Thursday, November 16, 2017

10 Key takeaways from the SecTor

This week I was lucky enough to attend the SecTor conference.

 

It was interesting to network with a group of people whose job it was to find weaknesses in computer programs and defend against them. Not to mention, the lunch was pretty good as well.


The whole conference had lots of interesting sessions and tracks.

Here are my 10 Key takeaways from the conference on IT security:

1. Phishing is the no.1 way to get control of a laptop (so be aware of the emails that you click on). Once you get some control over a laptop, then you can use it to gain access on other networks. We saw how you can use a Git repo to execute malicious programs without leaving a trail.

2. Keep backups offsite and disconnected from the web.

3. If it's not in the budget it's not getting done. If you want to increase security for your site/business/developers etc. make sure it's in the budget.

4. Cheap "smart" devices (especially from China) are easiest to hack into as they have numerous vulnerabilities. We learned in one session how to get control of a smart lock, a smart fridge, a smart thermostat etc. One of the smart coffee machines used to broadcast the wifi credentials of the house in plaintext as part of its programming! Once you have that, you can gain access using packet sniffing and detection of other devices in the house. The presenter showed us how he was opening someone's garage door who had installed a cheap remote garage opener, bought online from China. So buy devices from reputable companies who do patches and upgrades all the time.

5. Security often remains an afterthought. For example, most ATMs run on Windows XP, an old operating system that is now no longer supported.


6.To my surprise, there are a lot of women who work in IT security. This is an anomaly compared to rest of IT sector, especially developers, where there's 1 woman for 10 men.

7.You need to prepare a playbook and drill for incident breaches and have policies in place on what to do.

8.You have to have a "baseline" of activities of what is considered "normal". Any deviation from that is when you should be suspicious. Most breaches are detected on average 6-12 days after when they occur.


9. The simplest common sense measures often thwart costly breaches. For example a difficult password policy, or employees sharing credentials because creating accesses for new users takes too much time, is often how security breaks down.

10. You are more vulnerable common failures and innocent mistakes, and rarely due to malicious activity. Such as not patching regularly, or sharing credentials. Once you tackle those, then the serious criminals can be your focus.


It's a two day conference in Toronto, and it's returning next year in October. If you are in IT, this is a worthwhile conference.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

When Feminism Is Superior to The Prophet, Reevaluate

When your feminism causes you to downplay the Prophet, you gotta rethink your values.

Take a look at this article: "Give Muhammad A Chance"

In this article, the writer (cheered on by other women of similar ilk) says Khadijah was the prize, not Muhammad (pbuh) , and she married down and gave him a chance (and then compares herself to Khadijah and her husband to Muhammad (pbuh) and then congratulates herself).

Now I wish this writer all the best in her life. But Khadijah liked Muhammad and proposed to him. In a society where women weren't respected much, this shows the elevated stature and maturity of a woman like Khadija (who was around 3 years older than Muhammad (pbuh)). Why did Khadija like Muhammad (pbuh)?

Because he was different from other men. He was honest. He was trust worthy. He cared for the oppressed. He cared for the orphans. He never wished ill on others. This is what Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) herself testified on the night of the first revelation.  
 
The writer says, "At the time of marriage, Khadijah (ra) was the prize, not Muhammad (saw)."
 
I am not going to say either of them was the "prize", or that one of them married down or up. Theirs was a holy marriage made in heaven where each partner supported the other. Trying to twist that marriage to fit one's feminist narrative is falsehood at its worst.

Again there are many things wrong in our society. But we don't need to twist Islamic history to fit our narrative agenda to "solve" these problems.

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Nouman Ali Khan "Scandal"

The last two weeks or so had seen the Nouman Ali Khan scandal ( with various hashtags such as #NAK #NAKScandal #MakeDuaMyHotFantasy ) trending on the Muslim social media, particularly in North America. When it came out, it immediately captured everyone's attention as Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan enjoys such a high and stellar reputation. His work on making the Holy Quran accessible in the English language is unparalleled in the modern times.

Of course, he denied all allegations, while claiming to be never a perfect man. And to be fair to him, there were really no allegations - simply slander, innuendo and hearsay. Spread mostly by feminist blogs, all the accusers were mute on what he exactly did or stands accused of, except that they called him an 'abuser' or a 'predatory daee'.

Now at that time, after remaining silent for some time, I released a video.


My thoughts on Nouman Ali Khan "Allegations", the curse of feminists

At the time the scandal broke, we only had one duty. We had to presume our brother was innocent, and we MUST demand a proper evidence from the accusers, and an exact accusation. This was the summary of my video.

One of the bloggers, someone whom I have a lot of respect for the work she does otherwise, later stated: "The public revelation regarding NAK was not handled in an ideal manner."

Exactly.

When making an accusation against someone with a stature like Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, there should be no ambiguity, and the accusation should be crystal clear. If the accusers had come out straight away and said exactly what they accused the preacher of, and the witnesses, and time of alleged incidents, there would no fitnah, and they would be following the proper way to do things. Instead, we had a huge mess, and the community was "either you support a molester and you are anti-women" or "you hate Islam and are trying to take down one of the men of God".

On October 3, 2017, a statement was released by a few prominent Muslims on this scandal.

