Tag Archives: Security

Smile! FBI facial recognition database set to pass 50 million recorded pictures


The FBI’s Next-Generation Identification (NGI) scheme, is snapping up pictures left, right and centre. According to data dug up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the scheme, which is the bureau’s giant biometric database, will include more than 50 million images of peoples’ faces by 2015.

The database will include photos like mugshots, but according to the documentation found by the EFF also contain photos of non-criminals.

“Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check, your prints are sent to and stored by the FBI in its civil print database. However, the FBI has never before collected a photograph along with those prints. This is changing with NGI. Now an employer could require you to provide a “mug shot” photo along with your fingerprints. If that’s the case, then the FBI will store both your face print and your fingerprints along with your biographic data,” Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writes in a piece for Ars Technica.

Basically, you need to stay unemployed if you want to stay out of the database…thanks, FBI.

Why small satellite systems should scare your company


According to a new study, hackers might be aiming their sights at the small communication satellite dishes found on oil rigs, ships, banks, and power grid substations.

The systems, that are referred to as VSATs (very-small-aperture terminals), are used in a wide variety of industries, including the media and banks to send data across the planet. But according to a report from cyber-security firm IntelCrawler, at least 10.500 of them are wide open for hacking.

We found thousands and thousands of these systems with what are essentially their digital front doors left wide open,” Dan Clements, IntelCrawler’s President, said according to CSMonitor.com.

“We haven’t looked for direct evidence in the underground that someone has compiled these vulnerabilities on VSATS,” he said. “But common sense says that if we’ve scanned it then others have, too – nation states, cyber-gangs. It’s information that’s out there.”

How to turn duty free into a bomb making experience

duty free

A friend of mine, who used to do a lot of travelling with his work, was often left wondering about the security checks in airports.

‘It’s weird,’ he’d ponder.

‘You go through the check point, where they tell you that you’re not allowed to have more than 100 ml of fluids that has to be sealed in tiny bags, through a screening process where you’re not allowed to carry a pair of nail scissors, or a shaving kit. The next thing you know, you’re walking straight into a duty free shopping area where you can buy high percentage alcohol, a shirt and a lighter…I mean, there’s gotta be a pretty easy way of combining those items into some sort of DIY Molotov cocktail, right?’

It seems he’s far from the only one who’s ever wondered about this sort of thing.

Take Evan Booth, for example. Actually, take Evan Booth as the example.

He’s a Digital Media specialist and programmer, who spends some of his spare time on picking locks, or giving talks on several subjects, including:

Airport Security
Creative Problem-solving

In early 2013, he started a research project with this simple question: ‘Can common items sold in airports after the security screening be used to build lethal weapons?’

As it turns out, the answer is ‘yes’. The slightly longer answer is: ‘sure, in loads of different ways!’ – somewhat sadly, none of them seem to involve ninjas. They are, however, still very interesting.

Take the slow burning Blunderbuss(ness) Class gun, for example:

Or how making caffeine kick ass, literally, with the FRAGGuccino Mark II grenade:

Mr. Booth has constructed a series of similarly nasty weapons based on either his own or other people’s design ideas. They can be found at the website Terminal Cornucopia.

You might be asking yourself: ‘is this a good idea?’ ‘I mean, what if the wrong people get a hold of these instructions?’

Not to scare you, but what makes you think that the ‘wrong’ people (we’re probably talking about terrorists of various sorts) needed a site like Terminal Cornucopia to come up with these ideas? As it turns out, many key terrorist leaders have degrees in Engineering.

In his own words, Mr. Booth’s defence is that:

“All of these findings have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security (TSA) to help them better detect these types of threats. Furthermore, the next time you fly, you’ll be flying as a more informed consumer (and taxpayer, possibly) — one who is more equipped to demand better, more appropriate airport security.”

Drone comes too close for comfort to airliner over New York

CCN recently reported about a unmanned drone that came within 200 feet of a commercial airliner in the skies above New York.

According to CCN, the crew of Alitalia Flight 608 reported seeing the drone as the plane was approaching John F. Kennedy Airport.

Since the incident, the FBI have stated that the incident involved a aircraft no more than 3 feet wide with four propellers.

The FBI said it was working on identifying the air plane and whoever had been operating it at the time.

While the drone in question does not seem to have been military, the incident highlights how drone planes are incredibly hard to keep track of.

There were no reports of the drone being spotted on radar.

At the same time, it gives an indication of the potential destructive use of even unarmed drone aircraft. The craft in questing was not large enough to cause serious structural damage to the Alitalia plane if there had been a collision.

But imagine a scenario where it was sucked into the engine of the Alitalia plane. Then it could have a devastating effect.

Hockey sticks and golf clubs are no longer weapons – if you’re flying

A friend on mine would often marvel at airport security.

‘Howcome,’ he’d ask.

*I can’t bring fluids larger than a certain amount through airport security, only to then be allowed to buy all the ingredients that make up a Molotov-cocktail on the other side? And even in a duty free area?’

Well, I can’t say I know for sure if he’s right or wrong there, but I do know that some aspects of airport security are slightly nonsensical.

Take a recent decision by the Transport Security Administration (TSA), for example.

The TSA has decided that certain things that were previously not allowed as carry-on luggage are now acceptable.

Some of the items now allowed include hockey sticks, pocket knives, billiard cues and golf clubs.

Now I don’t know much about golf, but I’m pretty sure that a golf club can be used as a weapon.

Good thing the TSA has decided to limet the number you can take onboard to two per person, then…..

Is the US Government hacking Microsoft from within?

A recent news story in PC Pro details the theory that the US Government might have been infiltrating Microsoft, planting moles within the IT-giant with the aim of helping the country’s cyber-espionage programme.

PC Pro have asked IT security expert Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, for his opinion in the wake of the recent Flame virus that infected computers in the Middle East. Flame used confidential Microsoft certificates to gain access to the computers. That, along with other facts, has made Hypponen convinced that the virus was planted by a US government branch like the NSA and that they would have to have an insider at Microsoft to gain access to the certificates.

“That must make Microsoft mad as hell that its most critical system, used by 900 million of its customers, was breached by fellow Americans,” he said to PC Pro.

“It’s plausible that if there is an operation under way and being run by a US intelligence agency it would make perfect sense for them to plant moles inside Microsoft to assist in pulling it off, just as they would in any other undercover operation,” he said