Category Archives: Business

Business on Vancouver Island

Identity Theft in Canada

Identity theft in Canada is a growing problem. In the local Nanaimo newspaper, it was reported that a woman had her identification stolen in 2010 and four years later had her bank account drained. It was believed that her identification was sold and used to gain access to her bank account as well as set up credit cards.

Bill S-4 introduced in 2010:
As of January 8, 2010, Bill S-4 became law, making it illegal to possess another person’s identity information for criminal purposes. Why did it take the Canadian government so long to figure that out?

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) the number of identity fraud victims climbed from 16,997 in 2011 to 19,473 in 2013. Canadians lost over $16 million dollars to identity theft in 2012.

The CAFC is still located in North Bay, Ontario where it started out as Phone Busters. Now, 11 people work there to handle complaints from the 20,000 or so people who’ve had their i.d. stolen.

Shoppers at risk:
Sometimes, your identification doesn’t have to be physically removed in order for someone else to use it.

Last December, 70 million credit and debit card accounts of customers who shopped at Target were stolen in a malware attack. This malware attack  allowed criminals to manipulate Point of Sale (PoS) systems and gain access to Target’s database where the credit/debit card numbers and 4 digit PINs were entered during a purchase.

Why retailers need to salt their PINS

The best way to protect passwords is to employ salted password hashing
The best way to protect passwords is to employ salted password hashing

The credit/debit card numbers compromised in the breach are now up for sale in underground forums. Target remains confident that they adequately encrypted the PINs. Since the hackers stole only the encrypted PINs, Target claims the information is useless to the hackers.

Unfortunately, there is a problem. Security expert Robert Graham pointed out that hackers can get PINs without decrypting them, because two identical PINs decrypt to the same value. Thanks to the banks which have everyone using 4 digit PINS, there is only 10,000 possible combinations. The top most popular 100 PINs can be discovered with only a few thousand attempts, giving over a million cracked debit cards to work with.

For years, the Payment Card Industry has been asking for retailers to “salt” the encryption so that every PIN number decrypts to a different value. Why isn’t there a law in Canada that requires this?

But what about the banks? What are they doing about stolen credit/debit card information, or do they care? Most of the time, the onus is on the retailer if a fraudulent transaction occurs.

International criminals exploiting Canadians
A recent article on the CBC revealed that stolen identification including credit card numbers was posted on Pastebin was originally set up as a place where hackers could dump data recovered from hacks, without revealing a hacker’s identity.

International criminals are exploiting Canadians. We are particularly vulnerable because public services such as health care records, passports and census forms are now outsourced to private companies, some of which are offshore.

People have been complaining of tampered passports. Soon our mail will be sorted offshore. How can Canadians be assured that their personal data is secure if our government has let someone else control it?

Lost tax revenue:
Some of these criminals steal an individual’s information to file false tax returns and claim fraudulent tax refunds. They then use these refunds to make purchases, get money orders and withdraw cash. Criminals use an elaborate network of individuals to launder the tax refunds and recruit others to purchase prepaid retail cards on their behalf.

The fight against Malware:
Malware is a tool used by criminals to gain access to a person’s online information. It is a form of economic terrorism and governments and banks need to address it seriously.

Just last week it was revealed that a hacker known as Diabl0 was arrested.  He is accused of cracking banking computer systems and hacking bank websites in Switzerland while living in Thailand, causing a loss of more than $4 billion USD.

Also, hacking software is cheap and as a result, this type of crime is escalating rapidly. Meanwhile the Canadian government has been slow to catch up, let alone acknowledge it.

What’s being done?
There are a few organizations such as The Honeynet Project that try to fight against malicious hacking attacks.  A bunch of security researchers on twitter are starting a #MalwareMustDie campaign to raise awareness of malware threat issues. Clearly, much more has to be done to get a grip on the situation.

In Edward Snowden’s most recent interview, he revealed that the American spy agencies worked with technology companies to allow for vulnerabilities. While this might have aided the government’s mandate for mass surveillance, it did more harm than good.

Instead of the government spending untold millions tracking everyday Canadians, why not spend the money trying to put an end to this economic terrorism which starts with a person’s stolen identity?

Regional District of Nanaimo Pouring Rights

Today is the deadline for the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to receive proposals for exclusive pouring rights and vending services for the next three years. This follows on the heels of the decision last month not to ban the sale of bottled water in RDN facilities because they would like to give people choice.

What does it mean to have an Exclusive Pouring Rights Contract?

In 2004, Sam Cooke wrote his master’s thesis on the effects of corporate sponsorship on public education. Just after signing an exclusive agreement with Coca-Cola in 1996, the drinking fountains throughout the University of British Columbia were covered up with plastic. Cooke also discovered that new buildings were being constructed without any drinking fountains.

He found that 114 drinking fountains were either removed or disabled. During that time,
students and staff were persuaded over the course of approximately six years, the false notion that the tap water at UBC was unfit for consumption. Ironically, he also discovered that the same tap water was being used by cafeterias for cooking.

