Engineers: Here’s how to Securing your Mobile Device from Cyber-Attacks (guest post)

smartphone iconToday, a very important post from guest blogger Silvia Brook.  Silvias writes about home and cyber security for homesecurity.org. When she’s not writing, Silvia enjoys biking with her friends or cooking a new recipe from her compendium of cookbooks.

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Believe it or not, cyber security is still a big issue in the tech industry. It seems as though every year a new electronic device is released by one of the major hardware developers, and yet every year consumers who buy those same devices fall prey to a host of viruses, glitches, and malware. A tablet released this year may get hit with just as many (if not more) viruses as they model that preceded it the year before.

Part of why that’s the case is because malicious applications are changing and evolving at the same rate as the new devices that they target. Developers on both sides of the equation are fighting to make the better application—those who design security apps and protection software will try to keep your information, while hackers will try just as hard to take it away.

A recent assessment of the Android OS’s newest virus protection software might explain this problem. The new smartphone OS—Android 4.2—has a built-in malware scanner for apps. A computer scientist at North Carolina State University decided to see how this new scanning software stacked up third-party virus protection apps in a test that pits them all against the latest malware targeting smartphones. The study found that the Android OS app scanner caught malware content only about 20% of the time. The third-party security apps fared much better, some of which caught malware nearly every time.

What are we supposed to do with this information? Google seems to have trouble designing a competent virus scanning application for its own line of smartphones, all of which seem at least vulnerable to potential viruses according to the above report. If that’s the case, then how can people expect to put sensitive information (emails, finances, photos, etc.) on their smartphones?

I think the most important takeaway is that cyber security should be taken seriously by people who use mobile devices on a regular basis. There really are malicious apps out there that could do some serious damage to smartphones and tablets.  Design professionals such as engineers and architects who rely on their electronics for mobile work  are best off defending themselves from such annoyances with third-party apps designed by professionals with a proven track record.

Below are two apps by such developers which have received nothing but glowing reviews from critics.

Avast!

Avast! is a comprehensive software that addresses many key cyber security concerns. For one thing, the software will help users track their smartphones or tablets should they ever get lost or stolen. Avast! will let users locate their misplaces phones via GPS and send SMS messages to it should they want to address whoever has it. Of course the software also protects mobile devices from malware apps and websites that could be packing a nasty virus by scanning every app before it’s loaded. Avast! also allows users to build a firewall for their mobile devices should they suspect that hackers want to tamper with their data. In other words, Avast! is the whole security package for the Android, and it’s free!

F-Secure Mobile Security

F-Secure is an acclaimed security software company, protecting both home computers and mobile devices all sorts of cyber security threats. F-Secure will ensure that mobile users can browse the web safely without fear of encountering malware; the service will also scan incoming apps and data for any potential viruses that could compromise the safety of the device. Like Avast!, F-Secure also has a feature that will help users track down their mobile device should it be misplaced or stolen (and users can erase their data remotely it they suspect that someone has access to their information). F-Secure has a subscription fee, and it’s only available for Android users.

Melissa here again.  What about you?  Do you have a favorite cyber security app?  Depending on how much you work in the Cloud, you should!  

Share your recommendations in the comment section, below.  Just remember, I’m a luddite, so talk in plain and simple terms!

Photo (c) Lora Williams

 

2012 Construction Jobs That Are in High Demand (guest post) (Tue Tip)

Today’s guest post is by Derek Singleton, ERP Analyst with Software Advice, a website that reviews construction software. 
 

The construction industry is undergoing a change–several states are showing positive signs of job growth. A June report released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) indicates found that 20 states added new construction jobs. The catch, however, is the jobs that are available require highly skilled individuals. 

 

The chart above aggregates survey data of the top five anticipated engineering and skilled labor shortages from 2,223 construction industry professionals. As you can see, engineers of all types are expected to remain in high demand.To find out what’s driving job gains in the industry, I recently caught up with AGC’s Chief Economist, Ken Simonson. In my conversation with Simonson, he highlighted three key drivers to the current trends in construction employment.

