HACKED AND HACKED OFF

Recently, two companies that have widespread businesses, which hold enormous databases of customer information, managed by third parties, have had their information databases compromised, dare I say it, by hackers. The emails informing customers of this uncomfortable truth, though not the same, do have much the same terms of conciliation and flavour of apology. It might be difficult to vary too much, a straightforward every day style of vocabulary in a potentially worrying message. In both cases, access was, we are informed, solely to email addresses.

The first company carefully stated that payment and financial information had not been accessed or compromised in any way. There is no suggestion that there was anything more than an uncovering of email addresses with the latest problem. We may, the advisory email warns, receive unwanted emails.

The first company that sent notification to its customers about the breach of confidentiality, approximately a month ago, followed up with a reassuring email, assuring customers that there really was tight security with financial information and that it was held in a separate and different database storage facility.

The newest advice, so far, is only about access to email addresses. Both organisations named their database management company. Does naming the ‘culprit’ make it easier, I wonder, for the contractor to appear to be less responsible?

There are other questions worth raising. The suggestion is that our financial data is more secure. If that is so, why is it so? If a particularly high, or, more secure level of security is installed in one area of commerce, why is it deemed less necessary to offer the same level of security for customer personal contact data, which, should be of equal importance?

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THEY’LL SELL YOUR GRANNY

Maybe because I am scouting around blog UK a bit more than usual, I am seeing an awful lot of commercial posts. There are people who sell; they sell space and time; there are people who sell appliances; sell your granny if they could. Some such posts are likely to contain malicious links to trojans, spyware and suchlike.

Blog sites are obviously becoming fair game for online advertising by individuals and sales outlets for others. They don’t require a paid up subscription like the major business sites online and the cyber market places. There are too many to ‘police’. They are going to clog up the blog waves, these sales hounds are going to be another kind of nuisance with their spam. Some are going to cause unsuspecting bloggers a great deal of angst.

WATCHING THE CHANGES

I’ve been thinking about the shopping habits here where I live in this small remote town.

Over many years when choice has been denied and we have been fleeced by many of the local independent traders, many people were prepared to travel large distances, say once a fortnight, or monthly to get what they wanted. The internet opened up new channels of marketing and purchasing power which many eagerly grabbed. Still the local traders did not respond to the obvious; they complained about internet trade but did not attempt to compete. They were too comfortable charging excesses, like pricing up imperfect market stock at high prices and making good profits on selling ends of lines. I was frequently told that if I wanted a particular item I would have to pay pounds more than the selling price to cover cost of transport. Not so, if I purchased by other means.

We have had a succession of food chain stores in the last four years, due to take-over bids. The long standing store, is not one of note, it is depressing to visit and stocks less and less of the shopping I want. It has not needed to court customers. However, now that there is another food store which has settled in, with a more pleasant shopping environment and a wide range of goods, the other store, cynically, has discovered it can compete with discounts never seen heretofore.

A forty miles round trip will get us to various DIY options and other clothing stores. This has got to be a huge improvement on 80 and 110 miles respectively. Unfortunately, transport infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with the new trading arrangements.

Some of our small town centre shops have changed their merchandise and marketing approaches. We are now valued customers, they have to attract us. One or two stores that were always pathetic, gave up and blamed the new retailing environment for their fate. They have been replaced with some exclusive and higher standard independent stores that are a credit to our town.