Unforeseen consequences

posted in: Life and things | 0

I have to admit that it’s convenient to be able to pay bills online. No standing in queues at counters, no having to post paper cheques (remember them?). But as more and more of our lives are lived in the cloud, companies have had to take more and more actions to prevent the wrong people from misusing their computer systems or hacking them.

Not so long ago somebody hacked Optus’s databases. It’s one of the two largest phone and internet providers in Australia. Here’s the story. The hackers demanded a ransom, threatening to release peoples’ private identifying information, including names, addresses, some passport numbers, drivers licences etc. Optus refused to pay, the hacker released10,000 records, so those affected had to replace passports, licences and so on. That information is held by companies to confirm someone’s identity – although I don’t see why it’s necessary to keep it once an identity is verified.

Cyber security breaches are on the rise. This website lists the major breaches in Australia in recent years. If you’re in Australia it’s worth having a look to see if your data may have been compromised. In which case, change your password.

There’s no doubt it’s essential to safeguard the privacy of customer records. But sometimes it’s a hurdle with unexpected consequences.

My sister is in hospital but she had some bills that needed to be paid. Being in another state, I didn’t have access to her accounts, so I rang the providers. I figured it would be a simple process. I would tell them my sister’s name and address, phone numbers, date of birth and then ask them to accept a credit card payment.

But I hadn’t reckoned with the security systems. One company asked me to enter the six-digit code they sent to her mobile phone to prove my bona fides. I had to ring the hospital and get one of the staff to check her mobile for the number. Having done that, they gave me her account number so I could pay the bill via BPay. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t accept a payment without telling me the account number.

The pleasant woman with the other company couldn’t help me at all. I couldn’t pay the bill. The best she could do was put a hold on the account so that the system doesn’t generate threats to cut off supply.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to be in that position. I didn’t want my sister’s account number or any other information about her account – I just wanted to pay the bill. I didn’t even ask for the amount owing, paying enough to hopefully put the account into credit.

I confess I don’t understand why it was so hard.

Maybe the customer service people in some of those companies ought to establish procedures for circumstances like this.

Moving right along, I’ve sometimes wondered why I still have proper digital cameras, given the quality of what a phone camera can produce. So, when we went for a walk along the boardwalk, then back along the beach, my trusty Canon was in my office at home. But I did have the phone with me. A hunting osprey appeared, swooped down and grabbed lunch. I thought it had disappeared, but it came back, flying at fairly low altitude over my shoulder as it took it’s lunch somewhere to eat. As it happened, I was just about to take a picture as it zoomed past.

Look carefully above the line of rocks and you’ll see a flying osprey.

Here’s a close up.

And if I’d had my Canon with me? It might have looked a bit more like this.

Case dismissed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.