Cloud vs. Security. And the Internet of Things

The Travel Industry and the Cloud

GDShosteddistributionBack in 2000, in my presentation at ITB Travel Technology Congress, I addressed the changes e-Commerce brought to our distribution. Aviation and travel have a very strong history in what we today experience as “new”, call “cloud computing”.

Aviation has been a pacemaker in pre-Internet e-Commerce. Since the invention of the first “computerized reservation systems” (CRS), based on American’s ground-breaking development of the “Semi-Automated Business Research Environement” (Sabre). Read the Sabre-History for more. Thanks to the global SITA communications network (yes, those guys I temporarily worked for last year after they acquired my employer), aviation appreciated near instantaneous communication ever since I started working in aviation back in the late 80s. What we call e-Mail today, we called “Queue Messages” back then. To date, bookings, called “Passenger Name Records” (PNR) are created and maintained “in the cloud”. Whereas the “cloud based server” is either one of the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and/or the airline’s own CRS.

Airline IT-managers celebrating this as the next big thing simply sell you old wine in new barrels. In the mid 90s, just about 20 years ago, the last “dummy terminals” were taken out of service, replaced by PCs with more sophisticated interfaces. Which were meanwhile very much replaced by web-clients working in standard browsers. The only difference being that those browsers often still use closed networks (such as SITA) for data transport instead of the Internet. Aside the obviously more reliable and stable data speed, this directly leads to the next question:

Cloud Security

amadeus 4 tiersWhere the GDS and CRS frequently work in a closed environment reducing the danger of hacking and other insecurities, recent developments make those services available through Internet links. Being a commodity, this is much cheaper. But it also opens the communication to a number of security issues. It needs complex security layers to avoid hacking or other unintended communication disrupting those large host systems. And this is also important to understand. “working in the cloud” is “clouding” (disguising) reality with fuzzy, hip wording. All it is is communicating through the cloud (word used to disguise “the Internet”) with servers that are not local but “elsewhere”.

Amadeus Datacenter Munich
Amadeus Datacenter Munich

The cloud servers of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Amadeus, Worldspan or Sabre. Where the “Sabre” computers have been sold to HP and Sabre uses “commercial services”, Amadeus still has it’s own and also publishes quite some diagrams and images I frequently refer to.

But a fact in all such cases: If you believe it’s your data, this is a self-deception. You got to trust the company where you store your data to be trustworthy. Whereas recently there are quite some concerns about governmental insight into data. As I mentioned back in 2008, it’s questionable if a national government demands access to data without guarantee that this confidential commercial information does not reach the company’s competitor in that country. The example was not Russian, but American. Who watches the watcher?

owncloudAs I mentioned in my ITB presentation 2004, there’s possibilities to use alternate services from the Open Source developments. With cloud computing, you’re no longer required to use commercial services: I recently shifted all my personal data, especially calendar and contacts from Google into my OwnCloud. I trust my friend maintaining my own server. It’s in a huge computer center but my friend secures it against “unfriendly” or unauthorized access. And I hope what I have is not interesting to the server center operator to have someone physically accessing my server to steal data. A theoretical possibility. It’s a (semi-constant) assessment, on who to trust.

I also mentioned in my 2013 blog about Big Data, “The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal.” It’s a simple question on big data. From the same post: “And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable.”

Open Data

As much as you want to keep your personal and commercial data in some areas private, there was a mantra in the 90s “My data is my capital”. It was the time the Internet started to make data available to everyone and who “owned” the data could sell it expensively. To date the value of the GDS, the OAGs, Albatross, CH Aviation and other such data collecting companies. Whereas it is relatively easy to process aviation data as most of it is very clearly standardized. But as much as the data processing adds some value, it’s life cycle is ending. More and more “common data” becomes available openly. Where that i.e. started with OpenStreetMap, meanwhile the basic cadaster (land registry) data like street data, administrative boundaries, etc. are made openly available. Others still try to charge horrendous amounts, but they become a minority and will become extinct soon. The value is no longer in “owning” the data, but in meaningful analysis and use of it.

NextVue2Having been pacemakers in e-Commerce, aviation today is light years behind other industries. U.S. tools showing aircraft in-flight on maps like Harris Corp. (Exelis) NextVue does not have access to Canadian data as NAV Canada wants to sell it. Expensively. Not exchange (to also have access to U.S. data). It’s mine. Such, planes not traveling to/from the U.S. airspace simply don’t show. And the NAV Canada data is very often “a problem” for webservices providing such information in other markets. Dear NAV Canada, this is your wake-up call. The same for many other government owned “businesses”. Open Data is here. If you don’t come along, you will find yourself bypassed before long.

