Monday, 23 June 2008

What does it really take to secure a chip-n-pin debit card?

I've just had my second chip-n-pin debit card blacklisted within a year due to failed overseas fraudulent cash withdrawal attempts!

The fraudsters are stealing enough of my highly secure chip details, plus identifying my darn PIN when I enter it (VERY) carefully. Luckily for me, I have not changed many of the places that I normally use chip-n-pin in the past year so I have to only stop using it at 2 large trusted and very popular retailers, 1 local convenience retailer, and 2 places where I occassionally get food.

My instinct at the moment is that the theft is occurring inside 1 of the 3 retailers. Lovely stuff!

It occurs to me that the only thing left to do, is not to use chip-n-pin anywhere but at a highly secure ATM, and the cashier inside a bank, on a floor or two above ground!!

But what I don't fully understand is that it seems the thiefs are happy to walk away with just 1 entry per location per day/week/month, thereby leaving the bank investigators no pattern that they can use to crack these networks. And these networks must be very well connected with some tiny electronic goodies, some fairly secure channels of communicating with each other in some non-pattern-recognisable manner, and some even more intricate chip programming and card producing facilities. There must surely be some way of looking at enough of the data the banks hold on these things and discovering some patterns - humans are just not capable of not having patterns!

Anyway, whatever the banks are doing so far is working - they apparently rejected these 2 withdrawal attempts due to the fact that they were not consistent with my usage pattern.

Hmmm ... "pattern" has now come up 4 times in this entry. Perhaps the recommendation for chip-n-pin users is actually: create a distinct very small pattern of usage - I do not believe at this time that the law will stop the thiefs, and it is only a matter of time before they're generating all the valid numbers and PINs they can dream of (maybe they already are...then I can actually use mine again!!??!?).


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Some Peter Drucker Management/Leadership/Society Ideas

I stumbled on this 5 Things William Cohen Has Learned from Peter Drucker CIO "taster" article a couple of days ago and realised that now is the time when people are going to start talking less and less about what Peter Drucker used to say and what he used to stand for.

From my perspective, his name has appeared in almost every management text book (about 25) I studied during my BCommerce. I even bought 1 of his books from a bookstore once purely because I recognised his name and just knew the sales price was a bargain!

I really hope some truly controversial "new ideas" person starts challenging the status quo once more - it seems like there is a great deal of regurgitation of management thought process going on.

4 Ideas I took away from quotations of his that gave me much to think about:
1. During the early 80's he argued that CEO compensation should not be more than 20 times what the bottom earner in the company was earning.

Imagine what the world would be like if this thought had held...just imagine... all the people ... living for today ... living in peace ... sharing all the world. *sigh*

2. The most useless thing to do, is do something that should not be done at all efficiently.

Efficiency takes time and money - it costs A LOT! The absolute waste that goes into doing something that should not be done at all, and then making the process more efficient - awful! I guess this is one of my influencers for always trying to find the fundamentals of what I am doing and why.

3. "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."

Actually this quotation has been driven home repeatedly throughout my limited exposure. I am unsure if my current thoughts are more influenced by study or by experience: There are a huge number of managers (title) without leadership skills, and there are a huge number of leaders (personality) without management skills. When you find yourself in the rare (in my humble opinion) circumstance that there are layers of management with leadership skills all around you, magic is very likely to occur, not only during times of crisis, but also during times inbetween.

4. "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Strange that one of Peter Drucker's core concepts was Management By Objectives (MBO). Or perhaps it is once again a case of Best Practice being formulated and applied without customisation to the circumstance/environment, and without empowering people to do the right thing as they are being measured on the wrong thing. Regardless - about this quotation - imagine a company culture where everyone is an opportunity seeker. When combined with radical and forward looking MBO, things get interesting, but most companies seem to base current MBO plans on past experience/objectives/successes/failures which is all data driven decision making and does not allow for much innovation and active workforce participation.

Like all people who get used as sources of education and inspiration he had/has many proponents and many opponents. You can read more briefly about him on Wikipedia - Peter Drucker and on the Drucker Institute which houses many interesting articles.

Anyway - I hope you read the CIO "taster" article and perhaps some of the ideas spark your further interest! (let me know if they do!)

As for book recommendations - I can't find the 1st/2nd year text I purchased years ago, but I did look around and find these good looking "professional" sources that I will be buying in the near future:



Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Simple Feedback for 1-1 sessions in professional environment

Last year in early October our company went on its annual training camp. This is quite an event in the year as we (the people who work here) get to decide what we would like to train on, and as the different opinion groups form to propose to our management, if the groups are big enough, we're actually able to afford professional trainers out of our combined training budgets also!

