Hugh Pickens passes along a NYTimes report on software programs called "zappers," which allow even technologically illiterate restaurant and store owners to siphon cash from computer cash registers to cheat tax officials. In the old days, restaurant owners who wanted to cheat kept two sets of books. But because cash registers make automated records, hiding the theft requires getting into the machine's memory and changing that record. "...the Canadian province of Quebec may be the world leader in prosecuting zapper cases. Since 1997, zappers have figured in more than 230 investigations, according to the tax collecting body Revenu Québec... In making 713 searches of merchants, Revenu Québec found 31 zapper programs that worked on 13 cash register systems. Only two known zapper cases have been prosecuted in the United States... The cash register security industry is focused on protecting patrons and owners from theft by employees, which may be one reason so few zappers are uncovered in the United States. No one hires security experts to protect the government from devious businesses... As hard as zapper software is to detect, it is easy to make, said Jeff Moss, organizer of the annual hacker convention Def Con. 'If it runs on a Windows system and you are a competent Windows administrator, you can do it,' he said."
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