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Cliff Clavin, Kristin Seaver, Gregory Crabb, NOT Benjamin Franklin.

The U.S. Mail SHOULD Be Worried About Email Competition



By Duane Thresher, Ph.D.          May 28, 2019

Even though it is a U.S. government agency explicitly written into the Constitution, the U.S. Mail, a.k.a. the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), considers itself a business. In fact, online it is usps.com not usps.gov. In the U.S. Mail's most basic function, delivering letters, it is of course subject to competition from email. And it should be worried about this email competition, very worried.

Cliff Clavin was the bumbling postman on the very popular TV sitcom Cheers. In one episode Cliff was worried about email putting the U.S. Mail out of business and him out of a job. So he took pills for this worry, especially every time some evidence supporting it popped up. He ended up taking so many pills he developed gynecomastia ("man breasts").

This extreme worry is warranted because the U.S. Mail is IT incompetent and could very well be put out of business by email, particularly ultra-secure custom email like Apscitu Mail.

The USPS website, usps.com, is a programming fiasco. Workers at post offices routinely (and wisely) advise customers not to try to do anything using the USPS website.

For example, USPS website accounts are keyed to your email address. Somehow I ended up with two accounts, interfering with each other, because one was keyed to an all-capitals email address and one was keyed to the same email address but with no caps. Email addresses consist of a username, which is that of the email server computer account, and a domain name, which is the email server computer's address on the Internet. For example, in the email address dr.duane.thresher@alum.mit.edu, dr.duane.thresher is the username and alum.mit.edu is the domain name. Capitals can make a difference in the username but usually computer accounts are created with no-caps usernames and then when an incoming email address is checked, by comparison, for whether it has an account there, the incoming email address username is, via programming, automatically made into no-caps before comparison. Domain names are defined as no-caps in the standards, so the same no-caps programming is applied to them. (See Do Capitals In Email Addresses Make Any Difference?) This is Programming 101. If USPS can't get this basic issue correct, it has no chance of getting more complicated issues, like security, correct.

The U.S. Mail is the original information technology (IT) of the U.S. Ben Franklin was the U.S. Mail system's brilliant designer. The U.S. Mail's current IT incompetent Chief Information Officer (CIO) and current IT incompetent Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) are laughable in comparison, or would be if what they did wasn't so important and they weren't paid so outrageously much for zero expertise.

Kristin Seaver has been USPS CIO since April 2016. She has no IT education, which is the most important IT qualification; see Principles of IT Incompetence (The Most Important IT Credential: An IT Education). Gregory Crabb has been USPS CISO since May 2015. He has no IT education.

I filed an FOIA request to discover Seaver's and Crabb's most recent annual salaries but USPS stalled for 5 months, until I threatened a lawsuit. Three days later the requested information came, not via fast email but in the U.S. Mail and backdated 3 months so USPS could lie on their FOIA response statistics. The USPS did indeed have something to hide. IT incompetent CIO Seaver makes $259,280, which is the highest salary in the IT Incompetents Hall Of Shame (ITIHOS). IT incompetent CISO Crabb makes $198,790, which is among the highest in ITIHOS. Both make more than most doctors or lawyers make and, unlike Seaver and Crabb, doctors and lawyers are at least qualified; by law they have to be.

It used to be common wisdom that the U.S. Mail was more secure than email. Not anymore. USPS's IT incompetence, from the CIO and CISO down to the website programmers, has made USPS insecure.

In November 2014 it was reported that 800,000 USPS records had been exposed to hackers; it was described as a "massive" data breach at the time. IT incompetent Jim Cochrane was USPS CIO and IT incompetent Randy Miskanic was USPS CISO during this data breach. IT incompetent Seaver and IT incompetent Crabb, respectively, were their replacements. In November 2018 Seaver and Crabb had their own data breach: 60,000,000 USPS records were exposed to hackers; it's unknown what word to use to describe it if the previous "massive" data breach was only 800,000.

These USPS data breaches stemmed from the mentioned IT-incompetent badly-programmed website, which is full of security holes due to the IT-incompetent bad programming.

This bad security extends to letters sent by U.S. Mail. USPS offers Informed Delivery, whereby you can have images of your letters emailed to you before they arrive in your mailbox. Informed Delivery is signed up for and done on the USPS website. I know from experience that it is possible, in fact quite easy, to get images of other people's mail sent to you (and as you know you can sometimes read through envelopes). Most easily, in fact unavoidably, the other person is who moves into your residence after you move out, but it can be arranged for other people.

The records lost in the massive+ USPS data breaches included, of course, address information for individuals. If you're someone trying to keep your (new) address secret for your own physical safety -- like abused spouses or children that might be abducted -- these data breaches can be dangerous or even deadly.

Actually, these data breaches weren't necessary for such address exposure. USPS does this as a standard practice. All anyone hunting you down has to do is send you a letter to your old address and USPS will automatically provide them with your new address. Junk mailers love this "feature", and USPS collusion with junk mailers, who are USPS's bread and butter, is probably why it exists, at the expense of people's safety. You happily think your moving will reduce your junk mail but it increases it: you get all your old address's junk mail plus the junk mail for your new address.

Finally, it is known that USPS works with the National Security Agency (NSA). In particular, USPS lets the NSA get its hands on packages, supposedly just to foreigners, that contain networking hardware (e.g. routers) so the NSA can add its own secret snooping hardware to the networking hardware.

Instead of using the U.S. Mail for letters, use Apscitu Mail, revolutionary ultra-secure custom email for VIPs. No spam, which often leads to hacking, is possible with Apscitu Mail. Nobody you don't want to email you, can email you. Your (e)mail being hacked is impossible compared to the ease of it being hacked with U.S. Mail.