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Prom enters digital age: Girls must email selfies to school for dress approval

A Texas school is requiring girls to email pictures of themselves (front and back) wearing their prom dress before purchase for approval, but why?

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eisenhower senior high school prom dress policy

High school prom policy could be problematic

Have you seen pictures of what some kids are wearing to prom these days? It’s like a contest to see who can dress the most inappropriately, and a huge portion of attendees are hellbent on winning. Schools nationwide are struggling with a number of issues for this off-site event to keep kids appropriate and safe – it’s a huge challenge nationally.

While none of this is new (I remember some pretty revealing prom outfits in the late 90s when I was in high school), technology has been injected into the equation as one high school in Texas is requiring female students to email photos of themselves in their prom dresses for approval (regardless of their age). Parents say no notice was sent out, this just appeared on the Eisenhower Senior High School website:

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All girls, Eisenhower student or not, must send in a photo of themselves in their prom dress (front & back) to be approved before they purchase it. The email must also include full name & student ID. They can send photos in to ikeprom@aldine-isd.org.

Why this policy?

We have reached out to the school for clarification, but some have told us that their assumption is to insure appropriateness.

Other schools in the past have enforced dress codes, turning girls away for low cut dresses or strapless dresses, and banning certain dance moves and even music degrading to women. Some schools have forbidden girls from wearing tuxedoes and boys from wearing dresses or even kilts.

This policy, however, introduces new questions about why the school is taking this stance:

  1. Are strapless dresses allowed? Can cleavage be shown? What about middriffs? Plain clothes? Hats? Combat boots or black jackets? Costumes or capes?
  2. Why not require male students to submit pictures of their outfits prior to the event? What if suits are overly baggy and underwear can be seen? What if it’s a batman costume?
  3. Are girls required to wear a dress? Are suits for girls be banned?
  4. Are there color restrictions to avoid gang warfare and keep kids safe?
  5. What is the purse policy? May someone bring a bag? Will purses or bags be subject to search? Will photos of accessories be required for approval as well?

As a parent of a daughter who just went to her second prom, the policy complicates the shopping process – if her school asked us to submit a photo and wait some amount of time, the dress may no longer be on hold and our daughter would be crushed at a lost opportunity. Also, we have forbidden her from taking photos of herself inside of a dressing room, which is most likely what these girls at Eisenhower will be doing – does someone at the school have a thing for feet or underage cleavage? As a parent, this email process would have me panicked.

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There may be a good reason, but there could be serious legal implications

There is probably a good reason for the district’s policy, but the ACLU is just thirsting for another school to ban anything perceived as discriminatory against students’ gender identity.

That aside, we are focused on some logistic and tech questions for the school:

  1. Who has access to the photos of underage girls (and only girls)?
  2. Are they obtaining parent permission prior to transmitting personal photos of a minor (that could potentially be explicit in nature)? What child pornography laws have been considered by the district regarding soliciting images of minors?
  3. What is the purging process for these images? What servers or computers (or staff phones) will these images be on, and do parents have the ability to request their removal?
  4. What are students (and parents) consenting to when submitting images – any reuse? Will they post the rejected images on Instagram? Will they print acceptable photos in the halls or post them online?
  5. After submitting the photos, how long until the approval or rejection is given to the student? What is the school’s policy for adults communicating with minors?
  6. E-commerce is at an all-time high, so what of girls buying their dresses online?
  7. Will the original images submitted be cross referenced at the door to insure the girl is wearing the dress approved? What technology will be used to make this happen, and if it is a third party application, do they allow transmission of images of minors?

THE SOLUTION

Like every other school in history, there are dress codes and behavior rules students must follow at prom, lest they be removed (or not allowed in). The solution is to make the rules clear in advance and refuse admittance should those rules not be met. Introducing transmission of images of minors into the mix makes the district and the students vulnerable and is unnecessary.

There are bigger fish to fry. Schools are battling with students inviting adults to prom, like celebrities (from football players to porn stars), alumni, or college boyfriend/girlfriends without background checks… in a room full of children. Schools are taking positions on whether or not singles can go to prom or if they’re required a date, and whether gay couples can take a same-sex date. Further, schools are struggling with how to keep kids safe after prom, reduce drug use and drunk driving, date rape, and an assortment of other issues.

Schools need to set policies, enforce them, and deal with the fallout – not introduce technology into the mix… it could be caustic.

#EisenhowerProm

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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Want to know how your passwords could get hacked?

(TECH NEWS) While we all know that passwords can be hacked, it is rare that we know how they’re hacked.

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Ever wonder how passwords get stolen? I like to imagine a team of hackers like The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, all crowded in some hideout conducting illegal computer business based on tips from rogue FBI Agents.

Turns out there’s a little more to hacking than waiting for Fox Mulder to show up with hints.

Most of the common tactics involve guessing passwords utilizing online and offline techniques to acquire entry. One of the main methods is a dictionary attack.

This method automatically tries everything listed in a small file, the “dictionary,” which is populated with common passwords, like 123456 or qwerty. If your password is something tragically simple, you’re out of luck in a dictionary attack.

