Saturday, February 26, 2005

Special License Plates for Stolen Cars

Unbelievable... but true! The Palestinian authority issues special license plates for cars known to be stolen from Israel. There are even variants for stolen cars used as taxis or... for official governmental use! Don't believe me? Listen to this story on NPR.

OK, now that you believe me, here are some details beyond what you have heard on NPR.

For years, Israeli-Arabs were stealing cars in Israel and driving them to Palestinian relatives in the West Bank or Gaza. Within hours, a car was fully dismantled into its components. Later, the components were resold to unscrupulous Israeli mechanics seeking low cost spare parts.

Then, in the nineties, the Oslo process changed the rules of the game: once a stolen car was driven into Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, the thieves were home safe - beyond the reach of Israeli Police. The Palestinian Authority did nothing but encourage the practice. Gone was the need to act quickly and take the car apart. A much more lucrative market of drivable stolen cars emerged. At its peak, the phenomenon was huge: 15% of all new cars sold in Israel were purchased as replacements for stolen cars!

And then Arafat initiated the second Intifada. That was bad news for everybody – including for car thieves; Israel had to erect new road blocks and regain control of virtually all of the West Bank. Smuggling cars out of Israel became much more difficult and freely driving a stolen car became something confined to the Gaza strip.

And you thought that issuing driving licenses to illegal aliens was an original California idea?!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


A colleague and I visited the RSA Conference in San Francisco today. A couple of booths had Enigma machines on display: the one assigned to the NSA (No Such Agency) and the booth of a firm I work with and value very highly - Cryptography Research.

Here's a picture of me with one of the Enigmas:

Breaking the Nazi Enigma was one of World War II's most important developments. For a history of cryptography, including a chapter on Enigma, get a copy of The Code Book by Simon Singh. Don't confuse it with another book by Singh, Fermat's Enigma - it has nothing to do with this Enigma.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Useful Advice

Here I am quoting again from blogs I like. This time from Joel Spolsky's blog, with a graph from a Katie Lucas essay on ostentatious computing methodologies:

How to win a race:

Step 1: write about running really fast
Step 2: go and draw a plan of the racetrack
Step 3: go and buy really tight lycra shorts
Step 4: run really, really, really fast
Step 5: cross line first

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Barriers to Entry

Funny new entry on Bruce Schneier's blog:

As this photo shows, it doesn't matter what kind of security you implement if it's easy to get around.