Google "Street View" case may be headed for SCOTUS Review

By John D. Seiver

Google held true to its promise to seek SCOTUS review of the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of the term “radio communications” in the Wiretap Act when it filed its Petition for Certiorari last week. Google had argued in the Ninth Circuit that intercepting unencrypted Wi-Fi transmissions is within a specific exemption, but the Ninth Circuit (initially and on rehearing) held instead that unencrypted Wi-Fi is protected from interception by the Wiretap Act. Absent an extension, oppositions are due April 30, 2014.
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New Cellphone Promises Array of Built-in Privacy Features

By Angela Galloway

Consumers will soon have access to a smartphone that automatically encrypts calls and texts, and provides anonymous web browsing, according to reports about the "Blackphone."

Forbes reports that the phone, set for a spring release, caters to phone users who want built-in privacy protections -- and to avoid the hassle of manually changing privacy settings and adding protective features. For  $629, purchasers will get  three years of encrypted phone calls and messaging services plus 5 GB of encrypted storage, Forbes Reports. The phone also will include anti-tracking and anti-WIFI sniffing services. According to Forbes, the phone was developed by Spanish startup GeeksPhone and Washington D.C.-based Silent Circle.

Newsweek reports that the phone will lack an email app, at least at launch. The company is working with another firm to develop a secure email service. The Guardian reports that the phone  will run a version of Android that certain security holes and provides greater data control than third-party apps.

Private Lives as WiFi Performance Art

Posted by Lance Koonce

Most readers of this blog are well aware of the risks of unencrypted wifi, but a Toronto-based artist is demonstrating some of those risks in a rather graphic way.

Michelle Teran is presenting a series of performance art pieces in which she leads a small group of onlookers through the streets of a city (recently, Cardiff, in Wales) carrying a video monitor and receiver tuned to the 2.4GHz band on which many wireless equipment operates, such as closed-circuit video monitors. When she finds unencrypted signals she displays the unintentionally-broadcast signals on her monitor for her audience.

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The City of Brotherly WiFi

Posted by Lance Koonce

In other municipal wifi news, Philadelphia has awarded a contract to Earthlink to build the city's 135-square-mile wireless network. Philly is the largest city thus far to formally put a plan for city-wide wifi into place; Earthlink will fund and build the system, and will also own all of the equipment.

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Google Wi-Fi Proposal Opens the Door to Massive Privacy and Security Headaches

Posted by Kraig Baker

Google's offer yesterday to build a municipal Wi-Fi network for the City of San Francisco has many positive and exciting ramifications for convenience, access, and conquering the digital divide. Providing such a network to a wired and technology sophisticated city like San Francisco by a technology provider that will undoubtedly facilitate simple use of VoIP and other multimedia will create massive security headaches. It will be interesting to watch how Google plans to build the network to manage and minimize such headaches. Maybe Google has some ideas that will advance the cause of secure computing and access...


Wi-Fi Spectrum Battle at Airports: Safety or Profits at Stake?

A simmering battle between airports authorities and airlines over management of wireless networks has boiled over at Logan International Airport in Boston, and the FCC has been asked to intervene.

The dispute stems from a Continental Airlines program that provides free wi-fi service to passengers in its President's Club lounges. While some airport authorities also provide free wi-fi within passenger terminals, at Logan travelers must pay a daily fee of $7.95 for the service. Continental frequent fliers, however, can step into the airline's lounge and avoid that fee.

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The Risks of Unencrypted Data Transmission

Business managers responsible for data security may be investigating what they can do to avoid the fate of BJ's Wholesale Club. The Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against BJ's for failing to safeguard data regarding credit and debit cards that BJ's customers used at its stores. The FTC alleged that BJ's lax security, which included BJ's transmission of unencrypted payment card data within its stores over WiFi systems, was an unfair practice.

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Wifi Hijacking Conviction

In the first case of its kind in the UK, a man has been prosecuted for hijacking a wireless broadband connection and has been fined 500 pounds and sentenced to twelve months's conditional discharge. While there have been several convictions for theft of credit card information over wireless networks, this case involved the theft of wifi signals for something as pedestrian as browsing the Internet. Considering the fact that in the United States there are millions of wifi users and that it is relatively easy to use a neighbor's signal even for users who have virtually no technical expertise, it may only be a matter of time before a litany of cases like this appear in U.S. courts.

Posted by Steve Chung