GAIN THE PASSION
GAIN THE PASSION
April 8, 2022

Mark Herschberg - From MIT to Tracking Criminals and Terrorists on the Dark Web to Writing The Career Toolkit Book.

Mark Herschberg - From MIT to Tracking Criminals and Terrorists on the Dark Web to Writing The Career Toolkit Book.

Mark Herschberg has tracked criminals and terrorists on the dark web and created marketplaces and new authentication systems. With a long career as a CTO, he has launched and developed new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s. Yet one thing Mark realized along the way is that success doesn't just lie in being to find the right answer; it lies in being able to communicate it to others.

His journey to master emotional intelligence in the workplace led him to help start MIT's "career success accelerator," the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, where he teaches annually. In his book The Career Toolkit, Mark shares ten chapters that deliver the essential skills no one ever teaches you.

From how to nurture relationships both inside and outside your company to successful negotiation and job interviews, Mark's lessons arm readers with top skills, professional advice, and an understanding of the modern workplace's— often overlooked— interpersonal dynamics— everything you need to be successful in your career.

Discover more about The Career Toolkit book
https://www.thecareertoolkitbook.com/
Follow Mark on Twitter
https://twitter.com/markaherschberg

Find out more about GAIN THE PASSION Coaching
https://www.gainthepassion.com
Access past episodes and more of the GAIN THE PASSION Podcast
https://www.gainthepassionpodcast.com

Transcript
Voiceover:

Welcome to GAIN THE PASSION WITH hosts Todd Foster, Alyssa Stanley and Kelley Skar.

Alyssa Stanley:

Today we have an incredibly interesting guest Mark Herschberg. He is the CTO of Aeveon and author of the career toolkit essential skills for success that no one taught you. Thanks for joining us today, Mark.

Mark Herschberg:

Thanks for having me on the show. It's my pleasure to be here.

Alyssa Stanley:

Mark as a cryptographer. You created the first online voting system. And I've worked with Fortune 500s and startups to track down cyber criminal terrorists and extremists on the dark web, which is something I really want to take a deep dive into, because that is unbelievably cool, and really interesting. But let's kind of start from the beginning. How does, how did you even get into this field?

Mark Herschberg:

When I was a little kid, I had books on secret codes, which I just thought was a lot of fun. Now, I was also a classic 80s nerd, so very stem very into math and science. And when I went to MIT, the head of the department or the department administrator asked me, What are you interested in. And I was interested in secret codes. So she connected me with a man named Ron Rivest, who is one of the legends of the field, she was kind enough to connect me. So he would be my academic advisor. And that got me on the path that way went to grad school, he was also my grad school advisor, so I could work in that area.

Alyssa Stanley:

So you started with a legend then?

Mark Herschberg:

I did, I was I was looking at so cool. MIT has this area cryptography, which is not very common at most universities. And we had some of the really best in the world working at MIT.

Alyssa Stanley:

True transparency. I didn't know that. That's what you were called, like, I knew I had to google cryptography. And I knew that that I knew that profession. But I had no idea. That's what that was called.

Mark Herschberg:

And for those who don't know what it is where the people were mathematicians, computer scientists who make secret codes. This is used sure by the NSA and CIA to send secret messages. But it's also used to help keep your credit card secure. So you can do transactions online.

Todd Foster:

So you were a youngster, you had the secret code book. And I know exactly what you're talking about, because I had one too, unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to even figure out the code itself, let alone to break the code. At what point did you go you know what I'm going to MIT?

Mark Herschberg:

When I was 12, my mother was reading me an article in Reader's Digest, talking about the hacks that they do at MIT. Prior to this, I had been interested in Harvard and Princeton, but my mother read this article. Now, MIT is famous for hacks. Hacks, it now means something with computers usually has a negative connotation, but the original version of the word means to do something clever. Famously, MIT has this giant dome, and they like to put things on there. They've put cows on there. I believe live cows, as well as artificial ones, put a phone booth up there a police car. So they've done lots of clever things, not just on the top of the booth. One time when the new president was coming into MIT, we used to have posters in the corridors very common at college campuses at the time, they literally posted over his door to that he just saw wall posters and walked around for five minutes trying to find his office on the first day. We do a lot of things like this at MIT. And when I heard about that, I said, I think that's where I want to go. So tell me your typical college house party, MIT, I was in a fraternity at MIT. Now, this surprises people you don't think of nerds at MIT and fraternities. But MIT actually have, at the time the largest Greek system on a per capita basis than any other university, MIT relied on the attorney system for housing. That's because we began as a commuter campus. And then lodging houses turned into fraternity houses. So we had I was in PI Lambda Phi Fraternity. And we would have parties probably about once a month. It was certainly not the same as what you would expect for a normal fraternity party. I don't mean we sat around to do calculus. But I don't think we were as wild as you would get at at other college campuses, or that typical image of college fraternity but we had back then kegs of beer and punch and any girl had fun to show up. There weren't enough at MIT. So we'd often go to the other colleges and put the word out that we were having a party.

Todd Foster:

So how many beers can you get out of a pony keg? Because you have to know that by now.

Mark Herschberg:

We didn't get pony kegs. We had full kegs.

Todd Foster:

Holy cow, you went all out. So a full keg, MIT students doing a house party and frat, for all of us out there, including me. How many beers should I be able to get out of a keg.

