Book Reviews: We Are Anonymous & This Machine Kills Secrets

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker Wold of Lulzsec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olsen tracks the rise of cyber-attacks by Anonymous in the name of freedoms. Ms. Olsen talks to the “insiders” about why and how they do what they do. A fascinating read, with information and details not found in traditional media.

This Machine Kills Secrets: How Wikileakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information by Andy Greenberg follows the rise, and surprising starts of several individuals involved with WikiLeaks. The book reads as more of a multi-person biography rather than a history of outing secrets.

I would recommend these books for readers who know only a bit about Anonymous or WikiLeaks.  As I follow many privacy and activist blogs, the information was not new to me, just in a different form. Both books were easy to follow even with the multitude of people involved.


No smiling on your driver’s license!

At least in New Jersey because it makes it harder to identify you with facial recognition software. An interesting approach. I wonder how many states will follow suit?

And driver’s license security was the topic of a recent GAO report as well. In light of the REAL ID Act, the GAO recommends the Department of Homeland Security create a national database with photos, Social Security documents, and other verifying information so States can verify the identity of the people apply for driver’s licenses.

“Spy Devices” used domestically

Two articles discussing the same issue.

First, undercover police officers used smartphones while mingling with protesters in Tampa, Florida, during the Republican National Convention. While this may not be newsworthy in and of itself, how they used the phones is newsworthy. The phones had facial recognition software on them and were linked to surveillance cameras and databases of known offenders. Used in this manner, it was a test-run for future programs nation-wide.

Similarly, in Los Angeles, California, the police department is currently tracking cell phones by “electronically impersonat[ing] a cellphone tower and dupes the mobile phone into connecting through its own antennae.” The article discusses the case of David Rigmaiden out of Arizona where the FBI used the same technology without a warrant. This is one case I will continue to monitor.

Your Car, Your Privacy

While the idea of networking cars would allow for fewer accidents, the data that your car will collect about you (and share? and with whom?) is still up in the air. Currently, your GPS unit does track where you are. And don’t think it’s only your GPS tracking you. “Inrix collects all its traffic data anonymously, and Ford and Microsoft’s philosophy is the customer owns the data. But exactly what that means is unclear.” And don’t forget Flo from Progressive Insurance who wants you to put a “black box” in your car to save you money on your insurance!

How this information is stored, how securely it is is stored, and who has access to the information is currently not regulated (or at least not regulated that I could find). There are huge privacy issues at stake here, and yet it seems that no one has raised the alarm. Well, except for the folks at Reddit.

FBI Facial Recognition Program

Last week, the FBI announced it was spending $1 billion on a facial recognition program. Called the “Next Generation Identification Program (NGI), pilot testing began in some jurisdictions in February of this year, with full implementation expected by 2014. It actually goes beyond facial recognition and includes collection of other biometric data, including  iris scans, DNA and voice identification, to be stored alongside fingerprints in it’s national database. The database will be used to track criminals or suspicious persons,  in real time, using surveillance cameras. The current plan is to use only photos of those previously convicted of crimes, but as the Daily Mail points out, the FBI has already worked with states to collect drivers license information.

The news was first broken by New Scientist, which quotes a study stating the facial recognition software is only 92% accurate. All links via REDDIT