“Clean-up your computer month” – our guide to keeping data safe.

‘Clean up your computer’ month for January, marks the importance of organisations and the workforce adhering to the principles and guidelines of data protection (GDPR) and ensuring that appropriate and adequate security measures have been implemented to protect staff, their devices and the data they use and share. In the current climate, we all individually need to take personal responsibility of being compliant with national and local policies and practices.

It is also paramount that organisations are able to achieve cost effective storage solutions through adopting these ‘good’ practice principles and limiting how much information is stored.

It really isn’t about the use of cleaning materials and rubber gloves to ensure that your device is clean and tidy! Although, there is a need to keep kit and desks neat and paper-free in-line with ‘clear desk and hot-desking’ policies.

It is really helpful to follow the advice and guidance that is made available regarding the cleaning-up of devices for the following reasons:

  • We should only keep hold of data; comprising of emails, attachments, case details and other documentation and information, to meet our specific business need. With the introduction of the GDPR guidelines earlier this year, it is even more pertinent for individuals, teams and organisations to be really vigilant about which data is retained and for how long. And we are obliged to ask data owners if they want us to keep this information through the use of the ‘privacy’ guidelines. Organisations need to clearly articulate their retention, archiving and disposal policy guidelines. (See – insert link to GDPR best practice)
  • We need to ensure that adequate, reliable security measures are in place to prevent the misuse of the data that we hold. If we need to  share data with partners and other agencies, then it can be done in a secure manner. We also need to be careful that if a device is lost or stolen, that the security protection that has been deployed will prevent access to data unlawfully.
  • It is a known fact that the more data that is kept, the more storage capacity is required. This poses a number of issues for organisations:
    • information overflow – a need to ensure that there is clarity about what is kept for how long and how this is managed and stored
    • investment in robust document management systems to ensure the electronic safeguarding of information, rather than being riddled with tons of paper! To reduce cost, it is necessary to limit how much data we keep
    • physical, virtual or cloud storage – the more we need to store, the more expensive our storage solution. As more and more organisations review their infrastructure and storage solutions, it is an ideal opportunity to reduce the amount of data that is kept, so that storage is optimised and made as cost effective as possible.

The start of a new year and the opportunity to refresh the approach to using, storing and sharing data and keeping devices secure! Please take the necessary actions to ensure that these guidelines and best practice are followed to protect yourself and any potential mis-management of data.

“Clean-up your computer month” – our guide to keeping data safe.

Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (21/12/18)

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It’s Friday. It’s the roundup. It must be time for Facebook Disaster of the Week – and this one’s a classic balls-up.

The social network – which, amazingly, continues to operate – has revealed the discovery of a bug that exposed nearly seven million of its long-suffering users’ photos.

According to Facebook, during September up to 1,500 third-party apps gained access to a ‘broader set of photos than usual’.

What makes all of this particular poignant/gruesome is the offer Facebook made last year for users to send it their most intimate photos as part of an effort to tackle revenge porn.

I suggested at the time that only the bravest of souls would send in their most private of pics, what with the firm being submerged in a ocean of fishiness and ineptitude even then – and this year has seen that risible sea deepen to the point that I doubt even a specialised Elon Musk submarine can save it.

Anyhow, Facebook says it plans to notify the victims of the latest screwup, and explained itself thusly: ‘When someone gives permission for an app to access their photos on Facebook, we usually only grant the app access to photos people share on their timeline.

‘In this case, the bug potentially gave developers access to other photos.’

Have you been affected by this present fiasco? Please let us know why you haven’t shut down your Facebook account.

***

Poor old Uber has been found wanting by the forces of justice, and must now treat its workers like human beings.

Actually, it must now treat its workers as workers after the Court of Appeal ruled that the firm could no longer regard its drivers as self-employed; meaning – the horror! – that they are entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the minimum wage.

Of course, these entitlements could be short-lived when the genius of Brexit crash lands into the UK mainland in March and destroys 40 years of carefully crafted employment law – but who cares anymore, right? Sovereignty! Woo! Go Brexit!

Anyhow, the action was brought by two former Uber drivers, one of whom is Yaseen Aslam, chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union, and he had this to say: ‘I am delighted today’s ruling brings us closer to the ending of Uber’s abuse of precarious workers made possible by tactics of contract trickery, psychological manipulation and old-fashioned bullying.’

