VW ruling; Lenovo tech ban and Steve Ballmer: IT Pro's web comment round-up


This week on IT Pro, the big talking point revolved around the UK High Court's decision to block scientists from publishing an academic paper outlining security flaws in car immobilisers.

Readers were also keen to share their two cents on a report that claimed worldwide government agencies have a blanket ban on Lenovo's kit.

And the comments continue to flow regarding whether Steve Ballmer is the right man to continue at the helm of Microsoft.

VW immobilises scientists

A High Court judge banned the publication of an academic paper containing details of the secret codes, which could potentially be used by criminals to start luxury cars.

VW, which owns Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini, was the spearhead behind the injunction, although it did offer scientists the chance to publish a redacted version, which they declined.

The public has a right to know about the incompetence of the Volkswagen Group and others.

The overwhelming majority in the office believed that VW was correct to seek an injunction. Caroline Donnelly, our resident news hound, also crafted an opinion piece explaining why. But only one reader agreed with the Judge's decision.

"Just because a scientist can easily forge a duplicate key (I mean the hardware key) doesn't mean that he/she has the right to hand out keys to my car to others. The judge is right," argued Kanthamohan Jeyaraman.

Most other readers weren't so sympathetic to the plight of VW, and suggested that if the information is not put in the public domain then the problems might never be solved.

"This kind of head in the sand attitude causes problems. Instead of gagging people, get them working on the next generation of solutions! I would have expected MUCH better from VW," noted Dgladys.

Meanwhile, Brianm101 hypothesised that VW may have scuppered publication of the report to avoid a recall, but did offer a sensible compromise.

"The public has a right to know about the incompetence of the Volkswagen Group and others. At least if we know the system is insecure then owners can take precautions," he pointed out.

"Perhaps a ban of 6 months on disclosure to give the manufacturers time to do a recall and fix the problem. But it needs to be time limited, as if one person can crack it then someone else will."

Intelligence agencies in Le-no-no saga

A report from the Australian Financial Review suggested that five intelligence agencies have had Lenovo PCs and laptops on a blacklist since the mid-2000s, due to security concerns. They include GCHQ, the US National Security Agency, and the Defence Signals Directorate in Australia, and their equivalents in Canada and New Zealand.

Following the revelations, the Australian Department of Defence released a statement denying it has banned staff from using the Chinese PC vendor's products. In the UK, the Home Office would not confirm or deny the existence of such a directive. Lenovo claimed it's products have been found to be reliable and are used widely within the enterprise.

If this was the case then every last chip in China would have the same back door.

Readers weren't convinced by the reports that Lenovo kit has a vulnerable back door. David Kendrick suggested that if this was the case then "every last chip in China would have the same back door", including all the routers which are part of the world's network.

"If that is the case all the communications made over the internet are potentially monitored by China. If Lenovo PC's were so rigged they would be banned worldwide," he summarised.

MnemonicCarrier, another IT Pro reader, wasn't taking the report at face value either.

"This China bashing sounds like an attempt to distract people from the real global electronic prison camp. I'd like to see solid evidence instead of hot air," they concluded.

On a lighter note, Shirlz suggested that Lord Alan Sugar, now of The Apprentice fame, could step in and rekindle former glories with a new business opportunity.

"I'm sure Lord Sugar can supply his Amstrads!" they quipped.

The Ballmer effect

The comments continue to roll in on the piece that debated whether Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the right man to lead the tech juggernaut through its transitional phase. Ballmer who is the world's richest CEO with a fortune of $17 billion, certainly thinks he's the right man for the job, but the IT Pro community don't seem to share that view.

Gbollard suggested that Ballmer should cash out and ride into the sunset: "At this point, Steve's best strategy would be to retire and let a true visionary take over... or failing that, anyone..."

But Ken Baldry was of the opinion that even if Ballmer did step aside, there would be no suitable replacement.

"Microsoft don't have a corporate structure that permits 'true visionaries' & no one would want to take them over now," he countered.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.