The Biggest Need in Cyber Security

After seeing this come across my news feed and several people comment on it, I thought I’d dump some thoughts. Maybe someday I’ll collect this into a more coherent editorial, but for now this will have to do (lots of code to write, haha).

Basically, if you didn’t read the article, the White House Military Office had a piece of malware installed on it through a spear-phishing attack. Someone clicked on a link in an email that infected their system. The White House has confirmed it, but also confirmed what I suspected – it was on a declassified civilian network and not the ones with the “nuclear codes” or other top secret information. And while everyone freaks out over this, I’d like to present some thoughts on why the WHMO hack is less important than you think, and this other problem is far more urgent than anyone, IT professional or otherwise, realizes.

My biggest fear is not that the US Government is going to get hacked and a nuclear weapon is going to be launched. What keeps me up at night is the fact that hundreds of thousands of US businesses don’t maintain any sort of security in their computer systems. Estimates have put the figure as high as 85% of small to medium businesses are not doing enough to secure themselves and are therefore vulnerable. Their failures are not negligence either. Technology has progressed at such a high rate, the systems administrators have hardly been able to keep up. Information Security used to be a job that could be managed by the administrators, now it’s such a complex science(see: art) that you need highly specialized people just to meet requirements. This is a very hard subjects for Republicans and Democrats alike. Democrats cry out for regulation. Republicans cry out for defense spending.

Here’s the problem with both: there is no where near the resources needed to do either. Same with Republican defense spending. You can give the DoD all the money in the world or regulate all you’d like, we simply don’t have the human capital to protect the countless computer networks our world has grown to rely on. Half the reason US Government networks are insecure is the man power. Regulation auditors or Cyber “forces”. Take your pick, the skill sets required for each are very similar.

And the estimates right now for human capital say we need 10,000 top tier cyber experts immediately and another 30,000 over the next 5 years. Currently, it’s estimated that there are less than 1000 people in the United States with enough skill to be effective. The Chinese can hammer our government networks all they’d like. They do, but don’t get far. Trust me.  I’ve worked closely with several people on this problem. Alan Paller, Chair and Director on Board, at the SANS Institute as well as Karen Evans, Former CIO of the United States under President Bush, have both extensively researched this lack. Here’s a paper delivered to President Obama in November 2010 outlining this issue.

Hackers also hammer any business they can in the United States, with most small businesses completely oblivious to their penetration. They infiltration, they steal – and usually not money, mostly intellectual property – and they spread. They maintain a low profile and most anti-virus that even up to date won’t protect against it. Good luck having your contract IT worker cleaning them out. As the young generation grows up learning technology, it becomes taking candy from a baby to do these things. If Sony’s breach showed us anything, it was that even the biggest companies are extremely vulnerable. And the best hackers? You never hear about their work. That’s how good they are.

It’s these businesses that are being hurt, and in turn our economy, by this cyber “war”. Being part of that elite 1000 has motivated me to attempt to grow the size. Although I’m blessed with some of the best job security of any career field in the world right now, it pains me to see us losing this fight. I have dedicated a substantial amount of my time to volunteer high school and college programs geared towards training and identifying the best young cyber talent in the country and put it on a path to an effective career. So far in the US Cyber Challenge (USCC), we have brought through over 1000 competitors nationally who have shown potential in the cyber field and gotten them in better training programs.

How do I know these programs work? I was one of them. I came through the US Cyber Challenge in the Summer of 2010. I’ve since dedicated as much time to them outside of work as possible. I also have strongly supported the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). I was a competitor throughout my time as a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology and also as a volunteer red teamer, both regionally and nationally. CCDC now has over 100 schools competing in a national bracket. It is truly the NCAA of cyber security. Dwayne Williams and his staff are the best in class for competitive cyber security.

The biggest gap in security we have is security education. And as much as I have spoken about above, there is still a huge need.

  • We need to find and groom the best young talent to increase the work force.
  • We need to re-tool our current IT work force with more security knowledge that they can apply to their jobs.
  • We need to bring security into the mainstream. Typing classes are nice, but with kids sitting behind screens from such young ages, it’s important that we train all youth in good cyber “hygiene”.

Wherever you fall in those three points, make a difference. The safety of our digital world depend on it.

Romney Video Exposes More Finance Collusion

In case you haven’t seen, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney likes to have big fancy dinners, reportedly bringing in $40,000 a head. In these private good-ole-boys club meetings, he likes to show his true form. Many secret videos of him are taken. Check them out if you haven’t seen them here.

What has now come to light is the identity of who owns the estate this party is held at. A gentleman by the name of Marc Leder. Marc has been a long time friend of Mitt. But here’s some more interesting facts.

Looking back at the analysis I did, we’re able to see Marc’s name actually show up as someone who gave $225,000 to Romney’s main SuperPAC (who’s run by former Romney aides).

Not that I think they’re any good in the first place, but aren’t SuperPAC’s suppose to run independent of Presidential Campaigns?

My two cents on this matter.

Undressing Mitt Romney’s Super Friends with Ruby

With the new campaign finance laws, it seems we’re experiencing a whole new election. Negative campaign ads are rampent, being run by these “SuperPACs”. The candidates claim these are independent of their campaigns, so I dug into a wonderful New York Times website dedicated to campaign finance to see if there was anything interesting.

On the NYT website, they show the SuperPACs and what their putting their money into. Namely, attacking the opponent or supporting the candidate. I’m interested in the attacking the opponent figures, as this seems to be the dirtiest tricks in the book.

Here are the top four SuperPACs attacking the other candidate totaled:

Supporting Obama, Attacking Romney (in millions)

24.5m (Priorities USA Action)
 2.4m (SEIU COPE)
 0.7m (MoveOn.org Political Action)
 0.6m (Service Employees International Union PEA Federal)
=====
28.2m Attacking Romney

Supporting Romney, Attacking Obama (in millions)

30.8m (Americans for Prosperity)
28.5m (Restore Our Future, Inc.)
24.2m (Republican National Committee)
15.9m (American Crossroads)
=====
99.4m Attacking Obama

What interesting numbers! The top two Republican SuperPACs have each spent more than the entire top Democratic SuperPACs, combined. For no other purpose than to attack the opponent. In total, the top Republican SuperPACs are spending 3.5 times more money attacking Obama than Democratic SuperPACs are to attack Romney.

