The trouble with two-factor authentication (and what to do about it)

Getting a second opinion is a great idea in both medicine and end-user cybersecurity. Two-factor authentication (2FA) and multifactor authentication (MFA) are powerful tools in the fight against all kinds of cyberattacks that involve end-user devices and internet-based services.

There’s just one big problem: It’s far, far too common for people to use text messaging as the second factor. That turns phone numbers into digital identity devices — a role they are poorly designed to play. If someone loses a smartphone or has it stolen or taken from them, they also lose their access to authentication. Worse, the attacker can transfer the phone number to another person, who will now receive authentication requests. 

Here’s what to do about the 2FA and MFA phone problem

Why I love Starbucks

You know those annoying people who hang out in coffee joints for hours on end, either chatting, doing business deals or working on their laptops?

Yeah, I’m one of them.

Before you judge, hear me out.

Do you know where coffee houses come from? Most people don’t.

All modern Starbucks and other coffee places descend directly from an Oxford coffee house that opened in 1650. That shop descended from similar establishments in Vienna, which themselves were modeled on coffee houses in Mecca and Istanbul and elsewhere in the Muslim world. (Coincidentally this photo was taken at an Istanbul Starbucks.)

Coffee was a novel beverage to Europeans in 1650. The first Oxford house was a hit, and coffee houses rapidly proliferated across the country, especially in London.

These establishments fueled the industrial revolution and the enlightenment — societal transformations that never could have happened in ale houses.

Their purpose wasn’t to dispense coffee. Entire businesses were set up and run inside the coffee houses. The world’s first newspapers were run out of them, then pamphlets distributed in them. Insurance companies operated entirely out of coffee houses. (Lloyd’s of London was named after Edward Lloyd’s coffee house on Tower Street, which opened in 1688.) Isaac Newton did most of his argumentation and idea exchanging with other scientists in the Grecian coffee house on the Strand.

For more than three centuries, coffee houses have served primarily as offices and meeting spaces for business people, journalists and intellectuals and secondarily as places to buy coffee.

Coffee houses came into existence not as a place where people are supposed to line up like addicts at a methadone clinic, then slink out. They’re a social meeting space for the community.

There’s a reason why 50 cents worth of coffee costs $4 at Starbucks and other places. You’re paying mainly for the space. You're paying for the seat and the table and the WiFi and the outlet and the bathroom and the climate control and the lighting. 

In recent decades, we’ve been trained like lab rodents to drop our cash and leave. McDonald's even trained the public to bus their own tables. In fact, the idea of buying coffee at a coffee house and taking it to go is an extraordinarily new phenomenon. They’ve recently conned us into paying the premium for the real estate, then feeling bad about using what we paid for.

The transition from coffee houses as the public’s place of business to the coffee house as a fast-food joint is part of the disgusting consumerization of the human animal. 

We’re not supposed to be citizens, thinkers or makers. We’re supposed to be consumers. Give me your money, then fuck off.

Ironically, Starbucks gets it. Considered derisively as the McDonald’s of coffee houses, the characterization is totally unfounded. Starbucks is committed to allowing anyone to use their WiFi free for as long as they want, at least in the United States and many other countries. Their stores have tables and outlets and couches and barstools. They invite everyone to hang out and linger. And there are other coffee places that understand the purpose of a coffee house as well.

But far too many believe a coffee house is just a place to extract money from customers, then force them to leave by failing to provide a social space. And when customers can’t find a table because people are staying too long, they don’t blame the establishment for failing to provide enough tables. They blame the campers.

My view is that if today’s coffee houses don’t know what a coffee house is for, they should close up shop and get out of the business. Maybe they can open a McDonald’s franchise.

Just don’t blame the customers who are using coffee houses for their intended and vital purpose. 

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend

Remote work was forced on many employers last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a simple, mid-pandemic consensus that “remote work is here to stay.” But as the crisis fades, organizations will get to choose where employees do their work — now with a new set of tools, expectations, and experiences.

As Marc Andreessen said recently, we are undergoing "a permanent civilizational shift” where we can divorce "physical location from economic opportunity.” He’s probably right in the long term, but we still have many questions to answer before that utopian dream is realized.

