Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your personal security

OK, another tangential post. Well, not even tangential, but completely off topic.

Harriton High School required all students to use school designated Macbooks (I'm wondering who picked up the cost for these items). Students noticed several bizarre glitches, occasionally the webcam light would flicker. The students were told that this was a glitch with the computer, and there was no problem with it.

It turns out that the school system had installed, what they call, remote management/administration software on the computer. They claim that this was designed to allow the school system to track the computers. In reality, it allowed the school system to remotely access the computers, including the web cam.

The question now, is when was this web cam activation used? Well, that's the question that the FBI wants to have answered.

My question is how did this ever happen in the first place? This is an invasion of privacy of an incredibly high degree. The fact that incredible measures were taken to conceal the invasion, and that it was repeatedly lied about, just makes it more insidious. The crime happened when the software was installed. It became a major issue when the school system lied about it.

Imagine you're a teenager. You already have trust issues (I did). You're in an incredible transition. You're not a child. You want to be treated like an adult. People continually expect more from you. Then the school district pulls this crap on you.

Good job.

If you're interested in the technical aspects of this piece of software, here's a great blog. Some of it is really technical, but the guy does a good job of explaining the meat of the matter.

We need to take responsibility for our own security. No where is this more important than in the security of our privacy. No one is going to tell you when they're nefariously invading your privacy.

I'm just incredibly struck by this incident at the high school. The students were forced to use the computers. If they attempted to bypass the monitoring features, they were threatened with expulsion. Even if they had the knowledge and ability to take control of their privacy (something we should be advocating), they weren't allowed to.

OK, 'nuff said.

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