Pentagon flash drive ban has exceptions – of course

The Pentagon has granted many exceptions, possibly numbering in the thousands, to allow staff members who administer secure computer networks to use flash drives and other portable storage devices, department spokesmen say.

The exceptions to policies barring the use of such devices could make it easier for rogue employees to remove sensitive documents. But officials say waivers go to people who update software and run helpdesk services for the Pentagon’s vast computer network and are needed to run the system efficiently.

The U.S. government’s handling of sensitive documents has come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden, a systems administrator for a contractor with the National Security Administration, copied classified materials at a Hawaii installation and leaked them to the news media.

Snowden used a simple flash drive to store the materials, according to a government source close to the investigation.

Storage devices have been a concern at the Defense Department since the 2008 Buckshot Yankee incident, in which a malicious software worm known as agent.btz was uploaded to military networks by a thumb drive.

Then-Deputy Secretary Bill Lynn declassified the incident in 2010 and U.S. Cyber Command, which was established in the wake of Buckshot Yankee, banned the devices…

Cyber Command, cripes? Do you have to be a graduate of Star Trek Academy?

Since then, the Pentagon has bolstered efforts to prevent removal of classified data, Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory said. The department is in 100 percent compliance with directives to disable or tightly control use of removable media devices on the Pentagon’s secure network, he said…

While use of flash drives is largely barred, exceptions are granted to systems administrators who install software and manage helpdesk services for the department’s millions of computers and nearly 600,000 mobile devices in some 15,000 networked groups.

Decisions on who gets waivers are made by colonels or generals who have been granted that authority for their installations, brigades or other units, Pentagon officials said.

If your local bank is anything like mine the USB ports on all the computers are crazy glued shut. All IT maintenance is done on the network which maintains strict records and protocols governing who is accessing what. Banks have to be as secure as possible. The military get to talk about it. Congressional multitasking is chewing gum and checking online banking to see if the check has arrived from your favorite lobbyist.

I have no doubt that the system in Pentagon – left in the hands of people whose qualification is rank rather than ability – having a computer on your desktop that has flash drive access has already become a sign of status. You’re too important to be regulated by geeks.

Former Oregon candidate for governor pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme fraud

Former Oregon gubernatorial candidate Craig Berkman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to defrauding investors by persuading them he could use their money to buy shares of Facebook before the company’s May 2012 initial public offering.

Berkman, a Republican who ran for governor in 1994, admitted he told investors he had access to scarce pre-IPO shares of Facebook as well as LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga.

Instead, Berkman used investors’ money to make payments to earlier investors – a classic Ponzi scheme – and to pay personal expenses, including $6 million in a personal bankruptcy case…

Berkman pleaded guilty to one charge of securities fraud and one charge of wire fraud. Each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“I deeply regret my actions,” a weeping Berkman, wearing beige jail scrubs, said at the hearing on Tuesday. “I’ve devastated my family.” He apologized to his investors, saying some of them were “dear, dear friends…”

Berkman had long been active in Oregon politics and served for a time as the head of the state’s Republican Party. He lost in the Republican primary for governor in 1994. He explored a bid for governor in 2002…

Berkman’s guilty plea culminates what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had called a “recidivist history.”

In 2001, the Oregon Division of Finance and Securities issued a cease-and-desist order and a $50,000 fine against Berkman for offering and selling convertible promissory notes without a brokerage license, according to the SEC.

In 2008, an Oregon jury found Berkman liable in a private action for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion of investor funds, and misrepresentation to investors, related to his involvement with a firm called Synectic Ventures.

Folks invested money with this crook without checking up on his reputation? No one noticed his criminal history? Not even those “dear, dear friends” that he screwed?

There are significant differences between gullibility and accepting something at face value. As gamblers say – “you trust your friends but you cut the cards!”

How foods are sized affects how much we eat

Professors Just and Warsink sharing lunch

Portions, such as 8, 12 or 16 ounces – are given different labels – small, medium or large – at different restaurants.

However, how a portion is described size-wise impacts how much we eat and how much we’re willing to pay for our food, reports a new study from Cornell…

The research shows that consumers use such labels to dictate how much food they think is a “normal” portion, and then adjust their intake accordingly. “People are willing to pay more for a portion that sounds larger, but they also are apt to eat more of an enormous portion if they believe it is ‘regular’ to do so,” said David R. Just, associate professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics. Just conducted the study with Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing at Cornell. Both are affiliated with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

In their study, the researchers served study participants either one or two cups of spaghetti, for example. For some participants, the small and large portions were labeled “half-size” and “regular,” respectively, giving the impression that the larger two-cup portion was the norm. For other participants, the same portions were labeled “regular” and “double-size” – implying that the smaller one-cup portion was the norm.

“These varying concepts of ‘regular’ portions made all the difference in how much people would spend and subsequently eat,” said Just. “Participants ate much more when their portion was labeled “regular” than when it was labeled “double-size.” In fact, participants who thought their portion was “double-size” left 10 times the food on their plate…”

The huge impact of size labels suggests that both consumers and producers could benefit from standardization of food size-labeling,” said Wansink. “Clearly defining the actual amount of food in a ‘small’ or a ‘large’ would inform customers of just how much food they are ordering every time they ask for a certain size. Until then, take the time to think about what portion you’re really getting when you order your standard ‘medium’ meal.”

Resistance to gullible decision-making ain’t a strong suit when eating out, I guess. Are people so easily controlled?