Who should pay to fight hack­ers?

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - ANDREWWELLUM Cam­borne GOR­DON CAMP­BELL Talk­ing pol­i­tics

$2m to our rates.

The coun­cil pro­poses to spend an­other $22m on more land, build­ings and de­vel­op­ments, again ig­nor­ing lost rev­enue and ad­di­tional costs.

And that’s be­fore ratepay­ers lose money on the de­vel­op­ments, write off the value of build­ings de­mol­ished, give cash in­duce­ments and rates hol­i­days to at­tract buyers and ten­ants, and in­cur le­gal and real es­tate fees.

Kevin Wat­son (April 26) men­tions North City as an ex­am­ple where coun­cil was jus­ti­fied in ac­quir­ing land. Af­ter adding the cost of ac­qui­si­tion, hold­ing costs in­clud­ing in­ter­est, lost rates, le­gal and real es­tate fees, and then a rates hol­i­day, and lost rev­enue from clo­sure of ex­ist­ing re­tail­ers, ratepay­ers saw no ben­e­fits.

Ratepay­ers also lost money on the Aotea block when you add in the same, over­looked costs.

Sim­ple maths. If the CBD re­de­vel­op­ment stays in the 10-year plan, and the coun­cil holds on to its ex­ist­ing CBD land and build­ings, rates in most ar­eas will nearly dou­ble in the next decade, twice the av­er­age shown in most other coun­cils’ Long-Term Plans.

Though hack­ers have a poor so­cial im­age, no-one likes Big Brother very much ei­ther, even when – or es­pe­cially when – the state claims to be act­ing in the best in­ter­ests of us all.

In his speech to an au­di­ence of cor­po­rate lead­ers at the first Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in Auck­land last week, Prime Min­is­ter John Key made the case for firms build­ing up their on­line de­fences against the cy­ber-threats headed our way.

Oddly though, Key used Mos­sack Fon­seca – the Pana­ma­nian law firm re­cently re­vealed as be­ing cen­tral to a global sys­tem of tax avoid­ance – to make his point.

‘‘What­ever the rights and wrongs of what­ever busi­ness they do,’’ Key said, ‘‘these peo­ple have sat there think­ing they’re deal­ing with their clients on a con­fi­den­tial ba­sis.

‘‘Their in­for­ma­tion has been hacked, and is now in the pub­lic do­main.’’

New Zealand firms, Key warned, shouldn’t think this could never hap­pen to them.

With hind­sight, maybe Mos­sack Fon­seca wasn’t the best ex­am­ple of a hack­ing vic­tim that Key might have se­lected.

True, Key also men­tioned Sony Pic­tures. The Sony hack­ing in­ci­dent is be­lieved to have been car­ried out by North Korea, as pay­back for Sony fi­nanc­ing a ‘‘comedy’’ film about the as­sas­si­na­tion of North Korea’s po­lit­i­cal leader.

The Sony hack­ers then re­leased ev­i­dence that the fe­male stars of the film Amer­i­can Hus­tle (Jen­nifer Lawrence, Amy Adams) were paid con­sid­er­ably less than their male co-stars – which has trig­gered a use­ful de­bate on sex­ism.

So, with­out con­don­ing il­le­gal hack­ing, such rev­e­la­tions have plainly served a wider good.

Ar­guably, lo­cal firms might equally con­clude (from the Sony/ Mos­sack Fon­seca cases) that be­ing a good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen might be the best way of not be­com­ing a hack­ing tar­get in the first place.

In his Auck­land speech, Key went on to an­nounce a Com­puter Emer­gency Re­sponse Team with $2.2 mil­lion in set-up fund­ing, and $20 mil­lion more to spend over the next four years to pro­tect New Zealand firms from the stranger dan­gers that are al­legedly poised to prey on them on­line.

There is a tricky bal­anc­ing act in­volved here.

If you por­tray on­line preda­tors in apoc­a­lyp­tic terms – the Chi­nese/North Kore­ans/East­ern Euro­peans etc are com­ing to steal our IP and all our trade se­crets! – then $5 mil­lion a year in op­er­a­tional fund­ing looks like a to­ken ges­ture.

Go big though, and it looks like

‘‘New Zealand firms, Key warned, shouldn’t think this could never hap­pen to them. ’’

cor­po­rate wel­fare, with tax­pay­ers pay­ing for pro­tec­tions that firms should be pay­ing for them­selves.

In fact, are these on­line dan­gers pri­mar­ily lo­cated off­shore, or do most orig­i­nate from within New Zealand, as firms raid each other for mar­ket ad­van­tage?

Ei­ther way, wouldn’t any canny New Zealand firm be con­cerned that shar­ing its on­line de­fen­sive strate­gies with a gov­ern­ment agency might well cre­ate an ad­di­tional layer of risk?

In short, the Com­puter Emer­gency Re­sponse Team looks more like of­fer­ing generic ad­vice and mar­ket­ing fluff for an on­line se­cu­rity in­dus­try that stands to gain an in­flux of busi­ness from its ef­forts.

To re­peat: if firms have se­crets worth keep­ing, shouldn’t they be pay­ing for the ex­per­tise to keep them­selves safe? That is, af­ter all, how the free mar­ket is sup­posed to work.

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