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Posts Tagged ‘ Government ’

Do parents understand web filters? Research says most do, actually

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Good parenting“Parents are unaware of internet filters,” according to the headline on a government press release that’s landed in my inbox.

This claim is (apparently) based on an Ofcom report, which certainly makes for interesting reading, but which doesn’t entirely back up that headline. The disconnect is clear from the first sentence from the DCMS release:

Around one in eight parents that do not have family friendly internet controls did not know they existed or did not know how to install them, says a new report.

Let’s unpick that, since the headline will clearly be parroted in news stories elsewhere.

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Tech City: Easy to score when you move the goalposts

Friday, December 6th, 2013

londonmap

Today is the third anniversary of the government’s Tech City project — I know, I’m excited too — and with that comes another report crowing about the success of the Silicon Roundabout project.

Among other stats, the report suggests that 27% of new jobs in London since 2009 were created off the back of Tech City. That’s right: all those ironically moustachioed, fixed-gear bike-riding hipsters are saving the economy.

Well, not quite.

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The government website that doesn’t work with IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Macs or smartphones

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

HTML blue screen

Remember how, late last year, the Government promised to start getting its websites in order? Best it pays a visit to the Department of Work and Pensions site.

There you’ll find an e-service that allegedly allows you to claim for Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and the Overseas State Pension. But only if you have a computer that hasn’t been updated since about 2005.

For if you click on the What Do I Need? section, you’ll find a fairly exhaustive list of the operating systems, browsers and – unforgivably, given this is a site for claiming disability benefits – screen readers with which the site doesn’t work properly. These include:

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How much does cybercrime cost the UK? Not £27bn

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Judging the success of the UK’s online security strategy is difficult, a government agency has reported – and it’s no surprise given it’s using debunked statistics.
The cybercrime strategy report from the National Audit Office (NAO) looks to measure the success of the government’s efforts, looking at non-financial as well as financial measures.
“The NAO recognises, in particular, that there are some challenges in establishing the value for money of the cybersecurity strategy,” the agency said. “There is the conceptual problem that, if cyber-attacks do not occur, it will be difficult to establish the extent to which that was down to the success of the strategy.”
Those challenges are worsened by the NAO’s own use of bad data, and the misquoting of reports within its own analysis.
[pquote]The NAO recognises, in particular, that there are some challenges in establishing the value for money of the cybersecurity strategy[/pquote]
The NAO cites the cost of cybercrime is between £18bn and £27bn – two figures that are respectively inaccurate and thoroughly debunked.
The £27bn figure is from a 2011 Detica report commissioned by the Cabinet Office, which has been widely dismissed as [a href="http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2012/06/18/debunking-cybercrime-myths/" title="Light Blue Touchpaper"]“scaremongering”[/a] and a [a href="http://www.zdnet.com/cybercrime-cost-estimate-is-sales-exercise-say-experts-3040091866/" title="ZDNet"]“sales exercise”[/a].
The second figure, of £18bn, comes from a [a href="http://weis2012.econinfosec.org/papers/Anderson_WEIS2012.pdf" title="Cambridge report"]University of Cambridge report[/a] commissioned by the government entirely to debunk the Detica report, a fact that is clear to anyone reading as far as five paragraphs in. However, that figure is also inaccurate and misleading.
First, the Cambridge report shows the figures in dollars, so in the very least it should be $18bn, not £18bn.
Second, the report authors specifically advise against adding up all of the numbers it provides, saying it would be “entirely misleading to provide totals lest they be quoted out of context, without all the caveats and caution that we have provided”.
And that, of course, is exactly what has happened. The $18bn figure is made up of four parts: Transactional crime, such as card fraud and “loss of consumer confidence” makes up more than $3bn; cost of infrastructure and protections such as antivirus accounts for $1.2bn; more traditional crime, such as tax and benefit fraud, shifting to the internet adds more than $14bn; “genuine” cybercrime, such as online banking fraud and botnets, cost the UK an estimated $164m an year – less than consumers spend on antivirus.
The NAO report provided two solid figures for cybercrime in the UK. The Serious Organised Crime Agency prevented a “potential economic loss” of £500m last year, while individuals reported £292m of attempted online fraud to Action Fraud. Those numbers don’t include all the costs of cybercrime, which are hard to collect, as companies aren’t required to report data breaches.
Getting the numbers straight is key, as the government has laid out £650m in funding to 2015 to secure networks and educate the public  - as well as to help UK businesses grab a slice of the “growing market in cybersecurity”.

securitylock

Judging the success of the UK’s online security strategy is difficult, a government agency has reported – and it’s no surprise given it’s using debunked statistics.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has today released a report examining the government’s£650m cybersecurity strategy, looking to judge whether or not it’s working and offers good value for money.