This statement should certainly make anyone pause. While you defend your brother, you must also keep an open mind when an evidence is presented. Here, very strong, credible people are saying your brother has done something wrong, so their statement must be given proper weight.

However, while this statement is a step in the right direction, there is still a lot of innuendo. What exactly is "spiritual abuse"? Also, the scholars should have listed the exact behaviour they found "conduct unbecoming of any believer". For example, if you strictly believe in zabiha slaughter, if I eat a Big Mac at McDonalds is that "conduct unbecoming of any believer"? 

Thus, if the original victims are NOT ready to come out and say exactly what they are accusing the preacher of, then this discussion is still moot. those who "broke" the original story: you should not have said anything unless the 'victims' are ready to come out and say it. Until they are ready to be public, this is a private matter and best left private.

I do not subscribe to this mentality of hiding the victims' name. Nor do I even know for sure if they are victims, or spurned women now out for revenge. This is not a "bro club" thing. It is following proper process. The women who are involved with the Ustadh, allegedly, were not forced or coerced into a relationship. They went in with full eyes open, supposedly. They are adults. This notion of hiding the names of women accusers, believing them blindly, and blaming the man all the time is a very extreme feminism trait. If we are to support the victims, we have to know who the victims are and how they have been victimized.

You have to ask yourself, at the end of all of this mess, what exactly has been achieved? How has justice been supported? What is the end game?

The only thing that is remaining is a big, holy mess.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Exploring Nature in Owen Sound and Grey County, Ontario


Owen Sound is a small town located just a bit more than 2 hours driving north west of Toronto. It's part of a bigger countryside called Grey County. Lots of protected green land, forests, farms and natural wonders dot this area. Hiking, zip lining, treetop trekking, camping, fishing, horseback riding etc. are all very popular activities here in the summer and fall. Given that we have young kids, we were somewhat restricted in our outdoor activities, but still decided to make a weekend trip to Owen Sound.


Hiking through this heavily wooded area, it was surprising to see how cool a forest cover could make your environment. It was a warm 29C outside, yet it was easily a little chilly under these trees. Then of course, there were sudden clearings and you were right beside a pond.


This was the Inglis Falls Conservation area. The hike is through a marked trail in Harrison Park, and very easy with kids, although you cannot take your stroller here (your kids must be old enough to walk and run).


Parking nearby in the conservation area (near the dam) is $8 for the day. All of this, of course is for Inglis Falls.



It's one of the many smaller waterfalls that dot the Grey County area. You can actually take a Waterfalls Driving Tour that can let you see as many as 18 such waterfalls in the area. Not all of them are easily accessible and require some rough hiking. And when I say small, I am comparing them to the giants such as Niagara Falls and so on. Inglis Falls, for example, is 18m tall.


With Owen Sound being the only sizeable city nearby after Collingwood, there's a lot of undisturbed land here and with that, a lot of wild flora and fauna.


You could also drive around a bit, and explore the farm and the countryside from nearby lookout points.

We even saw lots of butterflies in action on a farm near the Bruce Conservation Area. Unlike Toronto, where you hardly see them in nature unless you go looking for them in various parks, here the butterflies seemed to be quite unafraid of people and didn't flinch or fly away when you went near to take pictures.


Farming is big here, and when we drove and parked on a lookout point on a high hill, we could see farm country for miles in all directions.


Owen Sound also has some great beaches (such as Cobble Beach) on the fantastic Georgian Bay waters, and nearby on Kelso Beach there was a festival going on, with visitors having the chance to get a ride on a hot air balloon. This was the first time I did this, and it was quite the experience (especially getting on and off the balloon). We did this with both kids!

One of the must-go places in the summer is the Grey Roots Museum and Archives. Amongst their many attractions, they have a great tiny model of Owen Sound in the 1800s.


You can see miniature horse drawn carriages and almost hear the sounds and cries of the times of Sherlock Holmes in this model.


During the time we went, they also had a castle exhibition, partnered with Legos. Lots of castle exhibits, and lots of Lego-built castles for everyone to see.




In addition, they also had play areas for kids where they could build their own castles with Lego (provided).

The museum also has a huge outdoor heritage village exhibit. This is where they have a whole village with the original buildings etc. from the 1800s. You can walk through this exhibit and there are folks there (dressed in period costumes) who explain how Irish refugees and settlers made Owen Sound home. You see a tiny cottage and marvel that a family of 10 used to sleep there.


There was a huge building that I thought was the church, but it was the village school. I was surprised to learn that there was only one instructor here, but each classroom had kids from ten grades learning at ones. Yes, ten! The teacher would seat the students in rows so the first row was all grade 1, the next grade 2, and so on. Then he or she would proceed down the rows and oversee the work and all the students. It was very much like the village in Back To The Future 3.  The kids really enjoyed this museum.


One final waterfall (and hike) we saw was the Weaver's Creek Falls.


This waterfall has two lookout points. The first can be accessed by kids, but the second one, which I didn't go to, is the one where most people choose to go to. It's a steep walk (almost a climb) down the cliff (about 20-30 meters) and you can get right at the base of the waterfall for some fantastic pictures.


Overall, Owen Sound is a good place for a day trip and overnight stay. When you go with young kids you are slightly restricted in what outdoor activities you can do, but if you plan your trip it can be fun for everyone involved.