Category: Security

June 11, 2015

Surveillance Drone Tech Being Challenged

watching youWith drone technology becoming more and more commonplace, it’s not surprising that citizens and elected officials alike are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with constant, warrantless monitoring.  Just this week, Senators Dean Heller and Ron Wyden from Nevada and Oregon respectively, introduced new legislation that would require the government to abstain from drone surveillance without a warrant.

Protecting Individuals from Mass Aerial Surveillance Act

The newly proposed legislation comes as a result of a recent admission by the Federal government that the FBI (at the very least) has been using and continues to use drones and other planes to actively spy on selected citizens of the United States.  They even went so far as to create fictitious companies and logos to disguise their aircraft while conducting their warrantless surveillance.

The issue was not isolated.  Over 40 craft were traced and determined to belong to the investigative agency.  They participated in over 100 surveillance flights in the skies of 11 states, and this was just since the end of April.

Concerned Citizens

With the recent advances in drone technology and surveillance technology in general, it’s no wonder that citizens and politicians alike are concerned about just what information the government is gathering from the skies over a mile above our heads.  The agency has gone to great lengths to keep these high-tech, high-flying surveillance missions under wraps.  With sock companies and fictitious aircraft registrations traced back to primarily a single “Robert Lindley” as their owner, it’s clear the FBI is trying to keep it’s warrantless spying on US citizens hidden.

The FBI itself has said very little, simply coming out in its own defense to state that they aren’t being secretive but rather protecting their technology with their closed lips.

Individual Targets

surveillance dronePerhaps most disturbing, the FBI fully admits that their surveillance is not some kind of metadata collection but targeted on specific individuals.  This admission, coupled with the fact that the agency isn’t using proper legal channels to get warrants for investigative/search purposes has many citizens very uneasy.

The bottom line is that no one really knows what kind of technology the FBI is utilizing for their spy programs.  They won’t cop to it.  They call it classified/protected and simply go about doing what they want.  With the recent outcry about the collection of information regarding US citizens by various government agencies, it’s no surprise that even elected officials are getting into the fray.

Only time will tell whether or not the newly introduced legislation will pass, but even if it doesn’t the fact that it’s been introduced has the potential to open the door to some serious awareness and discussion.  It remains to be seen if the public can stem the tide of seemingly constant surveillance.  The Constitution seems to pretty clearly prohibit the practice.  Let’s hope our elected officials recognize this fact.…

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April 15, 2015

Is the US Ready for a Smart City?

In our modern technological times, with our smartphones, smart TV’s and even smart meters, it’s not shocking that municipalities are turning to the idea of becoming completely wi-fi interconnected smart cities.  One city in particular, San Jose in California, is stepping up to the challenge of becoming an Internet of Things pilot project.

The Deal

In an agreement that was finalized within just the last few weeks, a company called anyCOMM is going to be setting up almost 150 wi-fi sensors around San Jose.  They are focusing on streetlights for positioning and power sources.    The local Mineta Airport will receive an additional almost 20 sensors.  It has faced significant security breaches in the last 12 months alone.

Of course, its incorporation into the project is still dependent upon the agreement of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Purpose

These sensors are going to be more monitoring/tracking/observing devices in a world seemingly overrun by them already.  They will track traffic, pedestrians, control streetlights, monitor seismic activity, even warn citizens of potential quakes and provide wi-fi hotspots for the citizenry.

Of course, since this is a beta test city, full functionality will depend on numerous factors and whether or not the technology remains functional and operational.  These factors are still up in the air, of course, and determining the overall dependability of the project is part of the test.

Privacy Concerns

While some citizens are leery at the idea of more observation by random and government entities, anyCOMM has gone on the record stating that while video and audio will be recorded, they will not be gathering personal information.  When the project’s pilot phase is concluded, the parent company will report to the city what they’ve gleaned and suggest ideas for improving the city’s functionality as such.

Other Concerns

According to one seo company chicago, one of the single biggest overall concerns pertaining to the project is whether or not the wi-fi sensors can be depended upon to work consistently.  Even in the most well-tested of situations, wi-fi can be undependable.  There are serious worries that the monitoring technology might fail in inclement weather or for a plethora of other yet-to-be-determined reasons.

The biggest concern is the large distance that will be covered by a single wi-fi network.  Most networks operate on a much smaller scale.

smart citySecurity of Data

One other serious concern for citizens and the local city government alike is the security of any data collected.  While the parent company has assured folks that they are not collecting personal data, the bottom line is that the equipment will be recording virtually every activity that takes place in public areas within the city.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see how even this data, in the wrong hands, could be compromising for a lot of people.

