Weekly Wrap 290: A cash-based Christmas

Sydney Harbour BridgeMy week of Monday 21 Sunday 27 December 2015 started badly. At 0823 I received an SMS message from my bank, asking about a suspect transaction. Within minutes, the card number was cancelled, and a new card organised — but not before hundreds of dollars had been siphoned out in a series of transactions to PlayStation Network GBR.

What impressed me was the speed at which Westpac detected and dealt with this. The total elapsed time, from receiving the SMS, to identifying the dodgy transactions, to organising a replacement card and so on, was just 25 minutes. This is why stolen credit card details are now worth so little on the black market.

What didn’t impress me was the inability of the broader logistics chain to solve the immediate problem of giving me access to my money. The bank cites seven to ten working days to deliver a new card. So not before Christmas.

The bank can arrange cardless cash withdrawals from ATMs, sending single-use authorisation codes via the smartphone app, but for some reason that can’t be done with the specific kind of account I have. Sorry, but I wasn’t about to rush into signing up for a new bank account.

So I withdrew a bunch of cash from a bank branch, and then rearranged an “everything in cash” week. A little less productive, a little more walk-aroundey. Overall, a low-impact cybercrime, but still a pain in the arse.

Articles

Podcasts

  • “The 9pm Edict’s Public House Forum #2”, being The 9pm Edict episode 54, was recorded last Saturday and posted on Wednesday night. It’s also on SoundCloud and Spreaker.

Media Appearances

None.

5at5

Should 5at5 eventually reappear, you’ll know about it if you subscribe.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Tuesday, I went to Huawei’s end of year drinks for the media at ECQ Bar, Circular Quay. We were all given a Huawei P8lite smartphone and a $30 Telstra pre-paid SIM.

The Week Ahead

For most Australians, the week between Christmas and New Year is a holiday. But not for me. Despite many services only operating Tuesday through Thursday this week, if they’re running at all, I still have quite a lot to get done. Whether it can all happen is another question.

On Monday, I’ll bring all my geekery-for-money projects up to date, and schedule the next few weeks in more detail. Laundry shall also be done.

On Tuesday, I’ll bump out of the Ashfield residence where I’ve been cat-sitting, and run some errands to Enmore, Newtown, and perhaps elsewhere, and then start scripting the next episode of The 9pm Edict podcast.

Whether Tuesday evening sees me settle into Lilyfield, or whether I return to Wentworth Falls that afternoon, will only be decided on Monday. This post will be updated accordingly on Monday evening.

On Wednesday, I’ll write for ZDNet, I think, and finish the pre-production for The 9pm Edict. The podcast will be recorded and streamed live at 2100 AEDT.

On Thursday, I’ll do a bunch of bookkeeping, and prepare my budgets for January, before doing something that can best be described as celebrating New Year’s Eve. Details TBA.

Friday is New Year’s Day, and I’ll do something significant to mark the start of 2016. Friday will also kick off a long weekend that includes, amongst other things, lunch in Katoomba on Saturday.

[Photo: Sydney Harbour Bridge, photographed from Circular Quay on 22 December 2015.]

Weekly Wrap 130: Storms, sunburn and a two-hour cruise

The week of Monday 26 November to Sunday 2 December 2012 was strange. It started with stormy weather, and the misty conditions continued until Wednesday. But by Thursday I was sunburnt and dehydrated in sweltering heat.

I should not have walked through the heat from Potts Point to the Sydney CBD, even though I could take a photograph of the city along the way.

It was also a stressful week. To the usual month-end cashflow blockage was added a series of strange problems with a client’s marketing email template.

The client had chosen to use an old template, and the line spacing fell apart in modern versions of Microsoft Outlook. Then some of the links to PDF files on their website didn’t work, with the links being somehow scrambled so they delivered a “404 File not found” error instead of the PDF file. Sometimes.

Eventually we discovered that the links broke — sometimes — when URLs containing white-space characters (such as “%20” for a space) were passed from Outlook to an out-of-date version of Adobe Reader.

Thankfully the week ended with some semblance of normality, and the weekend was restful.

Podcasts

Articles

Media Appearances

  • On Sunday morning I was asked, at the last minute, to be the bespoke Twitterer for ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra. That just means that I had to listen to the program — which I was doing anyway — and tweet about it.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday I attended the Retail Tech Forum at Wildfire Restaurant, Circular Quay, which was organised by Bass PR for various clients: Dassault Systèmes, who do many things but in this case provide 3D modelling and visualisation tools for retail environments; retail software systems vendor Island Pacific Australia; 3Q Holdings, who also do retail tech; Meridian Systems, who make “technology solutions” for the project management of “capital buildings” and the maintenance thereof; and analysts Frost & Sullivan. I daresay an article will come out of this at some point. Meanwhile, here’s the lunch menu and pictures of the beef short rib starter and the corn-fed chicken main course.
  • On Thursday I had lunch at Establishment with the people behind Uber Sydney, a smartphone-based service that provides on-demand ordering of a black town car. An article will come out of this eventually.
  • On Thursday afternoon I went on a two-hour cruise of Sydney Harbour aboard Matilda III, which was the Internet Industry Association’s Harbour Policy Party. The photographs start here.
  • On Thursday evening I dropped into The Indies’ Christmas party at the Burdekin Hotel on Oxford Street, The Indies being the four PR firms Bass PR, Shuna Boyd PR (which doesn’t seem to have a website?), Einsteinz Communications and Espresso Communications. I had just one glass of wine, my only alcohol for the entire day, before exhaustion set in.

