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Better Safe Than Sorry

This wallet is going to keep high-tech thieves at bay

2 min read

The adage ”Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” seems to be the motivating idea behind the line of wallets and passport ­holders from DIFRWear, in New York City. Although they look like regular leather wallets and holders, each is actually designed to protect you from 21st-century criminals.

In all likelihood, these criminals don’t exist yet, but just as online identity theft went from zero to costing consumers and companies a fortune in just a few short years [see ”A Touch of Money,” IEEE Spectrum, July], it’s a pretty safe bet that they will be around before too long. These crooks will target wireless RFID tags, which already are used by many businesses to operate key-card entry systems and which are being embedded into credit and ID cards more and more frequently. The U.S. Department of State, meanwhile, is also currently testing RFID-enabled passports.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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