May 2005

Good Eats & Privacy & Tech11 May 2005 12:31 pm

fingerprint scanner at AmphoraI was back in the Washington, DC, area this past week and took the time to visit one of my old haunts, a wonderful 24-hour Greek diner in Vienna, VA, called Amphora Restaurant (and Bakery). All through my undergraduate studies at nearby George Mason University, I subsisted on the Amphora’s Greek Burgers, fried zucchini, ‘breakfast served all day’ and, of course, their awesome cheescake which is annually rated as the “Best in Washington.”

On this visit, however, I noticed something odd sitting by the cash register as I paid the check: a fingerprint scanner. I asked the manager what it was for, and she said it was part of their wait-staff check management system. For example, many restaurants have systems where the wait staff can swipe a magnetic card and call up all their open tabs. This system apparently takes things a step further, using a fingerprint to verify the identity instead of an additional passcode.

I’m not sure the midnight dinner tabs at a Greek diner require that much security — although CIA headquarters is only about 7 miles up that very same road — but it’s interesting to know that one of America’s greatest late-night eateries is keeping up with the times.

Miscellany07 May 2005 08:25 pm

I’m travelling this weekend and early this week, so my posting will be slightly delayed. Please don’t stop reading! Just check back after Tuesday! :)

Privacy & Tech04 May 2005 01:30 am

Escarole Eating Champion! What do spyware, manicures, and escarole have in common? They’re all featured on tonight’s installment of The David Lawrence Show. In the show’s first hour, David and I discussed his alluring manicure, my weekend spent fighting spyware, Eliot Spitzer’s own upcoming war on spyware, and TimeWarner’s lost data. And I even got to mention “Krazy” Kevin Lipsitz, famous spammer, but even more famous recently for his competitive eating. Click here to see him downing four pounds of escarole and to hear his pearls of wisdom.

Privacy03 May 2005 07:07 pm

Iron Mountain, who oddly enough, actually stores documents inside a hollowed out mountain that used to be an iron mine... Go figure!A few weeks ago I caught an article but didn’t blog it… turns out the other shoe finally dropped. In an April 22 article on, the aptly named Paul Shread reported that document storage firm Iron Mountain admitted losing backup tapes belonging to one of its clients.

At the time Iron Mountain declined to name the client, but this weekend news broke that the tapes contained about 600,000 names of current and former Time Warner Inc. employees.

Back in April, Iron Mountain advised its clients that they should be encrypting data on backup tapes. While sound advice, that doesn’t help protect data that’s already been lost. Why isn’t encryption more common? As I’ve occasionally noted in some interviews, you’d be surprised how much additional computing overhead encryption can require, which is why lots of companies don’t bother with it. But with computing power so cheap these days, and the risks of data spills so great, I expect we’ll see more encryption being employed.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Time Warner employees explaining the loss of the tapes, their Chief Security Officer Larry Cockell sounded a hopeful note:

To date, the investigation has not found any evidence that the tapes or their contents have been accessed or misused. In addition, the information on the tapes is in a form that is not easily accessed.

Scuttlebutt inside Time Warner says that executives were comparing the backup tape format to that of an 8-Track cassette. So as long as the tapes aren’t found by an identity thief with a 1971 Chevelle with an aftermarket Radio Shack stereo, then everything’s cool!

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