FRI AM News: Cyber crime specialist talks hacker prevention amid COVID-19 scams; “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Mark Stephenson

— Cyber crimes aren’t new to businesses, but hackers are taking advantage of the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests to make businesses more vulnerable, according to the senior vice president of Global Information Security at Bank of America. 

“What we’re seeing around coronavirus… we’re seeing a lot of the same methods and a lot of the same techniques being used, they’re just being used as a target for the COVID-19 virus,” said Lynn Martin in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce webinar. “There’s no good pandemic that goes unexploited.”

She noted over 2,500 incidents of new malware that have been released and spread around COVID-19 emails alone, the same type of phishing attacks that people have seen “for years” only now they’re focused on COVID-19. 

The annual cost of cyber crime expected by 2021 is $6 trillion dollars, said Martin. And the average weekly salary for cyber criminals is up to $10,000 a week.

“As you can see, it’s pretty lucrative to sit at home and hack on your computer. You don’t need many tools. You just need a computer and the knowledge of how to do these things,” she said. “And 54 percent of companies claim that they don’t know that they are able to reduce cyber risk due to employee negligence.”

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at UW-Madison.

America’s Dairyland has faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to an uneasy past few years of trade dilemmas, oversupply of milk and tariffs. 

“Dairy producers have become used to having ups and downs in dairy prices,” said Stephenson. “But this time, we’ve had almost five years of downturn that’s been much more persistent than what they’re prepared for.” 

Stephenson said there is light at the end of the tunnel for the state’s dairy industry as restaurants that can now start reopening will begin buying dairy products again. 

“Sales of beverage milk has been well up as a result of that, cheese sales have been strong too, and I think all of that is to the good,” he said.

But while that is something to look forward to, Stephenson warned the pandemic isn’t over yet, and neither are the economic consequences that could continue to challenge the dairy industry.  

“Even as we crawl out of the pandemic itself, we’re going to be faced with a massive and worldwide recession,” he said. “That has always been difficult for sales of anything, including food products.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce claims that Attorney General Josh Kaul’s opinion on high-capacity well permits is unlawful and will “cause confusion and regulatory strain on the agriculture industry.” 

On May 1, Kaul issued a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources withdrawing a 2016 AG letter of opinion concerning the DNR’s authority to consider the environmental impacts of certain high-capacity well applications. 

According to WMC, the 2016 AG opinion rightly stated that agencies need explicit statutory authority to place conditions on permit holders. WMC also noted that the recent state Supreme Court decision in Legislature v. Palm validated the enforceability of Act 21, saying the law imposes an “explicit authority requirement” on agency powers.

“Act 21 is clear,” said Scott Manley, executive vice president of government relations at WMC. “The DNR does not have explicit authority to add onerous conditions to high-capacity well permits.”

The DNR announced earlier this week it would follow Kaul’s suggestion and “will no longer follow the 2016 Attorney General opinion.”

“This will undoubtedly cause confusion and lead to a greater regulatory strain on the agriculture industry,” WMC said in its statement, adding that it will negatively impact not only farmers, but food processors and other businesses “at the absolute worst time.”

See WMC’s release: 

See the DNR’s announcement:

— Brian Pinkerton, keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Technology Council’s virtual 2020 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’s Conference, emphasized that technology is a tool and what matters is how people use it.

That’s coming from a guy with an extensive technology background. Pinkerton is Apple’s chief architect for Siri, an alumnus of the computer science department at UW-Madison and the creator of WebCrawler, an internet search engine that is the oldest surviving search engine on the web today.

When Pinkerton first built WebCrawler, he had about 10 users who were predominantly his circle of friends. But after about eight months, it was already taking up a third of his graduate school alma mater’s bandwidth and people all over the world were using it. 

“I had no conception of what it meant to have over 200,000 people using my product,” said Pinkerton. “It was insane. It was daunting.”

He said that oftentimes, people who build technologies don’t think about the impact they may have on people until there are unintended consequences. As an example, Pinkerton noted the business of a search engine — advertising — works against the search engine user experience. The tension, he said, has to be healthy between ads, content of ads and organic search results. 

The same is true with social media, such as Facebook, to which Pinkerton said: “There is no way that anybody anticipated what was going to happen. It grew way faster than we could grow our legal mechanisms or even our social mechanisms to understand it and respond to it. That is really the danger.”

Pinkerton’s advice was that pursuing the right thing to do is more important than pursuing growth, and that pursuing growth alone can be a problem.

“I think that this is a time that we have to ask companies to do a more rigorous job of being citizens of the world and not promoting their own growth,” he said. “There is plenty of that growth. Now is actually the time to think about doing the right thing.”

Using artificial intelligence as an example, Pinkerton noted in today’s current climate, with the nation’s attention on racial disparities, AI will have to be stripped of its human biases. 

Pinkerton explained that most of what is being deployed with AI today is just a faster replication of what humans are good at. 

“But if you think about AI making decisions that humans have previously made… if humans have bias, so does the AI,” he said. 

Using insurance pricing decisions as an example, Pinkerton said AI would probably use zip codes as the biggest predictors of price. This has been identified as another racial disparity communities of color have to face, as minority communities often have higher insurance premiums.

“Guess how that turns out? Not very well,” he said. “One of the things that we have to do here is critically evaluate this stuff as humans and say, ‘How are we going to think about providing data to the system that is actually blind to these kinds of influences?’”

Pinkerton suggests taking out problems such as zip codes as a field for machine learning. What would be even better, according to him, is finding the factors that really matter. This might even be data not available yet, such as a credit history of somebody or three factors that identify an individual’s ability to repay a loan. Those are things “that (cut) across ethnicity, place and economic strata.”

