Sunday 21 July 2024

Opinion: The issues the CrowdStrike Incident brings to mind

We are not all perfect

In my 36th year of a career in Information Computer Technology of which more than two-thirds have been as a freelance consultant, even in Nigeria where some thought it folly to abandon a salaried role for the uncharted waters of treading the streets of Lagos and beyond for engagement, I have been quite fortunate.

I would be the first to say every seemingly subject matter expert has a history and that is in keeping with the credo that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. My recognition of some of the stupidest things to do in any IT environment allows me to reflect on the imperfections, errors, ignorance, overconfidence, mistakes, and failings of experts. Critically, we should learn lessons more and excoriate ourselves less.

CrowdStrike’s bird strike

However, on Friday I was hoping so much that my weekend would not be ruined by the incident of an event that we would need to remediate, especially when what caused it was totally out of our control. I refer to the 2024 CrowdStrike incident where a US cybersecurity company rolled out a faulty update to their software which affected an estimated 8.5 million Microsoft Windows devices.

In the process, we saw this affecting airlines, airports, hospitals, banks, hotels, payment systems, government services, enterprise systems, and emergency services, among the critical services the CrowdStrike software is widely deployed to protect.

The more technical people have already analysed the issue and several solutions have been proffered including an emergency recovery tool that Microsoft released late yesterday to help fix devices that have been left in an unusable state. [Microsoft: New Recovery Tool]

How ever did this happen?

In my view, I am shocked that this CrowdStrike update happened and calls for a reassessment of how we measure impact, risk, and consequence when what we do can be so far-reaching and the means to back out or roll back a presumed solution requires extraneous measures.

If anything, and I have been involved in major deployments that could reach up to 250,000 users globally, you do not roll out a major update on a Friday and I never do on a Monday either. You need the presence of mind and personnel active during the week if things go wrong.

Before that, all techies are left asking, how did such a fundamentally flawed update make it out of the gates at CrowdStrike without being caught in testing, review, change management, risk management, impact assessment, and just the basic corporate desire never to roll out a problem regardless of the situation?

Preoccupied with the stock market

I got one interesting insight looking through the Twitter (X) feed of the President & CEO CrowdStrike, his last tweet was quoting another before pandemonium broke loose on the 8th of July, and it was the ululation about CrowdStrike being the seventh best-performing stock in the Nasdaq 100 year-to-date and the 14th best in the S&P 500. In both indices, it is the highest returning software stock of the first half of 2024, up over 50%.


[Tweet]

CrowdStrike seemed to be a celebratory mode and last month they celebrated 5 years of being Nasdaq-listed, I hate to think that they had taken their eyes off the ball and by some careless misadventure, a company that was supposed to prevent cyberattacks presided over one of the largest outages ever in the history of information technology.

It leads me to think of the nursery rhyme, Sing a song of sixpence where the king specifically had a counting house to count his money and the maid suffered the mishap of having a blackbird which would have been one of the four-and-twenty birds that were baked in the pie which escaped when the pie was opened and the birds began to sing. Things were not particularly right in that kingdom.

Falconry gone to ground

That this outage affected airports and airlines globally is quite interesting because the update was to CrowdStrike’s Falcon Sensor product. This was a vulnerability scanner that rendered devices totally inoperable. Certain airports deploy falcons to scare away birds that might interfere with the take-off and landing of aircraft. They prevent catastrophic bird strikes that could incapacitate aircraft and lead to accidents.

I find myself thinking CrowdStrike had become a bird strike of unimaginable consequence that the cost of the outages is yet to be computed as many devices might still be offline. CrowdStrike stock price fell almost 20% in the 5 days to the Friday close of the market. The king of CrowdStrike counting his money just over a week before just took a personal hit of $43 million it might be up to $300 million according to Forbes. Not much for a billionaire though.

Ticking boxes and flipping heck

Back to the fundamentals, the question about testing remains as much as I am left wondering what product, service, or project manager needed to tick boxes to meet deadlines over rolling out a patch later than planned to achieve something. Siding with the techies rather than management, could the management have been given different advice, but the techie was overruled for expediency purposes?

I have had these conversations too many times with project managers who have promised the world to management long before they have engaged the input of resources and facilities to get things done to the standard they have promised. The resource is then put in a bind to meet unrealistic deadlines.

