Razer Puts Me On Edge

I've been doing this for a while… the whole "computer thing". I've owned quite a few, I've worked on quite a few, I know people who have quite a few. Today, I found something entirely new.

You see, I had a Microsoft Intellimouse and, though I have many problems with the way they run their business, their mice are hardy and work well. Sadly, my mouse finally died after many, many years and I decided it was time to try something new and shiny. Considering the work I do, I thought I would spring for a bit of a performance model (though still simple) and that's when I found the Razer Deathadder Chroma.

Good features, simple design, fun glowy bits… it worked for me!

So it arrived and who doesn't love opening a new toy? When I plugged it in, it asked if I should download the drivers, but… no… it couldn't be serious? It wanted me to sign up first? I hunted around for several minutes and it was true. I wasn't allowed to use my new mouse without signing up and begging Razer for permission first.

Bottom Line

Plugging in the mouse did allow me to set basic mouse settings. It functioned… it rotated colors… I was even able to use one of the side mouse buttons for going "back" in my web browser. But if I were to be able to set custom colors, custom buttons, or use the high-DPI functions that were promised, I'd have to let Razor choose when I access my settings and when I didn't. Even now, if I open the settings, Razer's pretty login screen stands quietly in my way, waiting for me to log in and ask if I can pretty-please change my own mouse settings.

Thank you Razer for the padded helmet and guide-rails. I sure wouldn't want to hurt myself or my computer by using a mouse.

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OnStar To Spy On People

OnStar was recently admonished by several senators for its plan to spy on people (even non-customers).

OnStar is apparently hoping to create a new revenue stream by collecting data about the movements of OnStar-equipped cars. Obviously, this data set will be more comprehensive—and, therefore, more lucrative—if it includes data from former OnStar subscribers as well as current ones. In an announcement e-mailed to subscribers earlier this month, the company said that, starting December 1, it would continue collecting data from subscribers even after they cancel their service. OnStar also said it reserved the right to sell aggregated and anonymized data to third parties.
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RFID Chips in Hotel Towels

As anyone who reads much of my site knows, I'm not a fan of how RFID is being implemented. However, I'm not against the technology itself as it has many practical uses. For example, some hotels have begun putting washable RFID in the towels and bathrobes to keep people from stealing them.

Since the RFID towels have no privacy invading purpose at all and serve deter self-entitled punks who think it's ok to take hotel items, I will offer my tentative support for this. The main concern is feature creep meaning that depending how they implement this, they may also know which towels you used and when. I can't really see the hotels bothering to do so, but if they did, that would be crossing the line big time.

Source: http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/gee-how-did-that-towel-end-up-in-my-suitcase/ (H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

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Researchers Steal Cars With Wireless Ignition

If you read this site much, you probably know I have a "guilty till proven innocent" attitude when it comes to new technology, particularly wireless technology. That's why it's no surprise to me (and hopefully no surprise to you), that they've discovered they can break into and steal cars that use wireless entry and ignition.

The researchers tested a few scenarios. An attacker could watch a parking lot and have an accomplice watch as car owners as entered a nearby store. The accomplice would only need to be within eight meters of the targeted owner's key fob, making it easy to avoid arousing suspicion. In another scenario, a car owner might leave a car key on a table near a window. An antenna placed outside the house was able to communicate with the key, allowing the researchers then to start the car parked out front and drive away.

Companies need to stop with this high-tech gadgetry until they commit to hiring brilliant security experts to design these systems for them. Even then, using simple wireless radio transmissions that any regular joe can produce with less than $500 of equipment is just a bad idea.

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TSA Pilot Refuses Naked Scanner – TSA Response

Maybe you haven't heard of this yet, but a pilot working for ExpressJet refused to use the new nudie scanners installed at his airport. They offered to pat him down instead, but according to him:

"Pat down is misleading," Roberts explained. "They concentrate on the area between the upper thighs and torso, and they're not just patting people's arms and legs, they're grabbing and groping and prodding pretty aggressively."

I've written about this previously as it's been reported that refusing the scanner will get you a ''super-sized'' pat-down almost like a punishment and this experience seems to confirm that.

Peter Pietra, the head of privacy for the TSA is a reasonable guy who I met at a conference once. I asked him about this issue and he stated that the procedures seemed to work as intended. People have the right to opt out, but must be patted down in the process. I asked him about the "aggressive pat-down" and he said this:

There is no retaliatory pat-down for people who decline AIT. There used to be several types of pat-downs, but there are now only two (standard, and resolution). People who decline AIT or metal detector, for that matter, get the standard pat-down, but our standard pat-down changed about a month ago …. There was a flurry of media attention about a month ago on it, and some complaints following the news articles, but not a lot. My rough recollection is a dozen or fewer complaints specific to the new pat-down.
There is no retalitory pat-down…people who decline get a standard pat-down

Along with my previous talks with him, this is the second time he's assured me that there is no special treatment of people who refuse the scan. While I'm positive there are people who abuse their authority or make things tougher for people who they think make things tough for them (asserting rights which also makes their job harder), here's the thing:

There are two pat-downs and while I don't know what warrants the second, you should only get the first by refusing to be scanned. Therefore, if your pat down is more extensive than what you see old people with heart devices getting, it's time to complain and complain loudly (which is what I believe this pilot has done and good for him). Peter says he thinks there's no problem because he hasn't received many complaints. If you think you've been a victim of retaliation or excessive probing, make sure he hears about it.

