2015-11-4 / Features

Community Meets New Members At Monthly Sunnyside Chamber Gathering

By Thomas Cogan
The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce’s October luncheon meeting was held at a Philippine restaurant, Tito Rad’s Grill, 49-10 Queens Blvd.  Those who made it through a rainstorm got to meet new chamber members and hear an expert on cybersecurity tell them that forces looking to attack computers and systems ranging from ours to the government’s are unsleeping in the effort to achieve their objective.  He gave examples of who’s doing what and where, and how effectively.  These include enemies wishing to do the country harm and commercial entrepreneurs amassing great amounts of information about us in order to sell us things.  His talk was so captivating that many at of his listeners let their lunch get a little cold or had to take it with them in doggie bags when they left.

The speaker was Francis Cianfrocca, founder and chief operating officer of Bayshore, which he advertises as providing “Industrial Strength Cybersecurity.”  He told the luncheon meeting that his company is in service to large cyber-systems run by large companies or major agencies of the United States government.  He said he’s more used to talking to technical specialists but promised he’d try to avoid flooding his listeners with techie talk.

He said that computers are everywhere, and since that is the situation, so are hackers and others determined to invade them.  He said he was talking recently to a high-level corporate executive who was marveling about all he could do and see with the computerized devices he has at hand.  Cianfrocca said he could only think about how wide open the man is to be hacked.

He said that everyone’s automobile could be called a computer of sorts and therefore can be hacked.  There was an incident during this past summer that became a news item, when a Chrysler car was totally disabled by remote control as it was being driven.  He said it was done by a couple of “ethical hackers” who are willing to perform a lot of mischief just to warn the public that it can be done; and in contrast, if the perpetrator is of evil intent a dangerous level of chaos could result.  He said that computer networks within machines “talk” to each other.  In the case of the disabled Chrysler, the hackers worked for several months to get in contact with the car and its computer system but then needed only a few minutes to disable it.

He imparted advice and information to the luncheon guests that some of them might have found eccentric or cranky, but about which he was unbending.  He said that he and the large businesses he deals with “stay off the Internet as much as possible”—perhaps to avoid the exposure to hacking that imperils the business executive he mentioned.  He also said never to use a debit card, never.  Apropos of it, though, banks are good at spotting credit card irregularities and reporting them to their respective holders, he said—in fact, they’re quicker than the companies that issue them.       

The anecdote about an automobile led him to talk about robots, which he said are a fixture of automobile assembly lines all over the world.  He called them exceptionally reliable and micro-precise, with the continuing success of manufacturers dependent on them.  But if turned electronically wayward, they could render great damage and be lethally dangerous to human beings anywhere near them.  Cianfrocca said that his company, Bayshore, makes controls that allow operators to “read” robots but not to “write to them,” which might lead to taking rogue control of them.  How long they can be controlled in any way is a question often asked by those fearful of what the future might bring.  He mentioned the futurist Ray Kurzweil’s notion of singularity, whereby computers ultimately surpass human intelligence and condemn humanity to cyber-serfdom. 

There was further fright talk about the hidden cyber-warfare going on between nations, and how intense it is and could become.  This included the assertion that Iran’s bootleg activities online are more profitable to the nation than its oil revenues.  When amidst this recitation of doleful prospects one person in the audience cried, “Could you give us any consolation?” Cianfrocca said that the best cyber-warriors are in the United States, and added in summary, “I like our chances in the next war.”  For the moment, he said, “There are many problems only humans can solve”—though we are finding out the exceptions.






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