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computer forensics

KEDC receives grant for second year in a row based on stellar track record

By computer forensics

For about three years, a diesel engine company in Bakersfield was a member of Kern Economic Development Corporation — but now it is a direct beneficiary.

The company, Central California Power, is one of nine small to medium-sized businesses in Kern County that added a total of 26 employees thanks, in part, to business consulting from the KEDC.

And that record earned the KEDC a second straight grant of $80,000 from the U.S. Department of Agricultural Rural Development to boost business in the county.

“It is uncommon to receive back-to-back grant awards,” said Paul

Venosdel, state director of the rural development agency, at a news conference Friday. “But the strength and quality of the KEDC work justified it.”

The agency had $4 million in requests, but only $500,000 to give in the state, Venosdel said. Kern County got a little attention because President Bush highlighted rural development in a Bakersfield speech last March at Rain for Rent, Venosdel said.

The new grant is intended to help nine to 12 other businesses join the program later this year, KEDC Business Developer Bill Jeffries said.

Those businesses will be selected from applications, which are available from the agency’s Web site,

They will be accepted through Aug. 26. Information is available by calling 862-5157. The program is known as Tomatoes on Steroids.

Friday’s news conference was held in front of Central California Power, 6615 Rosedale Highway, where its president, Rod Headley, credited Jeffries with helping line up new business opportunities.

Headley said Jeffries, during nearly weekly contacts, helped him with financing options and finding customers.

That helped increase Central California Power staff by three positions in the last fiscal year and the company is looking to boost the staff by an additional five to 15 positions this fiscal year, Headley said.

The 23-year-old firm, formerly Central California Diesel, provides sales and service for generators, sales of industrial engines and the engine generating components of dairy digesters.

It is the last aspect — helping dairies reduce pollution and costs, and produce electric power — which offers a new potential for expansion this year, Headley said.

The firm is also in the midst of replacing 250 to 300 old diesel engines with cleaner models — about $5 million worth of sales — that can reduce 500 to 600 tons of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter pollution, he said.

A new engine can save 75 percent to 84 percent of such emissions, the company reported.

Jeffries said one of the contributions he made to the firm was providing information about an offset pollution control program through the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Another success story was helping Advanced Micro Research of Delano position itself to double its four-person staff this year, related the firm’s Chief Executive Officer Alphonso Rivera.

“Their support has been phenomenal in both marketing and contacts,” Rivera said.

KEDC was largely responsible for helping the 3-year-old firm secure a contract with the city of McFarland to help maintain and build its computer-information systems, Rivera said.

The company is looking to expand with similar work for private companies, he said.

The other businesses selected for help with the first grant were The Apple Shed Inc., Tehachapi; Bennett Optical Research Inc. and TomatoMan, Ridgecrest; XCOR Aerospace Inc. Mojave; Carney’s Business Technology Center, Oasis Air Conditioning, and Terrio Therapy-Fitness Inc., all of Bakersfield.

BTK serial killer: Power of computer forensics

By computer forensics

He called himself the BTK serial killer. It stood for “bind, torture, kill.” And he taunted Wichita, Kansas, law enforcement for more than two decades until his ego and computer forensics brought him down.

The BTK arrest in 2005 and the killer’s eventual sentencing to 10 consecutive life sentences is considered the most famous criminal case ever solved by computer forensics.

As time passes and technology becomes more sophisticated, law enforcement’s and the legal community’s reliance on computer forensics continues to expand. Not only are computer audits and investigations used to crack criminal cases, they are being used by companies to investigate disputes involving violations of company policies, financial and intellectual property thefts, security breaches and more.

The famous BTK case demonstrates the power and effectiveness of adding computer experts to investigative teams.

The BTK killings began in 1974, with the brutal murders of Joseph, 38, and Julie, 33, Otero and two of their children by suffocation, strangulation and hanging. A few months later, Kathryn Bright, 21, was fatally stabbed 11 times. After a gap of three years, Shirley Vian, 24, and Nancy Fox, 25, were found strangled in separate murders.