Make sure your voice is heard. You can connect with his office here: TSAPrivacy@dhs.gov

Support for the Pilot

There's been a lot of support for him in the airline industry (among workers not officially). Here are some of the industry forums where they're talking about him:

Jetcareers
Expressjetpilots
Flyertalk

UPDATE 2010/11/07

I recently went through the airport and also refused the scanner. I was patted down, but the TSA employee was very clear and professional. At no point did I feel uncomfortable.

It's a big deal if someone overdoes it and they should be called out, but it really wasn't a problem for me.

However, I was once told that signs would be prominently posted showing people they could opt out of the scan, but I found none anywhere.

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DC Online Voting Halted Due to Hackers

From the Washington Post:

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened a new Internet-based voting system for a weeklong test period, inviting computer experts from all corners to prod its vulnerabilities in the spirit of "give it your best shot." Well, the hackers gave it their best shot — and midday Friday, the trial period was suspended, with the board citing "usability issues brought to our attention."

Here's one of those issues: After casting a vote, according to test observers, the Web site played "Hail to the Victors" — the University of Michigan fight song.

Whoah! E-voting not secure? Where have we heard that before!? And the best part is that it doesn't even take the vile hacker underground to do it. It's the college researchers each time.

No knock against college researchers, but for e-voting to work, it should take a vast conspiracy spanning several continents and special agents who jump from helicopters in the night to break into buildings through air-ducts not some mostly-sober frat boy. They obviously have no idea what they're doing and should stop. Now.

About the only ray of light in this whole story is that they were smart enough to challenge the public to hack them thus making their failure obvious (and therefore correctable).

E-voting will come eventually, but not now and probably not for a long time. Wait… Scratch that. It WILL come, but it won't be ready, it won't be secure, and we'll all suffer for it (like we did the last time).

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Owning Apple Products May Be More Dangerous Than You Think

As illustrated by The Oatmeal, you may suffer more than you imagined for loving your apple products. Take a look and decide for yourself though it does get a little raunchy in parts (fair warning). Tags: ,

12 Year Old Boy Uses World of Warcraft Skills to Save Sister’s Life

So you think all those online games rot your brain, make you slovenly, and are a complete waste of time? You're still right, but there are some unexpected benefits it seems.

A Norwegian boy who apparently plays the popular online game, World of Warcraft (something I scared to even try due to its reputation as being addictive), used the skills he learned in the game to save his sister and then himself from an angry Moose.

Hans and his sister got into trouble after they had trespassed the territory of the moose during a walk in the forest near their home. When the moose attacked them, Hans knew the first thing he had to do was ‘taunt’ and provoke the animal so that it would leave his sister alone and she could run to safety. ‘Taunting’ is a move one uses in World of Warcraft to get monsters off of the less-well-armored team members.

Once Hans was a target, he remembered another skill he had picked up at level 30 in ‘World of Warcraft’ – he feigned death. The moose lost interest in the inanimate boy and wandered off into the woods. When he was safely alone Hans ran back home to share his tale of video game-inspired survival.

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Researcher Points Out the Risk of Virus Infected RFID Implants

An RFID tag hidden under a label
An RFID tag hidden under a label

One of the many problems of RFID technology is that they can be hacked and used to spread viruses.

The device, which enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone, is a sophisticated version of ID chips used to tag pets.

In trials, Dr Gasson showed that the chip was able to pass on the computer virus to external control systems.

If other implanted chips had then connected to the system they too would have been corrupted, he said.

Mostly, this hasn't received a lot of attention to date because the computing power of RFID has historically been very low. But as the technology progresses, the consequences of not securing them properly becomes higher and higher. Tags: ,

DuckDuckGo – New Search Engine Choice or Dud?

Every now and then, there's a new search engine released that tries to play with the big boys, but they often fail. Usually its because of speed, maybe financial backing, sometimes user interface, but most often because they don't do the job well.

So here's one that may be worth some attention. Like Google, they focus on keeping very minimal and having a nice interface. But unlike Google, they make an effort to help you find what you are actually looking for:

They also include some summary information right in the search making it possible to skip visiting the site at all if you don't need to or at least getting a better feel for what the site is about before going. And according to their About page, they store NO personal information (which has long been a complaint of mine about Google).

So far, they're doing a lot right, but with Google having just released HTTPS for searches, the competition is even stiffer. I wish them luck.

Check them out yourself here.

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IDENTITY THEFT
How to Steal Identities - Why It's So Easy
Credit Freeze
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Id Theft Insurance
The Identity Theft Victim's Mini-Guide to Recovery
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The Geek Privacy Principle
Nothing to Hide
Data Abuse
RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification
Privacy Alias/Persona
Data Defense
INTERNET SAFETY
Online Addiction
The Consequences of Posting Online
Photo Safety
Tricks and Scams
Account Hijacking
Trusting Companies
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Password Tips and Tricks
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RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification

One of the most risky technology when it comes to your privacy is Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID). These radio chips broadcast your identity sometimes hundreds of feet and can be found in passports, farecards, credit cards, and even some clothing.

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