You need a force of personality to push back and assert that your job is to deploy solutions that work the first time, maybe with a few tweaks, but you would never roll out what you can determine with all clarity still has issues and can constitute a problem. I do not want to screw up anyone’s project, but I have a professional responsibility to those I provide service and support to not to leave the state of their corporate devices any worse than before my solution was deployed.

Push back and regulation too?

Better late than sorry is not a sin, it is understanding the impact and risk of what you do. One last thing, the update should have gone out in controlled tranches, not globally in one fell swoop. I can see a situation where legislation might require those who can impact critical services to submit a full assessment and deployment plan to a regulator before deployment.

We might be a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), or a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) type agency at national, regional, and international global levels to superintend services that can affect global infrastructure along with teeth to regulate, sanction, or punish those who handle their impactful responsibilities with levity.

Friday 19 July 2024

Hello in There Over There

Hello in There · Bette Midler - John Prine
Looking out into the day

Life in the city presents a window of observation both literally and figuratively. If I cranked my neck looking out to the right, I would see the main road, full of traffic, the missing Venetian blinds pulled down by those who are not gentle of touch might offer a spectacle in flagrante delicto of things better kept out of view.

On occasions, where I have been asked about the weather, a predilection to Miss Havisham’s shunning of the public might suggest that one is unaware of where the sun or the clouds might have come to an agreement about what day they want to show.

Left to my own devices, I will know nothing of what happens in my city until after the event. A hermit untouched and unknown, yet conversant and connected in isolation from sensual interaction.

A part of apartment life

Then, so much information filters in like sunrays on a brilliantly sunny day. From the fourth floor of the apartment block opposite and across the street, I know they are in because they open the window that reflects a blast of light into my living room. Should I wave to them?

For the past two days, the first-floor apartment across from mine had the blinds drawn. They are on holiday one must presume for nothing in the weather of the past couple of days supports the need to shelter from enjoying the elements. They appear to be a partying lot, not that I might haphazardly identify them on the street. They are a function of the apartment in which they live, as I might have been an operatic revue of the unspeakable that excites chortles and giggles.

Old people maybe not lonesome

To the left on the second floor, at the breaking of the dawn, an old man sits at the window looking at a world that his youth once participated in with verve and vigour. The lady who sometimes sits with him might be the wife of decades of marital bliss, a companion of life and experience, with whom living out the rest of their days might stretch to a time beyond record.

The stories in those faces, the memories that fetch fresh waters from wells of existence we could not begin to fathom. They could be parents, likely grandparents, never doubt them being great grandparents, but no little girl’s face has replaced the visage that has met my gaze.

Maybe they see me when I see them, if they ever noticed; for I have watched that window from my desk for years, I could wave at them to say, “Hello! In there”.

Thought Picnic: The little foxes of pique

The inexplicable imponderable

A mobile phone holder on my office desk disappears and there is no other explanation for the disappearance beyond the likelihood that the other person who has full access to the apartment has moved it, used it, and lost it.

Yet, we are left to consider the unexplained in terms of the improbable when it is so patently not the case, for to level an accusation might sour the relationship whilst your sense of discomfiture is hardly assuaged by the realisation that you are losing control of your entire to trusted forces out of your control.

Take another example: a wallet that was vacated of essential things with some unimportant items left therein was placed from clear recollection on that office desk the night before a journey. A week later, I got a call that it had been found in the garden that I had not passed through for close to a week before my journey.

Then, it had rained for most of that week, but the wallet was dry having been picked up that morning by a jogger who happened to spot it on her way out for morning exercises. I find myself caught in another debate of the ridiculous. I guess the wallet just thought it was stuffy in the apartment and decided to step out for a walk, then could not find its way back home.

The obsession proposition

Much as one attempts to be unbothered by the minutiae of the hows and whys of what people do out of commission, omission, absentmindedness, carefulness, or carelessness, all of that never really matters if it is not noticed. My inordinate attention to detail that has found the trenchant criticism of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is simply a need to maintain some order amid many other chaotic things totally out of one’s control.

You wonder, why people change things that have always worked for something that they have not had the opportunity to assess the efficacy of. The seemingly immediate advantage is lost to the long-term inconvenience that could exacerbate the annoyance of others.

Patterns are distorted as your record of how things were is displaced and influenced by thinking, events, or people working from a different perspective and have an inclination to tend to an alternate frame of reference. We all suffer from the inability to be inclusive of all the parameters that could make for a perfect setting.

Leave things where they were, be inquisitive but resist interference, consider the quirks of others which are quite different from their faults, and know when to accommodate rather than repudiate. The subtle traversal of advice to correction lies in the deft art of communication. For all times, know the clock should never be wrong.

