Entries Tagged "law enforcement"

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Security Risks of Street Photography

Interesting article on the particular art form of street photography. One ominous paragraph:

More onerous are post-9/11 restrictions that have placed limits on photographing in public settings. Tucker has received e-mails from professionals detained by authorities for photographing bridges and elevated trains. “There are places where photographing people on the street may become illegal,” observes Westerbeck.

Sad.

Posted on July 13, 2005 at 8:38 AMView Comments

Your ISP May Be Spying on You

From News.com:

The U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around the explosive idea of requiring Internet service providers to retain records of their customers’ online activities.

Data retention rules could permit police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity months after Internet providers ordinarily would have deleted the logs—that is, if logs were ever kept in the first place. No U.S. law currently mandates that such logs be kept.

I think the big idea here is that the Internet makes a massive surveillance society so easy. And data storage will only get cheaper.

Posted on June 28, 2005 at 8:16 AMView Comments

DNA Identification

Here’s an interesting application of DNA identification. Instead of searching for your DNA at the crime scene, they search for the crime-scene DNA on you.

The system, called Sentry, works by fitting a box containing a powder spray above a doorway which, once primed, goes into alert mode if the door is opened.

It then sprays the powder when there is movement in the doorway again.

The aim is to catch a burglar in the act as stolen items are being removed.

The intruder is covered in the bright red powder, which glows under ultraviolet (UV) light and can only be removed with heavy scrubbing.

However, the harmless synthetic DNA contained in the powder sinks into the skin and takes several days, depending on the person’s metabolism, to work its way out.

Posted on June 22, 2005 at 8:39 AMView Comments

Speeding Ticket Avoidance

This is a very popular security-related field, and one that every driver is at least somewhat interested in.

This site is run by an ex-policeman, and feels authoritative. He places a lot of emphasis on education; installing a fancy radar detector isn’t doing to do much for you unless you know how to use it correctly.

Here’s a product that seems to counter the threat of aerial license-plate scanners.

This spray claims to make your license plate invisible to cameras. I have no idea if it works.

One final note: the ex-cop is offering a $5,000 reward for the first person who can point him to a passive laser jammer that works.

Posted on June 21, 2005 at 9:15 AMView Comments

Counterfeiting in the Sudan

It’s an NPR audio story: “Peace Also Brings New Currency to Southern Sudan.”

Sudanese currency is printed on plain paper with very inconsistent color and image quality, and has no security features—not even serial numbers. How does that work?

While [he] concedes the bills are poorly printed, he’s not worried about counterfeiting. This is because anyone who does it will be put in front of a firing squad and shot.

That’s one way to solve the problem.

Posted on June 6, 2005 at 7:46 AMView Comments

DHS Enforces Copyright

Why is the Department of Homeland Security involved in copyright issues?

Agents shut down a popular Web site that allegedly had been distributing copyrighted music and movies, including versions of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Homeland Security agents from several divisions served search warrants on 10 people around the country suspected of being involved with the Elite Torrents site, and took over the group’s main server.

Shouldn’t they be spending their resources on matters of national security instead of worrying about who is downloading the new Star Wars movie? Here’s the DHS’s mission statement, in case anyone is unsure what they’re supposed to be doing.

We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation. We will ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.

I simply don’t believe that running down file sharers counts under “promote the free-flow of commerce.” That’s more along the lines of checking incoming shipping for smuggled nuclear bombs without shutting down our seaports.

Edited to add: Steve Wildstrom of Business Week left this comment, which seems to explain matters:

The DHS involvement turns out to be not the least bit mysterious. DHS is a sprawling agglomeration of agencies and the actual unit involved was Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a/k/a the Customs Service. Its involvement arose because the pirated copy of Star Wars apparently originated outside the U.S. and Customs is routinely involved in the interception and seizure of material entering the U.S. in violation of copyright or trademark laws. In Washington, for example, Customs agents regularly bust street vendors selling T-shirts with unlicensed Disney characters and other trademarked and copyright stuff.

The Secret Service’s role in computer crime enforcement arose from its anti-counterfeiting activities which extended to electronic crimes against financial institutions and cyber-crime in general. But they aren’t very good at it (anyone remember the Steve Jackson Games fiasco?) and the functions would probably best be turned over to another agency.

Posted on June 1, 2005 at 2:31 PMView Comments

New Risks of Automatic Speedtraps

Every security system brings about new threats. Here’s an example:

The RAC Foundation yesterday called for an urgent review of the first fixed motorway speed cameras.

