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Showing posts from November, 2005

Fly Me to the Moon

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A mad Tuesday of filming with my ten year old daughter, thanks to a story about her flying skills in the Daily Express.

Seven hours in the bitter cold with film crews from Meridian TV, the BBC , whose website coverage can be seen here.

I think it was all a bit much for a ten year old and I lost count of the number of flights we made with cameras in the back and minicams taped to the dash in front. It would have been so much easier if they had pooled their footage but of course they aren’t going to do that, so we all froze, poor Charlotte worst of all.

Anyway, the BBC and Meridian stories looked very good last night and I’ll reserve judgement on Richard & Judy, yet to come!

Online Fraud Set to Soar

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The Sunday Times reports that Internet experts are predicting a surge in online fraud over the festive season as record numbers of shoppers are expected to turn to the internet in search of Christmas bargains.

IMRG, the internet retail monitoring group, estimates that UK shoppers will spend £5 billion on 24 million online purchases over the Christmas period. The sheer volume of online spending has prompted criminal gangs to venture on to the internet in search of rich pickings from shoppers who fail to take the necessary security precautions with their card purchases.

Online fraud now accounts for more than half the overall losses to card-not-present fraud, which rose to £90.6 million in the first half of this year, up 29 per cent on the previous year.

Linux, Evidence of Evolution or Intelligent Design

I was thinking of writing a piece on Open Source with the title, “Linux, evidence of evolution or intelligent design” and might get there yet.

Looking at the response to my last column on Silicon.com I wonder why I can write about every other subject on the face of the earth, up to and including multiculturalism and politics without receiving the kind of abuse that comes from mentioning Linux and Microsoft in the same sentence?

It only serves to confirm what I have written before and that is the semi-religious nature of the Open Source debate clouds any pretense of objectivity among many of its disciples. A sort of “Microsoft bad, Linux good” reflex which interferes with need for sensible debate on the subject.

In fact, I feel a completely new column coming on now, so I’ll stop and perhaps continue it for you a little later when I’ve thought about it so more. Until then let’s remember I’m more interested in weighing the different arguments than mud-slinging in the direction of one side o…

Santa Don't Shop

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that a record number of Britons, fed up with the crush, bustle and hassle of the high street, will do their Christmas shopping online this month, according to new figures.

Internet stores are expected to take at least £5 billion, a rise of 45 per cent on last year. The growth has been fuelled by cheaper prices, the spread of fast broadband connections and greater confidence about shopping online.

However, while the rise of "e-tailing" may be good news for shoppers, there are signs that it is ripping out the heart of the high street.

According to the online retail industry, internet shopping accounted for 8.6 per cent of all sales in October and will grow to nine per cent in December. There are now 26,000 online shops.

The growth has been led by electrical goods. Around a fifth of televisions, DVD players, computers and other electronic gadgets will be bought online this Christmas, according to the online trade industry body IMRG.

Iraq - Where's that Then?

I’m just watching the news and all the fuss over the so-called Iraq memo between presidents Bush and Blair, which, as you may know, the government does not wish to see published in this country. “Can’t people just find it on the Web”, the CNN presenter is asking the Daily Mirror journalist and he replies that they can if they have the skills to know where to look.

Now I couldn’t possibly publish such a thing and risk prosecution but I can tell you that thanks to their own Freedom of Information Act, you can find all sorts of interesting things on the subject at a US-based web site called Cryptome. Not that I have read anything on it, honest Guv!

No Win - No Fee

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Does God work on a 'No win no fee' basis I wonder? While the Archbishop of Canterbury is busily apologizing for the Crusades in a visit to Pakistan this week, in more immediate national news of political correctness and litigation gone crazy, a Muslim insurance salesman is sueing his employer, Direct Line because he believes he suffered religious discrimination. Why, because his team leader offered only alcohol as a performance incentive, an employment tribunal heard.

