Sunday, March 25, 2007

They're Watching

Reading an article in the paper today I was struck again by the credulity of journalists, who are capable of being sold any story, no matter how ridiculous, provided it's framed so as to reinforce their belief in their own cynicism. The particular case in point was a claim that the British secret service have developed a device that allows them to read the information on a computer screen using nothing more than the reflections on the user's face. From, oh, half a mile away... Hmmm... I suppose you could get a specular reflection from the... No. Forget it - there are much easier ways to do this.

But it did have me wondering why the spooks would bother putting out such a story, assuming they did. Presumably to cover up the way they really do it...

And thinking about the number of different ways you could do it got me wondering about computer security in general, and the great unanswered question of why the hell any sovereign government other than the US would allow Microsoft to sell Vista to their citizens, let alone use it in their government departments, when MS or anyone else who has access to the relevant codes can use the content protection (ha ha) features to pull the plug on any Vista machine whenever they want.

It seems to me that there is a strong case to be made for all 'essential' computing to be done using open source software on open sourced hardware, unfortunately there's a much stronger case to be made that all politicians are incompetent to even understand the problem.

Of course, you don't have to worry about this if you believe his Billiness is a nice guy who won't ever use them maliciously or to gain a commercial advantage, and that the US government doesn't have access to them, and that no hacker will ever have access to them, and no virus will ever be written that 'bricks' your computer using them, and so on.

(Bricks means to turn your computer into a brick, ie, stop it functioning. Vista has introduced ways to do this remotely, and not just by causing the software to malfunction through the usual programmer incompetence, hard as it may be to believe Vista certified hardware can be told to stop working, and it then becomes permanently useless. Bet it doesn't mention that on the box...)

But maybe I too suffer from excessive cynicism, because I suspect that behind all this submission is a naive government that has been fed a few crumbs allowing them back door access to Windows, and they're so fucking stupid they've sold the rest of us down the river to a foreign power in exchange...

Not that I don't admire MS for trying; in one stroke they stand to make the PC a closed-architecture machine and so kill off Linux, a master-stroke of industrial ruthlessness. Pity they're being allowed to get away with it, though ultimately I suspect that a few billion Chinese won't give a fuck and all MS will achieve is to slightly speed the end of western domination of the IT industry. I'm tempted to say good riddance...

Think I'm too paranoid? See


  1. Ok, matey. Take that thought an thermocouple it to this one. Which desktop O/S do you think gubbmint officials will be using to access their wonderful planned database of all your biometrics, cross-linked to your passport details, bank details, and so on and so forth.

    Comforting thought? No?

    They're not watching. They don't need to. The first sign of anything outwith your usual purchasing patterns going on your Nectar card, they'll get a pop up telling them :)

  2. Gods, it's even worse than I thought...

  3. Bank details? They're in the post mate...