Threats grow with technology

By Coy Millsap

MCP Staff Reporter

Online shopping and social media are just a couple of ways that people could put themselves in harm’s way. By putting personal information on the Internet, people take the risk of having their identity stolen.

There are many ways a hacker can obtain one’s identity. There are simple techniques. The Internet is not the only way that hackers can get access to personal information. They can use ATM machines, security cameras and other means. There are still traditional ways, which include stealing wallets and addressed mail.

Most people have identification cards, credit cards and sometimes Social Security cards, but today things are changing. More people are purchasing items online and do not use proper procedures when using credit cards on the Internet. “If it’s on the Internet, it can be hacked,” Midland College Vice President of Technology and Facilities Dennis Sever said.

Often, hackers will use a false website. The website will look almost identical to a legit site. For example the IRS website is often mimicked. All federal agencies will not ask for personal information as in Social Security numbers, and bank account numbers, but fake websites will.

If you get a phone call from a person claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or other official offices, seeking personal information, this is also false. You should hang up immediately and inform the authorities. “If somebody asks you a question and you do not know who they are, do not answer. It is that simple,” Sever said. “Another way that people can get information is an email scam. Emails often times claim that the person receiving the email has won a prize and ask for bank account information. These types of scams should also be reported to the authorities. “Watch how you talk to. Don’t open unknown emails. Don’t give secure information. Know who you’re talking to, and be careful.”

The misinformed and the elderly often times fall victim to email scams. Education and awareness is the best weapon to use when protecting one’s identity at home and abroad.

Be aware of malicious malware, unknown email addresses and false websites. Identity theft is one of the largest and fastest-growing crimes in the world.

Social media websites can be dangerous. “People share information on Facebook, as in ‘we’re going out of town or at a baseball game,’” Sever said. “Certain individuals know that the person is out of town or the house is empty.

One way can be more careful with their identity is by creating more complicated passwords. “People make passwords too easy,” Sever said. “You have 46 different characters you can use to secure your password. Use a 15 character password instead of a four character password.” should also be creative when making a password. “Do not put your first name, your kid’s name, or your pet’s name and so on and so forth.”

“As technology gets better, the threat grows and the problem gets worse,” Sever said.


Commentary: Cinema evolves

“Cinema is dead,” director Quentin Tarantino declared at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino went on to express a general sense of hopelessness for future generations. Tarantino’s focus was digital projection and DCPs as the root cause for cinema’s demise. Tarantino is not the first filmmaker to make this claim.

Cinema is more than 120 years old and has been declared dead numerous times throughout its lifetime. The common thread throughout all of these declarations: the film industry was in a state of change, and the established filmmakers and critics seemed jaded or perhaps jealous of the new innovations that were changing their beloved cinema.

Entertainment as a whole is in a state of change. No one is sure where it is headed, but the experts agree that traditional models are no longer going to be the standard. Websites like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix are changing how audiences watch films and even to some extent why they watch.

A group of kids in Challis, Idaho, can become internationally successful because of a video they uploaded to YouTube. Almost everyone has a phone capable of shooting video and then uploading the video to the Internet.

Perhaps directors like Tarantino, who struggled to become successful and have refined their craft over the last several decades, are stunned by how easy the process has become. The challenges that filmmakers faced 20 years ago no longer exist, and the only real challenge is creating something that rises above the noise of all the other junk on the Internet.

We live in a time where anything is truly possible, thanks to crowd-funding websites like and If you want to start a business where you make hats for cats, you can get funding. More specifically to filmmaking, a lot of indie directors are going to crowd-fund to get the money they need to make their films.

The entertainment is shifting into a new and uncertain future. I can understand why this scares the establishment, but I am excited to see what is around the corner.

Perhaps traditional cinema is dead, and while it’s sad, the new form of cinema might just be as artful and profound as its predecessor.

Net neutrality overturned: ISPs destroy digital ecosystem

LEARN network image

LEARN’s network covers the majority of Texas.

Imagine a world in which corporations control your access to information on the Internet. Net neutrality affects everyone, yet the majority have no clue what is or why they should care. There are plenty of corporations that want to keep it that way.
Net neutrality is the idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally. Basically a YouTube video should receive the same treatment by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) as a movie from Netflix or a commercial from Verizon. Net neutrality guarantees access to content will not be manipulated whether it comes from a non-profit or a major corporation.