The main Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future, Inc., was founded by Romney’s aides in 2010. Hell, they even have buttons for four, five, and even six figure donations on their website. Take a look for yourself:

Source: https://restoreourfuture.com/donate

The New York Times site actually lists the donors for this SuperPAC founded by Romney Aides. Let’s use Ruby to see what we can find out about these people. I’ve written a ruby script to scrape the site, parse the donors list, and print it to a readable format on the screen:

require 'mechanize'
url    = 'http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance/pac/restore-our-future'
scrape = Mechanize.new
page   = scrape.get(url)
donors = Array.new

page.parser.xpath('//ul[@class="donor-list"]/li').each do |donor|
  amount = donor.xpath('div[@class="amount"]').children.text.gsub(/\n/,'').strip
  name   = donor.xpath('div[@class="name"]').children.text.gsub(/\n/,'').strip
  blurb  = donor.xpath('div[@class="blurb"]').children.text.gsub(/\n/,'').strip
  donors << { :name     => name,
              :donation => amount,
              :about    => blurb
  }
end

def print_donor(donor)
  puts "%-43s | %10s | %s" % [ donor[:name] , donor[:donation] , donor[:about] ]
  puts "-" * 100
end

donors.each do |d|
  print_donor(d)
end

And now for the output:

Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$ ruby get_donors.rb
Bob J. Perry                                |      $8.0m | Houston homebuilder who was a major financier of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.
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Sheldon Adelson                             |      $5.0m | Billionaire casino owner and Newt Gingrich’s longtime friend and patron.
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Miriam Adelson                              |      $5.0m | Physician; wife of Sheldon Adelson.
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Oxbow Carbon LLC                            |      $1.8m | An oil and gas company based in West Palm Beach, Fla. It was founded by William Koch, the brother of David H. and Charles Koch, wealthy conservative businessmen and founders of Americans for Prosperity.
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Julian Robertson                            |      $1.2m | Founder of Tiger Management, a hedge fund.
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Kenneth C. Griffin                          |      $1.1m | Founder and chief executive of Citadel LLC.
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Richard Marriott                            |      $1.0m | Chairman of Host Hotels & Resorts. In 2010, Mr. Marriott and his wife gave Mr. Romney more than $200,000 through the state-based affiliates of Mr. Romney's federal PAC, Free and Strong America.
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Rocco Ortenzio                              |      $1.0m | Pennsylvania health care executive.
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Rooney Holdings Inc.                        |      $1.0m | Private investment firm based in Tulsa, Okla. Its chief executive is Francis Rooney, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
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John Kleinheinz                             |      $1.0m | Founder of hedge fund Kleinheinz Capital Partners.
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James S. Davis                              |      $1.0m | Chairman of New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc.
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John Childs                                 |      $1.0m | Chairman and chief executive of J.W. Childs Associates, a private equity firm.
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Paul Singer                                 |      $1.0m | Manager of Elliot Associates hedge fund. Tried last year to recruit New Jeresey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president. He has given hundreds of thousands to fund state fights to legalize gay marriage.
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Steven Webster                              |      $1.0m | Co-managing partner and co-chief executive officer of Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm.
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Robert Mercer                               |      $1.0m | Co-chief executive at Renaissance Technologies Corp., a hedge fund company.
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Renco Group Inc.                            |      $1.0m | Privately held holding company whose investments include mining, jewelry and defense equipment firms.
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F8 LLC                                      |      $1.0m | Shares a Provo, Utah, address with Eli Publishing Inc., which leads to an accounting firm.
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Eli Publishing Inc.                         |      $1.0m | Connected to Steven J. Lund, a top executive at Nu Skin Enterprises.
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Huron Carbon LLC                            |      $1.0m | Shares a West Palm Beach, Fla addres with Oxbow Carbon, an oil and gas company founded by William Koch, who has been a donor to the super PAC.
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Melaleuca                                   |      $1.0m | An Idaho-based health and wellness products company; donations were made under the names of four associated companies.
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Robert T. Brockman                          |      $1.0m | Chairman and chief executive of Reynolds and Reynolds, maker of computer systems for auto dealerships.
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Larry H. Miller Group of Companies          |   $987,000 | Located in Sandy, Utah.
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Harold Hamm                                 |   $985,000 | Chief executive of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma oil company.
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Lawrence Finch                              |   $850,000 | Wyoming private investor.
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Harold Simmons                              |   $800,000 | Dallas billionaire who was among the top donors to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.
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Chris W. Shumway                            |   $750,000 | Founder and chief executive of Shumway Capital Investments and protege of Julian Robertson.
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Crow Holdings, LLC                          |   $650,000 | A real estate investment firm headed by the Trammell Crow family of Dallas.
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David Humphreys                             |   $500,000 | President and chief executive of TAMKO Building Products, based in Joplin, Mo.
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Paul Edgerley                               |   $500,000 | Managing director at Bain Capital. Married to Sandra Edgerley.
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Sandra Edgerley                             |   $500,000 | Worked at Bain & Company, a consulting company founded by Bill Bain, for 10 years. Married to Paul Edgerley.
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Mike Fernandez                              |   $500,000 | Chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, a private equity firm.
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Bruce Kovner                                |   $500,000 | Founder of Caxton Associates, a hedge fund.
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Grace Evenstad                              |   $500,000 | Owner of Oregon winery Domaine Serene.
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Sarah Atkins                                |   $500,000 | A director at TAMKO Building Products, a Missouri roofing manufacturer.
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Warren Stephens                             |   $500,000 | Owner of Arkansas investment bank Stephens Inc.
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Louis Moore Bacon                           |   $500,000 | Founder of Moore Capital. Topped a British list of the richest hedge fund managers in 2010.
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MBF Family Investments                      |   $500,000 | Connected to Mike Fernandez, whose private equity firm, MBF Healthcare Partners, shares the same address. The news media in Florida reported that this investment group gave $250,000 to Rick Scott in 2010 for his gubernatorial campaign.
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Bill Marriott                               |   $500,000 | Chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International.
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Geoff Palmer                                |   $500,000 | A Los Angeles real-estate developer. His company, G.H. Palmer Associates, also contributed in 2011.
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David Lisonbee                              |   $500,000 | Founder of a 4Life Research, a Utah vitamin supplements company
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A. Jerrold Perenchio                        |   $500,000 | Billionaire and former chairman of Univision.
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Stephen Zide                                |   $500,000 | A managing director of Bain Capital since 2001 and a member of the firm since 1997.
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Joseph W. Craft                             |   $500,000 | President and chief executive of Alliance Holdings, a coal producer.
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Trammell S. Crow                            |   $500,000 | President of Crow Family Foundation and former real estate developer.
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Mercury Trust                               |   $425,000 | An affiliate of Fox Paine and Company, a California-based buyout firm, run by Saul Fox.
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Kevin Rollins                               |   $375,000 | Senior advisor at TPA Private Equity.
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David Tepper                                |   $375,000 | President of Appaloosa Management, a hedge fund.
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Robert Pence                                |   $350,000 | President of The Pence Group Inc., a real estate development company based in McLean, Va.
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Philip H. Geier                             |   $350,000 | Founder of the Geier Group, a marketing and communications consulting firm. Chairman and chief executive officer of Interpublic, a global advertising and marketing services company, from 1977 to 2000.
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Renee B. Morse                              |   $350,000 | Owner of The Villages retirement community and corporation.
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William Keough                              |   $300,000 | President and chief executive of Michigan-based Atmosphere Group Inc.
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Darlene Jordan                              |   $300,000 | Palm Beach, Fla., attorney.
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W/F Investment Corp.                        |   $275,000 | Private equity firm.
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Janet J. Duchossois                         |   $250,000 | Oak Brook, Ill.
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William Koch                                |   $250,000 | Founder and leader of Oxbow Group, a private energy company. He is a brother of Charles G. and David H. Koch, the secretive billionaire businessmen who have contributed significant sums to conservative causes. Over a decade ago, he accused Charles and David of cheating him in a business deal and sued them for $2 billion.
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Jenzabar Inc.                               |   $250,000 | A software company. Its chief executive is Robert A. Maginn Jr., the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, the finance co-chairman of Mr. Romney's last presidential campaign and a former senior partner and director at Bain & Company.
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Paumanok Partners LLC                       |   $250,000 | Located in New Canaan, Conn. and linked to William Laverack Jr., chairman and chief executive of Laverack Capital Partners.
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Robert C. Wetenhall                         |   $250,000 | Chairman of McConnell Wetenhall Co., Inc.
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Paul Fireman                                |   $250,000 | Chairman of Fireman Capital Partners, a private equity firm.
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Leslie H. Wexner                            |   $250,000 | Founder and chairman of the Limited Inc., the apparel retailer.
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John Connaughton                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1989. Has been a managing director since 1997.
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Fair Oaks Finance, LLC                      |   $250,000 | Hamilton, Mont. firm.
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Domenic Ferrante                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1993. Currently a managing director.
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Richard Baxter Gilliam                      |   $250,000 | Founder of Cumberland Reources
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The Villages of Lake Sumter Inc.            |   $250,000 | Retirement community in Florida.
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William Laverack Jr.                        |   $250,000 | Founder of Laverack Capital Partners, an investment firm. Mr. Laverack has also been linked to a 2011 contribution to the super PAC by Paumanok Partners LLC.
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David Mugar                                 |   $250,000 | New England businessman and chief executive of Mugar Enterprises.
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Jeffrey Sprecher                            |   $230,000 | Chairman and chief executive of IntercontinentalExchange, a financial firm.
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Marc Leder                                  |   $225,000 | Co-chief executive of Sun Capital Advisers.