My first training camp (I've been with Zuhlke Engineering since 21 May 2007) was actually in Marrakech in the Kingdom of Morocco. Some say the choice in location was because it was cheaper to fly all of us to there, stay in a good hotel with decent food, and hire their conference facility for the week, than do anything remotely similar in the UK or on the European continent. And I can believe this!!

Our camp was divided into 2 parts - soft skills (presented by a really excellent pair of facillitators (married husband and wife team!!) from Top Banana), and erlang (presented by our resident expert Ben Nortier)!

This blog entry is about just one topic Top Banana taught us - "Simple and effective 1-on-1 Professional/Personal Feedback". It is a darn difficult thing to give a colleague feedback, and it is a darn difficult thing to receive feedback from a colleague. Really.

Basically the "scene" is set with just 2 questions, and relies on sufficient trust to be effective. Sufficient is subjective but if (in my experience) one takes a deep breath and relaxes, and never begins a sentence with "You" (rather aim for "I") that is actually enough. This kind of relies on most humans actually not wanting to hurt (physically or emotionally) others. (reminds me of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you")

The 2 questions are:
1. What do I do that helps you in your work?
2. What do I do that hinders you in your work?

After that generally floodgates open if people are extremely comfortable discussing issues, and if not, at least both sides part the session having either aired a problem or discovered at least 1 thing they did not know about themselves previously that they need to digest and possibly later revisit or forget ... until the next 1-1 feedback session :)

It is that simple!

After the trip where each of us actually did these feedback sessions with everyone else, I have actually initiated this with all the people I work closely with, and as time allows I do it with my other colleagues in the office, whom I interact with significantly less. Of course this lesser interaction means that understanding relationships take a lot longer timewise to form, and the chances of problem-causing miscommunications exponentially rise!

Some lessons that I have learned that are VERY interesting:
1. I have blind spots that others definitely see and adjust themselves to!
2. Different people, depending on my conscious mindset or context adjustment I make mentally before I see/talk to them, give me COMPLETELY conflicting feedback!
3. Some feedback that I receive that I consciously do try to think about and incorporate in my behaviour/style goes COMPLETELY out of the window when pressured situations arise!
4. Realisation that I need to detect earlier when I am feeling "pressured", take a deep breath, a walk maybe, and realise life is not that serious! :)

Anyone can do this, but the first time definitely requires dynamic facillitation to help get over the uncomfortableness that generally exists amongst work colleagues, to explain and prepare the people involved for the new, prepare them to listen in order to change, and accept a challenging proposal - be honest.

"Seek first to understand, then be understood" was one of the strongest messages I took away from Marrakech ... which reminds me of the funniest insult I've heard in a long time (outside of a South African context where verbal insults are an art form in parts of the country) - this was between 2 food sellers in the Marrekech [fast] food market: "... AND YOUR MAMMA WORKS IN McDONALDS!!"

Feedback welcome!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Mastering The Art of War

I have just finished a rather quick and easy to read book about some of the subtleties of life, people, strategy, change and organisation. A good start to a blog to changes and challenges and embracing all of life!

Mastering The Art of War touts itself (or its authors - Liu Ji and Zhuge Liang, or its translator Thomas Cleary does) as exploring some of the wisdoms of two books of ancient Chinese origin: Sun Tzu's The Art of War (a book about strategy) and I Ching - (the Book of Changes containing 360 insights to help people deal with change - 1 for each day of the lunar year). I have not read either yet, but now am more than ever looking forward to the time and place!

One of the extracts from Mastering the Art of War I keep thinking about (especially in terms of "things no one taught me at school!")

"Hard though it may be to know people, there are ways:
1. Question them concerning right and wrong, to observe their ideas
2. Exhaust all their arguments, to see how they change
3. Consult with them about strategy, to see how perceptive they are
4. Announce that there is trouble, to see how brave they are
5. Get them drunk, to observe their nature
6. Present them with the prospect of gain, to see how modest they are
7. Give them a task to do within a specified time, to see how trustworthy they are"

Why I recommend Mastering The Art of War:
Reason 1: It is really short, condensed, well written and edited, and reads very quickly
Reason 2: It has been 2 weeks since I finished it, and I am still thinking back to some of the wisdom from some of the pages, hence I am "forced" to blog about this book now (when I really don't have time!)
Reason 3: There are many pearls and interesting historical stories of China's history and ancient ways of life - such as the one I extracted above.

This one seems to be the most popular seller for I Ching (ranked 28632 today) . According to Mastering The Art of War, the I Ching is not supposed to be used for divination purposes at all - a rule that was once stricly adhered to in ancient times when it was decreed forbidden to do so!