[ISN] Military clashes with Coca-Cola over electronics used in promotion

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Jul 2 08:35:41 EDT 2004

Forwarded from: Tcat Houser <Tcat at tcat.net>


Associated Press
July 1, 2004

NEW YORK - There's a new security threat at some of the nation's
military bases - and it looks uncannily like a can of Coke. Specially
rigged Coke cans, part of a summer promotion, contain cell phones and
global positioning chips. That has officials at some installations
worried the cans could be used to eavesdrop, and they are instituting
protective measures.

Coca-Cola Co. says such concerns are nothing but fizz. Mart Martin, a
Coca-Cola spokesman, said no one would mistake a winning can from the
"Unexpected Summer" promotion for a regular Coke. The cans have a
recessed panel on the outside and a big red button, he said, adding,
"It's very clear that there's a cell phone device."

Winners activate it by pushing the button, which can only call Coke's
prize center, he said. Data from the device can only be received by
Coke's prize center.

"It cannot be an eavesdropping device," he said.

Nonetheless, military bases, including the U.S. Army Armor Center at
Fort Knox, Ky., are asking soldiers to look over their Coke cans
before going to classified meetings.

"We're asking people to open the cans and not bring it in if there's a
GPS in it," said Master Sgt. Jerry Meredith, a Fort Knox spokesman.

Sue Murphy, a spokeswo-man for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in
Dayton, Ohio, said personal electronic devices aren't permitted in
some buildings and conference rooms.

The Marine Corps said all personnel had been advised of the cans and
to keep them away from secure areas.

Paul Saffo, research director at the Institute for the Future, a
technology research firm, compared the concern about the Coke cans to
when the Central Intelligence Agency banned Furbies, the stuffed toys
that could repeat phrases.

"There's things generals should stay up late at night worrying about,"  
he said. "A talking Coke can isn't one of them."

But Bruce Don, a senior analyst at the Rand Corp., said the military's
concern is rational.

"There's a lot of reason to worry about how that technology could be
taken advantage of by a third party without Coke's knowledge," he

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