The Null Device
The latest group to jump on the DRM bandwagon is the porn industry. Seeing their bottom lines affected by file-sharing of dirty pictures, they are turning to copy-denial mechanisms to make sure that people don't share porn. The basic idea seems to involve wrapping porn in executable programs which require you to enter your credit card number before you see anything; in other words, a pay-per-perve scheme.
Other than the issue about screen grabbing being trivially easy, would anybody in their right mind download and run any executable content from a porn site? The porn industry is rife with unethical and sleazy business practices (from unkillable popup ads and equally immortal auto-renewing memberships to rerouting customers' dial-up modem connections via Moldova or wherever), all held up by a legacy of Puritanical shame. Customers don't want to complain or draw attention to their shameful vices; the cowboys and mafiosi who run a lot of porn sites take advantage of this and screw them royally. What's to say that if you downloaded a "copyright-enabled" porn viewer, it would not hijack your computer and use it for sending out spam or launching DDOS attacks on rival porn sites or something?
(Which is not to say, of course, that there aren't honest, ethical porn/erotica sites. Just that they're probably not a vast majority of the industry.) (via Techdirt)
H4x0r group claims to have written universal P2P infector, commissioned by the RIAA. The alleged worm infects MP3 files, exploits vulnerabilities in players under Windows and Linux and sends catalogues of your MP3s to the RIAA as evidence for prosecution. Oh, and did I mention that it's undetectable? So, if you have MP3s, physically destroy your hard disks NOW. (Don't just erase them; computer forensics people can recover wiped disks.) US federal prisons are not pleasant places to be.
(If the RIAA is involved, it'd be more likely that it would be a psychological warfare operation and not a technical operation; the purpose being to destroy as many unrestricted MP3s as possible. It would work like this: circulate a few things like this, stage some arrests (make sure there are TV crews to film the SWAT teams going in) and publicise that the "pirates" were brought to justice by a new P2P worm, and watch guilty geeks nuke their MP3 collections and drop their hard disks in sulphuric acid. Then, when the smoke clears, sell all the songs back to them in rights-managed pay-per-play versions, and laugh all the way to the shareholders' meeting. Could the RIAA possibly have a better way of getting all those pesky MP3 files off the market?)
(Of course, there's also the possibility that it's 100% bullshit made up by some bored teenager.) (via bOING bOING)
Via FmH, two more paranoid than usual links; firstly a guide on how to disappear in America without a trace, much of which is probably quaintly anachronistic. Though the gist is, if they really want to find you, they will, no matter what you do.
Satellites can bounce LASER light off of your windows and, by measuring the minute distance differences between a vibrating window and the satellite, reconstruct your speech -- from orbit! I don't know how much this process costs yet it was demonstrated for PBS some years ago so it may not be all that expensive. The quality of the audio is poor but it can be understood.
Given Moore's Law and the dropping costs of high technology, it's not all that far-fetched to imagine that this sort of thing is now being used on deadbeat dads and people with overdue library books; or if it isn't, will be soon.
Secondly, a somewhat more academic and less Loompanicsesque paper on surveillance techniques and countermeasures, with a catalogue of 11 types of strategies against surveillance:
A common form of switching involves certification transference: A ticket, entry card, license, entitlement or identity marker belonging to someone else is used. South Africa provides an unusual example. There, welfare payments can be obtained from ATM machines. The recipient enters the correct information into the computer and offers a thumb print for verification. A colleague reported one enterprising family that collected welfare payments long after an elderly relative had died. They cut off her thumb and continued to use it.
A more subtle form involves conversational ploys in which a surveillance agent is duped into believing that a machine is invalid. Consider the story told me by a Russian. A family coming back from a picnic is stopped by police and the driver fails a breathalyzer test. He protests, "That's impossible, I haven't been drinking, your machine must be broken. Please try it on my wife." She also fails the test. The man gets even more insistent that the machine is broken and says, "Please try it on my young daughter." She is tested and also fails. At which point the police officer, doubting his own machine, lets the man go. The man later remarks to his wife, "That was really a good idea to let her drink with us.
Writing in invisible ink is a familiar children's game and it has its' adult counterparts, although these may rely on bad science. Thus, a bank robber was identified and arrested in spite of rubbing lemon juice on his face because he had been told that it would prevent the surveillance camera from creating a clear picture.
(Of course, these links are provided for the curiosity and interest of law-abiding readers only. If you're an al-Qaeda terrorist, drug user, MP3 pirate or other criminal, please do not follow them. We thank you for your cooperation.)