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The privacy problems of COVID tracing apps

In education IT we have a phrase — ‘technical solution to a people problem’ — to describe the use of technology to solve a behavioural problem that would be better solved simply by having people behave more sensibly or by following existing rules… rather than trying to implement increasingly baroque limits with technology, which are invariably bypassed because the problem is that the user isn’t respecting the rules in the first place. When it comes to COVID-19 contact tracing, it has become clear that Bluetooth-based contact tracing is a technical solution to a public health problem. This applies to both the COVIDSafe app, which is technically deficient in multiple ways, as well the Google/Apple Exposure Notification, which is conceptually deficient.


Old technology versus modern security

Before I get on my soapbox and discuss the problem of old technology versus security in today’s world, I’d like to share a bit of history of my experiences on internet, security and internet security. Like a lot of technology enthusiasts around my age, I started my life on the internet with dial-up and Windows 98SE. (Others would have used Windows 95–ME.) I’ve seen the transitions from dial-up to DSL to speeds that we used to only dream of. I was around when Microsoft ‘enforced’ (I’ll use the term loosely here) the use of the built-in firewall for Windows XP with Service Pack 2. I saw the attacks coming through for Wannacry, ILOVEYOU, Mydoom.


IT in the year of COVID-19

What a year. COVID-19 has left barely any aspect of our lives untouched, but in IT the change and acceleration it has wrought led to the pandemic being called ‘CIO of the year’ back in April. And it deserves that title, having shown businesses the value and necessity of investment in IT for working from home and without physical contact. Most of these technologies have been around for a while, and often employees were asking to use them but being refused by recalcitrant IT departments. Let’s go through some of them.


Working from home in post-COVID Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic that began sweeping the globe in early 2020 has resulted in several effects that have significantly changed many people’s lives. One of these changes is in how and where people work. Although it could be (rightfully) argued that many employers had already understood and embraced the advantages of true workplace flexibility, it was not until the realities of the pandemic set in that the shift took place in earnest.


Looking for work in the 21st century

I would like to pose some questions to you regarding recruitment and the current marketplace. This topic came up in discussion with a couple of friends who are looking for new jobs; specifically the pros and cons of short-term contracts, job hopping and trying to find a place that fits for both the employee and the employer. I would be interested in hearing your opinion on this — either as an employee or an employer/recruiter — and what you think the solution(s) might be.


What role should IT play in a post-COVID world?

After months of disruption and unease, we seem to be entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, what exactly that phase is depends on who you ask, and where you are in the world… or indeed, within Australia. This uncertainty is perhaps as damaging to the economy as the actual lockdown. I don’t think anyone can accurately state that they know what will happen next. Questions such as Will there be another outbreak in NSW?, When will they develop a vaccine?, Is it actually safe to send my kids with medical condition (x) to school? and What’s up with geopolitics? really won’t be answerable for some time yet.


Does Australia really have an ICT skills shortage?

There appears to be a somewhat schizophrenic collective opinion when it comes to Australian ICT skills. On one hand, we have reports that paint a negative picture in regards to the lack of adequately trained and skilled local (Australian) ICT workers. If those reports are to be believed, it would appear that Australia is lagging significantly behind the rest of the developed world in terms of critical IT skills (eg, cybersecurity). On the other hand, we regularly see data that talk to the world standard of our university degrees and the high number of international students who are flocking to them, with IT and technology disciplines regularly being in high demand.


Playing into the hands of the criminals

Imagine a world where both nation-states and criminals are able to compromise e-commerce traffic, steal banking details and access your private information at will, and yet at the same time that the criminals themselves and their activities are completely protected because, well, they’re criminals, and they don’t follow the same laws that compromise the privacy of law-abiding citizens. This is the utopia that many governments, law enforcement agencies and now even Interpol want us to live in.