The same experience I had in my past years working on Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). As long as our industry does not learn that it is in the benefit to the entire business and industry to share work data at reasonable cost. Base data is freely available today. But it’s fascinating how much of the base data we get from the “official sources” (like IATA, ICAO and the likes) is of lousy quality requiring manual review and updates.

That’s aviation. Believe me, working with data from 33 countries in Europe so far, basic data like population on municipality level, associating that to commercial or openly available map data from the same country’s cadastre … It’s a challenge. Many countries where the name of a city is not unique, but a municipality may have three four different names in the country. Not to mention that there are duplicate municipality names even within the same state. Open data is needed, but I think it might be something if a country could decide on unique naming for a given municipality and if EuroStat and the national statistics offices could agree on a unique identifier. And make sure their data matches. Else, a lot of people in the world will have a full time job to repeat the stunt we did. And other such data correcting others did. Again. And again. And again again.

The Internet of Things

Big Data is like teenage sex. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it...The last weeks the messages on LinkedIn, hyping the “Internet of Things” (IoT) are “exploding”. At this point, it’s very much like “Big Data”. Because just like big data, the concerns mentioned above apply. As long as everyone does something different and there is no common understanding about how to connect the IoT, it’s a lot of smoke and distracting noise, but not too much on real results. No matter if it’s global players announcing their understanding of IoT. As long as they don’t agree and establish open standards, IoT is a buzz word with not much substance.

As an example from another industry, more common to us all: For many years I have a look at “house IoT”. It would be so nice to be able to have the thermostats and blinds being programmable. Unfortunately, all makers of “intelligent” thermostats have their own “standard”, making it impossible to mix them. So if you want to buy, you got to select the system. And you’re stuck with it… That’s like the times of VHS vs. Betamax or DVD±R, where you usually selected the wrong technology…

Babelfish
Babelfish

Just as “video tape” or “DVD” came, evolved a standard and then became household normality, the IoT will need to develop common standards to allow common tools to exchange information with them in a default way. And not have 150 different “interpreters” trying to talk to all those devices in their language…

Food for Thought
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Check-in 2020

Aside other sources, I copy the content of that news with kind approval of Momberger Airport Information:

Picture: Dailymail.co.uk
Picture: Dailymail.co.uk

Passengers travelling with British Airways through London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 have begun to test the personalized digital bag tag being developed by the airline. Microsoft Employees have been chosen to take part in a month-long trial, using a specially adapted version of the British Airways app, to provide essential feedback that will help shape the final product. The digital bag tag, which contains all of a passenger’s baggage details, could eventually replace the need for a new paper tag for every flight. Comprehensive testing of the tag has already taken place to make sure that it works in a live airport environment and can stand up to the rigours of airport baggage systems and everyday travel. Customers on the trial will use a Nokia Lumia Windows smartphone to check in, chose their seat and obtain their mobile boarding pass. Each will be equipped with a specially adapted version of the British Airways app, which automatically updates the digital bag tag with a unique barcode, containing new flight details and an easy-to-see view of their bag’s destination – just by holding the mobile phone over it. They can then save time by quickly dropping their bag off at a dedicated bag drop desk, before going straight through security. The personalized digital bag tags have been specially developed by British Airways, in partnership with Densitron Displays, and Designworks Windsor. #963.AIT4

Image R.Kollau
Image R.Kollau

These news upset me as much as the one I read about Amadeus trying a bag tagging based on 3G-technology. Or Air France and other airlines introducing “home-print” bag tags.

As I mentioned two years ago in my little article about a possible check-in-scenario for 2015, I would see a far more reasonable approach (and easy/fast to bring to market) by the aviation industry to use established standards. Why do they use a QR-code with a modified layout? Anything to hide? Or simply to do it different? Which by the way equals “more expensive”, faulty and slow. And – worse of all: Incompatible like VHS and Betamax…

RFID: Q-Bag-Tag
RFID: Q-Bag-Tag

Why do they try to implement and sell expensive, non-industry-standard-compliant stuff here? Why not using existing and proven technologies like RFID or the newer (but to be standard) NFC? Why force me to use an “App” (and where can I get online when being abroad?) or even worse, an expensive 3G-Network technology?Which Network???

