Saturday, November 22, 2008

Data Mining Moves from Big Brother to Baby Brother

In the past we only had reason to fear Big Brother tools from intrusive government spy agencies and monster telco's that invade your privacy by digging into your past and eavesdropping on your digital lifestream with hugely expensive tools and massive databases.

Now we all have reason to fear what might be called "Baby Brother" as more powerful tools are becoming available for free to any script kiddy hacker or truly junior bad guys and mischief makers. New open source snooping software is now available to anyone to easily mine your data and invade your personal, financial and medical privacy.

A Forbes Magazine article published Friday titled, "When Everyone Can Mine Your Data" profiles a former hacker, who is a South African electronic engineer by trade. Roelof Temmingh has created a company around new open source software he developed named "Maltego". He's built a $430 software tool which mines all publicly available databases for data on anyone.

Temmingh has begun selling his snoop software to government agencies for a 10% discount. Clearly he is going the route nobody needs to go with governments, which, rather than use a watered down open source version for free will choose the Gold Plated version that could easily cost a hundred times more.

The point here is that data mining software is becoming available as open source, meaning bad guys will bolt on suddenly available free open source plug-in tools for identity theft and Private Investigators will bolt on the open source PI plug-ins and governments will build their own versions based on the code base that anyone can use and keep those to themselves for whatever invasive purpose they can come up with.

Data mining is definitely here for the masses - but mostly for masses of troublemakers and bad guys.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Printer Companies Tracking Your Printed Documents

Your color laser printer is quietly encoding all your printed documents with it's own serial and model number so all documents printed on your personal private printer can be tracked back to you. If you registered for warranty protection on that printer when you bought it, the manufacturer can tell that a printer you purchased made printouts of specific web pages or photos or bank statements if they have the physical piece of paper from your printer.

This is very likely to have been requested by Treasury to track photocopied paper money or legal documents which shouldn't be copied (like birth certificates) from being used illegally to obtain fake ID's and track bad guys who use those types of nefarious techniques to do illegal stuff.

As mentioned in the light-hearted EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) video below, printer manufacturers probably did this at the request of the government and have agreed and complied in order to be allowed to make ever better copy machines and printers capable of printing pretty official looking copies of cash or legal documents so the dodo's using them for illegal activity can be caught and punished.

All well and good, but once again - what happens when errors, mistakes and misunderstandings lead to false accusations caused by malfunctioning equipment or incorrect warranty registrations? Maybe just some personal harm or embarrassment come from tracking documents to the wrong owner or a second owner of the printer.

The EFF is attemting to bring this to the attention of the public so we at least know we are being spied on by our own machines. Watch the video below for more.

As I mentioned in a post on this topic nearly four years ago, this seems justifiable, but as also mentioned then:

All that is required is NOTICE to the consumer or citizen in public places that they are being monitored and when that is not done, there appears to be more to the story. The fact that this laser printer technology has been kept quiet for over ten years it has been in use suggest that there is more to this story as well.
It's now almost 15 years this has been going on. EFF wants you to be aware of the practice of monitoring your laser printer documents. The issue has been discussed at Engadget and more recently by Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing, so geeks who follow tech news know about this - but the creepiness factor hasn't faded since the story broke and nothing has changed in the way of public notice from manufacturers.

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posted by RealitySEO at 8:14 AM 0 comments