Sunday, January 17, 2010

Have you checked your billboard today?

Times are over were just IT devices were a target for hacker attacks. Years ago I read an article in 2600 magazine describing how to hack traffic bill boards, the one's that have the bright orange LED type displays, making them display a random message. Now that art has been brought to a new level, adopting to the new display technology and a networked world. Last Thursday drivers on one of Moscow's (Russia) busiest roads were confronted with some porn clip that was flickering off a 30-foot-by-20-foot (aproximately 10m x 6.5m) size electronic billboard. This resulted in a major traffic jam since drivers slowed down to catch the "message" that the billboard was trying to convey. According to news article the advertising firm that owns the billboard stated that hackers had broken into their system and switched the content to the adult material.

The more our society is networked and technologies are melted together, the more we expose ourselves to such juvenile hoaxes. In the end this one had some people being upset and others with a smile on their faces but it also could have been a nuclear power plant's controls that suddenly show Pac-man instead of the controls for the reactor.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Y2K+10 it finally caught up with us

Europe, particular Germany, Europe's largest economy has been shaken by a glitch in a security chip that is implemented in most ATM and some credit cards. This chip allows for additional security and is in some cases the only way for merchants to accept cash-less payments. Due to the weak security of the magnet stripe on the back of ATM and credit cards that chip was implemented. Up to midnight December 31st 2009 everything was fine. After that suddenly cards were rejected. Now after close to a week of confusion finally the riddle is solved, most ATM machines and merchants can now accept payments again. And this only because thousands of payment terminals and ATMs have been patched with new software.
Rumors say that the source for this disaster is a programmer at a french company producing the chips, confusing the format (hexadecimal or decimal) of the expiration year. Thinking that the year is in hexadecimal format, which did not matter for 09 but making the value 10 (hex) suddenly become a 16 (dec) in the decimal system. Since ATM cards usually have a lifetime/expiration of 5 years in Europe those cards were being rejected. According to various sources over 30 Million German ATM/credit cards have been affected. Even ATM cards in Australia seem to be impacted.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Promote moral behavior by a clean smell

New study suggest that a clean smell promotes moral behavior. According to this soon to be published study, led by a Brigham Young University professor, people are unconsciously fairer and more generous when they are in clean-smelling environments.

While there current study examined the influence of the physical environment on morality, Zhong and Liljenquist previously published a work that demonstrated an intimate link between morality and physical cleanliness. Their 2006 paper in Science reported that transgressions activated a desire to be physically cleansed.

So how can information security professionals make use of this knowledge? I guess that this might be a bigger challenge since criminals nowadays can sit thousands of miles away.

Read more:
Science Daily

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