In the spring of 2000, I witnessed a principal at Como Lake Middle School in Coquitlam using the school’s public address system to hold a contest persuading middle school students to buy more Coca-Cola beverages. The winning student would receive free tickets to an N.B.A. basketball game. 

 At Princess Margaret Secondary School in Abbotsford, representatives of Pepsi held a “chug-a-lug contest”; whoever could gulp down the sponsor’s beverage the quickest received a free pager.

In November of 2000, the Vancouver Sun reported that school administrators told an Abbotsford teacher that her students ‘Marketing Twelve’ project to sell Jones Soda was unacceptable because of the school’s exclusive contract with Coca-Cola.

The Commercialism in Education Research Unit has studied the costs to society of schoolhouse commercialism. They point out in their 2011 annual report that students are prevented from critically thinking about the corporate message from a school sponsor. On the surface it may appear as though a corporate sponsor is providing a benefit such as supplies. Marketing is framed as being a “partnership” with schools. In the United States, things are going to an extreme, where some corporations are outbidding each other to get naming rights for sports teams and even re-naming schools.

According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) based in Washington, D.C., the average funding received from exclusive pouring rights is approximately $15 per student per year.

The True Cost

The RDN says that it wants the vending machines to sell “healthy food” but what does that mean? Sodexo and Aramark are two of the largest vending machine suppliers in Canada. Aramark has a close agreement with Pepsi, whereas Sodexo has paired up with Coca-Cola.

How does a small time operator compete? It just isn’t possible.

Give us Choice.

Agricultural Area Plan

The Agricultural Area Plan project was initiated in early 2011 by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to support, preserve, and enhance viable agriculture and food production in the Nanaimo region. A central goal of this process is to engage people who are interested in local food – whether you’re growing it, preparing it, selling it or eating it.

Question: How does having an exclusive pouring rights and vending services contract promote this plan? Will you find a Vancouver Island made product or BC product for sale at any of the RDN’s facilities or vending machines? At UBC, the only place where Sam Cooke could buy SunRype apple juice made in the Okanagan, was from a vending machine in the Plant Operations Building. Why? The union had their own vending machine in their lunch room and they stocked it themselves.

Just so the RDN still looks good:

“On occasion, the RDN reserves the right to cover up beverages or vending signage for a specific event held in the facilities.”

Under this new exclusive agreement, the RDN “will provide and maintain any recycling containers for recyclable items from the vending machines and shall retain all recyclable containers to its own account.” Undoubtedly this will add to the RDN’s recycling costs. Last year, their garbage/recycling costs went over budget by $400,000.

Live Webcam of Nanaimo City Hall Annex Addition

Watch the live webcam of the new Nanaimo City Hall addition being built.

The City of Nanaimo has awarded a $11.875 million design-build contract to ICI/Windley to construct a replacement building for the City Hall Annex. The new building is being built at 411 Dunsmuir Street and should be completed by the fall of this year, 2012.

You can see the architectural firm and what the new three level City Hall of Nanaimo addition will look like; Chow Low Hammond Architects.

Ladysmith takes Shop Local Challenge

First, happy 2012 everyone! Hope you all had a great holiday season. Did you have time to take a drive to Ladysmith and take in all their beautiful holiday lights down First Avenue? Did you notice anything missing? Yes? Closed up shops?!

Just like Nanaimo, Ladysmith has seen some local small businesses close up on their main downtown streets. To stop this trend, Ladysmith has embraced a plan to turn up the business for local small business merchants by challenging all residents to take the Ten Percent Shift Challenge.

The plan is to challenge all Ladysmith residents to spend 10% of all their purchases in Ladysmith! One of the top ten reasons to shop local is to spread the prosperity! Time to change your daily routine.

Wanted: Engineering and Planning Consultants in Nanaimo

The City of Nanaimo has a bid opportunity for the services of an engineering consultant for a water audit.

The goal of this Nanaimo water audit is to review the existing water uses and accounting measures; identify where and how improvements can be made, quantify water uses, consumption, unaccounted water and determine a water system leakage index.

Also, the water audit is to review the water utility billing procedures and recommend improvements.

Proposals for this bid opportunity close December 9, 2011 at 2pm PST.

The City of Nanaimo is also seeking proposals from a planning consultant to develop a comprehensive strategic plan. The consultant would work with the City Council of Nanaimo and senior city staff. The consultant is required to coordinate and facilitate the planning process, and create a strategic planning document suitable for public review and presentation.

Proposals for this bid opportunity close December 9, 2011 at 2pm PST.

For more information visit The City of Nanaimo.

Ladysmith gets new visitor centre

Ladysmith Visitor Centre

Ladysmith will soon have a new floating visitor centre! The Ladysmith Maritime Society commissioned plans from a Victoria architect firm for a visitor centre which will have all the amenities for maritime visitors including: laundry, showers, washrooms and social reception facilities.

In the meantime, the LMS is looking for a commercial contractor to build the Ladysmith Visitor Centre.  If you are interested in this construction opportunity, visit their website.