Episode 237

posted in: Show Notes


Cab conversations to be caught on camera

All conversations held in Queensland taxis would be recorded under proposed State Government changes to the operation of taxi security cameras.

Transport Minister Anastasia Palaszczuk emphasised that the idea was only a proposal and not a plan going ahead at this stage.
“If people think yes it’s a good idea then we go to full consulatation. And that would mean I would be meeting with the Privacy Commissioner, I’d be meeting with the taxi industry, I’d be consulting with members of the public in a much more formal way,” she told 612 ABC radio this morning.

Westpac restores systems after IT glitch Customers all over the country could not withdraw cash or transfer funds when the air-conditioning system at the bank’s main data centre in North Ryde, Sydney failed around 6am AEST.

It took six hours before ATM and EFTPOS systems were up and running, a Westpac spokesman said.

The meltdown also affected St George Bank customers.

IBRS analyst Jorn Bettin has warned consumers to brace themselves for up to 15 years of disruption as banks ditched their legacy systems to upgrade to newer platforms

Sony says hacker left taunting message

Sony, in a letter  said the hacker or hackers deleted any traces of their attack, which is regarded as one of the biggest-ever data breaches. In the course of its investigation, however, Sony said it discovered a file left on its servers called “Anonymous.” The contents of that file said “We are Legion,” which is the tagline of a loosely federated group of Internet vigilantes dubbed Anonymous, Sony said.

Sony said it had been defending itself from attacks that sought to disrupt its websites at the time that intruders stole customers’ personal information from its servers. Anonymous had previously said it would attack the company in retaliation for a lawsuit the company brought against a popular hacker, George Hotz.

Asked whether it knew who had carried out the attacks, Sony responded with a single word: No.

Sony said it now understands how the breach occurred, but declined to offer details to lawmakers on concerns that hackers could use the information to attack other companies who have networks similar to Sony’s.

Sony Australia vague on Privacy Act compliance

More than 1.5 million accounts of local Sony customers have been affected by a wave of security breaches to hit the company.

According to the law, “an organisation must take reasonable steps to destroy or permanently de-identify personal information” if it is no longer needed for the reason it was collected.

Organisations also have to take “reasonable steps to protect the personal information it holds from misuse and loss and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure”.

Despite repeated attempts to clarify the company’s stance, Sony Australia refuses to confirm if it complies with the Privacy Act when handling customers’ personal information.

Instead, a spokesman said the company was “confident that its practices are consistent with the requirements of the Australian Privacy Act 1988”.

Yesterday it was revealed that Sony Online Entertainment did not destroy a 2007 customer database that largely contained outdated information. The multi-player gaming division said around 24.6 million SOE accounts may have been stolen.

All to quick to jump onthe torrent bandwagon and sue the guts out us, now they asking for forgivness – ha

Discounts extend Telstra’s market share lead

Chief executive David Thodey told investors at a conference yesterday that the telco had gained 364,000 new mobile customers in the quarter ended March, with more than half — 197,000 — signing up on lucrative postpaid plans.

he conceded the telecommunications giant had lost 39,000 prepaid mobile customers in the period, which he attributed to seasonal factors.

Mr Thodey said they were probably customers who bought a prepaid service around Christmas but had then discontinued it.

aggressive strategy of discounting mobile phone plans has helped cement its market-leading position, with new customers totalling almost 1.3 million in the past nine months.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia moves into fixed-line for NBN

HA chief executive Nigel Dews told shareholders “I am pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement with NBN Co to participate in the first residential fixed line trial of the National Broadband Network, which will take place in Armidale in Northern NSW in the coming months,” Mr Dews said.

He said the post-paid mobile customer base had remained stable in the quarter ended March.

Total investment in the mobile network is expected to reach $1 billion by the end of this year, Mr Dews said.

VHA has been upgrading its network and rolling out new transmission sites and base stations to cope with increased data use by its 7 million plus customers.