In addition to my (somewhat delayed) prediction about Check-in 2015, I’d also like to see a common free airport WiFi system; wherever an airport offers free WiFi, it’s a common log-in worldwide. Maybe even the same for inflight, just a quick cost note if not free. Or at least a common log-in-process. Enabling to register “globally” is an added value for the Jet Set. And would encourage safer WPA2-connections. “CDM” in action – across aviation industry stakeholders 😉

I’m allowed to dream, right?

Food for Thought
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What is ‘Big Data’?

A new hype shakes up the business world. Everybody talks about “Big Data”. But what is that all about?

nsa
Source: AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou

Basically it’s an utterly normal issue. More and more data is collected, increasingly larger amounts of data have to be analysed and made “usable”. And this is the crux of the matter, even NSA faces problems with. Because you can’t see the wood for the trees. And to call for the example of the Needle in the Haystack… As I showed years ago, that “problem” is none, but can be solved quickly with the right tool (a strong magnet)…

But what the “experts” try here, is to find from a randomly found pine tree needle from the forest, all the other needles that originally belonged to the same tree. And the forest grows!

Source: Microsoft, 123RF
Source: Microsoft, 123RF

The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal. It makes their life not any easier that I don’t work at German Mail in Bonn, neither being the treasurer of Kassel.

Big Data is simply a reality, no “hype”. But it remains a “problem”. To manage “big data”, I need the matching technology on the one side, on the other intelligent and fast fitering algorythms. And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable. Either I filter the large amount of data very rough, or I filter smaller amount of data very detailed. A question of width and depth of information. So what does NSA do with the data? First, filtering it by catch words and phrases. Then have a highly paid analyst try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Two dangers:

George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013
George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013

1. False Positive. This defines information that is incorrectly assessed. I.e. in Spam an important message the computer considers Spam. Is it about people and the NSA, a “false positive” can have devastating repercussions, such as the denial for totally innocent people trying to enter the U.S. (such happening).

2. Privacy Protection. It’s being compromised and I keep lately quoting the former U.S. Presidents Franklin und Truman:

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” [Benjamin Franklin]

“we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”. Ersetze FBI durch NSA… Und was, wenn die “Teaparty” tatsächlich an die Macht kommt (vergleichbar bei uns der NPD)? [Harry S. Truman]
Replace FBI by NSA… And what, if the “Tea Party” in the U.S. really get’s to power (comparably our NPD)? We call it something falling into the wrong hands.

In aviation, we also work daily with “big data” and not just British Airways develops ideas to merge their customer profiles with the public profiles of their clients from the Social Networks… We also have to think about how far we want to go. Or if there are other areas of “big data” of interest, such as operations management.

Food for Thought
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Alexei Navalny vs. Edward Snowden

NavalnySnowdenTo make this very clear… This is not against U.S. or Russia or Germany, we have enough problems everywhere. It is a case to point the mirror to the U.S. and Russia.

Is it truly necessary to prosecute Edward Snowden and to mess internationally (not just with some South American President) on all diplomatic levels to catch someone who has done what he believes to be right at the risk to never see his home again? “Exile” was a punishment in the past and exile is what Snowden chose.
Snowden obviously had a point, even in the United States, many citizens think he did “the right thing”. And is that not what America claims to be all about? Spying friends is certainly not what it is all about and even as a historic friend of the United States and it’s people, I don’t like the witch hunt I see here.

Now comes Alexei Navalny and the United States, in the midst of a global diplomatic crisis expresses their disgust with the court ruling? As wrong as it is, I think the United States currently has to start looking into a mirror. Dear Michael McFaul, Ambassador of the U.S. in Moscow: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of @Navalny @Snowden (and @Manning) and the apparent political motivations in this trial.”
What did become of that “Land of the Free and the Home to the Brave” I love so much? Big Brother? I liked Tom Clancy’s “NetForce”. But Prism goes far far beyond it!
A country that supports such control of citizens and friends alike has to allow the warning cries from Germany – we have a history that tells stories about abuse of information and publicity. Not just Gestapo, the East German Stasi has tried just the same. What makes you better? The government? The Weimar Republic was not a bad government, but do you know what comes tomorrow? There are stories about one J. Edgar Hoover, about whom Wikipedia says:

Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover
Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI NSA is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

In the wrong hands, who knows what might have become of the United States? Listen to Truman. Mr. Obama, today you are the president.

