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Boston Hackathon

What’s the best way to test your skills? Be challenged. Compete! That’s what four of our developers did a few months ago at the GM “Makers Hustle Harder” Hackathon in Boston. With access to GM’s Infotainment SDK (software developer kit) and using cloud-based speech recognition, Julian (President), Elliot (Front End), Reed (Backend), and Stephen (Backend) created a restaurant search app that would be tested on a GM vehicle onsite. They called it “Food Finder,” the voice-activated, hands-free food ordering system. Brilliant! How often are you driving home from work and need to call in an order for pickup, or want to find a local restaurant as you’re traveling through a new town? This infotainment add-on would help with those requests using just your voice.

Food Finder competed against five other projects, and while they did not come in first place, the team left feeling accomplished in what they did. It also acted as a great team building exercise for these Sulzerites. Challenges included issues decoding and not getting enough sleep! Their biggest accomplishment was completing the end-to-end solution in just three days. Impressive!

The team created a Spring Boot Java backend that utilized Maven as the dependency manager, MongoDB as the database, Google Cloud for speech-to-text transcription, and IBM Watson for natural language processing and sentiment analysis. For the UI, they were limited to use the React framework with Redux for state management. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was used to deploy and host the project.

Check out what the test screen looked like and read more about the Hackathon at https://devpost.com/software/food-finder-bh1ldv.

 

 

 

Security Newsletter

As the sun stays out later and the snow melts away, people are breaking out of hibernation. We no longer act as shut-ins on the weekends, hiding from the blistering cold of winter. Instead, we celebrate by shutting down the laptops and TVs, and going outside! Since everyone can’t stay away from being connected and sharing their “Rosé all day” social media posts and pictures with friends at a BBQ, we take our phones with us; after all, they’re called mobile phones! The convenience of mobile phones is great, but, just like computers, they can be extremely dangerous to the integrity of your data. If you’re out of the house and you urgently need to connect to the internet (and maybe you’re running out of your monthly data), you are more likely to connect to a suspicious Wi-Fi network. Phones are still essentially computers, which means that they are also vulnerable to things such as network spoofing, spyware, and phishing. Fun fact: today’s smartphones have more computing power than the computers NASA used to send Neil Armstrong to the moon. Crazy!

Here are some tips to protect your mobile data:

  1. Encrypt your data.

Luckily, iPhones have encryption built into the operating system (OS) if the user takes advantage of the password feature (which we highly recommend). Other mobile devices have built-in encryption methods that are commonly demonstrated via YouTube videos1 if the user struggles to take advantage of the feature.

  1. UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE!

A lot of people don’t even know their smartphones can update. Apple’s updates are usually very upfront about update notifications, with a prompt asking you to update several times a day until you complete it. Other companies are a little more relaxed, which is not ideal for security. Look up the current software version for your mobile device and make sure your phone has that version to remain secure.

  1. Do not jail break, or download “sketchy” apps.

Would you download apps from a website that you have never heard of on your computer at work? We would hope not. So, would you do this on your personal, mobile computer, AKA your smartphone? We hope you wouldn’t. Think twice and do research before downloading applications to prevent downloading malicious software.

 

By: Matthew McCaffrey

1 BeeBom. “How to Secure Your Android Device.” https://youtu.be/QxEpued61OI

Let’s Get Moving!

Were you a part of the 32.4% of people who made a weight loss or healthier living-related New Years Resolution this year? Are you sticking with it? We hope you said yes, but the reality is that about 42% of resolutions don’t last longer than a month.1

If you’re someone who made this resolution and work in an office, chances are your rolling chair and stationary desk are the reasons you aren’t as active or why, even though you’re off your feet, you still feel tired by the end of the day. This is because there are adverse effects to sitting for long periods of time, including muscle strains, poor circulation, increased risk of heart disease, and effects to mental well-being.2

In order to combat this, experts recommend taking simple steps like taking a walk during your lunch break or standing while making a phone call. They also suggest investing in a standing desk or treadmill desk. Since we recognize that those last suggestions aren’t always realistic options, we’d like to share a post from our friends at Snack Nation. They have come up with exercises that you can perform right at your desk!3 If you sit at a desk all day and want to stick with your New Years resolution, this post could be just what you need to get yourself moving and feeling energized!

