California thievin' is simply a cry for help

Perhaps we should not panic next time we hear of a laptop being stolen with thousands of people's identity details unencrypted on the hard disc, if an incident from California is anything to go by.

Perhaps we should not panic next time we hear of a laptop being stolen with thousands of people's identity details unencrypted on the hard disc, if an incident from California is anything to go by.

The state has long been home to eccentrics, crackpots, weirdos and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but one computer thief has really tried to push the envelope. Jon Houston Eipp has been convicted of stealing computers from the court house while in the middle of a trial for another case of computer theft. Eipp pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, theft and drug possession. He said he stole computers from the court house offices while on trial as a "crazy" way to get help for his drug problem.

Crikey! My ferret has just tripped over the computer

You would not have thought working in an IT department could be hazardous. But according to which specialises in office safety, they are a potential death trap. Cables and wires are public enemy number one, "poised and ready to trip all who pass". In fact, slips, trips and falls are second only to motor accidents as the greatest cause of workplace fatalities.

With all this danger about, you might guess it would be safer to work from home. Guess again. The mere act of setting up a computer at home could "put small children and common household animals like cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets, in severe danger", we are told. The problem is that the little critters find chewing IT cables irresistible.

Better take up a safer profession, like skydiving, wrestling crocodiles, or swimming with stingrays.

Like omigod, now there's a mobile cure for acne

Mobile phones - we need a new name for them, and fast. They are already doing things undreamt of even by that original mobile-user, Star Trek's Captain Kirk, and it is only going to get worse.

A recent US patent describes a phone which is covered in light panels that can emit UV light to simulate sunlight for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder. And as if that were not enough, the light-emitting "phone" is also designed to be capable of treating acne.

Downtime reckons it sounds like a winner: most spotty, depressed teenagers already cannot live without their mobiles, so there should be a ready market for this little beauty.

Be afraid, be very afraid - of smart yoghurt

The man with a job even Downtime covets, BT's futurologist Ian Pearson, has gone all sinister - and maybe a little bit messy - with his latest round of predictions.

Addressing computer scientists at the University of Wales Swansea, Pearson is predicting that "smart yoghurt" will be with us in 20 years. What is that, you ask? Yoghurt that tastes however you want it to taste, Willy Wonka-style? Well, no, actually. He is talking about linkable "electronic" bacteria - and it could mean the end of security as we know it.

In Pearson's alarmist world of the future, these smart bacteria will be able to act like invisible computers. "All I will have to do is let some bacteria into your building. They float through the air conditioning system, land on your keyboard, you cannot see them, you do not know they are there. They record every keystroke and report it back to me. As if that is not enough, they could also be listening to what you are talking about, and even directly interface with your brain if necessary, and they can certainly float in through the vents on your PC and access the chips."

Maybe BT needs to look closer to home for now. How about getting Downtime's broadband connection working reliably?

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