Issues with re-establishing Identity After Natural Disasters

As many of you will know, southern Australia is currently suffering the worst bushfires in peacetime history of Australia. Over 173 are confirmed as dead with many more injured, towns have been destroyed completely and people losing everything. The SBS and the ABC have particularly good online coverage of this ongoing disaster. What makes it worse is that police are investigating a number of sites where the fires were suspected to have been (re)started by firebugs (arsonists) and even by thrown cigarette butts. IMHO those responsible should be tried for murder with sentences served consecutively.


I’ve just watched Prime Minister Rudd address the Australian Parliment (ironically, via the BBC) where I was pleasently suprised to hear, quite early in his speech [Link Available Soon], that the Government will direct its departments to provide assistance to people re-establish their legal identity. Things like passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and so on are difficult enough to get hold of, but even worse when all of your “identity sources” are destroyed in disasters such as these fires or the floods ravaging Northern Queensland. Being able to provide a positive and trusted identity “token” (drivers license, passport, etc) about yourself is nowadays a virtual prerequisite to living a normal life in todays society. If you have none – how do you identify yourself? PM Rudd paused from reading his speech to convey, in his personal tone, this difficulty to the rest of Parliament. This is the first time I have ever heard a senior politician even understand this difficulty, simplistic as it may sound. Maybe its because he saw The Chasers’ Julian Morrow demonstrate how easy it is at a recent Identity Fraud conference in Sydney.

However – this got me thinking, as of course I work in the Information Security and Identity spaces. What provisions will the Commonwealth put into place to stop those evil people take advatage of this tragedy to assume the identities of victims? How do you prove your identity when your primary sources have been destroyed? There is an excellent case study of an affluent lady in NSW [Citation Needed] who has lost her home (including title deeds), car, digital identities, bank accounts, and so forth after having her identity stolen by a criminal gang whilst she was abroad. (The suspected Russian-based gang proceeded to sell everything she owned, obtained passports and birth certificates in her name,  bankrupted her and racked up massive debts in her name, and she is still fighting to this day to clear her credit record years later – which nobody seems to know how to do, due to the lack of legaslative process in Australia).  And all from stealing mail from her mailbox. Australians – put an unbreakable lock on your mailbox or get a PO Box, is all I can say.

Although its not proof of identity, people born in England and Wales can order as many copies of their birth certificates as they like (well – to be accurate – certified copies of an entry in the register of births and deaths) over the internet. A very useful service. Indeed, I’ve ordered quite a few copies of my own, based on only knowing basic information about my parents and where I was born. What is a scary thought is that this can then be used to apply for an identity elsewhere, for example my Australian Citizenship, my passports in multiple countries and even my French Carte de Sejour (itself a de facto Identity card).  I don’t know what processes there are in place to stop you, or anyone else, doing that with such a copy. I bet you that the various governments around the world don’t check the validity of every birth certificate copy they are presented with.

Whilst digital identity is a complex area, we must also not forget the issues around dealing with the offline world. Identity theft and fraud is a growing crime, not just done by neer-do-wells, but also in a profitable manner by the organised gangs. And they’ve been doing it for years. All we can do as individuals is to protect our own identity as best we can. Something I will blog about in the near future.

Australian National Disaster Support

Many Australians, including myself, have dug deep and already donated well over $15m in less than 24 hours of the appeal fund being set up by the Red Cross and the Victorian Government. Fires also continue to burn in not only Victoria, but also South Australia and New South Wales. With over 173 confirmed dead in the fires, the toll continuing to rise and many more injured, losing loved ones, pets, their homes and/or their businesses. Once the immediate situation has passed it will take a long time for those affected to recover, both physically and psycologically. I urge anybody reading this blog to please donate to this very good cause. As always, Australians, all donations over $2 are tax deductable (they email you a tax receipt) and for those abroad, the relative weakness of the Aussie Dollar at the moment means your donation will go much futher. Thankyou for your support.

Movember: $1410.79 Raised – Thanks Guys!

Thankyou to everyone who sponsored me for Movember this year, I raised a fantastic $1410.79; and our team of 3 Borats at work raised a total of $4110.79. The money raised has gone to charities in Australia supporting those with Depression and Prostate Cancer.

You can check out the dodgy Mo-photos which show the daily growth progress, and even the ones from the Brisbane Mo-Party (before we got too hammered), but thankfully the Mo is now long gone and I look “normal” again.


Until next year …

Sponsor Me: I’m Growing A Mo For Mens Health!

During Movember (the month formerly known as November) I’ll be growin a Mo. That’s right I’m bringing the Mo back because I’m passionate about changing men’s health and the fight against male depression and prostate cancer. Why…

  • Depression affects 1 in 6 men…Most don’t seek help. Untreated depression is a leading risk factor for suicide.
  • Last year in Australia 18,700 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 2,900 died of prostate cancer – equivalent to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually.
  • Men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy of males is 5 years less than females.

To sponsor my Mo please go directly to the sponsorship site, or alternatively to, and enter my registration number which is 61863 and your credit card details]; or you can sponsor me by cheque made payable to the “Movember Foundation” clearly marking the donation as being for my Registration Number: 61863. Please mail cheques to: PO Box 292, Prahran VIC 3181. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

The money raised by Movember is donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue – the national depression initiative, which will use the funds to create awareness, fund research and increase support networks for those men who suffer from prostate cancer and male depression.

For those that have supported Movember in previous years you can be very proud of the impact it has had and can check out the detail at:

For those of you who want to laugh at the Mo taking over the world, click here to see how it progresses …

You Comment, Google Will Follow

As I am one to jump on the bandwagon, a movement has started to re-allow the following/spidering of comments on blogs from search engines. The original idea was to discourage content spammers from increasing themselves up the rankings. As I’m on top of the spam on this site, I don’t think its fair on genuine human comments not to be “followed up” on by the spiders.

I’ve installed a new plugin called DoFollow which gets rid of the nofollow tag on links within post comments. Randa Clay has also come up with some basic logos to use so that your readers can be informed that their links will be a little more valuable.