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Showing posts from October, 2002
A Secret Mission in Uncharted Space

Attending Symantec’s Vision 360 summit in London at the end of last week left me with several observations.

The big yellow box company was using the event to launch its new “Integrated Security Management System” to potential and existing Enterprise customers and bought in some big guns, in the shape of NISCC’s Steve Cummings and Sir Andrew Wood, the former British Ambassador to Russia, to help Symantec COO John Schwarz articulate the company’s latest approach to keeping the lid on a growing global information security problem.

For Schwarz there are many different problems tugging at his development team and above them all, “The sheer complexity – of increasingly blended threats – creating an unmanageable situation for most of us”. He compared the present, disjointed state of the industry with the early days of Client-server computing, pointing out, that different generations shared a systems management challenge in common. In such complex and increa…
Healthy Habits

Much of the real business of government doesn’t take place in Parliament at all. In fact, it all happens in the Red Lion pub, just round the corner from the MPs offices in Portcullis House and if its opinions you want, then you’ll find a noisy, smoke-filled bar full of them any evening after six.

I can’t say that it’s been a great month for government, electronic government that is. Firstly, the NHS e-mail and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) story I have been telling you about, has been picked-up by many different kinds of publications and agencies, encouraging well-informed people to ask some very awkward questions about public sector IT projects. In response to my column on Monday, The British Computer Society (BCS) sent me a document of their own, entitled ‘Radical Steps in Health Informatics’, which states “Unless concerted action is taken, the widely welcomed new strategies for healthcare IT are at risk”.

All this of course, in the same month that the National Aud…
Denial of Anything

This last week proved more interesting and outrageous than most. Firstly, I picked-up, not one but two Westminster parking tickets on the same spot in twenty four hours. Nothing remarkable there, other than my allegation that I was on private property, and had a “Get Lost” sign prominently displayed on my windscreen. “Your word against his mate”, was the sympathetic response from two other parking wardens who both agreed that I was out of reach but couldn’t prove it. They hadn’t bargained on the combination of my digital camera and my laptop, which between them recorded the scene and had a complaint emailed to Westminster Council, before warden L3065 had finished his shift.

I call it this the real power of .Net, so it remains to be seen whether even Westminster Council can deny full colour digital evidence, which suggests what many of us suspect or have experienced already with so-called parking wardens in London.

More denial of sorts later in the week, which witnes…
Stand Up & Be Counted

You’re not making many friends”, I was told last week, referring of course to my most recent comments on IT procurement and in particular, the story on the health service email project.

I suppose, it’s really a question of how one defines ‘friends’. The CW360 mail bag has been attracting interesting and supportive letters from vendors, civil servants and doctors. I’ve even been asked along to the European Parliament, to chat with the commissioner and some MEPs in November but there’s a suggestion that other ‘friends in high places’ aren’t too impressed with my ‘King’s new clothes argument’.

What the mailbag tells me, is that people working at the leading edge of the larger public sector IT projects are concerned and as one distinguished source wrote “Public-sector PFI and outsourcing contracts need some radical new, professional re-engineering if they are to continue." Another reader with public sector responsibility commented: “After sitting and watchin…
Taxes to Caesar

Why anyone would let themselves be persuaded to get-up at four-thirty in the morning, is a mystery, unless of course it happens to involve breakfast television.

Last week, my ego got the better of my desire for a good night’s sleep and I found myself challenging Gartner’s optimism, as I reviewed IBM’s latest set of results, which like Microsoft’s were rather better than expected in a week which saw the value of the FTSE and Wall Street indices dip and dive more energetically than ever.

“Is the technology sector showing signs of coming out of recession?” asked my interviewer. Biting my tongue, I offered a polite no but with some examples.

In a period of seven days, nine people I know have lost their jobs and one, who lost his, last November, as the Server Marketing Manager for a ‘Big Iron’ company, has found a new one. Two more people, I know, one being the Managing Director of a high-profile public sector failure, have emailed me, asking if I know of any opportunities a…
A View from the House

Last week, in a speech to introduce the launch of the Quizid authentication solution at The Houses of Parliament, I argued that the continued absence of a universal trust system presents a risk to the continued development of eGovernment and the knowledge economy.

Downing Street’s declared objective is that by 2005, the transformative impact of joined-up-government and with it, the availability of cheap and universal broadband Internet access, will, as a by-product, swiftly create the climate for a knowledge economy. But before this can be delivered, we need to have in place a new architecture of trust to support it and this demands an irrefutable and totally secure means of proving one’s identity over the Internet; cheap, available digital identification for every citizen and every business in the land.

