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A tiger swims while wearing a tracking collar, barely visible on its neck

GPS tracking collars used to monitor rare animals are both useful tool and cyberpoaching threat.

Tonight’s music video is “The Beginning Is Here” from Outernational’s album Todos Somos Ilegales: We Are All Illegals. Outernational will play twice this year at SXSW in Austin, Texas with additional unofficial performances through the following days. I’m hoping to catch up with them to do a brief interview sometime while they are in town. Look for more on SXSW on Firedoglake tomorrow.

Malicious hackers pose a threat to endangered species that are tracked with GPS collars. From Mashable:

The attempted hacking of a Bengal tiger’s GPS collar in the Panna Tiger Reserve last July alerted the world to a new kind of threat to its wildlife: cyberpoaching. Since then, many proactive wildlife experts have been trying to figure out how to fight a poacher who sits half a world away from the animals they’re targeting. Faced with small budgets and an ever-evolving enemy, solving the problem is no easy task for conservationists.

The fact that a GPS collar was the first device poachers targeted is an important detail. Though providing valuable information about the location and migration patterns of select wildlife, the data that the collars transmit is also extremely valuable to parties wishing to do harm to the animals. With certain collars, poachers can pinpoint the animals via their real-time locations to distances within 10 feet. If poachers were to successfully gain access to this data, killing the animals would almost be too easy.

But ease isn’t the only incentive for poachers to get their hands on GPS collar data. Considering the high expense involved in affixing collars to endangered species (the collar worn by the Bengal tiger mentioned above cost about $5,000), the devices are typically saved for only the rarest animals — rhinos, tigers, snow leopards and elephants. Unsurprisingly, these species also happen to fetch the most money on the black market.

Crawford Allan, the head of the Wildlife Crime Technology Project at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), works directly with conservationists across the globe to preemptively prepare for the coming wave of technologically savvy poachers.

‘It’s like an arms race — a technology race,’ Allan tells Mashable. ‘It’s always this constant battle of trying to get one step ahead of the poachers.’ ‘It’s always this constant battle of trying to get one step ahead of the poachers.

More on the tiger hack from Computerworld.

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Photo by Koshy Koshy released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and Occupy.com.