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Posts Tagged ‘security

Facebook face recognition technology is here

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Facebook is at the centre of another privacy row after bringing in facial recognition technology to automatically identify users in pictures.

The world’s leading social network has begun rolling out new technology that automatically identifies and ‘tags’ people in photos uploaded to the website.

The feature has been expanded from a test run in the United States to ‘most countries’, Facebook said on its official blog yesterday – and, by default, it’s turned on.

Tag your friends: Facebook's new facial recognition technology has raised the hackles of privacy campaigners

Tag your friends: Facebook’s new facial recognition technology has raised the hackles of privacy campaigners

But the sudden implementation of the feature, without warning, has sparked concerns among privacy campaigners.

Daniel Hamilton, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Facebook users will rightly be alarmed to hear that their private information will be used in this way. This is yet another nail in the coffin for online privacy.

‘Websites like Facebook owe it to their users to respect their privacy, not to scan their photo albums with facial recognition software.’

Internet security consultant firm Sophos first reported the change yesterday, after Facebook users reported that the site had enabled the facial recognition option in the last few days without giving users any notice.

‘Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth,’ wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post.

HOW TO SWITCH OFF FACIAL RECOGNITION

  • Sign into your Facebook account.
  • Click on Account on the top right of the page and then Privacy Settings on the drop-down menu.
  • Click on Customise settings.
  • Scroll down to ‘Suggest photos of me to friends’ and click Edit.
  • Change setting from Enabled to Disabled and save.

Facebook, which announced in December that it planned to introduce the service in the United States, acknowledged that the feature was in fact now more widely available.

When asked about the Sophos blog post, a spokesman for the company conceded that they ‘should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process’.

They made clear that tag suggestions would only be made to friends of those pictured, and that the users can switch off the feature to stop their names being but forward.

But Marc Rotenberg, President of the non-profit privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, noted that other companies had offered more users more control when implementing facial recognition features.

He highlighted Apple’s iPhoto software, which let users decide whether or not to use the technology with their personal photo collections.

Facebook’s technology, by contrast, operates independently, analysing faces across a broad swathe of newly uploaded photos.

Mr Rotenberg said such a system raised questions about which personally identifiable information, such as email addresses, would become associated with the photos in Facebook’s database.

He also criticised Facebook’s decision to automatically enable the facial-recognition technology for Facebook users.

‘I’m not sure that’s the setting that people would want to choose. A better option would be to let people opt-in,’ he said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in April, argued last year that privacy is no longer a 'social norm'

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in April, argued last year that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm’

Facebook’s ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature is designed to speed up the process of labeling friends in photos posted on Facebook.

If a friend ‘tags’ you in one photo, the technology will automatically scan your face and then try and find matches among all their pictures.

It will then suggest that they ‘tag’ these photos of you as well.

A serious concern intially expressed over Facebook and other social networks is the ability to publish photographs online without any express permission from those pictured.

Although it is possible for users to ‘de-tag’ themselves, those pictured cannot demand photographs removed.

The new feature will raise fears among those who have photographs they would prefer do not come to light.

A spokesman from Facebook said: ‘We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day.

‘Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested.’

It emerged last week that Google recently decided to hold back similar application that would have let someone snap a picture of a person’s face using a smartphone, then use the internet to find out who that person is.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference he believed it was the first time his company’s engineers had completed a project and shelved it for privacy reasons, CNN reported.

Last year the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint about Facebook’s privacy practices with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which Mr Rotenberg said was still pending.

Via DailyMail

U.S. arms makers said to be bleeding secrets to cyber foes

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Top Pentagon contractors have been bleeding secrets for years as a result of penetrations of their computer networks, current and former national security officials say.

The Defense Department, which runs its own worldwide eavesdropping, spying and code-cracking systems, says more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations have been trying to break into U.S. networks.

Some of the perpetrators “already have the capacity to disrupt” U.S. information infrastructure, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who is leading remedial efforts, wrote last fall in the journal Foreign Affairs.

Joel Brenner, the National Counterintelligence executive from 2006 to 2009, said most if not all of the big defense contractors’ networks had been pierced.

“This has been happening since the late ’90s,” he told Reuters Tuesday. He identified the main threats as coming from Russia, China and Iran.

“They’re after our weapons systems and R&D,” or research and development, said Brenner, now with the law firm of Cooley LLP in Washington.

Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales, said on Saturday that it had thwarted “a significant and tenacious” attack on its information systems network that it detected May 21. Ten days later, the company says its still working to restore full employee access to the network while maintaining the highest level of security.

Lockheed, which is also the government’s top information technology provider, said it had become “a frequent target of adversaries from around the world.” A spokeswoman said it said it used the term “adversaries” only in a general sense.

Lockheed builds F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter jets as well as Aegis naval combat system, THAAD missile defense and other big-ticket weapons systems sold to U.S. allies. It has not disclosed which of its business units was targeted.

Cyber intruders were reported in 2009 to have broken into computers holding data on Lockheed’s projected $380 billion-plus F-35 fighter program, the Pentagon’s costliest arms purchase.

Other big Pentagon contractors include Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp, BAE Systems Plc and Raytheon Co. Each of these declined to comment on whether it believed its networks had been penetrated.

