Author Archives: Jeremy

RFID Shield in the Works

This is cool. Some people took an offhand comment from the world's leading RFID privacy expert, Katherine Albrecht, and is trying to make it a reality. Some Dutch researchers are working on a portable RFID shield.

I wonder about their ability to actually block the RFID transmission of a target chip rather than just interfere with the transmission.

UPDATE:

I contacted the author of the RFID Guardian research to ask the following question:

Just one question. Does this actually prevent a tag from reporting to a reader or just give the reader fake data so that the reader can't tell which one actually came from the tag?

And her response:

The RFID Guardian actually jams tag responses from reaching the RFID reader.

Neato.

House Committee Bans the “War on Terror” Catchphrase

The "War on Terror" is political spin initiated by President Bush to justify using "wartime" powers indefinitely. Just like the "War on Drugs", the war on terror will never end.

Nobody disagrees to giving a little leeway to our commander in chief during a clear and present need, but that's the point: a war on terror that lasts an indefinite amount of time is neither clear, nor present.

It's about danged time that someone in a high position finally dropped this marketing ploy where it belongs.

A Good Article About Data Brokering

Data Brokering (what I refer to as data rape) is the practice of buying and assembling personal information and then reselling it. As opposed to credit reporting companies, these people collect everything they can about you. Companies like Amazon.com and Choicepoint for example.

James Derrell White, 41, who happens to live in Alpharetta, Ga., where ChoicePoint is based, was denied a job with Home Depot this year because data provided by ChoicePoint incorrectly identified him as a felon. "We thought we were in a bad dream," says Julie White, James' wife.

Data Rapists (I mean brokers) have very little regulation which is what leads to problems like these.

"No matter how good any company's attitudes toward privacy, there are too many players in the (data-collecting) industry — too many intricate parts when it comes to privacy issues — to expect self-regulation to effectively deal with the problems," Solove says.

Hear, hear! We need laws and we need laws now.

This story provides some good background information on the issue.

TSA is a Big, Fat, Miserable Failure. Is Anyone Surprised?

We already suspected, but now we have some confirmation from the people who's job it is to breach our security. Airport security has inconvenienced us for no apparent gains in security.

The covert testers who were at DIA are part of the TSA's Red Team. The Red Team was formed by the Federal Aviation Administration after terrorists blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people.

"There's very little substance to security," said former Red Team leader Bogdan Dzakovic. "It literally is all window dressing that we're doing. It's big theater on TV and when you go to the airport. It's just security theater."

Dzakovic was a Red Team leader from 1995 until September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks, Dzakovic became a federally protected whistleblower and alleged that thousands of people died needlessly. He testified before the 9/11 Commission and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the US that the Red Team "breached security with ridiculous ease up to 90 percent of the time," and said the FAA "knew how vulnerable aviation security was."

Dzakovic, who is currently a TSA inspector, said security is no better today.

"It's worse now. The terrorists can pretty much do what they want when they want to do it," he said.

I'm not saying that we should be secure. What I'm saying and what I believe others agree with, is that the things that are done in the name of security are more about making people think something is being done than actually getting things done.

And on that final note:

Dzakovic, who testified that the FAA ordered the Red Team to "not write up our findings," said the TSA is also trying to hide its results.

"The last thing TSA wants to do is look bad in front of congress and in front of the public, so rather than fix the problem, they'd rather just keep them quiet," said Dzakovic.

Ouch.

(H/T to Schneier for the link)

Aardman Studios Signs with Sony

Apparently, Aardman studios had a falling out with Dreamworks going their separate ways after only 3 films out of a 5 picture deal. They have now signed with Sony to make more films and the world rejoices. Why? Because Aardman is brilliant!

Chicken Run was very well done, Curse of the Wererabbit was fun, and Flushed Away is one of the best animated films I've ever seen.

Let's just say they're a lot better than some alternative animations put out by so-called bigger studios. Including these stinkers from Dreamworks themselves.

DNA Stalkers?

Apparently, some genealogy freaks have begun cataloging their relatives' DNA without their knowledge.

Unlike paper records, which can be hard to come by and harder to verify, a genetic test can quickly and definitively tell if someone is a relative.

Some funeral homes now offer post-mortem DNA collection. But Linda Jonas saw no need for professional help when she tugged several hairs from her grandmother’s head as she lay in her casket.

She made sure to get the root.

“Obviously, it’s not going to hurt her, ? said Ms. Jonas, a family historian in McLean, Va. “I had a little Ziploc. ?

(H/T to Privacy.org)

Beating the Four-Square Shakedown When Buying a Car

Maybe not beating, but at least not falling for it. The Consumerist hosted a fantastic expose on how dealers use a four square piece of paper to rip people off right in front of their eyes. I have actually seen this before and don't remember what the result was, but I'm pretty sure we walked away thinking we had "won" when we got a lower monthly payment.

Wow was I stupid back then.

Congress to Tackle E-Voting Overhaul

So they're finally going to try and do something about the e-voting disaster.

HR 811 features several requirements that will warm the hearts of geek activists. It bans the use of computerized voting machines that lack a voter-verified paper trail. It mandates that the paper records be the authoritative source in any recounts, and requires prominent notices reminding voters to double-check the paper record before leaving the polling place. It mandates automatic audits of at least three percent of all votes cast to detect discrepancies between the paper and electronic records. It bans voting machines that contain wireless networking hardware and prohibits connecting voting machines to the Internet. Finally, it requires that the source code for e-voting machines be made publicly available.

Holly Clap! There's not one thing in there that's wrong! If they actually implemented all those provisions, e-voting might actually work!

The proposal wasn't without its detractors, however. Several state election officials testified about the practical challenges of implementing the new requirements. Chris Nelson, South Dakota's secretary of state, warned that many of the requirements in the legislation would conflict with the states' own election procedures.

Oh BOO HOO HOO! Cry me a freaking river. "Oh it's too HARD to implement security! We need to have less restrictions so we can do this cheaper!" Idiots.

The law allows flexibility in how some of the auditing is done as long as it's NIST approved and the states always have the option of keeping the optical current methods if they decide that the regulations for e-voting are too strict or too expensive to implement at this time.

Of course, this almost sounds too good to be true. I'll have to read the law later, but I'm betting it has some terrible hidden catch like it legalizes eating little puppies or provides millions of pork dollars for human RFID implantations.

Update: It looks like the guys over at Slashdot feel the same way I do.

Digital Freedom Campaign to Educate True Copyright Laws – Suck it RIAA!

Apparently, there's a new anti-RIAA force called the Digital Freedom Campaign.

With the DFU initiative, Digital Freedom wants to paint a bigger picture of copyright law for students, one that is not forthcoming from the movie and music industries. "The Digital Freedom University Initiative will fight to ensure that these thousands of college-age students, who represent future artists, innovators and consumers, fully understand their rights, and have a voice in the long- term solution."

Corn Bio-fuel Not Our Future Says DoE

Looks like someone is paying attention.

"The United States' Department of Energy is stating that corn based fuel is not the future

In related news, Fidel Castro is blasting the production of corn fuel as a blatant waste of food that would otherwise feed 3 billion people who will die of hunger.

I've heard that it's an inefficient fuel and the same hunger-related argument against it before.