a code to your phone that you have to type in and then it has a couple more pieces of information–so for cyber criminals those websites become a lot harder to compromise,” Harnish said.

Further, he says you should always keep an eye on your accounts for fraudulent claims, weeks, months even years after a breach.

“This is not a one and done situation, you need to be checking your statements all the time, every time, and its just good practice,” Harnish said.

And though Harnish agrees that all of these steps may seem a little tedious, he says answering a few extra questions and eyeing accounts is just part of a new reality in our digital world.

“Cyber crime and cyber security is here to stay and you just need to get used to it and do something different,” he said.

We did reach out to home depot’s cooperate offices for a comment on the possible breach–but was told the company is not doing on camera interviews at this time.