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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Software Firm Serving Vermont Towns Penalized for Security Problems

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 6:17 PM

  • David Junkin
A firm whose software is used by all Vermont cities and towns will pay the state $30,000 to settle allegations that it failed to safeguard sensitive data.

Software from the New England Municipal Resource Center, based in Fairfax, had left taxpayers' bank information and municipal employees' Social Security numbers exposed and vulnerable to theft for years, a Vermont technology consultant told Seven Days in February. Municipalities use the firm's products to compile grand lists, track accounts payable and receivable, maintain general ledgers, and administer property taxes, among other tasks.

South Burlington-based IT firm simpleroute first reported the bugs to NEMRC and then disclosed them publicly on its website. The findings raised questions about whether municipalities could safeguard data.
The Attorney General's Office said in a press release Thursday that it brought in a team of security experts from Champlain College after learning of the problems. In about an hour, they were able to crack an algorithm that the software used to encode sensitive data.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Schurz Communications Seals Burlington Telecom Deal

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 4:40 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
It's official: Schurz Communications has finalized its purchase of Burlington Telecom by signing paperwork and paying $30.8 million.

Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the deal at a press conference in his office on Wednesday afternoon, calling it "progress far better than was thought possible seven years ago." Schurz representatives did not appear at the press conference, though the company did have officials in Burlington on Wednesday, according to the mayor.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fire Consumes a Tesla Model X on Iced-Over Shelburne Bay

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 10:56 PM

The burned Tesla Model X - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • The burned Tesla Model X
Updated at 2:07 p.m. on March 1, 2019.

Out on the ice of Shelburne Bay Thursday, past the fishing shanties and frozen-in-place moorings, a burned-out mass of metal resembled a leftover prop from the set of Mad Max: Fury Road.

It was no prop. But the refuse was, in a sense, futuristic: It was the remnants of a 2019 Tesla Model X that went up in flames Sunday on Lake Champlain.

Shelburne Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet said his department could do little when members responded around 8:15 p.m. that night. The blaze was hundreds of yards from the nearest access point at the Shelburne Bay Boat Ramp and, while the ice was thick, "It's nothing we're gonna throw a 50,000-pound fire truck on," he said.

Ouimet called in the Charlotte Fire Department, which responded with an ATV equipped with a portable pump and hose, but the electric-powered SUV was already beyond saving.

"There was no way we could get anything out there," Ouimet told Seven Days. "As a firefighter, I've never felt so helpless before."

The operator told police and firefighters that he'd been driving in South Burlington when he thought he hit a rock or big piece of ice on the road. The man stopped to check for damage and couldn't see anything, though he thought he smelled something "strange," according to Ouimet.
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • The remains
The driver, whose identity Ouimet did not know, then drove his Tesla onto the bay to go ice fishing. He was out of the car when he heard a hiss, and the $82,000 vehicle went up in flames.

The man had gotten a ride to shore by the time police and firefighters spoke with him, according to Ouimet.

"He seemed ... more in shock than anything," the fire chief said. "He was hoping we could do something, but when we told him it was out of our hands, he was a little distraught."

The U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the scene, according to Ouimet, and the authorities called the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to report the incident. Ouimet said it'll be the driver's responsibility to get the husk of the car off the ice.

It was still out there Thursday morning, not far from where two ice fishermen had set up. Erick Wallace told Seven Days he'd assumed the burned mass was the remains of some kids' driftwood bonfire. Dave Steele said he'd heard about the car fire and was concerned that pollutants from it would leach into the lake.

The Shelburne police officer leading the probe has spoken with the owner, according to Sgt. Josh Flore, but the incident remains under investigation. To try to learn the cause of the fire, authorities will need to take a look at the burned shell of the car once it’s removed from the bay.

"There’s a lot that plays into this. When’s the last time you heard of someone driving a Tesla out on the lake?" Flore said. "I think everybody’s trying to figure out what happened. Unfortunately, we won’t have more of an idea until the car’s off the ice."

Flore declined to identify the owner, citing the incomplete report.

"Could the guy have been going ice fishing? Maybe, maybe not — who knows," Flore said. "And we won’t know the answer to that until the investigation is concluded and the officer can make a good, informed decision on the path he’ll take."

The incident has gotten attention online after someone posted about it on the Tesla Motors Club forum. The website Electrek later picked it up, as did Jalopnik and Popular Mechanics.

For good reason. Ouimet said the call was unique for his department.

"It was an interesting situation," he said. "That was a first for us."

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Seven Questions for Nick Floersch of Code for BTV

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 at 1:20 PM

Nick Floersch speaking to Code for BTV coders - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Nick Floersch speaking to Code for BTV coders
Monday is the start of Burlington’s third annual Innovation Week. Colleges, nonprofits and companies will host a series of events designed to draw attention to the local tech scene.

This year’s offerings include the Road Pitch finals, in which startups from across the state compete for a $5,000 grand prize, as well as a panel discussion about blockchain technology, the second Vermont Investors Summit and a conference on healthcare innovations for treating substance abuse. Full disclosure: The final event is Seven Days’ 12th Vermont Tech Jam.

