WARNING: THIS STICKER KILLS DEMONS!

As you may or may not have guessed I'm a fan of science fiction (I'd have to be to take the name of a certain time traveling alien as my own) as well as an afficionado of H.P. Lovecraft's C'thul'hu Mythos. Maybe I'm in dire need of calling the crew together for another tabletop RPG night or maybe I've been under a little too much stess recently but lately I've been on a Laundry Files bender. If you've never heard of Charles Stross he's an excellent author who writes this particular series, in which a halpless hacker named Bob …

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An interesting development in the Lower Marion School District surveillance case.

For a couple of months now I've been following the Lower Marion High School laptop surveillance case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If the story's been dropped from your cache for whatever reason, earlier this year it was discovered that a school district in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was using the laptops it issued to students to spy on them while they were off-campus. As it turned out some of the staff had been remotely activating the built-in webcams and using them to watch students. A cache of images taken through the webcams was found on some of their servers, some …

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US Legal System puts the kibosh on warrantless seizure of laptops at the border.

For a couple of years now the US Department of Homeland Security has reserved the right to confiscate the laptop computers of US citizens for forensic analysis upon re-entry to the country after traveling abroad. It didn't matter if you were on one of their watchlists (and who isn't these days?), it didn't matter if you'd mouthed off to a security guard, it didn't matter whether or not they had probable cause, they could do it and possibly never return it to you depending on when the got around to going through it and how they felt that morning. It's …

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Lower Marion School District's stash of surveillance photos found.

The investigation into employees of the Lower Marion School District continues apace, and some highly disturbing things have been discovered. Evidence has been found that the admins employed by the district were using the surveillance software on for more than just tracking missing laptops. It seems that the software was used to keep tabs on students who hadn't returned their laptops at year's end or whose parents hadn't paid the insurance fee, uses of the surveillance software which are questionable at best. Also, and this is the bit that made the skin on the backs of my hands crawl, several …

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More from the Lower Merion School District.

A couple of days ago word hit the newswires that a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had been using the laptops issued to its students to spy on them. Word's gotten around (no surprise there), and the BBC was the first to throw the 'potentially undressed minors' flag (and rightly so, in this case). The district has claimed that the spycam feature of the monitoring software was only for the purpose of recovering lost or stolen laptops and says that they deactivated the software remotely. If you've been paying attention to this story I don't have to tell you that …

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High school issues laptops, uses them to spy on students.

An article hit Boing Boing today that raised the hackles on the back of my neck as I read it. The Lower Merion School District just outside of Philadelphia received a grant a couple of years back for laptop computers to issue to its students to use as part of their coursework. In November of last year, the parents of student Blake Robbins received a disciplinary notice pertaining to something unspecified (referred to as "improper behavior") in the affidavit. The disciplinary notice was accompanied by a photograph of Blake while he was at home. The laptops issued by Lower Merion …

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Legal battles over unwarranted search and seizure at the borders are spinning up.

For a couple of years now the Customs and Border Patrol of the United States has had the legal authority to confiscate the laptops of people entering the country to perform forensic analysis on an indefinite basis. If you don't give them your laptop (or you refuse to give them the passphrases to decrypt your data) they can and will send you back or incarcerate you, even if you're an American citizen. They also have standing orders to seize any and all data storage media you're transporting (including USB keys, cameras, cellular phones, MP3 players, and disks) for duplication and …

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Practical whole disk encryption, or, how to frustrate data forensics.

When you get right down to it, the best way for an attacker to get hold of your data is to shut the box down, pull the drive, and rip a sector-by-sector image to analyze offsite. It might not be quick (depending on the speed of the hard drive, speed of the storage drive, and a number of other factors) but if you're not there when it's done you might not know that it ever happened. However, if you encrypt data at the level of the drive, they can copy the drive all they want but they won't be able …

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Maybe I should write about things other than myself for a while.

If you're involved in the retrocomputing or PC history scenes, chances are you've heard of double-sided floppy disks that are formatted for one system on side A and another system on side B. For example, I've got a copy of the game Ninja which had the C-64 version of the game on one side and the Atari port on the other. At the time this was a pretty straightforward thing to do because drives only read one side of a disk at a time. A couple of weeks back, PC historian Trixter came across a highly unusual 5 1/4 …

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Privacy, anonymity, and security, part the first.

Longtime readers of my weblog are no doubt familiar with my preoccuptation with security, which lead to my working in that field of endeavour, and also my interest in personal privacy. A couple of weeks ago, some of my readers asked me what they, as computer users who aren't experts but aren't starting from square zero either could do on a personal level. I thought and thought for a couple of days and put together a list of things, and then realized that making all of it make sense would take much more than a single post because it's not …

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