Thursday, April 7, 2011

Desktop Search Engines for the Forgetful

In recent years I have been desperately looking for a search engine that can deal with 20 plus years of electronic files that have built up on my desktop computer.  I’m sure that many of you have large amounts of documents, e-mails, and other files that in the “Age of Google”, should be instantly accessible.  In recent years I have tried several desktop search engines including ones from Microsoft, Google, and the ISYS (many years ago) and Copernic systems.  The only solution that I have found that meets my needs is named X1.  X1 started as the Yahoo search engine that was later developed for the individual desktop computer.  The X1 system has the ability to index both live and archived Microsoft Outlook e-mail as well as multiple versions of word processing documents including Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, and OpenOffice.  And once indexed, I can search the titles and the contents of the documents and files.  And of course I am able to restrict the search by a particular directory or date range.

Finally, I am not alone at the NCSC in using automated search.  We use the Google Search Appliance to index everything available on the Center’s website on multiple systems.  You can try out this search online at the main NCSC website.  The search “box” is located in the upper right corner of the page.

For a list of desktop search engines click here.

Happy searching.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Advice for Keeping Judges (and the rest of us) Safe Online

An interview of Stacia A. Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service in the March, 2011 edition of the U.S. Federal Court's Third Branch Newsletter contained some advice for judge's online safety.

"The explosion of the use of social media on the Internet has created a number of security challenges for the judiciary. Social media, along with the availability of personal information and public records on the Internet, create an environment of additional security risks. One such risk is the potential for the release of sensitive information. This could be as simple as a family member inadvertently posting information about the family’s home. These items can jeopardize the security of a federal judge.

Public information continues to pose challenges to the court family. For many years, the Marshals Service has advised the people we protect to have unlisted phone numbers and use the courthouse address instead of the home address whenever possible. Technology has provided greater access to information. Through computers, individuals can plug a little information into a public record search engine and receive a lot of information. For that reason, we strongly urge judges and other officials to complete “opt-out” forms for individual information providers. We have coordinated with the Administrative Office so that the opt-out information is available for judges to follow. Judges also need to be very conscious about who they give information to, and even where purchases are made. This is because data aggregators are constantly compiling and selling updated personal information to public record sites, for example, matching credit card numbers with home mailing addresses.

We have also recently begun briefing judicial officers and staff on the risk posed by “geo-tagging” of photographs posted to the Internet. GPS-enabled cameras, as well as iPhones, embed the longitude and latitude of the location a picture was taken. If, for example, a photo of a judge and his or her family is posted on certain Internet sites, someone can grab the geo-tag and identify the location of a private residence.

Just as with e-mail or phone calls, if a judge becomes aware of a threat or inappropriate communication on the Web, he or she should immediately notify the Marshals."