Innovation Week begins on Monday night with the first Sector Mash, an arts and tech sector puree featuring three-minute talks from organizers of various events and entities — think Champlain Mini Maker Faire, Big Heavy World, Internet of Things meetup, Vermont Arts Council. It takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. at Generator, Burlington’s community maker space. Nick Floersch is helping put it together.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

HuffPost: Notorious White Nationalist 'Ricky Vaughn' a Waterbury Native

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 5:57 PM

A social media profile image of "Ricky Vaughn" - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • A social media profile image of "Ricky Vaughn"
Updated at 9:36 a.m. April 6, 2018, with a statement from the Mackey family.

An infamous white nationalist troll who went by the online moniker "Ricky Vaughn" is a 28-year-old Waterbury native whose father is a prominent Montpelier lobbyist, the Huffington Post reported Thursday.

The man known as Ricky Vaughn, whose online profile grew during the 2016 general election, is actually Douglass Mackey. He graduated from Harwood Union High School and Middlebury College, and now lives in Manhattan, the Huffington Post reported.

His father, Scott Mackey, is a partner at Leonine Public Affairs and served on the Harwood Union School Board.

“We were devastated to learn this week of Doug's beliefs and on-line activities as reported in the Huffington Post," Scott Mackey said in a statement released Friday. "They are antithetical to the values we hold and with which he was raised. We are still trying to understand how he could have done something like this and hope he will find some way to make amends for the harm he has caused.”

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Walters: CoverageCo Floats Comeback Plan That Requires State Assistance

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 5:59 PM

Richard Biby testifying before the Senate Finance Committee as Sen. Randy Brock looks on - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Richard Biby testifying before the Senate Finance Committee as Sen. Randy Brock looks on
The interim chief executive of CoverageCo says the rural wireless network is still alive — and needs a little help from Vermont officials to stay that way.

CoverageCo provides 2G wireless service along 150 miles of rural highway and in 26 small communities, but it's been losing money on basic operations and is carrying an unknown amount of debt. Vermont Public Service Commissioner June Tierney told a House committee last week that CoverageCo would effectively cease operations this past weekend.

It did not, thanks to the intervention of Richard Biby, a former CoverageCo executive and telecommunications engineer who has been hired by the company's investors to lead the firm through what he hopes will be a successful recovery effort.

Biby, who lives in Virginia, has been in Montpelier since Monday, meeting with Gov. Phil Scott, administration officials and key lawmakers, pitching a plan to keep CoverageCo in service while a long-term recovery plan is worked out.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Walters: Rural Cell Provider CoverageCo Is About to Go Dark

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 5:41 PM

Public Service Commissioner June Tierney. State Rep. Kathy Keenan (D-St. Albans) sits in the background. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Public Service Commissioner June Tierney. State Rep. Kathy Keenan (D-St. Albans) sits in the background.
CoverageCo, a company that provides wireless phone service for rural areas in southeast, central and northeast Vermont, will effectively cease operations this weekend. Even now, its coverage has been greatly diminished because of technical problems.

That's the bad news the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee received Thursday morning from officials of the Department of Public Service, which regulates utilities in the state. The loss of CoverageCo service will leave 26 rural communities and some 150 miles of rural roadway without cell service.

CoverageCo provides service along state highway corridors unserved by other carriers through the deployment of roughly 150 microcell units resembling small satellite dishes. Clay Purvis, director of telecommunications and connectivity for the Department of Public Service, told the House panel that 102 of the microcells are not working.

And Public Service Commissioner June Tierney testified that the entire CoverageCo system will go dark on Saturday, when a firm most of us have never heard of cuts ties with it.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Fake Leahy Comment to FCC Decries Net Neutrality

Posted By on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 11:45 AM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
A comment submitted to the Federal Communications Commission says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is a staunch opponent of Obama-era net neutrality rules designed to protect the open internet. The only problem: Leahy is a longtime vocal proponent of net neutrality, and he had no idea there was a comment filed in his name.

“Oh, my God. I wasn’t aware of that,” Leahy said when he was asked Sunday about the comment. “I have been a consistent and noisy proponent of net neutrality.”

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Walters: Legislative Leaders, AG Promise Action on Data Security

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 2:11 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero)
Top Democrats in the Vermont House and Senate joined with Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan to promise action in light of data breaches such as the one revealed this summer by credit rating agency Equifax.

The officials said they are in the process of gathering information about data security issues, possible legislative remedies, and the lines between state and federal authority. The goal, said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) is to draft legislation for "immediate action in January."

One starting point: a series of public hearings to be held by the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee beginning next week to gather public testimony on the impact of the Equifax breach and other data-security issues.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Walters: Scott Creates Cybersecurity Team, Talks EB-5

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:17 PM

Gov. Phil Scott speaks to reporters at his cybersecurity press conference Tuesday. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Gov. Phil Scott speaks to reporters at his cybersecurity press conference Tuesday.
Gov. Phil Scott issued an executive order Tuesday creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Team, a 10-member panel including representatives of state government, the private sector and academia. In doing so, he rolled out a seemingly eye-popping statistic.

“Since January, the state has seen over 3.3 million potentially malicious cyberattacks against our information resources,” he said. “This is equal to 524 attempts to subvert our defenses and gain unauthorized access every single hour for the last nine months.”

Shocking, isn’t it? Well ...

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