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TV channel buys $150 ID for FBI ‘most wanted’ suspect

Get your licence, then drive in from Canada or Mexico, apparently...

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Using a fake driver's licence bought via a web site, US TV's NewsChannel 4* fooled ID checking software and got confirmation that the licence could probably be used safely to fly on any commercial airline, rent a car, or cross the border into the US. Although they seem to have wimped out of trying any of these things. Oh, and just to spice things up, NewsChannel 4 had used a picture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a star of the FBI's 22 most wanted list, with a $25 million price on his head.

The producer who bought the licence told the vendor: "He doesn't have a driver's license number (please make one up), and also make up an address." No problem with this, apparently, although he was hesitant about the man's Middle Eastern appearance. "That's a little discriminatory," the producer shot back (we liked that), but they settled on the vendor promising to squeal if the licence really did get involved in a major terrorist incident.

The software 'fooled,' it seems to us, wasn't actually fooled at all. It was a bartender's ID checker from SSE Technologies, presumably this one, which doesn't appear to do anything other than verify a barcode. Which kind of makes one wonder about the utility of age checking in US bars.

Department of Motor Vehicles chief investigator William Devoe however commended the quality of the duplication of the barcode security strips, particularly at the bargain price of $150. And it turns out the vendors, when given the name John Walker, had thoughtfully used the address of a real John Walker, rather than just making one up.

So, US identity theft, access to commercial aircraft, entry to the US, all for $150. In a week where we're talking about facial scanning and fingerprinting for foreigners crossing border and applying for ID documents, it kind of puts things into perspective.

The slickness of the NewsChannel 4 investigation is regrettably not universally matched by the rest of the empire. Check here** for a particular woeful and evidence-free scare story about how you could be funding terrorism by buying counterfeit goods. Hell, you could be funding terrorism by buying any goods. Best get security clearance on the milkman... ®

* Many American readers have written explaining the byzantine intricacies of US TV companies to us, and asking which News Channel 4 it is. No offence, but we don't see the TV knowledge as being a useful life skill for us, so with your permission we'll just admit we don't know what we're talking about. And tell you the particular affiliate is in New York. We think.

** Some of you are having trouble with that link. We think it's a cookie thing, but you can probably get to it if you go in via the wnbc.com front door. But it's really not important.

Top three mobile application threats

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