Tuesday, January 24, 2006
James Bond's PDA: The Computerized Rock
The Russians have blown up the British intelligence agency by not only accusing the UK of espionage in their country, but airing a documentary on national TV about it. Among other things, the documentary identifies the secret agents and at least one of the Russians who was working with them. The most popular part of this story is footage of a fake rock the Brits used with a computer hidden under it. A spy would walk up to it with secrets stored on their PDA or phone, transmit the info to the rock, which would store it until a British operative came by and downloaded it to his PDA. While that looks and sounds cool, it's actually not. The BBC interviewed an expert who pointed out the problems with the device. First of all, since the rock has a hard skin, it can't use the most efficient method of data transmission, infrared. Instead, it uses radio which uses up a lot of battery power. That means the battery probably has to be changed often. Imagine secret agents trying to discretely sneak up to the rock and change its batteries every day. And the data transmission would have to be fast, since the sight of a Russian diplomat standing next to a rock for an hour is kind of suspicious. Plus, radio can be intercepted. Anyone walking by the rock with a laptop would be able to access it, too. Worst of all, the rock looks terrible. It's huge and has a boring gray surface that looks like it should be used in landscaping. It's the kind of thing that would have been cool twenty years ago. Frankly, they should do better than this in 2005.
Bonus: There's a cool overview of British spy equipment at the BBC. Well, good spy equipment, anyway.