Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Consumer's Wizard War

Want to find out where your kids have been? Wonder where your employees went? Then install a GPS device that continuously logs movement on your vehicle. The device is made by a company called Trackstick and while not everyone would be interested in its benefits, it underscores how modern technology is only beginning to be fully utilized. There may be an initial outcry if one day GPS trackers become standard equipment on cars or cell phones like odometers are on cars. But after a time people will just "move on". Or find ways to deal with it. There may be a future market in GPS spoofers, just like radar detectors ... move, countermove. There's already a product that protects you from having your credit cards read by no-swipe card readers so that private information can't be obtained without your express consent. No sooner did the "feature" arrive before the search began for ways to disable it.


Tens of millions of no-swipe credit cards have been issued in the past year. When a customer uses the credit card to make a purchase, the card is processed by a radio frequency identification reader operated by the retailer. Schumer said thieves can equip themselves with the radio frequency readers to steal information from the credit cards, which are being marketed heavily as time savers. "All you need to be is within a couple of feet of the customer," Schumer said. "You may as well put your credit card information on a big sign on your back."

Not everyone is too thrilled at the prospect, however slight the threat might be. But don't worry. Popular Science describes how you too can travel in your own ECM bubble against virtual IEDs (Improvised Extractors of Data) threats. It's a tough world out there.

Speaking to a packed and sweaty crowd this afternoon, RFID researcher Melanie Rieback explained the technology behind RFID Guardian, a personal firewall she's developing that will protect your privacy in an world where your clothes, library books, and passport contain RFID tags. You can see the latest completed version of the Guardian above -- it's an ordinary circuitboard with two antennae and powerful onboard processors. It intercepts signals from RFID readers that are attempting to get information from, say, the RFID in your passport. Like a software firewall, it won't let those signals reach your RFID unless you want them to -- for example, if you're passing through customs.

The magic of nostalgia lies in the memory of simplicity. When it was unheard of to lock one's doors. When to be gay was simply to be in high spirits. When a telephone was something with a dial. When you could leave home without turning on your electronic countermeasures. But there is no way back. For better or worse we all live in the 21st century now.

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

2 Comments:

Blogger RWE said...

Saw an interesting news item a couple of days ago. Someone stole what they thought were cellphones, took them home and turned one on.

In reality the devices were GPS transponders designed to go on the city's major items of equipment to facilitate tracking. The police showed up as the thief puzzled over the funny cellphone and arrested him and two accomplices.

Given that we actually have placed GPS transponders in cannon rounds fired at test ranges, the potential for such tracking is virtually unlimited.

And I am surprised that no one has put a GPS cellphone transponder in a package you can strap to child. Make it receive-only except for an Emergency Locator Transmitter button, and abductions will be far harder to pull off.

And remember - the antiwar Left attacked GPS as an attempt to achieve a nuclear first strike capability, - while at the same time some in Congress tried to cancel GPS because they said it would NOT be useful in a nuclear war - and the CEO of one of the major U.S. avionics companies assured everyone that GPS was a purely military system with no utility for civillian users.

1/23/2007 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

GPS has been standard in large trucking fleets for years. Since Qualcomm first came out.

1/24/2007 09:00:00 PM  

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