Anachostic

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Tag Archives: politics

Not Getting Value for Dollar

This was a draft from 2015 when Florida’s online unemployment system was revamped and launched to much disaster.  It sort of became a rabbit hole and I stopped diving deeper, although there was so much more to add.  Because I’m lacking in ideas for posts, I’m going to throw this out, but it’s as complete as I really want to make it.  Being two years out of date, you can imagine the shitshow is forever ongoing.

Spurred by significant problems experienced by someone close to me, I did some investigative work just for fun.  The subject: Florida’s new online unemployment system called CONNECT.

It started simply enough, I went to the web site and looked at it.  It’s written in ASP.NET,  The HTML markup is seriously ancient.  This really scares me.  A brand new system shouldn’t be coded like it’s from 1999.  Of course the other warning signs are there: built to work with IE 8/9 (2009-2011), Safari 4/5 (2008/2010) Firefox 16/17 (2012), and worst, resolution: 1024×768.

I started filling out a fake application.  It used ASP.NET postbacks heavily, which is bad.  After submitting some totally wrong information, I was told that the SSN I entered was already in use and I should log in using it.  An invalid SSN… in use?

In the source code, the logo used an ALT tag that said “QUEST”.  That’s odd, because the site is called CONNECT.  Easy online searches show that Massachusetts’ unemployment system is called QUEST.  Really.  So Florida bought software that was developed for someone else?  Yes, and it’s worse than that.

QUEST was built by Deloitte Consulting for Massachusetts sometime around July, 2013.  They paid $46 million for the site.  Again, they paid $46,000,000 for this website.  But Deloitte was smart.  They double-dipped.  They got Florida to pay $63 million for theirs.  Ahem, $63,000,000.  For writing one severely flawed application that has proved to be a failure in both installations, they collected $107,000,000.  Sure they got fined for their fuckups to the order of about $6 million, but that’s pennychange.  The track record of this company is absolutely amazing.

That’s really what this is about.  You would not believe how much this company fucks up and continues to remain in business and get new work contracts for millions of dollars.  Boston journalists have done a pretty good job of exposing this company’s garbage, but you can find out their failure is well-documented in searchable online news stories.  In spite of that, the company is heavily embedded in the governments, with former employees now running state departments – a conflict of interest that is conveniently ignored.

Pennsylvania: Deloitte launched the worker’s comp system in 2013 and complaints abound. They built the Dept. of Welfare site in 2012 and it’s reported to be full of errors and malfunctions.  They created the COMPASS system back in 2002 and there’s no reports of issues with it.  Either Deloitte did good work back then, or Internet news reports weren’t as prevalent.  The company gets so much money from the Pennsylvania government that PA had to reconsider its bidding system.  Despite this, a company contact says that they win bids because they consistently receive good reviews.  In 2006-2007, they won nearly half of the contracts they bid on, so clearly they can’t be getting favoritism.

Massachusetts: Deloitte’s failures in this state are incredibly well-documented.  They were fired from a project after getting $54 million out of a $114 million contract for a system to process tax returns.  They almost got fired for the unemployment system mentioned previously.  Yet, they landed a contract for the DMV.  Time will tell on this one.

California: Another incredible disaster, where Deloitte got sued over charges of incompetency and corruption.  They got fired from a project to track services for the disabled.  They implemented the worker’s comp system at twice the original budget.  They were fired from the project to link the court systems, after getting hundreds of millions in payment and costing the state billions.  Also, they created the unemployment system, also error-prone.

Florida:  Deloitte was fired by Miami for incompetence not on IT, but on legal council on employment.  The unemployment system needs no additional discussion, other than FL is talking to another contractor to fix the problems.

Virginia: Deloitte has been contracted to improve systems for $100 million.  Stay tuned.

Oregon: Deloitte just won an $18M contract to oversee an integration project for state-federal health exchange. 

Rhode Island: $105M to create the infrastructure to manage the healthcare insurance integration.

Minnesota: $10M to take over the healthcare exchange built poorly by a different consulting company.  They were the original first choice, but lost because of cost projections.

Connecticut: An awesome quote by the CEO of the CT Health Insurance Exchange: “We looked at every operations area that we did and we said where can we outsource. … We have outsourced all of our third-party operations — why should we be doing something that someone else can do better, faster, cheaper?”

They did Kentucky’s system, called KEWES in 2001.  It cost them $20 million initially and $6 million/year in operation costs.  I’m not sure if that’s all consulting hours.

This company also was chosen for Ohio’s unemployment portal in 2000.  It’s written in JSP and has the developer changelog right in the HTML source.  Wonderful.

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SpamBastard–1aauto.com

I had an application idea at one time and actually finished writing it, but ended up never doing anything with it once it was live.  It was spambastard.com and its purpose was to catch companies that would sell, lose, or otherwise mishandle your email address info.  The concept was simple.  You sign up for their site using their domain name @spambastard.com and if any email comes in with a mismatch between the FROM domain name and the TO domain name (as the username, before the @), the email address would be considered compromised.

