back to article Playing jigsaw on my roof: They can ID you from your hygiene habits

Spies in space are watching me as I take a shower. I know this because I have just now worked out where the weak link in my home defences lies: it's the boiler. My neighbours only have to lock their front doors and they feel safe. Me, I'm at risk every time I turn on the hot tap. Perhaps I'd better explain. It all began with …

  1. Trygve Henriksen

    Only one thing to do; get one of those oldfashioned galvanized steel bathtubs, and fill it with water you heat on a woodstove..

    1. Stork Silver badge

      The wood stove is also a good place to dispose of the shredded paper . Can’t be too careful.

      1. cookieMonster
        Flame

        Don’t joke

        That’s exactly what we do. Burn it.

        1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

          Re: Don’t joke

          My folks used to shred their stuff into itty bitty little flecks so miniscule that I thought it would be impossible to reassemble it. I found out just how wrong I was when my little brother, for shits & giggles, sat down with a large sheet of cardboard, a pot of glue, a pair of tweezers, a magnifying glass, & a bag of said shreddings. It took him ages to finish, but eventually he had reassembled everything enough to pull out the personal data the shredding was supposed to have destroyed.

          My folks then added "stuffing the shreddings into the bbq grill, soaking in lighter fluid, & torching the fucker" to the end of their regular to do list.

          When I moved out & started collecting my own items for shredding, I made sure to burn it all afterwards as well.

          So using the shreddings to heat the water you then use for your hot bath is not only a perfectly reasonable solution, it also gives you a happy squidgy feeling while you're playing pirates with your squeaky rubber ducky.

          *Cough*

          I, uhhh, I mean, ah, LOOK OVER THERE! A DISTRACTION! ---===>>>

          <<<===--- runs away...

          1. jmch Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Don’t joke

            "My folks used to shred their stuff into itty bitty little flecks so miniscule that I thought it would be impossible to reassemble it."

            The US embassy staff fleeing Iran had similair overly-optimistic ideas

            1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

              Re: Don’t joke

              I'm not joking but it would be interesting to build a shredder and incorporate a scanner too ... it would be a nice project for MI5 and NSA ... unless they turn the idea down because they are already using them.

              1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Don’t joke

                Hasn't the BOFH or was it the PFY that's already done this at some point.

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Don’t joke

                  Every device now, kettles, toasters, even shredders, has to have a nifty blue led light in it. Something that shows up the slot...

                  Mind you, those escalators with green lights underneath... I always think it looks like they're photocopying people.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Don’t joke

                "I'm not joking but it would be interesting to build a shredder and incorporate a scanner too ... it would be a nice project for MI5 and NSA ... unless they turn the idea down because they are already using them."

                I remember reading an SF story many years where part of the plot was shredding entire libraries and pumping the bits through a large pipe which scanned all the bits, reassembled the images and reproduced the shredded books as digital books.

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Don’t joke

                  The was an episode of UFO which described how their coded communication system worked. Orders were handwritten and signed, placed into a scanner where they were scanned and the card destroyed - the handwriting was verified by the encoder and sent encrypted to the recipient who used a key to decrypt and print out the orders.

            2. grumpyoldeyore
              Flame

              Re: Don’t joke

              As did the STASI in 1989 ... https://www.dw.com/en/computers-restore-ripped-up-east-german-files/a-2483499-1

          2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            Re: Don’t joke

            "happy squidgy feeling while you're playing pirates with your squeaky rubber ducky"

            Your code is not that hard to crack.

            1. Ken Shabby

              Re: Don’t joke

              Moneypenny, why do I get all the shit jobs?

              Cold War Spies Sifted Through Used Soviet Toilet Paper In Search of Clues

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Don’t joke

              In the final season of Lost In Space, the current reboot version, Doctor Smith warns Don not to hold the chicken too tightly because he might "choke the chicken". I'm not sure how the writers got that past the rest of the team or the censors :-)

              It also makes me wonder if the entire reason for Dons attachment to that chicken throughout the entire series was to get that line in near the end.

              1. vogon00

                Re: Don’t joke

                From chickens to sausages....

                My personal favourite euphemism that made it into the real world is this (NSFW).

                It's not what the euphemism is for - I couldn't care less - but the fact that someone cared enough to come up with something innocuous enough for the conservative, yet still perfectly descriptive in a totally non-pejorative way...

                I don't really know why they bothered, as there is a perfectly audible 'C' work a few seconds later...

          3. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Don’t joke

            Shredded paper and thin card can just be mixed into the compost heap/bin, soon get broken down & greener than burning.

            As compost heap mixes often get a bit too "wet", then attentive composting management involves adding some drier stuff anyway so adding the shredded paper will typically benefit your composting

          4. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Don’t joke

            Do your folks wear tinfoil hats too?