  1. Low vacancy rates are spurring investment in apartment complex construction.
  2. The acceleration of natural gas extraction is fueling related construction job growth.
  3. Manufacturing investment is leading to new manufacturing facility construction.

So what kinds of jobs fit well with these market drivers? Below I’ll profile a few relevant professions that are currently in demand.

Apartment Complex Construction
Apartment construction requires nearly every kind of construction trade on the job. However, there are a few particular positions that are particularly high demand.

Architects: Efficiently building an apartment complex starts at the design process. With new apartment construction increasing, architects familiar with designing multi-family residences will be in high demand.

Carpenter: Naturally, carpenters are in high demand as more complexes are built they’re needed for everything from framing to setting crown molding.

Millwork: The millwork trade is in high demand to produce the doors, crown moldings, window casings, etc. needed to finish an apartment.

Electrician: Electricians that are familiar with multi-family electrical wiring are know how to run standard power distribution to lighting and other outlets in apartments.

Natural Gas Extraction
The growth in natural gas extraction from underground shales is also supporting new construction jobs. The majority of these jobs involve heavy construction or civil engineering.

Plumbing Engineering: Natural gas extraction is complex process that involves a lot of fluid dynamics. For this reason, drilling sites typically need a plumbing engineer to help figure out how to manage the hydraulics needed to extract gas from thousands of miles below the Earth’s surface.

Civil Engineering: Of course, effectively planning these roadways requires civil engineers that can effectively plan the infrastructure of these projects.

Manufacturing Facilities
Construction jobs are also being supported by the uptick in domestic manufacturing, which is prompting manufacturers to build new facilities in the U.S. As a result, there are two main professions that are in high demand.

Structural Engineering: Structural engineers are needed both for apartment construction and for manufacturing facility construction. These engineers need to be able to check facilities to ensure that buildings are up to code, and help amend design plans as construction is underway.

Iron work: Iron work professionals are needed to put together the large steel frames that facilities require. Within the iron work profession, welders are among the most in demand professions as certified welders are hard to find given that it can take several years to achieve certification. /

Electrician: Commercial electricians are needed when constructing a new manufacturing facility because of the need to install power and controls to motors and HVAC systems at the facility–in addition to run power distribution directly from the electrical grid.

Thanks, Derek, for your post.  Please comment below, or check out Derek’s map of construction employment by state and comment there. 

And, be sure to pick up your copy of “7 Critical Mistakes that Engineers & Architects make During Project Negotiation and Execution that Sabotage their Projects & Invite Litigation” by signing up for email updates on blog posts or by sending me an email at mbrumback at rl-law dot com.

Play Nicely in the Sandbox (or, Why GC’s and Subs Should Get Along) (guest post)

Chris HillToday’s guest post is from Christopher G. Hill, lawyer, Virginia Supreme Court certified General District Court mediator and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC, a LEED AP. Chris authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. Additionally, Chris is active in the Associated General Contractors of Virginia and a member of the Board of Governors for the Construction Law and Public Contracts Section of the Virginia State Bar.

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First off, thanks to Melissa for this opportunity to post here at Construction Law in North Carolina. Having co-presented with her and discussed construction contracting from all perspectives, I can safely say she’s good at what she does and shares great insight here at her blog.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, I thought I’d share my thoughts as one who represents many subcontractors and general contractors on the topic of good relationships meaning good business. I am always a bit surprised at the failure of either side of the GC/Sub dynamic to act in a businesslike manner.

Remember, the General Contractor and the subs are in the boat together in many ways. They both have a job to do and, ultimately, an owner at the top of the payment food chain that is looking to get a project done on time. Ultimately, they both have an architect/engineer representing the owner that may or may not be up on the job (sorry Melissa) and may not be trained in project management. If the general and its subs aren’t “playing well in the sandbox” together, the relationships up and down the project chain get all out of whack and cause delays in completion and importantly in payment.