Erik’s Notebook

Westpac systems crash in IT meltdown

  • Fran Foo

  • From:

The Australian

  • May 05, 2011 8:30AM

ONE day after reporting record profits of almost $4 billion, IT systems at Westpac have gone into meltdown.

Customers have complained to The Australian and taken to social media websites to complain about Westpac ATMs, EFTPOS and internet banking going offline.

Some users are having trouble connecting to Westpac’s website at www.westpac.com.au.

“On the back of record profits announced from Westpac, why are all their systems down today and where is the announcement of when the systems are back online?” one reader asked.

Westpac conceded it was having problems, responding on Twitter: “We are currently experiencing technical issues. Currently being investigated. Very sorry for inconvenience.”

A Westpac spokesman told AAP its data centre shut down after the airconditioning system failed.

The bank was working to restore services and expected all EFTPOS to be fully functional later on Thursday morning, the spokesman said.

EFTPOS machines at railway stations and some Westpac bank terminals in Sydney stopped operating after the data centre shut down.

It is unclear when other services would be restored.

Transport NSW said train travellers should use cash, pay at their destination or pay on return.

The bank reported a record $3.96bn net profit yesterday, up 38 per cent for the first half of 2011.

Its Big Four counterparts, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank, have had their fair share of IT nightmares in recent times.

IBRS analyst Jorn Bettin has warned consumers to brace themselves for up to 15 years of disruption as banks ditched their legacy systems to upgrade to newer platforms.

Additional reporting: AAP


Newest Aussie high-tech tycoon’s multimillion-dollar deal

Asher Moses
May 4, 2011 – 2:54PM

Robert Murray made his popular Flight Control game for the iPhone and iPad in three weeks at a cost of $50,000. He’s now Australia’s newest high-tech millionaire after selling his company to US game giant Electronic Arts for an estimated $20-$40 million.

Separately, an Australian surfer living in London, Phillip McGriskin, 37, sold his online payments company Envoy Services for £70 million ($107 million) to WorldPay this week, netting himself £7 million on his personal stake.

Murray’s Melbourne-based Firemint, which now has about 60 employees, produces some of the most popular mobile games including Flight Control, Real Racing and Puzzle Quest. In announcing its acquisition, Electronic Arts said the Firemint team was “remarkable for its critical and commercial success”.

Electronic Arts and Firemint have so far refused to disclose the financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close in four weeks. Murray, 37, was unavailable for an interview today.
However, a source with knowledge of Firemint’s sales said the company garnered $10 million in revenue a year and, based on this, tech industry investors believe the sale price would have been between $20 and $40 million.

For Flight Control alone, in January last year Firemint announced it had sold 2 million copies at $1.19 a piece.
A separate source with links to a major venture capital firm that invests in technology companies estimated the company sold for between $25 and $100 million.

“They’ve got 60 people so they’d be costing at least $150,000 a head for sure. If there’s 60 of them, that probably means they’re spending $9 million a year at least in costs; if you assume that they’re making at least $9 million a year in revenue, even just on a revenue multiple of four or five times you imagine

it’s somewhere between $25 and $100 million, depending on how crazy Electronic Arts were for it,” the source said.

“Even if you’re making $5 million a year in revenue you’re going to get $25 million.”

Murray started Firemint in 1999 after he graduated from the University of Queensland with an engineering degree. He initially did programming work for other firms until he discovered the iPhone and its lucrative app store.
The Firemint acquisition caps off a stellar 12 months for Australian technology entrepreneurs.

In July last year, Australian tech whiz Andrew Lacy made millions after selling his game app start-up Tapulous – responsible for the hit Tap Tap Revenges series – to Disney. He had previously been sleeping on the couch of another Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
The same month, Australian enterprise software makers Atlassian, whose founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquahar met at the University of New South Wales, raised $US60 million after selling a minority stake to a large US venture capital firm. They started the company in a Sydney garage on a $10,000 credit card debt.

The same US venture capital firm, Accel, invested between $70 and $110 million in the Australian online foreign exchange payments service OzForex in November.