            No criminal trying to steal personal information is going to go through a bin, find crosscut shredded paper, and spend ages reassembling it. In fact I'll bet those who go through the bin at all are a dying breed. Not when you can get the personal information of millions with a hack, or if you aren't clever enough to hack buy personal information at a few bucks per head without leaving your house or getting dirty. Let alone taking the risk of getting arrested, or worse encountering a rat the size of a Yorkie!

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Don’t joke

              @DS999 - "a rat the size of a Yorkie!"

              Those chocolate bars are quite small, maybe it was a mouse, or a vole?

          5. macjules Silver badge

            Re: Don’t joke

            Everything I shred tends to end up as hamster/gerbil bedding. I challenge even the most hardened Iranian shredded document solver to endure hours of gerbil excreta in reassembling that lot.

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Don’t joke

          It won't be too long before someone comes up with a quantum smoke analyzer that can reassemble the data from your burning shreddings. Then what will you do?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Don’t joke

            Add a chimney to the BBQ with electrostatic filters and carbon sequestration of course. Then bury the resultant waste down a salt mine next to the nuclear waste. Isn't that the obvious solution?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "The wood stove is also a good place to dispose of the shredded paper . Can’t be too careful."

        Or save on the cost of the shredder and the power to run it and go direct to the burning stage :-)

  2. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Pell

    On the subject of "spinning the bins", if you haven't come across Benji Pell already his Wikipedia page is worth a read.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have a Space Shuttle Main Engine operations manual, gleaned from the dumpster. Quite interesting reading for the compleat space nutjob, but probably boring AF for anyone else.

      Anon for obvious reasons.

  3. Franco Silver badge

    There are days I'd quite happily have my identity stolen, assuming it meant the person that stole it had to deal with the drudgery of my life (parts of it anyway). My Uncle got solar panels a few years ago and STILL feels the need to tell anyone within earshot how much electricity he's making each sunny day. Thankfully in Scotland those are few and far between (and yes I'm aware today is one of them, even if it is still freezing outside)

    1. spireite Silver badge

      A former colleague of mine bought into this solar panel malarkey, and very proud of it he was too.

      For the first year, which was one of the better 'sun drenched' British years, he regaled us with his overgeneration and pushing back into the National Grid the excess (plus the 'money' he was making from it).

      It all went a bit tits up in two steps.

      Step 1. He told us when his ROI actually took effect - that was circa 15 years after installation, as he has a big family in the same house. His consumption is higher than average..

      Step 2. The realisation the following year of a more typical British day/year reducing his 'generation'

      After 2 years, we never heard of it again.

      There is an element here that nobody thinks about. If you are a family, what is the likelihood you ever realise the benefits of the investment? You've a good chance of actually moving before you see it, because the family needs more space

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        ROI

        "After 2 years, we never heard of it again."

        There's also a good chance the estimate on your first repair bill is so high you just don't bother.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        I have had my system about three and a half years, 12 panels and a 48v battery composed of reconditioned traction cells. I live in Spain, today was a bit cloudy so I only made 5.43KWh, yesterday was over 8KWh more than I use.

        I have no choice as the nearest grid supply is over 3Km from me, running new poles and cable would approach six figures going by the conversation I had in the Eberdrola office.

        I have few problems, just have to keep an eye on the electrolyte and keep a genny on standby in case of more than three days of solid overcast, something that has not happened so far.

        My biggest problem was in the beginning, the idiot who made the panel frames was not remotely a welder so the first big blow ripped the lot apart, the supplier had to replace 4 panels and I made him pay me to reconstruct the frames. My belt and braces rebuild has so far withstood gusts that bent my neighbour's TV aerial mast.

        Nobody I have spoken to who has a hybrid 'grid and panel system has gained by it, better to go off grid so that the power co's can't screw you.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "more than three days of solid overcast, something that has not happened so far."

          Yeah, well, Spain, not Scotland. And clearly you're not on the plain, where all the rain hangs out :-)

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    It solved the problem of dealing with direct marketing letters that used to turn up in the post.

    My chimney does that well, with the bonus side of providing a few fractions of Joules to heat the house.

    I was hoping from some industrial metal at the end of the article. I am a little bit disappointed.

    1. You aint sin me, roit
      Holmes

      No industrial metal...

      The lack of metal is so you don't know whether Dabbsy is in the shower.

      Though Kula Shakar is so niche you could probably find out the brand of shampoo he uses. My money is on Timotei with chamomile extract.

      Sherlock, cos he didn't need to use satellite imaging.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No industrial metal...

        My money is on Timotei with chamomile extract.