On the other side, we have some Alexei Navalny who dares to threaten Putin and to research and make public illegalities in Russia. It takes a lot of bravery and civil courage to do so in Russia, even more unfortunately in a Russia of some Vladimir Putin. Whatever good he may have done for the country in his past, he sticks to power too much to my liking at the risk to not end up an icon just as one Nelson Mandela (as he still could I believe), but closer to one Joseph Stalin. At the same time ruining what one Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of Russia had achieved with Glasnost. Though with greedy politicians and industry managers in the “West”, there is not much danger, anti-democratic countries may suffer from commercial repercussions, right? And Putin might have a “good reason” for his doing, though even with good motives, I think he’s in danger of messing it badly.

The question is also more of a Christian dimension: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

JesusSin

Who is the United States, with a war in Iraq based on the lie of “weapons of mass destruction”, with Guantanamo and witch hunts against Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, with an NSA mass-trampling on privacy concerns that the illegal attempts of data collection by Google, Microsoft or others become a child-game in comparison?

Who is Germany, recently having delayed again ratification of the signage of the United Nation Convention against Corruption? The country that does not take a stand for what’s good but who’s government yields to the lobbies?

But being “bad kids on the block”, we are still democratic countries. The ones who can make a stand is us. The people. I can decide to dislike and talk about Edward Snowden. I can condemn the NSA, no matter how much I do believe Barrack Obama to be a “good man” or how much I do love America. We have the saying: Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. But we, the people still can raise our voice, we can blog and talk and discuss and stand for what we believe in. And in the end of the day, we make mistakes as anyone else. But at least I can look into the mirror and say: “I like this guy”. And if we are lucky, we do what you Barrack Obama said you would want to become the President for: To make a Change.

And I don’t think Angela Merkel is in a good position to do that right now. Slave to the lobbies, pampering Putin for Russia’s natural resources and wealth and, as she does for China, not any more democratic than Russia these days. Neither is Obama, for what I am immensely sorry!
But I am. And not throwing any stones, I can beg: Obama: Stop the Witch Hunt! And I can beg: Putin: Don’t end up the man who reinstated dictatorship in Russia!

You’re both good, decent men! Show it!


This article today calls me to pull out my favorite Lazarus Long-quotes once more:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare–most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

Food for Thought
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A Road Warrior’s Dream

These days, I just thought about all that new technologies and gadgets and why I use some and some use others.

Smoke Signals for Communication
Smoke Signals for Communication

Working with a company, I was faced one day with the fact that they used Laptops for their management and sales people, but these laptops were not set up to work outside the company’s own cabled network. WLAN? A risk. UMTS? A risk. Internet? A risk. What they never considered was the fact that a road warrior, an employee meant to travel and not be in the office may need the laptop to access mail and files in the company’s environment. Instead to providing professional solutions, the company’s IT-manager shut down the network and opened Internet only with greatest reluctance. That was and is the one side of the issue.

In fact, being a road warrior, I am quite happy, to be once in a while “offline”. No mobile phone, no internet. Vacation, spend concentrating only on my company. Not the employer, but the two-legged walking, sitting next to and talking with me. Internet inflight? I know many road warriros hoping it will never truly work. It will, but it will also take of some relaxation out of the stressful enough business trip.

So sometimes, I dream of the good old days, when it was rather normal to reach the secretary, but there was no mobile phones and people were a little more patient about being called back 😉 And I hope that triggers quite some comments… 😀 Come on people, don’t you sometimes thing the same? 😉

Food For Thought

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The Threat of IT and the Internet

threemonkeysLately I had quite some discussions about IT security. Is it the right thing to cut yourself off the hostile Internet? Corporate data security, data integrity?

As I have mentioned in these posts before, there is a valid risk of corporate spying, data theft, etc. But… Trying to shut yourself out of the Internet is not a solution. Your consumers expects you as much to be on the Internet as they expected you 20 years ago to have a telephone or fax machine. Yes, the Internet is potentially hostile and it is not only reasonable, but also advisable to secure confidential data. But then I must refer to e-Mail encryption. There are other options, such as different file servers for internal data and external access to Internet and e-Mail, firewalled and secured.

