Posted on February 13th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
Today’s article contains some quirky news items that I use to illustrate some common problems that occur when technology is involved.
Lucian Constantin of the IDG News Service reports that a German police officer was concerned that his daughter was hanging out with a bad element. In order to protect her he installed a parental control system in the computer that monitored her activity. It appears that the father was correct in being worried because one of his daughter’s friends was a hacker who discovered the monitor and decided to break into the father’s private computer. As most of us do, the father was doing some work at home on his personal computer. The father was a senior officer within the German Federal Police, which is the equivalent of the USA Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The father’s work involved monitoring GPS tracking of criminals and the hacker was able to find the father’s account and password to the monitoring server. The hacker then turned this information over to a German hacking group called No-Name-Crew who published significant information about the criminals involved. Thinking about this, why would No-Name-Crew do such a stupid thing? Was there any kind of political statement involved? Did they care that the daughter’s father may have gotten in serious trouble, which had to affect the daughter? Did they really think helping criminals was a smart idea?
Here are my reasons for why No-Name-Crew should be named No-Brain-Crew. First, they attacked the national police. Not a good idea. Secondly, they had to hurt their friend when her father was investigated and found to be the inadvertent source of the hackers invading the police’s server. Thirdly the suspected leader of the crew and one other member was arrested. There was no money involved for these guys but there was a huge amount of ego, self-confidence and most of all arrogance. They just thought they were better than the police and could get away with doing what they wanted, even serious criminal activity.
Why should you care? This exact thing can happen to you. Maybe you don’t have access to national police servers but if you access servers at work from your personal computer or you access your bank account online this information is on your computer. If someone steals your computer or a “guest” in your house comes across the computer they can potentially access these systems. What can you do? Use one of the free web browsers that allow you to encrypt the password file. If the browser you want to use doesn’t have this feature then use one of the many password management programs that will. If someone does get access to your computer this will slow them down enough to give you time to change passwords and notify appropriate people. Secondly, treat your computer as if it were a pile of cash. Criminals view your computer that way. Would you leave a pile of cash on the desk? Try to arrange to physically lock up your computer. If you are using a full size computer then lock the room or the desk. If you can’t, consider buying a removable drive device canister and have it installed. Using this device, your hard drive can be removed after the computer is powered off. All of the information is stored on the drive. Drives are small and you could even lock it in a small metal box. Finally, if none of this is practical consider whole disk encryption. It will slow down your computer but if whoever steals your computer doesn’t know the decryption password they are not going to even boot the operating system.
The next story is another no-good-deed-goes-unpunished event. The Associated Press reports that a Canadian man approached a US border officer wanting to enter the United States to drop off Christmas gifts. The man, Martin Reisch, forgot his passport and by law should not have been granted entry with just his driver’s license, however Martin presented the officer with a scanned copy of his passport that he kept in his iPad. The officer considered everything and made an exception to allow Martin to cross into the United States. This became international news. I can’t see this enhancing the employment of the officer involved. Who do you think broke this news, the officer who could potentially lose his job or Martin who was given an early Christmas gift of being cut some slack? Martin got the fame and paid for it with the officer’s pain. I could be wrong on who did what here but my guess is that Mr. Reisch played the part of the Grinch this last Christmas. How does this affect you? At least part of what happened is that the guard may have been influenced by the fact that he was shown a scanned copy of the passport on a computer! High technology devices tend to dazzle people and can cause them to lower their guard. If the officer was presented with a photocopy of the passport I am sure he would have rejected it. After all a piece of paper doesn’t have the dazzling effect of an Apple iPad. What can you do about it? Any time a computer is involved in your decision making ask yourself if you would do this if what is being displayed on the computer was on paper instead! If the answer is no then don’t be impressed, use normal caution, and proceed with your decision making process.
Remember just because a computer is involved that doesn’t mean it is correct and the value of your computer is not its replacement cost but all the personal information and account access in it that a thief can steal.