A year in the life of a cybersecurity news reporter

 

One year ago, Archer News was born—my chance to share with you what is happening in the mostly invisible digital world. 

You may not see it, or know it’s there, but dramatic developments in cyber crime and cyber security impact you every day.

I want to show you what is happening, and why.

After thirty years in broadcast news, most of it as an investigative and special projects TV reporter, I was ready for a new challenge. And Archer News is indeed a challenge.

The realm of cyber crime and cybersecurity seems faraway for many people. “I’m not technical,” some say. “I just don’t care,” say others.

My job is to bring you stories that inform and educate in a way that is understandable, interesting, and even entertaining—so you can be a smart citizen in a time of immense cyber events and changes.

This job takes me around the country and around the world, both physically and digitally, so you can see things from a local and a global perspective. The knowledge, awareness and skills you learn from Archer News could save your bank account, your files, your computer, your phone and much more—even your life.

 

Archer News’ Kerry Tomlinson in Santiago, Chile. Image: Archer News

 

Around the clock

Like TV news, cyber crime and security news does not happen in a convenient, 9-to-5 time frame.

Last December, just before Christmas, I was sitting on a warm patio in Mexico, surrounded by family. A text came in on my phone. 

A colleague wanted to know—what does this tweet in Russian mean? It sounds like a Ukrainian power company was hacked, he said.

It turned out to be the beginning of one of the biggest cyber news stories of the year. Someone was able to reach through—completely via computer—and shut down electricity for hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine, a momentous and ground-breaking event.

 

Hotel in Kiev, Ukraine. Customers in Kiev & other parts of the country lost power in a cyber attack on December 23, 2015. Photo credit: kud4ipad via Foter.com / CC BY

 

If it could happen in Ukraine, experts said, it could happen anywhere. And the U.S. is a prime target. Losing power could mean people dying, without heat, water, emergency help. This was serious, and has become a focus for cybersecurity professionals—how to make sure the same thing does not happen at home.

The attackers had planned for months, even years. The investigation of the Ukraine blackout gave a glimpse into the intricate, twisted underground of cyber crime groups, some working for money, others working to spy on or take down governments and big businesses.

Next door or across the seas, under our feet or in the air around us, cyber crooks and spies work around the clock to lie, cheat, steal and destroy.

Armed with knowledge, you can better protect yourself.

 

Mississauga, Canada. Cybersecurity experts say power companies in other parts of the world can also be vulnerable to a Ukraine-style cyber blackout. Photo credit: Ian Muttoo via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

Hunt for knowledge

With laptop in hand, I travelled to Miami to learn how companies are turning to hackers for good to save our computers and services from hackers for evil, and how attackers can get into to motors at factories and cause damage.

In Hawaii, I learned how malicious hackers can crack passwords in seconds, and what you need to do to keep yourself from being a victim—as new details about the Ukraine attack were rolling out.

In Argentina, I saw how attackers can lay siege on smart cities, which has already started to come to pass, with the San Francisco transport system affected, and new vulnerabilities opening up with new, seemingly convenient smart city additions.

 

Bike rental kiosk. Some smart city devices have vulnerabilities that can put you at risk. Image: Archer News.

 

In Chile, how cyber crime is working through Latin America—and possibly on its way to the U.S., if it’s not already here.

In New Orleans, what the cyber arms race means for you, and why some apps put you in danger.

In Anaheim, California, how new generations—Millenials, and Generation Z—are changing your security, for better or for worse.

In Jackson, Mississippi, why you’ll want to keep many of those “smart” things off of your holiday wish list, and how six-year-olds are writing computer programs.

 

Kids learn how to code in Mississippi. Image courtesy: Randy Lynn.

 

“Takedown”

As I flew to Mexico again in October, another massive cyber attack went down—the huge Internet “takedown” on Friday the 21st.

The warnings about DDoS attacks were coming true, as malicious hackers kept millions of people from getting to Twitter, PayPal, Amazon, Netflix, Reddit and more big sites.

Sitting at a restaurant by a pool in the 90-degree heat, while friends and family tossed back margaritas, I kept my head down at the laptop pounding the keys. Bringing you the news about your digital world is more important. It is vital, to me and to you.

As you see in Archer News, there is hope. We can fight off attacks and dark world crooks. Kids are learning to defend your power plants and water companies and even the Pentagon.

 

Young people at the Portland, Oregon 1NTERRUPT in event learn how to hack for good & protect real-world utilities. Image: Archer News.

 

Researchers keep constant watch, investigating crimes and vulnerabilities, from scams that take over your phone, steal your money, steal your device, fill up your inbox and lock up your files, to home safety, car security, and mass-damage events.

We show you how to avoid ransomware, stay away from risky toys, detect dangerous counterfeitsstay safe while shopping, survive a breachprepare for possible Election Day attacks, set up tough-to-crack passwords, keep your kids safe and keep away from botnets. We define cybersecurity words and terms you may not know.

Almost 200 stories in all in this first year of Archer News. We are here for you. All the time. Everywhere.

About Archer News

Latest Archer News stories

***Coming in 2017: Archer News video news broadcasts delivered via Twitter and Facebook.***

A huge thank you to the many researchers, investigators and experts who have shared their knowledge and skills with us so Archer News can bring you the latest information and skills to protect yourself and keep up-to-date on event that affect you.