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Mobile Spyware And Why You Should Be Concerned

Technology is truly a marvel, and like many “marvels” it can be used for good and evil. Apparently, the good folks at our mobile carriers are very interested in what you do with your mobile/smart phone. Consensual Data Capture is one thing, spying…. yes spying is another. No this isn’t a three-letter government agency doing this, but our mobile carriers or literally anyone else who happens to buy the right software to access the embedded spyware.

It was bad enough that “certain” organizations were tracking Black Friday shoppers without their knowledge in malls via their mobile/smart phones, but now we are learning about a new and very disturbing revelation around the amount of data, communication, and PII (Personally Identifiable Information) mobile carriers are collecting, whose using it, and how they are collecting it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for ways in which to drive and capture consensual consumer behavior, KPI’s, market metrics, and behavior to help drive more effective solutions, services, usage, and strategies, but the consumer should be informed AND give their consent to allow the capture and usage of this information. Apparently, this is not the case here.

Remember when Apple was tracking people’s location movements via their iPhone’s and cataloging the data? This is way worse. Of course, Apple was forced to stop that practice. But this new embedded spyware? If you own a non-Apple smart phone you should check out this disturbing article. So far, it effects 100 million of you. Even you do own an Apple iPhone, you should still check it out. This could still be happening with your iPhone.We just don’t know yet.

-DF

Tens of Millions of Smartphones Come With Spyware pre-installed, Security Analyst Says

Over 100 million smartphones are tracking their owners’ every step, Android developer Trevor Eckhart claimed, thanks to software that comes pre-installed on phones from most major carriers.

During a security demonstration revealed on Monday, Eckhart showed how software developed by Carrier IQ tracks virtually everything a user does — going as far as logging individual keystrokes and button presses. The company claims it helps its customers improve quality and performance “by counting and measuring operational information in mobile devices.” Security experts call it spyware.

“I assume that when I SMS my wife on the phone, no one is intercepting that message,” Chet Wisniewski of security firm Sophos told FoxNews.com. He called the whole ordeal is a “serious invasion of privacy.”

“Why do they need to know when I’m logging into Bank of America, when I’m accessing my password? It’s a different level of snooping,” he said.

Developed as a mobile analytics platform, Carrier IQ’s software can be found on most Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones — over 140 million phones in total, the company’s website boasts. Some reports suggest Apple iPhones may carry the software as well.

The company has flat out denied that its software records keystrokes, a claim Eckhart’s latest video seems to refute.

“Every button you press in the dialer before you call,” Eckhart says in his latest video, “it already gets sent off to the IQ application.”

Eckhart did not return FoxNews.com phone calls, and Carrier IQ declined to comment on his claims. A statement on the company’s website reiterates the company’s claims that its software does not track customers or record keystrokes.

“This information is used by our customers as a mission critical tool to improve the quality of the network, understand device uses and ultimately improve the user experience,” the company said. By evaluating these metrics, Carrier IQ aims to help with issues such as “dropped calls and battery drain.”

In videos showing Carrier IQ at work, Eckhart showed it going beyond such utilitarian monitoring. He showed Carrier IQ’s software monitoring entire text messages, a Google search, and his location, even during sessions protected by HTTPS, a security protocol that encrypts communications for sensitive transactions like online banking.

Sprint has acknowledged using Carrier IQ’s software, but denies having access to personal data.

“Carrier IQ provides information that allows Sprint, and other carriers that use it, to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service,” Sprint told CNET earlier this month. “We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool,” Sprint continued.

While Wisniewski understands the needs for data and metrics, he believes carriers must be more forthcoming about how they are monitoring their users, what data they are collecting, and how they are protecting that data.

“If you’re going to collect that kind of information from people, you have to meet a different standard,” Wisniewski told FoxNews.com.

But for now, most users are stuck, unable to even turn off or uninstall the program.

“The Carrier IQ application is embedded so deeply in the device that it can’t be fully removed without rebuilding the phone from source code,” Eckhart wrote on his website.