The bottom line is that because this is a pilot project, there are countless unforeseeable outcomes to the situation.  This is the trial city that will be used to work out kinks and bugs and determine feasibility for other cities, if at all.…

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March 11, 2015

Russia’s Killer Robot Army

military robotWhile it might sound like something out of science fiction, the fact of the matter is that Russia is perfecting robot technology to the extent that by later this very year, their military robot prototypes will be advanced enough to clear an advanced obstacle course.  This may not be incredibly concerning to some, considering the fact that the world’s militaries already possess equipment and weapons capable of mass destruction.  However, ethicists and scientist alike are sounding the alarms.

Ethics of Killer Robots

Humanity is at a nexus.  We have reached a level of technology and advancement where we can fairly easily create anything we can imagine.  Unfortunately, we can’t always foresee all of the consequences of our creations.  Known as LAWS, or lethal autonomous weapons systems (i.e., killer robots), this form of artificial intelligence has made some of the leaders in the robotics and artificial intelligence industries very nervous.

Most scientists believe that now is the time to set global restrictions and parameters regarding the creation and usage of such technology.

Out-Dated Laws

In many cases, international laws simply haven’t caught up to technological advances in weapons technology.  While so-called “traditional” weapons of mass destruction are illegal under previous international agreements, our legal systems haven’t moved as fast as our technology and/or our ability to build newer, more advanced killing machines.

When you couple this gap in legislation with the fact that weapons can now be created that function and even arguably think for themselves, the disparity in theory and reality becomes even more glaringly apparent.

It’s not surprising, however, that some of the world’s leading LAWS-developing nations are opposed to creating treaties that limit the development/use of this kind of technology.   It hasn’t really been until some rival nations began perfecting their own technology that murmurs of regulation have begun circulating.

The Leaders

The UK, the US and Israel are among the world’s most technologically advanced, so it’s not surprising that they lead the pack when it comes to these new-age weapons.  They have collectively argued that current international laws are more than adequate to prevent technological abuse.  Many ethicists, however, disagree.

Non-politically motivated developers, scientists, professors and legal experts agree that this technology opens the doors to issues unlike those the world’s ever known.  First and foremost, they worry about accountability.  Who do you hold accountable for the crimes of a machine with autonomy?  The creator?  The programmer?  The government behind it?  The machine itself?

While Russia is developing humanoid robots capable of independent function and even independent killing, drones and other machines that use this technology already exist and are even arguably being used.

The bottom line is that we are entering into a new world of technology, one in which our machines may end up more intelligent and capable than the people operating them.  To most paying attention, it’s a recipe for disaster if not closely controlled.…

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February 5, 2015

Routers as Hacking Devices

hacked router

When most of us consider being hacked, we’re worried about our Internet passwords and websites.  The fact of the matter is that one of the single easiest ways for hackers to get into your personal information, your entire network and everything it houses.  It makes every device on the network vulnerable, and can lead to a wide array of security concerns.

Notorious Soft Targets

Most home-use routers have little if any security capabilities.  Owners install them simply as Internet networking devices, they plug them in and never think of them again unless they malfunction or it’s already too late.  Internet security companies are seeing a substantial uptick in malware programs and other nefarious codes designed specifically to infiltrate and sneak through the weak security of home routers.

Even in the instances where various manufacturers discover serious vulnerabilities in their hardware, most consumers never get an update or notification of the issue, let alone a software update or patch to fix the issue.   The bottom line is that they are simply fixtures in most homes, making them easy to infiltrate and exploit.

Back-Door Accessibility

Some of the convenience features added by router manufacturers have made them even easier to get in on.  Features designed to allow for remote serviceability or tech support have become loopholes for hackers to get in and turn your own equipment against you.  Rather than require concerted local area network access to impact settings and functionality, some manufacturers bypassed this security feature for ease of access.  Not surprisingly, this was largely exploited by those with ill-intent.

Even routers without back-door access can be remotely compromised if users open malware or other malicious emails which expose their computer, network and/or router to nefarious software.  This allows anyone with enough know-how to get into your system with the inclination.  Cross site request forgery is another avenue which functions by redirecting users to some malicious website to gain access.

Government Routers an Example

security it supportSome of the most notable security breaches in the recent news have to do with Federal employees having their router security compromised.  This is an ongoing problem, as hacker technology seems to be on par or ahead of the technology the professionals use to combat it.  Some of the most notorious data breaches in recent months can be traced back to inferior router technology.  Hackers have managed to steal and potentially even share the data of government employees fairly regularly.

The only real way to protect yourself from being a victim of router-hacking is to be diligent.  If you have a router with security features, use them.  If your router is an older model, consider upgrading to something more technologically advanced.  Use passwords all the time, change them frequently and keep them secure.…

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