Who should pay to fight hackers?
$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.