Gift Card Fraud

30 Nov 2006

One of my sisters forwarded an email to me regarding a “new” scam:

Well, the crooks have found a way to rob you of your gift card balance. If you buy Gift Cards from a display rack that has various store cards you may become a victim of theft. Crooks are now jotting down the card numbers in the store and then wait a few days and call to see how much of a balance THEY have on the card. Once they find the card is “activated,” and then they go online and start shopping. You may want to purchase your card from a customer service person, where they do not have the Gift Cards viewable to the public. Please share this with all your family and friends…

Normally, that last line would be a sure giveaway for chain-mail. However, I’ve been looking into this one, and I think it’s legit.

The email originated with a Sheriff’s Deputy. I’m witholding his name for now, because I have not gotten his permission to publish it, yet. I have phoned him, but only left a message on his voicemail, so far. I’ll update this as I get more info.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No ID, No Service

29 Nov 2006

A man in Quincy, Massachusetts was refused service at the local IHOP restaurant when he refused to turn over his driver’s license before being seated.


But there’s a great security point here, too. They wanted to reduce the incidence of “dine-n-dash” events, where people skip out without paying. Holding your driver’s license would surely help, or so they thought. But they didn’t count on the reaction to this violation of privacy or, more importantly, the inconvenience this was to their customers.

Security Rule #1: Security is only as good as the weakest link.
Security Rule #2: You’re weakest link will (almost) always be the users.
Security Rule #3: To users, security = inconvenience.

Observation of End Users in the Wild: Users will fight inconvenience.

Good security is invisible to users, or at least, it isn’t overtly present and doesn’t require them to do anything. That’s why supermarkets and convenience stores place monitors where customers can see that the front doors (and other high-value areas) are being watched. People make the assumption that the camera feeds are also being recorded (which is not always true, but often).

At least this IHOP incident wasn’t condoned by corporate management.

Podcast with Bruce About RFID Passports

23 Nov 2006

If you care about security issues and/or your privacy at all, you should be concerned about the deployments (and pending deployments) of passports with RFID chips embedded in them.

Bruce Schneier, CTO of BT Counterpane, author and world-renowned security expert & privacy advocate gave an interview regarding RFID passports. It is available as a podcast.

There isn’t any new information in there, at least, nothing that I haven’t talked about before. However, it is an excellent, easy to understand explanation of the key issues surrounding RFID chips being embedded in government issued IDs. It’s not very long, but is good information for everyone from the technically challenged to government officials and even security experts.

More Baby Photos

23 Nov 2006

I spent about 30 minutes earlier today getting a few more photos up. I also edited the photos that were already there (rotate & crop) and created thumbnails for each photo.

BTW, the high resolution versions chould look better than 35mm film when printing on 4×6 photo paper. However, as the optics on my little digital photo camera are rather simple, 4×6 prints will look about the same as 4×6 prints from a 35mm film camera.

I have also created a mailing list for baby related information and added about 50 people’s email addresses to it. There are probably another 100-150 people who have asked us to let them know when the baby came, etc. for whom I do not (yet) have email addresses. If you are not already on the list and want to be, visit the baby-announce mailing list page. You can also go there to unsubscribe.

Update on Mother and Child

21 Nov 2006

Last night, Charlotte & I settled on the name for our first baby. Her name is Nadia Marie Peterson. She is in excellent health.

Charlotte has been recovering very well. The staples were taken out this morning and both mother and child will be coming home this afternoon.

P.S. I will edit the existing photos and post more, soon.

She’s Here!

19 Nov 2006

Now for the news we’ve been waiting months for.

She has arrived.

I have posted photos.

FIDIS on RFID Passports

9 Nov 2006

The “Budapest Declaration on Machine Readable Travel Documents” is an interesting and informative read:


By failing to implement an appropriate security architecture, European governments have effectively forced citizens to adopt new international Machine Readable Travel Documents which dramatically decrease their security and privacy and increases risk of identity theft. Simply put, the current implementation of the European passport utilises technologies and standards that are poorly conceived for its purpose. In this declaration, researchers on Identity and Identity Management (supported by a unanimous move in the September 2006 Budapest meeting of the FIDIS “Future of Identity in the Information Society” Network of Excellence[1]) summarise findings from an analysis of MRTDs and recommend corrective measures which need to be adopted by stakeholders in governments and industry to ameliorate outstanding issues.