Mark Herschberg:

I am pretty rusty, I want to say 108 For some reason, we don't know where that number comes from.

Alyssa Stanley:

I'm gonna trust you on that.

Mark Herschberg:

Other for any parents listening, MIT, it's no more kegs on campus. It's a lot tamer. It's not how it was in the in the 90s.

Todd Foster:

I could go ahead This could go off the real quickly. Okay. I've always wondered how many drinks together keg because it seemed like a cake sometimes be 60. Because all foam. Yeah, I knew MIT students probably had some sort of financial breakdown of every pour every ounce in the carbonation fair to this. So

Mark Herschberg:

You're giving up way too much credit.

Todd Foster:

I know. Yeah, that's my fantasy world I live in. And please don't ruin it for me. Thank you.

Alyssa Stanley:

Oh, so it sounds like you aspired to go to pretty high level colleges, from the beginning was your family really highly educated?

Mark Herschberg:

They are. My father is a doctor, both my parents went to NYU. And then my mother did her. She did her undergrad at Hunter and then NYU for her master's in early childhood education. And my father is undergrad at NYU, and then went to the University of Medicine dentistry in New Jersey for his medical degree. So I have very educated parents who emphasized education. From a young age, they were always very supportive of helping us learn reading when we were very young. So I'm very grateful to my parents for helping put me on that path.

Todd Foster:

Where did ballroom dancing come into the whole mix?

Mark Herschberg:

The shorter version of this when I went to MIT, I was a senior and a friend of mine at Wellesley set me up with a young woman at Wellesley, for one of our semi formal dinners. And I was interested in her, and I then said, Okay, well, we're gonna hopefully day and I need things to do. Now, MIT during January has this intercession period. You don't have to come back to campus. But there's 1000 activities go on from the famous mystery hunt, to I took a wine tasting class, you can learn carpentry go skiing. Over the years, I know someone built a roller coaster, over a couple of weeks in January is just like really fun, random activities you can do. And one of the more popular ones has been ballroom dancing it take ballroom dance classes. They do it during a semester as well. But it's very popular in January. And I thought, well, here's a fun activity we can do together. It's on campus, so it's convenient. So let's start doing this. And she and I started dancing. We didn't date very long. She's still a friend of mine. But that got me into dancing. That it was different than my prior experiences I won't go into but it was a lot more fun. So I kept with it. I kept dancing. And then about a year later, I started dating another girl. She had a background doing dance performances, I got her into ballroom dancing. She then decided she wanted to join the ballroom dance team, which apparently meant I had also decided I wanted to join the ballroom dance team graduations, congratulation, because that's how relationships work. But I am very glad that she did that. Because that got me into competitive ballroom dancing. And that was one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

Alyssa Stanley:

Do you still compete? Or is it just for fun?

Mark Herschberg:

Yeah, I retired from competitive ballroom about 18 years ago, I came to New York, I couldn't find a partner. And it's not that New York doesn't have dancers were a big community. But at the level I was competing at which is at the top of the amateur circuit. A lot of people want to turn pro. And I just didn't want to do that. So it's hard to find someone who's compatible in terms of our goals.

Alyssa Stanley:

Yeah.

Todd Foster:

Can you make money in that?

Mark Herschberg:

You can, but you're not going to make a lot like many other sports. Typically what happens once you turn professional, you're trying to just rise in the rankings. So ballroom dancers, they are the professional dancers, they're teaching some number of hours a week, and that's how they're drawing income. But then they are spending a lot of their earnings on people more senior on the circuit retired, successful people so they can train up and move up in rankings. Some coaches of mine the for the first couple of years, lived in their parents basement, and would save up their money. So they could go to England once a year, for about a month and just train with some of the top coaches in the world. And so it's you're basically in like, I call it a pyramid scheme, because it's certainly not a scheme but you're basically trying to move up that pyramid trying to move up the rankings as high as you can until you retire. Then you can start making money because you're spending less.

Todd Foster:

And are you truly retired because I believe of Dancing with the Stars called Mark today and said we need you on the show. You'd be out there in a heartbeat.

Mark Herschberg:

I would consider I have some injuries these days. I'm not at the level that it used to be, but I could give it a try.

Alyssa Stanley:

A lot of our podcast is talking to successful people like you and then peeling the layers back what's behind the success because people at the top have a success story. But rarely do we hear about the bumps and bruises and what happened along the way. As the author of the career toolkit, the essential skills for success that no one taught you. Let's hear the story behind that. Because no one just picks up a pencil and is like, I'm gonna teach everyone things that nobody else knows. So what transpired there?

