2017/09/07

Equifax breach exposes 143 million people to identity theft - AP
AP reports: "Credit monitoring company Equifax has been hit by a high-tech heist that exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information about 143 million Americans. Now the unwitting victims have to worry about the threat of having their identities stolen. The Atlanta-based company, one of three major U.S. credit bureaus, said Thursday that “criminals” exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year. The theft obtained consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The purloined data can be enough for crooks to hijack the identities of people whose credentials were stolen through no fault of their own, potentially wreaking havoc on their lives. [...] The potential aftershocks of the Equifax breach should make it clear that Social Security numbers are becoming an unreliable way to verify a person’s identity, Nathaniel Gleicher, the former director of cybersecurity policy in the White House during the Obama administration, said in an email statement."

Comment: This incident could provide an opportunity for policymakers in the U.S. to start looking into alternative forms of personal identification, something a bit more secure than the antiquated Social Security Number.

2017/08/24

India's Supreme Court rules privacy is a fundamental right - AP
AP reports: "India’s top court ruled Thursday that privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen, in a landmark judgment that could affect the country’s mammoth identity card system. The verdict was in response to many petitions filed in courts questioning the validity of assigning a biometric identity card to every individual. The government has made the identity card mandatory for all citizens to receive welfare benefits, but human rights groups raised concerns about the risk of personal data being misused. [...] Rights activists hailed the verdict as a win for individual freedom."

Comment: This is a win for the people of India but also something of a disappointment. As a test-case for mark-tech India was making remarkable strides in combining biometric identity verification with a broad range of government services. I saw it as a laboratory for seeing what could be done in this area with off-the-shelf technology combined with sheer government coercion and the outcome was looking rather impressive. The currency system of an entire country was being changed almost overnight and millions of undocumented people were being brought into an online system and given digital identities to secure services and payments. It was an impressive accomplishment. All of that is in doubt now. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

2017/07/29

Apple removes foreign VPN apps from Chinese app store - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Virtual-private network, or VPN, applications have been removed from Apple's Chinese app store. Foreign companies had developed the apps to get around China's Internet filters. [...] Residents in China utilize VPNs to get around the 'Great Firewall' that censors Chinese Internet and limits access. [...] China, Apple's largest market outside the United States, pledged to crack down on unapproved VPNs and restricted other online content as part of a 14-month campaign to 'clean up' the Internet."

Comment: Score a point for the "Great Firewall" of China. This news report casts this as a human rights issue and there's no doubt it is. Human rights workers, political activists and international visitors all use VPNs to access the global internet but there is another group impacted that this article does not mention. There is a large underground Christian church in China that exists alongside the official state-approved churches and those believers also use this technology to access Christian resources and contacts. As all internet traffic comes under the control of the state, these groups will become increasingly vulnerable to state intimidation and control.

2017/07/24

Wisconsin company hopes to offer microchip implants to employees - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A Wisconsin company wants to offer surgically implanted microchips for employees to make it easier to buy snacks in the break room. [...] the implanted microchip makes it easier for people to pay for items at work. Instead of looking for coins, cash or a credit card, they would only need to place their hand in front of a scanner and electronically pay for their item. The microchip would have other uses, as well, like serving as an electronic key to open doors and identify the user to login at a computer. [...] Approximately 50 Three Square Market employees have volunteered to have the microchip inserted. Westby said it is not mandatory."

Comment: This seems like a clever way to entice people with the novelty of it while desensitizing them to the extreme privacy threat posed by implanted chip tech. I love that line where the CEO says it's not mandatory and he left off the "yet" part, lol. I would like to think that Americans still retain enough of the independent spirit to ever go along with this kind of monitoring and control.

2017/07/18

Visa offers $500K for eateries to stop accepting cash - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Visa is challenging small restaurants, cafes and food trucks to stop accepting cash. The credit card company announced in a news release this week it is offering $500,000 to 50 eligible U.S.-based eateries to go 100 percent cashless. Restaurants signing up can get a $10,000 gift from Visa to help pay for technology upgrades, the San Francisco-based company said.

Comment: Visa is trying to get merchants in the U.S. to stop accepting cash, good luck with that. Meanwhile, in Britain, they are investing in trendy new banknotes with extra security features. I guess they didn't get the Visa offer.

