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Tech secrets: 21 things 'they' don't want you to know

Dan Tynan | April 1, 2010
Eavesdropping Webcams, spying ISPs, toxic PCs, and more: dangers the industry is hiding, and what you can do about them

The Fix: Don't use company gear or networks to conduct personal business. If your employer gave you a BlackBerry, get your own cell phone, says Rose. Want to check your private Webmail account? Do it from your own computer and on your own network. In nearly all cases, your privacy rights at work are minimal at best.

You Can Fight the RIAA and Win

Organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America can have your Website taken down simply by sending an e-mail to your host or Internet service provider--even if you've done nothing wrong. Under the endless gift to copyright holders known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, service providers may avoid liability by immediately removing material alleged to violate copyrights. They don't require proof, and they don't have to notify you in advance.

If your materials don't infringe copyrights, however, you can file a DMCA counter-notification with your service provider. If the copyright holder doesn't file suit against you within 14 days, your provider must restore what it deleted. (Of course, if the copyright holder calls your bet and files suit, you can withdraw your claim. Otherwise you'll need to lawyer up, so pick your battles carefully.)

Unfortunately, service providers don't always provide sufficient notice for site owners after the takedown; in some cases bloggers don't even know which files to remove. Recently, six music bloggers had years' worth of MP3 archives wiped from after Google received DMCA takedown notices from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. One site was reinstated, while a few others changed Web hosts; the rest were still dark as of this writing.

The Fix: Mail or fax your provider a counter-notification ASAP (e-mail isn't an option). You'll find a fill-in-the-blanks form at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse site.

Your Passport Could Make You a Target for Crime--Wirelessly

Most American travelers are only dimly aware of a radio frequency ID chip embedded in the last page of their U.S. passport. The only indication as to the RFID chip's presence is a small icon on the cover. The RFID chip permits a passport control officer to transfer the information on the passport's "data page" wirelessly to a terminal, but security researchers have expressed concern that the range from which any RFID reader can pull data from a passport is far greater.

In 2006, security firm Flexilis demonstrated the ability to read RFID data at a range of several hundred feet, using a special antenna mounted to the stock of a sniper rifle (which the researchers used for both dramatic effect and ease of aiming). Last year, Chris Paget of the security firm IOActive drove around San Francisco and, within 20 minutes, copied all of the stored data right out of two unsuspecting U.S. passport holders' pockets, using just a laptop plus off-the-shelf hardware and software costing a total of $250.


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