Hacks and hackers

Steal these bites: In the future, everyone’s identity will be stolen for at least 15 minutes. That’s the creepy, post-Warholian feeling Bites gets after hearing the word from state Senator Debra Bowen about the lax regulations guarding Bites’ personal information.

Last Thursday, two bills authored by Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, were passed in the Senate that hopefully will combat the problem if they’re approved by the Assembly.

“Right now,” Bowen told Bites, “companies have to tell you when a thief hacks into their computer system and gets access to your personal account information or Social Security number. But they don’t have to say word one when paper records or backup tapes containing the exact same personal information are lost, stolen or inadvertently handed to a perfect stranger. That’s a loophole that needs to be closed.”

Senate Bill 852 would require government agencies and businesses to notify people when personal data is compromised, regardless of whether it was stolen from a computer, paper records, backup tapes or other means of storage. Previously, only data taken from computers, typically through hacking incidents, were required to be reported.

Its sister bill, Senate Bill 13, would require state review and approval for research projects that request data from the state’s information database. The bill also would require the state to remove Social Security numbers before granting researchers access.

SB 13 was prompted by an August incident in which the California Department of Social Services (DSS) provided a Connecticut researcher with the names and Social Security numbers of 1.3 million people in its database to assist with a research project.

Said Bowen of the subsequently hacked DSS info, “You can’t throw the book at a criminal you can’t catch.” Especially if he’s running in the other direction with it.

Union dues: “I am not the editor of a newspaper,” wrote Mark Twain in 1870, “and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.”

Nine employees of the resurrected Sacramento Union were left with little more than Twain’s words for solace as they emptied their offices last week, according to a report in the Sacramento Business Journal. Twain was, of course, the patron saint of the original Sacramento Union (1851-1994), his name routinely invoked nearly a century and a half after he penned a handful of travel columns for the then-fledgling daily. The Sacramento Bee’s old competitor arose from the dead late last year in a completely reinvented form, first as a daily Web site and then as a conservative-leaning monthly magazine, which has put out five issues to date.

While the original Union’s demise turned Sacramento into a one-daily newspaper city, the downsizing of its successor may appear less dramatic. Then again, where would we all turn for our dose of locally written right-wing perspective?

As patron saint Twain also said, “We like to read about rich people in the newspapers; the papers know it, and they do their best to keep this appetite liberally fed.” Oh well, there are still the two Dans over at the Bee.

Mondo bizarro: And while Bites is all for feeding liberals, we nevertheless are siding with conservatives on at least two issues arising over the last week. The first is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to, as his press release so gently puts it, “eliminate taxpayer-provided erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders.” While the world may still be sufficiently out of balance for insurance companies to pay for Viagra but not for birth control, at some point our decision-making has to become reality-based.

Of course, agreeing with Arnold is one thing, but last week Bites even ended up agreeing with Keith Richman, R-Northridge. The co-author of the notorious Richman-Nation bill (which would have legally required every Californian to purchase catastrophic life insurance the same way drivers are now required to buy car insurance) came down on Democrats for their bizarre idea that textbooks should be no longer than 200 pages. After hauling a bunch of $2 textbooks home from last month’s library sale, Bites is as concerned as the next guy about America becoming a nation of hunchbacks. But Jackie Goldberg’s attempt to micromanage schools so that they cater to short attention spans definitely qualifies as the bizarre bill of the month.