So, Who’s *Got* A Mylar Wallet?

Electronic Pickpocket Stoppers (pdf)

Because, says electronic security expert Bruce Schneier, crystallizing the view of many: “As weird as it sounds, wrapping your passport in tinfoil helps. The tinfoil people, in this case, happen to be correct.”

[…] All of these nifty and oh-so-convenient bits of plastic employ versions of what’s known as radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. That is, they toss out bits of data that are caught by receivers, with little or no contact, just through the air in some cases. The new credit cards, such as MasterCard’s PayPass, don’t have to be swiped through a machine. Swiping is so retro, and takes precious extra seconds. You need only lightly tap the PayPass on a terminal to register a purchase.

Neato. It feels as if you’re living in the future, or in an episode of “24,” when you slap your purse on the Metro turnstile and the gate opens, or you wave your ID badge at a node on the wall and your office door beeps open (and then your face and all your recent movements around the office — yikes! — pop up on the security guard’s computer).

But alas, just as every problem has a solution, so every solution has a problem, right?

According to some security gurus, even when there is no receiver in the vicinity, your digital secrets are leaking merrily from the cards in your wallet, like sound from a radio that you can’t turn off.

So, conceivably, a pickpocket with a laptop and an antenna could lift the digital contents of your wallet. […]

This Is No Surprise Either

Just horrifying Centers Tap Into Personal Databasespdf

Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver’s license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it’s not clear what information those systems contain.

Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to identify potential threats and improve the way information is shared. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies. They are expected to play important roles in national information-sharing networks that link local, state and federal authorities and enable them to automatically sift their storehouses of records for patterns and clues.

Though officials have publicly discussed the fusion centers’ importance to national security, they have generally declined to elaborate on the centers’ activities. But a document that lists resources used by the fusion centers shows how a dozen of the organizations in the northeastern United States rely far more on access to commercial and government databases than had previously been disclosed.

This particular sophistry is most chilling:

“There is never ever enough information when it comes to terrorism” said Maj. Steven G. O’Donnell, deputy superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. “That’s what post-9/11 is about.”

See also Homeland Security: We’re ready to launch spy satellite office

I Guess I Shouldn’t Be Surprised …

FCC Chairman to Seek Dismissal of Skype’s Plea for Open Access to Wireless Networks (pdf)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said Tuesday that he will seek to dismiss a petition from Internet phone provider Skype asking the agency to force wireless carriers to open their networks to all devices and software applications.

In a keynote speech at the CTIA Wireless convention, Martin said recent moves by such carriers as Verizon Wireless and AT&T to open their networks show that the industry doesn’t need such regulatory action.

“In light of the industry’s embrace of a more open wireless platform, it would be premature to adopt any other requirements across the industry,” Martin said to applause from the audience of industry executives.

Almost everyone who’s written about this notes the applause.

Jon Healey On The State of Play Today

File sharing: to fight or accommodate?

The movie and music industries have long had a common problem with piracy. Yet as the infringements migrated from analog to digital, their responses have diverged. The most recent illustration came in comments last week by Jim Griffin, a digital maverick retained by Warner Music Group, and Jim Williams, chief technical officer for the Motion Picture Assn. of America. In remarks published Wednesday (pdf), Griffin called on Internet service providers to let customers download and share an unlimited quantity of music for a flat fee of about $5 a month. At a conference in Hollywood the next day, Williams urged ISPs to use emerging technology to stop customers from downloading and sharing bootlegged movies online.

Put another way, a top geek at a major record label said, “Let’s embrace file sharing and make some money off it,” and a top geek at the MPAA replied, “Let’s take the fight against file sharing to another level.”

Sadly, few comments at the LATimes site, versus the firestorm Griffin’s proposal has set up at Slashdot and Pho


Senior Executive Leaving Google

Douglas Merrill, a vice president of engineering at Google, is leaving the Internet search company to become a president of digital at EMI Music, the recorded music division of EMI Group, according to an executive briefed on his move.

The LATimes article is a little more blunt — A top Google techie joins EMI (pdf)

The job of president of digital at EMI had been offered to at least one other outside executive, according to an employee familiar with the process. The choice surprised EMI insiders because of Merrill’s lack of music-industry experience. Some wondered why he would join a company bedeviled by an industrywide crisis.

“It’s a bold move, very exciting,” an industry veteran said. “The question is, why did he say yes?”