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Showing posts from February, 2003
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Synchronicity

Bump into the same friend often enough and you soon realise that coincidence is simply the manifestation of a Quantum world, which plays games with our minds.



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To Infinity and Beyond

The technology sector may be at its lowest ebb for a generation but progress like politics, shows little respect for economics.

In the same week I read that Sun Microsystems plans to create processors that will increase its blade server throughput by an impressive sounding factor of thirty beyond 2005, I see that Israeli scientists have devised a computer that can perform ‘330 trillion operations per second’, more than 100,000 faster than the quickest Personal Computer with us today shattering Moore’s Law in the process.

While Sun is initiating what it calls "Throughput" in its processors combining chip multithreading to allow a single processor to execute tens of threads simultaneously, in a research lab at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, they have arrived at a new computing paradigm and a radically different view of threading which might sit more comfortably on the set of a Star Trek movie.

What makes this new computer a little ‘different…
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The Great Escape

"Romeo and Ethel the pirate's daughter. In truth, I haven't written a word"

Not today anyway, as even I get time off for good behaviour and it's school half term, so that means decorating my house in Kent and a rare opportunity to take my daughter flying with a large soft-toy rabbit as a passenger.



Mind you, no escape in this connected world of ours. The Bloomberg morning radio show in New York tracked me down for comment on AOL - Time Warner and email still finds the Blackberry GPRS wireless device in my pocket. Worse still, I'm even writing this journal entry on my laptop!

Looking at my little aircraft this morning, the Cessna, not the Pitts, I consider it a great shame that the IT industry is so far down in the dumps. There was a time when Lotus Development (an IBM company) sponsored my bright yellow muscle biplane, "Superhuman Software" and Silverstream (a Novell company) sponsored my friend Denny Dobson's Extra 300. Those d…
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The Great Digital Deficit

Almost three years ago, I wrote a feature for The Observer, ‘Welcome to the aftermath of the old economy’ and in it I asked if it was possible to solve the challenge of the so-called ‘Digital Divide’ in the time the government imagined was possible.



Since then of course, we’ve witnessed some remarkable changes. My local post-office in London is now crammed wall-to-wall with young South Africans picking-up their Hotmail but my home town in Kent ninety miles away, still hasn’t a PC in sight although its Iraqi population has swollen significantly over the last twelve months. Broadband here is no closer than Baghdad, which last week opened its first Internet Café, ahead of BT, which promises to upgrade the local exchange once the weapons inspectors have left this quiet seaside town.

But a country has to start somewhere and government generously funded the expansion of six thousand UK Online Centres in an effort to guarantee Internet access for the fifty million or…
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Guess My Weight

If your credit card PIN number can be guessed in fifteen steps, according to Cambridge Computer Lab’s Ross Anderson, then that’s not much better odds than a game of ‘Hangman’ and simply reinforces the legitimate concern that we cannot hope to build a knowledge economy on 1980’s ‘crypto-technology’.

Ross Anderson

Only last week, I met with Andrew McLauchlan, the Executive Chairman of Identrus and his CTO, Clay Epstein and naturally, the subject of transactional integrity, what this means in practise and how it can best be achieved in a rapidly expanding on-line environment, was the focus of our conversation.

My own concern is that identity fraud is rife, impacting commerce and Governments alike. Credit card fraud alone is costing the issuing banks £700 million a year and where the ‘Official’ government figure for fraud is £2 Billion a year, it’s possibly much more than this. Government attempted to tackle the costly problem of identity fraud through the Post Office …
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The Thoughts of Charlotte Moores - Aged 8



"I used to be useful but now I'm not"


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Now You See It

I could almost imagine them tabling a vote of thanks at this week’s Cabinet meeting at No 10. There isn’t much in the way of good news around for Ministers this month but at least the preoccupation with Iraq has interrupted the regular leaking of memos which led to the resignations of Steven Byers and Estelle Morris.

This week’s hero isn’t Michael Portillo, it’s Microsoft and no, the company hasn’t decided to give its software away to government for free. It’s even better than that if you happen to be a senior civil servant or a Minister because Microsoft has announced a new digital rights management service for Windows Server 2003. (WS2003).