        Dabbsy, the hack with the sun in his hair, flouncing along through a rustic meadow? Now there's a mental image you won't be able to unimagine...

  5. Dr_N Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Address label removal before disposal

    I also make sure to rip off and destroy the address labels from Amazon boxes etc before sticking them in the recycle bin.

    Can never be too careful.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Address label removal before disposal

      "Destroy"?

  6. Andrew Alan McKenzie

    Too careful might be tearing address labels in half and putting one half in the recycling, the other half in the normal bin, just in case the local scammers are jigsaw experts. Not that I would do that....

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Or slicing up expired credit cards (making sure to go through the chip with a cut) and throwing the pieces out over the space of a week or two?

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Pieces

        Put them in your pocket and go to the mall / office / airport / anyplace with a large collection of bins, is what I do. It works well, except sometimes I arrive home and they are still in my pocket. :(

      2. TimMaher Silver badge
        Windows

        Slicing the cards

        My shredder has a card shred function.

        Quite handy.

  7. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

    Firestarter

    Address labels, delivery advice pages and pre-printed returns notes all get used as kindling for our log burner too. With the exception of labels stuck to polythene mailing bags or labels made waterproof by the sender's use of selotape which get burned in the garden incinerator when we have a clear out. Our temporary store for these is a large paper bag marked "dirty burn" but now known (thanks to a chisel-tipped marker pen and my poor handwriting) as the "dirty bum" bag.

  8. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    ID from spa-aaaace

    Up until a few years ago, you could zoom in on Google Maps satellite mode on my old house in central central London, and you could see me very clearly on the roof terrace. You can tell from the photo, jigsaw-id-style, that it was taken mid-morning-ish on a sunny summer's Sunday morning, and I'm reading the Weekend FT with the Sunday Times waiting on the table, having a mug of tea in a particular mug, and wearing the t-shirt my mum sent me for Christmas a coupla years prior.

    That level of detail and specific identifiability was both a hilarious discovery, and... unsettling.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: ID from spa-aaaace

      Mostly those high-res images Google, etc, publishes are from aircraft surveys. It is possible the spy sats offer something similar, but not for the general public to view.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ID from spa-aaaace

      I know someone who zoomed in on Google Maps to find a strange car parked in his drive at what appeared to be mid-afternoon

      He did figure it was one of the cars he had once hired and didn't call his divorce lawyer

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: ID from spa-aaaace

      Google Earth is free-ish so you don't get the really high resolution stuff.

      Back around 2000 our son started at a new high school that used converted office buildings. These buildings dated from the 1970s and originally housed a company specializing in electronic warfare countermeasures. The windows had what looked like decorative sunshades built into them but were actually there to prevent Russian spy satellites from looking in. I'd guess that modern satellites can see a lot more and by using the appropriate near infra-red wavelengths can 'see' through clouds.

      (When the school built a theater in the basement of the building they had to first remove a high security emissions proof conference "room within a room". Just like the ones you see in movies.)

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

        Re: ID from spa-aaaace

        Shame it was a school building a theatre in the basement. I've been involved in a hotel building a ballroom (i.e. wedding reception room) in a basement that used room-in-room to cut down on noise transmission to the remainder of the hotel. Trouble for us was that the outside room was already built...

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: ID from spa-aaaace

          > Trouble for us was that the outside room was already built...

          Eh? You _can't_ build a room-in-room unless the outside room is already built. By definition.

          If you haven't got a room to put your room in, it's just a room.

          If you try building the outer room second, then you have room-around-room. Which is the complete opposite of room-in-room.

          I think you're being silly.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Jigsaw identification

    I can't say I'm too worried about that, for some reason. First of all, I live beyond the suburbs in a quaint little village à la campagne. If someone is rifling through my trash, they already know where I live. And if they absolutely want to know my water bill from last month, I'm nonplussed that they burden their neurons with that information.

    I doubt that they'll hijack my water company account to have the privilege of paying the bills instead of me.

    On the Web, though, that is another matter entirely. I have an non-negligeable amount of activity in the virtual information highway, and I have no idea how someone could piece together enough information to pinpoint my indentity from my various posts and web habits. That said, I never use the same password twice, so I guess any hijacking will be limited in scope.

    I hope so anyway.

    Qué sera, sera

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Jigsaw identification

      > I never use the same password twice

      How do you log in, then?

      1. Our Lord and Savior Rahl

        Re: Jigsaw identification

        Quantum Nanopulse

  10. Evil Scot
    Windows

    Scrodinger's Shredder

    "absolutely bloody furious cut."

    I cant be the only one that thought this?

