• Time

    What if we go back in ‘time’? What if we could freeze the current happy “time”? What will be our life like 5 years or 10 years later? How would it be for a competitive exam(particularly in India) to have that extra 5 minutes? Why are we so bored at some time point of life?

    “I have to get up at 6:00 a.m.” “I have to go for a meeting at 2:00 p.m.” “I have to hit the bed by 10:00 p.m.” “If only I was a few minutes early for my interview… ” ” I have to get married by 25″, ” I have to retire by 60″….Somethings are timeless, somethings are timely…Time… time.. time… everything in the world is related to ‘Time’! Isn’t it amazing how our lives are intertwined with ‘Time’? We are all wedded to the dear clock to regulate our lives! 🙂

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  • Security

    Social media and privacy concerns go hand in hand. On the one hand, we love the reach of sharing our day to day moments, our happiness, our sadness with the whole world with the click of a mouse – on the other hand, we are(and we should be) worried about the invisible eyes that are seeing the very same posts too! How do we strike a balance and ensure the security of our information will form the basis of this post. Some of the initial points are general pointers related to overall security.

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  • For the love of ‘Reading’…

    As I was pondering what to write for alphabet ‘R’ for my Blogchatter A2Z challenge, a recent conversation in my school Whatsapp groups – triggered me to write this post! 🙂 

    The olden and golden days:

    Reading paper books used to be such a beautiful past time for kids before the days of electronic devices. I remember us being curled up with our Nancy Drew’s, Secret Sevens, Famous Fives and Hardy Boys(they were the popular titles in India those days :)) Whether it was the summer vacation or the time after school –  books were our constant companions. Reading built our comprehension abilities, increased our concentration, improved our vocabulary and helped us make new friends too….. and we never bored! 🙂 Those were such sweet innocent days! 🙂

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  • Quiet

    There were kids playing in the house. But he found a way to be away from it all, reading a book in the corner of the house. It was not a story book. It was a technical book!  He could be sitting in any crowded place, be observant and be quiet. Most of the time, his head would be down engrossed in a book. Or if he was at home he would be by himself playing the keyboard. Even when he was alone with his mother at home, not a word would be uttered. The mother would feel the silence and the quietness. How could anyone be this quiet, was her thought all the time?! 🙂 She was never that way…

    It was quite interesting that even the chattiest person when seated with him would become quiet 🙂 …was this even possible?  If the dictionary described the word “quiet”, he epitomised it…

    It was not his personality to be a spontaneous talker. He could respond perfectly to questions asked to him. Inspite of being so ‘quiet’ it was not like he was not listening to things around him. He was a great and fantastic listener… but he was extremely reticent by nature. 

    Who was this boy, who gave the word “quiet” such a huge spotlight?! It is my son!! 🙂 I could never think of a better word to describe the alphabet ‘Q’ for the Blogchatter challenge… read the previous post here…

  • Palm tree fruit

    Have you seen a small jelly like fruit sold by street vendors with a delicious taste? This is the  ‘Palm fruit’, Palm tree fruit’ or ‘Nongu’ (in Tamil) found mostly in Southern Tamil Nadu. During all my years in the US, I sorely missed this tropical fruit! I am sure it is available in other places too – with their unique names . The ‘Palm fruit’ grows on the ‘Palm tree’. 

    So, what is this Palm fruit?

    It is a jelly like fruit which is housed inside a black shell and is absolutely heavenly! This tropical fruit is a natural cooler and is one of the best and natural fruits to beat the raging summer heat.  The black shell houses three ‘palm fruits’. The shell can be broken with a sickle and the delicious fruit is taken outside. There is a white skin which has to be removed and viola! the jelly fruit is here to be relished! 🙂

    The above picture shows the palm fruit with and without their skins.

    How should the Palm fruit be consumed?

    The delicious fruit can be consumed as is or can be made into a ‘kheer’. It can also be blended with the ‘king of fruits'(mango) to give the taste buds an even better experience! 🙂

    So, if possible, try this tropical delicacy and enjoy summer with natural coolers!

    This post is for alphabet ‘P’ for the Blogchatter challenge… 

     

  • Object oriented programming

    ‘Object oriented programming’ is a type of programming which involves object oriented principles like encapsulation, polymorphism and inheritance. These principles are implemented by means of classes, methods, variables and other constructs in Java. We saw a sneak peek into object oriented programming in the Java 101 post. 

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  • NIST publications

    NIST stands for ‘National Institute of Standards and Technology’ and the NIST special (SP) publications act as a reference for organizations, academic institutions and government agencies that seek to form an information security plan and secure their perimeter. They are available free of charge. We will discuss some of the NIST special publications in this post:

    1. NIST SP 800-30: Guide for conducting Risk assessments:

    Before we discuss NIST SP 800-30, we refresh the basic concepts related to risk. The security terms “threat”, “vulnerability” and “risk” play a key role in risk assessments.

    Recall from an earlier post that “vulnerability” is a hole in the security posture that is waiting to be exploited (examples of vulnerability can be open port, unpatched software)

    “Threat” is the tool that causes the damage to the organization (examples of threats can be floods, power failure, fire etc) 

    And “risk” is the “threat agent” making use of the “vulnerability” and exploiting it and causing physical and monetary damages. Putting these concepts together, “Risk assessment is the process of identifying, estimating, and prioritizing information security risks” (Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments, 2012)

    The NIST SP 800-30 publication guides users on how to conduct risk assessments. This publication first deals with the fundamentals of risk assessment followed by the different processes in risk assessment (preparing for risk assessment, conducting risk assessment and communicating risk assessment information) The NIST SP 800-30 publication is an extension to the NIST SP 800-39 publication which is a publication for managing ‘Information Security Risk’.

    1. NIST SP 800-45 version 2: Guidelines on Electronic Mail Security

    E-mail or electronic mail is one of most prevalent forms of communication in today’s digitized world.  Considering this, electronic mail will be targeted for a host of attacks on the mail server, mail client or the entire infrastructure. Some of the different types of attacks may be DoS attacks, social engineering, or gaining access to unencrypted information in the email.