“Even where a device is out of contract, there is no off switch to stop the application from gathering data.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/12/01/is-your-smartphone-secretly-spying-on/#ixzz1fJJ3Zfhk

Written by David Frederick

December 1, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Keeping Your Project On Track

Don’t you hate it when you get those pop up messages that tell you a task, item, project or activity is late? Some software applications give you a color key to tell you and your team you’re late – Red, Yellow, Orange and Green. Others give you a cute smiley face, sad face or a grimace. That’s because a project plan and managing that plan is all about staying on track. Especially if there are interlocking, parallel and contingent based activities in your plan or workflow. In fact, the most common problem in managing projects big and small, is falling behind schedule.

As we all know, it’s difficult to avoid delays. Especially when there many moving parts in the project or the project movement/activity is tied to others contributing, but you can often improve your situation and still complete the project on time by using some common sense methods.

Try one of these three approaches before accepting the inevitability of defeat or a project hold up:

  • Use the end to recover. Look at the long-term plan. Find places later in the schedule where you can make up for lost time. Even better, build in areas of recovery in your project plan. I have yet to see a project plan that executes to plan and time allocation. Ever!
  • Narrow the scope. Focus on the true goal and end result. Eliminate nonessential elements to reduce cost and save time.
  • Keep your plan fluid. There will always be factors that impact your plan. Ensure your plan is fluid enough to absorb disruption. If your plan is to rigid, you will be knocked completely off course with little chance of full recovery. See the first bullet.
  • Renegotiate with stakeholders. Explore alternatives. Discuss the possibility of increasing the budget or extending deadlines to keep the project on track. Regrettably, this is a solution or tactic of absolute last resort. There is almost never enough money or time to increase the budget without consequences to the project AND your career. Ever. You should have planned better. Deadlines are tricky things in that they are almost always driven by multiple and competing interests –  clients (internal and external), departments, manufacturing, marketing, etc. Again, you should have planned better. Remember, make sure you are not tied to the stake before you put the stake in the ground on deadlines and budget!

As you know, there are millions of books on project management as well as an equal number of frameworks and methodologies. Be sure to use a methodology that suits your project. Use common sense. You would be surprised what a little common sense can do to keep you on track.  You can also check out this interesting article on keeping your projects on track. It has some interesting ideas.

Guide To Project Management

by Loren Gary, Gary Klein, Ron Ashkenas, Melissa Raffoni, Tom Cross, Jon R. Katzenbach, Douglas K. Smith, Nadim F. Matta, Ray Sheen, Clayton M. Christensen, Matt Marx, Howard H. Stevenson, Jimmy Guterman
Source: Harvard Business Review

-DF

Written by David Frederick

November 29, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Competent Management

I have been fortunate in my career to have managed some great employee teams as an executive and when I look back at what made my teams so successful I have identified several areas that have made the difference. One key area is following these tips below:

  • Trustworthy. Trust is grounded in competence and character. You should know what to do and how to do it. And, you should always do what you say you will. This should be a no brainer but all to often and regrettably, it is as foreign to managers as the chemical and mineral compounds found in martian surface soil are. What a novel idea – competence and character.
  • Influential. Your people rely on others to get their jobs done. Therefore, you need to cultivate relationships with those beyond your immediate group who make your people productive. This is especially true in larger organizations where other inter-company constituents have an impact on your employee’s performance, their success and the company’s overall success. Building solid and mutually successful relationships with other inter-company constituents will go a long way to driving success.
  • Team-focused. A good boss knows that a team is better than the sum of its parts. To bring your group together, give them a compelling purpose, clear goals and plans, and a culture of “we” not “I.” To many times management, especially those in executive management focus on “I” and not we. A strong manager and executive always fosters an environment of we both in success and failure to do otherwise injects resentment, lack of trust, lack of communication, and distance between manager and employee. Nothing can disrupt a company more than lack of purpose, goals and plans. I would also add communication to this list as well.

Properly managing people is hard. No doubt about it. But you can go a long way with some basic common sense. However, many managers seem to lack this trait. These three points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to effective and productive management. Like most things that are effective, keep it simple, clear and concise. This will go a long way to building a successful and mutually beneficial relationship with your employee team. Remember, without employee’s you don’t have a team. Without an effective leader, they don’t have management, just some jerk they report to everyday. It takes both parties to be successful personally, professionally and for your company. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone should strive for.

-DF

Written by David Frederick

July 21, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Tips For Dealing with Urgent Requests

How many times have you been told something is urgent and requires immediate attention and action? If you’re like me, it’s probably thousands of times. The one good thing about dealing with thousands of urgent requests is that is after the first 50 or so you start to realize two things. One, some things are simply not really urgent. Two, your definition of urgent is almost always different from someone else definition. So what to do?

