Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2005

Get Safe Online - Get Top Gear

I was at the Get Safe Online launch in London today, where not only did I get to meet Top Gear’s high-speed Richard Hammond over a coffee but also recorded his little speech on internet safety for you.

Research from Get Safe Online has found that over three quarters of the UK’s population (83 per cent) don’t know enough about protecting themselves online. Nearly half (42 per cent) of the population rely on friends and family for online safety advice rather than finding expert information for themselves. This lack of education, which Get Safe Online aims to address, threatens to undermine confidence in an online retail economy is worth £10bn a year. An estimated 14m use online banking

The idea is of course that everyone goes online, checks out the website and learns to avoid all the nasty pitfalls that go hand in hand with the internet. In fact the timing couldn’t be better, as I have to go and help rescue Captain Bob’s PC tomorrow, as he tells me a virus has eaten all his email!

One goo…

Night Flight

If your'e interested in what it's like to fly from Manston at night, I've put up the draft of a piece I'm writing for Pilot Magazine on this week's night training course at TG Aviation.

Why bother with a night rating? Much like the IMC rating, a night rating is a qualification which only a relatively small number of GA pilots bother to pursue, either because of the extra time and cost involved or because they can’t imagine themselves ever needing one.

But like having the benefit of IMC experience, there may come a day when the opportunity of landing after dark can make the difference between spending a night in a distant hotel or arriving home safely in time for dinner.

I’ve been flying since 1998 and although I have an IMC rating, which has rescued me from trouble more times than I can remember, I’ve never been too bothered about adding a night rating. More recently though, I’ve been using my Cessna 172 for business, as far away as, Cardiff, Leeds and Blackpool and a…

A Meeting of Minds and Money

Today marks the beginning of ‘ID Fraud Awareness Week’ and it is also the week that will finally witness the launch of GetSafeOnline, a Home-Office backed meeting of minds and money intended to tackle the now rampant problem of consumer and small-business-focused internet fraud.

With help from BBC Top Gear’s Richard Hammond, Cabinet Office Minister, John Hutton and the National Hi-tech crime Unit’s Sharon Lemon, the initiative will be a public-private partnership supported by the likes of eBay, Yell.Com, Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Microsoft among the prominent sponsors keen to see an end to the online exploitation of Joe and Joanna public.

Only last week, we heard how a retired teacher had £250,000 stolen from her Lloyds TSB savings account following the sale of her home, in one of the most serious cases seen to date of ID fraud, a crime that is close to becoming out of control, with the Home Office estimating £1.3bn is now being stolen every year. According to police figures, computer crime …

Identity Crisis - A True Story

As a retired teacher Margaret Wilkinson is not the sort of person to take chances with money, so when she moved home she did everything right. But that wasn't enough to prevent the theft of £250,000 from her bank account reports the Guardian

Margaret Wilkinson is scrupulously careful with her money. She closely guards her banking details and shreds letters and correspondence before throwing them away. In May, sold her north London home and placed £250,000 in a Lloyds TSB savings account.

Just three weeks ago her offer on a new home in Surrey was accepted and she went to transfer the money.

Only then did she discover that the whole lot had been stolen from her account in one of the most serious cases yet documented of ID fraud.

Bang Bang

On the same morning that the Guardian newspaper runs the headline “Rogue Syrians must be held to account, says US”, I’ve been on the phone to Damascus discussing the possibility of assisting with their electronic government project. You might say that the situation is both fluid and delicate, so I’ll drop a note to our Ambassador in Syria and their Ambassador in London and ask for both opinions once the details of the project come through to make sure I’m not treading on any sensitive diplomatic toes. If that isn’t enough, I was asked on Friday, if I might be interested in doing the same in Islamabad, leading me to think that eGovernment projects are like buses, you sit waiting for them for ages and then, all of a sudden two come along at once.

Closer to home, I’ve been shooting over at Hythe this morning on the military range there. I had wondered why the seagulls zigzag when they fly across the face of the targets but I suppose it’s an evolutionary trait, survival of the quickest. Hy…

Top of the Spies

The UK had the third highest rate of spyware infections last quarter, according to research by anti-spyware company Webroot Software which lumps tracking cookies in with far more malicious risks such as Trojans and keylogging programs. The UK has 18 "spies" on an average PC if you include cookies but only 4.5 if you exclude these lesser threats, a figure which puts the UK outside the top 10 of spyware infested nations. The US - either with or without cookies - tops Webroot's spyware poll. –The Register

Trafalgar Day 2005

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, many schools in Thanet are having their children dress-up with a navy theme today, as you can see from this photo taken at Chartfield School in Westgate.