Why, you ask, is this a reason for Sir Humphrey Appleby to celebrate? Because WS2003 in conjunction with a ‘Lock Box’ – A policy appliance that is kept locked-away – places ‘persistent protection’ into any office document and Rights Management technology, according to Microsoft: “enables businesses to protect the information they mo…
Told You So

It's hard not to be smug where the London congestion charge is concerned. A week ago, the clever money was betting against Capita and their ability to deliver on the technology required to make the scheme work. I'm told as well that this is also one of Microsoft's largest .Net projects, so the embarrassment may well be contagious.

Let's be honest, did anyone working in the technology business seriously believe that Ken's congestion scheme could work smoothly, if at all from day one? No of course not and yet some slick salespeople convinced a collection of not so clever civil servants that a £100 million pounds or so would do the job.

Meanwhile for those who want to defeat those very expensive cameras, which we were told were infallible but aren't, the correct recipe is Vaseline mixed with cigarette ash and a spoonful of dirt, smeared liberally across your number plate. It's an old despatch-riders trick for dealing with speed cameras.



Frere Jacques

Which murdering tyrant and good friend of the Elysee Palace doesn't have diamonds or a large villa in the south?

Bokassa, Mobutu, Duvallier and now Mugabe. It speaks volumes on the success of dialogue. 'Vive La France'.

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The Thoughts of Charlotte Moores - Aged 8



"I'm not doing anything anymore"


The Enemy Within

However hard I attempt to escape the subject of information security, it acts like a gravitational ‘Black Hole’ and I’m pulled back into commenting on the most recent story or disaster or both.



CW360 reported this week, that NISCC (The National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre) has raised the prospect of cyber-attack by Islamic groups, as a consequence of any possible – read probable – war with Iraq.

While this isn’t quite the same as a ring of steel around Heathrow, for NISCC to pop-up with a warning of this kind, illustrates how worried or indeed paranoid, The Home Office is becoming. It’s interesting to note that Symantec most recently pointed at Iran and Kuwait as the most frequent source of cyber-attacks but what NISCC appears to be more concerned about is the threat from ‘The enemy within’, a ‘fifth column’ of cyber-militants, described as ‘terrorist-groups “who may…
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One Giant Leap

Technology gave us the Internet and in return, the Internet gave us Worms and Webcams.

Operation Ore revealed, as far as I can tell, the tip of a very large iceberg. While the police are still working through the credit card numbers of the seven thousand or so people, which included my mother-in-law’s doctor, who used their plastic as a pass to the sordid world of paedophile sex, there are many more who are worried by the prospect of a visit by the police.

Such people are desperate for news on how the investigation is proceeding and whether any more names or lists of names have been added to the thousands that the police are already sifting through. I can tell that they are, because this website tracks incoming referrals from the big search engines and the greater part of the last month’s traffic has involved Operation Ore.



Of course, you might say that this is legitimate searching for news on its progress and you might be right but then within this, a proportion of searc…
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Don't Mention the War

I see Mayor Livingstone hasn’t ruled out his congestion cameras remaining as a security measure, even if the charge itself was ever discontinued, which appears rather unlikely. He’s quoted as “There's now an added benefit that we didn't anticipate” and naturally, being Ken, he said much more but I suppose most of us would have guessed that traffic congestion was only part of the argument behind the introduction of more cameras.

There's an argument that these cameras may in fact breach the data act, with, for the first time, a local authority, London in this case, giving itself powers that were previously only available to government. Read what The Register has to say about this and you'll be worried too, I suspect.

Over twenty years ago we had the introduction of the M25. Few people realise that this also concealed a dual purpose, as my wife, who used to work at No10 frequently reminds me. In the event of a biological attack or even insurrect…
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No Free Ride

The actor Tom Conti summed it all up today, commenting on the congestion charge. "This country", he said, "Is run on a mix of penalty and impediment"; making things difficult for people and attempting to squeeze tax revenues out of them as a consequence.

Wimbledon to St James' Park on a motorcycle in twenty minutes this morning during the rush hour. Quite unheard of but then, there was hardly any traffic on the road, much like an early Sunday morning.

I'm assuming that everyone stayed home in protest rather than pay 'Red Ken's' congestion charge. either that or they took the Underground, which is why I decided to use the motorcycle, guessing that the unbearable situation on the trains could only be made worse by the introduction of the congestion charge.