First, understand that we live in an instant-response world where a simple push of a button can make something feel urgent. This creates a false sense of urgency. Next time you get that email with the little red exclamation point or the voicemail at 10 p.m., try these three tips for determining how to respond:
1: Don’t assume urgent means right now. Talk with your boss or your customer about what he wants to accomplish and when it’s really needed. His interpretation of “immediately” may be different from yours. Many times if you simply discuss the “urgent” matter together, you can redefine the issue to a more manageable and appropriate response.

2: Respond, but don’t necessarily act. Sometimes a client or colleague wants you to commit or respond right away to a plan of action, but doesn’t need more than that in the short-term. Explain what you will do and your intended timeline to be sure that meets her needs or at minimum sets up a clear expectation.

3: Be prepared to say no. At times, you need to discern between a true crisis and a cry of wolf. Even if your customer, employee, boss, etc. thinks he needs it right now, it may be best
to simply decline. Often times when taking this approach the “urgent” issue resolves itself. Caution, this approach can sometimes upset the person who thinks this is an urgent matter. However, you should be able to tell based on your relationship what is truly “urgent” and what is cry wolf. The person may still get upset, but that is always a risk when you say no.

Hope this helps!

-DF

Written by David Frederick

July 13, 2011 at 11:28 AM

American Insourcing

OK, here is some potential good news for the resurgence of American manufacturing. Check out this article from Ben Forer at ABC news.

-DF

 Manufacturing in America: US Set for a ‘Manufacturing Renaissance’

By BEN FORER
May 13, 2011

In the next five years, the U.S. will experience a “manufacturing renaissance,” according to a new analysis.

As wages in China increase, flexible work rules and government incentives in the U.S. will make America one of the cheapest places to manufacture goods in the developed world, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis suggests.

“If the trend plays out, I think you’ll see manufacturing growing and expanding in the U.S.,” said Michael Zinser, one of the authors of BCG’s analysis on manufacturing. “What we’re expecting is that companies will step back and rethink their networks, rethink their supply chains.”

Chinese wage rates likely will continue to grow by 15 to 20 percent year over year, Zinser said. When the increase in wages is combined with the increasing value of the yuan, the wage gap between the U.S. and China is narrowing rapidly.

“China is no longer expected to be the default low-cost manufacturing location for those companies who are looking to supply the U.S. market,” Zinser told ABC News. “What we would expect to see is a convergence in terms of the wage rates to what we’re seeing in the U.S. today.”

Harold Sirkin, lead author of the analysis on manufacturing, expects the convergence to occur “by around 2015.”

“As a result of the changing economics, you’re going to see a lot more products ‘Made in the USA’ in the next five years,” said Sirkin.

Romain Wacziarg, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, sees other factors involved.

“I agree that it’s possible that manufacturing will come back, but I don’t think it’s due to rising costs in China,” he said. “I think it’s due more to the depreciation of the dollar … not that wage costs are rising in China and not the U.S.”

Currently, according to BCG, U.S. workers are three times more productive than their Chinese counterparts. But Wacziarg said the increase in wages indicates an increase in producitivy.

“It’s more expensive to use a unit of labor there [China],” he said, “but that unit of labor is getting more productive.”

As wages in China rise, Zinser said, some companies may decide to manufacture in the U.S., though others will look for lower wages in other countries.

But one of the advantages U.S. manufacturers have, according to BCG, is that the work force is becoming more flexible.

Kevin Sauder, president and CEO of Sauder Furniture, recently started sourcing component parts regionally, a process his purchasing team called “insourcing.”

“Supporting local and American jobs is one factor that gets considered,” Sauder told ABC News. “It’s not the main factor, but it’s one thing that gets considered. All things being equal, we would always prefer to go with a regional manufacturer. … Using regional components improved our ability to be flexible in new product development.”

The change allowed the company to get more contracts, Sauder said, because it was able to build prototypes more quickly for stores such as Walmart and Ikea because the component pieces arrived weeks earlier.

“Opportunities like that are worth a little extra money for the flexibility and speed,” said Sauder. “I think that’s where local and regional manufacturers do have an advantage … flexibility and speed to market.”