Known worldwide for its historical accuracy, the BBC just reported the end of the battle as “The ships parked side by side and then they went downstairs.” This is of course why they wish to raise the license fee to almost £200 a year, to be able to employ a journalist with some grasp of basic nautical expressions, such as “moored” and “below-decks”, which I suspect even the primary school in the photo children may be familiar with.

Hanging on the Telephone

A Word to the wise, if like me, you happen to find a couple of Paypal transactions on your bank statement that shouldn’t be there, then you should prepare yourself for the long haul in getting a resolution. In my case, it’s two unidentified debits of £2.97 but it’s going to cost much more than this, by order of magnitude, to get the problem sorted I suspect.

Get Safe Online

Richard Hammond of the BBC's Top Gear will be fronting the launch of the government and business-sponsored GetSafeonline programme this month to warn people over the risk from online ID theft.

Nice billboard Richard, I’ll be going along for the launch but readers might like to visit the website and my own Netcrime report to take a view of the problem.

UK ID Card A recipe for Massive Fraud Says Microsoft

Microsoft UK National Technology Officer Jerry Fishenden has warned that the UK ID card scheme could trigger "massive identity fraud on a scale beyond anything we have seen before." Writing in today's Scotsman, Fishenden says that the security implications of storing biometrics centrally are enormous. "Unlike other forms of information such as credit card details," he says, "if core biometric details such as your fingerprints are compromised, it is not going to be possible to provide you with new ones." The Register.
Caught in the shadows, Thanet North MP Roger Gale sitting next to Lord Harry Renwick at Portcullis House tonight. BT’s Michael Hill in the foreground appears to have dozed off. In fact, it was a meeting on the future of 21st century networks and Roger, as Secretary of PITCOM, the The Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, was there to lend his support.

BT, in the shape of Daryl Dunbar, their Director of Design and Development (seen below on the right with chair, Mark Pritchard MP) was explaining what lies around the corner for all of us, as BT does away with the network as we know it and creates a whole new means of delivering content and calls in the near future with a £10 billion investment.

Get Connected

I’ve just waited the better part of a day re-installing everything on one of my two laptops after … yes it’s true, another hard disk failure. I’m fully backed-up so data isn’t a problem but three hours of downloading Windows Updates, security and antivirus updates does rather make a hole in the day.

Worse still, perhaps, I’m at my wits end as to why my PC won’t see the wireless connection and router. More accurately, it seems to be seeing it as a live connection but returns a DNS error in Internet explorer, even though it shares identical settings with my other boxes.

The temptation to throw it out of my window is becoming overwhelming, it’s not after all the first time I’ve done this and normally I don’t have problems but I’m guessing that something in either the AV software or Windows security updates, has moved the proverbial goalposts. If you hear a loud bang during the afternoon, it’s my patience finally exploding!
October Pilot

For anyone who might be interested, my earlier review of the Coastguard flight from Manston and an interview, with photos of Mark Girdler from TG Aviation, can be found in this month’s (October) Pilot Magazine.

It seems that Lydd Airport, now re-branded as London Ashford, is aiming to become a passenger hub for the 2012 Olympics. I wonder if Manston can beat them to it!

And for those of you who would like to see a cockpit video of what happens when a routine training mission in an RAF Hawk aircraft goes “Pear-shaped”, here's an interesting video. Both instructor and student survived the ejection with injuries.

The Great Switch Off

The BBC are asking Parliament to approve an increase of the TV license fee to £170 an exorbitant amount of money to pay each year for the privilege of watching dramatic masterpieces such as East Enders and Holby City. I think I may have told readers what happened a year ago, when the TV Licensing Authority, accepted my online payment for a colour television license but sent me a Black & White in error, coercion and persecution were two words that spring to mind and illustrate the unacceptable face of the BBC monopoly in this country.