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Rodger Krouse                               |   $225,000 | Co-chief executive of Sun Capital Advisers.
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Susan Groff                                 |   $225,000 | Co-owner of Northwest Excavating.
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Alice Walton                                |   $200,000 | Daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.
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Gerald Jordan                               |   $200,000 | Chairman of Hellman, Jordan Management Co.
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Paul Tudor Jones                            |   $200,000 | Connecticut billionaire who is chairman and chief executive of Tudor Investment Corporation.
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Betty Brown Casey                           |   $200,000 | Philanthropist and president of Casey Management, Inc.
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Trott and Trott PC                          |   $200,000 | A Michigan firm that provides services to the real estate industry, including foreclosure services.
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Jim Walton                                  |   $200,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Arvest Bank Group and son of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.
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Rod Aycox                                   |   $200,000 | Owner and president of Select Management Resource.
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Samuel Zell                                 |   $180,000 | Founder of Equity International; chairman and chief executive of the Tribune Company.
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S. Craig Lindner                            |   $150,000 |
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Consol Energy, Inc.                         |   $150,000 | Pennsylvania-based energy company.
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Carl Lindner III                            |   $150,000 | Co-chief executive, American Financial Group.
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Edyth Lindner                               |   $150,000 |
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Keith Lindner                               |   $150,000 |
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Harlan R. Crow                              |   $150,000 | Dallas-based real estate investor.
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Robert Rosenkranz                           |   $150,000 | Chief executive of Delphi Financial, an insurance company.
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William Templeton                           |   $150,000 | Dallas investor.
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Debra Rollins                               |   $125,000 | Homemaker.
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Richard Gaby                                |   $125,000 | Trustee of the Richard and Barbara Gaby Foundation; husband of Barb Van Andel-Gaby, a trustee of the Heritage Foundation and daughter of the late Jay Van Andel, co-founder of Amway.
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Charles Schwab                              |   $125,000 | Founder and chairman of The Charles Schwab Corp., a brokerage firm.
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Helen Schwab                                |   $125,000 | Investor; wife of Charles Schwab.
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Muneer Satter                               |   $120,000 | Investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
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Select Management Resources, LLC            |   $100,000 | Alpharetta, Ga.
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Alexander Navab                             |   $100,000 | Partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
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The Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation Inc.    |   $100,000 | Alpharetta, Ga.
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Robert Reynolds                             |   $100,000 | Chief executive of Putman Investments.
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Thomas O'Malley                             |   $100,000 | Chairman of PBF Energy.
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Joe Ricketts                                |   $100,000 | Founder of brokerage TD Ameritrade and owner of Chicago Cubs baseball team.
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David Wilson                                |   $100,000 | California automobile dealer.
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Meg Whitman                                 |   $100,000 | Chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.
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PVS Chemicals Inc.                          |   $100,000 | Detroit-based chemical company. James B. Nicholson is the president and chief executive.
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2GIG Technologies                           |   $100,000 | Home security company.
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Trevor D. Rees-Jones                        |   $100,000 | Oil magnate and high-profile donor to American Crossroads, the influential Republican super PAC.
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Dale Rogers                                 |   $100,000 | Chief executive, Rogers Wealth Group, Inc.
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Eric Varvel                                 |   $100,000 | Chief operating officer of investment banking at Credit Suisse.
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Nicholas Rosenkranz                         |   $100,000 | Law professor at Georgetown University; son of Robert Rosenkranz.
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Robert B. Rowling                           |   $100,000 | A Texas billionaire whose TRT Holdings owns Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym.
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Raymond Ruddy                               |   $100,000 | Founder of the Gerard Health Foundation, a pro-life charity, and former president of the Maximus Consulting Group, a health and human services government contractor.
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Joel Peterson                               |   $100,000 | Founding partner at Peterson Partners, a Utah investment firm, and chairman of JetBlue Airways.
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Edward D. Smith                             |   $100,000 | Partner at Smith-Christensen Enterprises.
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Mischer Investments L.P.                    |   $100,000 | Real estate development company; managing partner is Walter M. Mischer.
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Howard Cox                                  |   $100,000 | Retired.
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John C. Cushman III                         |   $100,000 | Chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm.
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Steven Dodge                                |   $100,000 | Real estate developer.
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Johanna Howard                              |   $100,000 | Daughter of Philip H. Geier, founder of the Geier Group consulting firm.
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Alan Fournier                               |   $100,000 | Founder of Pennant Capital Management, a hedge fund.
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Jeffrey Fox                                 |   $100,000 | Chief executive of Harbour Group.
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Marilyn Fox                                 |   $100,000 | St. Louis, Mo. homemaker; wife of businessman Sam Fox. Along with her husband, she was appointed by George W. Bush to a delegation to Jerusalem in 2008.
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Griffith Harsh IV                           |   $100,000 | Stanford University neurosurgeon, married to Meg Whitman.
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Sam Fox                                     |   $100,000 | Founder of Harbour Group.
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C. Boyden Gray                              |   $100,000 | Washington lawyer, former diplomat and White House counsel in the first Bush administration.
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Foster S. Friess                            |   $100,000 | Wealthy mutual fund manager who supports Christian and conservative causes. Major investor in the Daily Caller news website led by Tucker Carlson.
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Howard Groff                                |   $100,000 | Co-owner of Northwest Excavating.
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Henry R. Kravis                             |   $100,000 | Co-chairman of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
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John A. Griffin                             |   $100,000 | President of Blue Ridge Capital
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Marc Andreessen                             |   $100,000 | Venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz; co-founder of Netscape.
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Douglas Berthiaume                          |   $100,000 | Chief executive at Waters Corporation.
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W. Ed Bosarge                               |   $100,000 | Houston-based investor and owner of Quantlab Financial.
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Gregory Maffei                              |   $100,000 | President and chief executive of Liberty Media, a media conglomerate whose investments include Starz Entertainment, the home shopping channel QVC and the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
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Andrew Puzder                               |   $100,000 | Chief executive of CKE Restaurants.
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Dick W. Boyce                               |   $100,000 | Partner at TPG Capital, a private equity firm.
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Kelly Loeffler                              |   $100,000 | Vice president at IntercontinentalExchange, a financial firm; part-owner of the Atlanta Dream women's basketball team.
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Howard Leach                                |   $100,000 | San Francisco-based businessman and private investor. Former U.S. Ambassador to France.
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Jack E. Caveney                             |   $100,000 | Retired chariman of Panduit Corp., an electrical components company.
