A recent Intercept post once more shows great insight into history and state of NSA technologies. This time it’s about voice recognition and recognizing “who’s speaking” within very little time. Things have changed since the cold war, but I was not aware of secret services creating so-called voiceprints of all of us – including and focusing on non-US citizens. There’s an NSA program called Voice RT (link), but also China and Europe are involved:
In November, a major international speaker recognition effort funded by the European Union passed its final test, according to an Interpol press release. More than 100 intelligence analysts, researchers, and law enforcement agents from over 50 countries — among them, Interpol, the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police Service, and the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária — attended the demonstration, in which researchers proved that their program could identify “unknown speakers talking in different languages … through social media or lawfully intercepted audios.”
NSA documents reviewed by The Intercept outline the contours of a similarly expansive system — one that, in the years following 9/11, grew to allow “language analysts to sift through hundreds of hours of voice cuts in a matter of seconds and selects items of potential interest based on keywords or speaker voice recognition.”
Last week the US senate agreed on extending these surveillance measures, and the NSA’s goal is clear, not only since the 2010 conference where its directors clarified:
“It is all about locating, tracking, and maintaining continuity on individuals across space and time. It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after — It’s taking a ‘full arsenal’ approach.”
Hypatia of Alexandria lived in th 4th century A.D., in hard times for a female philosopher and scientist. According to Wikipedia, she is “the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded.” The astronomer and university teacher Hypatia tried to conserve the (ancient-classical) knowledge that was endangered by religious turmoil in the wake of the fall of the Roman empire.
Rachel Weisz plays a wonderful Hypatia in Amenábar’s movie “Agora“. In its end, she’s killed by religious fanatists (in this case Christian ones), who tear her skin off, mostly because she failed to comply with the religion’s rules and the position in society she was supposed to take.
Here are some of my thoughts on that recent security desaster:
Don’t worry. Your systems have been damaged for twenty years, probably. A hardware vendor (probably more, maybe all of them) sold buggy chips, and they have been broken since 1995 or so.
It became known during the summer of 2017. At least, but surely not only since then a realistic chance of exploits was around, which became imminent some weeks ago and led Google/Intel to withdrawing from deadline and going public.
Yes, your systems are most likely affected. If you were not asked recently (i.e. since last Wednesday) to upgrade your kernel, then you have a problem. You are not affected if you are running hardware older than 1995 or some ARM stuff. Your kernel should now be 4.14.11 or newer – or contain backported code if it is an older version.
The patches deployed by all major OS vendors last week will make your systems significantly slower. However they will fix most of the problems, but not the ones that are so deep into hardware that no software can fix. Yes there are. But if you are only gaming, sending mails, writing office documents and browsing the web, you won’t even notice. However, if you are a database admin or running DNS servers or Enterprise Clouds – anything with many “context switches” between userland and kernel space, then you’re likely to suffer from performance loss..
The whole story may even become an #intelgate, because rumors have it that Intel had prior knowledge and some strange things going on with testing. Rumors, nothing more, except for a CEO selling most of his Intel stock in November and a flaw that makes systems 30-50% faster, but for what a price?
“Security researchers have discovered several severe vulnerabilities and a secret hard-coded backdoor in Western Digital’s My Cloud NAS devices that could allow remote attackers to gain unrestricted root access to the device...”
I have one of these devices, and after a first glance I deactivated the software as fast as I could – obviously my intuition was right.
What people feel and what is actually true – that’s often not quite the same. Expecially when it comes to security, merely feeling safe sometimes seems to be more important than reality. As the blog “Erich sieht” shows that is true cycling as well. The British National Health Service NHS puts it in a very short sentence:
“Official figures taken from the NTS suggest that the general risk of injury from cycling in the UK is just 1 injury per 19,230 hours of cycling.”
“Erich sieht” does the math for you: A typical bycicle courier would need to work for ten years, 40 hours per week to suffer his first injury – statistically.
Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler). The famous Austrian-American actress invented frequency hopping and was a well-known Hollywood actor, including the first ever portrayed female orgasm in a movie. 2014 she became a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Having a fine debate – it’s just the best thing to do on a wednesday, right?!
In 2013 I was invited to “Twittwoch” (literally a combination of “twitter” and “Mittwoch”, meaning wednesday in German) talking about data security in Munich. On the panel such interesting fellas as Jerzy Montag, then member of German parliament, Daniel Duda, an expert on cyber security, Tanja Gabler from Internet World Business, Stefan Gröner and Dr. Guido Brinkel (1&1 Internet AG, Expert Government Relations).
Watch to the interesting discussion presented by our host the amazing blogger Thomas Pfeiffer.
One more from the core female developers of ENIAC. As other women, she mostly went unhonored – because female contributions didn’t match societies’ expectations:
Photos of these women working on the computer often went without credit in newspapers at the time, and when the ENIAC was completed and unveiled to the public on February 15, 1946, the US Army failed to mention the names of the female programmers who had programmed the machine to run such sophisticated calculations. This further contributed to the perceived disconnect between women and computing.
It’s abut freedom of speech, so the stakes are rather high.
It may sound a little overwhelming, but the tide is high in the controversy about the newest data (security) and privacy laws in Germany and Twitter. Because of the new legislation, mainly done by Heiko Maas (social democrats), that was supposed to stop digital harrasment and racism, kicked fully in: but not in the way it seemed designed for. The satirical magazine “Titanic” got shut down on Twitter (by Twitter) for its parody on altright politician Beatrix von Storch.