Mark Herschberg:

Well, you're certainly right, I have a lot more failure stories than success stories. And that's probably true of most successful people. Honestly, successful people typically are the ones who just had more at bats. We're not necessarily better at batting, we just have more at bats, we take more chances, sees more opportunities. In my case, I mentioned I grew up a classic 80s nerd. And part of that was my social skills were a little underdeveloped. I was very good academically, but wasn't good at interacting with others. If you've ever seen the Big Bang Theory, I would fit right. In fact, I told Bill Purdy i said i swear you had cameras in my fraternity house at MIT and just videotape me because I've had those very conversations. So I didn't have the skills when I came out of MIT. Oh, thankfully, it's MIT, I certainly got a decent job. I began as a software engineer. But I realized early on, they wanted to become a CTO, or Chief Technology Officer, the person in charge of all the engineers. And I realized as I looked, what do I need, what do I need to do to get that job, I realized, there were a number of additional skills, leadership, communication, team building, networking, negotiating. But no one ever taught these to me. In fact, when you think back on your education, we've all heard about these, we hear, Oh, your network is so important. We hear we want leaders, but they never actually sit us down and teach us how to execute on those skills. So I had to develop the skills in myself. And that's what put me on the path to learning for myself. Now, as I was doing. So I realized these skills are not just for executives, they are for everyone on the team. And I began to train up my team. Then I had one of those moments that just kind of turn your life unexpectedly. I heard as I was doing this, as I was training up my team, I heard MIT had been serving companies who hire our students. And they had found in the survey, there were all these skills, companies want to see leadership communication team building, not just an MIT students in everyone they hire at all levels and all fields, they want these skills but can't find them. So MIT wanted to put together a program to help teach these skills to our students. When I heard about that, I reached out and said, You know, I've been teaching my team some of these skills, I'm happy to share my content with you, I thought was just going to be a meeting, here's why I worked on Best of luck to you. But they invited me to help create the class to sit with them to join them. And we created the initial modules. And as we were doing that, the director said, you know, we have all these world class professors, but you're bringing him something different. You're a practitioner, I think we need practitioners as well as the professors. And so in addition to the faculty, we have practitioners, like myself that co teach with them. And I've been doing that for the past 20 years, primarily at MIT, but also elsewhere, and then the book and the speaking and everything else that comes with it.

Todd Foster:

I'd like to go back to the CTO role you had. So what year was that when you termed yourself as CTO?

Mark Herschberg:

Oh, let's see. Well, the next job I had after I came to this realization, I found a company with some young kids right out of MIT, they still hadn't graduated, some of them. And they were trying to hire me as an engineer, and I convinced them I should run the engineering team. Technically, they have a CTO, because he was one of the co founders, you know, I'm CTO. But the entire team reported to me that my title is director of engineering, but I was the person leading engineering. So I was an acting CTO at that time. And then ever since I had titles, I was consulted for a number of years after that. And then I think maybe a VP of engineering, but no CTO above me, sometime in the mid 2000s. And ever since I've always been a CTO.

Todd Foster:

So I'd like to go back to the CTO days, when you start off, I'm believing technology has changed quite a bit. And it sounds like that you may know something one day and the next day, things could change, technology changes, coding changes, scams change, bad people change, new people pop up. What made you get into this entire role of what you're doing now? Like you're an engineer, you're leading people. And now I'm chasing bad people like a movie star with a cape.

Mark Herschberg:

Well, to go from engineer to CTO is a realization of my heart that there were different challenges at different levels. I love engineering. I love building software. To me, it's like Legos, putting Legos together. Now, years ago, I used to play with Legos all the time. And then at a certain point, I stopped. And many listeners have probably done the same. Have you ever asked yourself, why did you stop playing with Legos? And feel free to pause if you want to take a moment to think about it. But really, the reason we stopped playing with Legos or any other toy is because as we develop, we start to say this is repetitive. This spaceship that I built, started to look a lot like the past dozen spaceships that I built and flying around my room was just like what I had done before, I wanted new challenges. In fact, I wanted broader types of challenges. Because even though Legos offer a lot of creativity, if you're building a Lego spaceship, and back then there were only space Legos, we didn't have everything you have today, when you're building a Lego spaceship, you have space adventures. Same thing with engineering, I was building interesting products. But they began to get repetitive the solutions I was coming up with the problems I was facing, were very similar to one another. When you move into management and leading, it's a totally different set of problems. And well, engineering is fairly constrained engineering we have you have to meet these conditions, and build a plan that fits this. And we have our rules, and we have our formulas. When it comes to hiring people and leading and managing every rule, I can come up with a counter example where it might not make sense to do that. And so that made a lot more interesting, a lot more complex. And those were the challenges that I wanted.

Todd Foster:

And did you receive those challenges that you wanted?

Mark Herschberg:

Oh, yes. Yeah, quite a lot, including some I did not want.

Todd Foster:

Can you explain something or tell me more about that.

Mark Herschberg:

I'll give a brief version. One time I was brought in as the COO to accompany, because they were having problems with the CEO and I was there to be a buffer. And the short version, the CEO disappeared, things were very tense. I'm having a meeting with the entire company. We're talking about the fact that he has begun Mia, we don't know where he is, we're not quite sure what's going on. And in the middle of the meeting, as I'm trying to be transparent with the team answer questions. Someone raises her hand, and she says, Does anyone know if he owns a gun? I'm thinking, you know, there's probably some HR training in big companies about how to do this, but boy never thought of what to do if one of your employees is worried that the CEO hasn't done and may come back and cause a problem. So I just said, Well, okay, does anyone know? Does he have a gun? No answers. Well, look, if anyone feels unsafe, feel free to work from home. If anyone has information or gets contacted by him, please let me know. And I will convey the information to everyone so we can all stay safe. But that was a very unexpected type of challenge.

Todd Foster:

All right, so tell me more, because what ended up happening to him because here's my perception. Mark shows up, the guy disappears.

Mark Herschberg:

He eventually stepped down from the company and I was running it as an interim CEO. I supposed to be interim coo became interim CEO for a little while, and ran the company until we could put it in a position where they didn't need me to do it anymore.

