Monday, February 13, 2012

Celebrity: No Guarantee of Happiness

While driving to work one morning last week, I heard a KNPR tribute to the late "Soul Train" creator and host, Don Cornelius. I was saddened to learn that the 75-year old had committed suicide by gun. Damn. I wondered why. Illness? Depression? The program provided no details.

Curious, I googled some articles that reported Cornelius had said he was "not quite the same" following 21-hour brain surgery. In 2008, Cornelius was charged with felony domestic abuse against his estranged wife, Victoria Avila-Cornelius, and placed on probation for 36 months.

Then, on Saturday, I learned from AOL that gorgeous, talented Whitney Houston had died. Over the weekend media reports speculated that her death was due to a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol even though the medical examiner's office says it will take up to eight weeks for the toxicology report.

Whitney was one of America's favorite divas, even when she and former New Edition bad-boy, Bobby Brown, paraded their dysfunctional relationship before millions of viewers.

These tragic deaths remind us that celebrities are fallible. However, the world gets to see their foibles and faults in the glare of publicity. Likewise, millions of people--who don't know them--make rash judgements.

Celebrities' wealth and fame do not render them immune to mental or emotional problems. So, next time you look enviously at the life of a movie star, sports figure, or entertainer (even briefly), remember behind closed doors they struggle just like you and me. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Anonymous" hackers: cyber rebels?

Hackers are cyber rebels.

They brazenly penetrate "secure" computer systems and access e-mail communications of banks, law enforcement agencies, corporations, and credit card companies demonstrating their vulnerability.

Recently Anonymous, an amorphous collective of hackers, released audio segments of communication between Scotland Yard and the FBI.

The group has launched cyber attacks across the world closing down the government website in Sweden, breaking into Greece's Justice Department, and accessing personnel data at police stations in Boston, Syracuse, and Salt Lake City.

Their video taunt, "Expect Us."

Ironically, I am reading, Ghost in the Wires, My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick with William L. Simon (Little Brown and Company, August 2011), now reformed and
a security consultant, co-author of two bestsellers, The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion.
Prior to his crossover from the dark side of hacking--into organizations such as Microsoft and Pacific Bell--Mitnick was pursued by the FBI and was one of U.S. Marshall's "most wanted."

Nonetheless, Mitnick served a total of 26 months--on three separate occasions--for breaking into phone company systems and downloading data and stealing files and manuals.

Today he heads Mitnick Security Consulting and speaks around the country about scams and security risks.

All of this makes me wonder. Just how safe are our personal histories, financial data, or personnel files? Personally, I think it is naive to think that any information is safe from hacking, whether benign or malicious. This is the price we say for continually emerging computer technologies.