 


Photo Credit: Snack Nation

 

1 Statistic Brain. “New Years Resolution Statistics”
2 Huffington Post. “What Sitting Down All Day Does To Your Body: How It Affects The Spine, Organs, And Circulation”
Snack Nation. “25 Office Exercises: Easy Desk-Friendly Ways to Get Fit”

Happy National Pet Day!

Everyday is Pet Day if you’re an animal lover, but today we give extra love to our furry friends. Say hello to the cats & dogs of Sulzer US!

Cyrus Purba
Nice sweater!

Mulligan McRoryEyes on the road, pal!

Coco & Aga An
“Can we go outside and play, Dad?”

Brandy Marshall
“Yea, I wish it wasn’t snowing in April, too.”

Nelly Dray
Sleeping beauty

Luna Sabitov
That looks…comfortable.

Rock Climbing

We may not have warm, spring weather yet, but that’s not stopping us from getting active with some rock climbing; Indoor rock climbing, that is! Just minutes from the office, The Gravity Vault is a great place for teams to get in some bonding after work hours. With about four people to every one instructor, the groups were small enough that everybody got ample climb time and big enough that there was always a cheering squad rooting for you at the bottom. We had great instructors who were at the other end of our harnessed ropes also cheering us on and suggesting the next move to get to the top.

Imagine this: The climb starts off easy. Left arm and left leg up, right arm and right leg up. Then you realize you’re halfway up the wall, heart racing, and don’t know your next move. You hold on tighter and try to reach your foot up to your hip’s level. Sounds hard! But rock climbing is more than just a physical challenge; it’s a mental one, too. When you think you don’t have the energy to pull yourself up to the next handhold, your eagerness to succeed and make it to the top kicks in and you power through!

And if you think this is just an individual activity, you are sorely mistaken (emphasis on sore. It’s quite the workout!). A few of us participated in what I like to call, “Blind Rock Racing.” Two climbers were blindfolded and went toe to toe, climbing up walls with comparable skill levels while others on the floor guided him or her on where their next move should be. Our team is growing and it’s more important than ever to find team building opportunities in so many things we do!

 

Security Newsletter

As the year moves on, cybercrime continues to grow as predicted. Last month, CNN reported that United States authorities revealed 36 cyber criminals who were responsible for more than $530 million dollars in cyber-related crimes cumulatively.1 Even though action is taken to deter this, the industry is projected to reach $2 trillion by 2019, according to Forbes.2 Not only is cybercrime demanding more dollars, cryptocurrency is continuing to grow as well.

Though the value of cryptocurrency has decreased in recent weeks, the potential for another upward burst in value is still looming. With that in mind, there has been a steady increase in the demand for cybercrime as a service. “Things like malware-as-a-service, ransomware-as-a-service, distributed denial of service-as-a-service and phishing-as-a-service are becoming commonplace items that can be purchased or rented online. Technology that steals passwords is just a couple of clicks away for a wannabe hacker. Not only are they available, they’re updated regularly and supported. There’s an entire ecosystem built around these products, much as you’d see around conventional software that you’d run on your laptop.” 3

As cybercrime-as-a-service is beginning to gain more traction, we notice that they are targeting small to mid-size business. The biggest reason for this is the inability to pay for proper cyber protection due to budget restrictions. Cybercriminals are aware of this and are always attempting to find innovative ways to obtain information. Therefore, having weak protective measures makes these businesses more vulnerable. If they can’t afford the protection, they are encouraged to find other ways to protect themselves to prevent an attack from cybercriminals. ITWeb provides some cost-effective suggestions to achieve this:

  1. Continually apply patches and security updates to software.
  2. Implement policies around passwords – Allow only strong passwords and change them regularly.
  3. Always be testing your security – Penetration testing your environment is a must.
  4. Educate and train employees around cyber security.

 

By: Matthew McCaffrey

1 https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/08/world/us-cyber-crime-ring-arrests-intl/index.html
2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevemorgan/2016/01/17/cyber-crime-costs-projected-to-reach-2-trillion-by-2019/#564793f53a91
3 https://www.itweb.co.za/content/mYZRX79JLBrMOgA8

San Francisco Auto Show

Our Sulzerites don’t just work hard, they play hard, too! On the West Coast, we have a small team based in California made up of Lukas & Christian. When fellow colleague, Martin, was there, the three of them took a visit to the 60th Annual San Francisco International Auto Show to experience new cars and features that the show had to offer.