Last month, Accel also invested $35 million in the Australian crowdsourced design site 99designs.

This month, it was revealed that online discounts giant Groupon acquired Melbourne-based group buying site Crowdmass for an undisclosed sum. It comes after Yahoo7 in January acquired group buying site Spreets.

“It’s awesome for the Australian industry – it’s a great validation of the technology we’ve built. If you look at the five or six major deals over the last 12 months, they’re all at least eight figures, probably some of them into the nine figures,” Cannon-Brookes said.

This reporter is on Twitter: @ashermoses


Vodafone Hutchison Australia moves into fixed-line for NBN

  • Tracy Lee

  • From:

The Australian

  • May 04, 2011

VODAFONE Hutchison Australia will break away from its mobile roots and provide fixed-line services to residents after finally confirming a deal with the operator of the National Broadband Network.

VHA chief executive Nigel Dews told shareholders at the group’s annual meeting today that the country’s third-largest mobile phone operator will begin trials with NBN Co in NSW.

“I am pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement with NBN Co to participate in the first residential fixed line trial of the National Broadband Network, which will take place in Armidale in Northern NSW in the coming months,” Mr Dews said.

Vodafone has struggled with mobile network issues and Mr Dews conceded the group had lost sales and customers as a result but that first quarter subscription numbers have remained steady.

“While we saw customer churn increase and sales impacted, I am confident that the changes we have made have improved customer service.”

He said the post-paid mobile customer base had remained stable in the quarter ended March.

Total investment in the mobile network is expected to reach $1 billion by the end of this year, Mr Dews said.

VHA has been upgrading its network and rolling out new transmission sites and base stations to cope with increased data use by its 7 million plus customers.


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Messaging, Webcast Numbers Skyrocket for Royal Wedding

Yahoo, Livestream and others set new records as the world uses the Web to watch a royal wedding for the first time. Facebook reported that more more than 10 million comments about the even were posted by late in the day.

The royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana attracted a huge television audience from virtually every corner of the world in pre-Internet year 1981. As one might expect, the IT communication flow around the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) wedding on April 29 brought one-day international messaging and shared video to a whole new level.
Facebook says more than 6.8 million people publicly commented on the wedding within the first 12 hours of the event. That number passed the 10 million mark by the end of the day.
Millions more people followed the London pageantry in live streams on their desktop, laptop and
PCs while commenting on social media sites.

Livestream, which partnered with The Associated Press, UK Press Association, CBS and Entertainment Tonight for its live stream, said it surpassed its own record with, at one point, more than 300,000 concurrent live streams.
Yahoo said it experienced its largest traffic for a live video event, outperforming its audience for Michael Jackson’s July 2009 funeral by a whopping 21 percent, the AP said.
YouTube’s RoyalChannel a Popular Medium
Among the many outlets webcasting the event was the royal family’s ownRoyalChannel, a YouTube site that offered live video and tweets from Clarence House, the prince’s official residence.
The RoyalChannel was so popular with viewers that it experienced some distribution problems, as could be expected. Web performance monitoring serviceAlertSite, which followed 15 sites during the wedding, found that while YouTube’s homepage had 100 percent availability, the royal wedding channel had 74 percent availability and slower response times.
Akamai Technologies, which delivers about 20 percent of the world’s Internet traffic, said that global page views for the roughly 100 news portals for which it delivers content peaked at nearly 5.4 million a minute during the morning of April 29.
That amounted to the sixth-largest traffic flow Akamai had ever recorded. The current record is 10.4 million page views per minute, set on June 24, 2010, during the World Cup soccer tournament.
IT traffic on the Web and came in surges, reported SAP-owned Sybase365, a globalmobile

