• New Australian law would compel tech firms to hand over encrypted data

    Australia’s parliament earlier today (Thursday) passed a controversial measure which will force tech firms to give police access to the encrypted communications of suspected terrorists and criminals. The law, fiercely opposed by big tech firms, has engendered heated debate over national security and privacy at a time law enforcement agencies are struggling with how to access encrypted information to monitor illegal activities. The passage of the law may have global implications for encrypted communications. Critics say the law may unleash unintended consequences.

  • Machine learning masters the fingerprint to fool biometric systems

    Fingerprint authentication systems are a widely trusted, ubiquitous form of biometric authentication, deployed on billions of smartphones and other devices worldwide. Yet a new study reveals a surprising level of vulnerability in these systems.

  • AI could help crack unsolvable murder cases

    Some of history’s most notorious unsolved murder crimes could be laid bare thanks to new forensic research. Researches have shown that machine learning – a field of artificial intelligence – could be used to determine which ammunition, and ultimately which firearm, was responsible for a particular gunshot from the residue it left behind.

  • Federal researchers complete second round of problematic tattoo recognition experiments

    Despite igniting controversy over ethical lapses and the threat to civil liberties posed by its tattoo recognition experiments the first time around, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently completed its second major project evaluating software designed to reveal who we are and potentially what we believe based on our body art.

  • The problem with using ‘super recognizers’ to spot criminals in a crowd

    People often say that they never forget a face, but for some people, this claim might actually be true. So-called super recognizers are said to possess exceptional face recognition abilities, often remembering the faces of those they have only briefly encountered or haven’t seen for many years. Their unique skills have even caught the attention of policing and security organizations, who have begun using super recognizers to match photographs of suspects or missing persons to blurry CCTV footage. But recent research shows that the methods used to identify super recognizers are limited, and that the people recruited for this work might not always be as super as initially thought.

  • Alabama safe school technology tests may keep children safer

    Safety and security technology tests underway at a Jackson County, Alabama school could help keep Alabama’s schoolchildren safer if implemented statewide. Rather than developing an emergency response to an active shooter incident, the project focuses on expanding the perimeter of protection to help ensure interception of a potential shooter. Components of the system also provide law enforcement with enhanced situational information.

  • Combining multiple CCTV images could help catch suspects

    Combining multiple poor-quality CCTV images into a single, computer-enhanced composite could improve the accuracy of facial recognition systems used to identify criminal suspects, new research suggests. Researchers have created a series of pictures using a ‘face averaging’ technique – a method which digitally combines multiple images into a single enhanced image, removing variants such as head angles or lighting so that only features that indicate the identity of the person remain.

  • U.K. surveillance regime violated human rights

    On September 13, after a five-year legal battle, the European Court of Human Rights said that the U.K. government’s surveillance regime—which includes the country’s mass surveillance programs, methods, laws, and judges—violated the human rights to privacy and to freedom of expression. The court’s opinion is the culmination of lawsuits filed by multiple privacy rights organizations, journalists, and activists who argued that the U.K.’s surveillance programs violated the privacy of millions.

  • Government hacking raises new security concerns

    News of governments such as Russia and North Korea deploying their tech teams to hack into companies for political reasons has made headlines (think Sony after release of the movie The Interview). But what about when the U.S. government “hacks” to get around security measures designed to protect consumers? Can those hacks backfire and put us all at risk?

  • The first line of defense against acts of targeted violence

    Tragic events at the Boston Marathon, African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, and Pulse nightclub in Orlando remind us that ideologically motivated violent extremists pose a persistent threat to Americans of all backgrounds. Our first defense against attacks is grounded in our understanding and response to terrorism within our country. While the ideologies that support acts of targeted violence are diverse, so too are our responses and prevention activities.

  • Germany creates cybersecurity R&D agency

    The German government today (Wednesday) announced the creation of a new federal agency to develop cutting-edge cyber defense technology. The agency would resemble the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is credited with developing the early internet and GPS. The German agency, unlike DARPA, will focus on cyber defense ad cyber protection. DARPA’s range of defense-related research and development is much broader.

  • Militarization of police fails to enhance safety, may damage police reputation

    This month marks the four-year anniversary of protests over the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, an incident met with a heavily armed police response that stoked widespread concern. While proponents say militarized police units enhance officer safety and prevent violence, critics argue these tactics are targeted at racial minorities, and diminish trust between citizens and law enforcement.

  • Making electronic documents more trustworthy

    Today, the expeditious delivery of electronic documents, messages, and other data is relied on for everything from communications to navigation. As the near instantaneous exchange of information has increased in volume, so has the variety of electronic data formats–from images and videos to text and maps. Verifying the trustworthiness and provenance of this mountain of electronic information is an exceedingly difficult task – especially since the software used to process electronic data is error-prone and vulnerable to exploitation through maliciously crafted data inputs, opening the technology and its underlying systems to compromise.

  • WiFi can detect weapons, bombs, chemicals in bags

    Ordinary WiFi can easily detect weapons, bombs and explosive chemicals in bags at museums, stadiums, theme parks, schools and other public venues, according to a new study. Researchers  demonstrated how this low-cost technology could help security screening at public venues like stadiums, theme parks and schools.

  • Holding law-enforcement accountable for electronic surveillance

    When the FBI filed a court order in 2016 commanding Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in a terrorist attack in San Bernandino, California, the news made headlines across the globe. Yet every day there are tens of thousands of court orders asking tech companies to turn over Americans’ private data. Many of these orders never see the light of day, leaving a whole privacy-sensitive aspect of government power immune to judicial oversight and lacking in public accountability. MIT researchers have proposed a new cryptographic system, using cryptography on a public log of wiretap requests, which encourages government transparency.