After another four years, Marine Hedge, 53, was strangled in 1985 and Vicki Wegerle, 28, died a similar death in 1986. BTK then went quiet, not killing again until Dolores Davis, 62, was found strangled in 1991.

Throughout the years of killing, BTK taunted law enforcement, seeking recognition and notoriety through notes hidden in boxes, library books and even newspaper classified ads. After a vicious yearslong murderous spree, from 1974 to 1991, BTK went quiet again.

It wasn’t until 2004, when a newspaper story speculated that BTK was dead, that the killer contacted law enforcement officers. That communications and the computer technology the killer used brought BTK down.

In March 2004, The Wichita Eagle received a letter from a man claiming to have murdered Wegerle. Enclosed were crime scene photographs and items. Before the letter arrived, BTK only had been suspected of killing Wegerle because investigators were unable to match DNA found under the woman’s nails to a suspect.

Another letter was sent to a Wichita television station with more clues and a box was found on a street corner containing a graphic description of the Otero murders. And in July, a package containing more evidence was dropped into the return slot of the downtown public library. By October, an envelope was dropped into a UPS box containing a poem threatening the case’s lead investigator. And in December, police received another package from BTK containing a copy of victim Fox’s driver’s license.

In January 2005, BTK attempted to leave a cereal box containing more crime details in a pickup truck parked at the Home Depot in Wichita. But thinking it was a joke, the vehicle’s owner tossed the box into a dumpster.

Hearing nothing about his January clue-drop, BTK contacted investigators, who scrambled to Home Depot, where they found the box, as well as surveillance tapes showing a man driving a black Jeep Cherokee tossing an item into a truck. Within the month, BTK sent more letters and a message written on a computer floppy disk.

Although BTK had scrubbed old documents from the floppy disk, forensic computer investigators found buried “metadata” identifying Christ Lutheran Church and “Dennis” being the last user. An internet search revealed Dennis Rader was president of the church council.

Further investigation revealed Rader drove a black Jeep Cherokee. And through medical treatment Rader’s daughter had received at a university, a DNA familial match was established with Wegerle’s DNA sample.

Rader, the married father of two, an Air Force veteran, a college graduate, who majored in criminal justice, and a code enforcement officer for nearby Park City, was arrested. He admitted committing the murders and told investigators he would have killed more people, but his intended victims “got lucky.” At the time of his arrest, he was planning another murder.

The lesson learned from the infamous BTK case is that a criminal’s effort to hide a “digital trail” is no match against the skills of a trained forensic computer sleuth.

Alphonso Rivera is the founder and CEO of Advanced Micro Resource Digital Forensics, a Bakersfield-based digital forensic company that specializes in digital audits involving cell phone and computer evidence for attorneys, private investigators, human resources consultants and companies.

Cybercriminals, state sponsors target energy industry

By computer forensics

A cyberattack in April on a shared data network forced four U.S. natural-gas pipeline operators to temporarily shut down computer communications with customers. It was one of the latest displays of the vulnerability of America’s power grid and energy industry to criminal hackers and rogue states.

Probably the loudest international wake-up call came in 2015, with Russia testing its cyberattacking capabilities on the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Using new cyberweapons, such as CrashOverride and BlackEnergy 3, Russian hackers were able to disrupt the electric power grid and black out the homes and businesses of 225,000 people in the Ukraine.

U.S. federal agencies earlier this year issued a report blaming Russian government-supported hackers for targeting U.S. energy and other industries in a new wave of attacks launched since 2016.

Last year, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security officials reported that Russian hackers were behind cyberintrusions into the U.S. energy power grid. The intrusion further demonstrated the threat hackers pose to the nation’s critical industries — energy, finance, health care, manufacturing and transportation.

There is a wide range of motivations behind these cyberattacks. Holding companies hostage with ransomware and the opportunities for outright theft are profitable endeavors for criminal hackers and their state sponsors.

The attack on natural-gas pipeline operators may have been in retaliation for the expulsion of 60 Russians from the U.S., an effort to intimidate and reveal U.S. vulnerabilities or a means to gather competitive information.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology released a staff report in April concluding Russian-backed cyberattacks were efforts to influence American energy markets and energy policy in response to the increased exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, which challenges Russian dominance in European markets.