Hard to put it any better than that – however, responding to Uber’s plans to appeal the decision, thus further delaying the implementation of the treat workers well edict, Mr Farrar outdid himself with: ‘This is nothing more than a cynical ploy to delay inevitable changes to its business model while it pursues a record breaking $120bn stock market flotation.’

Greedy, greedy Uber! Just like Facebook, very greedy and very sloppy with its users’ data. Rich, sloppy, disdainful and shady. We’ve let these firms take over our lives, folks. What are we thinking?

***

And now it’s time for a look back over the year that everyone’s calling ‘2018’ – not all of which has been about Russia, China and Facebook.

Things kicked off with the disconcerting news that many CPUs are vulnerable to hackers. AMD, ARM and Intel chips were all apparently prone to a number of weaknesses. Interestingly, the story seems to have gone very quiet over the last six months, which means they either fixed it or everyone lost interest because of Brexit. Probably the latter.

In far more alarming hacking news, it was revealed that America’s gargantuan nuclear arsenal is also susceptible to hackers, in another story that has since gone incredible quiet, possibly because of most people’s attention being drawn to the deranged Donald Trump.

At the end of January, friendly Facebook announced plans for a child version of Facebook, while simultaneously claiming it was very concerned with the effect social media is having on the young. No shame! None at all!

In February, then digital minister Matt Hancock released an app – which was immediately implicated in a data privacy breach fiasco. I wonder whatever became of it?

The end of February bought moon news. 4G moon news.

(Only the end of February? This is going to take ages.)

I’ve zipped to April (not that much happened in March, honest) when the notoriously tech-illiterate Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced £9m to fight cyber crime. Whatever happened to her?

Lots of our focus this year was concerned with the hateful Cambridge Analytica. Here’s one of many stories about the scandal-filled enterprise.

In June, I couldn’t find a single World Cup-related tech tale, so had to make do with stuff like this.

July started with shock and horror! Social media firms are actively trying to make their networks as addictive as possible!!! Who would have thought it possible??!!

In mid July I got a bit maudlin with this effort about the strange story of the trapped teenagers and Elon Musk.

August brought some pretty good news: the demise of spite hive InfoWars. Well, not demise exactly, but hopefully all the frenzied liars involved in the dirty enterprise felt their pockets pinched a little bit.

Apple and Samsung got some massive fines for deliberately slowing their phones down. As for me, my October was reasonably enjoyable.

Which brings us to November and news that Google lost loads of its IP addresses for a short while – and China has built a literal fake newsreader.

That’ll do it. Didn’t enjoy compiling this at all. 

***

Anyhow, this is the last of my Friday roundups. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.

 

by Max Salsbury

Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (21/12/18)

£1.5m to support council cyber resilience

A significant number of English councils have applied to the Local Government Association (LGA) for a share of £1.5m in Cabinet Office funding to address cyber security issues following a recent stocktake research exercise.

The LGA and a group of local authority cyber security professionals will review and assess bids during December, after applications closed on 30 November. They will prioritise those councils rated as red or amber-red, the bottom two of five categories, in their assessment.

Siobhan Coughlan, LGA programme manager, told a meeting of Socitm’s Local CIO Council (LCIOC) that the stocktake had indicated that councils are relatively well-protected in terms of technology and standards, with three-fifths gaining the top two green and amber-green rating. But only one in 10 received these positive ratings for training and awareness.

Coughlan said this showed IT professionals were rising to the cyber security challenge. “But they can’t sort this out on their own,” she told the meeting, held in London on 5 December. “Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility.”

Individual assessments have been sent to each council and will not be shared with anyone, with only aggregate findings from the stocktake published. For the small number of councils which were rated as red or amber-red, the LGA has contacted both their chief executives and their elected leaders to offer support in creating an improvement plan to help them address the issues identified for their council.

LCIOC members said this was an effective approach in drawing leaders’ attentions to the issues in their council, as well as to help engage them and to get the necessary work done.

LGA cyber security: https://www.local.gov.uk/our-support/efficiency-and-income-generation/cyber-security

A longer account of the LCIOC meeting will shortly be available for Socitm members in the publications section of the website.

