Usability has emerged as a significant issue in ensuring the security and privacy of computer systems. More-usable security can help avoid the inadvertent (or even deliberate) undermining of security by users. Indeed, without sufficient usability to accomplish tasks efficiently and with less effort, users will often tend to bypass security features. A small but growing community of researchers, with roots in such fields as human-computer interaction, psychology, and computer security, has been conducting research in this area.
Regardless of how familiar you are with usable security, this report is a worthwhile read.
“DHS & TSA: Making a list, checking it twice” (Doug Hadmann, Canada Free Press) claims that DHS has an internal memo calling those 59% of Americans who oppose pat downs “domestic extremists.” No copies of the memo have emerged as far as I know.
What’s interesting to me about this story is that it illustrates how part of the cost of using Facebook is the occluded future. If you’d asked me if Facebook impacted on military draft, I’d have said no. Predictions are hard, especially about the future. And the young women in question probably didn’t think that their use of a social networking site would cause them to be drafted.
A second interesting aspect to this is that it indicates that one’s Facebook profile, in aggregate, is a religious identifier. That’s interesting because religious information is categorized specially under the Canadian privacy act (PIPED) and possibly also under European data protection laws. I haven’t seen this aspect covered in the analyses that I’ve read from those regulators. (Admittedly, I have not read all of those analyses.)
I’ll be contributing to a new group blog, “I will opt out“. I think that concentrating and combining resources will help the people who care find all the news they want. My first post is at “More news from around the web”
Writing in the Thursday issue of Science, the four engineers report that the cat’s lapping method depends on its instinctive ability to calculate the balance between opposing gravitational and inertial forces.
…After calculating things like the Froude number and the aspect ratio, they were able to figure out how fast a cat should lap to get the greatest amount of water into its mouth. The cats, it turns out, were way ahead of them — they lap at just that speed…The engineers worked out a formula: the lapping frequency should be the weight of the cat species, raised to the power of minus one-sixth and multiplied by 4.6. They then made friends with a curator at Zoo New England, the nonprofit group that operates the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., who let them videotape his big cats. Lions, leopards, jaguars and ocelots turned out to lap at the speeds predicted by the engineers.
I was also listening to the Quirks and Quarks story on “Wet Dogs Rule,” in which the researchers have used high speed photography figured out that dogs (and other animals) shake water out at a precisely optimal rate for energy invested versus surface tension and other factors that keep the water in their fur.
What’s surprising to me is the surprise that … “they lap at just that speed.” As anyone who’s ever read Darwin knows, any animal that expends extra energy on something, be it drying off or drinking water, will be disadvantaged compared to one that spends less energy for the same benefit. And over time, the animal that spends its energy more efficiently will have more energy to reproduce. To the extent that such strategies are influenced by genes, those genes that drive better strategies will spread. So I’m surprised that engineers are surprised that they can’t improve on millions of years of evolution.
Incidentally, congratulations to the CBC for being a news site that clearly links to the real academic work and researchers web sites.
“‘Strip-or-Grope’ vs. Risk Management” Jim Harper, Cato@Liberty blog. Really solid thinking, although I usually don’t like asset-centric approaches, I think that for the physical world they make more sense than they do in software threat modeling.
The PravdaUSA Today article which claims “Napolitano ‘open’ to fliers’ gripes over screening” is over 1000 comments, and none of the “most recommended” have anything nice to say about TSA. Come on, guys, you have 67,000 employees, can’t you astroturf?
There’s no news roundup today, the stories are flying, unlike people, who are sick and tired of the indignities, the nudeatrons and the groping. If you want to see them, you can follow me on twitter or National Opt Out day
Regardless of your home state, call the chairpersons to ask whether recent TSA abuses are on the agenda for the oversight hearing. Ask to speak with the staffer responsible for dealing with issues related to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Here is a list of committee members, their homepage and phone number. If one of these people is your Senator, please also phone them, either at the number below or look online to find their nearest local office – you can even visit in person. A constituent who knows a senator’s committee assignments and addresses issues for the agenda for a scheduled hearing gives him/herself an educated and powerful voice.
If none of these people is your senator, contact the committee chairs. Also contact your own senators and representative . They still need to hear your opinion, it’s just that they won’t be at this hearing.
Meanwhile, a three year old girl sobs “Stop touching me!” [Update: Brad points out that this is from January 2009. Good catch, but I can’t see TSA regulations that demand child pornography or sexual assault reducing such incidents.]
@snrk says “That it’s taken the TSA touching your junk to wake you up betrays a lack of foresight for where this was inevitably going to go, America.”
“Airport Security is Killing Us!” (IndustryWeek) Literally. It’s killing us through cancer, it’s killing us through road deaths. We need a comprehensive policy that’s in line with dignity & the Constitution.
TSA has claimed that pictures will have blurred genital areas to “protect privacy.” Except as it turns out, they don’t, as documented by Dave ‘not very funny about this’ Barry in “Groin Update.” See also “So What Are We Able To See On The Body Scanner,” which would explain why a “blurred groin” is unusual.
Despite TSa claims of equal treatment, Chris Soghoian reminds us that Congress and the cabinet don’t go through this.
TSA’s claims that they don’t store the images have not yet been publicly disproven.
All of which adds up to a great deal of national outrage:
Reuters reports that, “Executives from the travel industry, including online travel sites, theme parks and hotels, were set to meet Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Pistole on Friday to discuss their concerns that security is crimping travel.”
The feds were forced into action after five prominent pilot and travel associations, along with a flight attendants union, vowed to boycott naked body scanners as well as the new invasive pat down procedure, threatening travel chaos. The backlash has also been characterized by new cases of individuals being abused at the hands of the TSA, stories which continue to pour in on a daily basis.
Thanks to @ioerror, @nationaloptout, @samablog and to @boingboing for:
That’s right Ilsa, we’ll always have Paris. At least once we set our status to “It’s complicated.” Otherwise, Facebook will surpress it all. And we can remember that lovely Dom Pérignon™ we drank while we were there. It’s funny, I remember Louis bringing out something else and threatening to water his garden with it. I didn’t think we were drinking Dom, but it’s obviously there in our photos.
And trumping him in time and space, Bierce gave us this in 1906:
Something acted upon by magnetism.
Something acting upon a magnet.
The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of human knowledge.