Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How did we end up with this?

I, along with several million other people, got caught up in both the LinkedIn and Adobe account hacks, and I've had "stop using 'password' as my password for every online account" in my to-do list for at least a year.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to do something about it. I activated two-factor auth on every account that supported it, clicked the 'generate temporary password for devices' link on Twitter, and then hit the nuclear button by downloading LastPass and beginning to upgrade my passwords (I don't really use 'password' as my password - I also use 'P@ssword', 'Passw0rd!' and 'pa55w0rd' - I'm always thinking, see).

It was a PITA changing old passwords, but I just about got around to changing the important things (accounts attached to credit cards, and core identity providers) when my new phone arrived (Moto-G, which is fantastic, btw, although I am comparing it to a 2.5 yr old HTC).

What a clusterf*k. Activating two-factor auth and various device checks means that I am constantly being asked to re-enter passwords, only this time I have no idea what those passwords are, as I've changed them from the ones I know to the brilliantly uncrackable long, complex, passwords generated by LastPass.

On the plus side I've discovered that Google Keep is a very efficient way of copying complicated passwords in plain text between devices. On the downside, lots of apps don't support 'Paste' on Android, so I have to write them down instead (hence a pocketful of Post-It notes). I think I'm now technically less secure, as I'm far more prone to social engineering hacks that I was before.

I really hope that those who hold our secrets (no, not the NSA) are working on solutions to the secure login conundrum, because no one outside of the tech industries would use a computer if it was as complicated as the situation I find myself in.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marketing reality distortion - a case study.

It's a slow day at work (warming up for the Christmas party), so I thought I'd blog about Accenture instead. Actually, this is a rant about marketing departments, not Accenture per se, they just happen to have riled me this morning.

A friend of mine works at Accenture, and this morning retweeted an image from their current recruitment marketing campaign. It's a great pic (see below), and contains a very clear message. They're looking for Big Thinkers, the ambitious, those who aspire to a Better Future. The message itself is literally spelled out, "Future > Present", and visually it taps into something many men (possibly a tad too gender specific, but maybe I'm being over-sensitive) will immediately understand: I want to be an astronaut. That's my dream.

It's a seductive message - and for anyone remotely ambitious just starting out (it's aimed at people just starting their working lives) it makes Accenture look like somewhere you'd like to work. Maybe not quite as cool as Google (who do genuinely have a "Moonshot" division), but a good option nonetheless. So you click through.

And that's when the wheels come off. Apparently the recruitment budget was spent, in its entirety, on the campaign. Having nothing left they got the guy in Accounts' brother to knock up the campaign microsite. He's jazzed it up with a carousel of incredibly happy people in grey suits (and ties - really, who wears a tie these days) - but I'm pretty sure none of them are Felix Baumgartner or Commander Hadfield.

Pretty much everything on this page (font, use of white space, formatting, images) is bad. I imagine it's just the default Sharepoint "Add new microsite" template, but that's not really the point. This page, which is where things get real, also has a very clear message: we're accountants, or possibly management consultants, but either way you're going to spending a lot of your time in front of a spreadsheet, and it's not memorising launch code sequences. In addition, we really don't give a sh*t about design, the process of creation, attention to detail, refinement or finesse. We're robots. With spreadsheets. And sometimes we hand out awards to other spreadsheet-toting robots.

In reality I've known lots of people who've passed through the Accenture machine, and they're not all number-crunching automatons - they're generally intelligent, hard-working, interesting people, with a lot to say, on a lot of subjects.

This is a masterclass of old-school marketing-reality distortion, and rather than making Accenture an attractive place to work, it makes them look desperate ("we couldn't think what to do, so we just made it up"). There are lots of good reasons to work at Accenture - wanting to be an astronaut isn't one of them.