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Mobile phone eavesdropping costs only 1500 dollars

agosto 2, 2010 Technology No Commenti

In order to be able to intercept mobile phone calls around you, either encrypted or not, all you need is 1500 dollars to invest.
At least, this is according to a demonstration showcased by a researcher during the yearly conference of hackers, called DefCon 2010, which recently took place in Las Vegas.

Those with a constant eye to privacy will certainly be worried, but just to make the picture clearer, it must be said that along with the money to buy the equipment, one must also have the necessarily technical knowledge to make it all work. In short, the material that this hacker used consists in just a portable computer and two radio antennas, connected with each other.

By connecting to the cellular network, thanks to this device it is possible to be identified by the repeating tower as if the device were a normal phone. To demonstrate its capabilities, our friend has activated it in the conference hall, asking some people from the audience to make a phone call.

The audience had then the opportunity, with great surprise, to listen to these calls in real time through the computer. This happened because the 2G GSM network has a major flaw, which allows for the signal of mobile phones within a certain coverage area to be automatically routed to the tower with the strongest signal, no matter where the signal actually comes from.

Thanks to this flaw, all that the interception system needs is that its signal be stronger than other antennas around it, in order to capture all calls (only outgoing) placed within its range. If a cellphone receives a call while it is being intercepted, the network operator would find the phone off, and would reroute the call to the voice mail system.

This device, invented by researcher Chris Paget, would also disable all call encryption with the network operator, just like it would happen with mobile phone interception devices used by police forces. Thanks to this, any intercepted calls can be listened to, without any encryption, by whoever uses this cheap device.

The device created by Paget only intercepts 2G GSM type calls, a technology used by operators such as T-Mobile and AT&T, which expose themselves and their subscribers to risks that would not be present by using the interception-proof 3G technology.

Of course this is a purely experimental solution with no commercial goal whatsoever, also because telephone eavesdropping should always be carried out only by law enforcement. In fact, there are much more powerful telephone wiretapping devices available on the market; their usage, for obvious reasons, is only available for police forces.

A GPS video camera for your outdoor fun

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Big manufacturers of portable video devices are rushing headlong into the field of the so called Action Cams, that is, those mini video cameras suitable for being used during outdoor activities which can range from a simple day out in the country with a bicycle to the most extreme of sports.

In the first case, mounting the camera on the bar of your bicycle is enough to have videos shot from the racer’s point of view, while for extreme sports, the video watchers will be able to share this point of view even during a parachute or bungee jump.

The latest newcomer in this market niche is ATC9K from Oregon Scientific, an Action Cam which, along with the requisite rugged design that visually identifies this kind of equipment, sports several features which make it suitable for this kind of usage.

For example, like most video cameras of this kind, it is equipped with a GPS sensor which allows it to add geographical coordinates to its video footage, in order to point exactly, on Google Maps or Google Earth, to the exact location of your outdoor activities, as well as tracking the exact itinerary, should anyone want to follow your path.

Videos are shot in high definition (which is now a standard in this field) with a 1080 pixel resolution, and you can even take ATC 9K with you in the water, up to a maximum depth of 20 meters. The images shot are displayed in real time on a small LCD screen with laser pointer, and if you want to view them again on your computer you just have to connect your camera with a USB cable and download.

The manufacturer, on whose site you can purchase this camera, has set a price tag of approximately 300 Euro.

A sensor to detect head injuries

When one receives a blow to the head, it may happen that they do not realize how serious its effect are before it’s too late and there is unfortunately nothing to do. In order to assess the level of harm caused by underestimated impacts, especially to the head of soldiers on a battlefield, BAE Systems has just developed the second generation of a system that allows to evaluate the effect of such impacts.

This system is called HEADS, standing for Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System, it is made up of sensors mounted inside the soldiers’ protective helmet and is in use with the Marines since a couple of years already.

In the new version of HEADS, which has just been introduced at the Farnborough Air Show and will be available as of next April, a small LED display is mounted on the front of the helmet, and it would glow in case of impact, with different colors depending on severity of the blow, thus visually signaling the possible presence of an undetected brain injury, which can be caused for example when the head rebounds following to an explosions nearby.