    Raises a glass to the old fart in a hat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

      My wife is not allowed to use the shredder, due to the fact she ignores the "5 sheets" max warning and ends up jamming the thing solid. I have managed to rescue a few shredders, but we seem to be buying a new one every year. After the last one where something inside actually snapped, I told her that shredding paper is now my job.

      I did try putting through a sheet of bubble wrap thinking that would be cool, but it was rather disappointing (but at least didn't jam it.)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

        My shredder began to misbehave last year. It would start automatically but wouldn't shut off. So I took it apart and cleaned it.

        Now it runs continuously and I have to switch it off at the mains when I'm done with it.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

          Ours just has a switch on it. Forward, off and reverse.

          Sometimes, simpler is better.

          1. localgeek

            Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

            Unless, that is, one of the members of your household is a floppy-eared basset hound. I always make a point of turning off my small office shredder between uses to avoid a canine disaster.

          2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

            Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

            Ours just has a switch on it. Forward, off and reverse.

            My car has these too but I still have trouble reversing my shredder between two filing cabinets.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: I still have trouble reversing my shredder between two filing cabinets.

              An alternative is to use 3 point Turn font on all classified documents.

            2. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

              In all fairness, my shredder doesn't have five different forward gears depending on how much momentum I've gotten up.

        2. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

          I always end up breaking mine.

          Everything starts off OK when the shredder is new, but then I get greedy and overdo how much I put through in one pass.

          Then I start wondering why I actually needed to shred that thick piece of cardboard my last motherboard and CPU came in (vaguely recalling it had something to do with trying to fill the Wheelie Bin up more economically in terms of space constraints).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

            I tend to shred everything - makes it more difficult to find the top secret stuff among the rubbish

          2. Flywheel Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

            "Our shredder will handle 10 sheets at a time".. but then it'll start smoking and the motor will burn out. Of course it will!

        3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

          At least it runs.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

        Apparently the heavy-duty cross-cut shredder here at work is no good for shredding ties or babies or for cutting hair.

        It's good for shredding old credit cards, but I always take the bits out and distribute them around 2 or 3 other bins for safety

        1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

          Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

          Are those warnings from the manual? Like the Harley Davidson warning not to eat your motorbike? Or my favourite for a Swedish chainsaw, which unfortunately I have been unable to verify:

          Warning: Do not attempt to stop chain using hands or genitals.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Scrodinger's Shredder

            Warning: Do not attempt to stop chain using hands or genitals.

            Your own hands or genitals, that is; there are quite a few others' hands and genitals that I want to test their stopping ability of.

  11. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Pint

    Anyone Who

    Wants to use my personal details to take out loans etc, would have more success if they applied as a goldfish instead of me.

  12. Gerhard den Hollander

    Waste paper bins

    Over here we have recycling bins to discard paper etc in.

    You put the bin once a month at the curbside and they get emptied.

    Paper/cardboard only, no general waste allowed.

    Miscreants get fined.

    Therefore all bins are labeled with you home address

    Plus anyone who has my name and knows the village I live in can lookup my address and phone number in the online phone directory

  13. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Alternatively

    [name + address + industrial metal* + vindaloo last night]

    = Dabbsy's in the dunny

    *Tin roofed outside loo

  14. Lorribot

    Apparrently it is quite easy to exfiltrate data captured from the video surveilance system via any smart tap. You just set it it to run hot water at a specified rate so you kick the boiler in to life on a regulated pattern and then monitor the heat signiture from the flue via satelite.

    1. mattaw2001

      Was on the edges of a prototype to do data transfer down normal water pipes with modulated pressure waves for water smartmeters. Worked quite well for about 1kb-5kb or so, surprisingly. So modulating a smart tap would absolutely work without the ir sense, assuming a receiver quite a ways away.

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        "Worked quite well for about 1kb-5kb or so"

        That's pretty good. In mud pulse telemetry, used in the oil industry to transmit data from the bottom of the well to the platform, they get much lower data rates. Admittedly over a greater distance and a rather challenging environment.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_while_drilling#Mud-pulse_telemetry

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Don't encourage Mordechai the gang at Ben-Gurion University - as JB has commented before...

      https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/02/06/lcd_pwn_system/#c_3969662

      I wonder if they've analysed Coronal Mass Ejection rates - may be ET is modulating the Sun to phone home

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Heat signals from the flue - Prior Art - Variation on Smoke Signals!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    shredders are useless

    I'm using my stove. Burn all papers et voilà. Good luck trying to read the stuff.

    1. Toni the terrible

      Re: shredders are useless

      Make sure you agitate the ash, you can sometimes read flat sheets even after burning

  16. Flywheel Silver badge
    Meh

    Roof-spotting

    I was surprised/impressed/worried that the roofer who did us a new roof recently used Google Earth to not only identify the house, but also to count the number of tiles he'd need to do the job.

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