Beware Little Brother

December 27, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More

Paranoia waxes and wanes in this country, but let’s set aside the propensity for some media personalities of late to fan the “they’re out to get you” flames.  Even with the ubiquitous presence of Youtube videos from cell phone cameras and more heightening the sensitivity of everyone not a celebrity to the truth that someone is always watching, I’ll submit that few are aware of this surreptitious encroachment on our privacy…

Eva Galperin, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes in a commentary entitled “What is Traitorware?“:

Your digital camera may embed metadata into photographs with the camera’s serial number or your location. Your printer may be incorporating a secret code on every page it prints which could be used to identify the printer and potentially the person who used it. If Apple puts a particularly creepy patent it has recently applied for into use, you can look forward to a day when your iPhone may record your voice, take a picture of your location, record your heartbeat, and send that information back to the mothership.

I am a dinosaur when it comes to coding.  I used to be able to reverse engineer programs to figure out how they worked – for fun or to learn a neat method, not for malicious purposes; it’s like taking apart a laser pointer or a DVD player…just a curiosity.  But today’s software and hardware have too many hooks into other libraries, chips and Skynets.  I have an iPhone to which I accede an agreement to 47+ pages of terms in order to use the only resource for loading applications (that would be the ever frustratingly inept coding known as iTunes) unless I want to jailbreak it.  Uh, not today.

And for that, plus my microwave, camera, and who knows what else, I yield my privacy.

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Category: Consumerism, Orwellian, Privacy, Technology

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    And, of course, when you publish your thoughts in your own name at a sometimes anti-establishment website, those high-tech snoops from Homeland Security might actually read it.

  2. Jim Razinha says:

    Ah…George Carlin's friend and the now-dated, but not really, answer the phone with "[blank] Hoover! How can I help you?"

    I might have mentioned this once before, but prior to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, I was profiled at JFK in December, 2001. "Will the following passengers please see the attendant prior to boarding? James {tentative and slightly incorrect pronunciation of} Razinha…" followed by several Arabic-sounding names. I'd already had my luggage specially x-rayed in the back. When I got up to the lectern (well, it looked like one), a glance at my non-"foreign" appearance garnered me a grunt and a wave through.

    I knew about the cameras, but not the printer. Hard to CSI things that used to be typewriters, so they introduce a pseudo-bent key.

  3. Ebonmuse says:

    Another common kind of traitorware is software installed on your PC that surreptitiously sends back information to the manufacturer's website. It could just be checking for updates, but, in some cases, it could also be usage statistics or who knows what else.

    That's why I use ZoneAlarm, a free firewall program that doesn't just block unauthorized incoming traffic, but lets you control your outbound traffic as well: you can grant or deny internet access permission to any program you choose. It gives you a clear picture of which programs on your computer are trying to phone home without consulting you.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    I scan regularly with free Spybot – Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware Free.

    But given the mailing lists I am on (UnitedNuclear.com, ScienceForYou.net) and some of the subjects I openly discuss in forums and email, I expect that Carnivore™ has my number. I've outed myself as someone who could make an impression, should I so choose.

    I am truly White Hat. But in tactical terms, the threat is there. I'm just too McGyver for any potentially paranoid authorities. So far, "the man" has not let me know that he is interested.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Back in the days of Windows 95, someone noticed that every update for microsoft software included an update to a specific dll, which was described by MS asan Application Compatibility library. Someone realised the library in question had embedded encrypted data, and the encryption was a simple XOR encryption. On decoding the data they found a large list of non microsoft software.

    During installation and updates, this library would scan your drive for files specific to the non MS products and encode the data into a string which would be sent to MS. Many speculated that data collected covertly by this dll was used by MS to identify market sectors to conquer.

    BTW, one of the reasons I use Linux at home is that it is inhospitible to most malware, including spyware.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Jim: The EFF site you linked also goes into some detail regarding Sony traitorware from 2005–I was not aware that this sort of thing was going on:

    Perhaps the most notable example of traitorware was the Sony rootkit. In 2005 Sony BMG produced CD's which clandestinely installed a rootkit onto PC's that provided administrative-level access to the users' computer.

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