Even though the U.S. manufacturing sector maybe be poised for a comeback, Zinser cautioned that it did not mean China is on the decline.

“China is going to continue to be a major global player,” said Zinser. “China is still a large market and many companies are going to want to continue supplying that market.”

U.S. consumers should expect industries such as construction equipment and appliances to be impacted first, he said, while industries such as textiles and consumer electronics may never be affected.

“Where you have lower labor content as an overall percentage of your total costs and more modest volumes, we’d likely see those types of industries certainly having an impact sooner,” Zinser said. “For industries where you have very high volumes, higher labor content … we would expect that those are likely to stay in lower-cost environments.”

Written by David Frederick

May 17, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Media multitasking is really multidistracting

It’s an interesting topic. The self delusional idea of multitasking. There really is no such thing. What is commonly misunderstood as multitasking is really something called switching – the ability of the brain to rapidly switch from one task to another. This can happen in milliseconds and can actually seem and feel like “multitasking” but unless you have an Intel processor wired to your brain, it aint happening.

Don’t get me wrong, many people can switch so fast that is truly seems like they are multitasking, but from a physiological and cognitive/processing stand point they are not.

Further complicating the cognitive challenges of switching/multitasking is the interesting introduction of multi-media i.e. trying to type a paper and listen to music or type a report and watch TV at the same time. This brings me to an interesting article from Boston College on media multiasking. As such, I thought I would share it with you.

-DF

Media multitasking is really multidistracting

Multitaskers who think they can successfully divide their attention between the program on their television set and the information on their computer screen have proven to be driven to distraction by the two devices, according to a new study of media multitasking by Boston College researchers.

Placed in a room containing a television and a computer and given a half hour to use either device, subjects in the study on average switched their eyes back and forth between TV and computer a 120 times in 27.5 minutes, nearly once every 14 seconds.

The researchers used advanced cameras to track where research subjects were looking to understand the physical demands and likely disruption caused by switching between the television and computer.

The researchers said that the subjects were not even aware of their own actions. On average, participants in the study thought they might have looked back and forth between the two devices about 15 times per half hour. In reality, they were looking almost 10 times as often. Even if quick “glances” (less than 1.5 seconds) were removed from the equation, the subjects were still switching over 70 times per half hour.

Brasel and Gips, Egan Professor of information systems and computer science, determined that when it comes to the dominant medium in this side-by-side challenge, the computer comes out the winner, drawing the attention of the study participants 68.4 percent of the time. But neither device proved capable of holding the attention of study participants for very long, regardless of their age. The median length of gaze lasted less than two seconds for television and less than six seconds for the computer, the researchers found.

Understanding the physical behavior of multi-media multitaskers raises questions about the level of comprehension among people who switch their eyes between the devices, specifically the impact on productivity or on children doing their homework. And for companies that rely on TV or the Internet to communicate with consumers, the findings raise questions about the effectiveness of the two channels as means to garner the attention of potential customers.

Note that the study doesn’t address your cell phone, tablet, and other devices.

Ref: S. Adam Brasel, James Gips, Media Multitasking Behavior: Concurrent Television and Computer Usage, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2011; : 110307160334058 DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0350

Written by David Frederick

May 3, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Difficult Conversations and Nine Mistakes to Avoid

No one likes to have difficult conversations and no one is immune to workplace tensions: It is inevitable that you will have some trying conversations with colleagues or clients over your career. At best these conversations are unpleasant, at worst they can blow up into larger issues which have real emotional, productivity and economic impacts.

I have discussed how to improve communication in this blog numerous times. But even with the best communicators, there are still times when you will have to have a difficult conversations. As such, I wanted to share with you nine mistakes you should avoid when having a difficult conversation. By avoiding these nine mistakes, it should help you achieve a more positive outcome regardless of how tough things get.

These nine mistakes come from a great article by Sarah Green, based on Holly Weeks “Failure to Communicate“.  I think you will find this information of value and can be applied immediately.

-DF

Mistake #1: We fall into a combat mentality.
When difficult conversations turn toxic, it’s often because we’ve made a key mistake: we’ve fallen into a combat mentality. This allows the conversation to become a zero-sum game, with a winner and a loser. But the reality is, when we let conversations take on this tenor – especially at the office – everyone looks bad, and everyone loses. The real enemy is not your conversational counterpart, but the combat mentality itself. And you can defeat it, with strategy and skill.