 

By SA Mathieson, editor of Socitm In Our View magazine

£1.5m to support council cyber resilience

Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (14/12/18)

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Christmas is on the way! Are you feeling suitably festive? Well, let me ruin that burgeoning joy with more astronomically appalling stories from the world of big tech…

Twitter. The word has come to conjure up feelings of such…emptiness. So, what’s happened this time?

The social media network’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, has been busily promoting genocide hotspot Myanmar as a cool and groovy tourist destination.

The apparently utterly oblivious Mr Dorsey rabbited on in a series of tweets about a recent mediation retreat he attended in the country, preening that the ‘people are full of joy and the food is amazing,’ and urged his followers to pay a visit.

I know we’re all desensitised by now and nothing matters anymore, but still: Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority have been and continue to be oppressed, dispossessed, humiliated, tortured and murdered by the country’s ruling elite, with thousands killed and nearly a million driven from their homes and into neighbouring Bangladesh.

But hippyish billionaire tech lord Dorsey wouldn’t appear to be the sort of man to let a detail like a lake of human blood interfere with quality transcendental relaxation time.

And he’s got form. Last month, the tech boss complained about a new tax aimed at improving the lives of homeless people in San Francisco, claiming that the move isn’t ‘the best way’ to ‘fix the homelessness problem’.

A small note: billionaire Mr Dorsey based his firm in San Francisco because the city gave him a massive tax break.

And while we’re on the subject of social media billionaires and mass murder in Myanmar, it’s worth reminding ourselves that earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was exposed for hosting deeply racist and inciteful material calling for the slaughter of the Rohingya people.

Social media: bringing the world together. Pass the prozac.

***

And while the scent of Facebook is hanging in the air, let’s have a quick look at its weekly disgrace.

Journalists brought in to fact-check the drivel pulsing around the social media network are abandoning their posts, claiming that the firm is ignoring their advice on tackling fake news.

One particularly displeased fact-checker is Brooke Binkowski, former editor of excellent nonsense-quelling website Snopes, who has accused Facebook of essentially using journalists ‘for crisis PR,’ adding that ‘they’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck. They clearly don’t care’.

Making themselves look good? Clearly don’t care? Can this be the same Facebook we know and love? Of course it is!

Even more damningly, Ms Binkowski told Facebook ‘over and over and over’ about the wave of hate speech, lies and genocidal propaganda that appeared on the blue pages in connection with the oppression of Myanmar’s Rohingya people, but the network ‘were absolutely resistant’.

The company started reaching out to news outlets after the ridiculous 2016 US presidential election, which was bathed in an ocean of often bonkers fake news. Attempting to cover its ass, I mean protect democracy, Facebook asked hacks to flag drivel and stem the flow of mendacity.

But it doesn’t seem to have worked out very well, with some lie-hunters perturbed by recent revelations that the social media outfit paid a PR firm to smear its critics by erroneously linking them to billionaire George Soros – a move coincidentally used by anti-Semites the world over.

One disgruntled fact-checker said: ‘Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumours that its own fact-checkers are calling fake news?’

Why indeed?

But let’s leave the final word to another despairing fact-checker who, I don’t believe, could have put it any better: ‘They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.’

***

I was going to conclude today by covering Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s quiz session in front of the US House Judiciary Committee, in which he insisted that the search giant hadn’t ‘programmed’ its algorithms to be biased against conservative views.

Republican senators are apparently genuinely baffled/suspicious that dozens of images of President Donald Trump appear in Google Images if the word ‘idiot’ is searched for, and would seem to actually believe that Google would have to contrive such an outcome. I can’t be bothered to go into it. Read all about it here.

So, let’s wrap things up with some mild fun. A Russian ‘robot’ has been exposed as a man in a suit.

‘Robot Boris’ made an appearance at a state-sponsored tech event from whence its dance moves and vocal abilities were broadcast on Russian state TV.

However, eagle-eyed journalists began to question various aspects of the thing’s properties and it was ultimately revealed to be a man wearing a £3,000 costume called Alyosha the Robot.

What does all this mean? I dunno. But if you run through today’s roundup, you might detect a familiar pattern, or flow, or model. It goes: Twitter/Facebook > Trump/Russia > Tech/Deception.

