I was watching the Tagesschau last night (Sept. 4th), one of Germany's main evening news programs. They had a segment on data protection (starting around 2:30).

They started the segment with a sequence of two very short clips. First, a person is shown inserting a CD into a computer's CD drive. Then a text console with text slowing scrolling by is shown. The voice over during these two clips was:

Illegale Datenhandel, etwa mit Bankverbindunden von Kunden, kopiert and weiter verkauft.

Illegal data trafficking, sometimes with bank account information, copied and then sold on.

Here is the console they showed:


That's the output of running

ping localhost

using a German locale.

It's of course not hard to image that people who steal data will ping their computer while they are waiting for the data to be copied.

More seriously, it is a bit unfortunate that they chose to use this second image as it may have a negative double effect: that of raising suspicion in situations that are perfectly legitimate, and not raising suspicion in situations where it should be raised.

I suspect that this will happen because the text console is foreign to most people, which is why they chose it for their report: it lends a sense of mystery to what is happening, which people often associate with evil doings. The problem with this association is that data can also be illegally copied from a computer using its normal environment. Indeed, it is more likely that illegal data copying will happen with whatever tools are available on the computer: someone stealing data is unlikely to install a new operating system as this would likely complicate, not simplify, the job. The report does not mention this. The result is that people associate this to-them-strange environment, which has many legitimate uses, with evil doings. This may cause them to cast suspicion when it is uncalled for. Second, they may not suspect that a person doing strange things using a typical interface is doing something wrong.