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Wednesday, April 27 2011

Well - we have had our fair share of excuses from UK banks, Pension providers and Endowment Policy providers over loss of investments but this is a good one.... a peril of offshore investment worth considering??


India bank termites eat piles of cash

Indian currency The termites are believed to have developed an expensive taste for money

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Staff at an Indian bank have been blamed for allowing termites to eat their way through banknotes worth millions of rupees.

Staff at the bank, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, are reported to have been found guilty of "laxity".

The insects are believed to have chewed their way through notes worth some 10 million rupees ($225,000/£137,000).

A similar incident happened in 2008, when termites in Bihar state ate a trader's savings stored in his bank.

The State Bank of India says an enquiry into the latest incident has been held.


"The branch management has been found guilty of laxity due to which the notes were damaged by termites in the Fatehpur branch of Barabanki district," State Bank of India Chief General Manager Abhay Singh told the Press Trust of India.

Termites The State Bank of India has warned staff to be alert for money-grubbers

"Action will be taken against those responsible in the matter.

"As it was the bank's fault, it will bear the loss caused due to termites... there will be no loss to the public."

Ms Singh said that identity numbers on the majority of the notes were still intact, which meant that they could be replaced.

Bank officials discovered that the notes - which were kept in a strongroom - had been damaged by termites earlier this month.

Ms Singh said that directives had now been issued to all branches that stored currency in strongrooms to ensure that the condition of the cash is checked every two months.

Reports say that the branch where the money was stored was old, seldom properly cleaned and known to be a haven for termites.

"It was earlier brought to the notice of the management that termites were damaging files and furniture. Efforts are on to relocate the bank at some other place," Ms Singh said.

In the incident in Bihar in 2008, trader Dwarika Prasad lost his life savings after termites infested his bank's safe deposit boxes and ate them up.

Mr Prasad deposited currency notes and investment papers worth hundreds of thousands of rupees in a bank safe in the state capital Patna.

The bank said at the time that it had put up a notice warning customers of the termites.


A trader in the Indian state of Bihar has lost his life savings after termites infesting his bank's safe deposit boxes ate them up.

Dwarika Prasad had deposited currency notes and investment papers worth hundreds of thousands of rupees in a bank safe in the state capital Patna.

The bank says it put up a notice warning customers of the termites.

Mr Prasad says he did not see it in time as he did not go to the bank for months after the notice went up.

Bank officials admit they did not inform the customers individually about the termite problem.


"I'm shattered. I do not know what to do as I had kept the money for my old age," Mr Prasad said.

The trader says he had deposited 450,000 rupees ($11,000) in currency notes, investment papers worth 232,000 rupees ($5,660) and some gold and silver jewellery in a safe deposit box of the government-owned Central Bank of India.

Mr Prasad says that relations with his wife and children were strained and he wanted to put the money in the safe box to keep it safe from them.

Dwarika Prasad's documents destroyed by termites (Pic: Prashant Ravi)
The locker had currency notes and documents worth thousands of dollars

He started using the safe box in September 2005.

He says when he opened it on 29 January, there was nothing in the safe except termite dust and remains of currency notes and that his investment papers were "badly perforated".

The white ants did not even spare the ornaments and their sheen has vanished, he says.

"I wrote to the head office of the Central Bank of India and the regional offices of the Reserve Bank of India," Mr Prasad says. "Even after two months, I'm waiting for a response from them."

'Not liable'

Bank authorities say they put up a notice, dated 8 May 2007, outside the locker room warning customers about the termite infestation.

They advised customers to remove their documents and papers from their safe.

"We received a few complaints of termites in safe deposit boxes so after putting on the notice, we got pesticides sprayed in the bank," said bank manager YP Saha.

Mr Saha says the customer cannot blame the bank because he did not find his locker broken or damaged.

"The bank is not liable for the deposits kept inside the safe as it is only when a locker is found broken that the bank is answerable," he said.

Bank authorities say they have forwarded Mr Prasad's complaint to higher authorities but they say he is not entitled to any compensation for his loss.

Posted by: Gordon Mackie AT 04:04 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 22 2011

Yes - the dreaded IT Single Point Of Failure or SPOF - a really nice article on BBC caught my eye, highlighting the unknown delivery subsystems that underpin modern communications

A 75-year-old Georgian woman who says she has never even heard of the internet is facing a possible prison sentence for single-handedly cutting off the web to an entire country.