British-born Mr. Khan, who works for Direct Line Insurance, is seeking damages for "hurt feelings" under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Mr. Khan's team leader, Louise Cummings, said she introduced the incentives as a means of "improving staff morale and performance". "If I had realised that I had hurt anyone's feelings, then I would have taken steps to rectify that immediately," she added.

I’m sure my own feeling have been hurt somewhere in the la…

Dr Simon Moores to Deliver Keynote at GOVTECH 2006

GOVTEC 2006 - eGovernment in the Middle East: Vision, new initiatives and opportunities

Vice Chairman of the Conservative Technology Forum and Zentelligence Research, Managing Director, Dr Simon Moores has been invited to keynote the GOVTEC 2006 - eGovernment in the Middle East conference from 13th-15th February 2006, at the Bahrain Convention and Exhibition Centre, Kingdom of Bahrain.

A respected technology and eGovernment advisor to both the British and Arab governments, Dr Moores, commented: “I’m delighted to be asked to both speak at and assist in the chairing of this important conference on Middle-eastern electronic governance. The GCC states have made considerable advances since I last spoke at a regional conference in 2003 and in particular, I’m encouraged by the progress being made in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria towards the creation and delivery of both transactional and informational public services.”

GOVTEC is a high profile international conference designed to meet and address t…

China Syndrome

Silicon reports that security experts have revealed tantalising details about a group of Chinese hackers who are suspected of launching intelligence gathering attacks against the US government.

The hackers, who are believed to be based in the Chinese province of Guangdong, are thought to have stolen US military secrets, including aviation specifications and flight-planning software.

The team is thought to consist of 20 hackers It is claimed the Chinese government was the most likely recipient of the information they intercepted.

The US government has coined the term 'Titan Rain' to describe the hackers.

Soft Target - Cyberterrorism

CNET reports that foreign governments are the primary threat to the UK.'s critical national infrastructure because of their hunger for information, a British government agency said.

The National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre said on Tuesday that the most significant electronic threats are content-based, targeted, Trojan horse e-mail attacks from the Far East.

"Foreign states are probing the CNI for information," said Roger Cummings, the director of NISCC, speaking at SANS Institute's launch of its Top 20 Critical Internet Vulnerability Listing in London.

The agency is in charge of defending the UK's critical national infrastructure, which is made up of financial institutions; key transport, telecom and energy networks; and government organizations.

NISCC is working with its equivalents in the countries concerned to try to shut the attacks down, Cummings said. The agency cannot name the countries concerned as this may "ruin diplomatic efforts t…

Two Degrees

It’s only two degrees in Herne Bay and dropping, as you may have noticed if you have ventured outside.

I was supposed to take an aircraft over towards Shoreham for maintenance but divine providence intervened with a flat battery, which can happen to an aircraft in much the same way as a car, trying to turn a big propeller in very cold and very damp weather. Mind you, it’s so foggy out there anyway that I wasn’t too keen on disappearing into low freezing cloud and I’m enjoying a hot cup of tea at home instead.

Snow would come as a surprise if we get any, as the sea temperature is still too warm off the Thanet coast after the Indian summer. If it comes, then I would expect it to melt very quickly but leaving the usual roadside havoc behind it.

Keep warm.

The SANS "Top-20" - 2005

This year’s SANS “Top 20 Security Vulnerabilities” holds no great surprises but in 2005 there is a “marked deviation from the previous Top-20 lists.” In addition to Windows and UNIX categories, we have also included Cross-Platform Applications and Networking Products.

The change, says SANS, reflects the dynamic nature of the evolving threat landscape. Unlike the previous Top-20 lists, this list is not "cumulative" in nature. We have only listed critical vulnerabilities from the past year and a half or so. If you have not patched your systems for a length of time, it is highly recommended that you first patch the vulnerabilities listed in the Top-20 2004 list

Win the Battle - Lose the War?