Increasingly, cyberattacks are becoming so effective that an office within the U.S. Department of Energy is being established to shore up cybersecurity for such critical facilities as nuclear power plants, refineries and pipelines.

But companies big and small cannot wait for “the government” to save them from these attacks. Understanding the attacks, identifying company vulnerabilities and maintaining vigilance to defend against new threats are critical steps companies must take.

No doubt, increasing cyberattacks are intended to gain access and test responses. Hackers and their state sponsors are playing a long-game — setting up strategies that include extortion, the shutdown of systems, explosions, spills, and fires that result in the loss of human life and property, and degradation of the environment.

Nearly 2.5 million miles of oil, gas and chemical pipelines crisscross the U.S. Many hundreds of miles are in Kern County, alone.

Hackers are using a big bag of tricks to gain entry into the U.S. energy system. Most common, they fall into two categories: “spear phishing,” where customized emails trick recipients into opening malware that is embedded into a system, and “water-hole attacks,” where familiar and trusted websites are infiltrated or cloned to include malicious code.

And while hackers’ main targets are large energy companies and facilities, the strategy is to start small. By targeting vendors, service companies, suppliers, trade publications and industry websites, hackers can worm their way into the main targets. Often, smaller companies along the “supply chain” are not as focused on cybersecurity as are the larger companies.

It is important that any company doing business in today’s energy industry must be vigilant, regardless of its size.

Some steps that can be taken:

• Form industry coalitions. Work together to share threat information.

• Constantly audit company security measures. Identify intrusions and attempted intrusions. Insure that company security measures are updated and enforced.

• Train and retrain staff to identify and combat evolving threats.

• Limit regular user computer access. Develop a need-to-know and use system.

• Require complex passwords for all users and require passwords to be regularly changed.

• Adopt multifactor authentication to prevent stolen logins and passwords from being used.

• Dedicate staff to cybersecurity or hire competent, trusted cybersecurity consultants.

Alphonso Rivera is the founder and CEO of Advanced Micro Resource Digital Forensics, a Bakersfield-based company that specializes in digital audits involving cell phone and computer evidence for attorneys, private investigators, human resources consultants and companies.

EDUCATION ROUNDUP: Centennial High takes 10th in international mock trial tourney

By computer forensics

Centennial High School mock trial students competed against others from China, Atlanta, Florida and Texas and took 10th place out of 28 teams, coach Brett Dobson said.

The team returned from the Empire San Francisco Mock Trial Tournament this weekend.

“It is basically a college-level mock trial tournament for high school students,” Dobson said.

Centennial won four ballots in all against three different teams while its students performed as both defense attorneys and prosecutors in a fictional civil suit involving a 16-year-old who was jailed and held in solitary confinement for years and suffered psychological trauma.

University of La Verne opens new campus in Bakersfield

The University of La Verne is celebrating the opening of its new campus at 10800 Stockdale Highway Thursday with a ribbon cutting.

The University of La Verne first opened its doors in Bakersfield in 1999 and has grown to offer almost two dozen undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The ceremony will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Shafter school district awarded $25K for STEM education

Maple Elementary School District received a $25,000 grant this month through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program to bolster its STEM offerings.

The district plans to use the money by creating an outdoor learning environment with gardening areas to grow vegetables, flowers and landscaping plants.

CSUB hosts LGBTQ pride week

Cal State Bakersfield is hosting a series of LGBTQ+ PRIDE events this week.

The week of events provides resources, meet and greets and several bonding events for those in the community.

“This is the second campus Pride Week and it is great to see students, faculty and staff coming together for great campus inclusion and visibility. CSUB has made great strides in supporting all diversity on campus,” Matthew McClellan, LGBTQ+ PRIDE co-chair.

Pride Week’s events include an “ally rally” at 6 p.m. Wednesday and an expression night at 7 p.m. with the theme of “Coming out stories.” Both events are held at the Stockdale Room. There will be a screening of “Hocus Pocus” at 7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Park and a Pride Volleyball Game at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Icardo Center to close Pride Week.

