source: theatlantic.com

A tech entrepreneur wants to track the residents of a high-crime American community.

The tech entrepreneur Ross McNutt wants to spend three years recording outdoor human movements in a major U.S. city, KMOX news radio reports.

If that sounds too dystopian to be real, you’re behind the times. McNutt, who runs Persistent Surveillance Systems, was inspired by his stint in the Air Force tracking Iraqi insurgents. He tested mass-surveillance technology over Compton, California, in 2012. In 2016, the company flew over Baltimore, feeding information to police for months (without telling city leaders or residents) while demonstrating how the technology works to the FBI and Secret Service.

 

The goal is noble: to reduce violent crime.

There’s really no telling whether surveillance of this sort has already been conducted over your community as private and government entities experiment with it. If I could afford the hardware, I could legally surveil all of Los Angeles just for kicks.

And now a billionaire donor wants to help Persistent Surveillance Systems to monitor the residents of an entire high-crime municipality for an extended period of time––McNutt told KMOX that it may be Baltimore, St. Louis, or Chicago.

McNutt’s technology is straightforward: A fixed-wing plane outfitted with high-resolution video cameras circles for hours on end, recording everything in large swaths of a city. One can later “rewind” the footage, zoom in anywhere, and see exactly where a person came from before or went after perpetrating a robbery or drive-by shooting … or visiting an AA meeting, a psychiatrist’s office, a gun store, an abortion provider, a battered-women’s shelter, or an HIV clinic. On the day of a protest, participants could be tracked back to their homes.

In the timely new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All, the author Arthur Holland Michel talks with people working on this category of technology and concludes, “Someday, most major developed cities in the world will live under the unblinking gaze of some form of wide-area surveillance.”

At first, he says, the sheer amount of data will make it impossible for humans in any city to examine everything that is captured on video. But efforts are under way to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to “understand” more. “If a camera that watches a whole city is smart enough to track and understand every target simultaneously,” he writes, “it really can be said to be all-seeing.”  

The trajectory of this technology in the U.S. is still unwritten. It may depend on everything from public opinion to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence to restrictions that policy makers impose before wide-area surveillance is entrenched.

According to KMOX, McNutt plans to consult with city leaders before starting his planned three-year project somewhere. Did his company retain video of the Baltimore officials who could approve or thwart its return? I’d wonder if I were them.

 source: theverge.com

Pixel trackers can hide in your email images

All of those obnoxious marketing emails that crowd your inbox aren’t just pushing a product. They’re also tracking whether you’ve opened the email, when you opened it, and where you were at the time by using software like MailChimp to embed tracking software into the message.

How does it work? A single tracking pixel is embedded into the email, usually (but not always) hidden within an image or a link. When the email is opened, code within the pixel sends the info back to the company’s server.

There have been some attempts to restrict the amount of information that can be transmitted this way. For example, since 2014, Google has served all images through its own proxy servers, which could hide your location from at least some tracking applications. And extensions such as Ugly Mail and PixelBlock have been developed to block trackers on Chrome and Firefox.

There is also a simple basic step you can take to avoid trackers: stop your email from automatically loading images since images are where the majority of these pixels hide. You won’t be able to avoid all of the trackers that can hide in your email this way, but you will stop many of them.

Here’s how to do it in the major desktop and mobile email apps:

 source: wired.com

SIX MONTHS OF 2019 are on the books already, and there have certainly been six months' worth of data breaches, supply chain manipulations, state-backed hacking cam­paigns, and harbingers of cyberwar to show for it. But the hallmark of 2019, perhaps, is feeling like the worst is yet to come. Ransomware is an ever-growing threat, corporate and US government security is still a mess, and geopolitical tensions are rising worldwide.

Before we see what the future holds, though, let's recap some of the major cybersecurity incidents that have cropped up so far this year.

Customs and Border Protection Contractor Perceptics

In May, a surveillance contractor for US Customs and Border Protection suffered a breach, and hackers stole photos of travelers and license plates related to about 100,000 people. The Tennessee-based contractor, a longtime CBP affiliate known as Perceptics, also lost detailed information about its surveillance hardware and how CBP implements it at multiple US ports of entry. The Perceptics breach was first reported by The Register, and CBP officials later disclosed the incident to The Washington Post. Though CBP was hesitant at first to admit that Perceptics was the contractor that had suffered the breach, the agency sent a Microsoft Word document to the Post titled "CBP Perceptics Public Statement" in its initial response. Days later, hackers posted the stolen Perceptics data to the dark web. On Tuesday, CBP suspended Perceptics from federal contracting, though it did not say why.

CBP has spent the past two decades ramping up its use of border surveillance technologies, and there appears to be no end in sight. For example, the agency wants facial recognition scans to be standard in the top 20 US airports by 2021. But civil rights and privacy advocates say that these aggressive initiatives pose a danger to US citizens and the global community in general. The Perceptics incident is seen as a clear example of those risks. As Jeramie Scott, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told WIRED in June, "The agency simply should not collect this sensitive personal information if it cannot safeguard it."

Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are truly nothing new at this point, but 2019 is looking like a banner year for them. Criminal groups continue to target businesses, health care providers, and, most visibly, local governments with these brash hacks, in which malware is used to encrypt a system's data and then demand a ransom to decrypt it—swindling victims of billions of dollars a year in the process. "We are seeing an increase in targeted ransomware attacks," the FBI told WIRED in a statement this week. "Cyber criminals are opportunistic. They will monetize any network to the fullest extent."

 source: engadget.com

Biometric identification has become part of everyday life. We've got facial recognition in airports, cars that can be unlocked just by looking at them, technology that detects a person's unique way of walking, and of course the ubiquitous fingerprint, used for everything from smart phones to event ticketing. Next on the agenda? Your heartbeat.

As MIT Technology Review reports, the Pentagon has developed a laser that can identify people -- from a distance -- by their heartbeat. The technology, known as Jetson, uses laser vibrometry to identify surface movement on the skin caused by a heartbeat, and it works from 200 meters away.

Everyone's cardiac signature is unique, and unlike faces and fingerprints, it can't be altered in any way. As with facial recognition and other biometrics which rely on optimal conditions, though, Jetson does have a few challenges. It works through regular clothing such as a shirt, but not thicker garments, such as a winter coat. It also takes about 30 seconds to collect the necessary information, so right now it only works if the target is sitting or standing still. And, of course, its efficiency would also depend on some kind of cardiac database. Nonetheless, under the right conditions, Jetson has over 95 percent accuracy.

Obviously, the technology could prove a massive boon for the military and surveillance organisations, hence the Pentagon's request for it several years ago -- official documents from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) suggest this has been in the works for some time. However, it could have other applications as well. As MIT notes, doctors could check heartbeats without having to touch the patient, while hospitals could wirelessly monitor a patient's vitals. Perhaps this kind of technology will even one day render cutting-edge advances in facial recognition obsolete.