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Too many mosquitoes? Be careful, perhaps they are watching you!

luglio 18, 2012 Technology No Commenti
mosquito drone mockup

We have already written in this blog about drone insects, real insects equipped with microcameras and microphones to act as bugs or totally artificial insects, able to perform these same functions. Beetles, bees, flies, dragonflies, and other insects with a big size, indispensable for transporting the mini equipment which requires a certain energy and strngth that maybe other smaller insects could not endure, until now.

A CGI mockup has been created of a mosquito drone that soon we might see flying in our skies for aerial surveillance, and not only for that purpose… The model, in fact, besides mini cameras and microphones, has also a needle, able to take DNA samples from the chosen person, or to inject a micro RFID into the body, a system which allow the geolocation, through radio frequency identification.

Science fiction? Not really if you consider, for example that, in 2007, during a protest against the war in Washington DC, Vanessa Alarcon, one of the activists, saw a strange flying insect that looked like a dragonfly, but definitely it wasn’t and, moreover, in 2006, the development of micro UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) by the CIA (since the ’70s) was reported by Flight International.

Many questions arise regarding the uses one can make of these jewels of technology that while on the one hand represent a big step forward in the defense of the country, on the other they may end up in wrong hands. Instead of being used for aerial surveillance, for example, they could be emplyed for less noble purposes. What about if the mosquito drone was used to inject deadly poisons without anyone noticing?

A weapon that causes debate: Taser, the electric gun.

luglio 17, 2012 Technology No Commenti
taser, electric gun

Whether men or women, crime never pays, and to prove there is this video showing a woman thief who enters a subway restaurant and tries to steal the takings. Movements are those of a professional thief: bringing a weapon, she jumps over the counter, opens the cash register and, just as she takes the money, she is reached by an electric discharge sent by an employee of the restaurant through a Taser. As you can see from the video, the electric gun makes her fall to the ground before she can use a weapon.

As a way to stop robberies and assaults this type of weapon has raised debate in the U.S. for months, especially after a particular event, which could ban its from the police. Just a few months ago, Malika Brooks has sued three police officers in Seattle who had used the electric weapon against her when she was seven months pregnant. The woman was pulled over going 32 miles per hour in a 20 mph zone. She took the ticket but refused to sign it because it would have been an admission of guilt, that she felt he did not have.

It was then that the first agent asked her if she knew what a Taser is and, when she said no and that she needed to go to the toilet the police, after consultation, decided, however, to use the gun, pointing to thigh, dragging the woman on the sidewalk and cuffed her.

The manufacturer of the electric weapon warns against the use of Taser on pregnant women because of potential damage to the fetus but, fortunately, Brooks’ daughter was born healthy. However, the woman sued the officers for excessive use of force and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last fall in San Francisco ruled that the officers had actually exaggerated.

This is just one of the many cases that should make us think more about the use of these weapons that are  not fatal, but in certain cases may cause damage to health. The question arises whether it would be better, alternatively, to use self-defense sprays such as those already widely used, or as those which containa type of ink, able to stain the face of the attacker for easy recognition.

A do-it-yourself drone who discovers the password and intercept calls.

luglio 16, 2012 Technology No Commenti
do-it-yourself drone

Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, respectively, a former cyber security contractor and a former engineering systems consultant at the American Air Force, have shown, during a security conference, held last year in Las Vegas, a do-it-yourself drone aircraft, 6 feet long (1.80 m c.ca) and weighing 14 pounds (about 7 kg), named WASP (wireless aerial surveillance platform). So far nothing new, but this mini aircraft is capable of sniffing out Wi-Fi networks, cracking passwords automatically and even eavesdropping on conversations, posing as a cell tower.

The WASP is constituted by a drone no longer in use in the army and by a series of other technologies mounted by the same builders, including an HD video camera, a small Linux computer, which includes a dictionary with 340 million words to force the password of different systems, and eleven different antennas. The UAV is also independent, but requires human guidance for takeoff and landing. Once airborne, however, it can fly along a pre-set path, searching for data with a weak defense.

