Weekly Wrap 261: Two conferences, two states, many cybers

Sunset on the Gold Coast: click to embiggenMy week of Monday 1 to Sunday 7 June 2015 has been both productive and exhausting, covering two conferences in two states.

It’s a long time since I’ve written five articles in week. It’s at least six months since I’ve done four, which is as far back as I could be bothered scrolling let alone five. But of course, there’s podcasts and other projects that have generated revenue, including random geekery and technical consultancy, so “number of articles” isn’t a fair measure.

Still, this has been one of my most productive weeks in a while. Excellent.

Articles

Podcasts

None. The next episode of The 9pm Edict is scheduled for Monday 15 June, or the day after.

5at5

There were two editions of 5at5 this week, on Monday, and Sunday. To save me having to tell you this, you could just subscribe.

Media Appearances

  • On Monday, I spoke about Chinese ATMs with face recognition on ABC 891 Adelaide.
  • On Friday, I took part in the AusCERT Speed Debate. The Livestream recording has bad audio, so I’ll link to the YouTube version when it becomes available.
  • Also on Friday, I was interviewed by the University of Melbourne student newspaper Farrago. I’ll link to that story when it goes live.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Tuesday, I went to the Check Point Cyber Security Symposium in Sydney, or at least part of it. The goodie bag included a signed copy of Brian Krebs’ book Spam Nation, a Check Point branded notebook, a chocolate from A10 Networks, and of course copies of Check Point’s promotional material. Food and drink were supplied.
  • From Tuesday night through to Friday, I was at the AusCERT Information Security Conference as AusCERT’s guest. They provided return flights from Sydney to the Gold Coast, airport transfers, three nights accommodation at RACV Royal Pines Resort, and of course all the conference food and drink — and there was plenty of that. For taking part in the Speed Debate, I was given a bottle of Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2012 from the Clare Valley. And everybody got a copy of Bruce Schneier’s book Data and Goliath, an AusCERT-branded shirt, and a rather well-made courier bag. From CyberArk: A macaron, delivered creepy-like into my hotel room while I wasn’t there. From Firemon: A branded glass-cleaning cloth. From Mimecast: a keyring bottle opener. From NCC Group: a golden bath duck. From the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service: an NCIS cap — yes, from the real NCIS, not the TV show.

The Week Ahead

Monday is a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday, but nevertheless I’ll be working. I’ll be writing a feature for ZDNet, as well as returning to Wentworth Falls after a week away.

From Tuesday to Thursday, I’ll be working on another feature for ZDNet, as well as my “regular” column, as well as the running so late it’s embarrassing ebook. I see there’s an Apple keynote at 0300 AEST on Tuesday, so that may feed into something. [It didn’t.] And I’ve got an interview to do on Thursday afternoon.

On Friday, I’ll be heading down to Sydney for a media briefing by Cisco. Friday is another writing day.

I’m not sure how the weekend will go, but I see that there’s Poetry in the Pub in Katoomba on Sunday afternoon. I happened to be there last month, and I thought it might be interesting for The 9pm Edict podcast. We’ll see.

Update 11 June 2015: Edited to reflect the abandoning of the Friday trip to Sydney.

[Photo: Sunset on the Gold Coast, Photographed from the 16th floor of the RACV Royal Pines Resort on 3 June 2015.]

Adventures in Identity: ASIC Connect

Stylised screenshot of ASIC ConnectMy legal name, a single word or “mononym” that’s a given name, with no surname, isn’t handled well by poorly-designed bureaucratic information systems — that is, the usual kind. Today I launch Adventures in Identity, a blog series where I politely request every guilty organisation to fix the problem — and post their responses.

First up, our corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), and in particular their ASIC Connect online service.

This was drawn to my attention because the registration for one of my business names, Skank Media, is due for renewal — and ASIC Connect is the easiest way to do it.

Part of the ASIC Connect account creation screen: click to embiggenThe first problem I encountered is that ASIC Connect’s account creation form has both “Given name” and “Family name” as required fields, so immediately I must enter something other than my legal name to create an account — although to ASIC’s credit, the rest of the process was painless.

ASIC had previously sent me a letter with an “ASIC key” that linked this new account to my existing ASIC business name record.

I have another business name, Prussia.Net, so I decided to link that in too. But ASIC Connect wouldn’t let me. My name didn’t match the name of the registrant of Prussia.Net. Really?

Sure enough, while Skank Media is now registered to “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”, and it was previously registered to “Mr Stilgherrian”, Prussia.Net is registered to “_____ Stilgherrian”. Five underscores! What an excellent work-around.

Then when I tried to link both business names to my Australian Business Number (ABN), the basic business identifier for entities other than registered companies — I’m a sole trader — that’s now listed as “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”. It was once correct, though, as an historical ABN search shows a single-name version from 4 October 2000 to 27 February 2010. See the attached PDF.

One of key problems with this mess — apart from the untidy data that makes it look like something shonky is going on — is that these are all legal records. “To the best of my knowledge, the information supplied in this transaction is complete and accurate (it is an offence to provide false or misleading information to ASIC),” we are warned. But I can’t do that.

As I write this, it’s still before 0900 AEST, so my tweets directed to @ASIC_Connect have yet to receive a reply. They may well have a straightforward way to sort this out. Stay tuned.

I should also point out that in ASIC’s defence, they’ve recently merged data from state-based business name registries, cross-matching it with the Australian Business Register — and the latter was notoriously inaccurate.

