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Monday, 21 May 2012

29 February - will you marry me?

This is the date when a woman can propose marriage to a man, turning the traditional tables a full 180 degrees.  Unfortunately for Microsoft it also meant a full blown outage on its Cloud platform named Azure.

Apparently encrypted data sent between a virtual server and the host system looked up the security certificate to authenticate the message.  Certificates are valid for a year so the system sought to validate the certificate as at 29 February 2013.  As 29 February comes around every four years,  there is no 29/02/2013 and the system crashed.  Worse was to follow as the system tried to restart itself and being unable to do so tried to repair and restart on other parts of the system which also failed, causing a cascade failure.

I doubt that the system engineers at Microsoft were in a proposing mood as the outage went on and on for 8 odd hours.

The millennium bug which was supposed to cause such mayhem as  the clocks ticked over to 2000 caused little concern, but this four yearly event was different.  We have nearly four years to prepare for the next  29 February  in 2016.  Let us hope we are all ready.

As an aside, many years ago I had a call from a Client on 29 February and she told me that it was the day that women could propose to men and 'what was I going to do about it?'  I was somewhat taken aback as I hardly knew the woman and I was already married.  Fortunately she used the ploy to get a reduction in her annual contract with my company;   how could I refuse?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

You don't have to be paranoid

The latest idea to allow you to pay your smaller bills using a mobile phone does not fill me with great confidence.  The number of mobile phones stolen each year could mean that a thief could withdraw quite a lot of money, even though it will be in small amounts for each transaction, without any risk.

Contactless or 'pay by wave' credit and debit cards did seem to be a good idea but I recently heard that thieves with hand held scanners were testing them in crowded areas to see if they could identify people carrying them.  They would then simply use the scanner to make a transaction or steal the card and use it a number of times before reaching a payment limit or the card being deactivated.  It is hard enough to get the banks to deal with phantom cash machine withdrawals let alone phantom contactless payments.

My wife thinks I am becoming paranoid when I purchased a new wallet which has a stainless steel thread covering the outside.  It effectively shields any cards in my wallet from scanners.  It however does afford some protection and particularly in crowded tubes or the upcoming games.

I know the maximum amount that can be withdrawn is supposed to be £25 but the time and hassle in getting this refunded and a new card issued makes me wonder if it is worth the risks.

There was a similar situation when the first passports were issue with an embedded chip and were waved at a scanner.  I haven’t heard of any major problems with those.

It could be that I am overly concerned and it may not be a risk at all, but my gut feel is that the thieves are getting cleverer by the day and this is too much of an easy way to make money that they will simply not be able to ignore.


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