Monday, 23 April 2012

Cloud computing – told you so

It's happened to Iran. Twice now. If Francis Maude and others have their way, it will happen to the UK.

The Guardian:-


Iranian oil ministry hit by cyber-attack



Iran's main oil export terminal is cut off from internet after apparent attack on website and communications systems


Saeed Kamali Dehghan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 April 2012 17.10 BST


Iran's oil ministry has called a crisis meeting after its main website and internal communications system were hit by an apparent cyber-attack that forced authorities to cut off the country's oil export terminal from the internet.

Local news agencies reported on Monday that a virus had struck the computer and communication systems of Iran's main oil export facilities on Kharg Island as well as the internal network and the websites of its oil ministry and subsidiary organisations.

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted ministry officials as saying an investigation was under way. "We are making plans to neutralise this cyber-attack," said the deputy oil minister in charge of civil defence, Hamdollah Mohammadnejad ...


• Reuters: Suspected cyber attack hits Iran oil industry
• Wall Street Journal: Cyber-Attack Targets Iran Oil, But Exports Normal
• DMossEsq: Cloud computing is bonkers or, as HMG put it, a "no-brainer"


Iran can't protect its main oil refinery from cyber attack. Even Iran. Even its main oil refinery. Dependence on the web seems ill-advised.

Meanwhile HM Government is planning to move all its data into the "cloud", G-Cloud, the government cloud, i.e. the web. That seems equally ill-advised.

Shall we ask HMG please to explain themselves? Can they tell us what Francis Maude, Ian Watmore, Andy Nelson, Chris Chant and Denise McDonagh know that  Iran's top scientists operating on a permanent war footing don't know?

Maybe there's a good answer.

If not, would they please stop this imprudent waste of public money, cancel G-Cloud, cancel IdA, stop playing with techie toys and get on with the job they're paid to do, viz. competent public administration?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Amazon, Google, Facebook et al – the latter-day pied pipers of Hamelin

The earliest mention of the story seems to have been on a stained glass window placed in the Church of Hamelin c. 1300. The window was described in several accounts between the 14th century and the 17th century ... This window is generally considered to have been created in memory of a tragic historical event for the town. Also, Hamelin town records start with this event. The earliest written record is from the town chronicles in an entry from 1384 which states: "It is 100 years since our children left". (Wikipedia)

---------- o O o ----------
The children
In December 2011, Facebook had 845 million monthly active users, of which 483 million were daily active users. That's a lot of children.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A contribution to the Guardian's "Battle for the internet" debate


The Guardian have been running a series of articles on whither the web? all week. Here is one contribution to the debate.
Every time somebody puts a magazine on a phone now and doesn't put it on to a web app ... we lose a whole lot of information to the general public discourse – I can't link to it, so I can't tweet it, I can't discuss it, I can't like it, I can't hate it.
That is recognisably the voice of a petulant teenager. So what if the petulant [teenager] can't link to it or tweet/discuss/like/hate it? Who cares? What difference does it make to anyone? None.

Except that actually it's the voice of Tim Berners-Lee in the Guardian.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Will the ridge of high pressure over Whitehall blow away the G-Cloud?

For the moment Chris Chant is an Executive Director in the Cabinet Office, he is Director of the G-Cloud Programme and he is uniquely emphatic in denouncing the failures of government IT. Take for example his talk to the Institute for Government last October. The litany of unacceptable practices which he enumerates there makes uncomfortable listening for his fellow senior Whitehall officials and for the contractors supplying IT services to HMG.

That discomfort may soon be relieved. Mr Chant's retirement was announced on 13 April and at the end of the month he will be replaced, part-time, by Denise McDonagh who remains simultaneously Director of IT at the Home Office.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

UKBA – what do the Board do for £1 million p.a.?


They're a busy lot on the Home Affairs Committee. On 11 April 2012, they published their 21st report since September 2010, Work of the UK Border Agency (August - December 2011).

No advance on their 17th report back in January, Inquiry into the provision of UK Border Controls, the Committee draw attention to the UK Border Agency's contemptuous lack of co-operation with parliament (para.79-81). Parliament is meant to be supreme. The Executive, in the form of UKBA, continues to behave as though it is supreme.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Even the founder of Google is warning Whitehall against cloud computing

In a series of articles recently DMossEsq has warned against Whitehall's plans to adopt cloud computing, please see for example Cloud computing is bonkers or, as HMG put it, a "no-brainer". One of the risks of storing UK citizens' data on servers operated by Google, say, or any of the other suppliers of cloud computing services, is that the data will then come under the jurisdiction of other governments.

Is that true?

