India’s use of brain scans in courts dismays critics

From the International Herald Tribune: India’s use of brain scans in courts dismays critics.

The new technology is, to its critics, Orwellian. Others view it as a silver bullet against terrorism that could render waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods obsolete. Some scientists predict the end of lying as we know it.

Now, well before any consensus on the technology’s readiness, India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from this controversial machine: a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question. [continue].

The secret code of diaries

From the BBC: The secret code of diaries.

The 300,000-word journal of Charles Wesley, the co-founder of the Methodist movement, which was written in an obscure shorthand, has been solved and the diary transcribed. It has taken nine years.

It appears that the shorthand was used not for speed, but for security. What was so important that it required the secrecy of a complex code?

(They tell you later on in the article.)

Wesley’s is not the only diary that has used a code, however, with everyone from Beatrix Potter to British prisoners of war using their secret diaries to express feelings that no-one else was meant to understand. [continue]

This kind of stuff fascinates me, partly because I’ve thought up a secret code system of my own, which I think would be awfully difficult for somebody to decode. Maybe one day I’ll develop it.

‘Fakeproof’ e-passport is cloned in minutes

In Britain, the government line of ‘trust us, this is for your safety’ has been interrupted by — imagine! — a bit of bad news. From The Times: ‘Fakeproof’ e-passport is cloned in minutes.

New microchipped passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft can be cloned and manipulated in minutes and accepted as genuine by the computer software recommended for use at international airports.

Tests for The Times exposed security flaws in the microchips introduced to protect against terrorism and organised crime. The flaws also undermine claims that 3,000 blank passports stolen last week were worthless because they could not be forged.

In the tests, a computer researcher cloned the chips on two British passports and implanted digital images of Osama bin Laden and a suicide bomber. The altered chips were then passed as genuine by passport reader software used by the UN agency that sets standards for e-passports. [continue]

Phone calls database considered

From the Beeb: Phone calls database considered.

Ministers are to consider plans for a database of electronic information holding details of every phone call and e-mail sent in the UK, it has emerged.

The plans, reported in the Times, are at an early stage and may be included in the draft Communications Bill later this year, the Home Office confirmed. [continue]

Can you believe this? We thought about living in the UK, but the prevalence of CCTV cameras and other privacy-invading nonsense there made Canada an easy choice.

Spyware with a badge: policeware

From Ars Technica: The tricky issue of spyware with a badge: meet ‘policeware’.

It’s well known that organizations with nefarious and often criminal goals support and distribute malware and spyware that allows them to snoop on and/or manipulate people’s computers. However, what is less well-known is that some of the people behind spyware are ostensibly the "good guys"—law enforcement officers who install the software on suspects’ computers to assist them with their investigations.

The existence of "policeware" is not well-known, but the US government has used this sort of software before. In 2001, federal agents obtained permission from a judge to enter a suspect’s home and install keylogging software on his computer. The rationale for this unusual mode of investigation was to get around encryption software such as PGP and the web e-mail service, Hushmail, that the suspect was using. More recently, FBI agents used a virus to bust a bomb threat hoaxer.

So, given the fact that federal investigators and possibly other law enforcement personnel are using spyware to monitor suspect’s computers, what happens when said suspects run antispyware programs? [continue]