Tag Archives: malware

Combating Unwarranted Phone Surveillance with Biometrics and Voice Control

1 Mar

Amidst the introduction of a new mobile tracking bill, targeting the existence of warrants— there has been a sudden rise in the number of frightened consumers. Most handset owners are dealing with skepticism, concerning lack of mobile security and other malicious activities.

In this post, we will be talking about the possible security loopholes in the existing arena in addition to certain methodologies or rather technologies for combating the same. Before we move any further into this post, it is fitting enough to understand how phone surveillance works, regardless of the legalities associated with the same.

Decoding Mobile Tracking

Phone Surveillance

In simpler terms, mobile tracking is an undesirable act of sabotaging someone’s privacy. While many government organizations have already resorted to these methods for averting security threats, more often than not phone surveillance is an unwarranted and unauthorized affair— leading to catastrophic outcomes.

Existent of Consumer Spyware

When it comes to malware targeting mobile tracking, consumer spyware is the latest fad. This is one of the most effective techniques— used by fraudulent organizations for getting inside the handset of any user. Usually, this form of malware comes as a mobile application or a separate, downloadable entity. Once allowed access, the spyware easy takes control of images, data, phone log and everything that’s inside the device.

The worst part about consumer spyware is that it can be installed within a few seconds and starts working in the background. While physical access to the handset is required, a skilled hacker can easily install the bug without the owner even noticing the instantaneous sabotage. That said, malicious applications can also embed the spyware with minimal hassles.

Lastly, consumer spyware can even access the phone audio and microphone, allowing hackers gain complete access to every word spoken.

This form of malware is mostly used by firms with nefarious intentions who look to sell over the acquired details to other parties for financial perks.

‘Stingrays’

stingrays and Phone Surveillance

While malicious applications and malware can be detected by being vigilant, there are certain newly devised techniques which are nearly impossible to identify. Stingrays are the newest techniques used by hackers for getting unwarranted access to any mobile. These entities sit on the mobile towers or act as authorized establishments— luring users into addressing them as legit ones. Mobile users, unknowingly, send data via these towers and allow malicious sources right into the device.

Safeguarding Handsets with Biometrics

Biometrics are some of the more desirable techniques, targeting mobile safety and privacy. While the existing solutions are great, we are expecting a more granular approach towards secured devices. The concept of biometric protection has already been taken seriously by several authorities— across the globe— integrated with global bank statements and other confidential documents. Some of the developing nations have also identified the importance of biometric solutions— integrating the likes of national cards and associated details with the respective handsets.

However, the amalgamation of identity card biometrics with mobile solutions need to be country-specific as different nations have different rules regarding their ID segregations. We have country-specific biometric-spruced ID proofs for the developed and even developing nations— biding the likes of retina scans, fingerprints and even digital signage with the smartphones.

biometrics and Phone Surveillance

This is a more granular approach towards biometric solutions and is expected to curb the inadvertent growth of unwarranted phone surveillance.

Certain AI empowered smartphones are also being considered for amalgamating biometrics with voice and other kinds of authentication schemes.

Combating Fraud with Voice Control

Although getting access to the phone mic isn’t as hard as it seems, consumer spyware can still be kept at bay via authorized voice control. While accessing any electronic device via voice seems to be a far-fetched idea, it seems scientists have already established certain measures leading to the same.

Quite recently, scientists have developed a low-cost chip which could change the way we handle our electronic gadgets— especially the mobiles.

Closing in on the chip, it is a great tool for automatic voice recognition— featuring a low-power console, courtesy the adaptable form factor. If used in a cellphone, the existing chip requires a mere 1W to get activated. Moreover, the usage pattern actually determines the amount of power needed to keep the chip activated.

When it comes to safety, the existing chip can sit on any given cellphone and prevent unauthorized access. This feature is one aspect of looking at Internet of Things for mobiles— instrumental in safeguarding the same from unwarranted surveillance.

The reason why we are upbeat for voice recognition as a pillar of safety is that speech input, in years to come, is expected to be a natural interface for more intelligent devices— making hacking a less-visited arena.

In the upcoming years, voice recognition chips are expected to make use of neural architecture and other aspects of human intelligence— making safety an obvious concept and not a selective one. However, power consumption remains to be one of the major limitations. At present one chip works on a single neural node of a given network— passing 32 increments of 10-milliseconds each.

Bottom-Line

Unethical tracking isn’t going to stop with the introduction of voice recognition techniques and biometrics. However, perfect application of the same seems to have lowered down the instances and we can just be hopeful of a more transparent future. There has been a lot of work going on in the field of speech recognition for every smartphone and we might soon see a pathbreaking innovation in the concerned field.