     The NIST SP 800-45 on electronic mail security guides users on configuring mail servers, mail clients on public and private networks and prevent it from being subjected to attacks. Encrypting email messages (using OpenPGP,S/MIME) ways to harden the mail server, ways to harden the mail client are some of issues discussed in this publication. The other key guidelines included in this publication are the different types of protocols (such as the SMTP, POP) along with planning and management of a mail server. (Guidelines on Electronic Mail Security, 2007)

    We discussed a few of the NIST publications in this post today. The NIST publications seek to give guidance on many other security topics for organizations.  These are an effective means for different organizations who seek to improve their security posture.

    Bibliography:

    Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments. (2012, September). Retrieved from NIST.gov: http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=912091

    Guidelines on Electronic Mail Security. (2007, Feb). Retrieved from NIST.gov: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-45-version2/SP800-45v2.pdf

    This post is for the alphabet ‘N’ for the Blogchatter challenge… read the previous post here

     

     

  • Michigan!

    What better post for ‘M’ than the state of  ‘Michigan’ in the USA – the place we stayed for 7 1/2 years! 🙂 Even though we left the Michigan almost 8 years ago, the memories remain fresh. The weather in Michigan is beautiful during the summer months. Here are a few facts about Michigan:

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  • List of Information security certifications

    ‘Information security’ briefly is that branch of study that deals with securing data and identifying weaknesses in systems and sealing them. Anti-virus software, firewalls are simple aspects of ‘Information security’ that we use unknowingly. There are a number of Information security certifications and we will review some of them here:

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  • ‘Kulambu’

    ‘Kulambu’, ‘Kozhumbhu’ or ‘Kolambu’ is a delicious South Indian gravy with the correct amount of tanginess and spice.  While I never do a cooking post because of this reason – the alphabet ‘K’ for the Blogchatter challenge did kick me into writing about one!

    My mother makes different types of ‘Kozhumbu’  like the ‘Vendakkai(ladies finger) kozhumbu’, ‘thakkali(tomato) kozhumbhu’, ‘brinjal kozhambhu’ and each one of them is lip smacking! 🙂 The non-vegetarian kulambhus like ‘chicken kozhmabu’ , ‘meen kozhumbhu’ are equally delicious but they might need slightly different cooking methods. 

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  • Java 101

    ‘Java’ the object oriented programming language was developed by James Gosling of Sun Microsystems(now a part of Oracle) in 1995. It is a platform independent programming language meaning that once a Java program is written and compiled – the compiled program can run on any architecture(Apple, Windows etc)It is this feature that makes it flexible. It is also much easier to work with Java than other programming languages like C++.

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  • India!

    The pitter-patter of rain drops. Seeing water in liquid form throughout the year. The sight of frogs jumping around. Seeing a double rainbow in the sky. Hearing the birds chirping throughout the year. Seeing millions of pigeons and parrots outside my window. Seeing honeycombs hanging from my balcony. Seeing the blue sky everyday. Having the sun rise and set at the same time throughout the year.

    Traffic trying to move in an totally unregulated manner.  Competition being real. Great history. Lots of festivals to celebrate in an authentic way. Lots of shopping places. Lots of ‘pattu saris’ 🙂 Lots of color. Lots of variety. Lots of people. Lots of family. Lots of family functions. And even more friends. And never a dull or lonely moment. Full of life and cheer and a simple life!

    Where was I? India!! 🙂 

    This post is for alphabet ‘I’ for the Blogchatter challenge… the previous post is here... come back tomorrow for  the next alphabet…:)

  • Hyperledger Composer

    Even as the Block chain technology is in its nascent stages and everybody is trying to understand it – there are organizations which have started collaborative efforts to harness the power of blockchain.  One such endeavor is the IBM Hyperledger open source project which is hosted by the Linux foundation to build blockchain applications efficiently and quickly. It is a “global collaboration” with entities from different sectors such as finance, retail, IoT, manufacturing included in it. 

    IBM Hyperledger Composer playground:

    The IBM Hyperledger Composer is a fast and efficient way of building block chain applications. While it normally takes a few months to build a blockchain for a business network, by means of the IBM Hyperledger Composer, the same can be achieved in a few weeks time.  It consists of a IBM Hyperledger Composer Playground to learn,build and test blockchains networks. 

    The IBM Hyperledger Composer playground is available  from this link. This post will give a high level view of the Hyperledger Composer playground. The Hyperledger composer playground runs inside a Docker container and can be installed and worked with in any of the two modes:

    a. a browser mode

    b. Hyperledger Fabric peer network

    There are three main actors in the Composer playground – Assets, Transactions and Participants.

    Assets – As we already seen, asset is anything that has value. It is the main part of the trade. Examples of assets can be car, house, patent 

    Transactions – Transactions are those events that we achieve with the ‘Assets’. For example, if ‘Car’ is an asset, ‘transferring’ car ownership might be a transaction.

    Participants – are the major actors who take part in the block chain business network. For example, the buyer and seller are participants.

    The Model(.cto file), script file(written in Javascript and holds the business logic) and access control(.acl file) files are appropriately configured. The business network is deployed. The network is tested by adding participants, assets and performing transactions. All transactions are recorded in the Block chain that we have created and can be viewed. 

    This post involved the basics of working with Hyperledger Composer playground and is for the alphabet ‘H’ for the Blogchatter challenge… the previous post is here

     

  • Go Green!!

    Even as we grumble about the different types of pollution, is is quite ironic to note that “we” are the cause of the pollution! We are the cause of the different types of pollution – air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution. The ocean is our greatest dumping ground. Everything from garbage, cartons, plastic, to untreated sewage water lands in the ocean. Pollution has taken epic proportions and the different types of pollution like air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution are set to control(or already controlling) our life.  Pollution has led to global warming which in turn again affects us directly. Let us see a few ways to reduce pollution and keep our planet green!

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  • Four concepts of Blockchain

    Blockchain, the technology disrupter and the decentralized shared ledger has four important points that essentially define it. They are: Consensus, Immutability, Finality, Provenance. This blog post will define these four important concepts.

    Provenance:

    Blockchain will be a game changer for the supply chain management system. The IBM business blog describes provenance as an “immutable audit trail of ownership & location as it changes over time” (Source: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/insights-on-business/government/proving-provenance-with-blockchain/) This audit trail promotes transparency that can never be achieved with traditional database systems.

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  • Empowering women

    I cannot think of a better word for the alphabet ‘E’ than “empowering women”. In a world, where girls play second fiddle to boys and boys are always the wanted “gender” – it is crucial to empower the girls. 