Alyssa Stanley:

So where you fight crime behind the screen as sent like, that's what I picture. My is that was a kind of what you do in layman's terms.

Mark Herschberg:

At one of the companies? Yes. And capes are totally optional. Okay, so the company you're referring to, is where we used to track criminals and terrorists on the dark web. A lot of the work I would do in cybersecurity a lot of its defense, how do we make sure that can't steal your data that's protected, they can't break into your account. This particular company, we were I wouldn't quite call it offensive, but perhaps being a little more proactive. Criminals on the dark web, engage with each other and interact. Now let me just make a note people who say that the dark web and what is it? The Dark Web is just a different type of protocol that computers use to connect with each other. It's called the Dark Web because it's not as visible as opposed to things that a search engine can find. And it's not all bad. I like in the dark web to dark alleys. A dark alley isn't necessarily bad. But if you're going to do something bad, you're probably choosing to do it in the dark alley, and not in the middle of the well lit street. So Chris mental activity tends to go on the dark web, we would go there, see what they're doing because criminals again, they just as we have supply chains we have, we can rely on different companies a podcast like this, you can buy tools, like any equipment or you can contract out someone to do the editing for you, or the marketing or other things. The criminals have figured out how to work together as well. And different criminals have different specialties. And they will sell tools and services to each other. But that means you have to be somewhat public about Hi, this is what I do, who needs this help? And so we can start to find who's doing what and who's interacting in what way, and that intelligence can help different organizations, from large corporations to various government agencies know what's coming. Similar to a Paul Revere, Paul Revere told us where were the British coming, and then we could marshal our defenses by land or by sea. And that's what we would do at this company.

Todd Foster:

So walk me through this because I'm not an MIT grad or even close to it. I actually have a tough time even spelling MIT. Where do you start with this? So you, there's, let's say, there's an alert that goes off, hey, that people are doing bad things on the dark web? Do you then start getting into like hacking their system IP addresses, find the location out? Are you in a dark room, every time you push a button, the computer beeps, which drives me crazy, and movies and TV, what exactly happens?

Mark Herschberg:

It looks and feels like a standard office. Think of the Dark Web as having chat rooms and discussion forums, just like we have on the surface web, just like the ones we use. Only, we're not talking about how to hack into a bank that yet they have places they have marketplaces, you can buy people's passwords or access to their video cameras, or stolen credit cards. But if you have a marketplace on the web, you have to let people in on the dark web, people have to come in to see your wares. So we would get to go in, say, Oh, look at what they're selling. Or look at someone's tool for doing this. Let's see what we can find out about the tool and then let people know, there's a new tool out. And here's how it works. And here's what it's doing. So we would get that information. There's a lot, I can't go into too much detail on what all the information is that we would get. But we'd get this data set of information. And then that would be accessible to our clients.

Todd Foster:

And my perception just from watching movies and TV and reading books that use our fiction. It seems like there's more federal agents on the dark web than there are individuals who are not part of the government and looking to take down crime. Is that a complete myth?

Mark Herschberg:

That's a complete myth. Most of the people on the dark web, there's probably a fair number who are just legitimate people who happen to be on there for different reasons. There are some people were on there for what we might consider noble reasons. If you're in certain countries, where you don't want the government to see what you are doing. The Dark Web is a good place to stay anonymous to make it harder for them to track you. But then also for the same reason criminals are on there. And so we see a lot of malicious cyber activity happens on the dark web, I think a lot of malicious hackers do tend to be on the dark web. Well, there are cat and mouse games that people use. So we used to have passwords. And people were very bad at doing passwords. So we started out other things like security questions, but it's not that hard to figure out where you went to school. And based on your age, I can probably guess what your first concert might have been. You might have tweeted about your first pet? Well, I can find that. So then we found security questions weren't good. There are a few things I recommend everyone does. If you want to be secure, make sure your computer is up to date, you've installed patches, install an anti virus, use a password manager, there's a number of them out there, there are free versions, with a password manager you just remember one password your password to the password manager. And then you can create these long random passwords that all gets stored. Not only will make it easier for you to have long, complex, unique passwords, but they'll autofill the forms for you, saving you time and clicking in effort. So I very much recommend a password manager and then also turn on two factor authentication. That's where you get that text message on your phone. That is hard for them to hack. It's not impossible, but the effort is much more. And in fact, my last company Everon we had technology that even made that easier. You didn't have to wait for the text message. It would automatically authenticate you using your phone or other device ICE's to provide you that second layer that was very hard for them to break, but would do so automatically with no effort.

Todd Foster:

Can you eventually track these people down? Or do you? Are you running into dead ends where you get to Sweden, and that's as far as you can get?

Mark Herschberg:

It depends who the who is. So what you're talking about getting to Sweden, that's with the dark web, it uses a protocol and a browser called Tor, the onion router. And the whole idea of this router is instead of well, I in New York, connect to a server in San Francisco. And you can trace those packets. This is where my packets go from New York, to England, to South Africa, to Japan, to Afghanistan, then to the server in San Francisco. And so if you want to trace it, you need to go from one to the next. And if the government tries to do it, well, they can petition England and say we need your server records. Japan, sure. Afghanistan is not going to be turning over server records to the US government. And so that's how it protects them from from tracking it. By the way, what we see in movies where you see the little line going across the machine, no, you have to hang up after two minutes you'll be tracked. That's not how it works. We either track the packet instantly, because there's a record of what the next hop is, or you can't get at all. Maybe that used to work in telephones back in the 70s. That's not how it works on the internet. So that has made it certainly harder. On the other hand, certain government agencies from big countries like ours, and I'm sure a few few other larger countries, they probably have techniques we just don't know about yet, and may still be able to do that.

