Sustainable Transportation Part 2: Love at first ride. My e-bike experience.

This is the second article in my three part series on sustainable transportation.

On my quest for sustainable transportation methods, I tried out the new e-scooters and considered purchasing my own for quick trips downtown and commuting to the office.  I had also heard of the newer electric bikes and the bike shop down the street was offering free test drives and a scratch-off coupon with savings.  I love biking and I already own three bikes: a road racing bike, a mountain bike, and a commuter bike.  I mostly ride for fun and exercise.  Typically, I forgo the commute or downtown trips via bike because I don’t want to arrive to a show, dinner with friends, or to the office sweaty.  Would the e-bike be better than the e-scooter to get places in a quick, eco-friendly, and less sweaty manner?

I grabbed my helmet and headed to the bike shop on a beautiful spring day.  The bike shop sells the Trek line of e-bikes and I opted to try the Verve+ Lowstep which is built similar to my regular commuter bike.  I adjusted the seat, turned on the Bosch display and stepped up on the bike.

Within a few spins, I engaged the Bosch Active Line motor and was SOLD.  As I was riding through the parking lot towards the street, I felt as if an invisible hand was helping me along.  The Trek Verve+ is known as an electric hybrid bike, or pedal-assist.  The reason it is called an electric hybrid is because you can still use it as a regular non-electric bike with the motor off, or engage the motor for pedal assistance.  This means you still have to pedal, but you get the help of the electric motor.  Some people describe the feeling as “flattening hills” because the motor gives you the feeling or riding a flat surface when tackling a hill.

Bosch display

The Bosch Active Line motor
on the Verve+ offers 4 settings: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo, each with
increasing power.  The motor settings are
operated by the simple + and – buttons on the display by the left thumb.  You can get between 30-80 miles per charge depending
on which settings you use, weight, terrain, and other conditions such as wind.  I’ve been riding short distances (about 5
miles per day) for a week and I still have a half-full battery.  I can charge from this point to full in 1.5
hours, or from an empty battery to fill in 3.5 hours.  Charging is simple in a standard wall outlet.

The big test was the hill near my house that I trudge up in granny gear even on my lightweight road racing bike.  I wanted to see if the e-bike could help me get up the hill mostly sweat-free.  The Trek Verve+ has a 9 speed shifter, so as I headed up the hill I put the electric motor in Turbo and gradually downshifted as needed.  I made it to the top in gear 3 with relative ease.  So I headed back to the bike store and promptly handed over my credit card.  Actually, I waited the requisite 24 hours before making a big purchase, did some more research, and then went back to get it!  I saved $200 because Trek was having a sale and I had $60 in store coupons, so I added on a rear rack so I can use my panniers (saddlebags).

bike
First day commuting!

Pros:

  • Rides smooth and stable,
    feels like a luxury car
  • Easy to use electric motor
    system
  • Fenders included
  • Headlight and flashing rear
    light included
  • Hydraulic brakes
  • Bontrager outfit
  • Super quiet motor, most
    people won’t hear it
  • The lower end of the price
    range for e-bikes

Cons:

  • No regenerative braking
    to re-charge the battery on downhills and straights
  • The seat isn’t as comfy
    as my other commuting bike
  • Even though it’s at the
    lower end of the price range, it is still expensive

I chose the e-bike over
the e-scooter, even though it is a lot more expensive, for the following
reasons:

  • The e-bikes are made better and last longer
  • The ride is much smoother on the e-bike
  • The e-bike is faster
  • I can carry lots of cargo on the e-bike (laptop, food, books, etc.)
  • I feel more visible and safer in traffic on the e-bike
  • I get exercise on the e-bike

I am very happy with the e-bike
and happy to arrive sweat-free (or less sweaty) to my destination.  I tend to stay in Eco or Tour mode so I still
get a leg workout, but don’t get me wrong, I put that baby in Turbo for the
hills around here!  Now I need to go sell my non-electric commuter bike
and cancel my gym membership.

If you are not into the e-bikes, next month’s Part 3 post will be about the plug-in Prius Prime vs. Tesla Model 3. Stay tuned.

Read Sustainable Transportation Part 1: My e-scooter experience. Is it worth it?

Sustainable Transportation Part 1: My e-scooter experience. Is it worth it?

