Friday, February 14, 2014

Hack Stack

Retail giant Target was hacked late last year in a blow to holiday shoppers across the country.  Security investigators found out that the intrusion started with an HVAC contractor.  A reasonable computer user, denied access to others' secure systems, could ask themselves what an outside company would be doing with access like this.  Let's talk a bit about how large corporate systems are set up and how an attack can cascade like this through a supply chain.

Inter, Intra, and Extra

Most large companies' computer networks are set up in multiple zones.  The Internet zone holds customer-facing systems like company webpages, online shopping, and contact information.  These systems should only deal with low security issues like presenting product information or mailing addresses.  The Intranet zone is for internal use by employees.  A company's trouble ticketing system or employee computer-based training terminals are connected to this zone.  Extranet is the most complicated zone to manage and secure.  This is where partner companies connect to your systems for more access than the internet zone can provide without having employee level access on an intranet user.

Extra, Extra, Extra

In Target's case, Fazio Mechanical Services had access credentials to Target's systems to support billing and work contracts when Fazio was hired to perform work on the HVAC systems at Target stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. 
And, no, as user of Target's extranet, Fazio's credentials should not have enabled them to upload to or in any way make contact with any part of Target's point of sale terminals. 
Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards now come into play.  Companies which submit credit card payments are not required to build a separate network for payment and non-payment activities.  But outside users like contractors and vendors are required to use two-factor authentication to access a company's network. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Day We Fight Back

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


So I was trolling my own blog, as every good blogger should, and I discovered a dead link. I'll give you a hint: the embedded video had been taken down by a copyright (copywrong) claim. Yes, some litigious asshole gave my blog a dead link. Fortunately, I found it and was able to get a valid link so the affected post was not affected. So, reader challenge because I secretly hate you, find the post that was edited to fix the broken link. And here's where I have to give grudging credit to Vevo. While they take down many linked videos they, at least, upload a legitimate video for bloggers to link to.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Rack 'em Up

Let's kick off this year's Febrewary with a quick post about a new technique you can add to your brewing process called racking.
The concept is pretty simple.  After fermentation has run for a couple weeks and the yeast has settled, you move the product into another sterilized fermenter for an additional couple of weeks before bottling.  The point is to separate out the lees, the tired yeast, the fruit bits, and whatever other solid waste is left in the primary fermenter.  This improves the clarity a lot so it's a good technique to learn if you make wines and meads. 

You will need

Since you've been brewing for a year you should already have most of the things you will need to take up racking.  If you bought a starter kit like the one I linked to in Gathering Supplies you should only need to buy another fermenter and another threaded stopper and airlock to go with it.  Keep an eye out for "buy this, get an extra fermenter" deals.  They come out every so often from most of the brewer supply houses.

Sanitize... yeah, you know this step

Run up a batch of sanitizing solution and wash and sanitize your new fermenter, threaded stopper, and airlock, along with your auto-siphon and transfer hose.  If you're using a smaller fermenter, you could just sanitize a funnel instead of all the transfer gear and just pick it up and pour from one container to the other.  Use a coffee filter inside the funnel to catch the lees.  

Rack 'em, Stack 'em, Rinse and Repeat

Presumably, since the previous brewing stage was successful enough to add a racking stage, the location you keep your fermenter is good for yeast biology.  After you've got the brewing product into the new fermenter, install the airlock according to its instructions and place the new one where the old one was.  Then let it do its thing.  
Be sure to wash out the old fermenter.  That muck in the bottom is still perfect growth medium for all sorts of microbial mischief.  But hang on to it; lees are great green for your compost.  
You can rack again back into the original fermenter to further improve the clarity of your product.  Wait at least a week for things in the brew to settle down and remember to sanitize all your equipment before you transfer.

Adding this new technique into your brewing stages will give your product better clarity and a smoother texture you and your friends will enjoy.  Slainte! 

Trademarks are the property of their respective owners.  Products featured or linked here are used as examples only, without endorsement or commercial consideration.  Please drink responsibly.