Alyssa Stanley:

Do you have any stories where you caught someone like it was a successful mouse and cat game that you can share with us? I'm sure some of this has to stay fairly confidential. But

Mark Herschberg:

It's been a few years since I was doing that. And the stories that I remember, I don't think I can talk about.

Alyssa Stanley:

Yeah, no, I totally understand. It's just hard to, I'm a very visual person. And so like to even wrap my mind around some of the things that you're talking about is crazy. Like the dark, dark web is some mythical place.

Todd Foster:

I freaked out, like a month and a half ago, I was Googling the onion. And I got thrown the entire onion, other portion. And I thought for sure the Feds want to come and bang my door down when I clicked on it for 1.2 seconds.

Mark Herschberg:

But remember that the feds actually created this tool. So the protocol, I believe, was created by the CIA, so that their assets in the field could actually connect back. And here again, you don't want if you're an agent in a foreign country, and they see you're connecting to a server in Langley, Virginia, that's kind of a dead giveaway who you are. So by doing the same routing, their agents could now connect back, but do so in a way that kept them protected. So using these tools are not inherently bad. This is true of all technology. If you think of a knife, a knife can take a life in the hands of a criminal, or it can save a life in the hands of a surgeon. And this is true of all technology. So all these tools we come up with, you can imagine political dissidents, fighting to save their fellow people fighting for human rights can use these tools to stay safe. On the other hand, terrorists and people trying to harm others can use these tools to better organize and evade detection. So really any tool, the tool itself is not bad. It's just the application of the tool that has a certain context.

Voiceover:

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Todd Foster:

Will there ever be a chance in our lifetime or lifetimes after us where we'll be able to be incognito again, where you're not on every camera face recognition? fingerprints, or do you see that the bad ways of doing bad things back in the bad days are long gone?

Mark Herschberg:

We tend towards having more surveillance. If you look historically, we've moved into more and more surveillance. That's not inherently a bad thing. If the surveillance can be controlled by the people. Now, this is where it gets fuzzy because we the people, obviously can't do everything directly. That's why we have a representative democracy here in the US that the government's supposed to represent our interests and act as the people. We know that doesn't always work out quite as planned. So I think there are certain advantages, we know that the world has gotten safer through certain surveillance. For example, in New York City, there are microphones set up around the city if there's a gun Shot, they can very quickly triangulate and find the location of the gunshot. This sounds very good. If there's a shooter, if there's someone with a gun, I want the police to find him faster. Now, again, if we ever get into a state that I feel is is oppressive, and we have to rise up, that tool can be used to help catch us when we do. But I think we're better off having that. Now I generally trust the police aren't trying to track any individual through this seems just like it's used primarily for weapons. On the other hand, we also know they have access to certain camera databases. And there are people can trace your movement, we've seen cases where they've shown how you can de identify data, and how you can track someone not that they're doing that, but they're capable of doing it. That could be a problem. So if somehow we have the controls such that a malicious individual or group of people couldn't abuse it, I think we're better off but that is a big ask. I also think underlying your question, it comes down to what we value as a society. Historically, we have not actually valued privacy, we have not valued our data. Now might sound controversial, where America Fourth Amendment, that's one of the things we were founded on. And yet still people freely gave away information. Think about when you would fill the surveys, I remember, as a kid, they'd have the car at the mall. And we'd fill out your name, address information on that one in a million chance to win the car. So the value you're getting is worth pennies, the expected value out of that. But you're giving away something very valuable your contact information that was worth dollars, even 10s of dollars to accompany. And we didn't have a good understanding of the value. And certainly today we see the online version, we freely give away information. And people are finally waking up to this and starting to say maybe I don't want to do that. But I think even today, people don't understand just how valuable the information they give away as and until people start to say this is valuable, and you can't have it. Unless you're very explicit about it. They're going to keep taking it. So I think the pendulum is going to swing back a bit. But I don't know how far it's going to swing back.

Todd Foster:

What are your thoughts on I'm afraid to say their names because my devices go off. Alexa, Siri, hey, Google. And the reason I asked that, because I am a pretty private guy, I pay a company to keep me off the web I my phone is actually going off sorry about that. It literally picked it up. And I downloaded the information that Amazon had on me, which is something I should have ever done. And it's amazing how much information that the thing that you talk to that cannot say her name right now, because she'll answer again, has on me with the protection that Amazon has and the servers and everything they have that's supposed to keep that information safe. Is it truly safe? Or is it a possibility that hey, that could be out there eventually, as well.