SBBCollege donates tablets to BHS band

SBBCollege Bakersfield is donating 100 Amazon Kindle Fire tablets to Bakersfield High School’s marching band Thursday to support technology in education, school officials announced.

The tablets will allow students to learn marching drills and read sheet music conveniently, SBBCollege Bakersfield officials said.

“Having all of their reference material with them during an entire rehearsal, instead of running to the sidelines to check their pages, would greatly improve the learning potential of our students,” Randy Bennett, instrumental music director at BHS, said.

BCSD Education Foundation seeking board members

The Bakersfield City School District Education Foundation is seeking to fill vacancies on its board of directors.

The foundation is a charitable, nonprofit organization that partners with community members to provide resources that impact children through innovative educational programs.

“Our children are the future of our community,” said Alphonso Rivera, president of the BCSD Education Foundation Board of Directors, who has served since 2012. “Having more resources available to teachers in the classroom can directly impact a student’s success.”


Cybercrime prevention and risk management go hand in hand

By computer forensics

Whether you are in Kern County’s energy or IT segments — or any other segment of our economy — none of us can ignore the risk of cybercrime.

Uniquely, it is both a property and liability risk.

In the last issue of the Kern Business Journal, Alphonso Rivera, CEO of Advance Micro Resource, offered steps business owners can take to mitigate this highly technical risk.

His guidelines reflected the complexity of this risk. His final recommendation was: “Develop a risk management plan including regular forensic audits of your company’s online systems.” However, no explanation was included of what a risk management plan needs to be. I’m pleased to “fill this gap” in his otherwise well-written article.

Traditional risk management is “operational.” Risks addressed are static — those that produce only a loss, e.g., fire, earthquake, liability, etc.

Enterprise risk management is “strategic.” In addition to static risks, those addressed are dynamic — risks that can produce either a profit or a loss, e.g., marketing, product design, investment strategies, etc.

The three overall processes within either risk management system need to be integrated into your overall culture so you can take your organization from the level of “insurance management” — where most companies are today — to the next level of risk management. They are:

1. Risk assessment — identification and measurement

2. Risk control — mitigation and reduction

3. Risk finance — including insurance

Insurance is the very last step — intentionally. It doesn’t come into play until all other alternatives have been considered.

Once risks are assessed, planning shifts to risk control, including not only cybercrime prevention but also fire prevention, security, safety, etc. — including Rivera’s forensic audit of online systems.

In addition, risk control includes disaster preparedness plus the most overlooked risk reduction task of all — business continuity planning.

Hurricane Katrina and other disasters each generated memorable stories of lives saved through effective disaster preparedness, yet other stories described businesses totally lost because no business continuity plan was in place.

Once risks are reduced, and some even eliminated, the final process can begin, viz., risk finance.

First is contractual risk transfer to others other than insurance. There are generally three levels of contractual risk transfer. The first two are reasonable. The third is disastrous! It is prohibited by law in energy contracts of most oil-producing states but not California. It is unenforceable in construction contracts in California.

A local drilling contractor imposed a contract with this third level on a trucking firm whose employee was injured by the sole negligence of a drilling company employee. Because of this clause, all financial burdens were assumed by the trucking company with no opportunity for reimbursement from the drilling company.

This increased the trucker’s workers’ compensation costs for the ensuing three years. Moreover, for the injured employee to receive damages beyond workers’ compensation benefits, he had to file a liability claim against his own employer! This totally violates the historical intention that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy from employers.

Next, residual risks are either assumed or insured. Some can be assumed through deductibles, self-insured retentions, total assumption, etc. Others must be considered for insurance through alternative risk transfers, e.g., formal self-insurance, captive insurers, high deductible plans, retrospective rating plans, etc.

Only then is conventional insurance considered.

There you have it — the overall risk management system that should be inculcated into your organization’s culture in perpetuity!

This completes Rivera’s steps to a cybercrime solution — and more — plus the long-term benefit of risk management to all: a quiet night’s sleep!

— John Pryor is a risk management consultant and author of “Quality Risk Management Fieldbook” published by the International Risk Management Institute in Dallas.

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