Estonia, probably one of the states with the best developed IT infrastructure, went further with digitalizing their citizens data than any other European country dared. With their personal ID cards, citizens can access virtually any data the government, insurances and banks have on them online: social security status, bank loans, land register and even doctors prescriptions. It is even possible to register a new born child online. Of course elections are online as well, just like votes in the parliament. All of this is no problem from a data protection and privacy perspective, says President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Every personal ID card features a certificate, which can be used for secure communication and encryption of data. More importantly, every time data of a person is accessed, the person gets notified and this event is flagged. This way, abuse is minimised because everyone knows at every point who accessed which information. This wouldn’t be possible with data being available only on papers. The state provides the secure infrastructure for communication and for access to the data. But authentication is independent and thus should ensure that everyone’s data is safe.
Recently, Estonia published the source code of the sever-side software of their e-voting system and asked the public to review it for flaws. The developers themselves say it is secure, however there are still many critical voices against this technology (English translation).
Still, the country could be a role model for many countries world-wide and a good example how the power of new technology can be used while minimising possibilities of abuse. Austria, a country where digitising health data to make the health system more efficient, still causes a huge public, ridiculous debate (English translation), should certainly take a look at this small country in northern Europe.
Recently, a blog post by John Powers caused some excitement and confusion. Powers posted an article stating that New York City’s citi bikes have cameras hidden in them, which film traffic as well as the driver. He even quoted a police commissioner who explained that they are used for catching criminals.
However, as it turns out, the story was fake. Citi bikes do not have cameras hidden inside. But it wouldn’t be surprising and is not unrealistic. Especially, since cameras in cars are becoming more common and even modern light posts are becoming more intelligent. Cameras in bikes would help investigate traffic accidents. However, I doubt that they would be useful for anything else and just for this purpose the investment would probably be too high.
Satellite navigation systems such as GPS, the Global Positioning System that provides location information for our smartphones and navigation systems, have become a very useful tool in our daily lives. While today we mostly rely on the US GPS, built in the 1970s, even Europe, after many delays, will finally have its own system (Russia already has their own called GLONASS).
However, the more we rely on GPS navigation, not only for posting our location on Facebook but for car, plane and ship navigation, the more incidents happen, which show the vulnerability of the technology. In 2012 a drone by the Austrian manufacturer Schiebel crashed in South Korea, killing an engineer. It was believed back then that this happened in connection with GPS signal jamming by North Korea, which caused navigation problems in the past. This adds to other drone vulnerabilities discovered in recent years, such as unencrypted video feeds.
Now, students of the University of Texas showed in an experiment how they could hijack a Yacht using GPS spoofing without any crew member noticing (similar to what Iran claimed to have done in 2011). They achieved this by creating a fake GPS signal and slowly increasing its signal strength until the ships automatic navigation system completely relied on this signal. Then, they slowly changed the signal to make the Yacht believe it is off course and to correct for it. Here is a description about the method: