Tag Archives: security


July 9, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was a Black Friday story that had nothing to do with holiday bargains. In 2013, cyber criminals hacked into Target Corp.’s customer database and stole as many as 40 million credit card numbers. Customer names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes were reportedly compromised, presumably so hackers could use the data to make new cards. 

Customers everywhere were affected.

Leaders at Minnesota-based Target were horrified and embarrassed as the hack made international news. Amid criticism that the company should have done more to protect consumers—and an investigation launched by authorities in Nebraska and nearly every other state—Target later implemented a $5 million cybersecurity coalition charged with preventing such breeches from happening again. The total cost of the cyberattack on Target reached as high as $300 million, according to news reports. That included class action lawsuit settlements and money paid to credit card companies, banks, and credit unions.

While the damage was done, the retailer wasn’t alone. The financial loss from cybercrimes surpassed $1.3 billion in 2016, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. There were nearly 300,000 complaints to the agency that year from businesses of all sizes.

Such cybercrimes have put companies everywhere on high alert—and looking at what cybersecurity measures they have in place. 

That includes businesses in Omaha. 

“We have to ask, ‘How do we endure security of information, customer privacy, systems compliance, the website, power stations, and landfill?’” says Joshua Mauk, the Omaha Public Power District director of security, whose job includes cybersecurity. “Our job is to implement a security program that helps us achieve all of those objectives across all of the district.” 

“Cybersecurity” sounds like a buzzword, but it’s a real concern among companies and law enforcement officials. The FBI says cybercrimes are becoming “more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated.” The agency reports that hackers target companies like Target for data and trade secrets, universities for research, and consumers for money and identity theft.

Along with being a monetary hassle, work is often disrupted or stopped altogether at companies, hospitals, even 911 centers. The hackers range from disgruntled or thrill-seeking computer geeks to international terrorists and spies looking for money to fund their operations. Even a small attack is a potential threat to national security. 

Some attacks target hardware and software, such as malware. Others are online fraud and phishing schemes, while yet others are considered “sexploitation,” according to Interpol. 

FBI officials say they have begun partnering with companies and organizations around the country as part of its cyber division’s efforts to boost cybersecurity nationwide. 

OPPD is one of them. The utility is working with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to try and prevent cybercrimes at the utility. If hackers took down OPPD’s system, then every single customer—or 820,000 people—could, theoretically, lose power indefinitely.

Mauk declined to specify OPPD’s cyber security program, citing security reasons. Other companies, including First National Bank of Omaha, declined to comment due to safety concerns. 

“There have been a number of utilities around the world that have been targeted,” Mauk says. “The biggest risk to us is someone coming in and taking down the entire system. The FBI and Homeland Security let us know about new risks, new threats, and we use that information to ensure we are adjusting those concerns to our cybersecurity program.” 

Omaha police acknowledge that while cybercrimes tend to fall under federal jurisdiction, they would investigate a cybercrime that occurred in the city. But most of the time, cyber attacks are conducted by people located in other states or countries—not local hackers. 

Police say some companies may experience a cyberattack, but neglect to report it to law enforcement due to the idea that it might harm their image or reputation. 

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has a cybercrimes division aimed at protecting Nebraskans from technology crimes through education and, in some cases, legal action. 

Take the Target data breach. Last year, Attorney General Doug Peterson announced that Nebraska had joined 46 other states and the District of Columbia to reach an $18.5 million settlement against the retail giant stemming from the incident. The state received $199,382 as its share. 

Peterson had said it was the largest multi-state data breach settlement to date. 

In October, Peterson’s office released a statement promoting cybersecurity in the workplace: 

“As recent major cybersecurity incidents have shown, cybercriminals often rely on human error—like failing to install software patches, clicking on malicious links, and creating easy-to-guess passwords—to gain access to systems and information. Every member of an organization—from senior leadership to the newest employees—is responsible for keeping information and systems secure. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why strong cybersecurity practices are so important.”

Authorities and security experts worry, though, that cybercrimes will continue and even increase as advances in technology are made. Officials and corporate security teams understand they have to stay two steps ahead, always. 