Far from improving drivers’ behaviour, motorists are now bunching at high speeds between junctions 14-18 on the M4 in Wiltshire, said Edmund King, the foundation’s executive director.

The cameras were introduced by the Wiltshire and Swindon Safety Camera Partnership in an attempt to reduce accidents on a stretch of the motorway. But most motorists are now travelling at just under 79mph, the speed at which they face being fined.

In response to automated speedtraps, drivers are adopting the obvious tactic of driving just below the trigger speed for the cameras, presumably on cruise control. So instead of cars on the road traveling at a spectrum of speeds with reasonable gaps between them, we are seeing “pelotons” of cars traveling closely bunched together at the same high speed, presenting unfamiliar hazards to each other and to law-abiding slower road-users.

The result is that average speeds are going up, and not down.

Posted on April 25, 2005 at 3:12 PMView Comments

Universal Automobile Surveillance

Universal automobile surveillance comes to the United Arab Emirates:

IBM will begin installing a “Smart Box” system in vehicles in the United Arab Emirates next year, potentially generating millions in traffic fines for the Gulf state. The UAE signed a $125 million contract with IBM today to provide the high-tech traffic monitoring and speed-enforcing system in which a GPS-enabled “Smart Box” would be installed in cars to provide a voice warning if the driver exceeds the local speed limit for wherever he may be driving. If the voice warning is ignored, the system would use a GSM/GPRS link to beam the car’s speed, identity and location to the police so that a ticket could be issued. The system would also track and monitor any other driving violations, including “reckless behavior.”

This kind of thing is also being implemented in the UK, for insurance purposes.

Posted on April 22, 2005 at 8:30 AMView Comments

State-Sponsored Identity Theft

In an Ohio sting operation at a strip bar, a 22-year-old student intern with the United States Marshals Service was given a fake identity so she could work undercover at the club. But instead of giving her a fabricated identity, the police gave her the identity of another woman living in another Ohio city. And they didn’t tell the other woman.

Oddly enough, this is legal. According to Ohio’s identity theft law, the police are allowed to do it. More specifically, the crime cannot be prosecuted if:

The person or entity using the personal identifying information is a law enforcement agency, authorized fraud personnel, or a representative of or attorney for a law enforcement agency or authorized fraud personnel and is using the personal identifying information in a bona fide investigation, an information security evaluation, a pretext calling evaluation, or a similar matter.

I have to admit that I’m stunned. I naively assumed that the police would have a list of Social Security numbers that would never be given to real people, numbers that could be used for purposes such as this. Or at least that they would use identities of people from other parts of the country after asking for permission. (I’m sure people would volunteer to help out the police.) It never occurred to me that they would steal the identity of random citizens. What could they be thinking?

Posted on April 18, 2005 at 3:02 PMView Comments

License-Plate Scanning by Helicopter

From TheNewspaper.com:

The fictional police spy helicopter from the movie Blue Thunder is taking a big step toward becoming a reality. Police in the UK have successfully tested a 160 MPH helicopter that can read license plates from as much as 2,000 feet in the air. The Eurocopter EC135 is equipped with a camera capable of scanning 5 cars every second. Essex Police Inspector Paul Moor told the Daily Star newspaper: “This is all about denying criminals the use of the road. Using a number plate recognition camera from the air means crooks will have nowhere to hide.”

The use of Automated Plate Number Recognition (ANPR) is growing. ANPR devices photograph vehicles and then use optical character recognition to extract license plate numbers and match them with any selected databases. The devices use infrared sensors to avoid the need for a flash and to operate in all weather conditions.

This is an example of wholesale surveillance, and something I’ve written about before.

Of course, once the system is in place it will be used for privacy violations that we can’t even conceive of.

One of the companies that sells the camera scanning equipment touts it’s potential for marketing applications. “Once the number plate has been successfully ‘captured’ applications for it’s use are limited only by imagination and almost anything is possible,” Westminister International says on its website. UK police also envision a national database that holds time and location data on every vehicle scanned. “This data warehouse would also hold ANPR reads and hits as a further source of vehicle intelligence, providing great benefits to major crime and terrorism enquiries,” a Home Office proposal explains.

The only way to maintain security is not to field this sort of system in the first place.

Posted on April 15, 2005 at 12:10 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.