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James Donavan                               |    $95,000 | Investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
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Kristen H. Hertel                           |    $95,000 | Winnetka, Ill.
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Apollo Group                                |    $75,000 | For-profit education corporation that operates several institutions, including the University of Phoenix.
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Marc  Rowan                                 |    $60,000 | Investment professional at Apollo Management.
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Herbert Siegel                              |    $50,000 | Retired media investor, New York.
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Jim Click                                   |    $50,000 | Arizona car dealer.
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Jeremy Andrus                               |    $50,000 | Chief executive & president of Skullcandy, a company that makes headphones.
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Walter Schlaepfer                           |    $50,000 | Financial adviser at Merrill Lynch.
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Wendt Family Trust                          |    $50,000 | Located in San Francisco.
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Marc Stern                                  |    $50,000 | Vice chairman and chief executive of TCW, an investment firm.
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James Cowden                                |    $50,000 | San Antonio, Tex. Investor.
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Joseph H. Davenport III                     |    $50,000 | President, Pointer Management Co.
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Harold Brierley                             |    $50,000 | Chairman of Brierley & Partners, a Dallas customer service consulting firm.
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John Chambers                               |    $50,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Cisco Systems, Inc.
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Dell Loy Hansen                             |    $50,000 | President of Utah-based Wasatch Property Management.
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Amy Nelson                                  |    $50,000 | Homemaker.
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James W. Heavener                           |    $50,000 | Chief executive of the Heavener Group.
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James Madden                                |    $50,000 | Founder and managing partner of Madden Capital Partners.
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Michael  Hayde                              |    $50,000 | Chief executive officer of Western Group, a privately-held apartment owner/developer company.
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Fred Sands                                  |    $50,000 | Chairman of Vintage Capital Group, an investment firm.
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Red River Resources, Inc.                   |    $50,000 | Phoenix, Ariz. The Arizona Corporation Commission lists the President as Scott Eller, of Eller Media Co.
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Donald K. Miller                            |    $50,000 | Asset manager at Axiom International Investor.
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Lee Hanley                                  |    $50,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Vestar, a Phoenix real estate development company.
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Marc Lipshultz                              |    $50,000 | Partner at private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
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Christopher Stadler                         |    $40,000 | Managing partner of CVC Capital Partners, an investment firm.
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Jones Management Services                   |    $35,000 | Represents several businesses, including payday advance companies.
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Donald Foss                                 |    $35,000 | Executive chairman of Credit Acceptance, an automotive finance company.
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Katsum LLC                                  |    $35,000 | The Washington Secretary of State lists the company's governing persons as Dennis and David Bassford, co-founders of Moneytree, a provider of payday loans and check cashing services.
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Axcess Financial Services                   |    $35,000 | Ohio-based firm that owns check cashing, payday loan and other financial service companies.
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Community Choice Financial, Inc.            |    $30,000 | Ohio-based company providing alternative banking services including check cashing and payday loans.
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Christopher Landry                          |    $28,000 | Investment managing partner, TA Associates Management.
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Robert Tuttle                               |    $27,000 | Beverly Hills car dealer.
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Rodger P. Nordblom                          |    $25,000 | Chairman, Nordblom Company.
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Norman Worthington                          |    $25,000 | Florida investor and businessman.
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Paul Zecchi                                 |    $25,000 | President and chief executive, Central Resources.
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City Attorney Jan Goldsmith 2012 Committee  |    $25,000 |
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Bob Zorich                                  |    $25,000 | Managing partner, Encap Investments LP.
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William Walton III                          |    $25,000 | Florida real estate investor.
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Advance America                             |    $25,000 | Payday loan company.
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Katherine Alden                             |    $25,000 | Owner of Woodside Hotels in California.
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Thomas Mulroy                               |    $25,000 | Chief executive, T-Rex Capital Group.
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Robert McCormack                            |    $25,000 | Retired.
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David Liptak                                |    $25,000 | Founder and managing partner at Spring Street Partners, a New York investment firm.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Charles Cahill                              |    $25,000 |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brent Beesley                               |    $25,000 | Chief executive, Heritage Bank.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Peter Palandjian                            |    $25,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Intercontinental, a real estate investment management firm.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alan Dreeben                                |    $25,000 | A wine and beverage distributor. Rick Perry named him a regent for the Texas State University System.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Scott Congel                                |    $25,000 | Real estate developer, SRC Development Group.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Frederic Hamilton                           |    $25,000 | Chairman at managing partner at the Hamilton Companies.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sierra Advisors                             |    $25,000 | A Houston entity linked to Ralph Eads, vice chairman at Jeffries & Co., an investment bank, who has contributed to the Romney campaign and focuses on the energy sector.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ronald Gidwitz                              |    $25,000 | Partner, GCG Partners.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Warren Smith                                |    $25,000 | Investment manager, Staley Capital.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Scott Sperling                              |    $25,000 | Money manager, Thomas H. Lee Partners.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tom Rutherfoord                             |    $25,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Rutherfoord, an insurance company.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Groff Family Trust                          |    $25,000 | Trust that shares an address with Howard and Susan Groff, owners of Northwest Excavating.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Charles Stoddard                            |    $25,000 | Hickory Corners, Mich. Retired founder of Grand Bank and Grand Angels, an investment firm.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Donald R. Tapia                             |    $25,000 | Retired.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HBI Financial, Inc.                         |    $25,000 | The Washington Secretary of State lists the company's president as George Argyros, a real estate investor and former U.S. Ambassador to Spain.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Robert Thompson                             |    $25,000 |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
William M. Isaac                            |    $25,000 | Senior managing director, FTI Consulting.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Frank Kavanaugh                             |    $25,000 | A managing director at Fort Ashford Holdings, a private equity firm.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Boyd Smith                                  |    $25,000 | Partner at WSJ Properties.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
J. Wayne Weaver                             |    $25,000 | Shoe store chain owner and former owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars professional football team.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
QC Holdings, Inc.                           |    $25,000 | Kansas-based payday loan company.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Amin Khoury                                 |    $25,000 | Chief executive, B/E Aerospace, Inc.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Warren Schwerin                             |    $25,000 | Retired chief executive of Related Properties, a real estate development company.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well that’s pretty sweet. Let’s see if we can start searching for things. Why don’t we pipe this to grep and see what comes up for the term “Bain”.

Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$ ruby get_donors.rb | grep "Bain"
Paul Edgerley                               |   $500,000 | Managing director at Bain Capital. Married to Sandra Edgerley.
Sandra Edgerley                             |   $500,000 | Worked at Bain & Company, a consulting company founded by Bill Bain, for 10 years. Married to Paul Edgerley.
Stephen Zide                                |   $500,000 | A managing director of Bain Capital since 2001 and a member of the firm since 1997.
Jenzabar Inc.                               |   $250,000 | A software company. Its chief executive is Robert A. Maginn Jr., the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, the finance co-chairman of Mr. Romney's last presidential campaign and a former senior partner and director at Bain & Company.
John Connaughton                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1989. Has been a managing director since 1997.
Domenic Ferrante                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1993. Currently a managing director.
Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$

Hrm…For a SuperPAC that is suppose to be independent of candidate Mitt Romney, those people seem to have fairly close ties to him. Why don’t we use some Bash pipe magic and total those donation figures.

Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$ ruby get_donors.rb | grep "Bain" | cut -d'|' -f2 | sed 's/,//; s/\$//; s/^   //; s/\s$//; s/\.//;' | ruby -e 'puts STDIN.readlines.map{|n|Integer(n.gsub("m","0"*5).strip)}.inject(:+).to_s.reverse.gsub(%r{([0-9]{3}(?=([0-9])))},"\\1,").reverse.prepend("$")'
$2,250,000
Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$

Bain Capital (the place where Romney made all his money) has given $2,250,000 to Romney’s closest SuperPAC. And that’s just one SuperPAC. Remember how many there are? The New York Times isn’t listing donors, but I’d love to correlate these.

Why don’t we look at who else is contributing to Anti-Obama rhetoric in favor of a President Romney? What about if we searched for a series of terms – why not “capital”, “invest”, “fund”, “hedge”, “equity”, “partner”, “money”, “bank”, and “accounting”. Let’s see how much the financial industry, one Romney has been intimate with, has given this smear campaign.

NOTE: I’ve put the grep command into “search.sh” and I’ve put the sum commands into “sum.sh”.

Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$ ruby get_donors.rb | ./search.sh
Julian Robertson                            |      $1.2m | Founder of Tiger Management, a hedge fund.
Rooney Holdings Inc.                        |      $1.0m | Private investment firm based in Tulsa, Okla. Its chief executive is Francis Rooney, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
John Kleinheinz                             |      $1.0m | Founder of hedge fund Kleinheinz Capital Partners.
John Childs                                 |      $1.0m | Chairman and chief executive of J.W. Childs Associates, a private equity firm.
Paul Singer                                 |      $1.0m | Manager of Elliot Associates hedge fund. Tried last year to recruit New Jeresey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president. He has given hundreds of thousands to fund state fights to legalize gay marriage.
Steven Webster                              |      $1.0m | Co-managing partner and co-chief executive officer of Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm.
Robert Mercer                               |      $1.0m | Co-chief executive at Renaissance Technologies Corp., a hedge fund company.
Renco Group Inc.                            |      $1.0m | Privately held holding company whose investments include mining, jewelry and defense equipment firms.
F8 LLC                                      |      $1.0m | Shares a Provo, Utah, address with Eli Publishing Inc., which leads to an accounting firm.
Lawrence Finch                              |   $850,000 | Wyoming private investor.
Chris W. Shumway                            |   $750,000 | Founder and chief executive of Shumway Capital Investments and protege of Julian Robertson.
Crow Holdings, LLC                          |   $650,000 | A real estate investment firm headed by the Trammell Crow family of Dallas.
Paul Edgerley                               |   $500,000 | Managing director at Bain Capital. Married to Sandra Edgerley.
Mike Fernandez                              |   $500,000 | Chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, a private equity firm.
Bruce Kovner                                |   $500,000 | Founder of Caxton Associates, a hedge fund.
Warren Stephens                             |   $500,000 | Owner of Arkansas investment bank Stephens Inc.
Louis Moore Bacon                           |   $500,000 | Founder of Moore Capital. Topped a British list of the richest hedge fund managers in 2010.
MBF Family Investments                      |   $500,000 | Connected to Mike Fernandez, whose private equity firm, MBF Healthcare Partners, shares the same address. The news media in Florida reported that this investment group gave $250,000 to Rick Scott in 2010 for his gubernatorial campaign.
Stephen Zide                                |   $500,000 | A managing director of Bain Capital since 2001 and a member of the firm since 1997.
Kevin Rollins                               |   $375,000 | Senior advisor at TPA Private Equity.
David Tepper                                |   $375,000 | President of Appaloosa Management, a hedge fund.
W/F Investment Corp.                        |   $275,000 | Private equity firm.
Jenzabar Inc.                               |   $250,000 | A software company. Its chief executive is Robert A. Maginn Jr., the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, the finance co-chairman of Mr. Romney's last presidential campaign and a former senior partner and director at Bain & Company.
Paumanok Partners LLC                       |   $250,000 | Located in New Canaan, Conn. and linked to William Laverack Jr., chairman and chief executive of Laverack Capital Partners.
Paul Fireman                                |   $250,000 | Chairman of Fireman Capital Partners, a private equity firm.
John Connaughton                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1989. Has been a managing director since 1997.
Domenic Ferrante                            |   $250,000 | Joined Bain Capital in 1993. Currently a managing director.
William Laverack Jr.                        |   $250,000 | Founder of Laverack Capital Partners, an investment firm. Mr. Laverack has also been linked to a 2011 contribution to the super PAC by Paumanok Partners LLC.
Marc Leder                                  |   $225,000 | Co-chief executive of Sun Capital Advisers.