Yes it is. The Guardian today carry an article about Sergey Brin, one of the genius founders of Google, Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin, in which they say:
Brin acknowledged that some people were anxious about the amount of their data that was now in the reach of US authorities because it sits on Google's servers. He said the company was periodically forced to hand over data and sometimes prevented by legal restrictions from even notifying users that it had done so.
It is mystifying how Whitehall can even consider storing our personal data in the cloud, as though that might be acceptable to their parishioners. The question is indeed a "no-brainer", as Whitehall put it – no-one with a mental age over 12 would have the least trouble seeing that the answer is no.

Actually, some of these articles aren't so recent. The decision facing Francis Maude was published in January 2011 and With their head in the clouds was published 18 months ago in October 2010. Francis Maude is the man in charge. Him and Ian Watmore, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office. Mr Maude. Mr Watmore. Please. Get a grip. Tell the children it's time to grow up.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday 13th unlucky for Chris Chant and the UK

Two days ago, DMossEsq published an article asking Chris Chant several questions about the government's plans for cloud computing. No answer has been received, it's early days, but now it appears that Mr Chant is retiring – Chris Chant to retire in two weeks (see alsoand also, and also, ...).

The first article published on this blog, 3 October 2011, asked if Sir Gus now Lord O'Donnell is responsible for the mismanagement of the UK economy over the past 15 years or so. No answer has been received, it's early days, but now it appears that Lord O'Donnell is a strong candidate to succeed Mervyn King as Governor of the Bank of England – O'Donnell for Bank of England governor? (see also, and also, and also, ...).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The government's plans for cloud computing – hot air?

HMG have come up with another one of their questionable posts about cloud computing. And once again, the questions have been duly submitted as a comment on the HMG blog. Will they publish the comment this time? They didn't last time. And will they answer the questions?

It's all getting very butch. Under the picture of a leopard with its impressive mouth open Chris Chant, the Programme Director for G-Cloud, says:
There is still plenty more to do and, if I look back on the last dozen years and honestly reflect on those I’ve worked with and interacted with, this is still a pretty difficult list of stuff to do and some of those people just don’t have the capability to do it.  They will have to look hard at themselves and decide how they are going to resolve that because it will turn out to be the toughest thing that they have done in their career so far.
The leopard's got plenty but does the G-Cloud Programme have any teeth?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Anonymous demonstration of foolproof Cabinet Office plans

Don't worry – this can't happen
The BBC are reporting that the hacking group Anonymous have caused the Home Office website to be taken out of service.

Under no circumstances should this be taken as an example of what could happen if the Cabinet Office have their way and all public services are delivered over the web.

The public can safely remain entirely confident that this could never happen to the G-Cloud, for example, the "government cloud" on the web in which Her Majesty's Government plan to store all our data. All our tax records and pension records and benefits records and health records and housing records and travel records (eBorders) and Companies House records and Charity Commission records and criminal records and military records and energy infrastructure records and  driving licences and passports and the Government Gateway and ... all tucked up in the G-Cloud and all as safe as houses.

Friday, 6 April 2012

GreenInk 6 – Whitehall’s idea of efficiency and reform seems to be to hand over our personal data to third parties in overseas jurisdictions where it will be impossible for Whitehall to keep control of it

The following letter was kindly published by the Guardian today under the heading Security policies under a cloud:
From: David Moss
Sent: 05 April 2012 12:50
To: 'letters@guardian.co.uk'
Subject: Rajeev Syal, 3 April 2012, 'Lib Dem MPs issue warning over web surveillance proposals'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/03/web-surveillance-legislation-dangers-letter

Sir

Whitehall’s strange attitude to the confidentiality of our personal data is revealed not only by its recent attempt to resurrect the snoopers’ web-surveillance charter but also by two other initiatives, IdA and G-Cloud.

IdA, Whitehall's identity assurance initiative, is part of their plan to make all public services accessible over the web and only over the web. When you submit your tax return, for example, under IdA you will require an electronic ID issued and managed by the likes of Google and Facebook. G-Cloud is Whitehall's Government Cloud plan to put all government data on the web, where it will be stored on computers operated by Google and other cloud computing service providers like Amazon.


These initiatives are being promoted in the name of efficiency and reform and are the responsibility of Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, the Cabinet Office Minister. Whitehall’s idea of efficiency and reform seems to be to hand over our personal data to third parties in overseas jurisdictions where it will be impossible for Whitehall to keep control of it. Will Mr Maude ask us if we all agree to this plan?

Yours
David Moss

What's the matter with our leaders, that they can imagine we welcome mass surveillance? A blogger suggests the answer


To the Cabinet Office, it is quite unremarkable to suggest that we should all apply to private sector companies for an electronic ID so that we can transact with the government, see for example this post by ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken – Establishing trust in digital services. Given that there are 60 million of us here in the UK, those private sector companies would have to be pretty big to manage the volumes. As big as Facebook, for example, who already have 30 million active users in the UK. Or Google, the company that "walked Francis Maude through the identity ecosystem". At least that's what ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken says in Thoughts on my recent trip to the West Coast with Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.

To ordinary human beings, the idea is utterly inept.