That domain and application is long dead, but I’ve been able to replicate the same concept with my personal email domain.  That eliminates the hassle of creating a second account for every site I sign up for (one with my real email and one with a spambastard email).  To date, I’ve only had a few cases where I’ve had to take action.  Those cases are:

  • albumartexchange.com – There are many people including myself who posted on their forum and complained that they received PayPal phishing emails to their unique email address.  The website did not respond.
  • lakelandlelectric.com – That debacle was chronicled already.  The utility company did follow up with an explanation of how it happened and how the process was unfortunately legal.  They said they would push for tougher laws on keeping customer information private.  This prompted a follow-up email from the spammer who was incredulous that government would try to reduce transparency.  See, transparency is only good when it works in your favor.
  • paypal.com – This got compromised after only nine people knew of its existence.  Whether it was sold or stolen, I don’t know for sure, but I am pretty confident that some eBay seller has a compromised account and a spammer is looting their customer list.

Now we can add to the list – 1aauto.com.  I placed an order with their site in January (remember when the punks broke the mirror off my car?).  Today, I get a political email from John Kasich’s New Day For America to that email.  So I immediately send a message to 1aauto.com saying they’ve either sold or given away my info or their customer database has been hacked.  So which is it?  I got a pretty quick response.

Hello and thank you for your email.

I do apologize that you received a spam email to your account. I can assure you that your information is secure and we have not experienced any kind of hacking. We do keep our customer information confidential and secure and have several measures put in place to prevent against fraud and stolen identity.

Thank you for notifying us. We will keep tabs on this and look into what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

So, I guess the answer is the owner sold out his customers to promote his choice of political candidate.  The fact that this happened at all negates the statement “We do keep our customer information confidential“.  As far as what they can do to prevent it from happening in the future, that’s simple.  Don’t do what you did again.

Thanks to spam law requirements, the spam email footer confirms the email address that it was sent to.  It tells me that I was added to the list on 2/24/16 via opt-in (gee, I don’t remember that), and gives me ways to unsubscribe.

There’s no sense in unsubscribing.  The email address is out in the wild and is now worthless.  Do I want to spend my life unsubscribing from every email campaign that gets that email or do I want to kill off the email?  The choice is pretty simple.

This scenario makes me pity people who only have a single email address, like @gmail.com or @outlook.com or @yahoo.com.  They don’t have the option of closing their account or changing their address.  Consider how easy it is for me, every email (except my personal email) is known to exactly one company.  Email gets compromised, only one place to change it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I absolutely despise this season.  I’m not talking about the holiday season, I’m talking about politics season.  This is the time of year where everyone that has an opinion has an uncontrollable urge to convince you that they are right about something and you should think the same way.  It’s like a Caribbean straw market.

And of course, nothing is off the table when it comes to pitching your case.  At a public event a couple weeks ago, a crotchety old woman came up to me to explain why I needed to be opposed to a public transit initiative.  “It’s going to go from City A to City B.  What’s in City B?  Nothing.  There’s no reason to go to City B.  It’s stupid.”  Well, that’s a convincing argument.  Especially for people who live in City B.  Since I didn’t live in that county, I couldn’t vote on it anyway.

But yesterday, I got a spam political email for a public transit referendum in my own county.  What is it with the hatred of public transit?  There’s a bunch of selfish fucks that think if it’s not for them, they’ll fight it to the bitter end.  But before I rant on that too much, this is the point of contention for that email.

The email was delivered to an email address used exclusively for paying my electric bill.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ve started using a single email per website, so I can track how my addresses are misused.  So I responded and asked how he was able to acquire an email address that is used for a single purpose.  Did my electric company sell my email address?

I was surprised I got a response and more surprised by what he said:

No, they did not.

Beyond that, I will say nothing other than what I do is in full compliance with the law.

I chose not to engage him any further.  It is clear that the best criminals are the ones that use the law to their advantage.

Knowing that my email was not sold tipped me off as to how the address was collected.  Somewhere in the electric company’s website (couldn’t find it on a quick search), there is a notice that says that communications with a government agency – which my electric company is – are public record.  Somehow, somewhere, there is a way to request these communications, which would include email addresses.  It’s legal, for sure; it’s also immoral, for sure.

And that pretty much sums up this season.  It’s a bunch of fuckasses doing anything they can to manipulate you and get done what they want done for their own personal gain.  It’s all selfishness.  Two generations before mine – the “greatest generation” – knew that by creating infrastructure for everyone, everyone benefits.  The current in-power generation, throughout their entire life, has created an a la carte existence, where you pay only for whatever you want.  More importantly, you don’t pay for anything that you don’t want.

There is no sense of community anymore.  There is no sense of making the world a better place.  There is no sense of altruism.  The selfish pricks keep screaming their heads off about taxes and how “I’m just looking out for my children’s future!”  Well, how about you do some looking out for other children’s future?