Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/21/letters_2110/
Yellow dots a symptom of technology bird-flu?
And get ready for a Time Lord fist-fight
Letters Here's a weird thing we found out this week: if you are Cuban, and want to buy a mobile phone in Cuba, you need a foreigner to sign up  for one for you. How's that for user-friendly? Almost as good as the Qatar city of Doha where, in the 1980's at least, you had to be a registered alcoholic in order to buy a drink:
Exactly how would you expect Castro to open the country to new technology. Or to be more precise, under the stupid, pig headed US embargoes of the country, exactly how would you propose they generate the required foreign currency to pay for all these shiny new gadgets you're so keen for the Cubans to have.
Now while I sympathise greatly, and wish they had all the shiny new things their hearts could desire (After all, he who dies with the most gadgets wins), perhaps time would be better spent forcing the US to stop the crap & treat them at least as well as they treat other countries that had revolutions such as China...
With regards to your article on Cuban Pre Pay Issues. I used to work at a large multinational supplier of Mobile Comms systems who's customers were spread around the world from the Central African Republic, to Switzerland, Latvia and the USA. We provided the computer systems that allowed for Pre Pay services to be offered. THings such as the real time rating of calls, to the handling of SMS.
Anyway, I worked on the design for the solution for Cubacel back in 2001/2. Cubacel had asked for all the usual things, but along with this they needed the ability for dual currency (Pesos and USD) even though the USD was technically illegal in Cuba, and the other strange thing was that there had to be an interface to the national accounts to allow for the government to credit every pre pay user's account with credit every month.
We spent ages trying to get all this to work, and quoted for it at a reasonable price (relatively of course). Then came the real kicker. Even though we had to make it possible for subscribers to op up using USD, we weren't allowed to use ANY American hardware. This initially pushed the price beyond the limits of sanity, and finally lead to the collapse of the deal.
So all in all, I'm not overly surprised that coverage is patchy, service poor and problems arise. Mind you the people from Cubacel I dealt with were the nicest of any of the operators I spoke to in my three years there. Much nicer than those troublesome Bahamians.
On my visit to Cuba this summer the country was very welcoming! Admittedly it took a little while at immigration but that was just checking passports. Mobile phone coverage was limited to the tourist areas but then the majority of locals only have enough money to live, let alone own and use a mobile phone. And in my hotel there was broadband - a little slow but worked fine! It wasn't even restricted like other communist countries.
Plus it was a lovely country with very friendly locals.
Also surfacing this week were suggestions that management might be starting to listen  to advice from their organisation's computer security staff. Or at least, that security staff are starting to feel optimistic that management might listen to them, one day:
It's nice that some of my fellow security professionals thing they have increasing influence in their organisations ("According to the survey, the efforts of many in the profession to sell their value to the organisations they work for are beginning to pay off. Survey respondents were generally optimistic about levels of influence within their organizations, with a third (33.4 per cent) saying that information security’s level of influence within business units and executive management has significantly increased.").
But hey, let's call a spade a spade here - the reason IT Security has an increased profile and budget within organisations has little to do with a sales snow job from your friendly CISSP-qualified security person and a lot more to do with two US politicians, Messrs Sarbanes and Oxley...
Repeal s.404 and s.302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley act and see what happens to your IT security budget bro...
While it is heartening that security concerns have produced some reflex response in the managerial notochord, unfortunately the flailing and kicking produced is at best wasteful, and at it's worst harmful.
Until we stop building networks based on the world's flimsiest protocol suite ( IP ) that are connected to database systems and applications built on UNIX or Microsoft operating systems, we may as well try to fire-proof a paper house.
A week to celebrate the prevention of ID theft . Break out the shampoo, er, champagne:
Three points: - isn't this "Week" just a 'spin twin' of its evil counterpart, the ID card bill ?
- what were the sample sizes and demographics, so we may determine whether this was applied to a couple of houses down the road from David Beckham, or Nottingham's Meadows estate ?
- one extra tip in your 'how to avoid' list : always ask cold-calling financials(GE Capital springs to mind - they like to ring at 8.30am on a Sunday to remind you you've forgotten your payment) for (e.g.) the last two digits of your account number, so /you/ can check who /they/ are, before they take your security details.
A former security adviser to the President of the US has said cyber security risks across the pond are being poorly managed  by the department of Homeland Security. Hands up if this surprises you... No? No one? Oh, OK then.
I have worked in the computer support field for twenty years. I can tell you that many of my colleagues and our management suffer from an overwhelming lack of interest in security and in quality of work.
The prevalent attitude is that we won't address problems because they will probably never lead to failures on our watch. People would rather bet that a vulnerability will not be exploited than close the vulnerability. People would rather continue to use a dysfunctional system than fix it.
The only conclusion that I can draw from my work experience is that most people are sociopaths and passive accomplices to business failures. I would be willing to bet that most successful computer attacks could have been foiled if the computer administrator and his/her management had done their jobs properly.
The bit in the article about holding individual people responsible for flaws is not so unrealistic. First, how about just holding the corporation that created the software responsible. That would be a big step in the right direction. Secondly, the entire product is not always at fault. Often there is one small part of a large product that is flawed.