These are the little foxes that ruin the vineyard in bloom. [BibleHub: Song of Solomon 2:15]

Wednesday 17 July 2024

May I suggest blogging is easy?

Words always flow

A thought springs to mind, you reach for your laptop and flip open the lid with the confidence and purpose to write something. In the process you get distracted, a YouTube notification on your mobile phone and you are watching a performance that brings tears to your eyes.

You were thinking of writing a blog that you never even had any concept of how it would turn out and now, the trick you used to play of just typing and hoping the words come as you type is not working.

Bludgeon the block

Something suggests you have Writer’s Block, but chance would be a fine thing, because a block is more topical than incidental. I aver that it is when you have an intention that you suddenly cannot act on, that is a block.

In other cases, practise with thought processes allows you to write something, the quality of which might be questionable, and yet its beauty of expression is interesting as craftsmanship speaks for itself to the admirer and the critic alike.

Then if one were to close a blog as one were having a conversation following the basics of what a personal blog entails of how you feel, what you see, and how you are affected, you already have enough paragraphs for another blog. Then conclude with a full stop.

Monday 15 July 2024

Essential Snobbery 101: Time is about you and how you respect others

Time for peace of mind

Last Thursday, I had a hospital appointment for 9:45 AM, in my planning the day before, I had determined that it was best to get the bus and at least 3 buses plied the route to the destination for a journey that would have taken 30 minutes.

Then accounting for reaching the intended department in the hospital complex, I gave about 15 minutes, especially if I could not get good directions or got lost along the way.

This meant I had to leave home at the very latest time of 9:00 AM with a 2-minute walk to the bus stop. I had a friend offer to accompany me to the hospital understanding the kind of discussion I was about to have, but their sense of timing was impaired by a personal emergency, he was not going to make it for my proposed departure time.

Time to ease the pressure

There are reasons why I keep time and many times my patience is tested by those whose concept of time suffers deficiencies of exactitude and timeliness, it is a fluid construct of happenstance dictated by quality of discipline and the aggrandizement of lassitude. Yet, for many reasons, these transgressions can be forgiven.

When it comes to hospital appointments, getting there with enough time to settle down before being called for initial observation before consultation is paramount. In circumstances where I have cut it too fine, my blood pressure has risen in consonance with the stress of not giving myself enough breathing space.

As I did not know what checks would be done, waiting for my companion was out of the question even as that presence would have been a source of support. When attending to medical matters, it is essential that you do not feel alone in that setting.

Time is respect and consideration

My attention to time is not just in this area, it pertains to appointments, schedules, travel, social events and much else. Time gives you a datum of measurement to allow disparate situations and people to align, when it is handled with levity, not only is it unfortunately a sign of disrespect, it gives little consideration to how others use their time.

To some, being fashionably late is a sign of status, I usually have 15 minutes to spare to allow for hinderances to being informed of why another is late, after which, I might well go and do something else. Heck! I have walked away from interviews because the interviewer has been badly behaved on keeping time.

My thinking, if you would waste the time of a stranger interested in working for you, what more would you do when they are contracted or employed? End the whiff of disrespect before it takes root. There might be an apology and an adjustment after, but that is not what I live for.

Time is first about you and then others, it is a paraphrase of loving your neighbour as yourself. Sometimes, I prefer others to choose the time, I’ll be there, I wonder what explanation you’ll have for not making it at the time you chose to meet.

Between haughty Hillsong and bounty biltong

Giving thanks but no thanks

It was with great anticipation that we decided to choose Hillsong Church as the place to attend to give thanks and praise for triumphing over situations and circumstances that had befallen us for the last couple of years.

From a natural perspective, many things seemed insurmountable but providence and good fortune even with limited resources gave such an opportunity for celebration and we were excited about it.

We arrived at the church in Century City, just outside Cape Town and followed the crowd into the building. An usher was closing access to the first entrance to the hall we got to until I said we were first-time visitors. We were allowed into the darkish hall with bright lights on the stage as the praise and worship session was about to begin.

We found seats, squeezed between people who appeared to want to be elsewhere as we joined in congregational worship, and we just went with the flow. Once everything was done, we left as we came, unnoticed, unengaged, and quite unwelcome too. We were blessed but did not have the feeling that we would return.

