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The Sunday Bits for January 9, 2011

January 9th, 2011 at 09:06am

I see that Vodafone have made it in to the news for the wrong reasons again. The last time around I didn’t really care as that was due to people complaining about data throughput and call quality…I don’t use Vodafone for data and have no problem with my call quality so it didn’t really affect me. Today’s story on the other hand:

THE personal details of millions of Vodafone customers have been available on the web in what is described as an “unbelievable” lapse in security by the mobile phone giant.

The details include names, home addresses, driver’s licence numbers and credit card details.
[..]
The personal details, accessible from any computer because they are kept on an Internet site rather than Vodafone’s internal system, include numbers dialled or texted, plus the time and location of calls or texts.
[..]
“The fact you can look up anybody as easily as that seems to be a gross breach of privacy and resulting in an almost negligent exposure to criminal activity,” said Professor Fraser, who is also head of the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network.

A Vodafone spokesman said on Saturday the company has ordered an immediate investigation and review of its security.

Vodafone retailers say each store has a system username and password, and access is shared among staff and changed every three months.

Full access means you can look up a customer’s bills and make alterations to accounts.

Vodafone got my name wrong when I signed up with them years ago and they’ve never fixed it. About the only bit of sensitive data they have about me is my credit card number and I’ll be watching the account activity there with my usual vigour, but otherwise my call and SMS details will make for fairly boring reading. I’ve made two calls in the last week…they were both to work. I have sent zero text messages. Yes, my phone usage is exciting.

As for the security side of things, I’m not surprised that the retailer/dealer portal is available over the internet, but I am surprised that it’s not protected by either an IP block disallowing access to IP addresses which don’t belong to dealers/retailers, or by a VPN whereby the only way to access it would be through an encrypted VPN connection. I’m also a tad surprised that logins are store-based and not user-based. A system which grants that much access to customer data should be user-based so that each user can be individually tracked should the need arise.

I’m not in the least bit surprised that the portal grants access to the entire customer base’s details. Back when I worked for a Telstra contractor in a Telstra call centre, I could pull up the details of any Telstra customer based on as little as their phone number or Bigpond email address. It was essential for my job that I was able to do this. It is not surprising that Vodafone retail stores have such access to Vodafone customer data…how else do people expect them to do their job?

This story isn’t as earth-shattering as the Fairfax papers would have us believe.

***

From the “People who should be banned from having more children” department comes this abomination:

A COUPLE so desperate for a baby girl that they terminated twin boys are fighting to choose the sex of their next child.

The couple, who have three sons and still grieve for a daughter they lost soon after birth, are going to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to win the right to select sex by IVF treatment.

They say they want the opportunity to have the baby daughter they were tragically denied.

An independent panel, known as the Patient Review Panel, recently rejected the couple’s bid to choose the sex of their next child using IVF.

They have gone to VCAT in a bid to have that decision overturned.
[..]
The couple said it had been a traumatic decision to make but they could not continue to have unlimited numbers of children.

If their test case fails, they say they will go to the US to conceive a girl.

So they aborted perfectly healthy twins because they didn’t like the sex of the babies, and now they want to make a designer baby. These people are nuts, and if they think the US will make it easier for them, well I suggest that they go over there and enjoy an even bigger public outcry.

Forget for a moment that what these people are doing is illegal (it’s illegal to select the sex of a child in Victoria unless for the legitimate health reasons of the child), what they have done and continue to do is, as far as I’m concerned, morally reprehensible. Aborting a child for this reason is downright wrong…I generally disagree with abortion at the best of times, but then wanting to have further children AND select their sex. Sorry, but these people shouldn’t be allowed to have children…they are sick and twisted people, end of story.

***

Unlike Gerry Harvey, Westfield are taking the right approach to combating the exodus of consumers to online retailers…they’re taking their shopping centre enterprise online!

Shopping centre giant Westfield has launched the nation’s first virtual mall, grouping its “bricks and mortar” tenants into a one-stop website, The Australian reported.

And in an effort to reconnect with tech-savvy shoppers, it has hired an online “insider” to infiltrate the internet.

Alyce Cowell, a 23-year-old fashion stylist and journalist, won an online contest for the $100,000 job to tweet, blog and use Facebook to tell “shopping-engaged females” about her shopping trips and tips.

“Shoppers trust the advice from other shoppers,” she said yesterday of her cyber-marketing strategy. “The benefit of researching online before heading out to the shops is that customers can be much more savvy.”

See, this is how you compete. You do something to make your product competitive, and you do something to make sure people know about your product. Gerry should learn a thing or two from this…perhaps if he allowed people to buy products from the Harvey Norman website he wouldn’t be trying to make people pay more tax because they don’t flock to his stores whenever he gets a free run on Today Tonight. Perhaps…as long as Gerry doesn’t start tweeting about his shopping trips and how a lovely sales rep named Brad treated him politely and gave him a good deal at the Woden store…I think that would be more than anyone could bear.

***

Need a reminder about what we’re at war with? It’s the people who want to replace our way of life with this:

Al-Qaida-linked militants in war-torn southern Somalia have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together in public, residents said Saturday. People who break the rules could be imprisoned, whipped or even executed.

The insurgents already have banned women from working in public, leaving many mothers with a terrible choice: risk execution by going to sell some tea or vegetables in the marketplace, or stay safely at home and watch the children slowly starve.

You’d think that the “compassionate left” would be for the war and against this type of denial of basic human rights…but no, they want an open borders policy so that the crazies can come in and take over.

***

And the human interest story of the week. Love is a painkiller.

A Stanford University study led by Sean Mackey discovered love stimulated the dopamine-oriented centres of the brain linked to reward and craving.reported the Sunday Herald Sun.

This is the reason why falling in love can trigger a sense of euphoria and an emotional high.

In the study, the brains of 15 student volunteers, who Dr Mackey described as being wildly in love, were observed via a functional magnetic resonance imaging, a brain scan, as they were exposed to mild pain via a heated device in their hand.

The subjects were alternately shown images of their loved ones, then an attractive friend and finally asked to perform a mental skills test to distract themselves from the pain.

They had greater resistance to pain when looking at the picture of their partner and researchers speculate that is because the brain releases natural painkillers in the first stage of new love.
[..]
Dr Mackey said other pleasurable activities, such as listening to music or reading a book, could also aid pain relief.

This does lead me to the question of whether a broken heart, which is a pain of a different type, can be lessened by falling in love with someone else? Somehow, at least at first, I doubt it. And then for those of us, like me, who quite gladly avoid relationships like the plague, it’s nice to know that the next time I get a papercut while reading a book, the pain will go away if I just keep reading…allegedly…hmmm, I think I’ll stick to the panadol.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: The Sunday Bits

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