    Growing up in conservative state(of course, most of India is conservative with the exception of the metros) of Tamil Nadu, studying Computer engineering(a long time ago! :)) was a big thing(that was empowering for those days)

    What does empowering really mean? It seems that this word has been thrown around quite a bit. While empowering women and girls might mean different things to different people, my only thought is to “let women and girls do what they want in life” after teaching them good values. It is the thought of protecting girls(by the parents, husband) that leads to not empowering them adequately.

    Because, I have always heard girls say

    1. That they were allowed to study – but only in some place close by
    2. That they were not allowed to study
    3. That they were allowed to study but not allowed to work(what if the man who married her sat and ate her earnings?! ;))
    4. That they “have” to work(this is the other extreme!!)
    5. That they are not allowed to drive
    6. And there are million other “don’t do this and don’t do that” rules for girls and women…. 

     

     So, how will we empower them?

    1. To start off, it is good to give them the best education in the college and in the field they would like to study. At least, the opportunity should be given. 
    2. The next step will be to make them financially independent. Having a career for themselves will make them mentally and physically strong.  Of course, once motherhood comes along, it is difficult to juggle between work and home and the decision to continue the career or not should be best left to the girl herself. 

    So, what are the advantages of empowering the women?

    1. They are more confident 
    2. Can handle life in case, any calamity falls on the family
    3. With today’s soaring prices, it is always good to have two incomes instead of one…

    Again, my thoughts on the subject!! 😉

    This post is for the alphabet ‘E’ for Blogchatter challenge…the previous is here…

  • Detroit, MI

    It was a beautiful day in June when we moved to this new place. The weather was so awesome, that one might be belied into thinking that this is the norm throughout the year! One could freely travel anywhere outside without the traditional layering of clothes. All outdoor places were buzzing with activity. Parks and fairs saw life.  So, what was this awesome place? This was the ‘Motor city’ or Detroit, USA.

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  • Caesar Cipher

    After having done a couple of posts on the Blockchain technology for the A2Z Blogchatter challenge, I have resumed my writing in the Information security field and a fun cipher called the ‘Caesar cipher’. But before we see what is Caesar cipher, let us have a brief understanding of Cryptography.

    From time immemorial, we are trying to make sure that important and crucial information is readable only by the right people once it has reached its destination. What if a crucial message falls into wrong hands and is read by them? This is prevented by making use of Cryptography and its various strategies.There are a number of ways(or technically called ‘ciphers’) to hide a message and the Caesar cipher is just one of them. This is done by encoding(converting to a special form) the information to be sent at the sender’s end and decoding(re-converting to original form) the information on the receiver’s end.

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  • What is ‘Blockchain’?

    I have written quite a few posts on ‘Blockchain’ – but for the sake of continuity – here I go again!! 🙂 

    Blockchain is the distributed, shared ledger system with no central authority. We have all encountered ledgers in our lives. We have our own personal ledgers for keeping track of transactions. But in the case of a large business scenario, the number of transactions is huge. The number of people keeping track of those very transactions is huge too. Each person involved in the business might have their own version of transactions. Blockchain solves this problem by each ‘node’ having their own copy of the ledger.

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  • Asset

    The Blogchatter A to Z has kicked off and I start off my set of posts primarily around the theme of technical and personal posts. My latest fascination has been ‘Blockchain’ and I am striving to do my technical posts around my latest interest. 

    ‘Blockchain’ is the common shared digital ledger that every participant in the business sees. In the Blockchain world, any thing that has value is  called as an ‘Asset’. Assets are sold and bought and these are recorded on the Blockchain ledger. Asset is the key aspect of Blockchain. 

    Assets are further classified into tangible assets and intangible assets. Tangible assets are those that can be seen and visualized. Examples of tangible assets are car, motorcycle, house.

    Intangible assets are those that are abstract and cannot be seen but they play an equally vital part in the blockchain  cosmos. Examples of intangible assets are mortgage, patent, trademark. 

    Cash is yet another form of ‘asset’ but it is completely anonymous. We cannot track its movements. We don’t know who we received it from and where it will go next. 

    We discussed ‘Asset’ in the Blockchain world. Drop by tomorrow as I continue my ‘Blockchain’ journey…

  • Blockchain trainings!

    Technology is a fickle thing. The requirements change at the speed of light!(not exactly – but fast enough! :))  No sooner do we think that “Java” is the most required skill in the technology space, in comes,  “Data analytics”, “Security” and “PMP”!!

    Now it is artificial intelligence(AI), machine learning and the Blockchain wave that is sweeping the technology landscape and we hear that there will(or there already is) a shortage of professionals in these areas.  This results in organizations and professionals scampering to reskill in these areas and looking for appropriate trainings. This post will list the popular Blockchain trainings around Bangalore, India and around the world.

    Deal from GoDaddy!

    1. Edureka:

      Edureka’s ‘Blockchain certification course‘ is a live, instructor led course. This course provides “an overview of the structure and mechanism of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Hyperledger and Multichain Blockchain platforms”( Source: https://www.edureka.co/blockchain-training) In addition, this course teaches you to create your blockchain and render smart contracts on Ethereum.

    2. Simplilearn

         Simplilearn offers ‘Blockchain basics‘ course and ‘Blockchain certification course’. Both the courses are online and self-paced. A few points regarding the Blockchain certification course. It helps the learner develop “a strong understanding of Blockchain technology and understand what Bitcoin is and how it works” (Source: https://www.simplilearn.com/blockchain-certification-training)

    3. Coursera: IBM Blockchain Foundation for developers

    In this course, IBM Blockchain experts guide one to understand the basics of Blockchain technology. It also helps one to build a simple blockchain solution. In addition, there are several tests, quizzes to asses the knowledge of the student.

    4. Udemy: 

    Udemy has mutiple courses on Blockchain. They can be found at this link

    This post just listed a few of the sites that offer Blockchain training. For more information on each of these trainings, click the links given.

    Join me as I begin my A to Z BlogChatter Challenge from April 1st!

  • A to Z Theme Reveal with Blogchatter!

    This year I will be participating in my first ever ‘A to Z BlogChatter Challenge’. The challenge here is to blog everyday for the 26 alphabets starting from 1st April. Sundays are rest days!(Thank God! :)) More details about this blog challenge can be found here

    A theme is thought to be a good way to approach the blogging challenge.  Keeping in tune with my blog, I will be choosing ‘technical blogs’ and ‘personal thoughts’ as my theme for this challenge!