“So you’ve got to go find out, you’ve got to attack that bias at the source, figure out what signals you need, get those, and try again,” he said.

— Declaring racism a public health crisis, Gov. Tony Evers renewed his call to accept federal money to expand the Medicaid program, arguing it would help address racial disparities in Wisconsin.

In a call with reporters yesterday, the guv noted racial disparities that span infant mortality to incarceration, unemployment and poverty.

He called the statistics “sobering and devastating.”

“Wisconsin continuously ranks among the worst in the nation in disparate outcomes for marginalized populations,” Evers said.

The guv ran on expanding the program and included a provision in his budget proposal to accept the federal money only to see GOP lawmakers remove the item.

His renewed call to accept the money comes against the backdrop of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Evers said in the 2020 federal fiscal year, Wisconsinites will pay over $1 billion in federal income taxes to support Medicaid expansion in other states, but will not receive a return from that spending.

Residents “will pay that amount regardless if we expand Medicaid coverage,” he said.

“We have an opportunity now to fix some wrongs that have been long-standing for decades,” Evers said. “The people of Wisconsin have a great interest in having us do that. We have a bill out there right now that will deal with one small issue, but an important issue about use of force, but let’s get together and see if we can accomplish something.”

The offices of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, didn’t return a message today seeking comment. The GOP leaders have consistently rejected Evers’ call to expand Medicaid, saying it amounted to an expansion of welfare. They also have argued the state should instead focus on helping those who are uninsured to obtain coverage through the federal health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act

— The state recorded 12,148 total tests yesterday, shy of the state’s daily lab capacity of 15,418 tests. 

To date, the state has administered over 311,000 tests; the Wisconsin National Guard responsible for administering almost 100,000 of those.

The National Guard has ongoing coronavirus testing sites statewide, supporting the state’s initiative to increase COVID-19 testing. Some 25 specimen collection teams made up of nearly 600 citizen soldiers and airmen are involved in the mobile testing sites.

Community-based testing sites are located at the Alliant Energy Center in Dane County, the Door County Justice Center, Central High School and Tremper High School in Kenosha County, Langlade County Fairgrounds, United Migrant Opportunity Services, Custer Stadium and Cudahy Water Utility in Milwaukee County, Mt. Pleasant in Racine County and the Reedsburg High School in Sauk County. Washington County Fairgrounds.

The Guard is conducting site-based testing at DHS in Dane County, Plover in Portage County, and an industrial facility and Ellsworth Correctional Center in Racine County.

— DHS reports 492 new COVID-19 cases, the highest in the past five days, bringing the cumulative case count to 19,892. 

Along with the uptick in confirmed cases, the positive tests as a percentage of total tests yesterday rose to 4.1 percent.

“If we have a positive rate between 3 and 5 percent, that’s good,” according to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. 

However, he told reporters in a DHS briefing there is “no reason to think that we’ve reached the bottom.” Westergaard noted that some communities are seeing a 20 percent rate, which could spread to other communities and regions if not contained.

“We are by no means out of the woods,” he said, adding that public health needs to be aggressive to understand where the hotspots are, particularly in communities such as nursing homes, and to make sure that facilities have the resources they need to stop a regional epidemic. 

As to whether protesting and mass gatherings will lead to a spike, Westergaard said the answer would emerge in the weeks ahead. 

— State deaths also rose by 10, bringing the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 626.

Kenosha and Racine counties had three new deaths each, while Brown, Milwaukee, Rock and Washington counties each had one more.

The number of recovered patients continues to rise, now at an estimated 65 percent, while 3 percent of patients have died. Thirty-two percent are still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (316), Racine (44), Brown (38), Kenosha (33), Waukesha (31), Dane (29), Rock (20), Walworth (17), Ozaukee (13), Grant (12), Washington (9), Outagamie (8), Winnebago (7), Fond du Lac (5), Clark (4) and Richland (4).

Dodge, Door, Jefferson, Sauk and Sheboygan counties report three deaths each. Forest and Marinette counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Polk, Waupaca and Wood counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 


# World Dairy Expo OFF

# Key Wisconsin Covid-19 trends better, but protests may change that, says Dr. Raymond

# Prominent business leaders lay out path toward racial change in Milwaukee (Video)

# Cancellation of Summerfest is disappointing but understandable among Milwaukee leaders



– World Dairy Expo Decides to Cancel 

– Report: Agriculture Remains Huge Contributor to Wisconsin Jobs 

– Details On The $50 Million In Direct Wisconsin Farm Aid 

– Lawmakers Ask Why Wisconsin Dairy Has Received Less Than 1% of USDA Contracts


– State official prioritizes education over incarceration in response to protests (Video) 

– UW-EC professor discusses online civility, misinformation 


– Longtime medical professional Fagan finds new path in virtual health startup: People of Innovation 

– Safer At Home allowed Wisconsin to reach ‘tenuous equilibrium’ with Covid-19: Dr. Raymond

– State prisons increase COVID-19 testing, quarantines 

– 25 residents, 23 staff get COVID-19 at Belmont nursing home in Madison 


– ‘We can fix this’: La Crosse BLM protest amplifies young voices of color Wednesday night

– Large crowds expected to attend Green Bay protests this weekend 


– Milwaukee to lift restrictions on stores, restaurants as city begins third phase of reopening

– Milwaukee pilot program allowing outdoor dining on city streets, sidewalks gets committee backing

– Bright lights over COVID: Communities modify July 4 plans 

– City of Eau Claire playgrounds, sport courts, and skate plaza to open Friday–571026831.html 


– Packers players, coach Matt LaFleur release ‘Enough is enough’ message standing against racism, injustice


– Crawford County cancels fair in Gays Mills 

– Marcus Hotels announces reopening date for Grand Geneva, Timber Ridge


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