This weekend I became Angelena Falcone, an Italian spy on a mission to defeat villains in Vietnam.
At the International Spy Museum, I was given an alias spy name and background story to follow. I was a 21-year-old travel agent from Mirano, Italy, headed to Hanoi, Vietnam, for 30 days. I decided to fully embrace my new identity.
Each exhibit showed how creative the art of spying can be, or rather, was. What I found most interesting was how spying techniques have changed so drastically due to advances in technology. Last week, I wrote a story this exact issue.
Almost anyone can become a spy of some sort now because of easy and cheap access to information. I attended a discussion at which surveillance experts analyzed how cheap digital data is making privacy a thing of the past.
For example, law enforcement officers can now track cell phone data through a strategy called tower dumping. The process allows police to collect data without a warrant from phones within a certain radius of a cellphone tower for as low as four cents an hour. Government agencies can also collect Internet traffic data and email information from users for a very low price.
There’s no need to train a carrier pigeon to fly with a camera on its back or hire a spy to physically follow someone if you can gain an unlimited amount of tracking information via the Internet.
Police and government agencies are not the only ones who can take advantage of digital spying. Computer hackers are grabbing information from everyday consumers at an increasing rate. Security breaches are occurring more often than ever before. In the last few months, data breaches at major corporations, including Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels, have cost banks millions of dollars.
The University of Maryland College Park is paying for five years of identity theft protection for 300,000 students, faculty and staff whose Social Security numbers and names were copied. On Monday Detroit said its security system was hacked and personal information for 1,700 employees was compromised.
The museum exhibit made me question whether the era of physically spying on others is a thing of the past. Maybe this century’s James Bond will be a man in a computer lab licensed to code rather than licensed to kill.