Friday, June 20, 2014

Graphing and Safecracking?

photo credit: Si-MOCs via photopin cc

Most importantly let’s not ask the question how I came across this little piece of entertaining trivia, but you can thank me just the same. I would also recommend not clicking any of the links in this post as you may end up on a government watch list as I’m sure I am now. Okay now on to the good stuff!

We’ve all seen scenes in movies with the safecracker sweating and drilling into a safe while someone else keeps an eye out, or them attaching some computer to an electronic lock to unlock it in seconds. Apparently there is a company that sells a product to do just that, but it is so expensive you’d have to have a lot of electronic locks to open with lots of valuable things inside to make it worth the purpose but governments and locksmiths are some of their customers. 

Have you ever thought what you would do if you forgot your safe combination and couldn’t open it?

Fortunately locksmiths know just how to open your safe, but it takes a considerable amount of time (if you want the safe to still work when she’s done opening it) and some data analysis. Okay maybe not analysis as much as graphing and recognizing the pattern in the graph that indicates a successful code from the lock, but still I bet you never thought graphing and safecracking would ever go hand in hand. Below is an excerpt from the site where I came across this information and no I did not forget the combination to my safe. 

Graphing the Results
Knowing the contact area and number of wheels, the safecracker resets the lock by turning several times to the right. Then parking the wheels at zero, the safecracker turns the dial slowly to the left. The safecracker listens for the tell-tale clicks that indicate the position of the left and right sides of the contact area. Making note of this on a graph, the safecracker repeats this step, only this time parking the wheels three numbers to the left of zero. Each time the process is started from a different position, the contact area will vary slightly. The safe cracker repeats this process in intervals of three until all the positions on the dial have been graphed. You don't see that in the movies!The final graph representing the left and right contact points for all the positions will converge on itself at several points. These points of convergence should match the number of wheels that were determined by parking the wheels. They will also represent a range of numbers that hold the combination.
Though the graph will reveal where the wheels are in the proper position, it won't reveal in what order the wheels are to be lined up. The safecracker must now dial the numbers, in all possible variations, until the safe opens. A three-number combination could have six possible variations. Let's say the three numbers the safecracker must use are 4, 37 and 61. Therefore, the six possible combinations are:4-37-614-61-3737-4-6137-61-461-4-3761-37-4By trying all these variations the safe will eventually open.Lock manipulation is used more by locksmiths than safecrackers because of the skill and time needed to pull it off.

Turns out nefarious safecrackers use much less sophisticated methods usually, like stealing the entire safe and taking it apart later, finding your combination in the room  your safe is in, or using the combination the safe shipped with since you never reset it. Beyond that they deploy the blunt force methods of drilling, torching, or exploding. Advice for today, make sure you don’t write your combination down and tape it to your safe, and always reset the combination the safe came with. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

First, the death of telemarketers... now the data brokers?

 FTC Wants Data Brokers To Be More Transparent

I recently came across a fairly big piece of news for the data business, somewhat buried in a little article inside the The Wall Street Journal. With my marketing ears piqued, I went online and found several other news agencies covering the story. Perhaps the most damning was a post by Al Lewis comparing the private data brokers to the IBM punch-card sorting machines the Nazis used to collect data to round up Jews. Ever wonder how someone got your information to send you an email or direct mail? Or how they’ve targeted ads to you on your smartphone browser, or in your Facebook News Feed? (Well, the last one isn’t exactly a great mystery, considering we willingly surrender our info to Facebook.)
Edith Ramirez at the FTC was interested in finding the answers to these questions and, so, started an investigation back in 2012 focusing on nine of the larger data brokers in the business: Acxiom, CoreLogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Recorded Future, and RapLeaf. I’m guessing you’ve heard of some of these. All collect tons of data on everything you do—from online shopping behavior to offline credit card transactions and anything else they can get their hands on. The FTC has found that these organizations operate with a “fundamental lack of transparency” and wants Congress to pass legislation to require more transparency about where and how they collect their data, as well as who they sell it to.
The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) is not a stranger to this type of threat against some of their members’ core business, and has a powerful lobby in Washington effectively bribing Congress to do nothing. But the telemarketing industry failed to block legislation for the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry more than 10 years ago now (because even Congress thinks phone calls at dinner are annoying). Now the FTC wants a similar system for data brokers: an online database disclosing the source of their data and giving consumers the opportunity to opt out of data collection.
Surprisingly, six of these nine companies already offer an opt-out option. But finding them is another story. And because there are hundreds of data brokers, there’s a good chance your data has been sold to several dozen others that you’d have to hunt down. This is where the FTC wants to simplify things for the consumer by creating a single database listing all sources and one opt-out option for all—much like the DNC Registry that has killed off just about all legitimate telemarketing operations. The same would likely happen with data brokers and I imagine the response to being able to opt out of data collection in the post-Snowden era might be huge, leaving us with very little data to use in marketing.

Personally, I’m all for transparency and the option to opt out. I’m on the DNC as well and I would be one of the first to register as an opt-out with the data brokers. On the other hand, unlike random ads or spam email, relevant targeted banner ads and email marketing are, in fact, attractive to some recipients. The full report is available on the FTC website here