Mark Herschberg:

First, remember, they're only showing you the direct information and not derived information. So if you ordered diapers in 2003, and then your diapers again, in 2007, they have probably figured out you have two kids and what their ages are. But since you didn't give them that information, it's derived. And they don't have to say, this is what we know about you. They'll just say here are your diaper orders. There's a lot of secondary information they have that they're not even telling you about. I personally do not have any of those devices in my home. I'm very explicit. In fact, when I bought a TV, I bought a TV that had the the what's it called the microphone in the remote, not the TV. So I could use a different microphone. And by the way, if you look at the agreement on your TV, this is why most people don't know the TV is always listening to you. Your agreement says they can do that. It's also they can improve their service. But your TV is on all the time listening to you. And I am just not comfortable with this. The truth is as much as people are afraid of government overreach and government spying, I'm not that worried about the government. The government has a lot of restrictions on it. We have the Fourth Amendment, the government can't come in and do this. And yet for companies, we don't have restrictions quite as strong. And they'll often sneak things into very long agreements that most people don't pay attention to. I am much more worried about these large companies gathering information on me and using it in ways that I don't want them to. I'm not saying they're intentionally bad. I don't think Amazon is trying to control you. But they could start to do so. Imagine if some of these big companies start to have a political opinion. For example. on who should win an election, they can start changing the algorithms to nudge you in a certain direction. I know there's debate about whether they do it, to my knowledge they do not everything I know about they do not today. But it's not illegal for them to do so in the future. So I don't like them having information, I do not put these devices in my home. Because the convenience is not worth the price. The price not being dollars, but the price being the information I'm giving them?

Alyssa Stanley:

Well, I think there's no doubt that that our phones listen to because you can talk about, and I've seen this, it's happened to me talk to my husband about a product. And next thing, you know, it's on Facebook advertising, or it's on my, you know, Amazon recommendations. It's like, how does that happen so fast.

Mark Herschberg:

This is a common belief, I haven't seen proof one way or another. Now, there are people who will say, Well, yes, you talk to your husband about it, but you probably either did something else, maybe you just search for it, or maybe you search for other products and that derived information, they could figure out you were interested in this as well. Maybe, for example, your husband did a search on it, and they figured out well you have the same IP address going to your home, and therefore, they're gonna map it to that IP address those could happen. But it's also quite possible, your phone or some app on is listening in, what I would do, if you really want to test this, come up with something really out of the blue, something you haven't thought about talked about. And be very explicit about at one moment, say it a couple times around your phone, be very conscious that you don't do searches or other activities related to it. And then see if you start to get search in targeting with that.

Todd Foster:

I don't know if I want to know, I was talking about these purple Prada shoes I wanted, which were ugly. And I don't know why I wanted them. Yet, I was talking about the purple shoes. And now I'm not kidding, no more than an hour later, I'm on Twitter. And the first thing that comes up are Prada. And then I get on Facebook and Instagram, of course connected. And they literally had the exact same shoes I have been talking about now being forced upon me. We've also had the HDX eight laugh at no reason or answer questions we have. So what's your opinion on like ring and the Wi Fi enabled devices or Bluetooth even in general?

Mark Herschberg:

And by the way, here's an example. So we're talking about purple product shoes. If someone goes to the web page for this episode, you have a transcript, you put it out there, that page has the words purple products, shoes, it is possible. I don't know if Google does this, that Google is tracking that page, especially if you put Google Analytics on the page. And the noticing someone's on this page. And one of the things that they pulled out of the page is purple products shoes. Some might think Well, I never talked about it. But in fact, they went to a page and they saw it. And that's how it got into tracking algorithms. To your question about Ring, ring, actually, that is an example of what scares me. Now ring bills themselves as this is a great service. There's certainly some use to it, you can see who's at your front door, you can track things who's coming to your home, if there's something happening in the neighborhood, there's a way to put the data together and find out who this person is, and trace this person and stop him before bad things happen. On the other hand, you now have a private company, gathering all this information about what's happening in your neighborhood. And that, again, can be used. I'm not saying they're doing it today. But it can be used for nefarious purposes. And there are articles that you can read about ring and some of the risks and dark sides to using services like ring.

Todd Foster:

And you look at Ring's parent company now

Mark Herschberg:

it's Amazon, because it's more data.

Alyssa Stanley:

How does someone keep from becoming paranoid from this podcast? Because really, really, I mean, there's depths that Mark probably even are deeper than maybe you know, and you know a lot about this. So how does someone not listen to what we're talking about and go, Oh, my gosh, I just need to shut off everything and live in the forest with no one.

Mark Herschberg:

It's certainly a trade off. And I wouldn't say don't go hide under your mattress. The world generally works. I am a big fan of, I believe it's Daniel Pink, pink or pink. Pinker, the professor at Harvard. He wrote the book angels of our nature. If you look throughout history, we tend towards better we tend towards more equality, more rights, more freedom, things move generally in the right direction doesn't mean there's not certain blips where we go in the wrong direction. But overall, things get better. And I believe in the human race, I believe we will continue to generally make improvements, even if at times are missteps. So I think we are moving in the right direction, even if in a period and period could be decades, we might backslide a little bit, the best thing you can do, to make sure we move in the right direction is honestly honestly, civic participation, is being knowledgeable about these issues, is talking to your elected leaders about them to voting on these issues. I know it can be hard, because when we think about there's the environment and taxes and defense and all these big issues. Cybersecurity and privacy seem really far down the list. And yet, they can be critically important not only because they're really underpinning our society on a daily basis, but because they are also something that can give leverage to big organizations that can continue to put them in a virtuous cycle virtuous for them of gaining more power and control, which can then be used to effectively leverage that control to continue their own interests. So be active in your civic participation, and include these topics in your dialogue.

