Tag Archive | "Big Brother"

The Spy Who Stung Me: Privacy in a World of Miniature Drones

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What’s a hired assassin to do?  Once, like the fictional James Bond, among government’s most secret and prized resources with a “license to kill,” it seems that government-employed killers are just the latest to succumb to automation technology.  As drone technology improves, trained professional killers will likely hit the unemployment lines en masse.

 

But, don’t rest easy simply because you’re not on a government kill list.  Drone technology is also a terrific means of spying.  This, of course, is a boon to dictators and repressive regimes around the world.  Even, in the good U.S.A., however, this should be a cause for concern.

 

Pictured above is a drone designed to look like a mosquito, complete with the ability to use its stinger to extract DNA, deliver a lethal dose of poison, capture images or video, or to place a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking device on your clothing or skin.

 

As technology advances, the once fictional world of “Big Brother” comes ever closer to reality.  And, as costs decline, this technology may be available to nosy neighbors, suspicious spouses, or virtually anyone with the desire to snoop on others or perhaps, perform a more nefarious act.

 

In the words of the title song from the James Bond motion picture The Spy Who Loved Me, “Nobody does it better.”  That still may be true.  But, move over James, you’re about to be replaced by a mosquito!

 

 

The Trojan Horse in Your Home

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According to the legendary ancient Greek epic poet Homer, during the ten-year siege of Troy, the Greeks plotted to invade their enemies by leaving a giant wooden horse at the gates of Troy.  This “gift horse” was carefully timed to coincide with what appeared to be a recession of the Greek fleet.  Assuming that the gargantuan equine was a peace offering, the Trojans opened their gates and rolled the horse inside.  In the dead of night, a team of thirty select Greeks quietly stole out of the horse and reopened the gates to their own armada that destroyed Troy.


Since that time, the term “Trojan Horse” refers to trickery or sleight-of-hand conducted with ill intent.  In the computer world, a “Trojan Horse” refers to malevolent computer programs (“malware”) that appear to be useful or harmless.  They induce the user to install and run them and thereby, seriously compromise, crash, or totally obliterate the user’s system.


Herein lies the crux of this article.  By having a computer system linked to the World Wide Web, have we invited foes into our homes?


I recently heard on the radio that a school in Pennsylvania gave every one of its students a free Apple laptop computer without notifying them that it could reveal what the students were doing at school or home, whenever the school decided to access its video cameras linked to those laptops.  The school’s treachery was revealed when its administrators interrogated one student concerning his use of drugs.  Needless to say, when the student informed his parents of this occurrence, the question arose as to whether or not this constituted a violation of the student’s civil rights.


If this could happen to a student, via a body of adults that he and his parents trusted implicitly, the question arises as to how widespread this problem may be. Legally, the issue impacts not only the unwary user but also the manufacturer(s) of the computer and videocam, the Internet provider, and those who supplied the laptop to the student.   If you think you’re immune to such deception, consider how many times you have agreed to terms of software utilization and access, via the Internet, without actually reading all of the terms.


The PC may be the greatest learning tool in recent history, but at what cost?  Is your personal business at risk? Once the foe has access to your home and its possessions, you are at his mercy.  It’s twenty-six years after George Orwell’s prognostications about “1984” have come and gone, and it appears that the author was correct.  “Big Brother” is indeed watching!


Our Constitution guarantees us freedom from illegal searches and seizures, but how many times have you heard that someone who has been accused of a crime has had his computer impounded by law enforcement authorities?  If the presumption of “innocent until found guilty” is the basis for our law, and if the Constitution protects us against invasions of this nature, what exactly is going on here, and why is it going on?  Is this part of the Patriot Act now expanding into avenues it was never intended to survey?


Finally, we have a subject into which the ACLU can really sink its sharp little incisors.  If the ACLU is so concerned with safeguarding our inalienable rights, let them examine the legality of cyberspace agreements and malware programs.   Let them then push to institute laws that would protect PC users — nearly every American above the age of two — from pitfalls such as these.


Your files on your PC contain what you are and who you are: your thoughts, your opinions, your desires, the sites you enter, the products you purchase, your banking documents, ad infinitum.  You may consider these aspects of your life to be highly personal and accessible only by the use of a password.  Consider again how private they really are if a Trojan Horse in the guise of a malicious program or an unscrupulous party should be left at your gateway to the Internet. 

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