    Wish me luck as I embark on a new blogging adventure! 🙂

  • 2018 Cybersecurity Trends

    We are already far into the New year and with it are coming new developments in cybersecurity. 2017 was an exciting year for the cybersecurity industry, and as its growth is bound to continue into 2018, there are plenty of things you need to watch out for. Here, we are going to go over the major ones.

    1. AI Attacks

    Artificial intelligence has now entered the mainstream and there is an abundance of free and commercial AI solutions. It was only a matter of time until cybercriminals dived on to the AI trend.

    Well, now, they have. AI software can learn from past events in order to help predict and identify cybersecurity threats. AI is used by almost 87% of the US based cybersecurity professionals. However, it is a double-edged sword because hackers can easily use AI to launch sophisticated cyber attacks.

    It can, for example, be used to automate the collection of certain information which can be sourced from public domain support forums, code anks and social media platforms.

    1. Ransomware and IoT

    The Internet of Things ransomware is not making headlines yet, because IoT typically does not store valuable data. But we should still not underestimate the potential for IoT ransomware to damage devices. For example, critical systems relying on IoT, such as power grids, can fall victim to cybercriminals.

    If a cybercriminal was to gain hold of a grid and the ransom was not paid, they could shut down the grid. Other IoT risks include smart cars, smart home appliances and production lines.

    1. Multi-factor Authentication

    63% of data breaches involve leveraging weak, stolen or default passwords. This is because many organizations are still using a single-factor authentication, which only relies on the use of a password.

    Companies tend to shy away from implementing multi-factor authentication because they think it can damage the user experience. But there is a growing awareness of password theft and, as such, it is likely that we will see a number of companies and websites implementing multi factor authentication as standard.

    1. Adoption of Advanced Cybersecurity Tech

    There are many new cybersecurity technologies emerging which we will probably see a wider adoption of in 2018. For example, the use of remote browsers can be useful to isolate your user’s browsing session from the main network.

    Speaking of networks, deploying an encrypted VPN can be much more efficient deterrent than a single firewall and antivirus, keeping malware and sniffing well out of striking distance.

    Also, dispersion technologies which imitate a company’s most valuable assets act as a honeypot trap for attackers trying to steal the data.

    Plus, there will be developments in the use of technologies which can detect and respond to strange behaviour. Endpoint Detection Response systems can monitor endpoints and alert system security admins of suspicious behaviour. Also, network traffic analysis can be used to determine the type, size and origin of data packets, helping to prevent DDoS attacks which can bring down entire networks.

    Cybersecurity is a serious industry and is worth over $120 billion. We will only see it grow in the years to come. If you want to learn more about cybercrime and cybersecurity, check out our infographic below.

    Cyber crimes Infographic 2018

  • Overloading and Overriding Methods in Java

    Two terms commonly associated with methods in Java are overloading and overriding. These two concepts will be discussed in the following sections.

    Method Overloading

    Method overloading is the process of defining more than one method having the same name in the same class (or in the same inheritance tree).

    Rules to define overloaded methods:

    • The methods must have the same name.
    • The methods must have different argument lists.
    • They may have same or different return types.
    • Their access levels may be same or different.

    The correct method to be executed by the system is decided by the Java compiler at compile time, and this is called static polymorphism. The following example demonstrates method overloading:

    public class Test {

           public static int add(int a, int b){    //adds 2 numbers

            return a + b;

        }

           public static String add(String a, String b){  //concatenates 2 Strings with a space in between

            return a + ” ” + b;

        }

           public static void main(String[] args){

               System.out.println(“4 + 5 = ” + add(4, 5));

            //calls 1st method

               System.out.println(“Method + Overloading = ” + add(“Method”, “Overloading”));

            //calls 2nd method

        }

       }

    The output of the above program is:

    4 + 5 = 9

    Method + Overloading = Method Overloading

    Method Overriding

    Method overriding means giving a new definition to an existing method in a class, in one of its subclasses. This is done to redefine the behaviour of objects of the subclass.

    Rules to override a method:

    • The overriding method should be present in the subclass of the class in which the overridden method is present.
    • The overriding and overridden methods should have the same name and argument list.
    • The two methods should have the same return type. Or the return type of the overriding method should be a subclass of that of the overridden method.
    • The access modifier of the overriding method must be either the same as or less restrictive than that of the overridden method.

    The method to be executed is decided at runtime (not at compile time), and this is called dynamic polymorphism. The following example demonstrates method overriding:

    class A {

        public void display(){

            System.out.println(“Executing from class A”);

        }

    }

    class B extends A {

        public void display(){               //override the method display()

            System.out.println(“Executing from class B”);

       

        }

    }

    public class Test1 {

        public static void main(String[] args) {

            A objA = new A();

            A objB = new B();              //an A reference, but a B object

            objA.display();

            objB.display();

       

        }

     

    }

    The above code prints:

    Executing from class A

    Executing from class B

    We have seen the core concepts of ‘Overloading and Overriding’ in Java in this post… Join me as I uncover more Java concepts in subsequent posts…

  • Future Trends in Automobiles

     Automobiles have evolved rapidly in the last 30-40 years. This article reviews future trends of Automobiles. As we survey the current landscape of the automotive industry, let us have a look at the future trends in automobiles.

    • Global push for reduction in emissions.
    • Autonomous Driving
    • Changing trends in ownership and move towards Transportation as a Service also known as Mobility as a Service.

    We will discuss them one by one.

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  • Use cases of Blockchain

    Even as the concept of ‘Blockchain’ is bouncing off everyone’s radar and everyone is keen to know more about this trending topic – let us see more about this new and emerging technology. 

    Introduction:

    ‘Blockchain’ is popularly associated with ‘Bitcoin’ cryptocurrency. The Blockchain system shot into prominence and more industry experts took notice of it only after Bitcoin’s surge and ultimately its downfall!

    ‘Blockchain’ as you might recollect from my earlier post is the shared ledger system. Each transaction is recorded and added to the shared ledger after being approved by the ‘miners’.  The beauty of ‘Blockchain’ is that each miner or node has a copy of the transaction. None of the transactions can be modified or deleted.It allows total transparency of the system with no central authority and promises complete anonymity and security.

