Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 1/08/2003Conspiracy theorists are partial to black vehicles with shady occupants doing evil deeds, even if they’ve stopped claiming the UN is behind fleets of black helicopters darkening the skies of Montana or wherever.

Friday 1/08/2003
Conspiracy theorists are partial to black vehicles with shady occupants doing evil deeds, even if they’ve stopped claiming the UN is behind fleets of black helicopters darkening the skies of Montana or wherever. So they may be interested in a black Landrover parked up in the City this morning: it had a discreet microwave antenna -- looked like a quadrifiliar vertical helix -- mounted dead centre on the roof, and what looked like some phased direction-finding bits scattered around it. The back windows were dark, but the front had a bloke with a computer keyboard, a large-scale map of the area and a nervous twitch. I walked past it, did a double-take -- I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally expecting quadrifiliar helices on my morning constitutional-– and was about to go back and peer at it properly when it sprang from its lair like a cheetah scenting an ailing impala and disappeared down the Minories.

So, what’s going on? It was either some form of GPS testing or wireless network sniffing -- and GPS testing is pretty old hat by now. If it was wardriving, then it was very well funded and not very well disguised: the way to do it is to stuff the equipment into the pannier of a rusty moped, stick a big red L on the back and rubber band a grotty list of streets to a perspex clipboard on the handlebars. Real spooks don’t look like spooks, and they certainly don’t tool around in shiny black anythings.

So I reckon it’s some media company preparing a shock horror documentary on computer security. Probably telly -- you can just see the moody late night shots of the blackly sleek Landie slipping through rainwashed City streets -- although it could be one of the nationals. If you’re responsible for IT for a financial institution or the like in London, and would rather not see your root password appear on Panorama, now might be a good time to give your corporate airwaves a quick once over.

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