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Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Episode 7

"THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DEGREE FEEDBACK!" the PFY gasps "SOUNDS FANTASTIC!!!"

"Really?" the Boss says doubtfully... "Somehow I thought that you wouldn't be all that keen."

"Au contraire," the PFY responds. "We here and Systems and Networks are only too keen to know the thoughts and feelings of our clientele. We hope to match every negative with an equally sized positive."

The PFY neglects to mention at this point that the negative and positive experiences he's talking about are those generally associated with an Alternating Current, and more specifically the high frequency & voltage output of a cattle prod – but I'm sure the Boss doesn't need to know all of our customer interaction secrets.

"Good," the Boss says. "We're hoping to gauge feedback on everyone in the company – FROM everyone in the company. Then we'll supply you with the outcome of the survey so that you can see yourself as the rest of the company sees you."

"Yes, but it should be noted that these things are fraught with inaccuracies" I say, motioning to a helldesk geek passing by. "Take this person for instance."

"David," David says quietly

"Sure, David," I say. "Now David, what are your general thoughts and feelings about the service you get from IT support? Just off the top of your head. Pretend that this is a completely anonymous survey and that your Boss – the person who pays your salary and approves your pay rises – isn't listening. What do you think of the IT middle management?"

"They're... OK." David mumbles.

"And what could he do better?" the PFY asks.

"I... don't know. I can't think of anything offhand."

"Which is where the system falls down," I say to the Boss. "The Heisenberg theory of surveys – the act of surveying is bound to be affected by the fear of survey observation and payback."

"The survey will be anonymous," the Boss counters.

"Of course it will. Hands up who believes that?"

No one moves.

"I rest my case. In these days of cookies, digital signatures and digital presence no one believes that anything's truly anonymous! You'll fill out a feedback form saying the head of security is an alcoholic time waster with a penchant for hanging around in the Men's toilets and the next thing you know your access card doesn't work, your car's been broken into and there's a steaming turd in your glove box."

"It's anonymous – there'll be no way anyone can find out who said what!"

"Yuh-huh. Like no one could possibly know who charged an advance copy of Duke Nukem to my company credit card," I say, looking at the PFY, "or who voted in favour of charging contracting staff 500 quid a year for car parks," I add, looking at the Boss, "or who mumbled about psychopathic systems administrators on the phone to his mother at lunchtime." David blushes.

"It's going through a third-party site and it's over an ssl encrypted tunnel," the Boss says, repeating the complicated words he's heard like magic charms. "They're not going to pass on any identifying information. There's no way anyone will be targeted as a result of this survey."

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