Sunday, August 31, 2008

GPS: Search and Seizure

Police are using Global Positioning System data as evidence in criminal prosecutions, for crimes such as murder, rape and arson. Critics, like University of Maryland law professon Renée Hutchins, argue that GPS data is protected under the Fourth Amendment.

See, "Police Using G.P.S. Units as Evidence in Crimes," New York Times, Aug. 30, 2008, at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Computer failure delays US flights

Failure of a communications link in an Atlanta computer system for filing flight plans delayed hundreds of flights across the US. The other flight-plan facility in Salt Lake City tried to take up the slack and handle the entire country, but the backup system overloaded. This led to manual processing.

The FAA said that it had never experienced a computer problem this severe.

See, "U.S. airports back to normal after computer glitch," Reuters, Aug, 26, 2008, at

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Outsourcing cv fraud threatens sensitive bank data

A background screening company reports that resume cheating in India's outsourcing industry rose 80% in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the first quarter of 2007.

The issue is troubling because recruits in in the outsourcing industy often have access to highly sensitive information and processes for leading international financial institutions.

See, "Outsourcing groups battle India's CV cheats," Financial Times, Aug. 25, 2008,

Bank data on 1M customers found on computer sold on eBay

An eBay buyer reported to UK authorities that a computer he bought online contained data on at least one million credit card customers of the Royal Bank of Scotland, its subsidiary NatWest, and American Express, including account numbers, passwords, cell phone numbers and signatures.

The computer was apparently sold online by an archiving firm that stores financial information for the three financial institutions.

See, "U.K. Man Buys Computer With Millions Of Credit Card Data For $142 On eBay," AHN, Aug. 26, 2008, at; "Privacy probe into bank data sale," Financial Times, Aug. 27, 2008, at

Terror group hijacks Wi-Fi connections

Email from a terrorist group, Indian Mujahideen, has been traced to a college in Mumbai. The email hinted at new terror attacks and warned that suicide bombers would be deployed. As a result, city colleges are working to eliminate the threat posed by unsecured Internet and Wi-Fi connections

A similar email was sent prior to serial bomb blasts in the west Indian city of Ahemdabad on July 26, 2008, which killed 42 people. That email was sent via a hacked computer with an unsecure Wi-Fi connection in a private Mumbai residence, and appears to be the first time that a local IP address has been hacked by terrorists.

See, "Second terror e-mail traced to Mumbai college," Morung Express, Aug. 25, 2008; "Colleges wake up to wi-fi threat," Hindustan Times, Aug. 26, 2008, at; "American expats caught up in Indian bomb blast inquiry," Guardian, July 29, 2008, at; and, "Anyone can be caught in the web of terror," Times of India, July 29, 2008,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Inmate data lost

A consulting firm lost a computer memory stick containing details of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales. Details including names, addresses and birthdate of 33,000 people with six or more convictions, and people in drug rehabilitation programmes were also on the stick. The data was apparently being held by the government in secure form, but was downloaded onto a memory stick in violation of rules in the contract with the consulting firm.

The loss follows admissions by UK Revenue and Customs that it lost data on about 25 million people; by the Ministry of Defence that about 658 laptops have been stolen in the past four years; and, by the Transport Secretary that details of some three million learner drivers were lost by a firm in the US.

The consulting firm involved is one of the main companies involved in setting up a controversial ID cards scheme and its failure raised concerns about the safety of the national identity database.

See, "Tories call for data loss prosecutions," The Observer, Aug. 24, 2008; "UK criminals' details go missing," Aug. 22, 2008, OneNews, at

Friday, August 22, 2008

China Internet control claimed as trade violation

The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) filed a petition with the Office of the US Trade Representative protesting that US service providers are severely damaged by restrictions place on Internet usage by China. CFAC claims that the restrictions place US companies at a disadvantage (e.g., by forcing them to register at a local level, or submit content for government approval) and violate international trade agreements, including the protocol China singed when it joined the World Trade Organization. See, "Google and Yahoo tread carefully in China internet row," Financial Times, Aug. 22, 2008.

China blocks iTunes

Internet users report that China apparently blocked access to the Apple’s iTunes Store due to the presence of the pro-Tibet “Songs for Tibet” benefit album, which includes 20 songs from artists like Sting, Dave Matthews and Moby. See, "Apple iTunes Store Is Blocked in China, Internet Users Say," New York Times, Aug. 22, 2008.

Students' right to publicize flaw

A U.S. District Court in Boston ruled that students have the right to publicize a flaw that allows magnetic fare cards used by Boston's subways and buses to be counterfeited. The court ruled that the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act of 1996 likely does not prohibit revealing weaknesses in computer-security systems. See, "Judge Backs Students in Transit Hacking Case," Wall St. J., August 20, 2008, at

Student data and test scores released

Personal data and test scores of thousands of Florida students were accidentally published by The Princeton Review on its web site. See, "Student Files Are Exposed on Web Site," New York Times, Aug. 18, 2008, at