Mistake #2: We try to oversimplify the problem.
If the subject of your argument were straightforward, chances are you wouldn’t be arguing about it. Because it’s daunting to try to tackle several issues at once, we may try to roll these problems up into a less-complex Über-Problem. But the existence of such a beast is often an illusion. To avoid oversimplifying, remind yourself that if the issue weren’t complicated, it probably wouldn’t be so hard to talk about.

Mistake #3: We don’t bring enough respect to the conversation.
The key to avoiding oversimplification is respecting the problem you’re trying to resolve. To avoid the combat mentality, you need to go further – you need to respect the person you’re talking to, and you need to respect yourself. Making sure that you respond in a way you can later be proud of will prevent you from being thrown off course if your counterpart is being openly hostile.

Mistake #4: We lash out – or shut down.
Fear, anger, embarrassment, defensiveness – any number of unpleasant feelings can course through us during a conversation we’d rather not have. Some of us react by confronting our counterpart more aggressively; others, by rushing to smooth things over. We might even see-saw between both counterproductive poles. Instead, move to the middle: state what you really want. The tough emotions won’t evaporate. but with practice, you will learn to focus on the outcome you want in spite of them.

Mistake #5: We react to thwarting ploys.
Lying, threatening, stonewalling, crying, sarcasm, shouting, silence, accusing, taking offense: tough talks can present an arsenal of thwarting ploys. (Just because you’re trying to move beyond the combat mentality doesn’t mean your counterpart is.) But you also have an array of potential responses, ranging from passive to aggressive. Again, the most effective is to move to the middle: disarm the ploy by addressing it. For instance, if your counterpart has stopped responding to you, you can simply say, “I don’t know how to interpret your silence.”

Mistake #6: We get “hooked.”
Everyone has a weak spot. And when someone finds ours – whether inadvertently, with a stray arrow, or because he is hoping to hurt us – it becomes even harder to stay out of the combat mentality. Maybe yours is tied to your job – you feel like your department doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Or maybe it’s more personal. But whatever it is, take the time to learn what hooks you. Just knowing where your vulnerable will help you stay in control when someone pokes you there.

Mistake #7: We rehearse.
If we’re sure a conversation is going to be tough, it’s instinctive to rehearse what we’ll say. But a difficult conversation is not a performance, with an actor and an audience. Once you’ve started the discussion, your counterpart could react in any number of ways – and having a “script” in mind will hamper your ability to listen effectively and react accordingly. Instead, prepare by asking yourself: 1. What is the problem? 2. What would my counterpart say the problem is? 3. What’s my preferred outcome? 4. What’s my preferred working relationship with my counterpart? You can also ask the other person to do the same in advance of your meeting.

Mistake #8: We make assumptions about our counterpart’s intentions.
Optimists tend to assume that every disagreement is just a misunderstanding between two well-intentioned people; pessimists may feel that differences of opinion are actually ill-intentioned attacks. In the fog of a hard talk, we tend to forget that we don’t have access to anyone’s intentions but our own. Remember that you and your counterpart are both dealing with this ambiguity. If you get stuck, a handy phrase to remember is, “I’m realizing as we talk that I don’t fully understand how you see this problem.” Admitting what you don’t know can be a powerful way to get a conversation back on track.

Mistake #9: We lose sight of the goal.
The key in any tough talk is to always keep sight of the goal. Help prevent this by going into conversations with a clear, realistic preferred outcome; the knowledge of how you want your working relationship with your counterpart to be; and having done some careful thinking about any obstacles that could interfere with either. (Remember, “winning” is not a realistic outcome, since your counterpart is unlikely to accept an outcome of “losing.”) If you’ve done the exercise described in Mistake #7, this should be easier. And you’ll be less likely to get thrown off course by either thwarting ploys or your own emotions.

When we’re caught off-guard, we’re more likely to fall back into old, ineffective habits like the combat mentality. If you’re not the one initiating the tough conversation, or if a problem erupts out of nowhere, stick to these basics: keep your content clear, keep your tone neutral, and keep your phrasing temperate. When disagreements flare, you’ll be more likely to navigate to a productive outcome – and emerge with your reputation intact.

You can purchase Holly’s document here!

NOTE: I have no financial interest in this document.

Written by David Frederick

April 29, 2011 at 10:29 AM