I started watching a movie the other day called Erasing David. It was not autobiographical but it does raise some interesting points. Could you disappear for 30 days? A British man decides to test the degree to which he has lost his privacy by attempting to "unplug" from daily life and hiring two private detectives to locate him. Where can he live, eat, shop? How does he gain access to information, money and other necessities without compromising his privacy?
I deal with these issues on a daily basis. How to limit the information that is collected and stored by researchers, marketers, vendors, governments and hackers. We Americans do not value our privacy enough these days. We'll gladly give up our email address for a $5 coupon and sometimes even for less. I'd encourage everyone to spend some time and take inventory of who has what information about you. Do it for your children too. Many of the marketing and research companies make their databases available for sale, rent or trade. What seems like trivial information becomes less trivial once compiled hundreds of times over with other databases. By the way...Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and every other social media outlet is a gold mine of personal information. If you haven't read their privacy practices recently...you should. I'm not saying don't use them; just use them with the full knowledge of their true cost.
First let me say this: I am not trying to create mass panic. We are not having a crisis, epidemic, pandemic or any other world ending situation. You should not refuse medical treatment because of anything I point out in this short blog entry.
Recently a security researcher found a way to take control of an insulin pump and dole out a potentially lethal dose of insulin. The device is made by a large corporation and is widely used today. It uses wireless technology with no encryption. Yes...you read that right. Wireless...no encryption. I know, I know...it should be a no-brainer these days to encrypt all wireless communications but evidently it's not. The researcher had to customize the communication device and write a customized program to connect to the insulin pump. But if he can do it, so can the next guy. This isn't the first of such discoveries. A couple of years ago, certain types of pacemakers were discovered to have a similar flaw.
This is why it is so important for all projects your company works on, not just IT projects, to go through a formalized information security and privacy review before getting the green light for production. If you are buying products, especially those you sell, configure or install for others, you should do a thorough information security and privacy review during your procurement process. Ask the vendors if they've done security testing. Ask them for independent verification. If they can't or won't provide the information you must assume it wasn't done and you'll need to do your own validation. Information and communications are everywhere. Even inside our own bodies. Welcome to the Matrix.
While setting up a new laptop our resident security engineering guru, Steve Healey made a funny discovery. Cell phone videos can be used to bypass facial recognition software. The laptop he was configuring offers biometric authentication via facial recognition using the built in webcam. Steve recorded a video of himself on his smartphone and then used it as the subject for authentication. By simply changing the viewing angle of the phone to the camera he was granted access. As a disclaimer, he didn't have the sensitivity turned all the way up. It also wasn't turned all the way down either though. Those of you using biometric devices, fingerprint readers, facial recognition, etc. on your mobile devices, take note. It's really not all that secure. You probably still want to use a password in combination with the biometrics. Low end biometric capture devices in cell phones, laptops, etc. are not the same ones you see protecting a Level-3 Bio Hazard lab! Kudos to Steve on this "shocking" discovery.