Shared services? Webinars? I’ll explain…


Do you like webinars? I certainly hope so or this article is going to be of little interest to you.

Hosted by a not-for-profit provider of industry-leading technology, advisory body Eduserv, a special broadcast earlier this week took an in-depth look at the world of public sector ICT shared services.

Chaired by the inimitable Jos Creese, the event featured the invaluable input of Ed Garcez, CIO and CDO at Camden, Haringey and Islington Shared Service, and Emma Marinos, Director of Modernise at Southwark Council. Unfortunately, representing Socitm was yours truly, though I didn’t appear to spoil it too much.

Emma detailed her experiences of Eduserv’s Readiness Assessment for a Shared Services Programme (RASP) tool – a free application that allows those curious about shared services to map out their strengths and weaknesses. Emma and her team have gained a great deal from using RASP, and I suggest you have a look at it yourself. Click here to access it. Do it. Do it now.

The transmission explored the issues sustainable and successful shared service models face: what works and why; pitfalls and risks, the due diligence needed for a solid foundation; typically risks; and where the benefits lie above and beyond saving money.

Anyhow, the webinar has been lovingly preserved and made freely available via the information superhighway. Click here to watch, listen and learn – and I apologise in advance for the boorish, droning voice that answers to the name ‘Max’.

And I haven’t finished yet, so you’ll have to read for a couple more sentences. Socitm is currently publishing a series of guides on shared services. Part 2 was released just this week, with Part 3 due in December. Click here for access, you won’t regret it.

Shared services? Webinars? I’ll explain…

China’s AI threatening world power, report


An American think tank has raised concerns that China’s development of artificial intelligence (AI) could upset the delicately balanced world power applecart.

Let’s put that another way: a US think tank is worried that America’s near-complete dominance of world power could be mildly usurped by China.

The Centre for New American Security’s (CNAS) report claims that ‘China is no longer in a position of technological inferiority relative to the United States but rather has become a true peer that may have the capability to overtake the United States in AI’.

Worrying stuff, particularly if you’re a fan of US global interventionism. Sounds like a good reason to invest a few trillion dollars in new AI-based weapons stuff to me.

However, the report might be a load of nonsense. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Noel Sharkey, head of pressure group the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, said that the think tank’s briefing ‘could just be sabre-rattling’.

Showing remarkable trust in the authoritarian Chinese government, Prof Sharkey said he’d met with officials who’d told him that there was no craving to build AI weapons in the country. And why would they lie?

Anyway, in the report, author Elsa Kania writes that ‘China’s People’s Liberation Army is also investing in a range of AI-related projects and PLA research institutes are partnering with the Chinese defence industry. The PLA anticipates that the advent of AI could fundamentally change the character of warfare.’

Sounds almost like a kind of military-industrial complex-style project. What a disgrace! What other countries would even dream of doing such a thing?!

I thought we were going to use AI to learn stuff, have interesting new experiences and sort out problems. But, no. Looks like it might just be used for more explosions and bullets. Ho-hum.

China’s AI threatening world power, report

Child’s play: Kids lapping up social media and fake news

baby computer

It’s not just adults and teenagers who like being bored to death and lied to by social media – children are also increasingly using the technology to pass the time, a study has revealed.

According to everyone’s favourite media regulator, Ofcom, 50% of the UK’s 11 to 12-year-olds have profiles on social media, even though most of the networks are only available to those aged over 13.

Still, Ofcom’s report, Children’s and Parents’ Media Use and Attitudes, does show that around half of 12-15s have an interest in the news, which is good, isn’t it? I mean from a social concern perspective, not just for people like me that (sort of) write it.

And, apparently, kids are quite savvy about Donald Trump’s bête noire (one of them, anyway) ‘fake news’, with nearly half agreeing that it is difficult to discern whether or not an online story is true. Many say they have adopted strategies to decide on a story’s factuality – so, fingers crossed, we won’t end up with too many youngsters growing up believing that mass shootings are performed by actors, or that Barrack Obama was born in Soviet Russia.

Ofcom’s head of children’s research, Emily Keaney, said: ‘It’s reassuring that almost all children now say that they have strategies for checking whether a social media news story is true or false. There may be two reasons behind this: lower trust in news shared through social media, but the digital generation are also becoming savvy online.’

And it’s not just the very young who are going online – it’s also the very, very young. The report shows that 1% of children aged 3-4 have a smartphone, for some reason; while 53% spend nearly eight hours a week online. Can you imagine how bored these kids are going to be of the internet by the time they’re 18?

All this social media activity, YouTubing, fake news analysis and general online action has alarmed children’s charity the NSPCC, which said: ‘Social networks are clearly turning a blind eye when it comes to children under 13 signing up for their services. For too long sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have failed to protect children on their platforms and government urgently needs to step in.’

Here’s the report, which features all sorts of details I haven’t covered. It’s really good but, at nearly 300 pages, it might take you a while to get through.


Child’s play: Kids lapping up social media and fake news

NHS invites hackers (ethical ones)


Do you fancy having a crack at hacking the NHS? Well, give it a go and they’ll pay you for it.

The health service, which saw a third of its trusts struck by the WannaCry ransomware virus earlier in the year, is seeking so-called ‘ethical hackers’ to test its networks for weaknesses (I assume they won’t hand you over to the police if you successfully breach their systems, but it’s probably worth checking first).

