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Winz debacle may affect other government plans

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 16:54 16/10/2012

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Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain won't say whether Work & Income's information kiosk debacle could jeopardise a government plan to more than double online transactions over the next five years.

Tremain announced in August that the Government intended to increase the proportion of 10 common transactions with the public that were conducted online from 30 per cent to 70 per cent by 2017.      

He told BusinessDay then that the Government could set up "service centres" where people without the means or skills to access the internet would be able to get help accessing services through kiosks, although he emphasised that was not an initiative for which funding had yet been canvassed. 

A spokeswoman for Tremain said the 2017 target remained in place pending the outcome of a government review into the security lapse at the Social Development Ministry, which was exposed by blogger Keith Ng on Sunday.

"Any consideration, if there is to be a change, will be made later when the facts are known," she said. 

Ng found he was able to use a kiosk at a Work & Income branch in Wellington to access a swathe of highly confidential information stored on the ministry's network. 

The next major milestone for the Government's online programme is likely early next month, when Internal Affairs will begin letting people renew passports over the internet. The service is a product of a delayed $42 million project to upgrade the Passport Office's computer systems that was originally due to have been completed in June last year.

In another step forward, the Justice Ministry this month began allowing people to file claims online with the Disputes Tribunal.  

The Social Development Ministry acknowledged today that computer company Dimension Data had advised it of flaws in its systems in a report produced for the ministry in April last year.

A spokesman could not confirm whether the report contained information, which if properly addressed, would have secured Work & Income's kiosks. However, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has indicated that was her understanding.

Japanese-owned Dimension Data acquired Security-assessment.com, an Auckland company which conducts IT security checks for public and private sector clients, in 2008. 

Last year, the United States government credited Security-assessment.com with finding a flaw in software used to secure the Pentagon.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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