A recommendation I lately read said to type off a URL when you get it by e-Mail. That is simply short sighted. Such an idea will simply be ignored by any user for convenience reason. If he does not understand the threat, he will not follow that requirement. If he understands, there is no need for such as the user will be aware and apply the necessary care. There is an impression in IT-support called PEBKAC – the “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair”. The user is the “problem”. There simply is no 100% security in this world. It is a constant risk and value evaluation. So instead of trying to hold back the development of your company, evaluate your risks, reduce them by technical means, as well as by properly training your IT-users.

trojanhorseIn 2004, I heard a presentation that questioned the normal user to be simply ignorant to viruses, trojan horses and the most basic other means of Internet security. To date, I get hoaxes forwarded with the best of intentions. What’s a hoax? A fake threat warning. The “best” one saying “There is a virus – to delete it do this and this” and if you do this, your Windows-PC is no longer operating.

Shall I use Internet Explorer? Why is it that even IT security experts keep that browser with known security problems as the standard company browser and not use alternatives like Firefox? There are sometimes good reasons, but that is the exception. Why is it that companies keep sending out Word- and Excel-documents and not PDF? If they’d use Open Office instead of Microsoft’s expensive commercial solution they’d not only save a lot in license fees, they could also immediately “export” into PDF (and with the free PDF import extension Open Office allows even to open and to some extend edit PDSs!). Why don’t companies incorporate S/MIME?

What truly frustrates, even agitates me is short-sighted if not even blind activism. Shut away the Internet, it is hostile. Yes. Don’t breathe, there’s all that dangerous pollution stuff in the air.

The solution is to be careful and increase user awareness. In a time of constant changes in IT, I run quite well when applying simple security measures. But it is part of our daily life and here to stay. Don’t restrict usage and application of new technologies, but emphasize your users to be careful and explain them the risks. But don’t try to shut out life, it won’t work…

Food for thought…

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eMail Encryption

seal_wotsxc900568-email-encryptI was asked to address this in the blog as well. Since 2001 I use a digital e-Mail-signature provided in a cost-free web-of-trust organized by Thawte, one of the leading providers of digital server signatures for websites.

I also voluntarily confirm the idendity for the user(s) with 35 points. 50 points are needed to have a personalized digital signature (with your name), having 100 points you become a “Thawte Notary” yourself able to provide such points to others.

Using such a signature with S/MIME is rather easy to use with common e-Mail-programs like Thunderbird, Outlook or Notes. Once both sides have such a signature, it is very easy to encrypt mail – Good Bye Big Brother…

Similar signatures or “qualified” signatures are commercially available (for money). If you want to know the difference, want to know more or are simply interested, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

sxc833767_sneak_a_peek_1A new project in Germany is DE-Mail, said to enable “secure communication” with administration, implying “security” that simply is not there. First of all, the servers are to be maintained by German Telekom T-Systems. Second the encryption is not controlled by the user, but this is just a “secure e-Mail-address”.
What my own Internetserver requires for years is SSL-encryption, the same used by banks and said to be very secure. This is all such service can provide, except it allows “trusted partners” to have secure server-to-server communication. Such partners sure pay for such service. And big mama government sure has access to it – as have tons of T-Systems people. And don’t we have enough examples of data theft?

Sure: Food For Thought…
And please share yours…

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Social Networking

Social MediaAs Blogs are a part of “social networking” and as I follow several blogs like the German Tourismuszukunft, I thought to share some thoughts. As usual, I do appreciate your feedback. This blog is meant to trigger thoughts and make you ask me. My statements are thoughtful, but not necessarily the only truth. Often enough, I do learn better from the exchange with you.

In November, I finally signed up for Facebook and Plaxo, finding old and new friends active in these networks. As of my “troubled history” with Xing and as a majority of my friends are international, I moved my private activities to Facebook and focus professionally on LinkedIn. Oh yes, and my reviews I add to Qype, though I did not have much time for that either lately. I publish once a week in this blog, try to think a bit about the philosophical blog on Sapphilosophy, try to answer on LinkedIn and communicate with my friends and update them on Facebook. Now I want to install WordPress on my website to move my blogs away from Big Brother Google, and my website needs some updating too… Information Overkill…

In an interview, I was just questioned that I do so much “business related activities”. But don’t we all have our hobbies? Business Development, Aviation and Hospitality are my business. And my hobby. My life. But we need to find the time first we can then invest into business and hobbies alike. On- or offline. And in honesty: I appreciate being a lot easier in touch with you than 20 years ago. And I appreciate a phone call (Skype?) and e-Mail. But isn’t a personal meeting definitely more valuable than any electronic exchange. Isn’t that, why we all appreciate opportunities like ITB to meet face to face with many in a short time? Isn’t that the same true for Sales? Yes, once a contact is established, e-communication is okay. But it does not forever substitute for personal meetings.

