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iSnitching & Foursquare Door Hacking. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Dec 17, 20103 mins
Data and Information SecurityFoursquareMicrosoft

An app for iSnitches and a Foursquare hack to unlock your front door...Oh boy, what could possibly go wrong with either of these?

A couple of new products jumped out at me this week, an iPhone app to help citizens become iSnitches and a Foursquare hack that can unlock your front door. Oh boy, no potential for abuse there. What could possibly go wrong with either of these?


Just in case people are not intelligent enough to dial 911, Citizen Concepts’ PatriotApp hopes that iPhone and iPad users will become a network of iSnitches. Okay, that’s not really their sales pitch. PatriotApp was supposedly designed for “citizens to assist government agencies in creating safer, cleaner, and more efficient communities via social networking and mobile technology. This app was founded on the belief that citizens can provide the most sophisticated and broad network of eyes and ears necessary to prevent terrorism, crime, environmental negligence, or other malicious behavior.”

Users can browse the FBI Most Wanted list, report suspicious activity and transmit photos to integrated federal agencies like the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, Government Accountability Office and Centers for Disease Control. In case users really get into this busybody app, it can also be customized to report fellow workers to employers. But wait, there’s more…just in case that still isn’t enough for a user to feel fully like a citizen spy. If a user feels compelled to be the main snitch in their social networking circle, the app works with social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

Think of the power at a person’s fingertips with this app after they “deputize” their iPhone or iPad! Using a pre-loaded form, an overzealous busybody has instant iSnitching access to communicate:

  •   National Security, Suspicious activities, or Crime
  •   Government Waste or possible violations
  •   Environmental Crime or possible violations
  •   White collar crime
  •   Workplace harassment, discrimination, or other violations
  •   Public Health concerns

What could possibly go wrong? Think of the time, money and manpower it will take to follow up on these reports or the lives that will be adversely impacted by false allegations. Our government isn’t clogged down enough with investigating useless “suspicious activity” reports. Hey, maybe that could be reported and go under the heading of “government waste”?

The second product is a pretty cool hack to Foursquare’s API so it will unlock the front door of your home after you check-in. Erin Sparling and Nicholas Hall of wrote, “We did it with Foursquare’s Alpha 2.0 API, a local push notification service, an industrial web-enabled relay device, some speaker wire, and knowing about electricity.”

See the developers’ door hack in action in the video below.

If you want to be able to buzz open your apartment’s front door after checking into your home on Foursquare, the developers have a Want! button to submit your email. After all, what could possible go wrong? This would surely never appeal to social media savvy cybercriminals (aka social engineers) or potential burglars, right?

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.