Recent Developments in Paranoia: Stealth Clothing and More

Anti-surveillance scarves, signal-attenuating fabric, drone-proof architecture — has it really come to this? Apparently.

The New-York-based artist Adam Harvey has designed a line of “Stealth Wear” clothing for the fashionably paranoid market. It includes a metalized anti-drone hoodie and scarf to defeat thermal imaging, and a cellphone pouch with radio-frequency shielding to defeat tracking and signal capture (along, of course, with much if not all of the device’s functionality). Yes, on the one hand it’s concept art, but at the same time it’s being manufactured for sale to adequately worried members of the public.

This builds on Harvey’s earlier CV Dazzle, highly stylized makeup and hair styling designed to defeat facial recognition. It’s a bit garish, but maybe less intrusive than the Pixelhead mask designed to solve the same problem.

A researcher in Japan has developed a privacy visor, basically glasses with near-infrared beacons, and not really much stranger looking than Google Glasses.

Students are considering what a drone-proof city might look like, which sounds like it might be paranoid and ugly although it would be an esthetic improvement on our obsession with bollards and New Jersey Median Barriers.

Military technology has come home, and interest in the corresponding counter-technology has followed.

The cell phone signal blocking technology is in response to surveillance technology like the Stingray tool used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Stingray is a cell-site simulator used to trace movements of suspects in real time, while collaterally gathering data from innocent bystanders’ phones. Recently released documents reveal that the FBI has procedures for loaning the technology to state police agencies, and that there are concerns about the legality of the technology.

It’s not just artists and students pushing back against government surveillance. The Wall Street Journal reported that Texas Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley ruled against the use of Stingray data after the agents and U.S. attorneys making the requests had trouble explaining the technology. He wrote that “Without such an understanding, they cannot appreciate the constitutional implications of their requests”, and that the government was asking for “a very broad and invasive search affecting likely hundreds of individuals in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Our existing laws were written before this type of tracking technology became available. As we discuss in Learning Tree’s Cloud Security Essentials course, cloud security has an analogous issue because regulations for data protection were written before currently popular cloud computing services were developed. In addition, laws like the USA PATRIOT Act make claimed compliance with EU regulations impossible.

With some data moving out to the cloud, and in-house data being accessed from mobile devices outside the perimeter, how much security can we really promise?

Bob Cromwell

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