StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 09/27/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 09/27/01

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The News – 09/27/01

In this Issue:

National ID Cards As A Solution?

Oracle boss Larry Ellison recently called for the establishment of national ID cards as a curb to terrorist attacks. He’s also put his money where his (rather large ) mouth is by offering to donate the Oracle software to implement the scheme.

If you’ve been following SNS recently, you can probably guess I don’t think much of this idea. The terrorists had ID cards, after all. The Boston Globe reported that five of the hijackers had recently obtained Florida licenses. Ellison proposes that Americans be fingerprinted and that the information be placed on a database used by airport security officials to verify identities of travelers at airplane gates. He brushes aside civil libertarians’ concerns about the possible use of such a system to infringe on the privacy and other civil rights of law-abiding citizens. Echoing Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy’s famous “get over it” pronouncement , Ellison said: “Well, this privacy you’re concerned about is largely an illusion. All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy. Right now, you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment and tons of other information.

Doesn’t that make you feel better? I wonder how easy it would be to get Larry Ellison’s credit report and other private information.

Anyway, the business effect of Ellison’s offer could be chilling to not only the database industry Oracle competes in, but also the employee identification and airport security industries. If the government gets into the business of assuring identity, many companies in these industries will go the way of the airport skycaps.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I’ve added a new directory to the Directories section of the StratVantage Web site: Email Newsletters. After conducting a fruitless search for a central place listing various email newsletters, I decided to establish one myself. I’ve seeded it with newsletters I receive and find useful. If you’ve got a favorite, send it along and I’ll add it.
    StratVantage Directories
  • Random Web Usage Tip: eMazing has a nice tip of the day service you can subscribe to. Even a Web junkie like myself can learn a thing or two from their service. Their latest tip about Internet Explorer is a good example: “When a page is taking forever to download all of its graphics, press the Spacebar to stop the graphics and allow you to read the text. Another trick is to click Stop and then click Refresh. Sometimes starting over will get you a faster download.” I knew the second tip, but not the first, which is very useful when some huge gratuitous image file is downloading and preventing me from getting on with it.
  • Expanded Wiretap Authority Analyzed: Alert SNS Reader Jeff Ellsworth sends along a pointer to an article written by Georgetown University law professor and former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. It’s a very easy to read consideration of the problems facing law enforcement in the digital age and the threats to freedom that could be involved if we help them do their job better.
  • YAMV (Yet Another Microsoft Virus) Report: I’m thinking of making this a regular feature. A new Visual Basic script-based worm, dubbed Vote, is a mass mailer which sends itself to e-mail addresses harvested from the Windows address book of infected systems. It is an email file with the subject line “Peace between America and Islam,” and it not only sends large amounts of e-mail, but also overwrites HTML (Web) files on the infected computer and can delete the system’s Windows directory and reformat the hard drive when the machine is restarted. The e-mail includes an attachment document called WTC.exe, which, when double-clicked, infects the computer. This makes Vote unlike the Nimda worm, which can infect without double-clicking, and thus experts consider the virus low risk. Nonetheless, businesses should make sure all employees know not to double-click attachments from unknown emailers. In addition, businesses should make sure antivirus protection is up to date on all computers.
    The Standard (Australia)
  • Unmanned Aircraft May Be Key: In this war unlike any other, automated flying drones may be essential to gathering intelligence in mountainous Afghanistan. One possible problem: These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are largely untested. The Predator UAV has been flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq, and the military has other tactical UAVs including the Global Hawk, Pioneer and Hunter. Chances are good that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, the fathers of the Internet) will step up production of the “micro-UAVs” that are currently on the drawing board. Deploying untested, leading edge battletech has a precedent. The military first deployed an experimental airborne battlefield-management system, the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, in the Gulf War. The bad news is control stations for UAVs would need to be close to the front lines, probably in Pakistan.
    EE Times
  • Background Check Business Booming: Many companies are benefiting from the recent tragedy, including those that specialize in performing pre-employment background checks. The company behind and MyBackgroundCheck.Com reports they are fielding 2,000 queries a day, double the normal number, since September 11.
    LA Times
  • Nokia and Visa Piloting Dual Chip Mobile Payment Service: One of the dreams of mobile commerce is the ability to quickly and wirelessly pay for goods and services using a mobile device. Nokia and Visa took a step closer to realizing the dream recently when they announced a pilot in Finland of Nordea’s Open Plaform chip card. Nordea’s card will be installed in 150 Nokia phones to be distributed to customers in Helsinki. These customers can only buy groceries and movie theater tickets, so the pilot is quite limited. Nonetheless, it will offer good data on the use of the dual chip concept, which relies on a chip card issued by a bank and a separate chip running the Wireless Identity Module (WIM) application in a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) cell phone. If the pilot is successful, look to see the technique rolled out in Northern Europe and the rest of Europe before it arrives in the US. But be careful: Don’t lose your phone!
  • Visualization As Decision Support: Sun and Landmark Graphics have combined to offer a data visualization solution for Unocal, which will use it to help improve departmental-level collaboration and decision-making in oil and gas exploration and production. Oil companies use massive amounts of seismic information to find pockets of oil and gas. Unocal will use Landmark’s 2003 versions of Earthcube™ and OpenVision™ graphics applications to visually inspect the data and detect telltale patterns. Up to now, such data visualization techniques involved very expensive installations. Sun and Landmark’s solution promises to bring such high-end capabilities within reach of smaller companies.
  • Inventor of Popular Crypto Program Clarifies: Phil Zimmerman invented a cryptographic program called PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) in 1991. The program allows its users to take emails or other documents and transform them into a virtually unbreakable set of codes that only the intended recipient can decode. In this way, users can communicate with others without law enforcement officials being able to understand the communication. Zimmerman was widely quoted – he now says misquoted – recently as being full of remorse due to the likelihood his program was used by the terrorists. After the article was published, Zimmerman clarified his statement on the Cypherpunks discussion list for cryptographers:The journalist slightly misinterpreted my remarks, and missed the shades of grey in some of what I said. I did *not* say that I was overwhelmed with guilt over PGP. I told her about my crying, just as everyone else I knew had cried over what had happened. I also told her about the hate mail, and that I “felt bad” that the terrorists may have used PGP. Indeed I do feel bad about that. But feeling bad about them using it is not the same as feeling that PGP was a mistake, or that I have changed my principles about human rights and crypto. I thought I had also made it clear that I had no regrets about developing PGP. She did not report any individual facts incorrectly in her article. But I think she connected the dots in a slightly different way, and seemed to conclude that I was wallowing in guilt over PGP. I’m sure she meant no harm. I am still very much aware that PGP was a good thing, and that strong crypto helps more than hurts. I have been saying that to the press all week. I just said it again in two more interviews I had before breakfast this morning, and will continue to say it. It seems I have to say it more forcefully. I will prepare a statement on this later today. In the meantime, feel free to let our colleagues know that I have not gone soft on civil liberties.

    To stop terror, you must stop terrorists, not abridge the rights of the rest of us.

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