Tag Archives: Mr Ater

The danger ahead

It was the BBC that gave me an insight I had not been aware of. It is easy to miss an item, even though I have been involved in IT on many levels for over 3 decades. It is just not possible to keep it all in focus all the time.

It is kind of fun to consider the words of my late grandmother. It was the only issue we could never see eye to eye on. She had an expression ‘Johnny of all, master of none‘. It was not a positive expression! I always went the other way in that regard. Whilst most went to some ‘temporary’ master as they mastered a certain niche skill. I went into the width of IT. I got exposure to such a wide field that my knowledge covered the entire foundation of IT (yes, in the time of the mainframe). After that I started to grow the base of this knowledge trying to evenly grown my knowledge of all IT fields (to some degree). My knowledge grew from programming, to consulting, to training and so on.

So where is this going?

I wrote at an earlier date about IT and the iteration approach to IT (at ‘Year of the last Euro?‘). The entire field goes a lot further. In an age of the similar devices, last week as I was prohibited from moving for 4 hours, I decided to let my mind wander and I came up with an entirely new Notebook. I categorise it as a fat notebook and I call it the ‘True Mobile System’. In an age where Sony, Asus, IBM et all seem to come up with a different names for the same flavour, my mind designed a new approach to a mobile business system.

Was it clever? Not sure! The issue is that many could have come up with it and either they are limited to what their boss dictates or they are just not thinking in a user based forward motion. Here lies the crux of many issues we have seen lately. Their way of thinking is not user based. It is often revenue based, there is a HUGE difference!

If you have read my previous blogs (especially ‘Fifth in a trilogy!‘) then you might notice a trend. In my mind most corporate IT is now all about what is in charge, not who! So as marketing decides on deadlines and evolutions, many learn the hard way that marketing is basically the extension of the CFO (and/or the stakeholders) and as such it is all about the money. If development is the science, then marketing should be seen as the ‘tainted’ picture. The problem is that too many CEO’s and others are all about this tainted picture (and as such the perception of what comes next), the science/engineering side gets too often ignored, or just briefly listened to and after that they get shut down and pushed forward to meet the deadline.

In that regard I still see the game ‘Assassins Creed 4’ (yes that pirate game), which could have been truly great and ended up being less than that (at least in my personal view)! The same can be said for business based ideas. If we consider this message (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25859360), where Google Chrome might be considered an eavesdropping risk, then what is safe to users?

The quote “The malicious site you visited can continue listening in on you long after you have left it said Mr Ater. As long as Chrome is still running nothing said next to your computer is private.” gives ample reason for worry. The danger from our side is that this could be a topic for conspiracy theory. Was this really ‘accidental’? I am not saying it was not or was not. It is however interesting how we as computer users have been exposed to a massive amount of security flaws in the last year alone.

In my mind, is this due to shoddy programming, or is their local marketing so set on certain deadlines and as such proper testing is no longer done? I personally think it is a combination of the latter two. As additional ‘evidence’ in my train of thought, my recent Yahoo experience comes to mind.

I have been a faithful Yahoo user since the early 90’s, for me it always sufficed. The e-mail was robust, it gave me the space I needed and as such I never regretted it. Yet, since the ‘remake’ of Yahoo it changed by a lot. The amount of failures I viewed are on a new low level of customer experience and as such, at present I am seriously considering leaving Yahoo mail and move to Google permanently.

The feedback does not have any options for filing bugs or complaints. It is all about ‘submit an idea‘ and ‘send public feedback‘. To me this all seems like the marketing image left by someone who should be lobotomised and left somewhere far away from any IT endeavour (preferably forever). Yahoo mail now exposes us to additional dangers as we no longer see a status bar in certain places. So, we no longer see ‘the’ link, which I consider a bad thing. The new system also ‘assumes’ spam, so I now have to scan my spam even more often. I can no longer sort by sender, which means that organising my inbox take a massive amount of time longer. The list goes on and on. Is it marketing at the expense of functionality?  To be honest, I would need a little more evidence before I can state that as a fact to some level, but the deadline push has been visible with too many corporations and for far too long.

