Leon Panetta: Cyber Warfare Could ‘Paralyze Our Nation’

    It was another week of the endless winter, with a few warmer days thrown in, and no huge IT or telecommunications story. We did have, however, a nice mix of meaningful news and solid commentary. Here are some highlights:

    Panetta Fears Cyber Warfare

    Part of being the former secretary of anything in the U.S. government is a pretty high-profile megaphone. People listen to these folks, especially if the individual was the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA Leon Panetta, who held those posts from 2009 to 2013 (the first two years with the CIA and the last two at Defense).

    Panetta, speaking at a Symantec Government Symposium on the dangers of cyber warfare, said that a “cyber Pearl Harbor” is possible that could “devastate our critical infrastructure and paralyze our nation,” according to Computerworld. He called it the “the most serious threat in the 21st century.”

    Panetta’s dramatic words no doubt were aimed at waking people up. Let’s hope he succeeded. The piece ended with a comment by Panetta on the need to educate citizens about the dangers.

    Nebraskan Businesses Like Broadband

    Broadband is a hit among Nebraskan businesses. The Nebraska Information Technology Commission sent a survey last autumn to 10,000 businesses. CivSource said that there was a net increase among the 1,124 responding businesses of 654 jobs, more than half of which were attributed to use of the Internet. Revenues by respondents were said to rise between 25 percent and 45 percent. CivSource commented on the importance of the survey:

    The results are notable as there are some early efforts to potentially undermine this growth. CivSource previously reported on a city council resolution in Nebraska City that would limit municipal broadband which can be an important means of maintaining momentum around broadband expansion, even while major local hubs like Omaha ramp up.

    Twenty-nine percent of the respondents use cable company-based connections, 24 percent use DSL and 19 percent have direct fiber. About a quarter, however, lack broadband speeds in one direction.

    Sprint Backs Mobile Health Care Startups reports that Sprint has named 10 companies to its mobile health accelerator program. The accelerator, which is run in conjunction with Techstars, can mean as much as $120,000 in funding in the form of $20,000 upfront and $100,000 in Sprint-funded convertible debt.

    The startups: Akibah, Fitbark, Lifeline Response, Medicast, Ollo Mobile, Prime, Sickweather,, Tenacity Health and Yosko.

    Contactless Payments to Triple

    Juniper Research released a study this week that predicts more than 9.9 billion annual contactless payments via mobile devices by 2018, more than tripling the 3 billion that will be conducted this year.

    Host card emulation (HCE) and the launch of the iWallet from Apple will spur growth, the researchers said. HCE can reduce time to market and enable banks to manage customers without partnering with a mobile carrier. The company said that the release of the iWallet in the fourth quarter of this year “is looking increasingly likely.”

    A Simpler Fingerprint Reader

    And, finally, comes a story about easing the process for providing a high level of security. BloombergBusinessweek starts its story about IDair’s fingerprint sensor technology by describing the seemingly complex way in which Apple engineers the Touch ID, a feature of the iPhone 5. IDair is a Huntsville, Alabama-based startup that has simplified things considerably:

    IDair’s technology uses the existing cameras on smartphones, coupled with its own software, to take pictures of users’ fingers and pull their fingerprints from these files. The process relies on an algorithm the company has patented, which turns the image into a useful means of identification.

    The technology behind IDair’s system initially was developed by Advanced Optical Systems.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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