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Why BT should have been handed Britain’s fibre fund

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

BT engineer fibre

So here we are, almost two years after the Government set aside £530 million to help British broadband, and not one citizen has had their broadband access improved as a result of that public money.

We’re three years away from the Government’s target of universal 2Mbits/sec broadband – a target so appallingly unambitious that a former chief technologist of BT recently told a Lords committee that “you might as well not bother” – and you’d do well to find anyone who even thinks even that is achievable.

Earlier this month the Government published a progress report on how the broadband money was being allocated. “We set a demanding timetable and I’m pleased that we are making such fast progress,” culture minister Jeremy Hunt crowed. Of the 44 local authorities listed, only six had even entered the procurement phase. If that’s what Hunt calls fast progress, let’s hope he’s never put in charge of NHS waiting lists.

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Government’s piracy policy based on evidence, at last

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

downloads

The Government spent much of this morning back-pedalling from its site-blocking plans, with Business Secretary Vince Cable endorsing the Hargreaves’ Review into modernising copyright laws.

It’s generally good news, with the Government accepting sensible recommendations from Professor Ian Hargreaves as well as surprisingly useful advice from Ofcom – format shifting will be legalised (although details on how far that will extend are scarce) and site-blocking will be left to the courts, where it belongs.

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Internet censorship: the slippery slope starts here

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Hazard signsDo you remember good old AOL? The once near ubiquitous, “family-friendly” ISP that only let certain “safe” websites into its walled garden, and practically forbade users to venture any further. Think Steve Jobs crossed with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well we’re all AOL customers now: or at least, that’s what the Government would like us to be.

A few weeks after Conservative MP Claire Perry tested the waters by suggesting ISPs should apply cinema-style age ratings to pornographic sites, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has all but made it Government policy (i.e. he told The Sunday Times).

“This is a very serious matter,” he told the newspaper. “I think it’s very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children,” threatening to do so by law if the ISPs don’t get it together, much like the previous Labour Government did over music piracy and the ensuing Digital Economy Act – and look how swimmingly that worked out!

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Is Sir Philip Green the real waste of money?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

PrintersSir Philip Green is today being praised by the Prime Minister for his “solid” report into the “crazy” levels of spending in Government departments. Green has skipped off his yacht with Kate Moss for just long enough to claim that Whitehall is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds, with IT procurement one of his chief bugbears.

His findings are based on some of the flimsiest research I’ve ever seen.  On page 13 of the report (PDF), for example, he laments the money being wasted on printer cartridges. Some Government departments are paying as much as £398 for printer cartridges, while others are picking them up for only £86 – a 78% difference in price. The horror!

What Green apparently hasn’t noticed is that all printer cartridges aren’t the same. Was that £398 cartridge for the monster A3 laser printer in the Department of Education, while the £86 toner was for the personal A4 laser printer sitting on Andy Coulson’s desk in the Number 10 press office? We don’t know. The report doesn’t state.

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Digital Economy Bill: MPs didn’t know what they were talking about

Monday, April 12th, 2010

ParliamentTwo things spoilt my holiday last week: one was a nasty bout of conjunctivitis, the other was something far more ugly – the passing of the Digital Economy Bill.

Call me an old-fashioned sentimentalist if you will, but when passing laws, shouldn’t the politicians responsible at least have the first clue what they’re talking about? (That is, of course, assuming they turn up to talk about it at all: 236 MPs voted on the bill, yet only a small fraction of that number actually bothered attending the risibly curtailed debates.)

I listened intently to much of the debates. I could do little else given my eyes were gummed together. And while I didn’t expect the vast majority of MPs to be particularly tech savvy, the levels of ignorance on display – even from the Minister for Digital Britain himself – was nothing short of scandalous. They literally didn’t know what they were talking about.

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Tax return system works, um, smoothly

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

No problems for HMRCAfter last year’s tax return debacle, which saw the Inland Revenue site collapse when 204,000 people attempted to enter their return on deadline day, it’s reassuring to see that this time it just worked.

Purely for the sake of research, and by no means due to me putting it off for a number of weeks for no particular reason, I found myself going through the various steps between 10.30 and 11.30 last night. And it worked without a hitch.

Perhaps part of the reason is because HMRC has greatly simplified the procedure – for instance, I wasn’t forced to enter all the details of The Guardian when declaring the magnificent £75 I earned for a piece on its website – but perhaps a bigger reason is because the team behind the system has done an excellent job in load testing and simulating.

It’s great to see a company, or in this case public service, learn the lessons from previous problems and rare that they get praise for doing so. Somehow, I doubt HMRC will get as much attention this year as they did last: people love to read, talk and write about failure, whereas success just doesn’t make a good headline.

Which rather reflects life as an IT professional as a whole. Make a mistake, everyone notices. Get something right, nobody seems to give a damn.

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