The initiative is part of a new £20 million project launched by NHS Digital’s Security Operations Centre, which it says will boost its monitoring service, its on-site security assessments, and the support it offers NHS organisations that have been victims of cybersecurity incidents.

Furthermore, NHS Digital is now on the hunt for a partner to get involved with the project, and is offering a three to five-year contract.

Dan Taylor, Head of the Digital Security Centre, said: ‘The partnership will provide access to extra specialist resources during peak periods and enable the team to proactively monitor the web for security threats and emerging vulnerabilities. It will also allow us to improve our current capabilities in ethical hacking, vulnerability testing and the forensic analysis of malicious software, and will improve our ability to anticipate future vulnerabilities while supporting health and care in remediating current known threats.

‘By creating a national, near-real-time monitoring and alerting service that covers the whole health and care system, the SOC will drive economies of scale, giving health and care organisations additional intelligence and support services that they might not otherwise be able to access.’

NHS invites hackers (ethical ones)

Who’s don it: graduates club in data breach

hard drive

A hard drive containing a posh club’s members’ details might have been stolen.

The Oxford and Cambridge Club, which, funnily enough, only allows graduates from the Oxford and Cambridge universities to join its ranks, has said that the storage device disappeared from a locked room at its Pall Mall base on 16 November – so if they look a bit harder it may well turn up behind the wainscoting.

Around 5,000 members’ details are believed to be on the drive, including those of hardworking advert voiceover specialist Stephen Fry.

Phone numbers, bank details and addresses are said to be on the missing data block – which, according to the Sunday Telegraph, has been described as ‘the size of a toaster’. That’s some hard drive.

Royal fans will be initially horrified to learn that princes Charles and Phillip are honorary members of the club – but then rapidly soothed to find out that none of their details were on the hard drive. Phew.

Although the club has involved the police, it has also hired private investigators to look into the potential caper, which gives the whole thing even more of an old-fashioned Poirotesque, Cluedo flavour: it was Lord Breach in the locked room with the toaster.

Who’s don it: graduates club in data breach

Man to launch rocket to prove Earth is flat


A strange man will launch himself in a homemade rocket to ‘prove that the Earth is flat’ this weekend.

American Mike Hughes, who has spent £15,000 on his steam-powered rocket, has said that he doesn’t ‘believe in science’ but knows things about ‘aerodynamics and fluid dynamics…but that’s not science, that’s just a formula’. Indeed, but formulas that were discovered, proven and utilised as a result of the scientific method. Would someone patient tell him what science actually is, please?

Anyhow, after he’s blasted off to a height of 550 metres on his daft errand, proving once and for all that the Earth is not a sphere as our reptilian overlords insist but a flat disk, Hughes plans to return to the ground and announce his plans to run for the Californian governorship.

Aha! It makes more sense now: it’s a publicity stunt. Here’s a video:

And if his theory is proved correct, what implications would a flat Earth have for local government ICT services, Brexit and the sum total of human knowledge, experience and history thus far? Please let us know in the comments section.

Man to launch rocket to prove Earth is flat

Breaking news: Uber hacked…over a year ago


The ultra-reliable, transparent and not-at-all dishonest tech firm Uber has revealed it was a victim of an enormous data breach – back in 2016!

Finally coming clean, the often-in-some-sort-of-trouble company has revealed that the data of an eye-watering 57 million customers was accessed during the hack.

Rather than reporting the incident to, say, the authorities or the customers affected, the call-a-cab firm paid the criminals who hacked them £75,000 to delete the stolen data – which they obviously did and certainly didn’t create any copies of, because you can trust online criminals, can’t you?

Of the 57 million email addresses, names and phone numbers hacked, 600,000 were those of Uber’s drivers – who the firm have attempted to soothe by giving them free credit monitoring protection. That’s nice. However, customers who were hacked – the mass majority of the victims – will not be offered the same curtesy.

In a truly stunning statement, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said: ‘While we have not seen evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident, we are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection.’

Notice the bit where he specifically acknowledges that the hack should have been reported immediately, and that by failing to do so Uber utterly failed its customers, its drivers and the law? Oops, it’s not there. Perhaps it’s in this bit: ‘None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it. While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.’

Oh well, not in that bit either. Perhaps it will be covered in a statement that comes out next year.

Under the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organisations that fail to reveal data breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) sharpish could be hit with gigantic fines. About time.

What this latest breach blunder reveals is yet more contempt for customers – you know, the people who make Uber its money. If I were an Uber customer, which I’m not, I’d be sickened that the firm had known my details were accessed by criminals a year ago and failed to inform me.

Like Equifax and many more before it, the company would rather cover up hacks to protect its business model (i.e. its money) than be honest, fess up and let the authorities do their job and customers decide what to do next.

If Uber is hacked again today, have we any reason to believe that it’d tell anyone? Nope. Maybe start taking the bus for a bit.

While we’re on the subject, you may want to have a read of our recent guide to the GDPR, which tells you all sorts of facts about the forthcoming legislation (it truly is essential reading for Uber employees). Click here to read now.

Breaking news: Uber hacked…over a year ago