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  • Video or Text?

    I am sure this question might have appeared in other forums – but after writing innumerable blog posts, I am always curious as to what should be the apt medium of communication for creating blog posts. Should it be videos or should it be plain text to get the point across? I am not going to be using any marketing terminology 🙂 …but rather a layman content writer’s viewpoint…

    Let us see the pros and cons of each type.

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  • What is Information security?

    After having dealt with a huge number of posts on Information security, I thought I will answer one of the fundamental questions about Information security in this post – “What is Information security?” 🙂

    Definition:

    Information security or “InfoSec” is that discipline of study that broadly seeks to counter and prevent cyber attacks. It also seeks to keep data/information safe by employing different techniques and strategies.

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  • Social engineering

    Introduction:

    ” 22 bank accounts hacked, ₹5.3 lakh stolen in 48 hours” scream the headlines in a local newspaper on 28th January, 2018 morning.(Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/22-bank-accounts-hacked-53-lakh-stolen-in-48-hours/article22538891.ece)

    How did it happen? Two customers were duped of nearly 20,000 Rs and 50,000 Rs by a two conmen(or was it one?) who called the customers in the guise of “bank agents”. They were  asked for their bank details and OTP(one time password) The customers readily obliged since the call was from their “bank”. In a short time, they noticed, that their money was fraudulently withdrawn. 

    This is the social engineering technique used by hackers and fraudsters.Let us see this in greater detail.

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  • Security policies

    ‘Security policies’ are yet another aspect of Information security that is all around us – but we are hardly aware of it. We will see the meaning of security policy, the reasons for having security policies and some examples of security policies in this post.

    A security policy in a nut shell is a document that lays out in detail how an organization is planning to safeguard its business and technological assets.

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  • Biometrics

    ‘Biometrics’ is gaining more recognition in today’s world – thanks be to popular organizations embracing it. What is ‘Biometrics’ and what are the different types of biometrics? Read on to find out:

    Biometrics – Definition:

    Biometrics is uniquely used to identify a person by making use of the distinct characteristics of a person. According to the Michigan State University Biometrics research group, “The field of biometrics examines the unique physical or behavioral traits that can be used to determine a person’s identity”.  These unique traits can be fingerprints, palm scan, hand geometry, retina scan, iris scan, keyboard scan to name a few of them.

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  • Security trends for 2018!

    With the New Year upon us, it is but natural to write about my thoughts on the security trends that might shape 2018! 🙂 So, here goes:

    1. Overall, security trends will closely follow technical trends for a particular year. If AI(Artificial intelligence) , ‘Data analytics’ and IoT(Internet of things) are said to be game changers in the technical industry for 2018 – Infosec trends will definitely exploit the security issues with the mentioned concepts. 
    2. ‘Expect the unexpected’

    This might be life’s greatest quote but it holds good for the Infosec industry as well. Equifax, eBay, Uber, University of  Oklahoma, Washington State University were all victims of data breaches of 2017.

    These data breaches compromised personal data and 2018 will be yet another year, which steals more personal data. More organizations will lose their precious data or the data will be at the mercy of yet another ingenious way to grab it!

    3. ‘Bitcoin’ and other cryptocurrencies:

    Will ‘Bitcoin’ hold its sway and continue its meteoric rise? From a humble value of 1000$(for 1 Bitcoin) in the beginning of 2017 to a massive rise of 15,000$(for 1 Bitcoin) by the end of 2017, Bitcoin sure did raise a few eyebrows.  It is quite a possibility that the rise will continue and ‘Bitcoin’ and other cryptocurrencies will be a game changer in the Infosec industry in 2018.

    4. Ransomware, fileless malware… what next?

    Viruses,phishing emails,Trojan horse were already on the prowl than, that new attacks came to the fore in 2017. We heard new security jargon like ‘ransomware’ and ‘fileless malware’ in 2017 and were scrambling to read all about it , understand it and see if were affected by it in any way. 

    2018 will continue to see newer types of attacks and newer security lingo thrown around as hackers get smarter. The more a technology or product is used – the higher the possibility it will be exploited in a novel manner for personal gains. 

    5. Data privacy 

    Data privacy continues to be a lost issue with every new device monitoring our conversation, location, likes, dislikes. There is a huge electronic virtual  dictionary being built on us with the digital footprint that we are constantly leaving. This will continue into 2018 and beyond!

    These are the five points that I think might shake the InfoSec world in 2018!

     

  • Role of Computer Simulations in Design

     

    Introduction – reasons for good design:

    When we buy a new car, we may have a number of expectations. e.g. We would like the car to be fuel efficient, comfortable in the cabin, be able to ride well in all kinds of roads, provide us a safe ride. When an airline buys an aircraft, they have expectations. e.g. Trouble free operation with minimal down time, integrity of the structure of the airplane, comfort of passengers in the cabin, reliable operation of the engine (from taxi, take off, ascent, cruise, descent and landing). When the government has a power plant commissioned, they would like to ensure that the plant delivers the required power, has the infrastructure to meet environmental emission standards and has good efficiency (conversion of energy into electricity). When an appliance manufacturer designs a washing machine, they would like to ensure that the system ensures good mixing of the water and detergent, proper agitation to remove dirt from the clothes and good ability to remove water from the clothes during the spin cycle.

    All these examples show that a good design is needed for efficient functioning of the appliance/airplane/power plant etc

    Methods of good design:

    There are two principal methods for ensuring a good design:

    a) Testing of Prototypes and the Final Product
    b) Performing virtual simulations using a computer.

    a. Testing:

    The traditional method of design predominantly involved testing. Testing was considered to be the only fool proof method of ensuring a good design. However testing is expensive, time consuming, sometimes not possible in hazardous environments, and has difficulty to replicate all real-world operating scenarios.

    b. Virtual simulations

    Computer Simulations (also known as Virtual Simulations or Numerical Simulations) provide an attractive alternative. Instead of performing a physical test in a lab, one can perform a virtual test on a computer. The virtual test of course needs to be validated against physical tests (or experiments) to build confidence in the computer simulation. The cost involved for performing Virtual Simulations (typically computer hardware, software license and a trained engineer) is a lot cheaper than the cost involved for performing a physical test.
    With the ever increasing power of computing, virtual simulations have become a cheaper and time efficient alternative to physical testing.