Hayastan Shakarian Hayastan Shakarian is accused of hacking through the cable that cut off Armenia's internet

Georgian police arrested Hayastan Shakarian after she allegedly hacked through a fibre optic cable that runs through Georgia to Armenia, while digging for copper.

With one stroke, the pensioner plunged 90% of internet users in Armenia into online darkness for nearly 12 hours.

The episode is a timely reminder that all it takes in our hi-tech world to shut down thousands of companies for a day is a determined old lady with a spade.

Huge reliance

Research carried out in October 2010 by Avanti Communications offered a snapshot of just how fundamental the internet had become to businesses.

The survey of companies worldwide suggested only 1% could function adequately without the internet.

More than a quarter (27%) of those surveyed said they could not function at all if the internet went down, and one in five said a week without being online would be the death of their company.

"In the past, network downtime might have prevented a batch of communication at the end of the day," says Chris Kimm, vice-president network field operations EMEA at Verizon Business.

"Today it could mean no phones, no e-mail, no customer database, no ordering systems, no supply chain visibility and effectively, no capability to conduct business."

Ian Finlay, group chief information officer at Claranet, says: "The key message is if you are going to avoid the worst you have plan for it and for each business the worst will be different."

Broken cable duct Fibre optic cables that lie on top of utility pipes are at risk whenever work is done near them

Going underground

Oliver Pettit, from professional services company Deloitte, says key questions to network providers should include whether they can guarantee close to 100% network uptime.

"Moreover, companies should query how resilient the provider's network is to disruptions and what technology it has in place to support its services," he says.

Some solutions on offer are quite straightforward. One network provider, Geo, runs all its cable through the Victorian sewers in London.

This solves one of the major problems that makes telecoms lines in many countries susceptible to being cut - they are laid on top of utility pipes.

Not only does this mean they are mere centimetres under the ground - but whenever repairs are done to utilities, the workmen have to get past the fibre optic wires first, meaning inevitable incidences of cuts.

Clever solutions

Other technologies on offer to providers - which will in turn help their customer stay connected - are mind-boggling.

For example, a company called OptaSense offers to stop potential breaks in service by listening to any threats as they approach.

Cables in London's sewers Network provider Geo runs all its cables through London's Victorian sewer system

Using advanced sonar techniques, the company converts the fibre optic cable carrying the precious internet signal into an acoustic microphone.

It can then tell the network provider exactly what is getting too close for comfort - be it a vehicle, human footsteps, digging or drilling.

Satellite back-up

Avanti Communications is one of a handful of companies that offer 24-hour instantaneous back-up via a dedicated satellite.

It launched its first satellite in November, which covers Europe, and plans to launch one covering the Middle East and India next year.

Chief executive David Williams says satellite technology will play an ever more important role in communications networks.

David Williams David Williams of Avanti thinks satellite technology is the future of networks

"Fibre optic cable costs around £150 per metre to dig, so building cable networks is incredibly expensive," he says.

"But one satellite can cover the whole of Europe - so wherever you are, it can get to you."

Financial protection

Insurance companies have been slow to jump on this bandwagon, but products are now becoming available to cover losses caused by network failure.

Alan Thomas, of insurer Hiscox, says each policy is bespoke.

"Insurers love statistics to determine risk, but we just don't have them because it's a young product," he says.

He adds that businesses have been slow to take up these policies but predicts a big increase in interest as soon as an outage leads a high-profile loss for a big company.

Preparing for network failure

  • In most cases, configuring a server to reboot automatically is the fastest way to get it back online
  • Set up instant notifications so if there is something wrong, the right people receive an e-mail, SMS, or instant message
  • Prepare and test disaster recovery plans
  • Consider "load balancing" if your website is transaction-based - this will automatically move traffic to another machine in case of failure

Source: Dirk Paessler, CEO, Paessler AG

Future proofing

The future of networks is causing sleepless nights for IT professionals and policy makers alike.

The appetite for data across the globe is growing at an extraordinary rate and is putting an immense strain on the system.

"A lot of the basis of the internet today was invented 30 years ago," says Tim Fritzley, InTune Networks chief executive.

"In the 90's when people were envisioning the first part of the web even the most optimistic soothsayer never saw anything like social networking."

"They didn't see 10% of what is going on now," he says.

InTune is working with the Irish government on its Exemplar Network.

This aims to vastly increase network capability worldwide by enabling a single strand of fibre to carry not just one signal from one operator, but data from up to 80 telecoms and TV companies at once.