“This is definitely something we are investing in, from a people, processes, and technology standpoint,” Mauk says. “We will have additional layers of security to always protect the corporate side, critical infrastructure, and plants.” 

Visit the attorney general’s webpage, ago.nebraska.gov, for more information on cybersecurity.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Joshua Mauk

Entrap Games

January 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The games began the moment we walked in.

As my friends and I waited for our adventure to begin, we played with old-fashioned brain-teaser games in the lobby, such as a pair of horseshoes chained together with a ring in the middle.

My friend Jill Cuff and I tried to solve a tangram. We stood at the counter and placed the triangles in every conceivable manner until suddenly the space for the trapezoid appeared.

Thus began our trial of teamwork, and a bit of magic, at Entrap Games. We, along with our spouses, Jeremy Rodman and John Wade, entered a tale of roguery and numbers.

“Which one are you doing?” a lady standing next to me asked as the counter clerk checked my reservation.

“We’re doing The Heist.”

“Oh, geez!” the lady said. “Be prepared to do math!”

The concept of Entrap Games is not new, but the specific business is. Operations Manager Daniel Dittmeyer helped launch this business after opening similar sites in Des Moines and Milwaukee.

“When I first started about 12 months ago, these games were not well known. Now, there are two to three in every major city.” Dittmeyer said.

Entrap Games offers multiple rooms into which teammates can be locked for an hour and try to escape. The story of “The Heist” is that you and your fellow thieves cheated at poker and won a large sum of money. Now you have to find the DVR security footage and remove the hard drive so you don’t get caught.

The Heist has a success rate of 21%. Nothing is as it seems in this game. It takes effective communication, collaboration, and time management to solve the puzzle, making Entrap Games an ideal corporate event for teams of two to six players. A game room for up to 12 players is in the works.

The employee walked us into the room and explained the details. We needed to find a canister of CO2 and the DVR, remove the DVR’s hard drive, and find the code for the door…all in one hour. Good luck!

The room contained a baby monitor and a television screen that we could use to communicate with the clerk. We received two clues automatically, and after that, we could ask for clues. We could not move anything labeled “do not move.” Everything else was fair game. The game relied on patterns—primarily numbers and colors. Coded padlocks abounded.

We were given two minutes to plan, during which time we looked around the room to see what we had to use, but should have used those moments to define our roles in the game.

When the clock began to count down, we ran. I looked at a deck of cards sitting on a table, Jeremy looked at the shelving unit, John began to look under the cushions of a couch, and Jill looked at the artwork on the wall.

Jeremy found the CO2 canister. John found the hole where you use the CO2 canister within 15 minutes. With 45 minutes left, we continued to search for clues.

The biggest lesson learned was trust nothing. Locked compartments opened on their own; sometimes black meant black, other times black meant white. In the end, we became one of the 79% who did not solve the puzzle in one hour, but with better teamwork and communication, we will crack the code next time.

Visit entrapgames.com to learn more.


Roger Holthaus

January 13, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Roger Holthaus was offered a summer job in 1960 as a park ranger in Wyoming. Several days later, a second letter arrived offering him a job in the Eisenhower White House.


The White House job was a perfect fit. He was one year away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Looking back on his time in America‘s most famous house, Holthaus says, “Security was different then. When Vice President Nixon was not there, anyone could do what I did. I would go to his office to chat and have coffee with his secretary, Rose Mary Woods.”

Washington, D.C., was filled with Nebraska natives that year. Former Nebraska Gov. Val Peterson was Federal Civil Defense Administrator. Fred Seton was Secretary of the Interior. Seton’s newspaper, the Hastings Tribune, sat down the street from the drugstore owned by Holthaus’ father.

Holthaus’ boss in the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization was Bob Gray, special assistant to President Eisenhower and a fellow Hastings High School alum.  Gray would call Holthaus and say, “Ike’s out of town. Want  to join me in the swimming pool?”

“I was the state champion swimmer in high school,” Holthaus says. The retired attorney is still a champion swimmer, traveling the country to compete  in National Senior Olympics.

