Ford Motor Co. knows if you have committed a crime while driving your car. Someone far away can slam on your brakes while you’re traveling at highway speeds, jerk your steering wheel and shut down your engine.
Your e-book can read you, telling the author how fast you’re reading, which parts you’re reading and if you finished the book.
Your government can search your computer even while it’s off-line and turned off, using radio waves. And President Obama and his NSA minions still want to read your emails.
Oh, and someone hijacked credit card information and/or addresses and phone numbers of 110 million aptly named Target customers.
I like the nefarious refrigerator best. Who can resist a fridge that sends ill-intentioned email over the Internet to whomever it wants?
The fridge was just one of 100,000 cutting-edge, web-connected devices such as kitchen appliances, home media systems or TVs that were used in a spam attack of apparently unknown origins between Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, according to BBC News. It was uncovered by a British security firm, Proofpoint, which said 750,000 messages were sent out “through the compromised gadgets.”
“The malware that allowed spam to be sent from these devices was able to install itself because many of the gadgets were poorly configured or used default passwords that let them be exposed,” the firm’s general manager of information security explained. Oh.
As our homes and their furnishings become ever … umm … “smarter” and acquire fancy Internet-enabled functions, he added, “consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur.” Well, that’s a relief.
Meanwhile, Ford’s executive vice president for global marketing and communications, Jim Farley, communicated that the company knows much more about its customers than they may realize.
“We know everyone who breaks the law; we know when you are doing it. We have GPS in your car so we know what you are doing,” he said at a recent Las Vegas electronic trade association meeting. He assured his listeners that Ford does not share this information with anyone.
A chastened Farley shortly repented of his remarks, saying they were incorrect. And Ford hastily issued a statement saying it does not constantly track drivers and does not collect information on them without their knowledge.
Not precisely true. Today’s cars and trucks have from 20 to 70 computers aboard, controlling various functions and recording data. Consumers have no way of opting out of computer-generated data collection aboard their vehicles and have no way of getting the collected data removed. Which is why some members of Congress rightly are taking an interest in this matter.
And it’s not just Ford: 98 percent of vehicles produced in 2013 have some kind of computerized function, data collection and/or Internet-linked mechanism, according to industry sources. That’s why some of these vehicles can be hijacked or wrecked from afar while in motion — or simply stolen by a keystroke.
But this “e-books reading the reader” thing falls far short of its promise. Why not take it to its logical conclusion? Just let readers monitor the authors’ keystrokes while they’re writing their books, for heaven’s sake. Think of the efficiency! This long-awaited innovation hasn’t yet spread far in E-book Land, though authors aching — in the name of customer service — to satisfy readers’ whims are encouraged to use it as a merchandising tool.
President Obama satisfied no one with his waffling on reforms of the NSA’s domestic collection of citizens’ personal data, especially not Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo. They complain that the government’s breach of their security apparatus in the name of national security harms their ability to protect their customers’ privacy and leads — surprise! — to the money-losing impression in foreign markets that American products and services cannot be trusted.
Obama gently suggested that there’s a whiff of hypocrisy in these complaints, since the companies are themselves in the business of monetizing their customers’ supposed privacy. “That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smart phone periodically,” the president explained. And all this time I thought they were just reading my mind.
The unidentified thieves who stole Target customers’ credit card information pulled off a heist worth an estimated $18 billion, with some $4 billion of that to be paid by the luckless customers whose losses will not be covered, according to financial analysts.
This crime does have an identifiable accomplice, however, and it’s the blockheads who issue American credit cards. For years, American banks have stubbornly refused to adopt the far superior chip-and-PIN security protections long in use in Europe and Asia, where the American-issued magnetic strip cards cannot be used in any machine that has to scan them.
Refrigerators can send emails, cars can record your crimes, the government can read your offline computer and Google and Amazon can read your mind. But American banks cannot issue you a secure credit card.
In a world of smart, they cling to stupid — their easily compromised, 40-year-old magnetic strip technology. Why? Because even with these staggering losses, it’s cheaper — and just more convenient — for banks and retailers to remain stupid.
But what about their customers? Hello?
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.