Saturday, May 30, 2009

Work expands to fill the time available?

We now have an extra person working with us. He's a professional System Administrator from the USA. He's with another group, but on placement with us for two years, spending approx 80% of his time with us and 20% with the other group. His character is laid back and fits in pretty well with Pete and me. So far he has just started... but...

We have had many attacks against our systems recently so have been involved in upgrading the security systems for all our servers. One of the primary ways of doing this is through what is called 'dual factor authentication'. OK, that's a horrid techie phrase, but what does it mean? Here's the problem:

Normally we use a username and password to log into the systems, be that email or website admin or whatever. But if there is someone listening across what we are doing they can capture our user name and password and impersonate us and use it themselves. We have had this happen twice from one of our partner groups in Egypt.

The solution is simple - change the password every time you log in! Sounds simple but complex to administrate in a way that works for normal people. So what we actually do is have the normal user name and password as an identifier plus a password that changes every time. That changing password is either displayed on a little dongle that the user caries or is something you plug into your computer to send the password automatically. The dongle you remove when you are not using it. This latter solution is what we have chosen.

But now we have to get it all to work. This means integrating with all our various systems on 9 live servers. So although we have extra help, we think we need extra extra help. In fact, looking at what is happening worldwide we know that cyber-security will only get more complex. Indeed yesterday Barack Obama launched his cyber security plan. Acts of terror today, he said, could come "not only from a few extremists in suicide vests, but from a few key strokes of a computer - a weapon of mass disruption."

Alongside this we are planning a pilot series filming some illustrative stories almost allegorical, but not quite. At the end of last year we had some funds available to purchase hardware, so have invested in a new camera system. We've not bought all the equipment needed yet for the series, but will have enough for filming a couple of pilots which we hope to do this summer.

In between this, our administrator has left, so there is more admin to cope with. And I HATE COMPUTERS. Yesterday I tried to update our accounts package. It took ages and was complex and the problem I thought would be fixed with the upgrade [some of the statements were refusing to print] are still there. So I have to talk to technical support about that.