2017/07/12

AP - Face scans for US citizens flying abroad stir privacy issues
The AP reports: "If the Trump administration gets its way, U.S. citizens boarding international flights will have to submit to a face scan, a plan privacy advocates call a step toward a surveillance state. The Department of Homeland Security says it’s the only way to successfully expand a program that tracks nonimmigrant foreigners. They have been required by law since 2004 to submit to biometric identity scans — but to date have only had their fingerprints and photos collected prior to entry. Now, DHS says it’s finally ready to implement face scans on departure — aimed mainly at better tracking visa overstays but also at tightening security. But, the agency says, U.S. citizens must also be scanned for the program to work. Privacy advocates say that oversteps Congress’ mandate."

Comment: It's been a while since we had a MOTB update. I'm not sure this really rises to the level of a good update. As you can see from the report, it's very tentative, part of me thinks "ok, let me know if they actually do require face scans" but the reality is that they probably will. Consumers have already demonstrated a willingness to surrender their privacy and their dignity in the name of travel safety, this is simply one more step. I suppose we should not be too alarmed, no doubt the biometric ID database will be well secured from hackers, right?  Finally, the usual caveat, I'm not saying that this or any other biometric tech is the MOTB, this is simply a tech trend worth keeping an eye on. 

2017/05/11

India is building a biometric database for 1.3 billion people — and enrollment is mandatory - LA Times
The LA Times reports: "Nearly 9 out of 10 Indians have registered, each assigned a unique 12-digit number that serves as a digital identity that can be verified with the scan of a thumb or an eye. [...] Designed as a showcase of India’s technological prowess — offering identity proof to the poor and reducing waste in welfare programs — Aadhaar’s grand promises have been muddied by controversy as the government makes enrollment mandatory for a growing number of essential services. [...] Soon, as more private companies use the database, it could become difficult to open a bank account, get a new cellphone number or buy plane or train tickets without being enrolled."

Comment: This sounds like a privacy nightmare but it's certainly an interesting experiment in government mandated identity verification.  If India can make it work it will become an attractive option for many other countries.

2017/04/17

Japan convenience stores to cut out workers, scan entire baskets - UPI.com
UPI reports: "By 2025 the country's major retailers, including Seven-Eleven Japan and other chain operators, will allow customers to use self-checkout computer kiosks to scan an entire basket of items without requiring individual scans, The Nikkei reported Tuesday, local time. [...] Chips, or radio frequency identification tags, that can compute all items simultaneously are to be used at Seven-Eleven, FamilyMart and Ministop stores, where they will be in active use in major cities by 2018, according to the report."

Comment: I think the cost of upgrading hardware would be prohibitive in a large country like the U.S., still, it's an interesting development, it shows how advanced RFID tech has become. 

2017/04/04

Swedish company Epicenter implants microchips in employees - UPI.com
UPI reports: "About 150 employees the Swedish technology firm Epicenter agreed to have a microchip inserted in their hands, the company said. The RFID, or radio frequency identification chip, is about the size of a grain of rice and will allow workers at the company to open doors automatically and use electronic devices more efficiently. The chip is implanted in an employee's hand."

Comment: The Mark of the Beast prophecy found in Rev 13:16-18 is one of the most specific prophecies in the Bible and also one of the most enigmatic.  I'm not dogmatic on the subject and enjoy speculating on what it could be, alternating between a high-tech solution like an implanted chip to something as basic as a tattoo. Lately it seems like the high-tech answer is gaining ground, with remarkable innovations coming in the fields of mobile commerce, identity verification and biometrics. I don't claim to have the answer, but I am dedicated to watching the trends. In this latest news, some Swedish workers are having chips implanted into their hands. It sounds like this is a small-scale experiment with a technology that has wider commercial applications. It will be interesting to see how it goes. If your company offered this service, would you get chipped? 

2017/03/21

IBM, Visa Want Smart Devices, IoT Gadgets to Replace Themselves | Digital Trends
Digital Trends reports: "As technology grows, so do the options for making purchases. Already millions of people are able to buy things using PayPal or Apple Pay, but IBM and Visa want to expand that even further. Together, they want all connected devices to act as mobile payment systems. By collaborating with Visa, IBM will use its own Watson Internet of Things (IoT) platform to allow businesses to quickly add secure payment options to any device connected to the internet. These days, that means anything from a car, to a ring, or even a shoe."

Comment: That sounds great, but I would be concerned about privacy and security. They will really need to reassure consumers that these payment systems are safe before mass adoption.