AIB Card Security: FAIL

Following on from Active Growth’s post on Bank of Ireland security, I didn’t want AIB to feel left out.

They’ve an even worse card security procedure, which they continue to use despite my repeated complaints.



Picture the scene, if you will.  Something fishy is going on on your credit card (normally it’s small value internet transactions).  The transactions are flagged up to the credit card fraud department, and they call you.

The Withheld Number

They call you from a withheld number.  You answer the phone, and the caller claims to be AIB Credit Card services, and asks you to prove to them that you’re actually the card holder!

At this stage on one call (and I get many from them – often over the same repeated transaction…another fail) I pointed out that as I was in posession of a “known good” phone number (i.e. the one that was attached to the credit card), and they were in posession of nothing more than a claim to be AIB, I was the one who should be asking the verification questions.  They didn’t like that.

Anyway, if you’re not as security aware as I am, you give them your credit card number, expiry date and full billing address (having already confirmed your name at the start of the conversation), and they then proceed to query some transactions.

How to scam an AIB customer

All the would be scammer needs to do to get an AIB customer’s credit card details is dial #31#<target’s phone number>.  The call will come up on the target’s phone as “Number Witheld” or “Anonymous” or similar.

90% of customers will then give the credit card number, expiry date, billing address and probably even the CVV2 number from the back of the card without question.

If the person refuses to give the details, the scammer can even refer them to the phone number on the back of the card, where AIB’s real credit card services will confirm that yes, that is how the calls come.  But no, there’ s no flags on their account at the moment – it must have all been cleared up.

What AIB should be doing

The correct way to handle this, in so far as there is one, is to call from a verifiable number (i.e. the one that appears on the back of the card), and ask people to call back to the number that appears on the back of the card (not “call 01 654….”, but “call us on the number on the back of your credit card”), or even better, a well known freephone telephone banking number (along the lines of the 1890 242424 number).

Bruce Schneier would have a heart attack if he heard this was coming from the two largest banks in the country.  Although, given what those two banks have been up to, it’s shouldn’t be too much of a surprise…

Pat Rabbitte always eats his Greens

Brilliant video from yesterday’s Dáil debates on the Budget.  Pat Rabbitte tears into the Greens, who claim their fingerprints are “all over” the Budget.

Neil has more.

Read the rest of this entry »

MBA Decision – It’s Vancouver

As of five minutes ago, I’m officially a student at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

UBC Sauder

UBC Sauder

I’ll be doing the MBA course at the Sauder School of Business there starting in late August (with the pre-course stuff starting in early August).  It’s a great course, and I’m really looking forward both to it, and to living in Vancouver.  I’ll even get two weeks off for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which is nice.

Thanks to all those who’ve helped with the applications, advice, etc.  It’s much appreciated.

Go Thunderbirds!

Fermirotica (XKCD)


Today's XKCD

For some reason the mathematician in me is trying to work out how to correct the formula to take into account the time of day.

Eamon Gilmore Video

The famous Eamon Gilmore video, which was shown at the Labour Party Conference on Saturday, and has received quite a bit of comment in various places, is now online.  You can see it here.

MBA Decision Time

Well, as discussed before, I’m planning on doing a full time MBA later this year (starting August/September).MBA Books

It’s come down to decision time now, because I’ve received three offers and deadlines approach (thanks to those who helped reviewing my application essays, of course!).

The three are UBC Sauder in Vancouver, University of Western Ontario (Ivey), and of course UCD Smurfit here in Dublin.

Accumulating debt and the time taken to pay it off is a significant factor in the decision, of course.  Vancouver is cheapest overall, with Smurfit second cheapest.  As with every choice, there are advantages to each of them.

A decision will be announced next week, most likely.  At least my decision (taken last October) to withdraw from the workforce for a year starting in August turned out to be fairly prescient of the state of the employment market and economic situation!