[Update 1415 AEST: I just got a call from the ASIC staffer who was monitoring their Twitter account earlier today. This isn’t the first time they’ve encountered a mononym, but so far they’ve just carried across records from the state databases so left the work-arounds in place. In my case, they have to cleanse the data so all my records match — and they’ll need to decide on a policy so that similar cases are handled uniformly in the future. So I sent them some photo ID, and they’ll take it from here, and let me know what they decide. Pleased.]

[Update 1620 AEST: The ASIC staffer just called again. They have a system. The back-end database can handle mononyms, it’s just that the web front end has the more stringent input validation. So they’ve settled on putting “Stilgherrian” in the given name field, and a single underscore “_” in the family name field, so I can still enter something and get a match. They’ve manually updated all my records, and now I should be able to merge them. Now that’s service.]

Note: I’ve previously called ASIC incompetent and reckless, calling for a head on a spike, but that was a completely unrelated matter. Obviously.

Weekly Wrap 157: Too many spiders and dogs

Spider in my water glass: click to embiggenMy week Monday 3 to Sunday 9 June 2013 was laid low by an excess of the black dog. Most unproductive. Most annoying.

I’d intended things to be fairly quiet, to counterbalance the previous week’s hectic pace. Well, quiet it was, because it was the beginning of a new month and nobody had paid me yet. Most inconvenient before a long weekend.

Still, I did nearly drink a spider (pictured), and did quite a bit of pre-production for my new SEKRIT podcast project. The first episode will appear very soon.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Thursday I interviewed Sean Richmond at Sophos in North Sydney, and he bought me a coffee.

The Week Ahead

Monday is a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday, in theory, but I’m planning to continue my planning for the weeks ahead.

The only fixed appointment is on Wednesday afternoon and early evening, when Intel launch their 4th Generation Core processor chips in Sydney. So that means I’ll probably stay overnight in Sydney that night and cluster some appointments around it.

My writing schedule says that I’m doing pieces for Technology Spectator and CSO Online, as well as my usual column for ZDNet Australia.

[Photo: Spider in my water glass, which I nearly drank, but managed to spot it at the very last moment — and there was water everywhere.]

Weekly Wrap 154: California, with wine and Bloody Marys

Vesuvio's $8 Bloody Mark: click to embiggenMy week Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2013 was spent in San Francisco and San Jose which, I am reliably informed, are cities in The America.

It also finished nearly a week ago, so I’ll just list the things for now. Should I be in the mood, I’ll reflect upon the week tomorrow.

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • I travelled to the US as a guest of NetSuite Inc. Their largesse consisted of: return flights Sydney to San Francisco with United Airlines; limousine airport transfers (well, one way at least, ‘cos the return journey was buggered up); two nights accommodation at the St Regis Hotel, San Francisco, plus USD 100 in American Express gift cards to cover meals; dinner and drinks at Colibri Mexican Bistro; private bus to San Jose; three nights accommodation at the Hilton San Jose; dinner and drinks at ARCADIA by Michael Mina, San Jose; dinner and drinks at Testarossa Winery, Los Gatos, followed by moar drinks at ARCADIA; an iPad Mini 16GB Wi-Fi, engraved with the NetSuite logo; a 3.5-ounce tin of Wine Lover’s Chocolate by Bridge Brands Chocolate; a NetSuite-branded HydroFlask thermos; a NetSuite-branded North End Sport windbreaker (that is, a kind of polyester jacket); a NetSuite-branded ball-point pen and notebook; a re-usable shopping back by RuMe; the usual conference satchel full of never-to-be-read pieces of paper and cardboard, and endless food and drink in the press lounge.

The Week Ahead

Since it’s already Saturday afternoon, there’s not really much point, is there? There’ll be a new Weekly Wrap tomorrow.

[Photo: Vesuvio’s $8 Bloody Mary. At Vesuvio in San Francisco, the bar where Jack Kerouac used to drink, you can get one of these fine Bloody Marys for just $8. Plenty of vodka, spiced as you require, with a huge stuffed Spanish olive, white pickled onion, lemon and lime.]

Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?

There aren’t many places in the world where you can openly accuse the nation’s top police and intelligence agencies of having an attitude problem, as I did on Monday, without being visited by the men in the van with the canvas sack. Which is a good thing.

In this week’s Patch Monday podcast, embedded immediately below for your convenience and CBS Interactive’s traffic logging, I departed from the usual format to present a personal opinion.

Data retention for law enforcement is one of the most important political issues relating to our use of the internet now and as far into the future as we care to imagine, I said, and it’s being mishandled.

The Australian government’s current one-page working definition (PDF) of what constitutes communications metadata (which can be requested by law enforcement agencies without a warrant) as opposed to communications content (which generally does require a warrant) is, to anyone with a technical understanding of how the internet actually works and is evolving, virtual gibberish.

“Dangerously immature” is how I described it.

I also raised three points where I think the version of reality being promoted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is wrong.

  • This is a push for more power. We conduct so much more of our lives online than we ever did on the phone, and that means the balance of power is changing. We need to have a conversation about this.
  • The AFP says quite specifically that they’re not after our web browsing activity, but I don’t see how the working document supports that argument. And other agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), are after that stuff.
  • ASIO and the AFP constantly talk about the powers being needed to catch the terrorists and pedophiles. But the law will probably be modelled on the current law for the phone, which provides access to communication metadata to many other agencies with far less stringent accountability rules for many other, far less serious, crimes.

Please have a listen and tell me what you think.

Play

The podcast stands on its own, but I want to emphasise the thing that still disturbs me…

Continue reading “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?”