    Now, there are two classes of problems. A) Problems that have an analytical solution b) Problems that do not have an analytical solution. The second class of problems involve modelling assumptions, and the results need to be interpreted carefully, keeping in mind the modelling assumptions. For both class of problems mentioned above, companies have been making a conscious shift from Physical Testing towards Virtual Simulations over the last 15 years.

    Companies and design:

    Most companies rely heavily on computer simulations at a very early stage of the design cycle to select a group of good designs. During the final stages of design, they test the good designs predicted by simulations. On successful confirmation of the designs, the product is released to the market. This approach enables companies to keep costs reasonable and also shorten the design cycle resulting in valuable time savings. In an evolving, demanding and competitive market environment, Virtual Simulations play a very important role.

    Types of simulations:

    Simulations themselves could either be 1D or 3D. 1D simulations are faster to run and enable system level simulations (e.g. Entire Powertrain of a Vehicle). 3D simulations take longer to run, but can provide three dimensional information about the system being analyzed (e.g. The temperature and pressure at every location within an Internal combustion engine). Companies typically use a combination of 1D and 3D simulation tools during the product design phase.

    Both domestic and multi-national automotive manufactures have traditionally used Wind Tunnels for drag reduction of their vehicles. Reducing drag improves the fuel economy of the car. The manufacturers now use computer simulations to simulate both wind tunnel as well as on-road driving conditions. A computer simulation can provide the manufacturer detailed pressure, temperature and flow distribution around the car (to the tune of several million locations). It would be prohibitively expensive to get the same information from a wind tunnel test (since pressure and temperature transducers and data collection systems are expensive). The computed data can be visualized on a computer.

    Conclusion:

    As the expectations from the market keep rising every year, Virtual Simulations are now playing a very important role to help companies to come up with designs meeting customer requirements.

  • Digital Detox

    With most of us(or is it ‘all’ of us?!) being being plugged onto electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, tablets, IPads all the time, it is but necessary that we need a ‘digital detox’ from time to time.  It will be one of my New Year resolutions for sure! What is a ‘Digital Detox’ you may ask…well, read on to find out more…

     

    What is ‘Digital detox’?

    ‘Digital Detox’ is when we divorce all our digital assets and keep away from it at least for a day in a month.

    Is anything even possible without our smartphone and the countless apps that are on it? From bill payments, to booking tickets and ordering groceries – there is an app for everything and we are completely dependent on them.

    Considering that social media rules our life, and we are always in a crouched position at any place in life(it maybe the grocery store, in the car, in India – we are in a crouched position even in our scooters!) it could also mean keeping away from Facebook, Whatsapp,Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc.

    It will also mean keeping away from emails and not responding to the millions of emails that clutter our office work space. 

    What are its simple advantages?

    Giving our self a ‘digital detox’ will definitely help us in the following ways:

    1. To sleep better
    2. To connect with people the old fashioned way
    3. The compulsive urge to ‘like’ and respond to queries immediately will diminish
    4. Kids will imitate their parents and they will be less digitally dependent too
    5. One will lead a much more healthier life without an app tracking every step of theirs
    6. Others will get used to the ‘digital detox’ routine too!

    How do we do it?

    1. Keep the smartphones away for a day
    2. Do not check messages or update statuses on any social media platforms
    3. Keep the laptops, tablets, iPads away for a day too
    4. Do not check email messages or respond to them under any circumstances

    Why not try it today? Happy New ‘digitally detoxified‘ Year, 2018!! 🙂

     

     

     

     

     

  • Best technical posts of 2017!

    As the year draws to a close, here are my best technical posts of 2017:

    1. Bitcoin and Blockchain: What next?

    2. Cyber diplomacy:

    3. What is ‘Deep web’?

    4. Conflict Resolution at the Work place:

    5. Java 8:

     

    Warm wishes for a great New Year!

  • Bitcoin and Blockchain: What next?

    It seems every other day has a new headline regarding ‘Bitcoins’. I am sure most of us give a casual glance at this word and wonder where it will go next. From a humble value of $1019 on January 1,2017 the value of Bitcoin has soared to $16,860 till date. This type of meteoric rise will obviously roll a few eyes! 🙂

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    I had already written about Bitcoins in my earlier post “Introduction to Bitcoins“. Let’s refresh briefly:

    1. ‘Bitcoin’ is a cryptocurrency
    2. It was created by a highly doubtful ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ in January 2009
    3. It does not have any physical form
    4. It is largely based on ‘decentralised’ way of transacting business or the ‘blockchain'(no common authority to enforce regulation)
    5. It is accepted in a few countries and some goods can be bought with them
    6. Acceptance by different governments and countries is still an ongoing process
    7. In addition to its legal use,it is also used for illegal activities

    What is Blockchain?

    ‘Blockchain’ is the underlying technology that supports Bitcoin. In simple terms, blockchain is a global ledger. Sending and receiving bitcoins are some example of transactions. A group of transactions will be considered as a ‘block’ which when approved is added to the ‘chain’. This chain cannot be deleted or changed. It is continously added and maintained by all nodes in the network.

    Without a regulating authority like a bank, ‘blockchain’ has kept the Bitcoin journey alive for the past 8 years!

     

    Future of Bitcoin:

    I am no Bitcoin analyst and I do not have the crystal ball, but I can certainly state a few things! 🙂

    1. ‘Bitcoin’ and other cryptocurrencies will continue to hold people’s imagination and urge to invest for at least a certain period of time
    2. Since it is a completely volatile currency, it is not for the faint hearted
    3. Since it is not regulated, people with disposable income are the best individuals to invest in Bitcoin
    4. Even if one would like to invest in Bitcoin, good to start with a small amount
    5. Since the technology itself is evolving and nobody understands its implications fully, better to wait and watch and understand the nitty gritty details of ‘Bitcoin’.

    Whether the cryptocurrencies will stand the test of time, the underlying blockchain technology will definitely shake things up in the technology world and will most likely outlive ‘Bitcoin’!

    Most of the world’s top universities including Stanford university, Princeton university and e-learning portals like udemy, Coursera have taken notice and started courses in Blockchain. 

     

     

     

  • Definition of the day: What is malware?