That said, biometrics have found their way into our lives, documents and even smartphones and their usage has also skyrocketed. There were times when users hardly made use of a fingerprint scanner but the current scenario suggests that iPhone’s Touch ID is used at least 84 times a day— on an average. This shows users are slowly adopting technology as their weapon towards safety and privacy.

Source: http://fundesco.net/combating-unwarranted-phone-surveillance-with-biometrics-and-voice-control/

Power-Grid Hacked? Where’s the IoT?

1 Apr

Writing about the IoT (Internet of Things), or what was once called M2M, is something that people want to read about, a lot. It’s only recently that people are really catching on that everything is going to be connected. So when an article appeared on the front page of the USA Today about the smart grid stating that it was open to hack certainly deserved a chuckle or two, especially from people who are IoT advocates. No offense to my colleagues at the USA Today, but this nationally syndicated newspaper chain was covering the topic as if the fact that vulnerabilities could threaten lives was a breaking news story.

Ironically, there are days people talk about the IoT as if is something brand spanking new. Today newspapers and the broadcast news eagerly espouse the virtues of connected devices because there are apps or gadgets for just about everything imaginable in the IoT. We are now seeing a consumer frenzy surrounding smartphones, fitness trackers, lights, toasters, automobiles, and even baby bottles being connected.

Many people are just beginning to understand the IoT is more than connecting a computer to the Internet, or surfing the Web or watching a YouTube video. To really understand the Internet of Things is to recognize it is more than the everyday consumers gadgets that are getting all the media play these days. Much like the USA Today was so eloquently trying to point out is that the power grid is under attack every day—and what the author stated so clearly—and at any moment, it would leave millions of people without power for days or weeks. And that’s not even the worst of what could happen. Most residents do not equate the average brownout they experience for a few hours to the blackout that could be on the horizon in their neighborhood.

But again most people don’t give the IoT much thought. It’s kind of like their cellphones. Most people don’t know how they work. Nor do they care. They only care they work when and where they need it. The same holds true about their connected gadgets. Most consumers really don’t give their connected gadgets much thought until they need them for tracking their fitness, or turning on their lights or thermostats, or for finding the closest fast food restaurant when traveling in their cars. However, as more and more consumers adopt and adapt to electronic devices as part of their everyday lifestyle, this will change their attitudes and perceptions forever and the excitement for connected devices will trickle over into the enterprise. It is already happening with smart cities, with parking meters, trash pickups, snow removal, first responders, and smart utility meters.

Perhaps that is why the USA Today story has some real significance now and enterprise companies are starting to move away from just talking about the IoT to figuring out ways to implement solutions and services.

Part of the problem with the grid today is that it was designed with OMS (outage-management systems) that were configured to be reactive to signals that indicated outages and managed restoration. However, going forward the IoT systems being designed are able to prevent outages and restore services. These services, as one analyst firm says, could lead to a very bright future for the smart-grid, and as a result, projections based on these services makes sense and are very tangible.

While enterprises are looking to adopt the IoT, there seems to be a blurring of the lines between actual growth and hyperbole in market estimates. Vendors want to make huge growth predictions—50 billion devices—which currently is the buzz of the industry. However, these enormous market amplifications have already proven they will undoubtedly stall growth.

Corporate America seeks growth forecasts that are meaningful and that help deliver solutions to improve bottomline results and shareholder value. Again, one network carrier’s conjecture boasting the number of connections could quadruple by 2020, reaching more than 5 billion, doesn’t mean anything if all of these devices and connections are going to be hacked and CEOs heads are on the chopping block.

The same carrier was even quoted as saying in order for the IoT to reach these prognostications, networks must be reliable, the data from all of these connected endpoints must be able to be stored reliably and securely, infrastructures must be secure, and there must be ways to achieve device management.

If all the stars are in alignment, there is no question the IoT is poised for growth. But, that means everyone has to focus on making security a top priority to fend off the bad guys and to consider the market unknowns that can slow or delay IoT development.

That’s why the formation of groups like the ITA (Illinois Technology Assn.), www.illinoistech.org, Internet of Things Council—a public/private partnership that aims to assure civic leadership in the Internet of Things can will help companies sort through the facts from the fiction to jumpstart their initiatives.

Thus, it’s no wonder the more the industry does its crystal ball gazing, we are doing a disservice to IoT’s true potential. Even Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur was pretty poignant in her remarks when she was quoted in the USA Today article referring to the potential of an attack, “One is too many, so that’s why we have to pay attention. The threats continue to evolve and we have to continue to evolve as well.”

Makes you wonder if the industry is evolving or just continuing to bandy about forecasts with little or no regard for living up to market or shareholding expectations much like it has for the past 15 years. Regardless of what you believe in all of this, the IoT is changing our lives one way or the other and it will certainly have an even greater impact on each and every business. How and when, those are the billion dollar questions.

Source: http://connectedworld.com/power-grid-hacked-wheres-the-iot/

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