messaging and mobile commerce service provider.
Sybase365: 600 Percent Increase in SMS/MMS Traffic
Sybase365 reported a 600 percent combined increase in daily SMS/MMS traffic between combined U.S. and U.K. markets at the start of the wedding, drifting down to just over double towards the end of the ceremonies.
The service provider also said that U.S. carriers nationally experienced 31 percent increase in SMS/MMS traffic at the start of the wedding — big numbers considering the times on the East (4 a.m.) and West (1 a.m.) coasts when the events began.
The combination of Sybase IQ and Sybase 365 Operator Analytics provides telco operators a near-real-time view of their messaging operations and enables them to run complex queries on their high-volume, high-capacity data store. The company’s real-time analytics and operator services are what made this monitoring possible.
The highest amount of response time, of the sites surveyed by AlertSite, came from AccessHollywood.com, ABCNews.com and BBC.com, the AP said.

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Human Error Triggered Amazon Cloud Outage Posted

Posted by Mike Vang

According to Amazon, the hours-long outage of its cloud
was caused by a human error. This could turn potential clients off from the service because of this incident. The cloud should be 100 percent reliable and the processes should be free of human errors.

The good thing about the Amazon outage is that it happened during the Easter holiday. Traffic is low during that time. Amazon stated that it was caused by a configuration error in a scheduled network update.
Amazon Web Services should implement strong
that is easy to utilize. A simple network configuration error should not be able to bring the cloud offline. The obvious errors should have been anticipated by Amazon and placed defenses for them.

The Amazon Service Health Watch dashboard announced a networking event as the source of the outage. During this time the misconfiguration choked its backup network and brought a large amount of EBS nodes in a single EBS cluster to lose their connection from their copies.
The EBS cluster is disk and server that serve as short term storage that can be used to run workloads for a given zone. In a cloud, a catastrophe happens when an EBS cluster fails. A large amount of data will not know where its backup copy is located. This is the source of a huge re-mirroring storm that caused the cloud service outage.


Did hackers really get credit card numbers from Sony?

By Robert McMillan

April 29, 2011 09:14 PM ET

IDG News Service –

Reports surfaced Friday that the hackers behind last week’s breach of Sony’s PlayStation Network obtained millions of credit card numbers, but the evidence so far appears weak.

Sony confirmed earlier this week that its PlayStation Network and Qriocity service had been hacked, and that there was a chance its customers’ credit card numbers may have been compromised.

On Thursday, Trend Micro researcher Kevin Stevens posted a Twitter message that read: “The hackers that hacked PSN are selling off the DB [database]. They reportedly have 2.2 million credits cards with CVVs.” CVVs are Card Verification Values, the security codes required for online transactions.

His source was chatter in underground hacker forums. “I have not seen the DB so I can not verify that it is true,” he added.

A few hours later, Stevens seemed to think his tweet was being taken too seriously. “This #PSNHack is turning into a bunch of FUD, it really is. I posted up what I saw to warn people, not to incite the masses to create FUD,” he wrote.

Later on Friday a Trend Micro spokesman declined to comment on the matter. A second company, Isec Partners, that had also claimed to see online discussion of the PlayStation Network hack, is also no longer talking publicly about the matter.

The evidence so far — some anonymous boasts in underground hacker forums — is “highly suspect,” according to the Lo-Ping blog, which posted screenshots of the forum messages.

Sony did not respond to a request for comment.

E.J. Hilbert, president of Online Intelligence, which investigates fraud, thinks PlayStation hackers, called modders, may have accidentally stumbled upon the user data but not actually stolen it.

“I dont think there really was an intrusion,” he said via e-mail. “I think the modders got access, Sony found it and freaked out. Technically that is an intrusion, but it’s possible nothing was stolen,” he said.

“From Sony’s view, they just dont know what if anything was taken, so it is better to claim intrusion then to [wait and] ‘see what happens,'” he said.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert’s e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com


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Telstra vote on NBN deal faces long delay

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Telstra investors expect the earliest the telco will be able to hold the shareholder vote on its $13.8 billion agreement with the operator of the National Broadband Network will be in November, almost six months later than originally hoped.

