Saturday, 14 February 2009

Redaction Revealed

The past week we saw how the settlement between Facebook and ConnectU was hacked revealing the details of the transaction. Apparently, this is not the first time it has happen and many top organisations are exposed to such IT security risk. Managing those risks is fundamental to an organisation’s security policy.

The advent of Portable Documents Formats (PDFs) in addition to other word processing programs made document distribution easier which was then an improvement on Tagged Imaged File Formats (TIFF) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Most organisations use PDFs to redact their electronic documents before distribution. However this can be revealed if not done properly.

The discussion of instances where redacted documents had been revealed leading to the exposure of confidential information is beyond the scope of this post. Essentially, electronic redaction only changes the colour of the font and when copied to an editing program, all the blackouts are revealed.

At an organisational level, the solution lies with individuals understanding of the technology being used before it is deployed. Managers should understand the trade-offs in disseminating information and the cost of security. Checks must be in place to protect sensitive information.

The best solution if you are not sure is never to distribute information to anyone. Another is to get it printed in hard copy and use black marker over the text you don’t want to show. You can also make use of TIFF, which is only an image of the document and losing the consumer friendliness of PDFs.

Further reading:

Redacting with confidence

Copy, Past and Reveal

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Notebook Recovery

I thought it was the end of it, but in the end it was recovered and working better. This happened when I was running out of space with my notebook with less than 10GB of free space remaining. There were a number easier options I could take but I was also prioritising. The computer had two operating systems, Windows and Ubuntu. The later was used on a trail basis and to be used on a desktop computer.

The main activity was taking off Ubuntu that was taking more than 10GB of disc space and archiving my documents, pictures, movies, contacts, downloads etc basically all files that are not regularly used to an external disc. The tricky issue was removing Ubuntu which was using a partitioned part of the Hard Disc. Re merging the partitioned Hard Disc involved complex procedures that could result in losing everthing if not done properly. My only hope was, I do have regular backups of all the files on CDs.

I did take the longer option of re-installing Windows after backing up all the files on the notebook. All the old file had been transferred to an external disc and all my program file re-installed. The computer is now faster like I had it when it was new and I can access all my files from the external disc. This wouldn't had been possible had I used the other options and would continue to have slow programs running on the computer.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Ghana-ing votes

[I dedicate my first post of the year to the magnificent people of Ghana for making Africa proud and that multi-party democracy can work on the continent]

Published: January 7 2009 19:59 | Last updated: January 7 2009 19:59

Elections of one sort or another have taken place in all 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the past decade. On a continent that has also experienced some 83 successful coups in half a century, this is often cited as a mark of progress.

Many elections, however, have not in themselves translated into greater stability or social justice. In most countries, voting has merely added trappings to a new form of one-party rule, where incumbent regimes control electoral machinery and use patronage and oppression to maintain power. A slew of election setbacks have, meanwhile, revived doubts as to whether a continent riven by ethnic discord and beset by development challenges is yet suited to western democracy.

Nigeria’s 2007 polls were marred by fraud of every kind. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is still in power nine months after he and his party were beaten at the ballot box. Kenya is struggling to overcome the traumatic aftermath of its own hotly disputed elections. Overall, the evidence suggests Africans still tend to vote along ethnic lines – rather than for what they believe in – and that their leaders rarely miss an opportunity to cling to power. The combination can be deadly.

In this context, Ghana’s elections, culminating in victory at the weekend for John Atta Mills, the opposition candidate, are cause for celebration. On Wednesday Ghanaians witnessed the second constitutional transfer of power in a decade. Only Benin, on the mainland continent, has experienced alternating political power of this kind.

The peaceful outcome was the more remarkable for following such a tight contest with so much at stake. Only 40,000 out of 9m votes separated the ruling party candidate and his victorious opponent, to whose government the first drops of Ghanaian oil will accrue.

Ghana was the first African country to win independence and among the first to be ravaged by coups and counter coups. It is now blazing a trail towards more democratic rule.

Yet Ghanaians, like many other Africans, are divided along ethnic lines in who they vote for. They face the same daunting development challenges as their peers.

What has made the difference is that successive leaders have allowed an independent media to flourish and an autonomous electoral commission to gain strength as an institution, and with it public trust. In the process, Ghanaians are becoming increasingly demanding of performance from their politicians. Their example is particularly welcome at a time when real democracy in Africa is otherwise under threat.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009