Developers are working furiously to make sure our increasing hunger for data does not mean a collapse of the system.

But whether this will protect users from marauding pensioners looking for copper remains to be seen.

Posted by: Gordon Mackie AT 02:24 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Wednesday, April 13 2011

The year is flying by and this month we have our first Royal Wedding of the year, no doubt a joyous occassion for many but an added complication for those of us involved in Business Continuity planning as we have to think about this added threat to our daily operations.

We deal in threats on a daily basis, whether it is severe weather, terrorism, demonstrations, issues with our IT infrastructure, mass staff absence etc, but what about the things we cannot plan for, the unknown unknowns? A term that is being used more frequently in the world of Business Continuity is Black Swan events, these types of event are a surprise (to the observer) and have a major impact, but after the event it is rationalised by hindsight.

When I wrote last month, I talked of the social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and flooding around the world. It seemed at the time that that things were pretty well as bad as they could get... they weren't. 8 days after my last posting, on 11 March an earthquake measuring 8.9 hit 130km off the East coast of Japan. Japan is used to earthquakes, it is an Island that sits where 4 tectonic plates meet - the Pacific Plate, the Othosk Plate, the Amurian Plate and the Phillipine Sea Plate. Earthquakes are a way of life to the Japanese, and they get on with things and do what they are meant to do when the earthquake alarms go off. Their buildings are built to withstand quakes, and 10m tsunami walls around most of the coast line are there to deal with any Tsuunamis. So what turned this into a Black Swan event?

The earthquake hit with such ferocity and power that the country dropped by 1m. As the quake was 130km out this allowed the Tsunami to create some momentum which led to 10m high waves, the 10m tsunami walls were now 9m, the water poured over and you will have all seen the pictures of the devastation that was caused. A wall of water became a wall of rubble, houses, cars, boats, anything in its path was taken and moved en masse. In hindsight, Japan was due a big earthquake, that would push the boundaries of what they had prepared for, but hindsight is a great thing to have. We will not know the full extent of impact of the earthquake for possibly years to come but already in Japan people are trying to go about their business and keep things operating.

So the question for all of us, is could they have planned for this, built bigger walls provided better protection for their nuclear power plants? Maybe, but as Business Continuity practitioners we know that it is almost impossible to plan for every eventuality, businesses who have to take time out from earning money to test and exercise like tests that mimic what is likely to happen, the more far fetched the less likely they are to buy into it, and make the exercise work. Our job is to push the boundary for them, take it further than it would normally go, introduce some "what if" scenarios that are plausible if not that likely and keep challenging our businesses to think about how they can keep calm and carry on. If a Black Swan event hits we need to have challenged our businesses previously so that they are in the best possible place to deal with the situation.

And why the linkage between Swan and Royal Weddings.... well swans are a protected bird, the long and the short of it is you need Royal assent to eat swan (Act of Swans 1482, but more recently with the Wild Creatures and Forest Law Act (1971)... unless of course you live in Orkney who are able to eat them under Udal / Norse Viking law!) So Swans and Royal Weddings will likely impact what we do in our day to day lives whether we like it or not, and the way 2011 has been going, sooner rather than later!

Posted by: Jon Seaton AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 08 2011

While working in Bangalore this week, the newspapers had a lot of stories about population growth - national, regional and by city. Projected growth for Karnakata State was to around 79  million and all will need power and water.

I was interested to note that Karnakata (the state Bangalore is in) has over 61 million people and Bangalore has well over 5 million inhabitants but is not classed as a big city.

In Edinburgh, we work within our parameters of geographical area and population, Glasgow being classed as the Scottish Gotham City and the population of Scotland is seen as an interesting statistic but irrelevant to our local plans.

Out here, power is supplied to a city larger than London which is growing at a fast pace. The weather is extreme, so air conditioning causes spikes and the city barely sleeps.

It brought home to me that while we have challenges when coping with city wide events, Mumbai with 19 million inhabitants (and monsoon floods that can lead to chest deep water in the streets) poses a different scale of risk and threat which has to be dealt with by practitioners like ourselves faced with BC planning for offshore operations.

I may pull together a workshop for people to talk about the challenges they have had to overcome when offshore locations have been added to their IT Service Continuity and Work Area Recovery resposibilities.

I was amazed by the "getting to work today" stories that I heard every morning. In the UK, they would have had a BBC News crew out interviewing them!

Cheers - Gordon

Posted by: Gordon Mackie AT 08:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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