“As a best-case scenario it looks like it will coincide with their annual general meeting,”Ausbil Dexia head of Australian equities John Grace said.

Telstra chief David Thodey had been hopeful the country’s largest telecoms group would be able to take the deal to shareholders by the end of June.

But that would have required Telstra and NBN Co to have already wrapped up the financial heads of agreement spelling out the compensation terms for the telco’s structural separation and the migration of its customers to the new fibre network.

The two have been locked in negotiations on the commercial agreement since late last year.

Also adding to the delay in a shareholder vote is information on how Telstra would split its retail and wholesale networks, details of which are included in the structural separation undertaking (SSU) to be reviewed by the competition regulator.

Related Coverage

Given Telstra has been given a 90-day extension to submit its SSU to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the review process could begin as late as June 30 with an outcome not expected for some months after that.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Sameer Chopra expects the shareholder vote could be pushed out even further and may take place in December.

The delay will be frustrating to NBN Co, but Telstra shareholders may well reap the benefits of a potential six-month delay to the fibre broadband project as it will lengthen the time the group can make money from its fixed-line network.

The $36bn NBN project aims to connect 93 per cent of Australians with fibre broadband that will directly connect into premises. It will deliver faster speeds than Telstra’s existing copper-based network, but requires the telco to allow NBN access to its infrastructure and shift its own customers to the new network.

Mr Chopra notes a delay would be positive for Telstra’s market share as it will continue to reap the returns from its fixed-line network before they are turned over to the NBN. “On our revised forecast, line loss remains at early to mid-single-digit levels to full-year 2013 before accelerating to high single digits as NBN picks-up pace,” he said.

Telstra makes very strong margins from its fixed-line service at about 57 per cent, but these are set to fall to about 46 per cent in full year 2013 as more customers migrate to NBN Co’s fibre network.

While Telstra is set to be compensated for shifting its customers and allowing NBN Co to use its infrastructure, there is little detail on the nature and timing of the payments and access costs.

Mr Chopra estimates the $13.8bn payment from NBN Co could equate to a one-off decommissioning receipt for Telstra of $1125 per connected line.

This would boost its cashflows and support its dividends, which represent a yield of almost 10 per cent.

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NBN to boost video conferencing

THE national broadband network will improve video conferencing, allowing more people to work from home and improve the country’s productivity, it is claimed.

NBN Co head Mike Quigley told a federal parliamentary inquiry in Sydney the network will save the nation money in the long run and cited the use of teleconferencing his own office as an example.

“We now have in our facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra — high definition video conferencing which means large bandwidth that saves us getting on planes,” he said.

“We also expect more of our people (to) telework from home — that will keep people off the roads, which means less money needs to go into normal infrastructure.”

Mr Quigley said video was an overwhelming driver behind demand for more bandwidth.

“I would say that the world is simply becoming more video oriented,” he told the parliamentary committee travelling the country getting views about the NBN and its role and potential.

“It’s not just about entertainment, it’s about video conferencing, it’s about medical imaging, it’s about remote education.”

NBN Co’s $36 billion mission is to reach 93 per cent of Australian homes.

Mr Quigley said there was still a common misconception that NBN Co will be an internet service provider, when in fact it will be a wholesale company.

“There’s still a lot of people in the community who assume we are going to be the replacement for a retail service provider,” he said.

“We’ve certainly learned that we need to increase our efforts in that communication.”

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communication was sitting at NSW Parliament House in Sydney on Friday.


Vodafone Service Woes Cause 96 Per Cent Increase In TIO Complaints

By Nick Broughall on May 5, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Over the three months from January to March 2011, the TIO received 14,670 new complaints about Vodafone services, an increase of 96 per cent from the previous quarter. New complaints against Vodafone were highest in January 2011, with some decrease recorded in February and then March 2011. New complaints against most large service providers also increased.
The good news is that the number of complaints have been decreasing since January, although that could be influenced by customers leaving the telco altogether as well as Vodafone fixing some of its problems.

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