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Keep getting pulled in. How do I reset my brain? AKA stupid “security” tricks.

Okay. I have what appears to be the flu. It’s inconvenient, as it makes concentrating on a new novel much more difficult. I also can’t do some of the other things I had planned for today. So, instead, I started reading stuff on the internet. Probably a mistake!

Here’s Claire Wolfe, who was recently generous enough to link to my currently-free privacy book. Today she has a link to an article posted by the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) about license-plate readers. I have many, many problems with the EFF and their recommendations, but in this case I agree they’re pointing to a major problem: cops in Texas are apparently driving around with credit card readers in their car. They combine that with auto-scanning license plates as they travel, and pull people over if they have outstanding fines of some sort.

Maybe you think that’s not so bad? Even though they charge a 25% fee on top of the existing fine and pass that along to the company providing the license-plate scanning technology, if the motorist prefers to avoid an immediate arrest? Okay. What if the car’s registered to someone who’s not actually in it? To my mind, that’s an illegal stop. But we’ll ignore this issue too. Turns out the company supplying the tech also gets a copy of all data this system gathers. Which applies to all motorists whose plates get scanned. I mean…to me, it sounds bad that the cops get to have that information. But to supply it to a company? And to agree in writing not to talk to the press without the company’s permission? And what about when that system gets hacked? Which has, of course, already happened. But don’t worry: that info is only to be stored by the company “as long as it has commercial value.”

So that’s okay, then. It would totally have been in my book, but it’s a couple of days too late. Maybe in a second edition? Or maybe there’ll be more fun stuff to include by then and it won’t make the cut. Who knows?

All right. I tried to shut off the internet’s yammering and remember that I used to have a brain of my own. Or at least I imagine I remember such a thing. So I decided to fix a minor issue: my wife had told me that the caller ID when I call her from my phone, which gets voice over IP (VoIP) service via a company called Callcentric, was showing the wrong number. (Yes, I have several numbers. Just for fun, really. That kind of thing’s in the book.)

Okay. I tried to change the Caller ID for my outgoing calls via Callcentric’s site. Should be simple, right? Only, to–according to them–prevent Caller ID spoofing, they had a system in place. If I could show them a screenshot (which I could totally fake, by the way) of a website showing that I had control of a given incoming number, they’d accept that. Only I couldn’t show them a valid screenshot, because the folks supplying that phone number have a system that doesn’t seem to allow me to view or change any such information. No problem! Here’s Callcentric’s alternative solution:

  1. I entered the number I wanted to use for outgoing Caller ID on one web page.
  2. The next page gave me a PIN and told me to call a toll-free number, from the phone I wanted to use, and enter the PIN.

First problem: the number didn’t work if I called via Callcentric’s service. So okay, I used a different phone. Second problem: when I entered the PIN, I got an error. Because my Caller ID didn’t match the Caller ID I wanted to use.

Well. Right. How could it? If it were already set correctly…why would I be trying to change it? Hmm.

No problem! I did a quick online search, found a friendly website, and spoofed my Caller ID to match the Caller ID I wanted to use. For free. Problem solved!

I’ll just note here that I think it was funny that I had to spoof my Caller ID to convince Callcentric’s system I wasn’t spoofing my Caller ID. I had no other way to proceed. And why? Because their system’s set up backward.

Their system should call make the call to my phone, at the number I give. Then I should enter a PIN, via the phone, that was given to me via their website. Doing the calling the other way ’round is just silly. Do they care? I doubt it. For all I know, they were deliberately encouraging me to spoof Caller ID. Well…whatever. It’s done.

My point? If I have one? This kind of goofy human behavior makes it really hard for me to focus on fiction. I mean, it would even if I didn’t have the flu. Which I do.

Today is pretty much going to be a waste of time. I hope the above entertained you somewhat. But tomorrow? I’m getting my writing in before I look at anything online. Before I try to fix anything.

It’s the only way to go.

Have fun out there!

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