I see that Alan Mather has taken me to task on his 'Blog', commenting on my 'Back to Basics" column. Well done Alan, without people like you, there would be very l…
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Balancing Security & eCommerce

Many businesses were given a sharp wake-up call in January with the arrival of most devastating Computer ‘Worm’ attack for eighteen months, in the shape of ‘SQL-Slammer’, which in the space of twenty-four hours, made international news and forced the shutdown of over 200,000 Windows Servers. Included among its many high-profile victims, was The Bank of America, which had 13,000 of its ATM machines temporarily put out of action.



Regular attacks such as this, illustrate only too clearly that the requirement for reliable security architecture in the virtual world of the Internet is as real as that demanded in the physical world. If there is a fundamental difference between them, then it is that the former works well and is built on a solid foundation of steel, concrete and paper and the latter relies on compromise, a clumsy mix of standards and interoperable software which offers security much of the time but not all of the time.

In November of last ye…
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Thought for the Day

"The world will run out of democracy long before it runs out of oil" - Simon Moores



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Back to Basics

Another day, another local government seminar and a struggle to reach Marble Arch on an Underground which doesn’t go there anymore.

I ask the man in the Southfields station ticket window why the ‘plastic’ machine is still dead, adding that little extra misery to the District Line experience. Was this more evidence of the Slammer worm I wonder but the answer is much simpler “Because” I’m told, “London Underground won’t spend the money on machines that work”. “Can I quote you”, I ask? “Yes”, says the face behind the glass, adding proudly, “I’m a union man”.



At times, there’s an unhappy contrast between our third-world transport system and the 2005 vision of joined-up Government. Talking to the people here today, the congestion charge is a subject of heated conversation and every indication suggests that it’s going to fail in a cheerfully embarrassing ‘Told you so’ sort of way.

I ask for a show of hands from my local government audience. Can anyone tell me of a large Capita…
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Manners Maketh Man

From an early age, I was encouraged to believe in good manners, regardless of the environment one finds oneself in. You say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ and you remember that being polite costs nothing.

Today that makes me a dinosaur and in this fast-food, Internet society of ours, simple courtesy no longer has a place in on-line business or doesn’t seem to.



I send an email to someone I know and get no reply. I might attend a meeting or an interview and I thank the people involved for their time or enquire about the next step on our relationship. Nothing comes back, just a deafening silence which tells me: “I’m too busy and I’m too important to bother myself with you, go away”.

You see, if you write to me, as people often do, I’ll make every effort to acknowledge your interest, even if it’s only a one-liner, saying ‘Thank you’. Ignoring another person is, in my mind both insulting and arrogant and in the corridors I walk in, people conceal the evidence of inefficiency or…
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Thought for the Day

Boredom is a necessary feature of existence. Without it, there would be no reason for the BBC - Simon Moores



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Bend it Like Beckham



For heaven’s sake, any return match with Iraq is not going to be played-out in cyberspace, regardless of media pressure on the Pentagon to drop millions of ‘Nanobots’ or ‘Kylie’ CDs infected with a more potent version of Slammer on Baghdad.

Outside of the playground of the Emirates, the Middle-east is not particularly well joined-up or connected. I should know, having visited all the GCC states, as a UK “Technology Ambassador” last year, presenting on InfoSec issues. For anyone who might be interested in the business opportunities in the region, my eighty page report on Saudi Arabia is on the DTI website and there’s even more information sitting up on www.arabgov.com.

In fact, as I noted in every report I have written on the region, information security is an oxymoron which makes the development of eGovernment and eCommerce problematical. What little good security there is, may have already been stripped-down by Arab governments worried that the CIA or Mossad migh…
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Who's Who in Cyberspace?

It’s called a ‘Googlism’ apparently and I stumbled across it quite by accident.



I’m referring of course to a novel ‘service’ which trawls Google to report on how any name, thing or event ranks in the Internet’s greater scheme of things.

That doesn’t sound right, so bear with me. Take me as an example and why not? I’ve been ‘Googled’ and so if I now proceed on an ego trip of planetary proportions and write my name, ‘Simon Moores’ in the box, then Google tells me that there’s only one person of any real consequence with that name on the planet, me, which isn't good news for the other Simon Moores' around, one an eminent physician and the other, a Christian fundamentalist with strong opinions that are likely to get the rest of us shot!

