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.”
Media is going crazy about #Meltdown and #Spectre. Should you panic, too?
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?