Off the record…

header_person2Off the record. Three words no reporter ever wants to hear. Unless the information in return makes the bargain worthwhile.

When I walked into the Journal of Law & Cyber Warfare one-day symposium in New York City, those were the first three words I heard. Nothing said at the conference could appear in a story, a tweet or even a text message. Unless I later obtained the speaker’s permission.


Daniel Garrie, founding editor of the Journal of Law & Cyber Warfare, (left) and Mitchell Silber, executive managing director of K2 Intelligence, talk during a rare on-the-record moment.

What at first seemed a burden turned into a blessing. Experts at the event talked freely about the fears that keep them up at night. It’s stuff that would keep up many Americans too, if they knew about it. That has been my driving objective with the ongoing Cyber Rattling series: Making people aware of the large, and rapidly growing, cyber threat.

As it turned out, I was able to talk with many of the experts in on-the-record conversations. And I was able to turn out this story about the potential for cyber warfare. The lines between cyber criminal acts and state-sponsored attacks are becoming blurry. More stories will turn up in the coming weeks and months as I continue to expand my coverage of this topic.


Whirl finds fashion to go

I enjoy taking my students into the community to meet with local, working journalists. Christine and Jack Tumpson have been gracious to talk several times about how they have built a publishing powerhouse around Whirl and Edible Allegheny magazines. Starting this month, they are running some of the students’ best stories on their newly redesigned website. Reporter Emily Bastaroli found this gem on four wheels…

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. Photograph from Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. By Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

A blue blouse with glimmering gold buttons hangs on a rack of colorful, unique clothing outside the Style Truck, enticing shopper Brittany Bauer to take a closer look. Inside, the truck holds even more fashion treasures, from patterned dresses and sweaters, to workout gear, handmade jewelry, and handbags. A “cat dress” catches Bauer’s eye.

“It’s just so cute and unique,” says Bauer. “There’s a big variety — something I could wear, something my mother could wear. The prices are good. I know I’m getting good quality. I know I’ll get a good wear out of [the clothes].”

The Style Truck, typically parked near 23rd Street and Penn Avenue in the Strip District, is one of four “fashion mobiles” launched in Pittsburgh. Owner Jackee Ging of Scott Township was one of the first to stake a claim on this trend. After seeing a New York City fashion truck in InStyle Magazine a year ago, Ging decided to start one in her city. She “pimped out” her truck to resemble a boutique with cabinets built into both sidewalls, shelves for jewelry displays, a fitting room, and hardwood floors. “It seems to be a trend popping up in different cities,” says Ging. “I thought the idea was brilliant.”

To read more of the story, click here. It also appears on the Point Park News Service.

Cyber Bonnie & Clyde target banks online

The bank robbers drove around New York City for more than 10 hours, collecting some $2.4 million — from ATM machines. They posed for selfies with the cash.

The financial industry’s global electronic networks mean that banks are as secure only as their weakest computer links. A tech-savvy Bonnie or Clyde could exploit vulnerabilities to log into a bank’s computer systems from a distant country with little chance of getting caught and seemingly endless targets.  Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Banks are as secure only as their weakest computer links. A tech-savvy Bonnie or Clyde could exploit vulnerabilities. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

But the real theft took place earlier, 7,800 miles away in India. Hackers cracked into a financial outsourcing company there, resetting software to allow unlimited withdrawals and clearing the way for robbers to withdraw $40 million from ATMs worldwide.

Because of the financial industry’s global electronic networks, even the most secure institutions are as strong only as their weakest international computer links.

Check out the latest investigation in the Trib’s Cyber Rattling series on computer security.