This certainly is not good for egos but the results may not be what one expects. Of course, I would like it to return: “Simon Moores is a well-respected technology guru, gifted, witty, good looking and kind to small chil…
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Allo Allo

I wasn't planning to write about the creation of a European Information Security Agency, if only because a professional interest means that I have in front of me the confidential and embargoed document that the commission will vote on this week. However, as much of the detail on Europe’s proposed equivalent of Washington’s NSA has already slipped into the public domain, there’s no reason not to share its ‘Raison d’etre’, without giving away the true size of its entertainment budget.



Leaving aside the domestic squabble over which country would rather sell its weapons to Iraq before the Americans bomb it, “Security”, the document says, “Has become a major policy concern - for the European state. Governments see a widening responsibility for society and are increasingly making efforts to improve security on their territory”

Recent worries over the explosion in cybercrime and the hidden threat of terrorism have, in the words of the document in front of me,” Woken Europe up to…
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Kafka on eGovernment

Every now and then, a week comes along which encourages a wry smile at the awful seriousness of the IT industry. My own started on Sunday, watching Chancellor, Gordon Brown being interviewed by a doddery and ever so humble David Frost.



Gordon cheerfully identified the IT industry as the villain behind the present global recession and ignoring Frost’s mumbled plea for common sense, insisted, for reasons of fiscal prudence, that he had to raise national insurance contributions, to fund the “expensive new technology” for the national health service, which any of us in working in IT suspects, has very little to do with doctors and nurses and rather more to do with ‘joining-up’ the eight, very expensive administrative managers required to support every ten underpaid nurses.

The Frost interview followed a survey, last week, of electronic public services in Europe, conducted by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young on behalf of the European Commission which claims that European e-…
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A View of the Sea

The small town of Westgate-on -Sea isn't quite on the edge of the known universe, even though on some days the Isle of Thanet may feel that way, which is possibly why Turner painted his dramatic sunsets there.



Uncomfortably close the the crumbling grandeur of Margate, it's home to the elderly, a million screaming seagulls, my mother and increasing numbers of refugees, many of whom enjoy a cheap meal of sausage, egg and chips in Beano's 'Turkish' cafe, which thirty years ago used to be a more stylish 'Flamenco' bar owned by my father.

Eight miles from the city of Canterbury and three miles from Manston, Kent's isolated international airport, Westgate feels left out of the digital revolution because Broadband hasn't yet arrived and BT appear to have a problem finding it on the map, even though, not 100 yards from where I'm sitting, there is a very large BT exchange bristling with aerials.

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This part of Britain need to be a prio…
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Three Kings

Keep saying it Tony, “Weapons of mass destruction” and don’t forget to mention, “Weapons of mass destruction” either.



Like you, perhaps, I was watching the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman last night on the BBC. The studio audio had been carefully chosen to reflect the nation’s median IQ and grasp of foreign politics and Paxman didn’t spare any punches, obviously quite prepared to wave goodbye to any dream of a knighthood under this government.

Were you convinced by the argument? I wasn’t and it became clear that the evidence for “Weapons of mass destruction” was rather thin on the ground, absence of evidence not being evidence of absence in the minds of Mr Bush or Mr Blair.


What I did notice though was the hint of a real worry below the surface, when the subject of terrorism was discussed. There is something, I suspect that the Prime Minister is not telling us, it doesn’t involve Iraq and it’s frightening him. This is quite possibly the risk o…
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Thunderbirds Are Go

Listening to the Iraqi voice intercepts being offered to the United Nations by Colin Powell, I instantly recognised the source, as I’m sure you did too. The ‘Evil Hood’ from Thunderbirds. While the voice recognition technology doesn’t appear to have moved on much, it’s good to know that when the series ended, my favourite villain found a new home in Baghdad.



I spoke at an interesting local government event in the Midlands last week and while it wouldn’t be right to identify the event, I can share some of the comments that were made on eGovernment by the men working at the ‘coal-face’ of eTransformation.

As you might expect, email is a problem in many different ways. Managing it, securing it, archiving it and complying with government’s statutory disclosure and retention regulations.