The do-it-yourself drone was equipped by the two creators, following what has been learned by another hacker, with a system that allows to pose as a GSM cell tower, capable of tricking phones into connecting through WASP rather than their carriers

Tassey and Perkins argue that the WASP was constructed to show how easy it is, and how vulnerable we are in an era where the technology we use every day has evolved to the point of exposing users to risks, even when they are unaware. A sort of warning, in fact, but there are others who see the potential uses of the platform in the military. Meanwhile, it would be good to adopt a jammer to safeguard a little bit of privacy against violation.

A remote-controlled mini-helicopter that can see through concrete walls.

luglio 13, 2012 Technology 2 Commenti
Hexacopter to see through walls

The U.S. company TiaLinx Inc had already designed a mini-robot, the Cougar20-H, able, thanks to some special sensors, to detect a person breathing through a concrete wall. However, the robot showed limited mobility, as it was a rolling ground-based device. The manufacturer has however managed to solve the motion problem transforming the mobile robot in a remotely controlled hexacopter, ie a mini helicopter, the Phoenix40-A, capable of perceiving the human breath and movement in the buildings below.

The remote-controlled mini-helicopter can travel long distances, performing a wide variety of aerial surveillance tasks, including video recording, not only during the day but also at night, thanks to its devices for night vision. But what is more interesting is that he can see through walls, thanks to a system based on radio waves.

The Phoenix40-A can land on top of a building and scan it to check for a human presence, or it can do it on the fly. It is, moreover, also capable of generating the layout of a building with several floors and to send the collected information to law enforcement or troops before they break into a structure. The little robot can also help locate landmines, whether enemy or simply UXO from some past conflict.

But even if the U.S. military has contributed to its development, the Phoenix40-A could also be used for civilian purposes, not only for surveillance in the military. A fast and agile hexacopter able to fly for extended periods without touching the ground may, in fact, be a really useful tool during search and rescue operations after disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, etc … The bot, in fact, could travel over vast areas of impassable land to search for signs of life, helping rescuers to locate victims in a fast and accurate way, without wasting time.

From the USA, a scanner that will know everything about you from 164 feet away!

luglio 12, 2012 Technology 1 Commento
laser molecular scanner

It will probably be available in one or two years, tells the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a scanner ever seen before, that will know everything about people scanned: substances in the body and clothes, whether there are traces of drugs, explosives or other hazardous chemicals. And all this without having to stop people, without physical contact and, again, probably without their knowledge.

It is something that goes far beyond the matters already raised for satellite tracking and eavesdropping, as those who will use the device, police and governmental investigative agencies, supposedly in the war on terrorism, are going to know many details of scanned people. Moreover, not only suspected people but everybody might be scanned at places like airports, shopping malls, or even the city streets, where police officers will be equipped with this tool.

The company that invented it, Genia Photonics, said that “the device is able to penetrate clothing and provide spectroscopic information of any substance in the human body or objects brought in with him.” Its inventors have already been hired by the In-Q-Tel, to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The In-Q-Tel is a company founded in 1999 by a group of private citizens on the CIA’s request and with the support of Congress. A sort of bridge between the intelligence agency and the companies that deal with new technologies.

Instruments like this scanner have already been designed in Russia and at the George Washington University. The one invented by Genia Photonics is, however, thousands of times faster and more accurate, even at a greater distance.

Even if this new technology could open new scenarios in the field of medical diagnosis, the questions about how it will be used in other circumstances, such as security of the country, remain. Who can use it? Which limits do they have? Who keeps the obtained data? Where and how long? A problem, that of privacy, which is still open.

Drones and hijacking, a new obstacle to safety in the U.S.

luglio 9, 2012 Technology No Commenti

Newspapers and TV are increasingly focusing their attention on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones, that is unmanned aircraft which are used mostly for military purposes and surveillance from above. A major step forward in the technology which, however, raises several questions, not only for privacy, but also for the safety of individuals.