This is the first article in my three part series on sustainable transportation.

I am always looking for sustainable transportation methods so I was excited to try out the new e-scooters that recently took over the town.  Both the Lime and Bird seemingly appeared in abundance overnight.  On a beautiful spring day I grabbed my bike helmet and I decided to try them both for a trip to my office which is about 3 miles by car (and 10-15 minutes depending on traffic).

I started the day with a 15 minute walk to the location of
the closest scooter, a Bird.  It was easy
to scan the code with the app and get started. 
The Bird scooter charges $1.00 to unlock and 15 cents per minute.  The app required me to preload $10 to my account,
but I also received a free $5 credit for my first ride.  The scooter requires a manual kick-push, like
on a skateboard, to get the electronic accelerator going.  It seemed a little slow to start, but once it
got going it was pretty fast.  Both the accelerator
and brake are thumb levers and the brake was very touchy!  I had to get the hang of the thumb brake so I
wasn’t hitting it too hard.  The one hill
I encountered proved to be a challenge and about half way up I began using one
foot to “help” the scooter along, skateboard-style.  The scooter vibrated a lot from the pavement
and when I was done with my 1.8 mile ride my feet still felt like they were vibrating.  This leg of the journey was a pitstop on my
way to the office.  The 1.8 mile ride
took 15 minutes (with two long stoplights) and cost $3.42.

After my pitstop, I jumped on a Lime scooter to continue the
.9 mile ride to my office.  The Lime also
costs $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute. 
The app was easy to use and I scanned the code and got going right
away.  Lime doesn’t require a pre-loaded
dollar limit on the account.  The Lime scooter
is larger than the Bird and seemed a bit sturdier.  The brake on the lime is a hand lever, much
like a bicycle, and it took some grip strength to pull in.  Unfortunately, the scooter I was on had a
seriously wobbly handle and the ride was not smooth.  Once again I had vibrating feet when I was
done.  The .9 mile ride took 6 minutes
and cost $1.90.

My ride back home later in the afternoon was much more challenging.  First, I walked about 10 minutes to the first scooter I could find, a Lime.  However, I couldn’t get it to activate.  Luckily I was in an area that had a lot of scooters so I walked for a bit to find another one.  What ensued next was the most frustrating part of my day.  Over the course of about 20 minutes I tried 4 Lime scooters and 3 Bird scooters.  Two of them were still in use by other users, so I couldn’t use them.  None of the others would connect.  I don’t know if this was a cellular network issue or a vendor server issue but it was quite frustrating.  During this 20 minutes I was making my way on foot towards home.  Finally, I found a Lime scooter that connected and I took it the rest of the way home.  My trip home took 35 minutes (due to the walkaround/connection setback) to go 2.3 miles and it cost $4.  I found out once I got home that one of the Bird scooters and one of the Lime scooters that I tried to connect to finally connected and I got charged for that too.  I contacted customer support for both and they quickly refunded my money.

Total walk/ride to office: About .3 mile walk and 2.7 mile scoot, 36 min total, $5.32

Total walk/ride home: About a .9 mile walk and 2.3 mile scoot, 45 minutes, $4.00

Total round trip: 1 hour and 21 minutes, $9.32.

Pros:

  • Both e-scooters have easy to use apps.
  • Both e-scooters are environmentally friendly methods of transportation, although there has been some discussion on the longevity of these shared e-scooters.
  • Both apps required me take a photo of my excellent parking job, which makes me wonder why I see so many poorly parked e-scooters blocking sidewalks.
  • For occasional use, these are a great alternative method of transportation.

Cons: 

  • I found it hard to hand signal like I do on a bike.
     Taking one hand off the handlebars made
    me very unbalanced.  That may be
    something that I get used to over time. 
  • I had to be careful with turning the handlebars as
    this can throw off the balance of the scooter. 
    Leaning into turns is more effective than trying to turn the handlebars too
    much.
  • I think that a $9.32 round trip cost for about 6
    miles is expensive.  Especially if this
    is a daily mode of transportation.