Another phenomenon that happens more frequently than I would like is the general contractor “burning” good subcontractors in an area through making payment (particularly final payment) difficult to receive. While this type of activity occurs on what I am sure is the minority of projects (and fully acknowledging that my practice makes me think that Murphy was an optimist) I am always flabbergasted by this sort of treatment given to a subcontractor that should be helping pull the boat.

While it is obvious that subs need to play nice with GC’s because they have the money, it may seem less obvious how the above can hurt a general contractor. The short answer (and don’t worry I won’t be going into the long one) is that burning good subs eventually means that good subs won’t work with you. Subs talk to each other. Your reputation will precede you. Eventually the economy will improve and you won’t be the only game in town. Not to mention that such actions are the stuff of which claims are made.

In short, getting along costs your local construction lawyer money because he or she doesn’t get to go to court for you. It is almost always less expensive to get along, finish the job and work out payment than to get we attorneys involved in the construction claims process.

To make a long story somewhat less long, GC’s work with the subs and subs, play nice with the GC’s. It’s the best way to a lower stress project and a higher monetary payoff.

Thanks, Chris, for your insights from the contractor’s side of things.  Even if you did (politely) slam the hard-working design professionals.  Reader, now it’s your turn.  Share your thoughts, comments, or questions with Chris or me in the comment section, below.

Joint Ventures & Geotechnical Agreements (two free seminars) (Tue Tip)

ConsensusDocsTwo upcoming, FREE webinars from ConsensusDocs might be of interest:

 Venture to Manage Your Partners Wisely (with the ConsensusDocs 298 Joint Venture Agreement)

September 19th, 2012 at 2:00-3:30pm ET (this Wednesday; i.e., tomorrow!)

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What Lurks Below?  Using ConsensusDocs 246 to Get the Answer  (discussing the importance of consulting agreements for geotechnical services)

September 26th, 2012 at 2:00-3:30pm ET (next Wednesday)

Registration for both webinars is here

Do you know of upcoming seminars or other items of interest to  Construction Professionals?  Drop me a note so I can help spread the word.

Architects & Engineers – Are you committing a Class 2 misdemeanor without realizing it? (Tue Tip; law note)

handcuffsBuried within the general contractor provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes is a little-known provision that can get architects and engineers in hot water.  If you recommend to a project owner anyone who is not properly licensed under the general contractor statute, you have committed a Class 2 misdemeanor.  Really!  Here is the pertinent language:

§ 87-13. Unauthorized practice of contracting; impersonating contractor; false certificate; giving false evidence to Board; penalties

Any person, firm, or corporation not being duly authorized who shall contract for or bid upon the construction of any of the projects or works enumerated in G.S. 87-1, without having first complied with the provisions hereof, or who shall attempt to practice general contracting in the State, except as provided for in this Article, and any person, firm, or corporation presenting or attempting to file as his own the licensed certificate of another or who shall give false or forged evidence of any kind to the Board or to any member thereof in maintaining a certificate of license or who falsely shall impersonate another or who shall use an expired or revoked certificate of license, and any architect or engineer who recommends to any project owner the award of a contract to anyone not properly licensed under this Article, shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. And the Board may, in its discretion, use its funds to defray the expense, legal or otherwise, in the prosecution of any violations of this Article.

However, there is also some relief in the same statute, which provides that:

No architect or engineer shall be guilty of a violation of this section if his recommendation to award a contract is made in reliance upon current written information received by him from the appropriate Contractor Licensing Board of this State which information erroneously indicates that the contractor being recommended for contract award is properly licensed.

Has this issue ever really been litigated?  Yes, it has.  While I cannot point to reported cases, I will tell you that I have had this become an issue – more than once – in my practice.  Each time, the design professional knew that the entity involved had been a licensed general contractor, but the entity had lost its contractor’s license before the particular project at issue.

Take-away:  Even if the general contractor is the largest and most well-known in the state, always, always, always check with the Licensing Board to confirm that a general contractor is in good standing before making any recommendation to a project owner.  Just in case.  Since Consider it two minutes well spent.

Questions, comments, experiences with this statute?  Share in the comments section of the blog.

Photo (c) Riki Maltese via CC