Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Tech secrets: 21 things 'they' don't want you to know

Dan Tynan | April 1, 2010
Eavesdropping Webcams, spying ISPs, toxic PCs, and more: dangers the industry is hiding, and what you can do about them

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration have each recommended that airlines not allow passengers to use cell phones during commercial flights. The FAA fears that the RF signal emitted by devices using the 800MHz spectrum band might interfere with the navigation systems of the plane, specifically GPS instrumentation. Yet there is no documented case of an air accident or serious malfunction caused by a cell phone's interfering with a plane's navigation system.

The FCC's concern is that wireless networks on the ground might be disrupted by the cell phones flying overhead. As a plane flies over a wireless cell tower on the ground, the FCC believes, the cell site will detect all the cell phones operating inside the plane and go to work registering those devices to operate on the network. But by the time the tower registers and connects all those mobile phones passing overhead, the plane will have passed into the range of the next cell tower on its route. This uses up system resources and could hurt network performance for connected phones on the ground.

But some experts believe that this worry is outdated. "Color me highly skeptical that this is a real problem with modern systems," says Ken Biba, CTO of Novarum, a wireless consulting and engineering group. "Modern digital phones actually use lower power, and, further, the cell towers have very directional antennas designed for covering the surface of the earth [not the air above]."

The Fix: There isn't much you can do. Actually, the FCC and the FAA are doing us a big favor here. They're delivering us from having to fly with people jabbering away on their cell phones from takeoff to landing.

'Private' or 'Incognito' Browsing...Isn't

These days, most major Web browsers offer "private" or "incognito" browsing (known colloquially as "porn mode"). But all the feature really does is tell your browser not to record the sites you've looked at, the search terms you've used, or the cookies deposited during that session.

If the sites you visit record your IP address (and many do), that information is available to any interested party that has the legal right to request it--a group that can include divorce attorneys and law enforcement. Recording visitors' IP addresses is a trivial task--you can add to any blog a free widget that accomplishes the same thing--so you should assume that the sites you visit do so.

Of course, your Internet service provider assigned you the IP address in the first place, so it can track you anywhere you go online, if it so chooses. In fact, the FBI wants ISPs to store your surfing histories for at least two years. So far, major ISPs have resisted this push, in part because the storage and record-keeping requirements would be enormous. What information ISPs retain, how long they keep it, and how public they are about it vary from provider to provider--most won't talk about it. (One exception is Cox Communications, which says that it retains IP address logs for six months.) So while your spouse may not know what you've been up to online, the feds might.

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.