January 08, 2008

UK data breach counts another coup!

The UK data breach a month or two back counted another victim: one Jeremy Clarkson. The celebrated British "motormouth" thought that nobody should really worry about the loss of the disks, because all the data is widely available anyway. To stress this to the island of nervous nellies, he posted his bank details in the newspaper.

Back in November, the Government lost two computer discs containing half the population's bank details. Everyone worked themselves into a right old lather about the mistake but I argued we should all calm down because the details in question are to be found on every cheque we hand out every day to every Tom, Dick and cash and carry.

Unfortunately, some erstwhile scammer decided to take him to task at it and signed him up for a contribution to a good charity. (Well, I suppose it's good, all charities and non-profits are good, right?) Now he writes:

I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes 500 from my account. I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.

Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.

What can we conclude from this data point of one victim? Lots, as it happens.

  1. Being a victim of the *indirect* nature continues to support the thesis that security is a market for silver bullets. That is, the market is about FUD, not security in any objective sense.
  2. (writing for the non-Brit audience here,) Jeremy Clarkson is a comedian. Comments from comedians will do more to set the agenda on security than any 10 incumbents (I hesitate to use more conventional terms). There has to be some pithy business phrase about this, like, when your market is defined by comedians, it's time for the, um, incumbents to change jobs.
  3. Of course, he's right on both counts. Yes, there is nothing much to worry about, individually, because (a) the disks are lost, not stolen, and (b) the data is probably shared so willingly that anyone who wants it already has it. (The political question of whether you could trust the UK government to tie its security shoelaces is an entirely other matter...)

    And, yes, he was wrong to stick his neck out and say the truth.

  4. So why didn't the bank simply reverse the transaction? I'll leave that briefly as an exercise to the reader, there being two good reasons that I can think of, after the click.

a. because he gave implied permission for the transactions by posting his details, and he breached implied terms of service!

b. because he asked them not to reverse the transaction, as now he gets an opportunity to write another column. Cheap press.

Hat-tip to JP! And, I've just noticed DigitalMoney's contribution for another take!

Posted by iang at January 8, 2008 04:13 AM | TrackBack

Have you read the original article? Has he actually lost the money permanently? The secondary reporting isn't very clear on this point.

Posted by: Florian Weimer at January 9, 2008 01:47 PM

> Jeremy Clarkson is a comedian

Jezza is God's Gift to Journalism.

I use the term "Journalism" here loosely, but so do most "Journalists" these days, as their comedy is entirely accidental, pretty much like their ability to deliver actual information to their customers. (By "customers", I mean the people who actually pay (or transfer-pay) for their "content", or "media", or whatever the "media analysts" call it, not the politicians they bark on command for.)

I have it on good authority -- a talk with the Creator Himself (Huckabee can do it, why can't I?) -- that Hunter S. Thompson killed himself because he watched Jeremey Clarkson *once*, and realized he could *never*, *never* in his whole *life*, have *ever* been worthy enough to wash Jezza's *feet* (after a day of, say, playing crane-conkers with various insufficiently-powered, um, Eurasian, automobiles), much less write a single word that would hold up in the Positively Blinding Light of The Genius That Is Jeremey Clarkson.

Clinton/McCain '08 (Why not? Not a hair's breadth between them, and they seem to be winning primaries together anyway...)

Posted by: RAH at January 12, 2008 08:43 AM
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