In January, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of ISPs, basically revoking net neutrality. In 2010, the FCC had classified broadband as an information service, leaving it up to legal interpretation, and established “Open Internet Rules,” which were: 1) ISPs need to be transparent about how they manage network congestion, 2) they can’t block traffic on wired networks, no matter what the source, and 3) they can’t put competing services into an “internet slow lane” to benefit their own offerings. The court’s ruling removed the last two rules, and the first rule is vague enough that ISPs can avoid it altogether.

Freed from any legal restraints, ISPs can monitor everything you do and say online, then sell the information to the highest bidder. ISPs have direct control over your connection to the Internet and the devices you use to connect to it. Internet users already face a minefield when it comes to online privacy. Social networks constantly change their confusing privacy controls, and “free” websites and email providers routinely harvest and sell our personal information to advertisers. The old rules were created to protect Internet users. The January 2014 decision has unraveled these protections.

Net neutrality allowed minorities to tell their own stories and to organize for racial and social justice in the digital age. The open Internet gave marginalized voices an opportunity to be heard. But without net neutrality, ISPs can block unpopular speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without net neutrality, minorities will lose a vital platform to shape debates on issues that impact their communities’ well-being.

ISPs have proven that they will censor, block, and manipulate information on the Internet if allowed to do so. In 2005, Telus was involved in a bitter labor dispute, and the telecom blocked its Internet subscribers from accessing a website run by the union that was on strike against them.

In late 2007, Verizon Wireless cut off access to a text-messaging program by the pro-choice rights group NARAL that the group used to send messages to its supporters. Also in 2007, Comcast, the second largest ISP, intentionally slowed down its customers’ Internet connections. The FCC took legal action against Comcast for abusing their customers rights.

During a performance by the rock group Pearl Jam in Chicago, AT&T censored words from lead singer Eddie Vedder’s performance. The ISP, which was responsible for streaming the concert, shut off the sound when Vedder voiced his opinion on the current president.

Altering online information has serious implications for education and educators. Dennis Sever, vice president of information technology and facilities at Midland College, maintains the college’s network and computer systems. He said MC is a part of the Lonestar Education and Research Network and would not be affected by net neutrality. LEARN is a large computer network covering more than 3,200 miles of Texas.

Mike Phillips, executive director of LEARN, said it was a “digital ecosystem” designed to support research, education and innovation. LEARN is partnered with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and others. The infrastructure and its partners is what allows LEARN to maintain net neutrality on their network.

Both Sever and Phillips agreed that the private consumer would be affected by the reversal of net neutrality. Plenty of organizations and groups are petitioning the FCC to re-define broadband.

More information is available at or

Video games, surgery go hand in hand

Video games in the operating room is the future of surgery. A new machine, similarly shaped to an arcade racing car game, is now being used to do complicated operations. The doctor can sit in the console and move the robotic arms that are working with the patient. While the patient is in a relaxed state the doctor will create incisions and begin the operation, sometimes without being in the same room, according to Leslie Chupp, M.D., F.A.C.O.G, and Regional Director of Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health.

Gamers, robots and the history of the evolution of surgical techniques were the focus of the first of MC’s First Friday Brown Bag Lunch Seminar, given by Chupp.

Teachers encouraged students to go to the seminar for extra credit, but even students who went only for the extra credit learned some interesting aspects of the mechanics and the evolution of surgery. After signing in at a table in front of the Carrasco Room in the Scharbauer Student Center, students took a seat to listen to what they may have expected to be a boring presentation.

Chupp had spoken on this topic before at MC, but was happy to be invited back, she said. Administrators asked  her to be cautious of putting graphic pictures of surgery in her presentation. She warned the crowd before presenting.

“Some of them [pictures] do show surgical procedures and blood, so if that makes you uncomfortable, there aren’t that many, but you may just turn your head. I don’t want to lose any of you,” Chupp said.

Her presentation started with a slide showing a photograph of surgeons in 1869 surrounding a patient and preparing to operate. During this time they sprayed carbolic acid, believing it to kill germs, and eventually discovering it lowered infection rates in patients. The picture showed one surgeon making incisions by hand, which was how it was done until the 1970s, according to Chupp.

