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Navigating the hazards of information security in new world of working from home April 29, 2020

Posted by jimstafford in Personal entry.
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OCAST interview with Crowe & Dunlevy from OCAST on Vimeo.

 

Editor’s Note: Along with my colleague Debbie Cox from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), I recently had the opportunity to interview Elliot Anderson, an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, about steps needed to ensure information and communications are secure in home and remote working locations. This is my report.

Back in the olden days, Elliot Anderson had only the foggiest notion what a “Zoom” meeting was. We’re talking way back there, maybe as far back as February 2020.

Anderson is an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, one of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest law firms. He provides legal counsel in business disputes, contract litigation, oil and gas matters, and securities and insurance disputes.

Like the rest of the business world, Anderson’s job meant that he drove to work every day and practiced as a litigator in Crowe’s office in downtown Tulsa. Or maybe in a courtroom.

Then the pandemic happened.

The Coronavirus shut millions of workers out of their offices and forced them to work remotely from home. It’s no different for Crowe and its team of attorneys and support staff.

Most days now, Anderson works from the home he shares with his wife and four children.

And he’s learned how to navigate the world of work from home and remote business meetings through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.

“I didn’t really know what Zoom was until the school sent all the kids home and, suddenly, the kids were experts at Zoom because they’re meeting with teachers, studying with friends, taking drum lessons, ballet lessons, dance lessons,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s role with the law firm also includes loss prevention and data security. So, I took the opportunity over a Microsoft Teams virtual interview to ask him about maintaining a secure working environment while working remotely.

Turns out, he’s had a brush with the hazards of online meetings through one of his children. An uninvited guest crashed one of his daughter’s Zoom meetings as she took a virtual dance lesson.

“Nothing inappropriate happened, but this was a random adult person who decided they wanted to crash the party and learn some dance steps,” he said. “I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”

So, how do you ensure your meeting and your data is secure while on an online platform?

“Zoom was designed to be open and easy, as easy as walking into a hotel lobby and talking to someone,” he said. “But it turns out it was just about as private. Microsoft Teams and Skype are alternatives and are a little harder to access with more barriers to entry. There are definitely concerns there, and making sure you are in a secure environment is important.”

Anderson suggested an even more secure method. Make an old-fashioned telephone call instead.

“I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”

Here are some other suggestions Anderson has for the work-from-home crowd during the pandemic:

Make sure it’s a secure environment: “I live in a household with my wife and four kids, and at any given moment when I’m conducting business online, people are walking through the room. If I’m on a phone call I have to lock the door to keep my kids out. Making sure that you have a secure environment and can control who’s in there to see what you are doing or hear what you are doing is important. If I’m on the phone at my house working on a call, I don’t just have four kids and a wife in the house, if my kid is taking a drum lesson I basically have the drum instructor in the house too.”

Elliot P. Anderson

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure a secure connection: “Sometimes people will think, ‘well, it’s too much trouble to go through all that hassle of logging into my secure environment. I’ll just email this from my work account to my Gmail. I’ll work on it on my home computer and email it back.’ But the copy you worked on, on your home computer is still there if you didn’t remember to delete it and then empty the trash. And things like that accumulate over time. We all have old work stuck like barnacles to our home computer, and when the computer ages out you will give it to a kid or donate it to a church or a charity. That data that you didn’t even know was on there gets out and you don’t have control of it anymore.”

Don’t throw away documents at home: “I’ve had to remind the other lawyers in my firm a couple times, because we can’t do everything online, some things need to be printed, something need to be typed out and read. Then we generate garbage. When we generate paper waste at the office, we just put it in the shred bin and don’t worry about it. But at home, just this morning I found myself with two copies of an old document that I didn’t need. I can’t throw confidential information away in my kitchen trash and I shouldn’t put it in the recycle bin. What we tell our employees to do is keep a box or folder at home of any sort of office trash you are generating and save it there until your next trip up to the office and you can throw it in the shred bin.

Dress for success, even for a Zoom meeting from home: ‘When I’m preparing for a meeting online, I remember the words of a senior attorney who mentored me. He said ‘casual dress leads to casual thinking.’ He very much took the position that if you take the effort to make yourself look like a professional, your work is going to be more professional. And I think with an online meeting it’s exactly the same. If my plan is to roll into the business meeting at the last minute with pajama pants and a Velcro tie, well, … if I’m neglecting my appearance, I probably haven’t built in enough time to pay attention to other things, too.”

Final thoughts: “Working remotely has been a big adjustment for everyone who has had to do it. By and large, I think that everyone who has had to do this is far better at it now than they were a month ago. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. But I think it’s more important now than ever to slow down and be careful and be deliberate. When you are in a remote environment when you might be in a house with children or you might be in a car in the drive-thru line or you might be waiting your turn outside at Walmart until enough people come out so that you can walk in, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to security and be aware of who’s listening or may be able to get access to your information.”