If you are prepared to pay £170 a year for the privilege of watching the occasional television gem, then that’s fine but £30 a month or less will probably give it to you on satellite or cable anyway. We should either demand that the BBC reduces its fee and its outrageous waste of public money or ask for a way of switching it off from our televisions completely, so as not to have to pay the license fee if we don’t wish to watch it. I think that’s what n…
Night Flight

You might not recognise this photo without a little help. It’s a rather different view of Dover castle. Thanet and Kent at night look very different and the lights of Southend, Boulogne and Calais seem almost close enough to touch. Trying to relate the lights to familiar landmarks can be quite hard, so I have new respect for the people who do the traffic watch flights. I should add that the most dangerous part of any night flight is not landing the aircraft but driving home along Shottendane road on the way from Manston!

The New Software Morality

When, two years ago, Microsoft purchased Romanian anti-virus vendor, GeCAD, as part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative, I warned the result might lead to a queue of anti-trust lawyers gathering around the Capitol building in Washington, as the thriving and lucrative anti-virus industry protested at the very notion of Microsoft including better security in its products.

Time has passed and the mutters of discontent seemed to have subsided following diplomatic expressions of co-existence with the Redmond giant from the largest Anti-virus companies. However, this month, Europe decided that the prospect of Microsoft marketing consumer security was an oxymoron that demanded further investigation and the Brussels anti-trust regulators have reportedly invited Symantec to volunteer its opinions on Microsoft OneCare a plan for comprehensive, subscription-based consumer PC health check service that will offer automatically updated anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection.

There is ho…

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Entire families would be confined without trial in 'Colditz-style' camps under draconian new laws being drafted as part of a government drive to restore 'respect' in British society. It’s reported that so-called 'neighbours from hell' will be placed in 'sin bins' policed by private security guards with powers to detain residents and impose curfews. But where, I wonder will they build such detention camps and what measures will be employed to prevent such anti-social families escaping? Search lights, dogs, barbed wire perhaps?

Is it just me or are our political leaders in urgent need of a sanity check?

Missing the Broadband Boat?

It promised to change our lives: you could have a video appointment with your doctor over your PC, make a free phone call to someone across the globe or monitor your elderly relative from the comfort of your home.

Four years since this “revolutionary” technology was introduced — and trumpeted by an enthusiastic Prime Minister — broadband has yet to live up to these expectations. Experts say that the reality is poor service, lagging speeds and high prices. Although BT and Ofcom, the telecoms and internet regulator, promise that the “transforming” services of broadband are around the corner, many have yet to appear.  The Times


Digital Risk - The Big Issue

Almost two-thirds of companies have suffered "significant" financial damage as a result of IT systems failures in the last year, according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The Digital Risk survey of 218 senior risk managers found 60 per cent have incurred losses due to systems failure, while a third suffered financial damage as a result of hacking and phishing attacks.

More than half (55 per cent) said the biggest challenge companies face in tackling IT risks is the growing sophistication of hackers and cyber criminals, and slightly less than half (48 per cent) said IT and security problems pose a high risk to their business operations.

Earthly Delights

Off to sunny Blackpool tomorrow to do a short “Turn” at the Conservative Party Conference on the competitive state of the UK software economy, kindly sponsored by Microsoft.

Such are the earthly delights of Blackpool that I won’t be taking my PC with me, so you’re unlikely to see any new postings until Thursday evening. Given the outrageous cost of an economy train fare and the danger of autumn leaves, it’s far cheaper and quicker to fly; possibly around the world given the relative cost of Virgin Trains, so I’ll wander-up past Birmingham towards Manchester and then sharp left towards Blackpool, tomorrow morning. It takes two hours from here.

There’s something surreal about party political conferences, especially in British seaside towns, when in the space of twenty-four hours, thousands of dark-suited political zealots and journalists are parachuted into a relatively small area with no Starbucks café in sight. Modern politics runs on cappuccino as you’ll notice if you visit Portcullis …

Bot Capital of the World

The UK has around one-third of the world’s one to two million infected “bot” computers, which help to relay viruses, spam and other malware across the globe.

Computer Weekly reports that Security software company Symantec has estimated the extent of the UK’s bot presence in its latest internet security threat report, and says London has 8% of the world’s infected bot computers.

UK PLC - A Verdict

Following on from my column on the subject last week, a Silicon CIO panel offers a verdict on UK competitiveness: “The UK will lose its fight to compete with the new Asian economies in the information age because of a poor education system, a lack of entrepreneurs, high taxation and red tape”.

It adds: “"We've really failed the next generation with the quality of their education and training and we're going to pay dearly for it in the future. The educational level of people leaving schools now is shocking across the board but particularly in the skills needed for the information age - lateral thinking, creativity and problem solving,"