'Not only is James Bond fictional, he's not a fair representation of intelligence'

Plus: 'Smart meters are crap computers in a crap box'


QuoTW This was the week when a technology consultant tried to give people the FEAR by hacking Google Glass and suggesting that nefarious villains could use the tech specs to see and hear everything users do.

Jay Freeman, also known by hacker handle Saurik, showed he had gained root access to Glass in a blog post and said that with that kind of access, the specs would be a handy tool for snoops to slurp every detail of users' lives:

Once the attacker has root on your Glass, they have much more power than if they had access to your phone or even your computer: they have control over a camera and a microphone that are attached to your head.

A bugged Glass doesn't just watch your every move: it watches everything you are looking at (intentionally or furtively) and hears everything you do.

But not everyone was quaking in their boots at the news. XML co-creator and Google developer advocate Tim Bray was actually a bit dismissive in a tweet:

Yes, Glass is hackable. Duh.

Bray also linked to an explanation from Google X Lab developer Stephen Lau of why folks really shouldn't be concerned about Saurik's break-in:

Not to bring anybody down... but seriously... we intentionally left the device unlocked so you guys could hack it and do crazy fun shit with it. I mean, FFS, you paid $1500 for it... go to town on it. Show me something cool.

In Blighty, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act received the Royal Assent, changing copyright law to allow commercial use of so-called "orphan works", a move campaigners have likened to outright thievery. Photo rights campaigner Paul Ellis said:

The mass of the public will never realise they've been robbed.

People can now use stuff without your permission. To stop that you have to register your work in a registry - but registering stuff is an activity that costs you time and money. So what was your property by default will only remain yours if you take active steps, and absorb the costs, if it is formally registered to you as the owner.

And UK computer security biz Digital Assurance has given a succinct description of how safe it reckons smart meters are. Director Greg Jones has suggested that the meters could be hacked and used to knock out electricity locally. He claimed:

Smart meters are essentially crap computers in a crap box.

This meter on which nearly all of the work has been done supports the International Electrotechnical Commission's protocol standards and currently uses the GSM mobile phone network for wide-area network communications.

We extracted all of its passwords from EEPROM [programmable read-only memory chip] and can use these to communicate with other meters from the meter supplier - and the vendor, as some of these passwords are factory defaults.

You can't keep an approaching-irrelevant tech firm down this week either, as BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins has asserted that it's only a matter of time before his firm is not just doing a lot better, but is in fact the best. He said:

I see BlackBerry to be the absolute leader in mobile computing - that's what we're aiming for...I want to gain as much market share as I can, but not by being a copycat.

And how's he going to do it? Not with tablets anyway, that's for damn sure. Those things are nothing but a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, flash-in-the-pan, will-o'-the-wisp notions that'll soon run their course, Heins confidently reckons.

In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.

Maybe a big screen in your workplace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.

Meanwhile, Mozilla has accused spook software firm Gamma International of disguising its spyware as the 'Foundation's popular Firefox browser. Moz has hit the spyware developer with a cease-and-desist, claiming that its trademark is being violated. Alex Fowler, the Firefox-maker's director of privacy and policy, said:

We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be – and in several cases actually have been – used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy.

Gamma’s software is entirely separate, and only uses our brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion.

And finally, CIA spooks have been indulging their whimsical sides with a wee dip into the arts world, offering criticism of how their murkier world is portrayed in fictional works. Michael Bradford, a "National Clandestine Service officer who has contributed several reviews of fiction" is among a few John le Carré fans, but isn't at all sure that the public is quite discerning enough to really get things like the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film adaptation:

The movie is unlikely to change public perceptions [due to] its opacity. Except for intelligence professionals and Le Carré aficionados, the film version is almost incomprehensible.

Le Carré might be applauded, but Ian Fleming is somewhat less than popular with the secret services. Michael S Goodman, a British professor who wrote in to educate the Americans about the British approach to teaching intelligence studies, moaned:

I ask students what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of intelligence. Invariably the answer is: 'James Bond.' This is a sad state of affairs. Not only is James Bond fictional, but he is not a fair representation of intelligence.

This is how dreams are shattered. ®

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