To protect yourself, use strong single-use passwords for each individual account. You can keep track of these with a password manager, because no one is expecting you to remember a string of nonsensical numbers, letters, and characters that make up a strong password.

Of course, there are still ways for hackers to figure out even complex passwords.

In a brute force attack, every possible character combination is tried. For example, if the password is required to have at least one uppercase letter and one number, a brute force attack will meet these specifications when generating potential passwords.

Brute force attacks also include the most commonly used alphanumeric combinations, like a dictionary attack. Your best bet against this type of attack is using extra symbols like & or $ if the password allows, or including a variety of variables whenever possible.

Spidering is another online method similar to a dictionary attack. Hackers may target a specific business, and try a series of passwords related to the company. This usually involves using a search “spider” to collate a series of related terms into a custom word list.

While spidering can be devastating if successful, this kind of attack is diverted with strong network security and single-use passwords that don’t tie in easily searchable personal information.

Malware opens up some more fun options for hackers, especially if it features a keylogger, which monitors and records everything you type. With a keylogger, all your accounts could potentially be hacked, leaving you SOL. There are thousands of malware variants, and they can go undetected for a while.

Fortunately, malware is relatively easy to avoid by regularly updating your antivirus and antimalware software. Oh, and don’t click on sketchy links or installation packages containing bundleware. You can also use script blocking tools.

The delightfully named (but in actuality awful) rainbow table method is typically an offline attack where hackers acquire an encrypted list of passwords. The passwords will be hashed, meaning it looks completely different from what you would type to log in.

However, attackers can run plaintext passwords through a hashtag algorithm and compare the results to their file with encrypted passwords. To save time, hackers can use or purchase a “rainbow table”, which is a set of precomputed algorithms with specific values and potential combinations.

The downside here is rainbow tables take up a lot of space, and hackers are limited to the values listed in the table. Although rainbow tables open up a nightmare storm of hacking potential, you can protect yourself by avoiding sites that limit you to very short passwords, or use SHA1 or MD5 as their password algorithms.

There’s also phishing, which isn’t technically hacking, but is one of the more common ways passwords are stolen. In a phishing attempt, a spoof email requiring immediate attention links to a fake login landing page, where users are prompted to input their login credentials.

The credentials are then stolen, sold, used for shady purposes, or an unfortunate combination of all the above. Although spam distribution has greatly increased over the past year, you can protect yourself with spam filters, link checkers, and generally not trusting anything requesting a ton of personal information tied to a threat of your account being shut down.

Last but certainly not least, there’s social engineering. This is a masterpiece of human manipulation, and involves an attacker posing as someone who needs login, or password, building access information. For example, posing as a plumbing company needing access to a secure building, or a tech support team requiring passwords.

This con is avoidable with education and awareness of security protocol company wide. And also you know, not providing sensitive information to anyone who asks. Even if they seem like a very trustworthy electrician, or promise they definitely aren’t Count Olaf.

Moral of the story? Your passwords will never be completely safe, but you can take steps to prevent some avoidable hacking methods.

Always have a single-use password for each account, use a password manager to store complex passwords, update malware, keep your eye out for phishing attempts, and don’t you dare make your password “passoword.”

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Should social networks fear Jumbo, the new privacy app?

(TECHNOLOGY) Although iOS only (for now), Jumbo has launched and could put a dent in some of the nefariousness of social media networks…

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Like virtually every other online outlet, we’ve both talked about web and app privacy and complained bitterly about the invariable fall of online rights. However, while we’ve been talking the talk, a company called Jumbo has been cyber-walking the cybersecurity walk.

Jumbo – an iPhone app focused on keeping your online trails as private as possible – has a simple premise: allowing social media users to manage their online privacy with a few taps rather than having to navigate each individual service’s infuriatingly complex labyrinth of privacy settings. Instead of having to visit each individual app you want to clean up, you can simply open Jumbo, select your preferences, and wait for the magic to happen.

Jumbo’s features range from cleaning up social media timelines and old posts to erasing entire searches or resetting privacy information; while it currently varies depending on the social media service in question, Jumbo’s one commonality is its simplicity.

The star of Jumbo’s presentation is its aptly-named Cleaning Mode—a feature which allows users to wipe anything from tweets to old Google searches. Jumbo’s developers also assure users that the ability to remove things like Facebook photos is in the works, making Jumbo’s efforts to clean up your digital life that much more ubiquitous.

It is worth noting that some users have encountered limitations on the number of tweets they can delete, so you may have to batch-remove information until this bug is resolved.

When using Jumbo, you’ll also find an encrypted back-up feature that allows you to download—or use cloud storage for—old photos and files. It isn’t as dramatic as Jumbo’s primary functions, but anyone looking to make a dent in purging their online footprints will surely benefit from being able to encrypt and save their information for a rainy day through one interface.

At the time of this writing, Jumbo is prepared to assist with privacy options related to Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon Alexa, but the app’s developers intend to incorporate support for platforms such as Tinder and Instagram in the future.

While Jumbo is currently restricted to iPhones, Jumbo’s maker Pierre Valade has mentioned that an Android version is “on [their] list”. In the meantime, iPhone users should strongly consider taking Jumbo for a spin.

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How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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