Rodger Krouse                               |   $225,000 | Co-chief executive of Sun Capital Advisers.
Paul Tudor Jones                            |   $200,000 | Connecticut billionaire who is chairman and chief executive of Tudor Investment Corporation.
Jim Walton                                  |   $200,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Arvest Bank Group and son of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.
Samuel Zell                                 |   $180,000 | Founder of Equity International; chairman and chief executive of the Tribune Company.
Harlan R. Crow                              |   $150,000 | Dallas-based real estate investor.
William Templeton                           |   $150,000 | Dallas investor.
Helen Schwab                                |   $125,000 | Investor; wife of Charles Schwab.
Muneer Satter                               |   $120,000 | Investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
Alexander Navab                             |   $100,000 | Partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
Robert Reynolds                             |   $100,000 | Chief executive of Putman Investments.
Eric Varvel                                 |   $100,000 | Chief operating officer of investment banking at Credit Suisse.
Joel Peterson                               |   $100,000 | Founding partner at Peterson Partners, a Utah investment firm, and chairman of JetBlue Airways.
Edward D. Smith                             |   $100,000 | Partner at Smith-Christensen Enterprises.
Mischer Investments L.P.                    |   $100,000 | Real estate development company; managing partner is Walter M. Mischer.
Alan Fournier                               |   $100,000 | Founder of Pennant Capital Management, a hedge fund.
Foster S. Friess                            |   $100,000 | Wealthy mutual fund manager who supports Christian and conservative causes. Major investor in the Daily Caller news website led by Tucker Carlson.
Henry R. Kravis                             |   $100,000 | Co-chairman of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
John A. Griffin                             |   $100,000 | President of Blue Ridge Capital
Marc Andreessen                             |   $100,000 | Venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz; co-founder of Netscape.
W. Ed Bosarge                               |   $100,000 | Houston-based investor and owner of Quantlab Financial.
Gregory Maffei                              |   $100,000 | President and chief executive of Liberty Media, a media conglomerate whose investments include Starz Entertainment, the home shopping channel QVC and the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
Dick W. Boyce                               |   $100,000 | Partner at TPG Capital, a private equity firm.
Howard Leach                                |   $100,000 | San Francisco-based businessman and private investor. Former U.S. Ambassador to France.
James Donavan                               |    $95,000 | Investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
Marc  Rowan                                 |    $60,000 | Investment professional at Apollo Management.
Herbert Siegel                              |    $50,000 | Retired media investor, New York.
Marc Stern                                  |    $50,000 | Vice chairman and chief executive of TCW, an investment firm.
James Cowden                                |    $50,000 | San Antonio, Tex. Investor.
Harold Brierley                             |    $50,000 | Chairman of Brierley & Partners, a Dallas customer service consulting firm.
James Madden                                |    $50,000 | Founder and managing partner of Madden Capital Partners.
Fred Sands                                  |    $50,000 | Chairman of Vintage Capital Group, an investment firm.
Donald K. Miller                            |    $50,000 | Asset manager at Axiom International Investor.
Marc Lipshultz                              |    $50,000 | Partner at private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
Christopher Stadler                         |    $40,000 | Managing partner of CVC Capital Partners, an investment firm.
Katsum LLC                                  |    $35,000 | The Washington Secretary of State lists the company's governing persons as Dennis and David Bassford, co-founders of Moneytree, a provider of payday loans and check cashing services.
Community Choice Financial, Inc.            |    $30,000 | Ohio-based company providing alternative banking services including check cashing and payday loans.
Christopher Landry                          |    $28,000 | Investment managing partner, TA Associates Management.
Norman Worthington                          |    $25,000 | Florida investor and businessman.
Bob Zorich                                  |    $25,000 | Managing partner, Encap Investments LP.
William Walton III                          |    $25,000 | Florida real estate investor.
Thomas Mulroy                               |    $25,000 | Chief executive, T-Rex Capital Group.
David Liptak                                |    $25,000 | Founder and managing partner at Spring Street Partners, a New York investment firm.
Brent Beesley                               |    $25,000 | Chief executive, Heritage Bank.
Peter Palandjian                            |    $25,000 | Chairman and chief executive of Intercontinental, a real estate investment management firm.
Frederic Hamilton                           |    $25,000 | Chairman at managing partner at the Hamilton Companies.
Sierra Advisors                             |    $25,000 | A Houston entity linked to Ralph Eads, vice chairman at Jeffries & Co., an investment bank, who has contributed to the Romney campaign and focuses on the energy sector.
Ronald Gidwitz                              |    $25,000 | Partner, GCG Partners.
Warren Smith                                |    $25,000 | Investment manager, Staley Capital.
Scott Sperling                              |    $25,000 | Money manager, Thomas H. Lee Partners.
Charles Stoddard                            |    $25,000 | Hickory Corners, Mich. Retired founder of Grand Bank and Grand Angels, an investment firm.
HBI Financial, Inc.                         |    $25,000 | The Washington Secretary of State lists the company's president as George Argyros, a real estate investor and former U.S. Ambassador to Spain.
Frank Kavanaugh                             |    $25,000 | A managing director at Fort Ashford Holdings, a private equity firm.
Boyd Smith                                  |    $25,000 | Partner at WSJ Properties.
Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$

And here for the total:

Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$ ruby get_donors.rb | ./search.sh | ./sum.sh
$21,638,000
Alexs-MacBook-Pro:superpacr Alex$

Romney’s own industry has contributed over 75% of all the money going to Restore Our Future, Inc. Throw Sheldon Adelson (one of the top donors) out. The financial industry is powering this smear campaign against Obama.