Holthaus returned to the State Department in 1961 after college graduation. “That was going to be my career,” he says.

But his path took a twist when he was called up by the Selective Service.  He applied for a direct commission. Within a week, Lieutenant Holthaus was on his way to Fort Sam Houston and then to a front-line aid station in the DMZ in Korea as part of the Army Medical Service Corps.

Holthaus left the Army and earned a master’s degree in political science and government in 1966 from the University of Nebraska. He then taught political science classes at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City for three years.

After graduating with a law degree from Creighton University in 1972, he became Deputy Douglas County Attorney and later established his own law firm.

Historical buildings have been a big part of his life.  His law offices were once in the 1600 Farnam Building, built in 1916 for First National Bank. He also had a condominium there. Today his home is in the St. Joseph Tower on 10th Street, built in the 19th century as a hospital.

Although he retired in 2012, Holthaus still maintains an office in the more-than century-old Keeline building near the courthouse.  He works there representing District 2 in the Learning Community of Douglas-Sarpy Counties.  He once lived in the nearby Orpheum Towers, which is listed on the National Historic Registry.

His Carleton College roommate was Garrick Utley, who became a well-known NBC newsman. Holthaus once jokingly told his friend that he thought Maria Shriver, Utley’s co-anchor on NBC News Sunday Today, was cute and would he introduce them? Utley called back in a few days and said,  “She says if I do, I will be terminated.”

At the time, Shriver was married to Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger.

Motorized Shades Control Sunlight Easily

June 20, 2013 by

As we become more conscious of our footprint on this planet, we realize that making the most of daylight in our homes simply makes good sense. What’s great is that it’s easier and more affordable than ever to control sunlight. Motorized window treatments are no longer considered a luxury but a necessity by many homeowners.

Motorized shading systems offer numerous benefits:

  • Save Energy. Utilizing a shading system helps regulate your home’s temperature and saves money on HVAC costs well beyond what traditional shades offer.
  • Elegance & Ambiance. Stylish fabric options coupled with innovative technology elegantly transition a space while offering just the right amount of light for any activity. Shades align precisely within 1/16″ of each other, creating a balanced, beautiful look on a row of windows anywhere in your home.
  • Convenience. Shading systems can be controlled using a myriad of keypads, IR (infrared frequency) remote controls, and wireless tabletop controls, or may be set to an astronomic time clock for automatic adjustment.
  • Safety & Security. A whole-home shading system can be programmed for simultaneous control. Homeowners can set a pre-determined “away” time, then just hit a button when leaving to close all shades and restrict the view inside your home.
  • Reduce Glare & Protect Furnishings. Shading systems diffuse light and prevent glare from washing out a computer or television screen. They also protect furniture, fine art, rugs, and even wood surfaces from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

To learn more about motorized shading systems or request an in-home consultation, call on the professionals at Echo Systems in Omaha at 402-334-4900 or visit echosystemsomaha.com.

Educational Building Design

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by DLR Group

School buildings have come a long way from the stately, institutional structures of yesteryear. Today’s newest K-12 environments echo some of the best elements of commercial and residential design trends, say representatives of integrated design firm DLR Group.

“What we really see as far as trends are a lot of renovations, a lot of energy retrofits, and a big push for security measures as well,” says architect and DLR Group principal Pat Phelan, K-12 sector leader.Marysville-Getchell-High-School-Campus_Web

While established structures in longstanding neighborhoods undergo renovation and expansion, most of the new construction has been in elementary schools, says architect and DLR Group principal Mark Brim, K-12 designer. He adds that it’s a matter of numbers related to how school districts are structured, explaining that “for every high school you build, you’re going to be building three, maybe four, elementary schools and maybe two middle schools.”

One lesson learned from the past is planning for future expansion during new construction and major renovation, Phelan says. “With some of the older buildings that weren’t designed for expansion, those present some unique challenges, obviously.”

