Security Lapse in Junior Doctor Jobs Website

April 26, 2007

Various sites (The Telegraph, BBC, Channel 4) are reporting on the data security breach that occurred yesterday, involving the sensitive personal data (including religion, sexual orientation and any criminal convictions) of around 7,000 junior doctors. The information was available in an Excel spreadsheet on a website for around 9 hours yesterday, but was removed after Channel 4 notified the Department of Health.

A Department of Health spokesperson said:

“This URL was made available to a strictly-limited number of people making checks as part of the employment process. This information was never publicly available through the NHS Medical Training Application Service website and was only accessible for only a short period of time after details of the URL were leaked. The MTAS team fixed the problem as soon as it was brought to their attention.”

The Channel 4 journalist was able to access the details once he had been tipped off by a doctor concerned by security on the site, so the point about the information not being “publicly available through the NHS [MTAS] website” seems to be an attempt at spin; however the quote does seem to suggest that the MTAS team was adopting a policy of security through obscurity.

Sony Support Problems

April 26, 2007

I recently sent my Sony Vaio laptop away to have its keyboard and housing replaced. The former lost a couple of keys courtesy of my son, and the metallic-finish housing was starting to show signs of wear and tear. Because the unit is out of warranty I had to call the 0905 premium rate number, and paid around £140 to have the repair done.

Through the premium rate number I was told the unit was due to be picked up on Friday 13th between 12 and 5 from my work place, and I requested for it to be delivered back to my work again; the DHL courier arrived 1045 (maybe he thought he was doing me a favour by arriving early). Then last Friday I got a call from my wife saying that DHL had delivered the laptop back (to home). Fortunately my wife was in, but given that she is marshalling four children during term time this is by no means guaranteed. If the item isn’t delivered the choices are to arrange re-delivery (to the same address unless the sender has arranged otherwise), or to pick up from the nearest DHL centre which is a 1 hour round trip.

So I examined the laptop. First problem – no rubber feet, so the unit slides around my desk. Also, they hadn’t replaced the PCMCIA slot cover, or the top cover (which affects the screen image quality) and the serial number stickers were peeling off from the bottom of the unit.

Not really wanting to be parted from my companion again, I reluctantly called the (premium rate) support number again and set up another case to rectify the problems. They took the details and advised that I would be called back, and after a couple of attempts someone from a call centre far away got through. Yet again they advised an afternoon pickup (2.30pm-6.30pm this time). Yet again the courier arrived in the morning.

Then yesterday I received a call from someone asking how my repair had gone, and how likely I would be to recommend buying a Sony Vaio laptop to a friend. On a scale of 1 to 10 I gave it a four. “Oh, well that’s still quite good then” was the cheerful reply.

I rely on my laptop for daily use, so not only am I having to do without it but I have also had to spend extra time on the phone at 35p per minute when I could have been doing something more productive. Some thoughts that spring to mind:

  • By applying some common sense the repair team could easily have got it right the first time
  • Why do I still have to call a premium rate number when I’ve paid £140 for a repair?
  • Why don’t DHL turn up when they are supposed to?

So I’m considering what else to go for when it is time to upgrade. While I’ve been without the Vaio, I’ve been running an old laptop with Ubuntu and given how much I dislike the interface changes that Microsoft has introduced in Vista, coupled with its software compatibility issues, I’m seriously considering switching to a Mac or Linux laptop for daily use.

Commuting by Train: Is It Safer to Sit or Stand?

April 24, 2007

This morning the First Capital Connect service into London was particularly jam-packed, to the point where some people were unable to get on in the interim stops. This reminded me of a feature I saw on Thursday’s The London Programme by Andrew Gilligan, which is also covered in This Is London.

Following the Ladbroke Grove train crash in 1999, a report from the Health and Safety Executive suggested that passengers might cushion each other in the event of an impact, however a presentation by the Deputy Director of the London Transport Users’ Committee offers a variety of views on whether standing passengers are at greater or lesser risk than seated ones.

Gilligan’s feature included a computer simulation by the company Advanced Simulation Technology which showed that standing passengers would be thrown down the carriage, and concluded that they were three times more likely to sustain serious injury than seated passengers.

Top 300 Classical Music Tracks

April 15, 2007

Every year Classic FM compiles its Top 300 list of classical pieces as voted for by its listeners, and the 2007 list has just been released; I find it is a good way to discover new tracks or become reacquainted with ones you haven’t listened to for a while. This year they’ve also teamed up with eMusic to offer downloads for the chart.

Compact Cameras

April 9, 2007

My camera is starting to show its age, so I’m considering an upgrade.

I thought I’d go for a compact model, that I can keep with me, and the London Paper had a list a couple of months ago that I saved:

  • Best All-Rounder: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX3 (“Ideal for spur-of-the-moment snaps”)
  • Best for Parties: Casio Exilim EX-V7 (Limited edition)
  • Best for Pockets: Pentax Optio T30 (“Small and light”)
  • Best for Design: Nikon Coolpix S9 Nikon (“Slim, stylish with a ‘wave surface’ design”)
  • Best Budget Buy: Kodak Easyshare V803 (“Easy to use”)
  • Best for Blogs: Fujifilm Finepix Z5FD (“Perfect for posting pictures online”)
  • Best for Holidays: Samsung L74 Wide (“Travellers’ companion”)
  • Best for Picture Quality (Sony Cyber-Shot N2) (“Breaks the 10 megapixel barrier”)

Any recommendations?

Bluetooth Advertising

April 2, 2007

HSBC has been trialling a scheme at two of its busiest London branches where it sends a message to passers-by through Bluetooth asking if they are prepared to accept a download. If they do, then it sends a full advertisement.

Assuming the idea catches on, I wonder if there will be any provision for customers to opt out of receiving unsolicited messages in this way? Alternatively, just change your phone’s Bluetooth settings to ensure it is not visible (a.k.a. “non-discoverable”).