What YOU should do after the Target debacle

It’s very simple.  Even if your bank account has not been accessed and money stolen, if you shopped at Target between November 27 and December 15 and you used your credit (or especially) your debit card, YOU need to take action.  Don’t wait for Target to do something for you, you need to be proactive.

Sure, you may think that your account is OK, you haven’t seen any strange transactions, but that doesn’t mean that your information hasn’t been stolen.  Weeks or even months from now, the thieves may access your account, long after the media hype about the incident has blown over.  And even if no money is ever stolen, that doesn’t mean that your own private information stored on your card’s magnetic strip hasn’t been stolen, setting you up for a serious case of identity theft.

Even if you only had one or two debit card transactions (like me), take action now.  Go to your bank or go online to your credit card company, report the card as stolen, cancel that card, and get a new one.  If it’s a debit card, and you can go to your nearby bank branch office, they will be able to cancel that card and give you a temporary debit card (as they did for me) until the new card ships.  Destroy the old card when they give you your new one (if you don’t have a shredder that will shred cards, cut it along the digits).  Then when the new card arrives, destroy the temporary after activating the new card. 

Don’t wait for the criminals to get you – and don’t wait for someone else (the bank or credit card company) to do this for you.  Do it yourself NOW!

Righting a terrible wrong – Alan Turing can now RIP

Three cheers to Queen Elizabeth II for righting an abominable wrong – the conviction of Alan Turing, the “Father of Computer Science,”  in 1952, for having sex with another man.  That’s right – this Giant of Computing was gay, and was convicted of it, in Great Britain.  Two years later, he committed suicide. 

But besides being the inventor of the Turing Machine, when he was just 23, Alan Turing and his team of codebreakers at Britain’s famed Bletchley Park (which is now a British national historical park) made tremendous advances in computing, advances in cryptanalysis that broke the Nazi’s famed Enigma code (machine), and allowed the Allies to know where the German U-boats were headed.  By breaking the Nazi’s code, the allies were able to win the war in the North Atlantic (and may have saved my father’s life – he was a US Navy officer on a destroyer that convoyed troops and materiel across the Atlantic).  Indeed, Sir Winston Churchill told the UK’s King George VI after the war, “it was thanks to Ultra (the code name for the codebreaking project) that we won the war.”

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s oldest computing professional society, of which I am a member, each year honors the person who has made the year’s greatest contribution to the discipline of Computer Science, with the Alan Turing Award.

It is very welcome and fitting that the Queen has pardoned him.