Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

Whistleblowers, how to avoid the “big brother” computer systems

with 5 comments

The other day, talking to a friend who is interested in computer systems and how to obtain data, he told me a thing I hadn’t heard of and found very fascinating. In some of the groundbreaking whistleblower stories of recent years the data was acquired in a very clever way.

As everyone who knows anything about computers is aware of it’s very difficult to copy things from a computer system without this being logged somehow and somewhere. In other words, it’s neigh impossible to copy or print without leaving a traceable path.

Alors, what does a person – let’s say a banker or someone working for a pharmaceutical company, just to simplify the story – who is itching to share some interesting information on an organisation he/she thinks is doing something that shouldn’t be done? Well, this person just picks up his/her mobile phone and takes photos of the information on the screen. Data obtained in this way has already figured in some well-known cases.

This very simple way doesn’t leave a trace and employers can’t very well point cameras at all staff. The answer might be a thin distorting film on the computer screen that makes it impossible to take photos of anything on the screen. But so far, that’s not a standard. This simple trick of photographing the screen must send shiver down the spine of all those working on security and of all those who think information can’t be ripped from their computer systems.

This simple action is cutely retro: it’s the same technique as used during the Cold War and in classic spy stories.

Not that I would exhort anyone to steal information – just reporting what I heard, #just saying.

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Written by Sigrún Davídsdóttir

January 5th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Posted in Iceland

5 Responses to 'Whistleblowers, how to avoid the “big brother” computer systems'

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  1. Very interesting Sigrun, you certainly circulate in some misterious circles, thank goodness. I will “hot foot it” to the shop and get myself one of these smart phones. Not of course that I would consider using such clandestine activities, then again!!! I would be quite interested however to find old information that has been removed from the web site. Any ideas? anyone.


    7 Jan 13 at 10:41 am

  2. Hildur

    7 Jan 13 at 4:17 pm

  3. Thanks. Here is another one.


    10 Jan 13 at 5:30 pm

  4. Caution here. A digital photograph taken on a mobile phone also contains information that can be used to identify the person who took it. It’s called EXIF data. Stay safe.

    Phil McCavity

    10 Jan 13 at 7:54 pm

  5. A good point Phil. For others less familiar with these things: there are also trackers in all docs made on a computer, i.e. where it originated etc, if nothing is done to circumvent it. But that is a second stage problem, after info has been gathered. It all goes to show that these issues demand some expertise. I am certainly no expert here, far from it, but have an inkling of the complexity.

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