Cowen Portraits, or “PictureGate”

Finally got around to throwing my oar in on the Cowen portraits saga (or #picturegate, as it’s become known). (The London Times has a good rundown of the story so far if you’ve not been following it)

Whatever you think of the original RTÉ news report, and the subsequent apology (note RTÉ’s first bit of grovelling to the Government – let’s not forget the Máire Hoctor interview and the withdrawl of Professor John Crown from the Late Late Show), it’s the Garda actions that really annoy me.  As far as can be determined from all the information floating around, the original “crime” was reported to the Gardaí by one of the galleries on 7th March.  The Gardaí, however, didn’t investigate until the 23rd of March, when the Taoiseach’s office got involved (through their complaint to RTÉ).  Then, they turned up flashing badges and officially interviewing Today FM staff and subsequently (although not on foot of information from Today FM, I should add) formally questioning under caution a suspect, and sending a file to the DPP.

The Portrait (still on RTÉ website)

The Portrait (still on RTÉ website)

Who Called the Cops?

Now, presuming that there was some crime to be investigated (more on that below), why did the Gardaí not investigate it at all for more than two weeks?  Why was it that the investigation only started when the Government Information Service (Taoiseach’s Spokesperson) started kicking over tables?  Was a directive issued or implied from anyone in Government to the Gardaí?

The Legal Basis

Eoin over at has an excellent rundown of the law here, and it’s pretty clear from what he says that there was no justification for Garda involvement in the matter.  The only legal precedent that might apply is 140 years old, and was last used 50 years ago in a nice old-fashioned Irish case of Church censorship:

The first question relates to the artist’s freedom of expression. Is it illegal to paint nude caricatures of the Taoiseach, or is this protected by the constitutional right to freedom of expression? I just don’t see how it can amount to incitement to hatred against a group of persons; nor are the censorship regimes for films or publications engaged. All that’s left is the (still extant) common law crime of obscene libel, which criminalises publication of matter with a tendency to deprave and corrupt (R v Hicklin (1868) LR 3 QB 360). [I leave aside questions of civil defamation or other similar claims, as they would not implicate criminal investigation and/or prosecution]. The last time the criminal libel ‘tendency to deprave or corrupt’ test was implicated in an Irish case was 1959 (see AG v Simpson (1959) 93 ILTR 33, discussed in Gerard Whelan and Carolyn Swift’s palpably angry Spiked: Church-State Intrigue and the Rose Tattoo (Dublin: New Ireland Books, 2002) (summary review here); it concerned a production of the wonderful Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo featuring Anna Manahan); its vagueness must be seriously open to constitutional challenge; and anyway, it is hard to see how the Cowen caricatures satisfy even this nebulous standard. In the circumstances, I find it difficult to see what crime the artist committed.

Deaglán is the latest to comment, and makes some particuarly good points about Vincent Browne, who’s reaction to this has been bizarre to say the least.

The Ironing is Delicious

An interesting aside to finish.  Last night, RTÉ showed the Simpsons episode where Marge paints Mr Burns nude, and a documentary called “Bloody Cartoons“, which covers the furore that followed the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Who Reads the Papers

I’ve been a bad blogger, and not updated in some time – mainly due to work pressures.  Whether or not this is resolved is entirely undetermined at this time.

In the meantime, here’s an amusing piece from today’s Irish Times, inspired, no doubt, by the brilliant scene from Yes, Prime Minister.  It’s part of Anne Marie Hourihane’s welcome letter to the new US Ambassador to Ireland:

The Media. The Irish media is based in Dublin and never leaves it. The Irish media prefers the darker side of the street in all matters, except, until very recently, in the reporting of economic news. Aren’t we gas?

Roughly speaking, the newspapers agree on everything, and are kind of hard to tell apart. You can break them down like this:

  • The Irish Times contains what people think they should be thinking.
  • The Irish Independent contains what people would be thinking, if they thought about it.
  • The Irish Examiner contains what people in the south of the country are thinking – but those people are rather confused.
  • The Irish Daily Mail contains what people are ashamed to be thinking.
  • And the Evening Herald has never had a thought in its life; although it does sometimes argue that the whole population should be interned without trial.

Who Pays No Tax?

RTÉ’s Prime Time last night was a discussion on tax.  Reporter/presenter Mark Little repeated several times Noel Dempsey’s (and the Government’s) claim that “38% of people pay no tax at all”.  That’s rubbish.

38% of people pay no income tax.  But they all pay tax.

Feel Familiar? (from

Feel Familiar? (from

VAT, or sales tax, is paid by everyone, without exception.  While individual transactions or products may not have VATs (sinfully, stud farm fees have no VAT, but electricity and heating oil do), everyone from the widow on a couple of hundred euro a week to the Brian Goggins of this world on his measly “less than €2m” per year (that’s €38,000 a week in old money) pays VAT.  That 38% who pay no tax includes those on pensions, disability allowances, single mothers, full time carers, etc, etc.

Pity the Rich

The next step in that argument from the Government is that the top one third of people pay two thirds of income tax.  Which Noel Dempsey implied is almost unfair on them.  It’s only unfair on them if they earn less than two thirds of the total income!  In fact, it’s really only unfair on them if they earn less than two thirds of what we could refer to as the “income above subsistence”.

What we need to know is what each decile of the workforce earns, and what it pays in tax.  If the top decile (i.e. the top 10% of earners) earns one third of all income, as I would predict, then it’s perfectly fine in my mind for them to pay at least one third of the income tax take.  Despite  a bit of cursory research this morning, there doesn’t seem to be any recent statistic available on this.  (I’m working on getting it off the Government.)

Look before you Leap

So let’s see the full picture.  Before we go tinkering with the tax system, let’s know not just who pays what proportion of the income tax take, but what proportion of their income that is.  Only then will we know if the changes that will come about in the new Mini Budget (which, by the way, I predicted back in October) are fair and if everyone’s paying their share.

Why do I get the feeling that the builders and bankers will pay little, and those on average incomes will get hit hardest?

Obama’s Carrot & Stick Approach to Congress

President Barack Obama has, as discussed before and elsewhere, built up a huge list of supporters who want to engage with him.  Now, we’re finally seeing how he’s going to use it on the good side.

As you may remember from earlier posts, I’m signed up with the Obama database as living in Alexandria, VA (where I volunteered on the campaign).  On Monday, I got an email from Mitch Stewart, Director of Organizing for America, which took over the mantle of Obama for America after the election.  Here’s the text:

Keith —

President Obama launched the most ambitious effort to stimulate the economy in our nation’s history when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Tuesday.

Your representatives need to hear from you when they vote for the change you mandated in November. Doing what’s right can be thankless when the culture of Washington tries to make political games out of the issues that matter to everyday Americans.

You’re part of a powerful grassroots movement that can change that dynamic. According to our records, you live in Virginia’s 8th district.

Rep. James Moran, Sen. James Webb, and Sen. Mark Warner’s votes were crucial to passing the bill and creating and saving jobs in Virginia.

Can you pick up the phone right now to thank Rep. Moran, Sen. Webb, and Sen. Warner?

Rep. James Moran

Sen. James Webb

Sen. Mark Warner

Report your call. (link)

Here are some suggested talking points for your call:

– I’m calling to thank [Congress member’s name] for supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
– I’ll be watching closely online and in the news how taxpayers’ money is spent in the implementation of this Act.
– I encourage [Congress member’s name] to continue working with President Obama to lift America out of this economic crisis.

After your call, please record your feedback here:

We still have a long way to go, but working together we were able to take this important first step.

With the plan in place, more than 2 million people will be lifted out of poverty, 20 million at risk of losing their health care will be protected, and 3.5 million jobs will be created or saved.

There will be plenty more ways for you to contribute in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you for your continued support,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

This is the carrot.  Senators and Congressmen who behave themselves will get praise, and of course the opportunity to open a dialogue with their own constituents too.

As for the stick?  Wait until we get the emails telling us that the local Congressman (of whatever party) is blocking Obama’s new health policy, and that it would be helpful for his constituents to let him know their opinion…

(Aside: Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, mentioned above, is a regular Twitterer – good communications channel for those interested in knowing what their Senator is doing)