Therefore it would not take the mind of Sherlock Holmes to ascribe responsibility for whomever was responsible for this or that flawed module.
You weren't hallucinating. You could see yellow dots  on your colour print outs. The printer company put them there for the FBI to use in case you went on a counterfeiting rampage. Feel better?
Right... I'll be paying cash, picking up in person and wearing a hoody and a baseball cap next time I buy a printer then....
Just buy your PCs in cash at PC World like me, and then forget to send in your Warranty registration card, like almost everyone...
There is surely a simple workaround for this tracking info - simply add a watermark or background of a very pale yellow, so it prints mostly white with scattered yellow dots. Or solid yellow, so the tracking dots are washed out, or a bitmap pattern encoding the serial no of some printer at, e.g., the Pentagon...
I'm sure the NSA or FBI or whoever think they've done a really clever thing, trying to find out which printer printed whatever damning documents they didn't want printed. The forgers who want to print banknotes will either not buy these printers or just use their own technology.
For the whistleblowers and activists who don't want to get caught (and can't afford to use ordinary black-and-white photocopying...), I'm sure that a background of randomly distributed light yellow dots will be enough to throw the spooks off the trail.
As if we could get through letters without some reference to the Dr. Who spin-off :
A Doctor Who spin-off? Hopefully it won't end up like K-9 and Company.
I don't think Russell T. Davies successfully 'revived' Dr Who, Christopher Ecclestone was poor, the directing was worse and the music was abysmal. I didn't like the story arc either.
Captain Jack was a humorous, but ultimately light-weight character and your description of Torchwood is not exactly inspiring. Although it does remind me of the Chief Wiggum spin-off show, where he would have 'sexy' adventures every week.
If they had chief Wiggum in the Bayou instead of John Barrowman in space, it might be worth watching.
Even better than hearing that Captain Jack would be gracing our screen in a series of his own, though, was the revelation that bird flu, while being a virus, is not likely to affect computer systems . Thank you Gartner. We shall all sleep easier:
Fantastic! I was in no end of worry with sleepless nights and cold sweats about what would happen to my ebay sales should I meet a horrific end via a transmuting virus chocking the life out of me. Now who is going to cover the procedures to ensure our IT systems are safe should a meteor the size of Australia come crashing in to the Earth.
As the sole admin for a medical college, this is exactly what my workplace intends to do with me:
Lock infected employees in their homes with broadband access and then paint a red cross on the door, so I can remotely reboot the servers for the next generation emerging blinking into the post-apocalyptic landscape.
Ah, The Reg, always on the money ;-)
"Make your workforce aware of the avian flu threat and the steps you're taking to prepare for it."
There's a global bird flu threat? Really? *shocking*
"Assess your business continuity preparedness for this type of workforce outage scenario and try to improve it (if necessary)."
Simple: It's doomed! No point in worrying about it - go down the pub instead.
"Assign someone in your business to track biological threats such as the avian flu. He or she should regularly review business continuity plans and update them in response to new information."
So, what happens if that person gets bird flu and kiffs it?
"Establish or expand policies and tools that enable employees to work from home with broadband access, appropriate security and network access to applications."
Coffins with broadband pre-installed?
"Expand online transaction and self-service options for customers and partners."
If everyone is going to be dead or at least very ill, then there are two minor issues with this statement:
a) Who's going to be buying stuff? Dead people? b) Who's going to be delivering the stuff should anyone have survived to purchase it?
"Work with customers and partners to minimize any disruption by developing coordinated crisis response capabilities."
Buy adjacent allotments in a graveyard so you can continue your business relationships in to the afterlife?
Yup, I'll be sticking with the Reg's top tips instead. Particularly the bloke on the roof with a minigun and a baseball bat for when he runs out of bullets.
I'd like to add some more to your list if I may:
- If you see a tree, either shake it (scare the birds away) or chop it down
- Breed *lots* of cats - at least 200 per household
- Poison those "nuts in red fishnet bags" things that you hang in your garden
- Fill the local duck pond with piranhas (sp?) or crude oil
- Eat as much crispy duck as possible as it'll soon be off the menu (replaced by crispy tit, etc)
- Buy shares in Rentokill or any company that makes Scarecrows
If all else fails:
- Build a desert sub-bunker and start stocking up on supplies, then learn the fine art of googlewhacking to pass the time
Giants of '70s rock they may have been, but what makes The Who experts on global pandemics, avian or otherwise?
Groan. Any more of that, and you're barred, Mike.
Lock infected employees in their homes with broadband access and then paint a red cross on the door, bugger that! I'm going to lock myself in my own home, with a big cross on the door and a note to Domino's asking them push the food through the pizza sized slot provided and the drink through the cat flap.
I think the part of your article that worries me the most is that, out of everything else I have read regarding bird flu, the advice you add at the bottom of your article is the most sensible I have read yet.
Makes you wonder about the intelligence of some people in charge and if the next crisis will be caused by bird flu or bird brains.
And finally, the news that Microsoft is one of the sponsors of the new Wembley Stadium  has caused some concern already:
Personally I won't be walking under that arch until it's had at least 2 service packs.
Fair play, Richard, fair play. ®