I had the misfortune recently to upload an article sold through the British Library ("British Library Direct"), as background for another post. The British library charges 5 pounds for copyright permission and another few pounds for "shipping and handling," which consists of posting a link to a copy protected document, and e-mailing me the link. The document is provided in a copy protected format that is readable using Adobe Digital Editions. Features of the document suggest that we can blame the low quality on Adobe, though it could be the British Library's fault.
The quality of the resulting document is an insult to the history of publishing. I can print razor sharp, high resolution documents on my printers. The displayed - and printed - document from the British Library is on par with 20th century mimeograph technology. The underlying software allows me to make exactly one printed copy, but the copy is almost too blurry to read. And this cost me US $20!
I managed to chase down a copy of Prof Kenneth Newport's paper, 'Charles Wesley, 'Warts and All'" which talks about the "encrypted" portions of Charles Wesley's journal. This is part of my search for pre-computer examples of encrypted documents, which seem rare, as opposed to encrypted messages, which seem relatively common.
From a cryptographic and security standpoint, I'd say that Wesley's journals were obfuscated and not encrypted. Wesley used a form of shorthand that, though personalized to some degree, was taught to students of Oxford and Cambridge. It is also reported that his own brother used the same sort of shorthand. Thus, Wesley's diary entries may have been unreadable by most of the literate public, but readable by the relative handful of university graduates who had learned that writing method.
I've been reviewing histories of cryptography recently and here's an interesting thing about pre-computer encryption: it's almost entirely used for communications security. People encrypted messages, but they rarely encrypted documents.
I've finally found a few real-world cases: encrypted diaries. BBC actually did a short segment on them last summer. But I'm still looking - there must be other cases where someone needed to keep some long-term data secret from prying eyes.
Two things about my computer use over the past decade: 1) I've been moving all of our family mementos (mementi?) to digital form, and 2) I've become a total klutz about mass storage. A disaster in the making? Almost, but not quite. I've spoken earlier about using RAID on my Mac Pro, and now I'm using RAID with my Time Machine storage. I use my drive swapping trick to create backups, and keep the backup off-site.
While performing the drive swap, I managed to smash my working OS X system partition. Thus, I got to experience first-hand the process of recovering my system from my Time Machine backup. Here's the report.
[UPDATE: Since the original posting, I've found more brittleness in the restored Aperture directory and I've been negotiating a truce between Paragon's NTFS and my NTFS-formatted portable USB drive. Sides are still not quite on speaking terms.]
Verizon's security blog has published a summary report of data breaches investigated by their security team. The report covers 500 security breaches they investigated between 2004 and 2007. There are a lot of graphs and tables summarizing threats and impacts.
The authors sensibly point out that this is based on a limited sample, but it's great to see this sort of report.