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Some time has passed since I last re-visited the titanic struggle been the “Open Force” or is that Open Source and the Empire, loosely known as Microsoft. Since then we’ve had a new Star Wars movie and a total cost of ownership argument from Gartner has proved compelling enough for Lord Vader to decide that when it comes to provisioning something as large as a Death Star, Windows offers a pretty decisive advantage

In fact, the Star Wars saga offers a better metaphor for the struggle between Windows and the Open Source (principally Linux) movement than you might think, as this is a story which pits two conflicting ideologies against each other and which looks set to run with multiple episodes and victories for both sides, for many years to come.

“Microsoft,” report Gartner, “will remain the dominant server operating-system provider for midsize businesses through 2010. For midsize businesses,” it continues, “Linux presents many challenges, including not fully understanding the OS’s benefi…

The Man from UNCLE

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I was over at our National Hi-tech Crime Unit at their secret building in Docklands this week. It rather reminds me of the classic “Man from UNCLE” series but I think the comparison was lost on their receptionist, who isn’t old enough to remember the characters of Napoleon Solo and Mr Waverly at their secret building behind a Chinese laundry in Brooklyn in the sixties.

One of the discussions I had surrounded identity theft and how bad it’s getting. Even with lots of news and education about “phishing”, the stealing of identities and financial information online or through social engineering, people continue to be conned in huge numbers.

Here’s one popular way of stealing your details, now that more people are shredding their bills and letters. You get a call from your doctor’s surgery about the appointment you’ve just missed. “I haven’t got an appointment”, you say. “But you are Mr Smith”, says the voice on the other end of the phone. “Yes”, you reply but I’m not ill.”

“You are the Mr Sm…

Very Non PC

I’m off to Swansea a little later today and so the Weblog will be quiet until I find myself back into Manston after delivering a speech on the future of the Welsh information economy. If you didn’t know it had one, then it does and it hasn’t been doing too badly in contrast with the rest of the UK either.

Mind you, I have to be in by 5:30 pm at the latest, as Wales closes early on a Sunday afternoon and I suppose that Swansea, like Pembury airfield further on, is left to the attention of wandering ruminants.

Manston have agreed to stay open until I stumble upon it in the dark tomorrow evening. As long as I keep flying East, from Cardiff and Bristol, I should come across it, either that or Ostende, where the beer is cheap.

Back in Kent, I was outraged to read today that while the Inland Revenue are prepared to descend like a ton of bricks, upon families that have been mistakenly overpaid tax credits or child allowances, they’ve decided that refugee and asylum-seeking families will escape …

e-Government Use Remains Too Low

There’s a surprise, Silicon reports that the government is spending £5m to persuade the public to use the electronic services which local authorities have spent billions putting in place.

The 'Lose the Queues' campaign - to start early next year - is designed to support the efforts of local authorities by highlighting the benefits of accessing council services online, such as flexibility and convenience.

The government claims the UK is leading the EU in terms of the sophistication of public authority e-services for the citizen - but that it is currently below average in terms of take-up.

There is evidence that current usage of council e-channels still lags behind public interest in using them, with around half of the adult population of England saying they are interested in using online services.

I’m still here if you want any help or shall I just stick with the Jordanian and Syrian governments?

Top Gun and Friend

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Charlotte Moores, aged ten, appears to have made it to page three of the Thanet Times today, described as a “Top Gun” pilot of the future.

There’s still some way to go with her training and if you see her coming, don’t forget to duck. The small seal in the photograph is of course a vital piece of aviation safety equipment and regularly visits his cousins on flights over the Red Sands off Margate.

David Davis at University of Kent

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I went to hear David Davis speak at The University of Kent in Canterbury last night and must admit that I left with a much more positive impression of his potential ability, as a leader of the Conservative Party.

Davis spoke for two hours without notes, which was enough to dismiss the media suggestion that he’s a poor orator. He obviously stumbled at Blackpool but appears to have recovered his composure since then and I found him very lucid quick and ready to answer questions from his audience and at times, quite entertaining.

