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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 13 April 2017, 4:39 pm


After nearly a year in the making, the government's cyber-security unit CERT has launched and hopes to tie together the various strands of government action around cyber security and safety.

To recap the various entities we have:

GCSB - the Government Communications Security Bureau - tasked with eavesdropping on electronic communications on behalf of the government (but which government, eh? Eh?)

DIA - the Department of Internal Affairs - home to the National Library and Archives New Zealand, DIA also houses the anti-spam unit which has a dull but worthy name and which actively hunts down spammers and sees them get their comeuppance. No, really.

NCPO - the National Cyber Policy Office - not an android off the new Star Wars film at all, but actually an agency that leads "the development of cyber security policy advice for the New Zealand government" and is part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

NCSC -  the National Cyber Security Centre - not a team of marines devoted to solving crimes in the military (ED: OK, I'll stop now) but rather that unit inside the GCSB that looks after our "most significant organisations" from cyber security threats.

Netsafe - a not-for-profit organization focused on delivering online safety content and guidance as well as being the investigator that will review online bullying complaints under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Seriously.

New Zealand Police Cybercrime Unit - basically it's robots. (ED: OK, I'll really stop now)

CERT's role will largely be to coordinate activity between these units and to let the public know what's going on and when.

All together it's good to see government taking these issues seriously and coordinating activity for the first time. We've had the pieces in place for a while - now we should be able to see them working in harmony. This is especially important as the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks increases and given the way the political world is moving in these circles, the formation of CERT comes not a moment too soon.

Techblog - CERT launches in Wellington

RNZ - Govt cyber attack unit launched

NBR - Government-backed cyber-security agency opens for business


Marsden Fund

We've talked before about the Marsden Fund - the "blue sky" University-oriented research funder that, in our view, has prioritized science-related research over IT-related research despite having the mandate to do both.

We pointed out that because the panel which decides the Marsden Fund is made up largely of academics from the classical science end of the scale, that led to a bias in the types of grants that were approved.

So the government reviewed the Fund's activities and has released a report into how it's all going.

So how is it all going?

ITP CEO Paul Matthews had this to say:

"We welcome the report's findings that the current panel model introduces 'disciplinary bias, which we believe is clearly evidenced in the case of tech-related research through the Marsden Fund. But we're disappointed with the recommendations.

"At the end of a year-long review, they're recommending another review to look at how to address it."

Sadly yes. After a year of looking at the problem, the key recommendation is to spend some more time looking at the problem.

Matthews will be seeking a meeting with the minister responsible to try to sort out why we need better funding, better assessments and why we need it now.

As NZRise co-chair Victoria MacLennan says, "The appearance of bias result[ed] in an average of only 17% of the funding panel's approved proposals awarded to researchers in the Computer Science domain over the past decade."

The importance of tech to the future of New Zealand both as an economic market but also as a social construct cannot be overstated and yet here we have a fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars supposedly set up to deliver the vitally important "blue skies" science which can't seem to find its way to support the tech sector.

TechBlog - Marsden Research Fund review disappoints

NBR - Tech industry leaders slam review of govt's $273m Marsden Fund



I hate Easter.

It's not because of the chocolate or the rampant bunnies or the spring-time religious festival being dumped on us in autumn, and it's not because all the shops shut and we can only go to the garden centres to shop.

It's not even because of the surcharge cafes slap on their prices for the day.

No, it's because Easter gives us not one but two short weeks in a row and when combined with the rapidly approaching ANZAC Day means that many people take a large swathe of time off and as a reporter all the deadlines were brought forward and would typically kill us in our cubicles.

It's a tricky combination of too few people to interview, too fast a deadline and too much chocolate which is hard to shake off, even now a decade on from my last deadline.

But it's also the time of year when people do need to get away and so our roads fill up with those fleeing the city and the danger is we're so eager to fit in one last burst of escapism before winter clutches us to her cold bosom and so we get terribly tense in the car and the road toll tends to sky rocket.

The good news is we have a cyclone bearing down on us so hopefully many will choose to stay home, safe and dry.

The bad news is many won't and will race to get away.

Take care out there, don't eat too much chocolate (as if there were such a thing) and if you are driving leave the mobile devices in your bag and we'll see you all safe and sound on the other side.

Easter eggs


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