Thanks to Bruce Schneier for posting this on his blog.

Response: A Good Security Design for an Office

9 Nov 2006

Russel Coker recently posted an article to his blog titled, “A Good Security Design for an Office“. It’s a very good read. There’s nothing earth-shattering in there, but plenty of gems that most people either forget about or never figure out.

There are a couple of things that I wanted to comment on (there is a lot of excellent information here, so read on):
Read the rest of this entry »

Election Day

7 Nov 2006

I am not a very overtly political person. Take a look at the list of categories on this blog and you’ll notice how little I write about politics. Sure, some of the subjects I broach here are politically charged topics (like Privacy issues, for example.

Today is Election Day throughout the United States. It is our duty and right to vote for those whom we select as our best representation to run our local, state and federal governments. The most important thing to do is to get out and vote.

However, you have to be very careful this year to ensure that your vote counts the way you want it to. Here are a few more references about the massive security problems within the commercially produced electronic voting systems being used around the country:

This is a list of the 133 articles (at the time of this writing) by Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s most recognized and well regarded security experts, published regarding voting machine insecurities.

So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t done it already, get out there and cast your vote.

Vote Pete Ashdown for Utah’s U.S. Senator

6 Nov 2006

The gist of the Salt Lake Tribune’s endorsement of incumbant U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch is that seniority overrides all.

Among Utah politicians, Orrin Hatch is a towering evergreen who, every six years since his election to the U.S. Senate in 1976, has been returned to Congress by voters who have seen what his conservative principles and growing seniority have brought to them and to the Beehive State.

With the choice committee assignments that come with that seniority, and the head-of-the-trough position he enjoys in bringing home federal pork…

Here we see what drives the Salt Lake Tribune: money. Why shouldn’t it? After all, newspapers are in business to make money. But the pork is a big part of the problem. By it’s very definition, it should not be happening. Pork is when taxpayer money goes to projects that line the pockets of those who make the largest contributions to the campaigns of those who bring them the pork. This is not a good practice and it isn’t good for Utah; only for a very select few individuals.

…to fund Utah projects, the 72-year-old Hatch…

72!? Isn’t it time for retirement, yet? Think about how old he would be if Hatch wins this election when it comes time to run again. 78. I personally know several people in this age bracket (and one gentleman who is 105) who are quite vital and who continue to contribute, but Orrin Hatch hasn’t been working for his constituents. In fact, he’s been working to make sure that the music and movie industries can seize control of everything you do with your equipment. He has advocated and fought for legislation designed to strip us of our civil liberties. He has consistently voted for measures that have increased government spending waste by nearly 10 times what it used to be.

…is right when he says he is well-positioned to keep helping the state prosper.

Yes, he is well positioned to help, there is no denying that. After all, his seniority in the U.S. Senate does give him extra powers. But, despite being “well positioned” for the past 3 terms, Orrin Hatch has not used that “positioning” to benefit Utahns.

That position would be further enhanced in January when a re-elected Hatch would be chairman, or vice-chairman, of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Perhaps. Still, there are no guarantees that he would make it into this committee. Even if he did get the chairmanship, how would it benefit the masses of Utah? It wouldn’t. Instead, he would be able to funnel more money into pork, instead of it going where it could do real good.

In short, replacing Hatch with his Democratic challenger, Pete Ashdown, would sharply and unacceptably reduce the effectiveness of the state’s congressional delegation in advancing Utah’s interests in Congress.

I entirely disagree. After all, how could anyone who replaces Hatch do less than he for Utah? It’s hard to less than nothing.

For that reason alone, voters should return the incumbent for a sixth term.

Oh, what a dangerous thought, as this Salt Lake Tribune editorial points out itself!