Over the course of the evening, I jotted-down several of his comments which I’ll share with those of you who are interested:

“Why is government so unpopular? Three words, Mandelson, Byers and Blunkett.”
“Trust in all politicians has been undermined by Tony Blair.”
“One third of the population depend on the state for half their income.”
“A £billion each year is being wasted by audit and Whitehall control of local council services.”
“A Conservative government would repea…

Card Fraud Increasingly an Internet Crime

Credit-card fraudsters are increasingly turning to the internet now that the "chip and pin" system has closed other money-making opportunities.

"Card-not-present" fraud has grown by 29% in a year, says the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs). Online banking fraud has also risen sharply. Apacs is promoting a consumer awareness campaign to inform people of safety precautions they can take when shopping online.

Overall, card fraud losses have fallen. For the six months to June 30 they totalled £219m - down 13% on the £253m of losses recorded during the same period last year.

The Guardian reports that many fraudsters now appear to have shifted their attention to the internet. Card-not-present fraud amounted to £90.6m in the first six months of this year, up from £70.2m during the same period in 2004. Internet card fraud made up the lion's share (£58m) of this.

Meanwhile, online banking fraud - involving "phishing" and other scams more than trebl…

Cost of ID cards Will be £500 Each

The Sunday Times reports that the cost of introducing a national identity card scheme could rise to almost £30 billion — almost £500 a card, the government will be warned this month.

A report by the London School of Economics (LSE), details of which have emerged this weekend, says the cost of integrating the scheme’s computers with government databases will add as much as £10 billion to the college’s previous £18 billion estimate


Big Bang

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Twenty-four hours before the country starts to sound like a war zone, in celebration of Guy Fawkes night, my attention is drawn to two newspaper headlines from this week. The first that an English local council has chosen to rename its “Christmas” lights this year, because of the danger of offending the Moslem community. These are now to be called “Celebrity” lights, which is nice.

The second story is in today’s Daily Express that reports the desire of Museum bosses to do away with BC (before Christ) and replace it with “Before Present.” This confuses me a little because BCE (before the Common Era) was introduced for just this purpose years ago.

What is ironic is that in my own experience travelling regularly in the middle-east and having lived in Saudi Arabia, Christmas is tolerated and frequently embraced as an excuse to exchange gifts. OK, maybe not in the orthodox Saudi Kingdom, no Christmas lights there but for over a thousand years Islam in general hasn’t been offended by Christma…

DOS is No Crime - Official

You may have read that the case against a teenager accused of mounting a denial of service attack (DoS) collapsed in a London court yesterday. The reason being that the Computer Misuse Act doesn’t recognise this as an offense.

The Judge in the case reflected that the world and technology has moved on since the Act first appeared in 1990 but this only serves to illustrate the broadly toothless nature of legislation confronted by rapidly changing methods and modes of internet crime.

The law may remain one step behind the crime to society’s cost.

Up and Down

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It seems that daughter Charlotte, aged 10, is going to be in next month’s Pilot Magazine, as a member of “The next generation” of flyers.

She may be ten but flying an aircraft, as co-pilot, is no more complicated to her than using her PlayStation and possibly less exciting. Backed-up with a little practise from time to time on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004, the basic principles of aviation don’t take too long to grasp at that age. i.e. more power and it goes up, less power and it goes down!

Better Late or Simply Late?

I shouldn’t say “I told you so” but Silicon reports that the rollout of the NHS' £64m electronic 'Choose and Book' appointment booking system is a year behind schedule.

The e-booking system is a key part of the £6.2bn NHS IT programme and will allow patients to choose from at least four hospitals when booking an outpatient appointment through their GP surgery.

The government had pledged to offer patients the e-booking service by 1 January 2006 but NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp told MPs at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing this week that while patients will still be able to choose which hospital they go to most appointments will have to be booked manually by GPs.

You may recall the TV comedy catch by Bremner, Bird and Fortune over the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) or even the report, “Computerising the Chinese Army” published by the Conservative Technology Forum.  Anyway, it’s late and everyone, except perhaps the politicians, realised, that like ID cards, NP…