January 30th, 2009

snark maiden

Which SMS gateways don't we trust, then?

Just spotted on the First Direct text banking FAQ:

although you can still receive your text message service when you are abroad, we recommend that you suspend text message banking if you are taking your mobile phone outside the United Kingdom. This is because the security of any foreign telephone network through which text messages might be transmitted to your mobile phone cannot be guaranteed.

I know SMS doesn't have guaranteed delivery, return receipt or anything sophisticated like that, but I had assumed that it was a closed system. Messages leaving UK networks will go across an SMS gateway - but they'd go across an SMS gateway to get from Vodafone to O2, or from your bulk business SMS provider to any of the mobile operators anyway. So is the security issue that there are known untrusted foreign gateways, or unproven but suspect foreign gateways or that like most electronic crime it crosses jurisdictional boundaries and you can whistle for international co-operation? And if, as I presume, the latter - wouldn't it be nice if international treaties and economic accords and the like took account of these things and penalised the un-cooperative countries? 

Ranty? My day started with a cat throwing up over the back of my chair - and just missing my head - during a phone interview and went on through the threat of a tax fine to go with my continuing audit, a mobile headset that would only work if I stretched my leg out in front me on a wall (no really - that increased the volume when nothing else did), the worst touchscreen interface I have ever used (I won't name it but the same phone couldn't see a mobile network in a cellar bar when every other device in my bag connected happily) and John Lewis taking a direct debit for two statements when I'd already paid one manually because they didn't tell me that the direct debit wouldn't be re-instated in time after I suspended it because two weeks wasn't enough notice for them to take fraudulent payments off my statement (because they follow a "specific procedure" to find out how the fraud happened and who did it and how they can stop it in future and they don't credit the transactions that were made in India the same day I shopped at my local Waitrose in Putney until they have followed this because "it's not as simple as that"), then asked for a manual payment without telling me that it would be too late for the manual payment to change the direct debit they were taking the next day, leaving me overdrawn - and telling me that when I phoned that no, they couldn't do the refund now - I will have to wait until the payments show up out of the ether (which I will know because, well I'm psychic - oh no, wait, I can keep phoning back "when it's convenient") and then they will *post me a cheque*. How antiquated a payment processing system do you have to have to be able to accept electronic payments but not make electronic refunds? Oh, and instead of making me phone back every day to find out if the overpayment has arrived to request a refund, how about you put a note in your system to trigger a refund when the overpayment arrives? And then I can write to them explaining how much all of this wonderful service has cost me in overdraft fees and they will "consider" it....

If it wasn't for the Waitrose vouchers we get, I'd have cancelled this card on the spot when they didn't take the fraudulent payments off the statement; JL's financial services are significantly below the standard of their customer service. At least it no longer seems to be run by DHS, memorably described by financial journalist Stephen Pritchard as "loan sharks with offices" - who forgot to send the statutory reminder for a credit agreement with DFS, forgot to cancel the credit agreement when I paid in full - and randomly applied the overpayment they'd taken to my JL credit card "because they were both in my name".

In better news, we have tickets to go backstage at the Royal Albert Hall to see Cirque du Soleil getting ready for the afternoon show on February 9; a snip at £12 each. They are "strictly on a first come first served basis"; I'm not quite sure how that differs from any other kind of event ticket - do they usually run some kind of lottery?</span>