Brim adds: “We’ve had the opportunity to work with the rapidly growing districts here in the metro area. In those cases, the new buildings we were involved with, we did master-plan those to expand as enrollment increases.”IMG_8674_Web

District residents also have a vested interest in their school buildings, and today’s schools include spaces that can be adapted to serve the community for activities from public meetings to presentations and receptions. Of course, durability is also a consideration when it comes to school buildings with a life expectancy of 75 years or more.

“It’s selecting the right yarn type so the carpet will hold up, or high performance paint,” explains Melissa Spearman, DLR Group senior associate and interior designer leader.Creighton-Preparatory-School_Web

“A school is going to have a lot of traffic. It may not have a lot of money to fund a lot of maintenance,” Brim adds. “Energy efficiency is always a concern, but also sustainability with the push for green architecture, and not only on the energy side but also with use of more environmentally friendly materials and recycled materials.”

Spearman says function now drives form when school interiors are planned.

“We’re seeing how the teachers interact with the students or how the students can work in small groups, how different collaboration zones are set up, or how maybe they’re studying in common spaces and those are becoming more gathering spaces,” she says.Joplin-11th-&-12th-Grade-Interim-Campus_Web

“We’re really focusing more on the learning environment overall,” Phelan agrees. “That involves bringing natural light into as many spaces as we can, it means comfortable climate, it means transparency so students are more engaged in what’s going on in different spaces.”

Phelan explains that engagement elements range from wi-fi to adding more display areas for student works to considering environmental features evocative of where students naturally congregate, like the comfortable, portable seating in malls or coffee shops.

“We think that research supports the fact that the learning environment has an impact on the performance of students in the classroom. As a result, DLR Group has become the number-one K-12 firm in the country,” Phelan says. “That’s something that we take a lot of pride in, and we don’t rest on that; we know we have to continue to always look to the future, look to innovate, and listen to our clients.”

Keeping Your Home Safe

November 25, 2012 by

Did you know a break-in occurs in the US nearly every 16 seconds? Omaha break-ins are also on the rise, making local homeowners take action in securing their homes. Here are some ways you can keep you and your home safe.

Be aware of who is in your neighborhood. Vehicles driving around at night without lights, unfamiliar cars parked and occupied at unusual hours, strangers going door-to-door or loitering around houses where residents may not be home—these are all signs that a burglar could be working your neighborhood. Burglars and other criminals often strike neighborhoods where residents keep to themselves. Getting to know your neighbors and implementing a Neighborhood Watch programs can deter crime in your area.

  • Take precautions when you leave your home. The risk of a break-in is greatest when a homeowner is away. Sgt. Erin Dumont of Omaha’s Crime Prevention Unit says, “Daytime break-ins seem to be the most active.” Dumont also has some tips on keeping your home secure while you are away:
  • Make it appear as if someone is home by leaving a TV and light on (or have them on timers, if you’re worried about your electrical bill).
  • If you are away for an extended period, let your neighbors know; ask them to pick up your mail, newspapers, or even mow and shovel snow.
  • Avoid announcing your vacations on Facebook and social media sites. If you have kids, make sure you know what they’re posting, too.
  • A car break-in can lead to a home break-in. Be cautious while you are out; thieves can snatch a garage door opener and registration, which may have your address on it, making your home their next target.
  • Don’t make it easy for burglars. Leaving a window open for fresh air is an invitation to a burglar. Always make sure to lock all windows and doors before you leave. Never allow strangers in your home to use the telephone or bathroom. Don’t leave valuable items outside, like bicycles. Leaving a spare key out or “hidden” will make it almost effortless for someone to have access to your house; instead, leave it with a neighbor you trust.
  • Protect your home at night. Keep your blinds closed. You don’t want to let burglars get a peek inside at any of your valuables. Simple things like a barking dog, a security system sign in the yard, or a pair of men’s shoes by the front door is sometimes enough to discourage a break-in. The panic button on your car keys can act as an alarm. Keep them by your bedside, and press the button if you hear suspicious noise outside or someone trying to break-in. A well-lit neighborhood can deter criminal activity. Ask neighbors to keep their exterior lights on at night and consider installing motion-sensing lights to illuminate exterior walls.