Food For Thought! (Share your thoughts with me)

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Paranoid: Big Brother’s Watching Me

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE)acte is requesting that the use of a controversial identification document reading device, being deployed at U.S. borders, be temporarily halted until thorough testing can determine if it is a potential source of traveler identity theft. According to published reports, the new device can remotely read highly personal data as an individual approaches U.S. border crossings. If traveling in a car, the device can read data on every individual in the vehicle, using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in passports, passcards, and drivers licenses.

ACTE is concerned that unauthorized individuals could either resort to electronic eavesdropping at the border, or use similar devices that could extract data from RFID chips at other locations,” said the association’s Executive Director Susan Gurley.

hackerSome of you remember my ASRA-presentation 2007, where Christoph joked about me being paranoid? Yes, I am! Not paralyzed, but careful. My life is largely “online”, I use Social Networks, have my own websites and blogs. But yes, I do consider who gets access to what and I do distrust companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo & Co. I have to use them. Some of their stuff is simply great (Google Earth + Maps), but these corporations have stronger power today than a president of the United States. Do I use Facebook or does Facebook use me?

Food For Thought!

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Do you still enjoy privacy or do you Google already?

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

A German saying asked “Do you still have sex or do you play golf already?” (Hast Du noch Sex oder golfst Du schon?). Adapting it this week to “Hast Du noch Privatsphäre oder googlest Du schon?” (see title).

Following the general and naive media hype (can the media be truly that naive?!) about the new Google Chrome, German ZDF and some other more reputable news media took a closer look. Do you remember the public outcry when Microsoft was found “phoning home”? Google’s Chrome does not just call home. Your browsing history (aside others) is stored right on the Google servers. Interesting enough, despite ability to develop tools cross-plattform, the Chrome browser is only available for the Windows environment.

Another report did address the fact that Google builds “The Cloud“. As most my readers are travel industry related, you may recall that Amadeus Germany (“Start”) replaced the last “dummy terminal” in 1993 with a “PC”. Enabling storage of information locally. With “The Cloud”, you need to be always online, but you do not need a large hard drive any more, as all programs and data is stored on the servers in the web. The Google servers that is if you ask Google… Welcome back to our roots!

1 ½ years ago, at my anual ASRA presentation (4,1 MB), I addressed data security. The friends in ASRA joked about me being paranoid. Last weeks the “loss” and misuse of private government data (in large style) is all over media and politics in Europe, especially U.K. and Germany. In Germany even the official registration office (where any citizen must register one’s address) sells the data quite publicly. So paranoid? Or just realistic? Or underestimating the case?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reported to actually pick laptops from travelers without a particular security concern (“spot checks”). Too bad, if that happens to an Airbus official, who denies to give the passwords to access the encrypted data. And there is no official information, how the data is secured by the DHS. So the data may end up at Boeing quite “legally”. And yes, sure there are many ways to ensure the DHS not getting access to any privacy data. The Cloud Computing can also be set to communicate not with Google but with your own server(s) and a nice, unobtrusive special login allows you to invisibly purge (not just “delete” recoverably) all private data including server accesses in case that becomes necessary. Then you login in via VPN (access details not on the computer) and just restore your work environment. On this or just another PC… Details on request 😉

Hmmm… The DHS and politicians sure know that terrorists are not so stupid as to answer “did you pack a bomb” with “yes” (still “normal” question at U.S. airport check-in) or that they are usually organized good enough to secure their backs better. So if they know that, am I paranoid to believe them to not be interested in terrorists but to increase their control of us, their citizens?!
It is a radical change of the legal paradigm that one is innocent until proven guilty. Today we are all presumed terrorists and have to proof we are innocent citizens! All that under the argument that an innoncent person does not have to hide anything? What a complete farce!
George Bush, Wolfgang Schäuble, read my lipps: You will be going into history for having brought down freedom and established the surveillance state. Oh, sorry George Bush, you did better, you’ve become the president leading the U.S. into global wars being proven lier, using faked proof for “weapons of mass destruction”. Your “holy wars” have as much justification as the holy wars of the mideval ages! What was that movie? Wag the dog… Good to start a war to cover up the real business – such as to establish a surveillance state? The land of the free… The what? … Well done Mr. President!

So as a summary: Be careful with your private data and start to consider preference of non-commercial Open Source software, such as Mozilla, Open Office and Linux instead of Windows – it becomes increasingly a (vital) privacy issue! Not only privately, but increasingly also for corporations…

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