Few things matter more than a solid Internet connection when you’re a geek on the run. Along those lines, you can find decent Wi-Fi at airports, but you’ll pay through the nose to access it – most of the time, that is. Skype’s pulling its best Santa Claus impression and gifting fliers (naughty or nice) with an hour of free Wi-Fi at 50 airports across the U.S. during the peak holiday travel season.
Noted White Hat hacker and security expert Moxie Marlinspike (not his real name) was recently detained at New York's JFK airport as he returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic, Wired reports. Marlinspike says he was met at the plane's gate by agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He was led to a detention room, where an investigator confiscated his computer and cell phones.
After trying to access the devices to copy the data, Marlinspike was instructed to give up his encryption keys. He refused and was eventually allowed to leave with his property about four and a half hours later. Marlinspike does not plan to use the devices again saying, "They could have modified the hardware or installed new keyboard firmware.”
Marlinspike gained notoriety in hacking circles last year when, at the Black Hat security conference, he disclosed a serious web vulnerability that allows attackers to fake security certificates. Marlinspike has been experiencing increased scrutiny for months. Ticketing agents can only issue him tickets after calling a Department of Homeland Security phone line. He has also been told by airline personnel that he is on a federal watchlist. Feel safer yet?
Yahoo! must be jonesing for good press in a bad way. To get some buzz going the company has announced it will pay the baggage fee for those flying out San Francisco International and San Jose International airports on December 23rd. As an effort to promote good will and brand identity, it’s a move that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
First, there’s the obvious: the offer is really limited. Sure, December 23rd is the busiest travel day of the year, but still the number of people flying out of these particular airports pales in comparison to all who will be flying that day. And if the intent is to impart brand loyalty, it’s pretty doubtful that people, upon returning home, will switch en mass to Yahoo! from their present search engine provider. They’ll say thanks, to be sure, but that’s about it.
And if the move is to impress Silicon Valley investors and venture capitalists, as suggested by a Bay Area NBC station, it neglect an important fact: those who fly first class don’t pay luggage fees--only us chumps back in monkey economy class get stuck with extra fees.
The offer is the brainchild of “Yahoo! for Good”, which engages in “small acts of kindness” in the hope they “can ignite a ripple of generosity.” The aforementioned NBC stations asks: “...is there a better place to start than a crowded airport?” I can think of at least one.
Update...there's a response to the above from Terrell Karlsten, Yahoo!'s director of Global Communications, below the fold. (click "Read More")
Just yesterday we told you about the Microsoft’s ad campaign that could get you free WiFi. Google had no intention of taking that lying down apparently. The Search giant has announced plans to offer free wireless internet access in 47 airports across the country now through January 15th, 2010. The program is being facilitated by wireless providers like Boingo Wireless and Advanced Wireless Group.
"We're very happy to extend our Holiday Wi-Fi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months," said Marissa Mayer, VP of User Experience at Google. With all the travel that comes with the holiday season, many people rely on wireless connectivity to keep in touch.
When a user logs on to the free Google provided WiFi, they will be presented with the option to donate to Engineers Without Borders, the One Economy Corporation or the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. Google will match the donations up to $250,000. The Microsoft deal is a straight up promotion, whereas this is just plain charity. Check out the full list of airports here. Happy holidays from Google!
With some news that is sure to surprise absolutely nobody, the Department of Homeland Security is currently in the process of developing a new way to spy on you. The new technology, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” or FAST (catchy, huh?) will use crowd-monitoring body sensors that detect individuals’ pulses, body language, breathing rates and facial temperatures to determine threats.
FAST is said to have had accurate results, identifying suspicious behavior in four out of five scenarios. One such scenario, run at a ranch in Maryland involved roughly 140 participants. They were told to walk through FAST’s sensors, with a small group of them instructed to act suspicious or hostile. The effective accuracy rate of FAST was 78% on mal-intent detection, and 80% on deception.
The Department of Homeland Security is said to still be relatively early in their research, but say it looks very promising.
Criticism comes in the form of John Verdi of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He states that FAST is “substantially more invasive in airports,” referring to it as a medical exam that the government has no right to conduct. There’s also concern that FAST could improperly identify physical conditions heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels as threats.
Should FAST be implemented, it might be a common sight at concerts, sporting events and other public gatherings, right alongside the mobile toilets or catering trucks.
For all their indispensability, airport security checks never feel pleasing. But a security check becomes most nettling when security officials place a request for your laptop to be scrutinized with X-rays. As things stand, laptops can’t be X-rayed properly while still inside a laptop case and have to be removed. But all this is set to change – at least in the U.S – with the Transportation Security Administration having acceded to allowing a new kind of X-ray friendly case that will allow X-ray machines to scan laptops, while still in the case.
Read on merrily as after the jump lies all the information regarding these checkpoint friendly laptop bags including their expected prices. Also don't be shy to join the discussion in the comments section with other typically insightful Maximum PC readers like you.