Overall, I still like the concept of the e-scooter.  Owning my own e-scooter may be the way to go.  It would always be close by and available for me, I wouldn’t have any connection issues, and I can maintain it better to ensure longevity and a comfortable ride.  It costs about $500 to purchase a highly-rated foldable scooter.  I would recoup my investment in about 50 rides similar to my test ride.

If you are not into the scooters, read about my e-bike experience in Part 2!

The New Frontier of Cyber Security

Technological advances are constantly transforming the cyber security landscape with emerging threats and risks.  We are now entering a period of innovation enabling the interaction between cyber, such as smartphones and the Internet, and physical systems, such as electricity distribution, automobiles, and the human body.  These new advancements span a large breadth of industry sectors including transportation, healthcare, building and construction, manufacturing, and utilities.  The Internet of Things makes consumer level cyber physical systems a reality with smart phone connectivity for home automation and automobiles.  Cyber physical systems and the Internet of Things are founded in the collecting and sharing of data, thus creating a plethora of opportunities in big data and predictive analytics.  While cyber physical systems advances solve problems and create efficiencies through improved performance and functionality, they also open up systems to new vulnerabilities and attacks.

We are on the verge of the perfect storm of rapid modernization, workforce shortages, and aging approaches that is driving cyber security into uncharted territory.  This new era of connectivity through cyber physical systems and the Internet of Things is creating unprecedented demand for cyber security professionals.  A Stanford University study estimated 209,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., up 74% over the past 5 years.  Cisco warns that the worldwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals has exceeded 1 million.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for cybersecurity professionals to grow by 53% by 2018.  Industries that traditionally haven’t required positions for cyber security professionals are now creating dedicated cyber security teams.  The cybersecurity workforce shortage will lead to increased exploits of networks and data, many of which can be prevented with new security practices.  We’ve already seen examples of cyber attacks in this new territory including Target, Jeep Cherokee, and Bowman Dam with reactive responses instead of proactive approaches.  There is a need for cyber security professionals to create and support new approaches and models for securing cyber physical systems.  Additionally, there is a need for cyber security professionals with an understanding of big data and the analytics to process the wealth of cyber information generated by these new technologies.

The new frontier of cyber security is creating a revolutionary cyber security professional.  New roles in cyber security are emerging and will continue to grow as technology adoption increases.  These roles include data science and cyber data analytics, which involve machine learning and data mining tools such as Splunk, Hadoop, and Python.  The new cyber security professional will use data science and analytics skills to harness the vast amount of data to create new insights and stronger proactive cyber defenses.  In addition to a strong data science skillset, the new cyber security professional will possess a variety of interdisciplinary skills across technology, computer science, policy, leadership, and psychology.  Softer skillsets include communications, problem solving, creative thinking, adaptability, and autodidactism.

As we embark on this exciting new adventure of technology innovation, we are presented with a field for discovery and the opportunity to expand the boundaries of our knowledge in the new frontier of cyber security with the avant-garde cyber security professionals as our pioneers.

 

Originally published in the University of Virginia Thoughts from the Lawnhttp://alumni.virginia.edu/learn/2016/05/09/the-new-frontier-of-cyber-security/

Valentine’s Day Cyber Threats

Valentine’s day can be an emotional and stressful holiday for people.  Whether they are looking for love online or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, they can become vulnerable to Valentine’s day scams that lead to identify theft.  There are 4 main scams that are prevalent around Valentine’s day:

  1. Romance scam: Also called “catphishing”, romance scams happen any time of the year, however victims tend to be a more vulnerable and more trusting around Valentine’s day. Romance scams happen on online dating sites and chat rooms, where cyber criminals create fake identities to deceive victims. They often pretend to live abroad or to be a soldier overseas. Once the cyber attacker has convinced the victim that they are in love with them they eventually ask for money, for example to travel to visit the victim or for an emergency. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center lists romance scams as one of the Top 10 reported internet crimes. The FBI IC3 reported over $68M in total losses in the female age 40 and over category, $13M in the male age 40 and over category, and $4M in the male and female age 39 and under category.
  2. Delivery scam: Flower delivery scams are popular around Valentine’s day. Cyber criminals call or send emails to trick victims into giving out personal information and credit card information stating that they have flowers to deliver to them.
  3. Ecard scam: Valentine’s day is a very popular time for ecards and the scams that go along with them. Cyber criminals send spam emails with links to fake ecards. When the victim clicks on the ecard link it installs malicious software on their computer. This software is then used to capture personal information and other data.
  4. Good deal scam: Valentine’s day is a popular time to look for deals online, especially for flowers, jewelry, and gift cards. Cyber criminals create fake ecommerce websites and post unreasonably good deals, usually through pop up ads or social media. Victims purchase items and enter in their personal information and credit card information. By the time they realize the gift hasn’t arrived the website is already gone along with the victim’s personal information.

Here are a few general good security practices to help protect you from Valentine’s day scams and many others throughout the year:

  1. Update your security software such as anti-virus and anti-malware weekly.
  2. Change your passwords every 30-90 and don’t use the same password across multiple accounts. I suggest 30 days for accounts that have financial data and 90 for others like email or social media.  I want to stress again – don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  3. Don’t click on links in emails. Legitimate ecard companies will provide a code to use directly on their website to view an ecard.
  4. Buy from a local, established, brick and mortar businesses or well known online shopping sites.
  5. Create your own personal privacy policy and don’t overshare information online. Never send money or personal data like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank information to someone you met online.
  6. Monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity and check your credit once a year. Watch for sudden drops in credit scores or unknown line items on your report.  Annualcreditreport.com gives you 1 free report per year.

Thanks to the local news station for stopping by to talk to me about this! http://www.nbc29.com/story/31191736/uva-cybersecurity-professor-warns-of-valentines-day-scams

2016: The Year of Epic Cybersecurity Workforce Shortages

I’ve seen dozens of 2016 information technology and security predictions over the past few weeks – ranging from possible to probable to occurring. Many center around 2016 becoming the year of IoT attacks and the cyber criminal’s ever-evolving arsenal of exploits. Regardless of whether any of these 2016 predictions are realized, a highly probable concern for 2016 is the widening cybersecurity skills shortage.

In 2015 we saw high profile attacks on organizations such as OPM, JP Morgan, and Anthem and thousands of other less high profile attacks. During this time we also saw unprecedented demand for cybersecurity professionals. A Stanford University study estimated 209,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., up 74% over the past 5 years. Cisco warns that the worldwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals has exceeded 1 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for cybersecurity professionals to grow by 53% by 2018.

As we move in to 2016 we will continue to see the demand for cybersecurity professionals outpace the supply. This cybersecurity workforce shortage will lead to increased exploits of organization’s networks and data, many of which could be prevented with common security practices. There just aren’t enough cybersecurity staff to implement, maintain, and monitor the organization’s security protections. It’s easy to see that gaps in cybersecurity workforce = gaps in enterprise security.

Why aren’t more people pursuing cybersecurity careers? Especially since U.S. News and World Report ranked a career in information security eighth on its list of the 100 best jobs for 2015. It’s likely due to poor communication of the types of cybersecurity careers available and paths to pursue them. When many people think of cybersecurity careers they think of the hardcore technical roles that require in-depth computer science and programming skills. However, many of the positions in demand span a breadth of technical and non-technical capabilities. Cybersecurity roles extend beyond the core technology aspects of security to include risk, legal, business, and other non-technical cybersecurity needs. Many people moving into cybersecurity careers have diverse backgrounds including law enforcement, psychology, legal, game development, and management to name a few. Skillsets for those seeking careers in cybersecurity include excellent written and verbal communications, problem solving skills, creative thinking, adaptability, leadership, and mentorship ability. Due to the ever-evolving nature of technology and security, cybersecurity professionals should also have a passion for continued learning and possess strong self-learning skills.

For those interested in pursuing a cybersecurity career, I suggest that you first build a foundation of knowledge through education and certification. There are a number of universities that offer undergraduate and graduate programs in cybersecurity. The University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a Certificate in Cybersecurity Management – an online, part-time, 6 course, graduate level certificate for those interested in the strategy, policy, assessment, ethics, legal, and regulatory aspects of cybersecurity. There are also a number of commercial companies that offer cybersecurity certification including ISC2, EC-Council, and SANS.

Let’s make 2016 the year we start closing the cybersecurity workforce shortage. I am happy to speak with anyone interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity to provide advice and guidance on your career path. Please feel free to reach out to me and have a happy and secure new year!