“We can still do the hands-on surgery,” Chupp said, “This is an open procedure where we can actually see tissue and move things with our hands. Though we are limited by the size of our hands this kind of surgery takes a lot of physical stamina. When I was training, surgeries could take up to 15 hours, limiting people who cannot stand for long periods of time.”

Chupp then proceeded to describe the downside of hands-on surgery, such as an increased number of infections. Sometimes hernias would form and the incisions caused pain. Prolonged postulation would make them bedridden for a few weeks. Being bedridden has the potential to create hernias in the lower body because the body requires movement. Without movement, the body will create hernias on its own.

The next step was the use oddly shaped scissors that allow cuts to be easier and cleaner. “They can be curved or sharp, and were the main instrument, still used today,” Chupp said. “Also, retractors are used to separate the incisions so we can actually see what we are doing. You can imagine this puts a lot of tension on the skin, so again, we would have pain.”

But the advantages, according to Chupp, are good. These types of surgeries tend to be very fast. The instruments are less expensive than the newer technology, and are easily accessible to places where doctors can’t afford anything more.

Finally, a new technology that was minimally invasive was being tested in the 1970s on animals. Eventually it was used on people. With this invention, surgeons could watch themselves on a monitor.

“We started doing this for certain procedures like getting your tubes tied,” Chupp said. “It is a simple procedure, but the incision hurts. With this, we make a small cut and insert a camera. You could be out the same day, or even a few hours later. We would have less problems with complications because the wounds were smaller. The drawback is that you don’t have as much flexibility.”

Soon after, another machine was created that could stabilize the camera. In 1994, AESOP was released, which was a voice-activated camera. “It was slow and cumbersome,” Chupp said. “Doctors could tell their assistants to do the same thing, so it didn’t really take off. This evolved into the DaVinci system, which I am trained to do.”

The DaVinci replicates the wrist movement eliminates the need to stand. “The surgeon doesn’t even have to be in the same room, but usually they are,” Chupp said. “There are these optical lenses, which allow you to see, even if you are nearsighted. The machine acts as your eyes. There is a foot pedal, which activates an electrical current to make cuts. There is a lot of coordination that goes on, it’s actually kind of fun. I think one of the reasons most people like this is because the machine moves with your controls. There is a little bit of lag time, but now it is less than a second. I personally have done 200 surgeries on this machine.”

While the machine has many advantages, it does not allow the surgeon to feel the insides as they used to. “It is cumbersome,” Chupp said. “I call it the 747 because it requires a lot of room. Once it is in place, it stays there.”

There is a training simulation everyone goes through to work the machine. Instead of watching others do surgery, the trainees will spend hours on the simulation machine. There is a teaching console allows an experienced surgeon to switch with the trainee. The teaching console will allow the experienced surgeon to take the surgery back at any point.

“Video games probably aren’t such a bad idea,” Chupp said. “People that have these skills from video games can adapt to modern surgery easier. You still have to have highly trained people to work these machines, which is expensive.”

The brown bag lunches are every first Friday of a month and will have a variety of topics.

Hackers set sights on Target shoppers

In recent months, Target stores have been headline news, and not for their excellent service. Target officials announced that between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 40 million of their customers’credit and debit cards had been compromised due to an extreme data breach just as the holiday season was kicking into high gear.

Criminals forced their way into the Target system, which enabled access to credit and debit card information. The investigation determined that certain customer information was taken.  In the announcement, the company said customer names, debit and credit card numbers, card expiration dates, PIN numbers and embedded codes on debit and credit cards had all been stolen, which put shoppers’ identities at high risk. Social Security numbers were not among the stolen information.

The MC Business & Economic Development Center has extended an offer to the community to help create fraud alerts on accounts.Associate Director of BEDC Betsy Fredericks said: “We are encouraging anyone who is part of the community and suspects that they are victims of credit fraud to contact our office for assistance at 432-684-4309. We will help set up credit monitoring so that if you are ever at risk of having your information used, especially for big purchases like buying a vehicle or furniture, the credit agency will contact you personally to verify that it is in fact you trying to use your credit to make a purchase. Your credit will not be run unless the agency has spoken to you directly.”

That is not all that BEDC will assist with. “We also help students, or anyone in the community with credit counseling. We do what is called a “soft pull,” which is a view of your credit history that won’t affect your credit like it does with most sites. The first time is free, the second time is a $20.00 fee,” said Fredericks.

