Your shout: Biometric ID cards, Vista and women in IT

Computer Weekly readers' give their views on this week's news


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Paying a high price for biometric ID cards

Michael Poulin

I totally agree with Toby Stevens about the dangers surrounding the government’s plans for national identity cards (Computer Weekly, 19 December). This article should be on the desks of all executives in the UK.

Regardless of politicians’ populist promises, there is no system in the world that is 100% secure. With my experience in software security, and as a PhD in bio-medical cybernetics, I can add that the ID cards system will be compromised earlier rather than later: just read “Cracked it!”

(,,1950151,00.html), which recounts how experts cracked the UK’s new biometric passports.

The major and the most frightening problem that results from any stolen ID card is that
the bio-medical characteristics of the real card owner cannot be changed to restore the identity
and associated trust (like a credit card, where a new number may be issued and the old number invalidated). Thus, the real person gets “erased” from the trustful society.

Even if a stolen card is found, nobody can guarantee that it was not copied for later reuse.
In other words, if an  ID card is compromised, it could lead to its owner becoming “non-existent”.

Do people want to be “kind of” protected from potential terrorists and thefts for such cost?

Who is responsible if it all goes pear-shaped?

Name withheld by request

Richard Collings’ opinion article on why government projects fail so spectacularly (Computer Weekly, 5 December) is absolutely correct.

No civil servant wants to be the bearer of bad news to management. If they say everything is going fine, they can deftly move positions before the proverbial hits the fan. It is all part of the game, and a bit like pass the parcel – don’t be found holding the package when it blows up! Then again, if you are, it was not your fault because it went wrong long before you were involved.

Civil servants are not incentivised to deliver projects in their entirety. The concept of senior responsible owner (SRO) was generated by people looking at best practice. The idea was that the person who controlled the project at the start would deliver it. But civil servants are encouraged to move on and apply for other jobs regardless of their current responsibilities.

This, together with the culture of not being responsible (the buck stops with a committee, rather than an individual), mitigates against a project keeping a single SRO for life. How many SROs has the NHS National Programme had so far?

Why I won’t be getting hyped up about Vista

Paul Shorter, IT manager, Roush Technologies

I was highly amused by the article on the arrival of Windows Vista (Computer Weekly, 5 December).

I choked on my coffee when I read comments by Microsoft’s Gordon Frazer about how Vista/Office 2007 would allow us all to “unleash potential”, “spearhead new innovations” and “drive business success”.

When I got to the bit about how Vista would create 30,000 new jobs in the UK, I damned near turned purple and had to lie down for a bit.

From pointless, vague hyperbole to outright unprovable claims, the Microsoft marketing juggernaut lumbers on, apparently oblivious to the fact that it is rapidly turning into a parody of itself.

The bottom line, which it left behind so long ago, remains the same as ever. There will be those who upgrade immediately believing they have done something clever, while those who wait for the truth to emerge will be able to make a much more reasoned decision.

Success stories show women can thrive in IT

Jane Swindle, IS customer moves manager, Cancer Research UK

I was interested to read the views of the two women who wrote letters in the 5 December edition. It is a shame that people have been made to feel like this within the industry.  Having been in IT since 1981, maybe my years of service have hardened me to the environment, but I have never found it unwelcoming or felt it has given me a rough ride. 

I have worked in all the areas of a typical IS department. Certain “hands on” roles, such as systems, networking and comms, are male-dominated, but over the past 10 years the percentage of females in these positions has increased. 

In our department, 30% of the staff are women and we get all the same opportunities as our male colleagues. As was pointed out, women are very different to men and there are certain parts of the IS department in which they thrive and excel. I see very successful females in both my own and external companies working in account management, development and project management.

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