Black History Month 2021: A Recap of Iconic Engineers and Inventors

Black History Month is an important time to honor Black figures and their contributions to science and engineering. The origin of this important event can be traced back to Carter G. Woodson, also known as the Father of Black History Month. His legacy includes the creation of Negro Week, which led to a month-long celebration of achievements of Black Americans.  

As we establish greater diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our organization, we’re also looking at sharing innovations from a variety of diverse backgrounds throughout the year. A diverse workplace with different perspectives creates better solutions for clients and partners.

While this list only highlights a small number of Black pioneers, we salute all trailblazers who help inspire future generations of innovations: 

  • Dr. Wendy A. Okolo is an aerospace engineering researcher in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center. Her focus is in the area of systems health monitoring and control systems design with applications to air and space components, vehicles, and systems. 
  • Elijah McCoy “The ACTUAL Real McCoy” invented a lubrication device to make railroad operations more efficient. Many tried and failed to copy his design, creating the expression “the Real McCoy.”
  • Garrett Augustus Morgan Jr. improved the traffic signal by creating a t-shaped design, adding a third position halting all traffic. This would allow the intersection to clear before a light turned green. Vehicle crashes decreased significantly, and we still use this innovative safety technology in traffic control today.
  • Dr. Walt W. Braithwaite helped develop computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems for Boeing, which led the way for airplanes and, eventually, many other products designed entirely through software. Goodbye pen and paper drafting!
  • Marie Van Brittan Brown, a nurse and inventor, created the first home security system and first closed-circuit television.
  • Lewis H. Latimer worked closely with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, in addition to designing his own inventions including an early air conditioning unit.
  • Charles Richard Drew was a surgeon and scientist who organized America’s first large-scale blood bank and trained the next generation of Black physicians at Howard University.
  • Daniel Hale Williams is known for his achievements in surgery and advancing medical care. He was one of the first physicians to perform a successful open-heart surgery and founded the first interracial and black-owned hospital.
  • Katherine Johnson was a mathematician who calculated and analyzed the flight paths of many spacecraft during her more than three decades with the US space program. Her work helped send astronauts to the Moon.

Celebrating National Engineers Week 2021

Ross & Baruzzini is proud to celebrate National Engineers Week 2021. Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, Engineers Week is dedicated to promoting a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing interest in engineering and technology careers.

More than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies take part in Engineering Week. Ross & Baruzzini believes this is a critical opportunity to share the importance of technical education throughout our communities.

From Vision to Reality

“Imaging Tomorrow” is this year’s theme for Engineers Week. This theme is personal. What will our future look like?

Exciting technology like augmented reality (AR), smart cities, and 3D printing are more than trends; these technologies are improving our lives. AR is now utilized in CAD applications and for hand-on training experiences. Smart cities use technology to improve how citizens and businesses connect with resources. Advanced 3D printing creates custom orthopedic implants and other enhanced medical tools.

Looking to Tomorrow

Engineering is vital to answering global challenges. Through our internship program, we support STEM students beginning their careers, providing mentorship and hands-on skills for success. Ross & Baruzzini is also looking forward to participating in the College Engineering Mentorship Program launched by the Engineering Center of St. Louis. This mentorship program focuses on providing opportunities for freshman and sophomore students to gain insight into the day-to-day lives of engineers while exploring tomorrow’s technology.

“Technology affects every aspect of our lives and drastically shapes how we work, live, and communicate”, said Trista Stahr, vice president of human resources. “Ross & Baruzzini is excited to work with tomorrow’s engineers while supporting our dedicated teams working to solve today’s challenges.”

For more information on Engineers Week 2021, please visit the National Society of Professional Engineers website.

Ross & Baruzzini Welcomes Billie Brush as Business Development Director

Ross & Baruzzini welcomes Billie Brush, MHA as the business development director for its Northwest region.