I encourage every single person who sees a campaign ad to stop listening to this bullshit created by the Citizen’s United ruling.

You want to know the real reason why all these people are throwing money behind Romney? Real simple. Greed.

The wealthiest individuals in this country who value greed over patriotism are showing their stripes (or lack of). Politify is a beautifully created website illustrating each candidates proposals on federal budgeting (taxes, spending, etc.).

Romney gives an average tax break of $38,136 to the wealthiest 1%. The higher their salary, the bigger the tax break. Punch in numbers under the Personal page. You’ll see for yourself the amount of money the wealthiest people in this country are going to get in tax breaks, putting the burdon back on the middle class.

This is why you’re not getting my vote Mitt.

Concerning Blizzard and Diablo 3’s Disappointing Launch

Well it’s finally here. May 15th, 2012. Launch day for Diablo 3.

and….fail. Cannot connect to the game. One of several error screens. This is true for most people across the twittersphere and multitude of Skype and IRC channels I’m in.

Here’s what I want to know: How can a company with Blizzard’s resources, Diablo 3’s time, and Activision’s budgets flop a launch day this bad? I mean, they’ve had a beta test for over six months now. I’ve got a hypothesis. It’s in their IT Management’s “business” philosophy. Let’s break it down.

Typical IT management mindset is we should minimize cost by making the most out of the least amount of resources as possible. Too many unused resources and thats a waste, too few and you’re over utilized. This serves most IT budgets quite well. But you’re the IT manager at Blizzard trying to plan resource allocation for launch day. You’ve already benchmarked through the beta how much resources each user’s connection consumes (hopefully). Now you need to estimate how many people are going to try to connect at launch. So you look at historical data – Diablo II, WoW, Starcraft II, etc. and from there estimate a number. Then plan for that. There’s your IT Capacity Planning for a Diablo 3 launch.

I think it was done poorly, and here’s why.

Put that formula aside. Say you sold 1 million pre-release copies. History shows games like Diablo 3 make their money over time – the hardcore fans upfront, then popularity from those watching the hardcore fan generates post revenue buzz. (aka I play D3 for six months then introduce it to an unknowing friend). And now with the Auction House and other new features, I’m sure there will be additional revenue generated post launch. The point is, you don’t sell most of your licenses in a pre-release. But those pre-release licenses are your most important players (monetarily). Those are the most likely to purchase other things – expansion packs, DLC, etc. Making these customers happy should be your bottom line. Without them, you do not have the religious following for Diablo.

This is why capacity planning for a launch like Diablo 3 should have had much more importance put on it than it appears Blizzard did. Where is your cloud computing technology Blizzard? Capacity planning is not just in throwing more servers at it. You must build your server architectures to scale quickly and efficiently. Zynga’s Hybrid Cloud does this.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure your company doesn’t repeat something like this (and your fans aren’t blogging about you instead of using your product):

  • Build a platform that can automatically scale with demand
  • Write good horizontal scaling support into your application code
  • Make sure your IT department has the data center space (public / private cloud?) ready to meet the demand of the growth.

This is a great example of where a combination of good engineering and smart management can easily tackle a large and complex problem.

Thoughts or comments? Follow me on Twitter.

Why #OccupyWallStreet Matters

Up until now, I haven’t been very involved or excited about the #OccupyWallStreet protests. While the protests are circling around economic reform, a new subject of debate, and ultimately protest, has surfaced.

The big three media companies – Fox, NBC, & CNN have knowingly shelved the story as much as possible. They’ve executed the common practice of not completely turning it off, but giving it as minimal coverage as possible. Even the liberal slanted MSNBC only has it as a secondary story under their U.S. section.

And guess what – these companies are traded publicly on where else? Wall Street.

This is not right. I believe these companies to be denying coverage to such an important event in an attempt to stem the growth of this movement. Regardless of whether I agree with the protest methods or not, I think this blatant media shun is exactly why it’s time to take this protest big.

The largest problem in the world today is the systemic corruption that is plaguing every corner of mankind. Politics, Finance, Business. You name it. Corruption has made it easy for the top 1% to grow off the shoulders of the bottom 99%.

All of the issues the world faces are solvable except when it goes against the interests of the people running the show.

I don’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or not. I think at this point in our history, we need to start taking a stand against this great pandemic of greed that has swept our culture.

I’m an engineer with a good job and even though I’m not the majority, I’ll stand with them on this one. I encourage you to show you support and spread the word. Attend the protests if you can. Show that this executive mentality will not be tolerated in our society anymore.

#OccupyWallStreet #OccupySF

Applegate: Beyond the Hype

Today, MacRumors came public with an e-mail exchange with Steve Jobs in regards to the Applegate controversy:

Q: Steve,

Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.

A: Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.

Sent from my iPhone

Considering my original post and it’s follow up, I think it’s safe to say that this issue has been over-hyped into a whirlwind of speculation. The brass tax of the situation is this:

  • Apple iOS Devices have Location Services that provide rich functionality to the iOS experience.
  • Apple’s Opt-In Location Collection simply improves Location Services as stated in the F-Secure blog.
  • Apple is not playing big brother nor monitoring anyone.

This seems contrary to the WSJ article about iPhone location that just came out. That’s because no one is recognizing what they’re talking about – an iPhone. This mystical device has captured our attention since it’s inception in 2007 and since then, the public has had to continuously shift it’s view on what this device (and others like it – Android, etc.) are capable of. Whether we like it or not, the age of mobile is here, and in a big way. Mobile computing will continue it’s production of data – sensitive or not – and it’s up to us in the information security community to lead the public in the proper usage of these devices.

Critique Apple all you’d like. They’ve implemented Backup Encryption, Lock Passcodes, Sandbox’d Applications, and an Opt-In model that clearly doesn’t “big brother” users. These steps aren’t useless features, they’re there for a reason. If you’re not comfortable telling your Photos App your location, don’t allow it to. If you’re worried about your data (and you should be!) educate yourself and do something about it. Your data sits on your phone just as your credit card sits in your wallet. Protect it.

For better details on how to do this, please see my previous post.

3 New Thoughts on Mobile Location – A Follow up to Apple Location Tracking

Well, this has been an exciting 24 hours. I needed a break after a lack of sleep the previous night. I’m glad to see so much technical research being done now. Great work to everyone. I’ll begin linking interesting analysis through my Twitter feed as I come across it. You can follow me @alexlevinson.

Earlier today, Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan responded to me. I want to thank them for their words. I do not want to spill hate on them or their work. I wish them both the best in their ventures and would like to cross paths with them in San Francisco sometime. Fabulous work gentlemen.

