Over the weekend, a hacker broke into FEMA’s new PBX voicemail system, made over 400 overseas phone calls to Asia and the Middle East, and ran up a $12,000 bill. The low tech hack took advantage of a “hole” that was not covered when a contractor upgraded the voicemail system. FEMA is currently conducting its own internal investigation, but FEMA spokesman [Tom Olshanski] did not have any information about the contractor responsible or what specific hole was the cause of the breach. Ironically, Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, had issued a warning in 2003 about the very same vulnerability.
The US Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed a new policy that allows agents to seize laptops, or anything capable of storing information, “for a reasonable period of time”. Okay, so this seems normal; A government agency is declaring they may confiscate personal property. However, the strange part of this story is that under this policy, federal agents can confiscate these things without any suspicion of wrong doing or any reason what so ever. So what happens to your personal data after they seize your laptop? Apparently they share the data with federal agencies, and in some cases the private sector, as additional services such as file decryption or translation are needed. While this may seem like a major violation of privacy, it is important to note that this policy only applies to people entering the United States. However given the direction that our federal government is moving in the area of security, it wouldn’t surprise me if this policy will soon apply for domestic flights as well.
[photo: postmodern sleaze]