In five or ten years there might be about 30,000 U.S. drones in the skies and this will be a real problem even after the discovery made on 19 June by researchers at the University of Texas, who managed to hijack a drone during a test of the “Department of Homeland Security.”

The research radio navigation laboratories of Austin, in fact, headed by Professor Todd Humphreys, have challenged the U.S. government, showing how, with only $ 1000, you can take control of a UAV and hijack it.

If you think that in the future our skies would be full of these aircraft, you can understand what a danger you could run: not only the collision with usual aircraft, but these vehicles could be used as real missiles from potential terrorists or criminals.

The hijacking of the drones, getting round the GPS system built into these planes, would be, therefore, a serious danger for the whole people. “Last year when the CIA lost a drone in Iran, there have been reports of spoofing, but we cannot say it for sure,” Humphreys revealed.

To avoid the danger, according to researchers, the airspace should not rely on the same in clear GPS signal used for civilian purposes. GPS receivers should be more protected: “The receivers must be able to identify what always happens and see if they are attacked. A solution might be to encourage the production of certified receivers, equipped with detectors of spoofing. Another alternative is the encryption of GPS signals. The military drones use a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module that decodes the GPS signal” continues Humphreys.

From Switzerland, an antistalking software. Is it really effective?

luglio 6, 2012 Technology 1 Commento
anti-stalking software

A Swiss company has launched a new version of its antivirus product, which now also contains an anti-stalking software. We have already written, on this blog, about a mobile phone able to immobilize attackers through electrical impulses. The software we are talking about in this article, instead, is completely harmless and what it does is just to delete messages and cancel calls from numbers “reported” by the owner.

The messages will be removed without the recipient can read them, to avoid, in this way, hurting its sensitivity. The stalker, on the other hand, however, receives a signal in which it is said that the message he is trying to send has not been delivered. This, according to Mauro Santi, Mobile Platform Manager of the company in Italy, would make him believe “that the number is off and then theoretically, desist from his intention of persecution.”

By extending this software to the everyday life, owners can also choose “not to receive newsletters or unwanted promotional mails, in the case where the deletion at the source has failed or is impossible.”

This software, which also contains an anti-virus and anti-theft system that allows you to lock and delete data on your mobile device by sending a simple message if it is stolen, is available for Windows Mobile, Android, Pocket PC , Symbian (Second and Third Edition).

Although it may be an effective system against viruses and theft, it remains to ask how it can, in fact, deter stalkers, especially if they decide to call in anonymously, as it happens in most cases.
However, it is esasy to find on the market other technological tools which in a sense act as a deterrent against persecutors. Very common are, for example, voice changers for mobile phones, which allow to change up to 8 timbres of voice and can be used with any type of cell. A small device that can make the stalker believe that his/her victim number has changed or that he/she is always accompanied by someone else.

Military vs University, the use of drone technology in the USA.

luglio 4, 2012 Technology No Commenti

The list of the Federal Aviation Administration of certified and licensed operators to fly unmanned planes in the U.S. space reveals that the largest users of drone technology in the United States are not law enforcement agencies, but universities. The academic institutions that have received certificates of authorization (COA) are twenty-five, which constitute almost half of the 60 subjects with a permission to fly unmanned systems.

This could make the proliferation of these aircraft for wireless video surveillance less sinister, but not really. In fact, if universities represent nearly a half of the users (the others are military branches and defense agencies, drone manufacturers, and law enforcement), it turns out that the military is also funding a good part of the research in this field. Thus, while institutions of learning are developing the drone technology of the future, the end user could have anything but benevolent intentions.

This does not mean that all technology will be used for domestic spying or for war purposes. The Kansas State University is working with a contingent of the National Guard of the state on a drone system that will improve the intervention in emergencies. Students at Middle Tennessee State are trying to apply the drone technology in agriculture, assisted by the U.S. Army. And, similarly, other universities, such as that of Michigan, are receiving military support in their research in this field.

