15 February 2009

Security by obscurity in action

I noticed that the importance of my paper mail is inversely related to the importance that is advertised on the envelope. The envelopes that say Important Cardholder Information always turn out to be some useless offer. And then, of course, my credit cards and checks arrive in envelopes with no distinguishing features at all.

That always reminds me of this story, from Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear (link):

At 3,106 carats, a little under a pound and a half, the Cullinan Diamond was the largest uncut diamond ever discovered. It was extracted from the earth at the Premier Mine, near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1905. Appreciating the literal enormity of the find, the Transvaal government bought the diamond as a gift for King Edward VII. Transporting the stone to England was a huge security problem, of course, and there was much debate on how best to do it. Detectives were sent from London to guard it on its journey. News leaked that a certain steamer was carrying it, and the presence of the detectives confirmed this. But the diamond on that steamer was a fake. Only a few people knew of the real plan; they packed the Cullinan in a small box, stuck a three-shilling stamp on it, and sent it to England anonymously by unregistered parcel post.

No comments:

Post a Comment