Subject Matter Expert Business Development
Billie Brush, MHA

Brush joins Ross & Baruzzini with over 20 years of healthcare leadership and customer relations management. She will be responsible for developing new business relationships and overseeing various go-to-market strategies to ensure client success.

“Billie is an outstanding addition to the team and brings an impressive level of experience to her new role at Ross & Baruzzini,” said John Desch, chief commercial officer.

Subject Matter Expert Business Development
John Desch – Chief Commercial Officer

“Her proficiency in healthcare operations will help us continue driving brand awareness and qualified sales leads. With Billie’s skill sets covering several aspects of business, marketing, and technology, we’re excited to have her on the team.”

Brush has held management positions for other healthcare technology companies such as PhilipsSiemens, and Lumicell. She holds a master’s degree in health administration from University of Oklahoma and a bachelor’s degree in radiologic science from Midwestern State University.

“I am excited to join Ross & Baruzzini and look forward to working with the largest medical equipment planning team in the industry to grow our business in the Northwest,” added Brush. “I am pleased to join such a respected company that prides itself on client success.”

Celebrating Black History Month: Honoring Security Pioneer Marie Van Brittan Brown

In today’s progressive world, I am proud to acknowledge our strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) committee. When I was asked to identify if any influential people in the Black community have affected the security industry over time, I was initially a bit stumped. However, after researching the subject I quickly discovered how uninformed I was.

This is my 42nd year providing leadership for our security consultants and engineers in the physical and electronic security industry. Over this time, I was always aware of industry threats, trends and products. I believed myself to have a comfortable understanding of what seemed to be some of the key historical time-line developments that shaped our services and offerings. As it turns out, this belief was false: I missed a valuable one.

When I started in 1979, there were no digital keypads, no LED displays, and card access was in its infancy. We relied on alarm panels, barrel type key switches, and tape dialers that called building operators with a pre-recorded message if the alarm was triggered.

I worked with several veteran security technicians and managers who tutored me in “alarm systems” history, which was limited and focused on a product or manufacturer. Ultimately, I was a novice being taught by those who had limited knowledge. I was schooled on the large system providers such as ADT, Brinks, and Chubb who seemed to be the fathers and founders of my newly adopted career.

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Presently, the possibility of discovering how Black History might have influenced our growth and evolution of technology was an exciting concept. Today, it is clear more than ever history can be lost to time or purposely hidden. Amazingly, in less than 15 minutes of searching, I discovered someone that completely rewrote my previous history lessons. On a topic such as this, it is easy to see why: she was a woman of color in a time where both aspects weren’t always well-respected.

Marie worked odd hours, leaving her home alone with her children. There were many days when she worked the night shift, requiring her to sleep during daytime hours. Marie was always concerned about who might be lurking in the neighborhood and whether they would be a threat to her or her family.

To create a safer environment, Marie decided something had to be done to provide more time for police response and increase safety precautions in her home. This is when the home alarm system was born. Marie devised a series of devices to monitor doors, windows with the ability to turn on or off specific areas of her home. This is known as “arming” or “disarming” in modern home alarm systems. Marie worked with her husband to wire their house, developing the first fully operational home alarm.

Marie did not stop there; her idea provided a clear vision for the future. This led her to develop the first closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system, creating the foundation of modern residential and commercial surveillance systems.

Marie continued to expand her quest for manageable safety measures. She added audio intercoms to augment the video from the CCTV system. Now, she could see and communicate with someone at her front door without leaving her bedroom. Today, we can relax in bed and use our smartphones to do the same.

Marie’s sketches and designs were submitted for a patent. In 1966, the patent was finalized for her home security system as U.S Patent # US3482037:

She became an inspiration to others, spawning a multitude of ideas and inventions, leading us to our contemporary world of security technology. I am proud to be part of an industry that stemmed from such a bright and inventive woman, who most likely faced with many challenges along the way due to her race and gender.

I now think of Marie every time I walk past the digital LED keypads in my home with a new appreciation for what she inspired. Marie died in Jamaica, Queens in 1999 leaving behind a legacy that is now an invaluable part of our daily lives.