These issues go a lot further when you consider the article called ‘Android’s biggest security flaws‘ at ZDNet (at http://www.zdnet.com/androids-biggest-security-flaws-1339338283/). As they mention the dangers of inexperienced and malicious developers, they actually forgot about the third group, the ‘callous developer’. These firms (not the individual programmer), who are all driven to meet certain deadlines and as such might not properly test or secure their application.

It is important to note that I do not see the inexperienced developer as a real threat. Yes, they offer the same level of danger, but they are not out to harm you. You, the user, who wants applications for free (as many do) should not blame that new person for trying to get a foothold. If that developer is to be held for one thing, then in my mind it would be that too many of these freebies should bare the mark ‘Beta’ or ‘Trial’, to add an extra warning level for user downloading their new endeavour.

The big issue becomes: ‘What to do about Android?’

As the influence of android increases and interacts with all manner of devices in other ways (like with a person’s Sony-id account, so that a gamer keeps online with friends and achievements when they are not at home), gives way that security flaws become more and more harmful. More important, as we become more and more oblivious of the interaction, we might be spreading all our personal details all over the internet and that danger could grow exponentially with every additional application.

These events also shine an interesting light on an article that was in the Guardian last Friday (at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/24/justify-gchq-mass-surveillance-european-court-human-rights). When we consider the issues I listed on application security, we should take a second look at the quote in the article “Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This legal challenge is an essential part of getting to the bottom of why the public and parliament have not been properly informed about the scale of surveillance and why our privacy has been subverted on an industrial scale.’

Perhaps the quote could also be read as “Speed and disregard of proper development has allowed for open access to many computers and devices, which allows for almost complete collection and stored and such storage can only be done by just a few. This open level of availability allows the NSA and GCHQ (amongst others) to collect open source intelligence, hoping to gain the upper hand in the war on terror.

I am not stating this is the case, but it could be seen as such. In that regard I call for the issue I mentioned in a previous blog called ‘Internet Privacy?‘ on December 27th, where we see the dangers of some applications (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/27/snapchat-may-be-exposed-hackers). If we consider the dangers consumes are exposed to for whatever reason, it seems odd that Big Brother watch is not more outspoken on the industrial subversion of privacy by software designers.

So here we get back to the beginning of this blog where I wrote “I designed a new way for a mobile business system.” As Microsoft has moved into a field of computers utilising an approach in the air of “With our computers you do not need to use the brain you never had in the first place“. An automated system that assumes all the time to cover 95% of its users, loaded with gaps and security flaws.

People need to get licensed to get a gun, drive a car, a boat or a plane. Yet, the dangers that computers expose us to are currently not dealt with in any serious way. I reckon that in the next two years identity theft and identity fraud will be regularly in the back of our minds, as it grows into the very visible danger it already is. If we look at some of the numbers then I could speculate that 90% of the people will directly know one victim of identity fraud or identity theft. Lexis Nexis, in their paper ‘2013 LexisNexis® True Cost of Fraud Study‘ state numbers that should scare us all. In 2013, 58% of the merchants were confronted with credit card fraud and 36% of the 2013 population was confronted with lost or stolen merchandise. These numbers by themselves are not that useful as such (at http://www.lexisnexis.com/risk/downloads/assets/true-cost-fraud-2013.pdf). Yet consider that 12.6 million U.S. adult victims of identity fraud had to deal on average with $1,653 of damage per fraud victim. The total amount becomes a staggering one and this is just the US! As technology is not properly attuned to a better level of security, but to set to please a growing marketable population these dangers will only increase. This is the true danger ahead, not what the government can see. In that regard Foreign Secretary William Hague is quite correct when he states “law-biding members of the public have nothing to fear“.

 

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