Monday, January 15, 2007

Prairie Dogs and Information Security

I have blogged elsewhere about the Bush administration's interference with science. In the Union of Concerned Scientist's great catalog of these crimes against reason there's an interesting example of why it is important that everyone learn the basics of information security. The example concerns the white-tailed prairie dog (aww shucks, ain't he cute y'all).

The scientists claim that Julie MacDonald, of the Mountain Prairie Regional Office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, "directly tampered with a scientific determination by FWS biologists that the white-tailed prairie dog could warrant Endangered Species Act protection, and further, prevented the agency from fully reviewing the animal's status." A strong allegation. Any proof? How about Microsoft Word "track changes" edits? Yep, when you go altering reports written in Word you best be careful. Word tries hard not to forget. Check out the detailed sample here, illustrated in a pdf file that shows just what the changes were. As evidence of the scientists' claims I think the phrase that comes to mind is "dead to rights."

And change tracking is not the only way that Word coughs up secrets. Ever open a Word doc with Notepad or Texpad (which happens to be my favorite text editor)? You may well find stuff that doesn't appear in the document itself, stuff you thought you had deleted. Similar problems can occur if you are careless with Adobe Acrobat documents. See a great example of the Word issue (involving Tony Blair, Colin Powell, and the war on Iraq) on Richard Smith's fascinating Computer Bytes Man site.

The point here is that companies using Word or Adobe documents to store and distribute information need to know exactly how those programs work so those documents don't store any information that you would prefer to keep secret.


stubz said...

This is semi-related but not really. There is a new product out there that turns your PC into a video surveillance system.

It is really cool. You should check it out at

Anonymous said...

The trouble with most of the Redaction products available is that they can do only one type of document. Since using RapidRedact i have found that it can do all document types, including emails, word documents, powerpoints etc. This is by far the best redaction software available on the market today.

Anonymous said...

These doggies are so cute... Really they are veru sweet