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Things that raised a chuckle

BY  Ivo Vegter , 1 November 20110 comments

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EasyPay for anything!

We almost felt sorry for EasyPay, the service that allows customers to pay for all sorts of things – airtime, electricity or traffic fines – at convenient pay-points such as supermarket tills, ATMs and online. Absa reported that up to a third of all the credit card payments EasyPay handled were fraudulent, and promptly began to decline all of them – even though FNB, its acquiring bank, authorised them all.

Of course, EasyPay was upset about this, and denounced the bank’s actions as ‘unfortunate’, ‘erroneous’ and ‘incorrect’.

We’re inclined to take EasyPay’s side on this issue. It isn’t EasyPay’s fault that it accepts a bank authorisation as credible. How could it possibly know that a card might be stolen if its acquiring bank says it’s legitimate?

However, it does raise an amusing issue. For all the efforts of Big Brother enforcers to monitor our money, telephone conversations and internet connections, many convenient online or mobile payment systems will be easy to exploit.

There’s no need for a physical card, and all the required details – name, number, expiry date, security (CVV) code – are easily copied by waiters and cashiers to be sold for beer money to petty neighbourhood criminals.

There’s no signature comparison, none of the modern smart-card’s chip-and-PIN security, and the ‘3D Secure’ verification process, which asks for a customer password, is not yet universally implemented.

Best of all, EasyPay can be used to sell a lot of easily marketable ‘currencies’ such as airtime, so if you want to fund a supply of tik for your kid’s school, it makes a perfect laundry for ill-gotten money.

None of this is EasyPay’s fault, of course. It is amusing to think of conveniently paying for your drugs with a cellphone and a stolen credit card. But it’s not as funny as the realisation that the surveillance state itself supplies the best crime-syndicate laundry of all: cold, hard, untraceable cash.

NCC sends Joburg disputed bill

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has slapped the City of Joburg with a bill for R15 million. It says it failed to comply with dozens of compliance notices, and complainants keep telling it the city is lying when it says errors have been resolved.

The City of Joburg, in a sweet twist of irony, is disputing the NCC bill.

We say, ‘pay first, argue later’.

Oh dear. Things changed.

The complicated transition to digital terrestrial TV could have been made much simpler and faster without trying to tack half the objectives of developmental-state economic interventionism to the policy. Now the regulations for the transition have been scrapped, and new regulations published for public comment.

The problem? Technological progress was made. More broadcasters can be accommodated. However, the rigid command-and-control systems of the government couldn’t handle such unexpected nonsense.

Perhaps we should ban this innovation business entirely. It totally messes up the system in which every company is neatly licensed to provide a limited service under bureaucratic supervision. Innovation is anarchy! Down with progress!

Android pwnz0red

In a move worthy of Microsoft or Sony, HTC has been fitting its Android handsets with ‘logging’ software that exposes, well, just about everything on the phone.

Apple and Windows handset users, long accustomed to being ragged by Android geeks about the security and flexibility of their devices, will be gloating.

The last laugh, however, will not be theirs. The gaping hole was found, extensive details were promptly published, and everyone has access to the source code, so anyone can – like HTC itself – work on a fix in a hurry. All code contains bugs, but that open source code can easily be fixed by anyone with an interest in doing so is what they mean with ‘secure by design’.