Facebook

Arguably the biggest tech story of the last month was how Facebook allowed its customers’ data to be scraped by a big data analysis mob called Cambridge Analytica.

Initially revealed as a targeted political campaign to influence election results including the 2016 US Presidential campaign and the Brexit vote in the UK, the story quickly expanded to cover far more serious privacy breaches that extended to all Facebook users. This included more than 300,000 Australians.

The New York Times published a comprehensive review of where it all started and how Cambridge Analytica made use of the data. It’s a wake-up call to everyone about the surveillance capitalism behind the popular social media companies. Some have gone as far as labelling it an existential threat.

Facebook will start notifying users as to whether their data was hoovered by third parties and are facing increased regulatory scrutiny all over the world although the proposed Australian investigation has been described as “laughable”.

Meanwhile, Christopher Wylie, the whistle-blower who started the whole saga revealed in a Guardian column, why he broke the story and what should happen now. The Guardian also had a good summary about how Facebook got into this mess.

As it became apparent that data harvesting via Facebook is regular occurrence, its share price came under pressure. The company is now one of the top 25 global companies based on market capitalisation with a value circa half a trillion dollars. Facebook is not going away. Some investors suggest the share price correction means that it is a good time to buy.

As someone who has never engaged with Facebook, I agree with the concept that maybe email is the best form of social media.

NBN

It has been five months since NBN halted its hybrid fibre cable mix (HFC) roll-out because of unacceptable levels of poor service it afforded, but a staged restart of the network construction has begun.

In what can also be read as a confession that the fibre to the node (FTTN) proposal by the current Government was a pathetic sabotage, NBN also announced that it is shifting another 440,000 premises to fibre to the curb (FTTC) configuration. Prime Minister Turnbull’s Hollowmen, spin this out to read as “1.5 million premises”.

The FTTC service has been launched in - wait for it - just two suburbs which means they are probably still testing to see how much it costs and therefore, how much they will have to charge.

By the way, whatever happened to “kerb”, which is the proper English what my teacher done learn me good.

Meanwhile, NBN CEO, Bill Morrow is setting sail for smoother waters after four hog-tied years at the helm. Telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde is always good for calling a spade a spade and he passed on his thoughts to CIO Magazine.

Spectre Meltdown

After the dust has settled on January’s Spectre and Meltdown saga which exposed potentially dramatic security threats identified, affecting most popular chipsets, it appears as though the fixes won’t affect performance as much as first feared.

Indeed, one opinion writer in CSO Magazine suggesting that questions need to be asked about whether it was all just hype.

However, there does appear to be some other consequences including the fact that Intel concedes that it won’t be providing patches for some older systems which are now missing out on promised updates.

But wait, there is more. Some pundits are suggesting that this whole shemozzle signals a coming wave of ‘microcode’ attacks which means IT security professionals will need to go deeper as the flaws will force security further down the stack.

Meanwhile, that good corporate citizen, Microsoft is offering bug bounties to hackers who want to have a go at finding similar flaws. Of course it used better spin that that calling it “security researchers who uncover speculative execution side channel vulnerabilities” like Spectre and Meltdown

In other News

Telstra has been fined $10 million for its role in facilitating totally dodgy Premium Direct Billing charges that delivered bill shock to tens of thousands of customers who inadvertently subscribed to paid services billed through their mobile phone accounts.

Telstra has fessed up and agreed to pay the fine so if you think you’ve been gouged unfairly, here is what you can do to get a refund.

It was also revealed recently that the Commonwealth spend on IT contractors and labour hire services by agencies continues to rise at an alarming rate. It has doubled in five years.

Senior public servants were quick to defend the practice, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why they just don’t just create more tax-paying jobs that get IT graduates and professionals working and directing their hard-earned wages into the broader economy.

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