Who is responsible in our cloudy world?

[As ever, this is also on the BBC News website]

In the next few days [in fact it is now published] a number of large technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, are going to announce that they have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct on how they do business in countries that curtail freedom of expression like China and Singapore.

The code has been drawn up by the Washington-based digital rights group The Center for Democracy & Technology and a non-profit in San Francisco, Business for Social Responsibility, and it is believed to address the terms of business companies should adhere too and also to call on them to try to ensure that suppliers and business partners also sign up. Continue reading “Who is responsible in our cloudy world?”

Don’t have nightmares

[As ever you can read this on the BBC News website. Or on any of the spamblogs that rip off my copy and use it as linkbait.]

Anyone concerned about the security of their computers and the data held on them might sleep a little uneasily tonight.

Over the past few weeks we’ve heard reports of serious vulnerabilities in wireless networking and chip and pin readers, and seen how web browsers could fall victim to ‘clickjacking’ and trick us into inadvertently visiting fake websites.

The longstanding fear that malicious software might start infecting our mobile phones was given a boost when the Information Security Center at US university Georgia Tech outlined how phone software could be hijacked to create ‘botnets’ and allow handsets to be remotely controlled.

And now a group of researchers at the Security and Cryptography Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have shown that you can read what is typed on a keyboard from twenty metres away.

Continue reading “Don’t have nightmares”

The Weight of Data

[As ever, this is on the BBC News website too]

I have just deleted fifteen gigabytes of data from my laptop. Gone are the unwanted video clips, the duplicated photos, the filed columns and the unlistened-to music, all consigned to the great Trashcan in the sky.

Yet it weighs the same as it always did, just over 2 kilos to carry around with me from meeting to café to home every day.

And it’s still 2.75 cm thick even though it now contains significantly less debris.

When I clear out my paper files the recycling box rapidly fills up as my shelves are emptied of unwanted reports, old drafts of completed work and the rest of the detritus that accumulates around any freelance journalist.

And once I’m done the folders are thinner and lighter, offering me clear evidence of a job well done and rewarding me by the change in their physical aspect.

There are no such rewards for the assiduous hard drive cleaner, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it is so easy to live with a bulging mail inbox – it doesn’t actually bulge.

Continue reading “The Weight of Data”

Bill Thompson says: Find Me

I’ve long been fascinated by the tales of ‘numbers stations’, radio stations that broadcast lists of numbers. According to Wikipedia

Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.

Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are used to send messages to spies.  Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that, as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War.

There are lots of them around, and this recording shows what I think is a new one. It is well worth listening to.


It may even lead you to something interesting.

Between a rock and an interface

[Not my title – I think Mark is to thank. And you can read this on the BBC News site as always]

One of the most wonderful things about spending a lot of my day online is that there is always something interesting to read when work gets boring or I’m waiting for the coffee to brew.

And I don’t even have to go looking for things to read, as the Bloglines news aggregator brings the latest postings from the ninety-two websites I’m most interested in to one place, checking their RSS feeds and managing them for me.

All I have to do is skim through looking for anything that catches my eye and seems worth a little attention.

Continue reading “Between a rock and an interface”