Tag Archives: William Hague

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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Fighters to Syria

The Dutch have started a trial against an Iraqi citizen who has been living in the Netherlands for 13 years. Now he is joining the rebels to fight in Syria. In this case the trial seems to be focussing on the mental health status of the individual.

It is an interesting view. In this case it is about people who will become militant, more extreme and the fear is that these people might return to the Netherlands in a more militant and extreme state with additional fear that these events might start a wave of extreme actions.

There is a case that seems to hold water, yet will it hold water in a legal way?

1. The person has not yet left the Netherlands and as such the issues are not proven (at present).
2. If we look back to WW2, Americans moved to the UK to fight against Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Is this a similar view?

In the second case there are additional issues. These people are joining the fight against Assad. This is an internal civil war. In the WW2 case England was under direct attack by Germany. So there were other issues in play. In addition, these people all joined military fighting units that were part of a sovereign state. That is not the case with the Syrian rebels.

The issue that does not seem to be (overly) illustrated by the news at present, is that in this specific case (in case of Syria) that no matter how good the goal, these people are joining a non-aligned, combatant army. It could be seen as a group of people that are joining a terrorist organisation (from the viewpoint of Syrian government). There is supporting evidence in this case to some extent.

If we consider Humanitarian Law, then we must also accept the laws of war, which limits attacks to “military objectives.” Military objectives are personnel and objects that are making an effective contribution to military action and whose destruction, capture, or neutralization offers a definite military advantage. There is ample evidence that civilian targets have been fired upon. When we take that into consideration, then a government has a clear directive to stop this. It could send its own army to police and structure the events, yet, they cannot engage in war on targets that are prohibited by Humanitarian law. From that point, not only must these recruitment drives be stopped, they also have some level of evidence that recruiting for these tasks should be seen as criminal.

I must keep a little space for the chance that my information is not complete, or even worse, is to some degree incorrect (newscasts from all over the world tend to lower reliability a little). The spreader of the information that we see on the news might not be completely correct, or from a reliable source (not claiming that this is the case, but I must allow for this fact to be the case).

If we consider that then the statements of both David Cameron and William Hague are more than just dangerous. I am referring to a batch of statements that these two honourable gentlemen have made over the last 2-3 months. In that light, it is the statement by the Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson that seems to be the correct one. (He stated “Britain could not end the conflict by ‘pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs.’“) Even though Humanitarian Law does not speak on the delivery of weapons, the fact that it is known that their weapons are used in transgression of Humanitarian law, even before these weapons had been delivered could bite any nation that delivers these weapons down the road.

The transgressions that are currently allegedly occurring are not from some obscure part of the Customary International Humanitarian Law. No, we are only at rule 1 when we find the collision with the occurring transgressions. So by allowing and not outspoken opposition of these transgressions, we are not giving support to regime of Assad, we are actually flushing our own standards down the drain. If the convoy that was attacked last week by the rebels contained goods as well as people then there is also the transgression of rule 55 of humanitarian law. Furthermore, there is every chance that these foreign supporters, as not being a national from Syria, could be seen, if arrested, as a spy, a mercenary or a terrorist by Syria’s sovereign ruling party. That would complicate matters in several ways and its unlikely that the end solution that the Syrian courts would offer is one that the supporter will be able to live with (like the firing squad).

Whatever choices the UK makes, they should be clear and outspoken on the transgressions of humanitarian law. The Dutch face a similar act to follow. In regard to the court case, it seems to me that in the British Nationality Act 1981 in section 40 it states:

The Secretary of State –
(a) shall not deprive a person of British citizenship under this section unless he is satisfied that it is not conducive to the public good that that person should continue to be a British citizen

This means that, even though it is decently bad Humanitarian law, that if the Secretary of state can place the fact that militants returning to the UK are not in the interest of Public good, they would lose their UK passport before they even make it past UK customs at the airport. The Dutch are less lenient here. In their case you would only lose your nationality is you are convicted for a crime against the Dutch state. It would be very conceivable that the transgressions of Humanitarian law would constitute enough transgression at this point. That part is not yet a given as the current case in the Netherlands is the first one of its kind ever in Europe.

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