Monday, 17 February 2014

Skyscape – the Surprise as a Service company

It was such a surprise that everyone can remember where they were the day that Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd won the contract to host GOV.UK.

Skyscape was so young then that the company hadn't even submitted its first set of accounts to Companies House. One man alone owned all the shares in the company. There was plenty of competition from long-established cloud services companies with measurable track records. How did Skyscape beat them?

How did Skyscape go on to win contracts with the MOD? And HMRC? And the Home Office?

How did they qualify for pan-government accreditation?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

G-Cloud – Animal Farm

Tony Singleton is the Chief Operating Officer of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and, since GDS took over on 1 June 2013, he is also the G-Cloud Programme Director. This morning he published Taking G-Cloud forward on the G-Cloud blog:
G-Cloud has the potential to reach an estimated 30,000 buyers across the public sector. Yet research carried out by the 6 Degree Group suggests that nearly 90 percent of local authorities have not heard of G-Cloud.
30,000 prospective customers. There's supposed to be a "cloud first" policy. 27,000 customers haven't even heard of G-Cloud. That's a problem.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

RIP IDA – if you've got nothing to say, say it

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.

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17:09, yesterday afternoon, Monday 10 February 2014, an email arrives saying that the Government Digital Service (GDS) have published a new blog post, Striking a balance between security and usability.

Read it, and one question keeps asking itself – why? Why did they publish this interview with James Stewart, the director of technical architecture at GDS? What was publication supposed to achieve? What is the message they're trying to convey?

A number of messages do come across. But unless GDS is trying to undermine itself these messages can't possibly have been intended. Mr Stewart's topic is the balance between security and usability. That's the question. And his answer is – you have to balance them.

Yes James, thank you, we know that, that's the title of the blog post, the question is how? How do you balance security and usability? And since he doesn't answer that question, the inference is that he can't answer it – GDS don't know how to balance security and usability. That's the message that comes across.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

RIP IDA – JFDI and the Black Pencil


... every transaction you ever undertake should depend on Mydex.
No Mydex, no transactions ...

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.

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If you're a creative, there's nothing like winning a D&AD award for your work. And as DMossEsq readers know, the Government Digital Service (GDS) won a prestigious Design and Art Direction Black Pencil last year in a specially-created category for UK-government-websites-called-GOV.UK.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

RIP IDA – JFDI security

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.

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It's that speech again, the speech that won't stop speaking to us, the speech given by Public Servant of the Year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken CBE to the CfA Summit 2013 on 16 October 2013. Just a 39-second clip this time, starting at 19'35", and the topic is security:


Monday, 3 February 2014

JFDI, Agile People

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has everything. Bunting and mascots. Cake and stickers (27'00"-27'20").

Everything except a corporate song.

Until now, when – thanks to the inspiration of Francis Maude's speech at Sprint 14 – that lacuna can at last be filled.

The lyrics below are now ready for beta release. An instance of song as a service (SaaS), it is based on a disco classic of 1978 which sold over 10 million copies when the world still had singles and, who knows, after a few more iterations, perhaps if GDS can sing it with enough gusto and enough pure mindless disco-style enjoyment, maybe they can add the equivalent iAccolade to their already groaning shelvesful of awards:

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Francis Maude: "We’re the JFDI school of government"

Last week saw a major congregation of central government computer persons at the London Film Museum.

Computing isn't that exciting. There's not a lot of news. You'd expect this event – Sprint 14 – to have been covered by all the computer media.

It wasn't.


Odd.

Friday, 24 January 2014

RIP IDA – Strange Life of Ida

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.

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In his serious youth DMossEsq read Strange Life of Ivan Osokin: A Novel by PD Ouspensky. Chapter 1 opens with:
ON THE SCREEN a scene at Kursk station in Moscow. A bright April day of 1902. A group of friends, who came to see Zinaida Krutitsky and her mother off to the Crimea, stand on the platform by the sleeping-car. Among them Ivan Osokin, a young man about twenty­-six ...
Chapter 26, The Turn of the Wheel, opens with:.
ON THE SCREEN a scene at Kursk Station in Moscow. A bright April day of 1902. A group of friends who came to see Zinaida Krutitsky and her mother off to the Crimea stand by the sleeping car. Among them is Osokin ...
You get the idea. There's no need to read the intervening chapters. The wheel keeps turning. It's one of hundreds of drearily portentous novels ideal for a certain sort of moody and ignorant teenager. The last words are, predictably:
Osokin looks round, and suddenly an extraordinarily vivid sensation sweeps over him that, if he were not there, everything would be exactly the same.
Profoundly ignorant of course, but not moody enough, DMossEsq had forgotten all about the ghastly Ivan until yesterday, and the publication on the Government Digital Service blog of What is identity assurance? by Janet Hughes.

Here we go again:

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

GreenInk 10: Private Eye Crook of the Year 2014 awards

(Hat tip: No2ID)

Sadly, there seems to have been no space in the latest edition of Private Eye for the following letter:
From: David Moss
Sent: 10 January 2014 14:05
To: Letters to the editor
Subject: The Gnome Business Awards for 2013, p.32, Eye #1357

Sir

Gnome awards Crook of the Year 2013 to James McCormick. He bought novelty golf ball-finders and sold them as explosives detectors to governments whose gullibility or corruption must also be award-winning.

When it comes to the 2014 awards, perhaps Gnome's panel would like to consider the McCormicks selling mass consumer biometrics technology which is meant to identify us uniquely and verify our identity.

Three world-class experts reviewed the literature and determined that biometrics is "out of statistical control". I.e. it's not a science [1]. By way of a practical example, they cite the charade at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Under the terms of the USA PATRIOT Act 2001 section 403(c)(1), NIST have to certify all biometrics systems before they are deployed to federal law-enforcement agencies. What the scientists at NIST say in their certificates is: "This evaluation does not certify that any of the systems tested meet the requirements of any specific government application". By issuing certificates, NIST abide by the Act even if the certificates say that they haven't got a clue whether the biometrics systems work.

It's not just the USA. The panel will be spoilt for choice [2]. Governments all over the world are handing over public money to McCormicks talking biometricsballs.

Yours

David Moss

2. http://www.planetbiometrics.com/
If only they had seen ENISA's latest report.