    ‘Malware’ is  short form for ‘malicious software’. ‘Malware’ encompasses viruses, worms, Trojan horse, ransomware etc

    Examples of malware include: Wannacry ransomware

    Destruction produced by malware: computers will freeze, the computer can be used to launch attacks, the computer will crash, your data will be maliciously deleted etc.

  • What is your social media personality?

     

    With social media becoming a permanent feature of most of our lives, it has been  fun to observe the social media personalities of my world. By ‘social media personality’ – I mean, the ability to express ourselves online. Why, some of us are more social or and some of us are less social online, is very hard to pin point for me, for now, at least.

    Our social media personality woven with existing relationships seems to be creating brand new ‘online personalities and relationships’!  While there is no right or wrong on this issue and it is only a matter of personal comfort, these are a few of the social media relationships that I have observed in a fun way!

    1. Sometimes, one spouse is more social than the other online
    2. Both spouses are equally social online
    3. There are also instances when the parents are more social than their grown children! 🙂 (how and why – I have never been able to understand this?!! :))
    4. When the entire family just absconds from the Internet and social media(though very, very rare – haven’t found any family that way! – though am sure somebody does exist! :))
    5. When the entire family is online and everything is expressed online in full public view!! 🙂
    6. When teenage kids are having a gala time on social media and the parents have no clue about their social media habits(or choose to ignore)
    7. When one parent or both parents are constantly tagging behind their teens online! 😉

    Where do you belong in the above list?

    I am sure there are many other variations too – but these are the personalities that I have observed! Is there are any other social media personality that I have missed? 

  • What is the CISSP certification?

    No sooner do we start looking for jobs in the InfoSec industry, we encounter the question “Do you have any certifications?” This post will delve into the most popular certification – the CISSP.

    Introduction:

    As social media rages ahead so do other forms of sophisticated attacks. Information Security was a term that was barely used about 20 years ago. Yet, it has begun to play a major role today and will continue to do so in the future. The demand for Security professionals has also exponentially increased and the way to step into the most sought after career is to be certified.

    Employers will look for a proper mix of certification and experience to short list prospective candidates. Employees will climb up the information security ladder faster if they are certified.  What is the CISSP certification? Let’s find out:

     

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    The CISSP certification

    CISSP’ is ‘Certified Information Systems Security Professional. 

     (ISC)2 is the ‘International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium’ and is one of the most prevalent and widely accepted standards for Information Security certification. (ISC)2 delivers the CISSP certification.

    Achieving the CISSP certification is the gold standard for all security professionals. It is the first credential accredited by the ANSI/ISO/IEC Standard 17024:2003. A person who has the achieved the CISSP certification will command international respect.

          The requirements for appearing for the exam are as follows:

    1. Have five years of demonstrated Information Security experience in two or more of the ten domains of the CISSP exam(However, if one does not have the required experience to take the exam, one can become an Associate of (ISC)2 and clear the exam after gaining enough experience to take the exam within 6 years)
    2. Subscribe to the (ISC)2 code of ethics
    3. Pass the CISSP exam and complete the endorsement process

         The different domains of the CISSP exam and their weightage are listed below:

    Security and Risk Management16%
    Asset Security10%
    Security Engineering12%
    Communications and Network Security12%
    Identity and Access Management13%
    Security Assessment and Testing11%
    Security Operations16%
    Software Development Security10%

     

    The Exam:

    Duration: 6 hrs

    No. of questions: 250

    Pattern: Multiple choice and “advanced innovative questions”

    Passing grade: 700 out of 1000 points

    Benefits of the CISSP certification:

    Since the CISSP certification is what most employers look for in prospective employees of information security, it is “THE” certification to achieve. It is the most sought certification in an employee.

    Since the field is a dynamically changing one unlike most other professions CISSPs must recertify every three years and maintain their certification too.

     For professionals, who have achieved the CISSP gold standard and are wondering “What next?”  there are  other CISSP concentrations like CISSP-ISSAP, CISSP-ISSEP, CISSP-ISSMP.

    Latest Update:

    (ISC)2 is all set to introduce the CAT(Computerized Adaptive Testing ) for all CISSP English tests worldwide from December 18, 2017.  This is expected to reduce the exam duration from 6 hrs to 3 hrs. The total number of questions to be answered will also drop from 250 to 100.

    References:

    https://www.isc2.org/Certifications/CISSP

  • Of Mothers and Daughters/Fathers and sons!

    Just a few years ago(or must have been many,many years ago! :)) , I remember being mesmerized by my father.  It was like I was in a trance and there was an invisible magic wand giving me directions to do or not do things!  Such was our relationship, it seemed to resemble a Pied piper and his followers!! 🙂

    I am sure we see this in many houses – fathers being extra special to the little or(big!) girl in the house and the mother going the extra mile for the son in the house! Traditional thinking has it that daughters have a magnetic attraction towards their fathers(and vice versa) and sons are more inclined towards their mothers(and vice versa here too!) But is it really true that way or is it that we are brought up thinking that way?

    While it may be true in many cases, not all relationships work that way. What will happen where when it is an all girl household or an all boy household? Will all the girls be clinging to the father leaving the mother alone or will all the boys be clinging onto the mother,leaving the father alone? It doesn’t sound fair, does it?

    As I have grown and matured in parenting, I have seen many mothers being close to their daughters and many sons being close to their fathers as well. It really is up to each parent and their eagerness to take part in the parenting challenge. 

    Mother-daughter:

    Mothers and daughters relationship will continue to evolve over the years. As the girl transitions from a little girl into a teenage beauty and beyond, there are quite a number of things that can be taught only by a mother. Teenage years, ’empathy'(word picked from Satya Nadella’s ‘Hit Refresh’ :)) cooking, handling family relationships,finances may be some of things that the mother can share her expertise with her daughter. 

    Father-sons:

    Father and sons might not come off as the giggly, fun relationship but they will mature over the years provided there is ample input from the father’s  side. Finances, business and professional attitudes,care may be some of the things that a father can share with his son. 

    But again, there is no hard and fast rule as to what is to be taught by a father and what is to be taught by a mother. 

    Whether it is a son or a daughter, it might be quite fair to say, as parents – we all have the responsibility to bring them up well as we can. No passing the buck to mothers for sons and fathers for daughters!

  • Did you know?

    ‘Whatsapp’  is India’s largest and most convenient chat app. The anonymity to send messages without the whole world to view it and the instantaneous way to communicate made the chat app a total winner. 