Martin (left), Lukas (center), and Christian (right)

 

They went directly from the office to give themselves plenty of time to explore. So much time, in fact, that Martin sat in almost every car available! They also had the opportunity to test drive new KIA models and a hybrid car around the block. Lukas says that was his favorite part! Martin and Christian enjoyed being able to build their own Volkswagen model and digitally paint it. The red was a nice choice!

The SF Auto Show gives visitors a chance to see the latest automotive innovations from the world’s major manufacturers. They get the chance to sit in, feel, and daydream about what it would be like to own one, which is the what the show is all about! We hope our team can visit again next time it’s in town!

Security Newsletter

An increased amount of research is being done on Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, which are growing the rate of machine learning faster than ever before. With AI becoming more popular, it is possible that it might be able to give IT professionals the help it needs to compensate for understaffing. We can also hope that it can help with the rapid influx of cybercrime. Compared to other types of crime, cybercrime has changed and grown significantly over time, especially considering it’s relatively new. So can AI help?

Infosecurity Magazine references Simon Crosby, Co-founder and CTO at Bromium, who says that “ML [Machine Learning] makes it easier to respond to cybersecurity risks. New generations of malware and cyber-attacks can be difficult to detect with conventional cybersecurity protocols.”1

These machines will be able to use data from previous attacks to respond to newer and similar risks. This use of AI will decrease the need of cybersecurity professionals on staff, but it will not decrease the need for cybersecurity.

Joerg Sieber, Director of Product Marketing Performance at Palo Alto Networks, says in BizTech, “Staff members may also have an inherent ‘distrust in technology.’… The feeling that automated technology will overlook threats or overblock the employees in our organizations is another very powerful, yet emotional argument against automation.”2

So while there is still going to be skepticism surrounding AI, “automation can cut duplicative processes, bring cohesiveness and consistency to cybersecurity responses, compensate for fatigue among IT security staff members and harmonize cybersecurity data.”2 Our hope is that AI and human cooperation may finally be able to team up and find a way to slow down the $445 billion cybercrime industry.

 

By: Matthew McCaffrey

1https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/next-gen-infosec/ai-future-cybersecurity/
2https://biztechmagazine.com/article/2017/07/pros-and-cons-automated-cybersecurity

Sulzer Squad

 

Navneet Purba, Junior IT Project Manager

Meet our Junior IT Project Manager, Navneet Purba. She started working with us in October 2017. In just five months, she has grown as a leader and says her biggest accomplishment as Sulzer so far is managing more large-scale projects on her own. Each day, she always tries to learn as much as she can about how to become a successful project manager. Navneet also plans on pursuing her MBA in order to work in upper management, where she can one day lead her own team of project managers! Her hobbies include reading, hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She played varsity tennis all four year of high school and aspired to continue playing in college, but after a knee injury, Navneet had to stop playing. Today, with her positive attitude and love for the sport, she gives tennis lessons in her free time!

Security Newsletter

It’s a new year and time for new resolutions! Whether you have a cliché, traditional resolution like deciding to cut out caffeine or something totally original like trying a new food each month, think of one that can not only improve your own life, but also the lives of everyone around you. We encourage you to come up with a work resolution in addition to your personal one!

One suggestion we have is to become informed and proactive about preventing ransomware attacks. Imagine this: You are working for what feels like months on a project. You are almost 90% done when you try to log on to your computer and you see a ransomware message. It’s one that commands you to pay $10,000 to get back onto your computer. Uh-oh! You did not back up your project! Now you are stuck, without all your hard work, and the deadline is approaching. Unfortunately, the situation occurred because one of your co-workers opened a malicious email. This is called “phishing” and it happens every day to people all over the world. This year, try to make your work-related resolution to get informed and help prevent your companies from being impacted by these types of attacks.

These three steps are common ways to prevent a ransomware attack, even if you don’t have much technical knowledge:
  1. Back up. In a perfect world, employees would back up their data once a day, but since this is not feasible in a lot of workspaces, try to back up your data once a week, or even once a month. Any backups are better than no backups.
  2. Avoid clicking on suspicious emails and links. Phishing attacks are one of the most common because it is easy to do, and they prey on the unaware user.
  3. Infected with malware already? Disconnect. This will prevent the malware from spreading. Also disconnect the WiFi and Bluetooth, as these can also spread malware.

 

By Matthew McCaffrey