Although Target officials declined to provide specifics because of the ongoing investigation, the company is working closely with the United States Secret Service and the Department of Justice to bring those responsible to justice.

According to, one woman in Midland was affected by the security breach and because of the situation,she has asked not to be identified. The shopper bought a sweater from the retailer on Dec. 6, 2013. Weeks later, she tried to make a purchase elsewhere and her card was declined. After contacting her financial institution, she was informed that her credit had been run 17 times since her December purchase at Target in Midland. The credit card was also used in Nevada and New Mexico. Since the incident, the woman’s credit has dropped 28 points and has been flagged. Her credit is now frozen and unusable due to the incident.

Recently, the company disclosed that the massive data theft was much more extensive than anticipated in December with information being stolen from as many as 70 million customers. Target officials said that criminals not only took information from in-store shoppers but from people who shopped online and used the call center where they provided their phone number and email addresses.

Target spokesperson Molly Snyder told the Associated Press that there were no new details to share about how the data breach was executed by criminals but the compromise was in the point-of sale system in their U.S. stores.

Target HR representative Eliza Fiedler could not comment on how the breach affected employees or if there has been a decrease in shoppers. MC student Laura Smith said she was very fond of Target. “I love their home décor items and especially their baby stuff.” Since the security breach, Laura said she no longer feels the same about shopping at the store. “Having someone steal information and use your name to buy whatever they want is terrible and invasive. I don’t think I can ever trust shopping there again. I will be very nervous every time I swipe my card to pay for things.”

Target officials are trying to mend their relationship with their customers and ensure that customers have zero liability for charges that they did not make. The company is offering a year of free credit monitoring to all guests who shopped in U.S. stores. Customers who were affected by the security breach are encouraged to visit to request an activation code and receive the free service. The retailer also advises customers to be wary of call or email scams that may appear to offer protection but are really trying to get personal information. If customers are concerned about a fake email or want reassurance that an email is actually from target, they can visit where they are able to compare any emails to official copies of the emails that Target has distributed.

Target said the issue has been resolved and the access point that criminals used was closed immediately when the breach was discovered on Dec. 15. For more information, contact the Target media relations line at 612-696-3400.

Internet searches go academic

The search engine is one of the most commonly used tools on the planet. Browsing through book after book is no longer necessary when it comes to finding information about any topic in the world. With the technology presently available to the world, people hardly even need to type anymore.

A simple verbal request to your smart phone can do what once would take hours at a time on a single subject. Whether it’s for a recipe for sweet potato pancakes or the winning lottery numbers, everything can be found with a simple Internet search engine. With so much information  packed on the Internet, why not use that to someone’s advantage in the quest for higher learning? Many students rely on search engines to
get the information they need to write essays and do research projects. 

These days, it’s a very rare thing to see someone going through large books in order to write a research paper. Although there are copious amounts of search engines readily available to use, only some are designed specifically for academia. It is possible for students to find everything they need for research on simple search sites such as Google and Yahoo, but for the most accurate and politically correct information, a scholarly search engine is the best source.

Sites such as can be used to access published works by renowned authors and professors. Scholarly websites are good for
research because they tend to post only information that is 100 percent accurate. This guarantees that the information being used on a paper
or project is based on fact and not opinion. Although websites like Wikipedia are popular, they are not always the most reliable. Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone, which means the information is not always true. For the most part, Wikipedia pages are based
on fact, but with so many varying opinions on the Internet, pages are often impure and in need of corrections. is not the only reliable scholarly search engine though. Another very reliable site is iSEEK. iSEEK is a targeted search engine designed especially for students, teachers, administrators and caregivers. Students can find authoritative, intelligent and timesaving resources in a safe, editor-reviewed environment. RefSeek is another popular scholarly search engine. It has more than one billion documents, web pages, books, journals, newspapers and more. RefSeek offers authoritative resources in just about any subject and is also not
covered with ads and sponsored links.

Academic Index is a search engine and web dictionary created for college students. Websites in this index have been selected by librarians, teachers and educational consortia. The list of reliable and scholarly search engines is growing with the multitude of advancements in technology being released every day. With more websites being designed specifically for students, it seems impossible to come up with an excuse for not being able to find information on a subject. I guess you could always Google an excuse.