Many people wonder if the proliferation of this technology will take us to a huge global Big Brother, not realizing, perhaps, the fact that most of the technological discoveries, for example the computer, were born in the military and for military purposes, but they became widespread in everyday life to improve it.

The invasion of civil liberties with the drone technology is certainly a legitimate concern that must be addressed, but until now even the more skeptical can find solace in the fact that when researchers are buying up drones faster than domestic law enforcement.

New horizons for access control, the door that unlocks with the vibrations sent through the bones

luglio 3, 2012 Technology No Commenti
access control system

In the future there will be no more keys, or better, they will not exist in the way we view them today. In the future, your own hands will be your key ring. We already know systems for access control, which are based on a fingerprint scanner. It has been designed, however, by AT&T Labs, the prototype of a system that transmits vibrations through the bones of a user which, collected by a receiver installed in a door handle, allow to automatically open the door as soon as the specific user touches the handle itself. Using piezoelectric transducers, the system could one day be integrated into smart phones or wristwatches to create doors that automatically unlock when the right person touches them and that remain, instead, tightly shut when someone else tries to enter.

Such a system works on frequencies that humans cannot hear, but tha they could perceive in a very quiet room. These acoustic signals travels from a piezoelectric transducer through human bones almost like the sound waves vibrate through the skull and inner ear to allow our sense of hearing. The vibrations travel through the body straight to the hand, which can send the signal to everything it touches. Putting another piezoelectric transducer in the handle of the door, that would be able to identify the person who touches the handle, letting only authorized persons enter.

Researchers which are developing this system have also found that different skeletons, with different bone density and lengths, would transmit the acoustic signals in different ways. This means that only the right combination of signal and skeleton can open the door. In other words, if someone stole the phone and wanted to use it to open your car or door without your unique skeletal fingerprint added to the signal, he surely would not succeed. Moreover, researcher are also studying a system that would send emails every time someone tries to enter a building without authorization.
All that is truly amazing, especially considering that this technology may not stop to the locks but it could also be used for cars or even computers or any other device that needs access control.

UGSs (Unattended Ground Sensors). How to remotely control an entire nation

luglio 2, 2012 Technology 2 Commenti
UGS, spying device

Even during the Cold War, the involved parties have used covert listening devices to remotely obtain information on what the opposing party was programming, listening to what was happening in rooms, buildings, or in the case of East Berlin, an entire city. But in America’s cooling war in Afghanistan, U.S. forces are now able to take what could be the largest operation of interceptions of all time by installing sensors throughout the nation, that are able to inform the U.S. Military Intelligence from within that country for the next two decades.

New spying devices are, in fact, available fot the American Army. Actually, these palm-sized devices are not hidden listening devices per se, but sensors which can detect all the movements nearby and report them back to an intelligence outpost, letting special operators know when a remote mountain pass or a known smuggling trail is being utilized.
Some of the sensors could be buried, some disguised as rocks or other geological artifacts.

These types of Unattended Ground Sensors (UGSs) have been used previously, particularly in Vietnam. But these new sensors consume a fraction of the power and their batteries are rechargeable by solar energy, allowing them to operate for up to two decades, if estimates are correct. Several companies have already shown their interest in UGSs, and not all in the military.

Moreover, the sensors can be equipped with audio, seismic and radar instruments that would constitute a really effective surveillance system able to cover the entire Afghan territory. As soon as a sensor detects some movements, the device sends the location of the suspect activity to surveillance airships above, spurring them to put more sophisticated electronic eyes on the area.
UGSs like these are already in use around the bases in Afghanistan and elsewhere, including along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but the extent of eavesdropping on Afghan territory is enormous. This is what happens when certain technologies become ubiquitous and the cost per unit decreases (just $1,000 per device).


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