Regular readers of this newspaper’s editorials know that The Tribune Editorial Board is often critical of Utah’s senior senator over issues ranging from his pro-administration positions on Iraq, tax cuts and Big Pharma-friendly Medicare reform, to blocking FDA oversight of the nutritional supplement industry, to changing the Constitution to criminalize flag-burning, to rank partisanship in vetting nominees to the federal judiciary, etc., etc.

Did you catch that? The “Tribune Editorial Board” routinely criticizes Orrin Hatch on a huge range of issues.

Suffice to say that a complete list of Hatch’s negatives might exceed this space,

In other words, there are a lot more negative items about Hatch that they just don’t have room to mention. Sounds like a very long list.

…especially if it included some of Hatch’s more outrageous statements on public policy issues such as citing author Michael Crichton as an authority on the science of global warming, …

What!? They even include in their endorsement a reference that could be construed to say they think he’s a bit off his rocker?

…or suggesting that House Republicans’ failure to act on former Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages may be attributable to their desire not to appear homophobic.

Now this I can understand. Read it closely, Senator Hatch suggested that some elected officials might have hesitated in reacting to the Mark Foley scandal because they didn’t want to come across as homophobic, or in other words, they didn’t want to appear “politically incorrect” because they were not prepared and/or in shock that this happened.

Sorry, but I have to agree that this could be possible.

That is not to say, however, that the conservative Republican hasn’t received the board’s well-earned praise for his efforts to block storage of high-level nuclear waste near the Wasatch Front, to remove radioactive tailings threatening the Colorado River, to expand the missions performed by Hill Air Force Base, to gain federal compensation for Utahns exposed to radiation from nuclear testing, and, perhaps most important, his unstinting support for biomedical and stem-cell research.

Mostly, I feel that these are good things. But is that all there is to show for 30 years work? Especially considering that the list of negatives couldn’t even fit in their newspaper.

There have been other good works, but this space would probably be ample to enumerate them.

Ah, did you pay careful attention there. They are saying that they didn’t list all the positives, either, but that it wouldn’t have been very hard to do so and to fit in all within this space, too.

Again, is that all Orrin Hatch has to show for 30 years work?

Yet, for all its many reservations, the Editorial Board believes Hatch’s seniority in the Senate is of overriding importance to a state that needs all the clout it can get in Washington, D.C.

This is a very, very hard pill to swallow. Do they honestly think that the fact that they feel that Hatch is bad for Utah is not important enough to merit his replacement? He’s had 30 years to prove that he is a danger to Utah and to the United States as a whole.

But, let’s just take this argument by itself for a second. If seniority were actually of any real value at all, then we should replace a failed 72-year old so that the next Senator can build up potential seniority as soon as possible. If we wait it will be just that much longer before Utah that “… needs all the clout it can get in Washington, D.C.” will start to get any. It certainly sounds like the editorial board is very short-sighted, here.

Ashdown is a bright, articulate voice for many sound solutions to the pressing problems facing the country.

I understand that much of bureaucracy exists to justify it’s own existence. But we have real problems in this world and we all need real solutions. Many of these solutions are so simple, if only someone would stand up and say, “Here is a good solution; let’s do it.” This is something that Pete Ashdown can do.

But on matters pertaining to Utah, Hatch’s voice is the one that would be heard.

Perhaps that is true. Perhaps Pete’s voice would be the whisper of a church mouse in Washington in his first years in the U.S. Senate. But, Hatch’s voice does not speak for Utah. This editorial even says so and says that they believe that Pete Ashdown would.

To wrap up, I will be voting for Pete Ashdown. I am a registered Republican, though mostly a Libertarian at heart.

I will be voting for Pete despite the fact that I vehemently disagree with his position on a couple of points that are very important to me. I do this with a clear conscience knowing that there will never be a candidate (probably not even if I ran) that will ever match my views 100%.

I would encourage you to take a real look at both candidates and ask yourself, “How does this candidate measure up to my needs?” Then, go and vote. To help you, here are the websites for both candidates that enumerate their respective positions on the issues (Hatch’s website requires flash, so many web browsers will not work with it):

Orrin Hatch
Pete Ashdown

I’ve made my choice and I’m voting for Pete Ashdown.