    But the chat app had  one uncomfortable feature – for the multitude of messages sent across different groups and individuals, there was always that one message that was sometimes sent by mistake. It would always land in a group with 10-50 participants who would all be equally puzzled! 

     

     

    Whatsapp has solved the unintended message dilemma by enabling a new feature:

    1. You can delete an unintended message from all group members (or individuals)
    2. The unintended message should be deleted within 7 minutes of sending it
    3. In order to make it work , the message to be deleted has to be “tapped, held and deleted” from groups or individuals
    4. Once the messages are deleted, a message “This message was deleted” will appear in the appropriate group. 
    5. In order for the ‘Delete’ feature to work, all users should have the latest version of Whatsapp installed for their phones or desktops. 
    6. If the deletion is not successful for all members of the group, there will not be a separate notification informing of the same.

    Note: There is a possibility that a message will be viewed by the recipient before the sender deletes it.

    What do you think of this new feature? 

     

  • Missing India?

    I write and write about Indian and US life and I never get tired! 🙂 Here is one more…

    Most of us who move to foreign lands to pursue different interests, try and re-create the Indian magic in different ways. We miss India in more ways than one as we adjust to a new life in a new country. Having lived for almost 14 consecutive years in the US, and having seen numerous families, students, couples move abroad, I can recount  a few of things that one misses sorely about India:

    1. The beautiful social life 

              Going from a country of billion people – we see people everywhere in India. That might not be the case particularly in a foreign country  and that too if you are in a cold place. We seek solace in online relationships which keeps us going.

       2. The festive season

             The festive season is particularly hard because of the authentic way of celebrating it seems to be missing in the new land. This can only be replaced by replicating the exact things that were done in India(for example, for Diwali – get together with other Indian families are arranged and the culture of the Indian festivals is passed onto newer generations)

     

     

    3. Missing Indian values and trying to pass them on

    This is probably one of the toughest things to do in a foreign country, at least in my view.  Raising kids in a new land brings with it, its own challenges.

    We do not want our kids to lose our own Indian values and heritage but at the same time, we want them to blend well with the foreign country’s values and habits too. Shuttling from ‘Bala vihar’ class and Bharatnatyam classes to soccer practices is the new norm for Indian kids growing abroad. 

    They are expected to speak, read, write their own mother tongue with ease as well study languages in the foreign country too.

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    4. Healthcare is not so complicated

    I am not sure whether missing healthcare in India is the perfect way to say it – but suffice it to say that simple healthcare in India is not very complicated. We do not need to carry our health insurance card for every visit to the doctor.  The most important distinction between Indian and a foreign country’s health system is that we can choose our own doctor!!

    The insurance does not dictate whom we should see for simple ailments. 

    Simple medicines are relatively cheap too(A strip of paracetamol only costs 30 Rs. – that is just about 50 cents!!)

    5. Higher education is not so expensive

    Actually, this can be restated as “education itself is not so expensive” – at least not for the middle tier and upper middle tier population of India. While school education is easily affordable, college education is manageable too.

    Parents are never advised to start saving for their child’s education from the day they are born! 😉

    6. Cricket

    There are very few individuals who don’t miss the gentlemen’s game in a foreign land. As it is said, cricket is a religion in India and even though other sports like basketball, ice hockey, baseball and American football are around us, the heart always seeks the religion that unites India! 

    These are just a few ways that I have seen many families miss India. I am sure there are plenty more…

     

  • What is Zero day vulnerability?

  • School education in India and US

    When we moved to India, 7 years ago – the first thing that stumped me when we were looking for our kid’s admissions,  were the different boards in India. Even though we had done our schooling and undergraduate education in India, staying away for 14 years, totally erased the Indian school system from our minds. We were used to the US elementary school system but the Indian system was a lot different. This post lists the differences between the Indian and US school system.

    The US education system:

    The US has only two school systems – the public school system or the private school system. In the public school system – education is absolutely free from kindergarten up until 12th grade! (very,very difficult to think  of the term ‘free’ for good school education in India! :)) 

     

     

    Private schools in US charge for their education system.

    If you are in a good school district, we are fairly certain that we will get good,free school education up until 12th grade in public schools of US.

    The Indian system:

    Now, the Indian system of school education involves many boards. We as parents are constantly trying to navigate the different boards comparing, analyzing and contrasting the different boards.  The two pre-dominant boards are CBSE (Central board of secondary education) and ICSE (Indian certificate of secondary education)  While I do not have not much experience with the CBSE board, I can safely say a few points regarding the ICSE board:

    1. It is a thoroughly exhaustive syllabus(read – extremely vast!) with the curriculum increasing in thickness as you go up each grade.
    2. You have to appear for 10 subjects for the 10th grade board exams(yes – 10 subjects! )
    3. This serves as a good spring board for the 11th grade syllabus and eventually the other competitive exams. 

    Now, each city and each locality might be more inclined towards a particular board. For example, I suspect the city of Chennai is more inclined towards the CBSE and State boards. The city of Bangalore is more inclined towards the ICSE board. 

    In addition there are the IGCSE(International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and IB boards as well. IGCSE and IB are the boards that offer international curriculum. 

    As parents we are constantly navigating the board maze in India which constantly changes. No sooner do we think that we have understood a board, that a few changes crop up, confusing us again! 🙂 

    Good luck on deciding the perfect board education for your child if you are in India and deciding on a private school or public school if you are in the US!

     

  • Definition of the day: Trojan virus

    The more connected we are with our tablets, mobiles, desktops, laptops, the more we are susceptible to an attack. The connected world boasts of different types of attacks. Some of them are viruses, worms, phishing emails, Trojans and so on. Malicious writers are constantly seeking new ways to exploit new vulnerabilities on new devices. We will explain the term Trojans in this post:

     

     

    Similar to the fabled horse in the Trojan war (wherein the Trojan horse was used to stealthily get soldiers inside the enemy camp) –  in computer security,  a Trojan virus is a malware that disguises itself in everyday files. When an innocent user clicks on the file disguised as the Trojan a virus with extraordinary capability is unleashed. Most common Trojan viruses are used to create back doors on systems, steal data from personal and business systems and remotely control a computer. 

    They do not replicate themselves and propagate by common social engineering techniques and duping the innocent user.