You can also watch a short video produced by MSNBC here



America Comes Alive

Article by Phil Santore, Vice President and Managing Principal for Ross & Baruzzini Security

The Top 7 Cybersecurity Stories of 2020: Insights from Last Year

2020 was a strange and extraordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of secure systems as hackers kept busy with an aggressive barrage of data breaches and ransomware.

The new normal changed how we viewed technology. Terms like “Telehealth” and “Zoombombing” are a part of our everyday lexicon while online services like food delivery and remote work tools are now considered essential. 2020 has been a transformative year, and our list of top stories reflect the many ways cybersecurity was at the forefront of our digital transformation:

1. Serious Trouble for Twitter

2020 was not first year a social media platform was hacked, but it was one of the most memorable incidents for the social networking site, Twitter.

Twitter’s woes began when its employees fell prey to a bitcoin phishing attack. The hackers took over the high-profile accounts of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Uber, Apple, Kanye West, and Jeff Bezos. By the time the dust settled, 130 accounts were affected, but less than 50 were used to send a scam “we’ll double your bitcoin if you send us money” message to users.

To regain control, Twitter took some drastic action. Administrators blocked tweets from both verified and compromised accounts. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote, “Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened. We’re diagnosing and will share everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened.”

During this incident, Twitter’s stock price fell by 4%.

In addition, Twitter faces a possible $250 million Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fine for misusing emails and phone numbers. The alleged time period for the improper use of personal information to display targeted ads is between 2013 to 2019.

For now, there is no finalized timeline for these fines.  

2. Colossal SolarWinds Hack Affects Both Government and Private Industries

Although first reported in mid-December 2020, the SolarWinds hack happened during the better part of the year. Austin-Texas-based SolarWinds provides “IT monitoring and management tools”, and hackers compromised SolarWind’s software distribution network. From there, the attackers could monitor, steal, remove, or change sensitive data information from over 18,000 customers.

At the beginning of 2021, top US officials blamed an international hacking group for the sophisticated malware attack.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this attack allowed hackers to track public and private organizations including:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • US State Department
  • Department of Energy
  • National Nuclear Security Administration
  • US Treasury
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • Intel
  • Deloitte

The Wall Street Journal also reports that some victims may never know if they were directly affected, due to the covert nature of the attack. Some cybersecurity experts say the size of the company was turned into its Achilles’ heel:

“We don’t think anyone else in the market is really even close in terms of the breadth of coverage we have,” the former chief executive, Kevin Thompson, said during an early 2020 earnings call. “We manage everyone’s network gear.”

This widespread presence of SolarWinds in the market was used to the hackers’ advantage.  

3. Zoom Bombing and Video Conferencing Growing Pains

In March 2020, organizations from schools to hospitals frantically switched to remote learning and working due to the emergence of COVID-19. Zoom became of the most popular choices for video conferences.

While convenient, the online meeting platform had multiple vulnerabilities ready for threat actors to abuse privacy and security weaknesses. Zoom-bombing occurs when unauthorized attackers gain access and disrupt live meetings or chats. Once inside the call or session, attackers share offensive or disturbing materials.

During the initial wave of attacks, Google, SpaceX, and even NASA banned their remote work employees from downloading Zoom. However, in recent months, Zoom has worked to enhance security and privacy. Some of these upgrades include end-to-end encryption and meeting controls, giving hosts the ability to remove unwanted participants.

Here are some quick tips on how you can protect yourself during Zoom calls:

  • Use passwords to protect your meeting.
  • Don’t include public links on social media – send participants their login link directly.
  • Create a waiting room to screen your participants.
  • Use a different meeting ID each time.

For more tips to keep your calls and chats safe, visit Forbes.

4. Garmin Paid Multimillion Ransom to Company Hackers

In late July, Garmin announced a “cyber-attack that encrypted some of our systems on July 23 2020.” Users noticed something was amiss when Garmin’s website and other services were offline; employees said their internal communications were down. Garmin did not share many details at first, but many speculated that ransomware was the culprit. 