Alyssa Stanley:

You created the first online voting system, can you walk us through that?

Mark Herschberg:

We use some cryptographic protocols, and created a way where you could put your vote online and have it counted. Now, here's the thing about voting online, the mechanics of how it has to work, you have to make sure only eligible people vote, that they only vote once that the vote is correctly counted, and they can know that is counted. And that the vote cannot be traced back to the voter, we have to keep it anonymous. Technically, these all apply to our elections. In fact, we do it by proxy, I put my ballot in the box, I can't prove it was counted. But I trust that the people overseeing the election are looking and counting it. And there's people from both parties. I know there has been some controversy over that even though all the research has shown we have correctly accounted for all votes and continue to do so. Here's the thing about online voting, we should never ever do it. I'm gonna say that again. Never do online voting. Not going to work. And here's why. The protocol that I implemented, mathematically speaking, yes, it works. Okay, we can show it does all this. What are the downsides? Well, first, there could be a bug in the software, we can show it works in theory doesn't mean we get right in practice. Have you ever used software with a bug? Yeah, that's not great. There's a few places we can accept bugs, video games, no problem websites, no problem. Your pacemaker, no bugs are acceptable. Airplanes. We don't like bugs. They're either our democracy is not a place. We can tolerate bugs. Even if we get the code, right, that code runs on a computer, which has an operating system that too has bugs, we would have to make sure that's also bug free. Even if the operating system is also bug free. We have to know that the hardware is correct and hasn't been tampered with. There was a hack a couple years ago of the apple supply chain, Apple laptops had some extra hardware that some Chinese manufacturer put in there. And the thinking is that this came from the Chinese intelligence services. We cannot trust that the code is right, the operating system is right. And the hardware is right. And even if they're all right, coming off the line, that they haven't been tampered with. When I vote in New York, the way it works, we have effectively the Scantron forms, I fill in the bubble I put in a machine. Now those machines are not connected to the internet. But even if those machines it's fine to use machines for counting, because if there's ever a question, Hey, what's that machine tampered with? They can literally open up the box and do a ham count and double check. So it's okay to use some electronics just for the scanning and counting for efficiency. But we absolutely positively must use paper ballots. Here's the other reason. If I want to disrupt an election, I mark Hirschberg could go on election day to a couple of different voting centers, and I could do some bad things. I could set fire to the building. I could toss him some explosives. There are bad things I can do. But I could get to how many election centers in a day assuming Somehow I don't get caught, they don't pursue me, there's a limited number I can get to. If, however, I am doing this online, the same code, I can run on millions of computers, 10s of millions. So when there is an explorer, when there is a flaw, it can be exploited in parallel millions of times by one person or a small group, whereas physical attacks, you're physically limited. So again, we should never allow online voting.

Alyssa Stanley:

You got to clear something up for me, though. And with all due respect, you created online voting, right?

Mark Herschberg:

I wasn't the first person to come up with the idea. And there were some protocols, people talked about paper by implemented the first version.

Alyssa Stanley:

Okay. Yeah, you are very against it. So is this a hindsight, 2020 situation or

Mark Herschberg:

If you think about nuclear power, we invented nuclear power, or discovered, I should say, and it has some great uses, like for power plants, it has some bad uses. It has some bad uses. Like for weapons. When you think of electronic voting for our democracy, it should never be used. However, if we are trying to do certain types of polling, you can imagine voting for shareholder votes. I'm not super worried about someone trying to track this down or someone hacking the shareholder votes, it may be that's a reasonable risk to take for that type of vote. Or, for example, if within your company, you want all the employees to vote on something, you still need certain properties like anonymity, you still want people to know their vote got counted that there wasn't tampering. But we're not worried about the Chinese government trying to hack into the voting in this particular company. So there are applications. But our public governance is not one of them.

Alyssa Stanley:

And when you created this, did you have that firm stance like this, this is what I would prefer this to be used for democracy, it needs to be left out of?

Mark Herschberg:

I did not I was doing my graduate work in cryptography. My minor, my undergrad minor happened to be political science. I thought this was an interesting space. And so it was worth exploring. But as I began to understand it better, I still came to realize what the risks were. And I don't think if we hadn't looked into the space, if we hadn't thought about how to build things, and what the implications are, we may not realize that. So I'm glad we've done the research. I think we should continue to do research in the area, but recognize the risks.

Alyssa Stanley:

I think any new thing has risks with it. I mean, your online voting could have detrimental risks, you know, on the democracy side, but I think everything comes with risk.

Mark Herschberg:

In this case, the risk definitely outweighs the benefits.

Todd Foster:

Since you don't really use these devices, or anything that's really, as people say, making the world so much easier for us. And you said you've had to give up some things right, you may be missing out on things. Is it because of the things that you've learned in the past? Or is it because you know, more than we all know?

Mark Herschberg:

I would say it's the latter. I certainly hope that doesn't sound egotistical, but just understanding the implications. The same way. There are doctors who say, there's a reason I don't smoke back when many people smoked, or I know doctors now who won't even drink because they say this is carcinogenic, we as society just haven't gotten to fully understand the implications. I think the same thing that I recognize where this is going and how it is going to be used or being used today. And that cost I'm just not comfortable with. Now, I do put things online, I do have web searches. I know they're tracking it, I made a conscious decision to allow for that trade off. But I'm not making other trade offs. And each and every one of us has to decide where that line is for us where we are okay saying I will give you this information in exchange for this service.