IMMY brings new tools to state fight against Coronavirus April 22, 2020

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OCAST interview with IMMY about COVID-19 testing from OCAST on Vimeo.

 
Editor’s note: I recently was invited to a virtual meeting with Sean Bauman, Ph.D., CEO of Norman’s IMMY, and facilitated by Debbie Cox of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). This is the report I filed after the Zoom interview.

When the Coronavirus pandemic made its way to Oklahoma in March, the state’s ability to test suspected COVID-19 virus infections in Oklahomans was limited by the number of tests available to health care providers.

And when patients were tested, health care providers had to wait days for results to be returned from out-of-state laboratories.

“The turnaround time was just a big problem,” said Sean Bauman, Ph.D., president and CEO of IMMY (Immuno-Mycologics, Inc.), a diagnostic manufacturing company based in Norman. Bauman recently joined OCAST’s governing board, the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development (OSTRaD) Board.

“You have a patient sitting in a hospital, and you are having to don and doff Personal Protection Equipment numerous times a day to care for that patient,” Bauman said. “And to get a COVID negative result three to five days later, you can imagine how much the wasted PPE costs.”

So, IMMY stepped up to develop a solution at its Norman laboratories. It developed and validated a nasal swab-based test known as PCR that allowed laboratories to provide results in a matter of hours.

“We dove in and literally from idea to reporting our first test result was 10 days,” Bauman said. “Crazy fast.”

But not crazy as in sloppy or low quality, Bauman clarified. IMMY was able to quickly develop its own test because it is an FDA and ISO manufacturing facility in a highly regulated industry. Its 85 employees are skilled professionals capable of overcoming challenges to develop a test to FDA standards.

“The other thing that happened, we had an incredible partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Health,” Bauman said. “They were fantastic, helped us get up-and-running as fast as we could. Just a great story of partnership.”

Gov. Stitt visits IMMY labs in Norman (photo from News9 video)

IMMY since has added a blood test for COVID-19 antibodies, which can confirm if a person has had the coronavirus and is potentially immune to further infection.

Bauman was part of Gov. Stitt’s recent press conference announcing the implementation of testing for COVID-19 antibodies. Stitt also toured IMMY’s Norman campus. 

“This is actually an important test, in my opinion, because Oklahoma is now in a unique position, with both the antibodies test and the PCR test at our disposal,” he said. “So, two tools in the tool belt.”

IMMY’s tests were part of a random sampling of 1,000 Oklahomans in early April to assess how widespread the virus is across the state. The sampling revealed that approximately 1.4 percent of the Oklahoma population had the virus at that time.

So, what does that mean?

“At that point in time, I think the conclusion from the study was that COVID-19 is just not in the general population to any large extent,” he said.

Bauman recommends random sampling across the state for COVID-19 at weekly intervals.

“Now that we have these two tools at our disposal we can start to ask different questions,” he said. “When is it safe for people to go back to work? When is it safe to relax some of the restrictions on people being out and in the community? Lots of different questions are going to be ask in the coming weeks and days.”

Precious memories in black-and-white April 14, 2020

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was looking through stacks of old black-and-white photos at my grandmother’s house. It was a trip back through the decades before I was born, seeing my grandparents as young adults and ancestors I never had the opportunity to meet.

In my mind, I  can still hear my Grandmother say “Daddy, get the Kodak” whenever there was a photo opportunity at a family gathering. Those “Kodak moments” created some precious memories.

So, now I’m an adult with a stack of old photos of my own. And this past weekend I pulled a couple of my favorites out of the digital drawer and posted them on Facebook in honor of my late father’s birthday and for “Sibling Day,” as if that’s really a thing.

The two photos I posted are the favorite snapshots in my possession.

The one posted at the top of this blog post is No. 1 on my personal hit parade. It was taken (by my grandfather, I think) at the Fort Smith, Ark., airport moments before my mother, sister and I boarded a Braniff Airways turboprop to begin our journey to the island of Okinawa.

I told my mother that I loved this photo because of all it represents. Traveling 8,000 miles to join my father, who was in the military and stationed on the island. We would live there for about 18 months. I would begin high school at an American school for military dependents on the island.

There’s more. All three of us were dressed in our Sunday best like we were headed to church on Easter because that’s how you traveled in those days. At least in our family. I’ve never let my mother forget that she made me travel 8,000 miles in a suit coat and clip-on tie.

The second photo, posted to the left, shows my dad and me in the front yard of our home at Fort Buckner, on the island. It was military housing, with my dad’s name and rank posted near the front door.

I don’t remember the circumstances of the photo. It’s obviously early in the morning because of the shadows. I’m clowning by putting my dad’s pipe in my mouth as we pose. Ha ha. But it’s a moment of time that I now cherish more than 50 years later.

The point of all this is that these two photos have motivated me to find those old photos that were my grandmother’s and digitize as many of them as possible.

I want to share those precious memories with my children and grandchildren.