The Week Ahead

Starting this week I’ll be based in Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney, thanks to a housesitting arrangement with someone who shall remain anonymous. I’ll be there until the end of the first week of January. Unless plans change.

This week is another busy week. I daresay I won’t get around to producing the Patch Monday podcast until Monday morning. I’ve got some writing to do too. Then on Tuesday, Optus is showcasing their 4G smartphones at a lunch in Surry Hills. On Wednesday I’m attending VMware’s Cloud Panel, a lunchtime event at The Star casino.

I’ll try to record next week’s Patch Monday podcast on Thursday, because on Thursday night I’m going to Fuel Communications‘ Christmas party and then on Friday I’m covering a one-day conference Privacy in the 21st Century (PDF), organised by the Communications Law Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Since I’m covering that conference for both Crikey and ZDNet, it’ll be sensible to get that podcast out of the way.

[Photo: The Nepean was crossed. It has been my habit to take a photograph each time I cross the Nepean River en route from Wentworth Falls to Sydney or vice versa, which I then tweet with the caption Crossing the Nepean. Yesterday I missed, and the outbound train was already at Emu Plains before I could take a snapshot.]

ASIO’s got it easy, says terrorism expert

“ASIO don’t seem to realise how privileged they are compared to intel orgs in other Western democracies,” tweeted terrorism researcher Andrew Zammit (pictured) yesterday.

Zammit is a researcher at the Global Terrorism Research Centre (Monash University) and Australian Policy Online (Swinburne University), and he was responding to my blog post from yesterday, “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?” and the attached podcast.

Here are his subsequent tweets, turned into continuous prose:

CIA for example has ongoing congressional oversight (of actual operations) as opposed to our occasional parl[iamentary] inquiries, people can FOI CIA docs only a few years old (ASIO has 20-30 year exemption) and some of the CIA’s analytical roles are transparent, as in analysts will have CIA business cards whereas even an ASIO kitchen hand’s identity will be kept secret. And CIA isn’t even a domestically-focused agency. So yes, ASIO needs to be less precious about being asked questions.

I agree. From the perspective of the United States I’m a foreign national, yet I’ve spoken with officers from the FBI, NSA and the Secret Service — all of whom had business cards with their full names. The closest I’ve gotten in Australia is chatting briefly with a DSD chap, one of two attending Linux.conf.au in January this year — given names only, and I suspect that those given names were really in scare quotes.

The excuse always given is “operational security”, but I do think the world has changed. The tools and methods are surely not so different from SEKRIT agencies to private-sector security companies and even analysis in non-security realms, given that so much technology is now available off the shelf to all comers.

Surely these days OPSEC is more about protecting sources and the specific operations that are or are not being conducted?

Of course I really don’t know this stuff. I’ve never worked in this field. I’ve never even held a security clearance. I’m just an interested bystander mouthing off. But I am intrigued.

Transcript: Hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

Back in February I spoke at the “Freedom of Information? panel held in Redfern by Recordkeeping Roundtable. I’ve previously posted the audio of my contribution. Here’s a transcript.

Recordkeeping Roundtable’s website has the raw transcript as supplied, but I’ve decided to edit it up a little to make it more readable. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Transcript: Hacking and irrational actors in Redfern”

Talking hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

The Recordkeeping Roundtable panel “Freedom of Information?” held on 29 February was recorded, and here’s the audio.

The promo, as I told you earlier said:

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely and appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods — are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

I was the first speaker, talking about the new, disorderly ways of liberating information, using the Anonymous crack of Stratfor as an example. Since then, though, we’ve discovered that the whole thing might have been an FBI sting operation against WikiLeaks!

Recordkeeping Roundtable has posted the audio of the entire event: opening remarks by moderator Cassie Findlay; me; the speech by former diplomat Dr Philip Dorling, who now leads the journalistic pack in FOI stuff; the speech by Tim Robinson, Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney; and the question and answer session.

Here, though, is a tweaked and slightly less bandwidth-hungry version of my speech.

Play

[The original audio recording by Cassie Findlay was sampled at 44.1kHz. This version has the audio levels compressed and normalised, and re-sampled to 22.050kHz. It’s posted here under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.]

[Update 26 May 2012: A transcript of what I said is now available.]