Todd Foster:

Now like to go to the messaging apps out there. So we know what's app apparently is encrypted. And then I've also seen cases where people have needed to be able to access iPhones and Apple say no to it. So it sounds like there are some things in place that are protecting some people, yet. It's still out there eventually, isn't it?

Mark Herschberg:

Whatever technology we have to protect. Eventually, we find ways to break that too commonly with encryption. Effectively, we have these complex mathematical things that we have to do. And we choose problems so hard where we say We'll take a computer a million years to break this, of course, what would take a computer in the 1960s, a million years to break, we can now do that much faster with our cell phones today. So if you have some message encrypted from the 1960s, we can break it probably pretty quickly. With today's technology, what we're doing today, what sufficiently hard today, at some point in the future, it will be easy to break that. So there is this game. Now quantum encryption should put an end to that. But we are still quite a ways away from quantum cryptography and quantum encryption. But you I'd say with with messaging, and actually one of my passions is about a way to do messaging. Because even if there's a message between Todd and Alyssa, and I can't figure out what the message is, the fact that Todd sent Alyssa a message at this time, that tells me something, I can start to read implications from that. When we do intelligence work, we look not just at the message, but what the metadata is, if you will, I don't just mean the tags that you get in particular piece of technology, but things we can interpret from that. So there are one of my patents is about how we can even hide who is messaging who, using certain tools. So there's there's layers upon layers here.

Todd Foster:

And what were the purpose of that pattern before who's your audience?

Mark Herschberg:

People who want to have a temporary communication, and then abandon it, that could be useful, for example, women who want disposable phone numbers or other contacts, so they could perhaps talk to a man but be able to cut that off if they want. It can be useful for people who want to engage with a service. There are temporary email addresses like the one you use. This patent allowed it for messaging and other ways. And it's an easy way for to incorporate into existing tools. So you could do one time addresses to engage with certain companies and then say, Yeah, I'm done talking to you, whether you are or not, you're not going to contact me again. So there are a number of different applications.

Todd Foster:

What's your thoughts and feelings on the whole Metaverse, meta world coming up?

Mark Herschberg:

Right now? I think it's a lot of hype. I haven't paid a lot of attention to it. The companies need to pay attention to it. The same way companies that didn't pay attention to the cell phone when they were dominating the desktop quickly lost out the ones who dominated software but didn't understand the Internet lost out. And so companies are very fearful that if the metaverse is the next big thing, if they're not there, they're going to lose out on this technology shift. So they're all going into it. I still think honestly, we are a while away. I haven't yet seen what the killer app is. What is it that the metaverse is bringing that we can't do today that this just makes it so much better and easier when we find that killer app. That's going to tell us how quickly and how important this will be.

Todd Foster:

Alright Mark, I would like to go back into your book, The Career Toolkit. And before the podcast, I was asking you to ever write some fiction, you said I'm not really great at writing fiction. I like facts. And you discuss what the manager's roles are and you discuss what people on your team should be focused on yet. There's two things there that like to really key in on and that those two words were ethics and coaching. Can you elaborate on exactly why you believe ethics and also a leader or manager being a coach is so important.

Mark Herschberg:

On the ethics standpoint, it really shocks me that we have all these business books, and they do not talk about ethics, it is just not brought up at all. Or maybe the word is used once be ethical in a very vague way, we really have to be more focused more conscientious about ethics. And that's why one of the chapters is in there. Now all the chapters, they are not just things I thought was necessary. This comes from that survey that MIT did about what things companies want. I've seen similar surveys, similar results from other universities. These are universal, but ethics has to be in there. I have seen far too often. ethical lapses. I've seen far too often companies, cross lines, companies, individuals that sometimes they know they're sometimes they're well intentioned, but just slip up because there aren't a guardrails in place. So I think we have to all be more intentional in terms of our ethics in the workplace. In terms of coaching, I am a big believer that if you manage someone, you have an obligation to support that person in her or his career. And I opened the book talking about stories, real stories of people who just got stuck, who couldn't get to where they want to go in their career. and some of that came from the fact that their managers, were not helping them, in a few cases, actively harming them, maybe not intentionally or for malicious purposes. But because they were keeping them in area that was good for the company or the manager, even if it wasn't good for that individual. And so we as managers, I'm a big believer in Spider Man's philosophy with great power comes great responsibility. When we have power over other people, we have a responsibility to help those people.

Alyssa Stanley:

Mark, I think this book is beneficial for really anyone in business, which should be most adults. Where can they find this? purchase this and then where's the website that they can go to to learn more about you because you're, you're an incredibly interesting person. I think we could go another hour on this podcast.

Mark Herschberg:

Thank you. You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, local bookstore should be able to order it for you if you want to support a local bookstore. There are electronic and physical copies available. You can also go to my website, thecareertoolkitbook.com. There you can see where to buy the book, get in touch with me or follow me on social media, you can see more of my writing, you can download the free app available on the Android and iPhone as companion app to the book to help you better learn and retain the information and does not have any tracking in there. So it's safe for you to download Todd. There's also a resources page where I have a number of free resources either linked on the intranet or things you can download to help you continue to explore and develop these skills. All of this at thecareertoolkitbook.com.

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