The predictions were right. Several days later, Garmin officially released a statement reporting the cyberattack, stating sensitive customer or employee data was not put at risk. 

In the following weeks, the ransomware tool, WasteLocker, was connected to the Garmin attack. According to Kaspersky, WasteLocker “is an example of targeted ransomware — malware tweaked to attack a specific company.” The attack is believed to be linked to a small but growing Russian hacking group named “Evil Corp”.

Although not confirmed by Garmin, sources report the company paid $10 million as a ransom for service restoration. In the past, ransom amounts usually totaled over $100,000. This story’s seven-digit demands mark a dangerous new chapter in ransomware.

No matter the size of the company, any organization can be crippled by a relatively small group of malicious hackers.

5. First Ransomware-Related Death Reported in Germany

In Germany, local authorities opened a negligent homicide inquiry in connection to a ransomware incident in September 2020. Prosecutors believed a woman under the care of the University Hospital of Düsseldorf received delayed treatment as a direct result of the cyberattack.

The strike against the hospital’s systems caused major network issues, which required the 78-year-old woman receiving care at the Düsseldorf hospital to be transported to another medical facility. Sadly, the patient passed away during this incident.

According to the note left behind by the attackers, the ransomware was intended for a different hospital, Heinrich Heine University. As soon as authorities notified the perpetrators, the demand was removed, and the decryption key was provided. The BBC reports that the case is being investigated as a homicide.

“If confirmed, this tragedy would be the first known case of a death directly linked to a cyberattack,” Ciaran Martin, formerly the chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.

Cybersecurity authorities in Germany said the cybercriminals used a notorious vulnerability in Citrix VPN software. This weakness was made public in January 2020.

6. More Social Media Woes: Tik-Tok, Instagram, and YouTube Info Exposed

This next incident shows the importance of protecting your digital assets. In 2020, security experts discovered a compromised database with scraped data of 235 million Tik-Toc, Instagram, and YouTube users.

Scraping data, or web scraping, is used by some companies to collect data from websites. While technically legal, this practice puts the user’s privacy at risk because hackers have easy access to an individual’s full online profile.

According to Cybersecurity Insiders, these hackers targeted a firm called Social Data. This organization kept records on:

  • Profile Name
  • Legal Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Profile Photo
  • Account description
  • Location

To make matters worse, security professionals found this data was not encrypted. What can you do to help protect yourself? Build smarter passwords using a reputable password manager, use search engines that don’t track you, and keep your data “clean” by managing your privacy settings.

7. Coronavirus Phishing Scams Grow Across the World

COVID-19 created upheaval in both our personal and professional lives, and this ensuing chaos created a perfect environment for hackers to strike. We saw the first COVID-19 phishing scams back in January 2020, spreading misinformation on readily available cures and vaccines.

Although many parts of the U.S. and other countries are now beginning to distribute vaccinations to healthcare workers and first responders, it will still take time for the general public vaccinations.

Email attacks try to instill fear and urgency:

“Go through the attached document on safety measures regarding the spreading of corona virus. This little measure can save you.” This message came from a fake scientist who claimed to have vital information on the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was not spared; this international group was targeted in March 2020 by phishing email attacks.

2020: The Year of Hacker?

In 2020 alone, hacker activity increase by a startling 600%. In addition to large companies, smaller organizations and individuals also saw an increase in attacks. From financial to healthcare, hackers have inundated a wide variety of industries.

The average day in 2020 saw over 4,000 attacks. 90% of attacks are successful because of human error – a phishing email from your doctor’s office or an online message about COVID-19 vaccines. These emails may look legit, but they can be a gateway into your network.

To help your organization prepare for these growing attacks, Ross & Baruzzini can design a custom cybersecurity plan to protect your business. We are your operational resilience partner. Contact us today to protect your organization from this year’s threats and beyond.