And I can’t see any of that changing in the near future.

 

by Max Salsbury

Friday Roundup: A Week in Tech (14/12/18)

Friday roundup: A Week in Tech (07/12/18)

I knew 5G was going to lead to trouble.

At the weekend, would-be global-5G-delivering-wonder-firm Huawei saw its founder’s daughter arrested in Canada, where she now awaits extradition to the Land of the, still just about, Free.

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Meng Wanzhou, who is also the firm’s chief financial officer and deputy chair, was swept up by the scuffers in connection with possible violations of the US’s determined sanctions against current enemy-of-the-month, Iran.

Predictably, China is incensed and the Chinese embassy in Canada is demanding the CFO’s release etc. Huawei, meanwhile, is, equally predictably, playing dumb over the accusations.

Huawei is increasingly becoming THE tech global pariah. Last week, New Zealand became the latest country to forbid the firm from bidding for 5G licenses, over concerns about where it ends and the Chinese government begins.

According to various news reports, the troubled company is under investigation by US investigative types over suspected violations of sanctions against both Iran and North Korea (how many countries is the US currently enforcing sanctions against? There can’t be many left).

Additionally, some in the US boss class believe Huawei is a threat to the country’s national security, which is very serious indeed.

Yet – all this and glaringly corrupt crime nebulae Facebook remains at large and unmolested! What do you think of that?

***

The socialist paradise of Cuba is to get a big bag of 3G this week, gifting perhaps millions of its citizens the opportunity to stare at a small rectangle for most of the day.

Until now, islanders have had to rely on weird, archaic, slightly spooky things like internet cafes, with most of the population spending their time doing whatever it was we did 15 years ago.

Wonderful as the opportunity to go on Twitter and have utterly unproductive spats with idiots is, it won’t come cheap: 3G provider Etecsa wants $7 a month for a measly 600mb, but the average monthly wage on the island is only $30 – so you’ll have to be particularly desperate to view Dave from Axis Chemicals LinkedIn update on motivational management techniques to sign up.

For a communist people-loving state, Cuba seems reasonably relaxed about its subjects going on the internet, at least according to the information I am literally reading while I write this. Internet cafes in 2013; WiFi hotspots in 2015; home connections in 2017. Give it another 200 years and they’ll be allowed to make jokes about the government.

Interestingly, Etecsa hasn’t ruled out the possibility of ‘glitches’ within its 3G fabric – which might be code for ‘don’t look at stuff you’re not supposed to’. We shall see.

***

If you’re an O2 user you may have noticed that everything’s broken and the world’s come to an end. Having said that, there’s probably a very slim chance you can read this at all, so it’s all a bit academic really.

The big network provider’s…um…network went horribly down yesterday, plunging millions of screen-gazers into pre-internet primordial darkness.

(Anecdotally, my work phone is O2 and my personal phone is giffgaff, which is powered by O2, and I noticed nothing untoward going on. Having said that, I only use them to occasionally check the weather and to see if Holland & Barrett have sent me my latest £1.50 discount voucher, so I don’t think I truly fit into the ‘deeply troubled’ demographic.)

And this is a rolling news story: O2 is still blundering in the dark as I type, but is ‘confident’ everything will be fine at some point tomorrow (Friday).

And it’s not just O2 users who are feeling the pain: the bungling firm powers a wide-range of services, such as live bus timetables and payment systems – many of which also crumbled into digital oblivion in the mess.

Chief exec Mark Evans reckons the problem has been isolated and all will return to normal, claiming: ‘We have hundreds of people from both Ericsson and O2 working around the clock to identify the issue. We are starting to restore the network this evening, and we’re confident. Ericsson have given the assurance that by tomorrow morning it will have been fully restored.’

Do you remember, oh, some months ago or something when Visa’s network fell flat on its face, too? That was quite ominous. Back in the day, TVs never just stopped working – and if they had of, it would’ve made little difference as they weren’t interactive: you just looked at them.

But today, our payment methods and, increasingly, how we interact with the material universe hangs on the whims of vast and complex digital systems – systems that it’s imaginable collapsing, taking our access to the world along with ‘em.

Have a good weekend!

By Max Salsbury

Friday roundup: A Week in Tech (07/12/18)