Here are the seven inconvenient truths and unresolved issues around the new hybrid and remote work trend.

How companies can gather personal data without abusing customer trust

Data-driven personalization is the practice of delivering relevant content to your customers based on the information you've gathered about them. Before data and personalization, brands had to generate demand for their products or make assumptions about their audiences using generalized data. But thanks to the internet and mobile devices, it's possible to communicate with heightened awareness about your market.

A data-driven approach enables you to collect data and use that data for a better customer experience throughout the entire customer life cycle. More importantly, it allows you to communicate the right message at the right time, based on where the customer is in that cycle, increasing engagement and conversion rates.

But the secret to making this personalization work is trust, which is earned through responsibly managing your customers' data. You have to strike the right balance between data and personalization, and your customers' privacy. 

Here's exactly how to do that

My wife is a culinary Captain Kirk

Five minutes before dinner (Amira made home made mushroom pasta; I made bread), we realized that we were out of butter. 

Without even hesitating, she grabbed a bottle of whipping cream from the back of the fridge and poured it into a jar. She then tossed in a kefir grain which she always cultivates and keeps in the fridge, closed the lid and handed me the jar. "Please shake this until it's butter," she requested. So I did. 

Once the buttermilk fully separated from the butter, we removed the grain, poured the buttermilk into a jar and put the button in ice water. Amira squeezed out the last bits of buttermilk, and there it was: delicious butter!

Like Captain Kirk confronted with the Kobayashi Maru, she hacked the cream instead of accepting defeat. 

Amira just doesn't believe in the no-butter scenario. 

Find innovation wherever you find mad passion for fixing what's broke

Here is my wonderful friend Aurore, a deeply beautiful human running a maker space and co-working space in the tiny but painfully beautiful French village of Pernes-les-Fontaines in Provence. It's called La Bricothèque, Fablab de Pernes, and you should visit if you can. So far from Silicon Valley, she is one of us: a human engine of innovation and possibility. With her partner Olivier (I fucking love this guy), she is opening a door to a new generation of makers creating a better future for all of us. 

I love talking to winemakers in their vineyards

We discovered this pretty-new winemaker, a father-and-son team. The dad was a French expat CIO in London who always dreamed of making wine. So he came back to Provence, bought a ruin of a chateau surrounded by grenache and syrah vineyards, and invested in reviving both house and vines. The winery is Domaine du Chat Blanc. They're new, but doing everything right -- organic vineyards, hand-harvesting (mostly) and lots of care in their wines. 

(Also: I love grenache and syrah, the only varieties they grow.)

So nice to meet these winemakers, and to share a few moments about their wonderful new winery. Can't wait to visit them again next year and see how they've grown. 

So many new places to discover in Provence!

No matter how many times we live in Provence, we still aways discover new and wonderful places. Like this village of Le Barroux, which is old and beautiful and a still-active community. A family still lives in the castle and, if you look closely, you can see them having dinner on their balcony. Here comes the drone video

Understanding the connection between 5G, Big Data, AI and multi-access computing

It's widely understood that 5G is set to transform business. But you can't talk about the coming 5G transformation without talking about 5G and big data. And you can't talk about 5G and big data without talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and multi-access edge computing (MEC). There's a ton of change coming. But don't be overwhelmed. Be prepared.

To oversimplify, 5G is needed to distribute AI to the edge and to devices. And AI is needed to bring intelligence to complex 5G networks. Widely distributed AI, edge computing and 5G all should drive very fast, very low-latency interactions throughout an organization. 

Here's why the future of business IT depends on the symbiotic relationship between 5G, Big Data, AI and multi-access computing

I'm staying on an "Island" in Provence

We're staying for a month in a town in Provence called l'Isle Sur La Sorgue, which means "The Island on the Sorgue." The Sorgue river starts as a natural spring coming out of the ground. At some point, the river splits in two, then re-joins later down the river. The land between the split is this amazingly charming town, an "Island" on the Sorgue river. Over the centuries, local residents have built canals throughout the town to support various industries, and so there's water everywhere (it's basically the opposite of California).