Quite recently, KVS software reinforced the conclusions of earlier research, by revealing that awareness of these latest regulations surrounding disclosure and discovery under The Freedo…
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Marooned Between Milton Keynes & The New Economy

My thoughts aren’t particularly charitable or digital today, stuck, as I am on a train somewhere between Birmingham and London. A signal failure I’m told, today’s excuse for the failure of our third-world rail service.

I had joked this morning, when the snow was piling-up outside the hotel in Birmingham, that I’d probably be marooned. Wrong kind of snow you see and never once, have I caught a Virgin Express train and not experienced a serious problem or delay.

It could be worse I suppose. After once experiencing a seven hours delay on the London to Paris shuttle, I swore I would avoid trains at all cost but then the people who joined me in Birmingham this morning told me that the last ten miles into the city from the motorway took them an hour. Ironically, it’s taken an hour to go less than five miles on the train I'm sitting on now.

At £100 return, second-class of course, the train, pound for pound is more expensive than a Firs…
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The Right Stuff

Statistics, they’re everywhere, the plankton that feeds the voracious appetite of the Internet. Being an aviation historian, I was fascinated to stumble across a Website, last week, where one person is devoting his energy to recording the scores of every ranking fighter pilot of the Second World War, Allied and Axis.



What surprised me is that the top one hundred German aces were, between them, responsible for the loss of fifteen-thousand allied aircraft and this statistic, sparked a comparison in my mind with the results of the latest Symantec Internet Threat Report, which, for the first time, consolidates data from the company’s recent acquisition of RipTech and SecurityFocus.

The report, which is quite possibly one of the most detailed the industry has yet seen, illustrates how Internet threats have intensified and evolved in many ways, while remaining relatively stable along other criteria. Although the number of overall attacks decreased last year the overall numbe…
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.Not Quite .Net

“You don’t choose the things you believe in, they choose you” - Minority Report



Forgive me, but I’m trying to remember what .Net is. No, not Visual Studio.Net but Microsoft’s .Net, ‘The’ .Net, which I remember so confused us all when it was first announced.

I remember trying to explain it on the News one warm July 2000 evening and failing miserably. “It’s big”, I told the BBC’s John Moylan, “the biggest thing since Windows”. “Yes, but what is it, he asked. Is it a product or an Operating System”?

Well it’s both”, I said, "But it’s really clever plumbing. Gates says that “The Microsoft .Net platform is the infrastructure and tools to build and operate a new generation of services.” “It’s the next ‘Big Thing’ for the company and between you and me, I haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about and I’m not sure that they have either”.

Today of course, .Net is or was many things. It’s now a ‘Microsoft .Net Connected’ logo and that’s where it’s likely to meet its end,…
Sunday Morning Cynic

Another Sunday Morning reading the Sunday Times. As I remarked the other day, the paper has a generous helping of public sector jobs in its 'Appointments' pages.

I still have to wonder who they expect to fill these £80,000 a year posts? Director of Research for the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) or Assistant Chair of the Police Complaints Commission (IPCC of which they need several at £50,000). I rather suspect that they know who they want for the jobs because I can't imagine the experience that could possibly fill many of the examples in the newspaper. I'm attempting to complete the IPCC application - and why not - have tried for several of the posts in the last few months out of interest and the application packs are daunting - 'show evidence of your commitment to diversity' - but who, I wonder, has the skills, available time and experience from the private sector to fill them. The (ODPM) research role alone has to be limited to a handful…
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Too Many Triffids

How many people I wonder, have been picked-up by speed cameras and fined by parking wardens in the last twelve months?

Thanks to the 'Traffic Taleban', I'm now the motoring equivalent of Dillinger, with another three points and a fine arriving this morning. Previously, my criminal record was three points in twenty years, so I'm making-up for lost time.



What worries me is that it's very hard to keep at or below an arbitrary speed limit on a motorcycle in the pitch darkness on an unlit road. Take your eyes off the road and you end-up in a ditch, so one normally takes a cue from the traffic ahead. What I do suspect, is that Kent Police are laying in the speed camera technology behind allegedly 'bogus' roadworks.

No workmen in sight, just abandoned cones on the sides of the road and absolutely no sensible reason to drop the speed limit from 70 to 40. Well that's my excuse anyway but is does strike me that we seem to have an awful lot of &…