Enter Quizid, which has introduced the first and arguably cost-effective security system for the consumer market, a digital identity, that combines its credit-ca…
Take One Giraffe

Day two of Linux Expo and one of the organizers tells me that he’s never seen so many weird people in one place. This year, there was no Penguin ambling around the show floor. He had been replaced by a man dressed as a giraffe; please don’t ask why.

The high point of the previous day’s debate had been the presentation of Sun’s special award at The Great Linux debate, of a pair of plastic comedy breasts, reflecting the audience, - who knew a thing or too about Linux - good-humored recognition of that company’s commitment to the future of the Operating system. IBM and Hewlett Packard were both unusually relieved to lose this latest industry award, which under the rules, has to be displayed in Sun’s reception area for the next twelve months.

What did catch my eye was the Sony stand, because believe it or not Sony now has a Linux distribution for the Playstation-2, complete with hard drive, keyboard and mouse that plug into the PS2’s expansion port. Sony have been talk…
Enemy at the Gates

The end of the world is near, well almost, depending on who you listen to.

It’s a wet Sunday afternoon and I’m reading Mi2G’s most recent intelligence briefing (SIPS), over one hundred and twenty pages of information on the many different hack attacks that took place around the world in September. If you happen to be American or Brazilian, it makes unhappy reading and the UK happens to squeeze into fourth place in the league of most popular targets.

Last month, MI2G reports, happens to have been the worst month ever for Digital attacks, “11,080 in all bringing the cumulative for the first nine months of 2002 to 42,185, already 34.7% greater than the whole of 2001”.

If that isn’t bad enough, then each month appears to be breaking new records and October appears to be following an unpleasant trend. The target on an almost three to one basis are of course Windows installations over Linux, defying the industry’s best efforts to lock-down known vulnerabilities in the two…
Penguin on a Playstation

With a strong feeling of ‘Déjà vu’ I walked into Olympia 2. to chair day one of “The Great Linux Debate” for the fourth year running. To remind me if the previous years, I had my mementos with me, Bob Young’s ‘Red Hat’. The false beard that I tried wearing one year and the cuddly Penguin which had been sitting on my daughter’s bed for twelve months. Wondering what this year’s little gift would be, I walked around a show floor that seemed to reflect the times, basic shell schemes and with the companies very much the same as in previous years and with the exception of IBM and Hewlett Packard, giving a distinctly ‘geeky’ cottage industry-like feel to the event.

What did catch my eye was the Sony stand, because believe it or not, Sony have a Linux distribution for the Playstation-2, complete with hard drive, keyboard and mouse that plug into the PS2’s expansion port. Sony have been talking about making the PS2 into a home networking device for two years and this, I…
Trust Me – I’m a Doctor

Does anybody own a Skoda or know any good Skoda jokes?

It wasn’t so long ago that the thought of a Skoda achieving a favourable comparison with an Audi, seemed as improbable an idea as associating, well Microsoft, with any suggestion of secure computing. You could have any colour you liked, even add a nodding dog or a pair of fluffy dice but you weren’t going to impress people with your credibility. Until that is, the day, everything changed. The Skoda became almost respectable.

You may remember, that last month, I told you that Microsoft’s Chief Security Officer, Stuart Okin, in a last-ditch effort to convince me that the company was serious about “Trustworthy Computing”, flung open the doors of the Microsoft Campus in Reading and offered me unrestricted and uncensored access to anyone I would like to question about the seriousness of the company’s security strategy. There isn’t the space here for a detailed report, which will come later but I’ll share my early …
Keep Taking the Pills

Anyone remember how much The Dome cost? A lot less than the Pathfinder IT project for the Post Office, which swallowed £1.2 billion of taxpayer’s money.

This week, I’m feeling a little shell-shocked. According to eGov monitor, The NHS Information Authority (NHSIA) has awarded EDS a $142 million (£91m) contract to deliver the new national electronic directory and email service that will serve 1.2 million NHS staff.

You remember EDS of course? Who can’t, with their remarkable record of public-service delivery over the years and on this occasion, they need, for the modest sum of £91 million, they will offer the cash-strapped Health Service a web-based email system, Instant Messaging, a security infrastructure, support for PDAs and much much more.

Doesn’t this seem like a bargain until you realise that most of us are using this kind of thing already in the shape of Hotmail and AOL. So why, in God’s name are we asking a third-party to reinvent the wheel when you could …