Make a Difference

Day: April 1, 2009

Banks Funding Virus Creation (or Forcing You To)

In an article on the Australian ABC website, Patrick Gray suggests that the major motivation for writing viruses is financial. This is certainly true with ‘key logger’ type infections, but I am not sure it is true with the ‘I’m cleverer than you’ type viruses, which Conficker seems to be, nor with the ‘Cause as much damage as possible’ type.

Gray makes some interesting points about banks leaving most of the liability for online ‘card not present’ transaction fraud with merchants. He suggests that if banks were liable, or carried a greater share of liability for online fraud, they would instantly increase credit card security, and this would make writing keyloggers less profitable.

I think he overestimates the percentage of viruses which are of the ripoff – key logger type, and that he underestimates the speed with which profit seeking programmers are able to respond to changing security measures. Consider for example how quickly hackers were able to work around DVD and then Blu-Ray copy protection.

Also, putting further security measures in place to protect against online fraud may make it more difficult and time-consuming for both customers and merchants to conduct legitimate transactions. VeriSign’s chief technology officer Ken Silva has said: “If all the security measures were deployed that should be deployed, they would become too annoying and too difficult for most consumers.”

Nonetheless I agree that present security measures are inadequate, and that banks should take a greater share of responsibility, instead of leaving merchants to carry any losses. SMS authentication and portable keys (like a USB drive you put into your computer to confirm your identity) are two methods which could be implemented without too much extra fuss or cost.

Sayyaf Hostages Still Alive

According to latest reports from the Philippines, the Red Cross workers kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf are still alive – though no ‘proof of life’ has been received, despite requests.

Abu Sayyaf has already shown it is willing to behead innocent people to further its aims, whatever they are. So nothing can be taken for granted in terms of the safety of the current hostages.

Refusing to give in to demands from terrorist groups like this is horribly hard when people’s lives are at stake. But governments must not give in. They must not give way at all. Terrorists must learn that kidnapping and murder will not gain them anything.

In what must surely count as one of the most bizarre turns of events in recent news, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, another Philippine terror group, has come out in support of the hostages, saying that Islam does not allow harm or killing of civilians and non-combatants. Pardon? The MILF has a long history of doing just that, including kidnapping children and using them as soldiers. Maybe this is a change of heart for them. I hope so, and certainly hope and pray that this will make a difference to the actions of Abu Sayyaf.


I’m not sure this is responsible reporting by Reuters – it seems foolish and dangerous to tell the enemy what you are planning to do – but they report that the Philippine military are retaking the positions they withdrew from in order to secure the release of the hostages (since withdrawing achieved nothing), the provincial governor has issued proclaimed a state of emergency, and that soldiers are preparing for a possible rescue attempt. Further updates as they arrive.


As at Thursday morning, Philippine security forces have cordoned off a large section of jungle in Indanan on the West of Sulu province, cutting off the terrorists from outside aid. Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga has been appointed to ensure the safe release of the hostages. Since the initial withdrawal of troops did not work, it seems likely that some sort of military operation is now inevitable. This is a dangerous time for the hostages.


Friday morning and one of the hostages, Mary Jean Lacaba, has been released. She is a Filippina. Some media organisations suggested this made her more, rather than less, likely to be murdered. But she was dumped in a small village at about nine on Thursday night. She was picked up by the army and taken to hospital. She is good health. The good news is that the other two hostages, one Swiss, one Italian, were alive and well when she was released. The military are apparently still planning to attempt to rescue them.

Keep praying.


Saturday, and Abu Sayyaf have renewed their threat to behead the two remaining hostages if Philippine forces do not withdraw completely from what they regard as ‘their’ territory. Philippine forces have stood down from further action for the time being, but according to their commander, this is only so the two hostages can be released in safety. The military cordon around the kidnappers camp remains in place, despite a land mine exploding under a truck transporting soldiers to the site. Three soldiers were injured.

Meanwhile, in nearby Basilan, where Abu Sayyaf claims numerous members, a bomb exploded outside a Jollibee restaurant, killing two people and injuring another eight.

Men Earn $1 Million More than Women Over a Lifetime

Really? They have better paying jobs than I do, obviously.

Equal pay for equal work for men and women is mandated in Australia, as in most countries. So if this figure is accurate, what can account for the difference?

It is simple really. Men earn more than women over a lifetime because women have more choices about balancing work, home and leisure than men do.

Most women can decide whether they want to work full time in paid employment, work full time at home, or some mixture of the two. Men are expected to work full time in paid employment. The extra choices women have depend entirely on the fact that men do not have those choices. Women can choose because they can and do take for granted that the men in their life will produce enough income to allow them to decide whether to work or not, and how long for.

Men do not earn more than women because women are treated unfairly. If anything the reverse is true. Women will only earn as much as men do over a lifetime when men have the same choices women do about mixing home, work and leisure.

Hospital Waiting List Fraud

I am a bit confused about this whole story. Is it claimed hospitals were exaggerating their waiting lists in order to increase funding, or that they were understating them in order to look good? Like many news stories on this subject, this one from the Herald Sun is unclear about what actually happened, or is alleged to have happened.

This story from the Australian makes things a bit clearer. It claims that in the case of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, staff falsely reduced the number of patients on waiting lists so that the hospital appeared to be meeting government targets for waiting times for elective surgery. Meeting those targets meant that the hospital received bonus funding to which it was not entitled. This means that the hospital was cheating other health care providers by taking more than its share of the health budget.

Hospital CEO Dale Fisher says that staff involved will be disciplined. But staff who admitted to auditors that they knew what was happening also said that they believed senior staff were aware of the practice, and that it was condoned.

I doubt very much that this kind of practice is unique to health services in Victoria. I know that at least some educational institutions in Queensland and South Australia, including child care centres and state schools, routinely overstate their enrolments in order to increase their funding. Again, this cheats honest schools and providers because it means less funding is left for them.

I thought proper auditing was a requirement for any government funding. How have these major government institutions been able to get away with cheating the public for so long?

Senior Iranian Official – No Dialogue Till We Have Nukes

Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi is a member of the Iranian Guardian Council – according to some, the most powerful body in Iranian politics – and is also Secretary General of the Iranian Hezbollah. This is someone at the heart of power in Iran. His public statement that there will be no dialogue with the US until Iran has nuclear weapons has to be taken seriously.

Of course this means (shock, horror!) that Bush was right about Iran’s nuclear intentions. It also means that Iranian President Imanutjob’s indignant rage and repeated claims that the fact the great Satan made such accusations against the peace-loving state of Iran proved how evil the West was, were , well, porkies. And yes, I know the word pork will probably upset him as well, poor dear.

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