Close Contacts and Community Transmission

The Australian government (and specifically the South Australian government) have made a big deal about how, so far at least, there has been virtually no “Community Transmission”. That it’s all been imports from overseas, other states, or “Close Contacts”.

But what do these terms “Close Contacts” and “Community Transmission” mean, in the scope of what normal people would assume they mean, and what the governments are using them to mean.

To me, a “Close Contact” would be a member of my immediate family, or perhaps one of the three people who share my office. Possibly even the other 6 people who work in my company who also work in the same place as me - since the air we all breathe is the same, and we share the same kitchen and bathroom facilities. Also, you’d probably count my extended family, although I don’t see them often, when I do see them we in close physical proximity. Indeed, even our close friends, who we don’t see as often as we would like, the sort of ones we catch up with every few months for dinner would count as close contacts.

A generous expansion of this might include the parents we see, and chat with every morning doing school drop-off. And of course, our kids’ close contacts would include their teacher and their closest friends. Note the word close.

So, you’d think that “Community Transmission” would include everyone else. People you come across in service roles, like the guy at the sushi bar, or your Barista. Maybe your neighbour that you chat to while walking your dog. The other parents who you stop briefly to and say hello. The Principal of the school, who you talk to probably once a week.

But, according to The Conversation AU, these people would be counted by the official tally as “Close Contacts”.

I think this belies how serious of a mismatch there is between the government’s current position and communication and reality there is. Keeping schools open will not, according to their definition, cause Community Transmission. It cannot, because by definition, this would count as Close Contacts.

Perhaps this is part of the reason they want to keep schools open. Being able to claim that cases are still being spread only through Close Contacts, when in reality the virus is being transmitted through the school COMMUNITY.

Maybe I’m turning into a tin-hatter, but I feel like our government is not trying hard enough to reduce the growth in number of cases. At this stage, the number of cases in South Australia is speeding up: it was growing at 23%, but now seems to be growing at 33%. Sure, some of this is better testing, but it doesn’t seem at this stage that many of the measures they have started to take have had much impact on the spread.

Dear ezyreg

I went to register with EzyReg to set up monthly direct debit for my car registration, and to register I was required to enter a secret question or two.

These secret questions were all essentially publicly available information, or things that were inane enough that I probably would not remember them. Thus, they are useless from both sides of the fence: I would not be able to use the meaningless ones to reset a password (not really that much of a problem), but if I used one of the “one true answer” ones, someone could easily discover, for instance, what my Mother’s maiden name was.

I could enter a random value, but I decided to get on my high horse, and supply feedback.

Then, after writing for a few minutes: “You may only enter 1000 characters in feedback”.

What. The. Fuck.

So, after splitting it into two comments, here is the entirety of my comment to the braindead fuckwads who wrote the registration system:

I want to use monthly direct debit to pay my car registration, but with the current requirement to have an ezyreg account, and the requirement that said account is “secured” with secret questions means that I cannot in good faith complete the registration process.

There are well documented flaws with secret questions as a second-level of security, or that can be used to reset or change a password. This becomes an active attack vector that, in the case of someone who uses good password hygiene, partially defeats the processes I have in place to protect access to my accounts.

This is made even worse in the case of your security questions, of which there are very few, and I am unable to create my own.

Some examples of the arguments against security questions, and why they are a security risk, not an improvement:

http://www.oneid.com/blog/passwords-are-bad-but-security-questions-are-worse/

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/02/the_curse_of_th.html

http://www.intego.com/mac-security-blog/your-secret-question-may-not-be-so-secret-easy-to-guess-password-retrieval-questions-you-should-avoid-and-why/

Please consider removing this requirement from your account registration process.