- Rogue rats and draft Martinis
- All it takes is a trojan
It’s the future of journalism but it’s too horrible to publish...
Quiet day in the newsroom?
Rogue rats and draft Martinis
It was a bad week for our network providers, with both Telecom and TelstraClear being hit by severe outages that cut off national electronic communications flows for hours on end. We’re still waiting for someone – presumably a government agency – to tote up the cost of EFTPOS, the NZ Stock Exchange, telephones, data networks and more being out of action.
I have actually seen first-hand the damage rats can do to telecommunications cables. When I was 14, about three years ago, I spent a couple of weeks on a work experience programme run by my school. Ended up at the national Swedish telco, putting in data modems and phone wiring -- it was good fun, since the people who supervised me were an eccentric bunch fond of practical jokes involving 90 volt phone wires. You checked your chair, phone, everything very carefully before touching them after the first few jolts.
One of the supervisors showed me a huge trunk of phone wires encased in lead in an exchange that the rats had been attacking. During winter, the exchanges are warm and dry places for the rats with a nice plumbium snack as a bonus. Apparently, lead has a sweet taste which the rats like, and it’s soft too. It took a while for the rats to die of lead poisoning, but they certainly couldn’t run away from you after a heavy metal meal like that. Luckily, I wasn’t asked to clean out the exchange of lead-bellied rats however.
Rats and post-hole borers aside, it is surprising that Telecom’s network is so vulnerable. Just a single backup for such critical infrastructure – is that really good enough?
Kudos to Telecom’s media time during the crisis though. Even though they didn’t think of setting up, say, Auckland numbers so that media chaps and chappettes here could call them when the Wellington phones died, they worked hard to provide info during the outage. No doubt this went a long way towards defusing customer anger.
The Other Telco, or TelstraClear, could learn a lot from that approach. When the draft Martini tunnels choked on Thursday for sixteen hours, taking out traffic from big customers such as ICONZ and Inspire Net, we heard nothing at all. Neither did the customers, who were understandably further aggrieved by not being kept up to speed on how the repairs were going.
All it takes is a trojan
So, it doesn’t matter if you take care not to give out your credit card number to people you don’t trust. It might get compromised anyway. Priceless, really.
Who did it then? The reports speak of “hackers” but there don’t seem to be any clues yet as to the identities of the keylogging thieves who seem to have had plenty of time to steal stuff. According to Visa, banks have been monitoring the situation since September last year. Errm... would it not have been prudent to act roundabout that time as well?
Could they not just have carded the secrets?