Surely welcoming is standard church practice

Cape Town is an international tourist destination; we usually attend St George’s Cathedral when in Cape Town and we have always felt welcome. One would expect as with church traditions we have witnessed in many places that there is an acknowledgement of visitors to the fellowship with an opportunity provided to meet up with new faces, presenting the church as a welcoming and open community.

We found it quite strange that at no time during the 11:00 AM service we attended at Hillsong that visitors were welcomed or acknowledged. The church was just busy, too busy being church and probably feeling too full to notice anyone attending for the first time. My partner felt that the worship leading had become a self-absorbed performance to entertain us, it was lots of activity accomplishing little.

Maybe it was an oversight as it did bother me, I volunteer as a steward in my local church in Manchester, we welcome people as they come in, the clergy acknowledges visitors during the service, and everyone is invited for refreshments at the end of the service. We are a community regardless of when you come or where you come from.

Writing to the blind and deaf

I decided to write to the church about our visit and the atmosphere we encountered, apart from a boilerplate response, no one acknowledged or replied from the church. Seeing that the pastors of that church had gone on to lead the global fellowship. A few days later, I forwarded my original email to the main church in Australia, another boilerplate response without acknowledgement or reply.

Even for a business, basic standards of professionalism would suggest a basic response for emails sent on the 25th of June and then on the 3rd of July, the substantive elements of our experience and observations might be dealt with later.

It is not a scandal, we eventually concluded Hillsong had decided we did not matter, and we could not have been so uniquely affected, we were random worshippers who thought there was a prospect of adding a Pentecostal flair to our Anglican devotion in fellowshipping with the Hillsong community. We can however conclude there are more issues in that family than meets the eye.

Biltong engagement was much better

In comparison to the biltong shop that used to be in the Time Out Market that moved into a vending van at the other side of the Watershed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, even after almost 2 years of last patronising them.

The different vendors that manned the van on the separate days that we bought biltong were enterprising, engaging, welcoming, friendly, and inspiring of the desire to return. It is quite bizarre that I am comparing Hillsong to biltong, much was desired of the former, but we found a better relationship with the latter.

Everything is about establishing connections for human relationships, if a church cannot effectively do that, it has by all terms lost its purpose. In my email, I did suggest that we were not trying to change any Hillsong traditions, just highlighting something that could be useful.

My experience with Hillsong London was different, but that was 11 years ago before the scandals happened. I have written a bit about those issues before, my feeling is things have not changed, a window dressing does not a shop make.

Blog - Thought Picnic: Where Everybody Shares Your Pain (August 2013)

Blog - Hillsnog: How the scandals at Hillsong took root (September 2021)

Blog - The Hillsong controversy and resignation (April 2022)

Sunday 14 July 2024

Need not bother about a hat

Travelling lighter than usual

When I stepped out of my home with 3 suitcases and many other things just a day over 3 weeks ago, I had the feeling I had forgotten something, but had no time to think of what it might be.

There was an Uber cab waiting to convey me to the airport and for the strain of trying to travel light, which I rarely do even as I worked hard at accomplishing that goal with much sleeplessly tired effort, I had for my early flight not slept overnight.

Wherever I laid that hat

On getting to the airport, I retrieved a trolley with difficulty, had my suitcases loaded on and made for the terminal when I realised what I had forgotten my hat, my straw grass hat which works well for the summer days, though it might have been useless for the winter days of Cape Town.

What I could not decide on was whether I had left my hat on the rack at home or in the Uber cab. I had the good feeling it was at home, that in my apparent rush to leave at the witching hour of just after 3:00 AM, I had left home quite unusually without a head covering.

It could have bothered me if I did forget the hat in the cab, but it was one of those instances where I felt either way, I’ll deal with it when I get back. On occasion, I had the feeling to order a replacement because I got the hat about 7 years ago and it was ordered on Amazon from Germany. A voice whispered in me, not to jump to that conclusion.

It really did not matter

Having the choice of asking my house sitter to check and confirm whether my hat was on hat rack did occur to me, but I left it at that. I had another 7 or 8 hats in my baggage for my destination, the world was not going to end because of a straw hat.

When I returned last Tuesday, it was not the first thing I checked as that was not on my mind, one of my other hats was already adorning my bald head. As I took it off to hang on the hat rack, I noticed the straw hat. It was at home, all along.

It is funny how the foregoing might have served as an introduction to a piece about how we bother ourselves about little things and overcompensate to remediate for certain failings or inadequacies. In fact, I did see a few straw hats in Cape Town, I just ignored the draw to try any of them on. I was having a good time and that is all that mattered.