Daily Archives: September 30, 2021

Lebanon’s public debt default

By Ilias Bantekas – The nature and causes of sovereign debt differ from one country to another. Yet, the popular or engineered narrative of debt usually conceals its true origin or cause.

In the case of Lebanon, currently facing a financial and economic crisis ranked by the World Bank as possibly among the top three most severe global crises episodes since the mid-19th-century, one of the key lessons from the Greek experience is the importance of understanding the cause. The truth about how and why Lebanon reached the current debt crisis, including its suspension of a $1.2 billion Eurobond payment in March 2020, must precede any step toward recovery and restructuring under current solvency conditions.

A look at the Greek experience

At the time of Greece’s sovereign debt crisis, the popular narrative was that successive Greek governments had augmented the public sector and had exceeded their finances. This further supports the popular myth that people in the south of Europe are lazy, take long siestas, aspire to be civil servants, and that their governments are corrupt. Even so, an independent parliamentary committee set up in 2015 disproved this narrative.

The committee’s extensive findings clearly showed that the Greek public sector was the lowest spender among its then 27 European Union counterparts (apart from defense-related expenditures). In fact, until the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio was one of the lowest in Europe and certainly sustainable. So, why did it shoot through the roof the following year? This is because Greek banks had accumulated private debt (in the form of loans) to the tune of about €100 billion.

At the time, Greek banks had largely been acquired by French and German banks and hence the private (and now unsustainable) debt of Greek banks was about to become a Franco-German problem. Instead of this happening, the then-Greek prime minister was ‘convinced’ to nationalize Greek banks and thus transform a purely private debt into a public one. By so doing, it was now the Greek taxpayer that was saddled with the debt and the ensuing austerity this entailed, while Greek banks were restructured (effectively re-financed) and France and Germany were relieved. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Moving beyond agile to become a software innovator
Companies need to borrow a page from the tech industry’s playbook to understand how to use agile to build better products and experiences.
By Santiago Comella-Dorda, Martin Harrysson, and Shivam Srivastava – t the end of the movie The Candidate, Robert Redford is sitting in a hotel room surrounded by cheering staffers after his character has won the election for the US Senate. Looking a little perplexed and forlorn, he turns to his advisor and asks, “What do we do now?”

Many executives who have led their businesses through successful agile programs can probably relate to Redford’s character. They have overseen sizable improvements in software product development thanks to agile; our Developer Velocity research shows that adoption of agile practices at the team level can be one of the most critical dimensions for companies that are in the early part of their journey.

But many of these businesses have run into a ceiling where incremental gains are minimal. The same Developer Velocity research, for example, showed that while third-quartile companies in terms of overall software-development performance scored 41 percent higher on agile practices than fourth-quartile companies, the differences between companies in the first and second quartiles dropped to less than 20 percent. In other words, once a business hits a certain level of excellence, improvements to how teams work in agile alone drive diminishing returns.

For companies that have realized many of the initial gains from adopting agile, there are valuable lessons to be learned from how tech companies develop products. The industry’s intense competition and pace of change have forced tech companies to develop a set of capabilities that take the fullest advantage of agile, of which the following are the most important:

  • grounding every decision on customer value through world-class product management and experience design and adopting an operating model built on products and platforms
  • creating a software-engineering culture that nurtures and celebrates technical craftmanship, empowers teams, and provides them with high levels of psychological safety in addition to supporting developers with automation and world-class tools
  • embedding data and analytics at every level of product development

more>

Why Are Embedded Industrial Control Devices Now Vulnerable To TCP/IP Attacks?

Critical flaws found in embedded TCP/IP stacks may widely affect industrial control devices.
By John Blyler – Cybersecurity experts have found numerous vulnerabilities affecting a commonly used TCP/IP protocol network stack used in millions of Operational Technology (OT) devices. In contrast to IT systems – which manage data – OT devices control the physical world, especially in the industrial and manufacturing spaces.

Further, the affected OT devices are manufactured by hundreds of vendors and deployed in manufacturing plants, power generation, water treatment, and infrastructure sectors. For the most part, the OT devices are part of the industrial IoT marketplaces, all of which are highly susceptible to attacks and flaws that result from issues within the TCP/IP network communications architecture.

Since its inception, the TCP/IP network protocol stacks have formed the backbone of the Internet. Smaller, tailored versions of the full-up Internet stack were created decades ago for embedded systems later used in connected IIoT devices. The embedded TCP/IP stacks – sometimes called NicheStack – combine applications, transport, network, and physical components.

NicheStack is a closed source IPv4 network layer and application implementation for operating systems. It is one of three available from InterNiche Technologies, Inc., designed for use in embedded systems.

Researchers have identified more than a dozen vulnerabilities in the NicheStack TCP/IP stack used by many OT vendors. The vulnerabilities are collectively tracked as INFRA:HALT, which targets NicheStack, potentially enabling an attacker to achieve remote code execution, denial of service (DNS), information leak, TCP spoofing, and even DNS cache corruption. more>

The real stakes of Apple’s battle over remote work

By Shirin Ghaffary and Rani Molla – For the past several months, a fight has been brewing inside Apple, the world’s most profitable company, about a fundamental aspect of its business: whether its corporate employees must return to the office.

Apple expects employees to return to their desks at least three days a week when its offices reopen. And although the Covid-19 delta variant has made it unclear exactly when that will be, Apple’s normally heads-down employees are pushing back in an unprecedented way. They’ve created two petitions demanding the option to work remotely full time that have collected over 1,000 signatures combined, a handful of people have resigned over the matter, and some employees have begun speaking out publicly to criticize management’s stance.

Apple employees who don’t want to return to the office are challenging the popular management philosophy at many Silicon Valley companies that serendipitous, in-person collaboration is necessary to fuel innovation. more>