Technology Roundup

Firefox (aka Red Panda) Not Spying on You
Firefox (aka Red Panda) busy Not Spying on You

A 1 May Ars article and 30 April Wired article mention that a UK company known as Gamma International is selling spyware that pretends to be Mozilla Firefox. Both articles mention that repressive governments have used it to spy on dissidents, but it’s unclear from the article whether the company purposely sells to evil governments or whether it sells this to anybody, including foreign governments. The Wired article mentions that Gamma markets it to governments in general and so, if pressed, would probably say that it’s not meant to be used by evil governments – just people like the FBI trying to catch criminals. Either way, Mozilla has sued for trademark infringement. I applaud them for doing so. Governments may have both legitimate and illegitimate reasons for spying on computer communications, but I don’t think they should be abusing the good will of other companies to do it. Imagine if Gamma was selling Ford cars that were bugged. No one would want to buy a Ford car for fear it might be a bugged version. Come on, guys! Figure out a solution that doesn’t screw over the folks at Mozilla.

Also on 1 May Ars had a story about how Google Glass could be exploited. My first instinct is that this was a PR nightmare for Google. They’re putting these devices into the hands of users as part of a beta test and generate media buzz and someone goes and figures out how the glasses could be rooted, allowing someone to take recordings (video, photo, and audio) without you knowing what’s going on.  On second read, however, I realized this is PERFECT for Google (well, perfect would have been no exploits, but that’s not realistic).  Right now they aren’t trying to get this device out to the public – they’re trying to find all the problems that would make it DOA when it goes out to the public. Almost nobody in the general public is following these stories and so they won’t be spooked by it. And Google gets to fix the devices before they get out there.  In fact, it could even be spun as, “No, don’t worry about those fears – we handled it during the beta period.”

When I discussed the story with my wife we were trying to figure out the worst possible scenarios. Like no one is probably going to wear Google Glass during sex. No one I know who has glasses wears them during sex – they end up getting knocked about. But even if you did, it’s probably not going to show the parts most people care about (compared to a camera you’re not wearing) most of the time. More likely would be photos of you spouse and others you live with in various states of undress. But what’s even scarier to me is someone turning on the camera when you don’t know it’s on and then taking photos that make you look like a jerk – and could get you fired or thrown in jail. For example, in a public bathroom or locker-room.  Or a shot that makes it look like you were taking a breast shot of someone. Would someone really believe the “I was hacked” defense?

Luckily, for now the exploit can only happen if someone has possession of your Google Glass.  Given how much these things cost, I doubt anyone’s going to be letting anyone else use it out of their line of sight.

On a quick note: I’d wondered why my current WordPress theme (if you’re reading this before I’ve switched over to Twenty Thirteen at the end of May) hadn’t been updated to incorporate the newest features. In lots of other WP sites I have, the themes have been constantly updating.  Turns out that the developer stopped working on WP themes a couple years ago.  Bummer!

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