James Miller, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said last May that the United States was losing terabytes of data in cyber attacks, enough to fill “multiple Libraries of Congress.” The world’s largest library, its archive totaled about 235 terabytes of data as of April, the Library of Congress says on its web site.

“The scale of compromise, including the loss of sensitive and unclassified data, is staggering,” Miller told a Washington forum.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who led a Senate Intelligence Committee cyber task force last year, said in March that cybercrime has put the United States “on the losing end of what could be the largest illicit transfer of wealth in world history.”

Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, a former director of central intelligence and ex-head of the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, said no network was safe if it had Internet access.

“You can isolate a network, a classified network,” he told Reuters in an interview last year. “Maybe you can get a certain level of confidence that you are not penetrated. But if you are out there connected to the world wide web you are vulnerable all the time.”

Anup Ghosh, a former senior scientist at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said there had been a string of intrusions into networks of U.S. defense contractors, security companies and U.S. government labs, including the U.S. Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, since the start of this year.

The advantage is with the intruders, said Ghosh, who worked on securing military networks for DARPA from 2002 to 2006 and now heads Invincea, a software security company.

“We’ve failed to innovate in the area of information security,” he said in an email Tuesday. “We’re fighting today’s battles with the equivalent of cold-war era defenses.”


Via NewsDaily

Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE

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The crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The Times said it obtained documents that showed the unit being formed by Erik Prince’s new company Reflex Responses with $529 million from the UAE would be used to thwart internal revolt, conduct special operations and defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from attack.

The newspaper said the decision to hire the contingent of foreign troops was taken before a wave of popular unrest spread across the Arab world in recent months, including to the UAE’s Gulf neighbors Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE itself has seen no serious unrest. Most of its population is made up of foreign workers.

Blackwater, which once had lucrative contracts to protect U.S. officials in Iraq, became notorious in the region in 2007 when its guards opened fire in Baghdad traffic, killing at least 14 people in what the Iraqi government called a “massacre.”

One former Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in those killings, and a U.S. court reinstated charges against five others last month. Prince has since sold the firm, which changed its name to Xe. The firm denies wrongdoing.

The newspaper said the Emirates, a close ally of the United States, had some support in Washington for Prince’s new project, although it was not clear if it had official U.S. approval.

Two UAE government officials contacted by Reuters declined immediate comment on the New York Times report, and the U.S. embassy in the UAE also had no immediate comment. It was not possible to locate Prince for comment.

The Times quoted a U.S. official who was aware of the programme as saying: “The Gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Times the department was investigating to see if the project broke any U.S. laws. U.S. law requires a license for American citizens to train foreign troops.

Toner also pointed out that Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, had paid $42 million in fines in 2010 for training foreign forces in Jordan without a license, the Times said.

According to former employees of the project and U.S. officials cited by the Times, the troops were brought to a training camp in the UAE from Colombia, South Africa and other countries, starting in the summer of 2010.

They were being trained by retired U.S. military, and former members of German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, the Times said.

Prince had insisted the force hire no Muslims, because they “could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims,” the paper said.

Former employees also told the newspaper the Emirates hoped the force could be used to counter any threat from Iran, which the Arab states in the Gulf consider a foe.

Although The Times said the documents it obtained did not mention Erik Prince, former employees had told the newspaper he had negotiated the contract with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Emiriati officials had proposed expanding the force to a brigade of several thousand if the first battalion was successful, the newspaper said.

Via Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE

Log-in to Facebook with an iris scan

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In the films Minority Report and Demolition Man, and indeed many other sci-fi flicks, iris recognition is used to gain access to top secret files – often with gruesome results.

But very soon the technology could be turned to more mundane applications.

A New York-based biometric security company is set to market an iris scanner that would connect to a personal computer the next few months.

The future is now: Iris scanners for personal computers could be on the market within months.

The device will allow users to log into their online banking, social networks and emails – all in the blink of an eye.

Hoyos Group unveiled their new security product, dubbed the EyeLock, at the Finovate financial technology conference, amid claims that it is the first and only portable iris-scanning device for consumers.

The device, which is the size of a standard business card and weighs about 4oz, connects to the user’s computer by a USB cable.

Once the accompanying software package is installed and configured, all the user then has to do to is wave the scanner in front of her eye to automatically log in to any password-protected application or website – whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, PayPal or a bank account.

‘Every time you log in, it reads your iris and creates a unique key, which is a series of numbers, and this key changes every time you log in, so no one can hack it,’ Tracy Hoyos, Hoyos Group’s assistant marketing director, told CNNMoney.

According to Miss Hoyos, the security offered by iris scans trumps fingerprints, the already widely available biometric alternative. Fingerprints have around 18 unique points to build a identification profile, while human irises have 2,000.

While governments and financial institutions have tried to implement iris scan security before, Miss Hoyos claims this is the first time the technology has been adapted for consumers.

She said that not only will the technology protect your information better, but it eliminates the need for keeping track of multiple screen names and passwords.

The EyeLock will cost $99 (£60), but no release date has yet been announced. The company has already marketed another iris-scan product used in airport security and is researching ways to expand the service to other areas, including mobile phones.

Of course, squeamish customers may be afraid that data thieves could go to extreme lengths, up to and including butchery, to gain access to their private information.

But they can rest easy. ‘If someone kills you, it won’t work, because once you die your eye automatically flattens so your iris isn’t the same,’ said Miss Hoyos.

Via DailyMail