What is Location Services?

I think several people have missed understanding how Location Services functions within an iOS device (and probably mobile in general) and the impact it has.The iPhone’s popularity comes from it’s human computer interaction. It’s smartphone capabilities are extended to the user in all sorts of unique and useful ways. Where am I? What’s Pizza Hut’s number? A smartphone has now replaced your fellow citizen for information. This data (or accessibility to determine) is fueling the movement in today’s digital world.One of those aspects as we know is Location Services, derived on the iPhone through this file, consolidated.db. This file acts as a hub of logging for geolocational information on the device. The various radios in the device log information to this database.When developing applications for an iOS device, you can access a series of libraries created by Apple to harness the capability of the phone. Why do you need these? Because your app runs in a “sandbox” — a jail cell for your application that prevents it from interacting with other applications or data on the device. This is a positive both for performance and security on the device. The “sandbox” design is not new to Apple. Unix and Linux systems have been jailing applications for years.

So unlike desktop computing, applications on the iPhone do not talk to one another or interact with system data. This is why third party applications do not have access to consolidated.db. They can manipulate and manage data within their own jailed directory, but nothing more.

Apple gives application developers access to programming frameworks that contain APIs to interact with data on the iPhone. This is how you can import your Facebook contacts, use Skype, or checkin on FourSquare. This allows an app to use the Core Location API to interact with location in a ways that expand the iOS user experience. CoreLocation uses consolidated.db to facilitate this transaction of data. So an app must use this API to begin interpreting location data. There is no other way. Given the static nature of these API functions, only certain data can be interpreted by apps, preventing them from simply harvesting all data within consolidated.db.

Apple previously used Skyhook Wireless for their determining the location of iPhones, but announced in 2010 they would be moving to their own location services starting in April of 2010 with iOS 3.2. This would confirm why there is data transmitted to Apple every 12 hours as reported by F-Secure yesterday. This explains my failure to see this unsolicited location data. My network traffic analysis of iOS devices has never spanned large time intervals. This still doesn’t translate into Apple tracking users behind their back.

I think overall, this location data is being used to further the iOS experience. An iPhone wouldn’t be an iPhone if you couldn’t press a button and have it tell me where the nearest Apple store or find a popular restaurant on Yelp. That doesn’t mean that this data is not sensitive though, which brings me to my next point.

The Advent of Mobile Data Security

Over the last century, we’ve seen data move from handwritten letters to typewriters and computers. Security measures have always existed to protect sensitive data. We’ve learned the painful mistakes of mismanaging digital information through the computer age and are beginning to create policy that helps ensure data “C – I – A.” – confidentiality, integrity, and availability. One of the outcomes of all this work is that there is no smoking gun to ensure privacy of data and a large responsibility lies on the person who owns the technology the data resides on.

In the last few years, mobile devices have swept the country as a new platform of computing – yes, computing. An iPhone is much more than a phone just as an iPod Touch is much more than a music player. These devices (including droids, blackberrys, etc.) are becoming a huge platform for computing on the go. Even with their boom, it’s a relatively new market and just as other technology markets, it’s still learning, especially about security.

The public perception of the mobile device as “just a phone” has led people to underestimate what these mini-computers are capable of. With this new breed of functionality, comes new blobs of data that is stored on these devices. Users should be treating their smart phones just as they do their computers – using passwords, following safety recommendations, encrypting data when possible. Your phone is now becoming your second wallet – a repository of data relating to you, the user, that could be harmful if exposed or improperly used. Although sensitive, it’s this data that drives the smart functionality of these devices.

Surely Apple has thought of this in the design of the iPhone. Through several avenues, Apple is attempting to protect your data on these devices. Following simple steps you can treat your phone like a digital fortress and protect the information thats on it. For example, there are simple and easy techniques that you can take to protect your data, including this location information.

1) Enable Backup Encryption & Use a Lock Passcode

After connecting your iPhone to your computer, you can set a “Backup Encryption Password” in iTunes. This does more than just encrypt your backups – it actually encrypts all data that could be retrieved from your phone physically. In the event you loose your phone, this can prevent someone from just downloading all the data off your device. Using a Lock Passcode can also stop anyone from simply viewing data on your phone who might grab it.

2) Use Caution Surfing the Web, E-Mailing

Just as you can get viruses through malicious websites and emails on your computer, the same is possible on your device. (That’s actually how jailbreak.me works – it’s just exploiting flaws in your web browser). These devices are mini-computers, if a hacker can exploit the software running on your device, they can do virtually anything they want – including steal your sensitive data.

3) Be Careful Modifying Your Device (jailbreak)

Some will find this controversial, but I think it’s sound advice to all but expert users. The problem I have with the jailbreak system is it allows for anything to be run on your device. You break the walled garden approach of the App Store and in turn expose yourself to a world of malware you otherwise wouldn’t. This has shown in the Android Marketplace’s recent spike in malware. Also, system privileges are now changeable by a user and the software they install. This allows access to the filesystem on the phone – including consolidated.db. So while there may be an app to sanitize consolidated.db, their also might be an app that is secretly stealing your SMS or logging your usage in the jailbreak realm.

Mobile device security is only going to become a bigger issue. It’s in the best interest of all users to make sure they’re staying on top of this stuff. Finally, I want to start the discussion on some things that have been reported on lately.

Forensic Legal Issues

It has been reported on extensively that mobile devices are under fire from law enforcement. I think this is an interesting twist in the recent headlines of mobile data. In the world of forensics, we’ve known for some time that these devices contain lots of identifiable information. It’s troubling to hear accusations of law enforcement misusing forensic technology to incriminate or investigate. As someone who develops this technology, there are rules that Law Enforcement must abide by — the fourth amendment. It’s is in our EULA for Lantern that you may only use our software legally:

10. Illegal use.  You may not (and You covenant not to) use the Software for any illegal purpose; for example, you may not use the Software to access a computer or device on which you do not have authorized access.

Fortunately, through Katana Forensics interaction with law enforcement, I have not witnessed any such misuse. My interactions with law enforcement have led me to respect their efforts to make sure their efforts present legal validity – warrants, chain of custody, and what not.

It’s in the best interest of the public to make sure they understand the 4th amendment and what their rights are under it and also examine their state’s law on electronic search and seizure. Knowing the law in your current area can help you as a technology owner keep your data secure from illegal search and seizure.

Overall, I don’t think Apple has wronged the public. I think they’ve tried to incorporate security measures into an extremely interactive and data rich product. Using simple security techniques, users can secure their data while maintaining functionality. I’d love to hear your comments – feel free to tweet me @alexlevinson with your feedback.