Some interesting stories that cheered me up have appeared in various publications over the past few days. Computer security has been in the headlines a lot lately, mostly for the wrong reasons. So it is nice to see some news stories appear highlighting how technology can be used against the criminals.
New York is setting up a facility for citizens to send picture messages of crimes to the New York police so that they can act on the information. The idea came from the story last year of a woman who had the presence of mind to take a picture of a man who flashed here on the New York subway and posted the picture onto the Internet. The man was quickly identified and subsequently arrested.
In Des Moines police got an extra bonus when they went to recover a stolen laptop and discovered the laptop was located in a drug den. They subsequently arrested those involved. The owner of the laptop had installed “phone home” software on their laptop. The software works when the laptop is reported missing and a monitoring station traces the IP address of the laptop when it next connects onto the Internet. The monitoring station then passes the information onto the police who can then pursue the matter further.
Three criminals got a surprise when they discovered the “mobile phones” they robbed were in effect GPS devices. The police were quickly able to trace the thieves using the GPS positioning information for the stolen devices.
On the down side it appears that the latest spate of “storm” viruses has resulted in the biggest virus outbreak since 2005 with about 300,000 PCs infected worldwide. I expect the reason why the virus spread was helped by people’s complacency regarding viruses. Over the past two years we have had no major virus outbreaks as criminal gangs focus more on stealthy viruses to harvest victims’ financial data. Without computer viruses making mainstream news, Joe and Jane Public have been lulled into a false sense of security. Why people are clicking on attachments received from people they do not know still defies logic. This may help raise people’s awareness but I rather this was done in a different way.