Furthermore, HEADS sensors are equipped with a radio transmitter, which can send an immediate alert to its control center. Thanks to this technological equipment, medical personnel in the area can promptly intervene if necessary.

These sensor do not only detect the explosions or a trauma, but can also measure the direction of impact, its strength and duration, as well as the pressure that the head has been going through, and the number of relevant impacts suffered. The relevant data can be downloaded to a PC by USB cable or transmitted wirelessly, to be analyzed by medical personnel.

An iPad to train soldiers for battle

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The new Apple product, as it always happens for whatever comes from Steve Jobs’ firm, has sparked huge interest worldwide, not only for its features but also for the apps that one can install on it to expand its capabilities.
As we have seen recently, iPhone can be used to control anti-missile systems or miniature helicopters, and it is therefore natural that the military would show interest in iPad as well.

This happened in the United Kingdom, where soldiers of the Wiltshire-based Royal School of Artillery, along with the normal training courses that prepare them for their missions in Afghanistan, are following one that takes place on the newcomer in the Cupertino family.

Thanks to a specifically designed application, they can study the development of a mission that involves shooting heavy ordnance towards enemies positioned at different distances. By using this iPad app, soldiers can learn much faster than they would normally do with a simple human instructor.

In practice, it is a software that helps them to choose the right kind of fire to use, based on some essential information such as position and number of enemy troops, characteristics of terrain and much more.
Most of all, it helps soldiers to easier and faster get acquainted with the technical aspect of their job, thus making them faster in getting ready for action when the time comes in war zones, and doing it in a simple and almost funny way, just like a normal iPad videogame.

For now, it is obviously only an experiment, but which could certainly make soldiers’ training faster, allowing them to be ready for the firing line faster than it happens now, saving money in training time and printing of complicated manuals, as the iPad can be passed on to the next trainee.

A brand new explosive for the US Army

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The US Army has just given its official approval for the troops to adopt a new explosive substance, which will gradually replace TNT used in artillery. The name of this new explosive is IMX-101, and it was developed by BAE Systems, with the aim of creating ammunition that would not run the risk of detonating accidentally, or outside the scope of its intended use.

In fact, the new IMX-101 is definitely more stable than TNT, which would generally be at risk of reacting to an accidental stimulus such as, for example, the presence of fire or in case of an explosion within a close range. On the contrary, IMX-101 is able to maintain its chemical stability, by not reacting in case of violent shocks or vibrations, fire or even if a bomb is set off in the place where it is stored; basically, IMX-101 would go off only when it has to.

In short, this is an innovation which can potentially revolutionize the way ammunitions are handled today, significantly increasing the level of security for troops during the logistic phase of handling and transportation of the ordnance. Most of all, switching from traditional explosives to this kind of material can save lives, by removing the risk of accidental explosions in ammunition storage points or on convoys during transportation.

During a first phase, IMX-101, developed by BAE Systems in cooperation with the US Army at its Tennessee plant, will replace TNT only in the new IM M795 155-millimeter artillery ammunition. Gradually, the new explosive will then slowly replace the old one on all other calibers, thus allowing TNT to peacefully retire within a few years.

Intelligent noise protection for your ears

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Using ear caps, for those who operate in noisy environments (for example offshore oil rig workers, or soldiers on the frontline who might suffer from damage to their hearing abilities because of the explosions around them), if on one hand protect ears from any possible danger, on the other hand might end up preventing their wearer from hearing what they really need to hear, such as the voices of co-workers and mates around them.

In order to filter out dangerous noises while being able to pick up human voices and useful sounds, a solution comes from Norway, where Nacre has designed QuietPro+, a protective sound cancelling earphone in order to carry out this task. Earphones are connected to a small electronic control unit, which, as soon as it detects a potentially dangeroud loud sound, would in turn emit sound waves.

These sound waves are sent directly into the wearer’s ears via the earphones, and are capable of cancelling the noise generated by explosions. In the same fashion, the digital processor contained in the control unit can increase volume and sharpness of sounds such as human voices, making them clearly audible even in a loud environment.

Initially, QuietPro+ was designed for US armed forces, while currently Nacre, in cooperation with the Norwegian oil company Statoil, is working on a version suitable for those who work on an oil rig, where the type of noise generated by drilling machinery is different from the sound of bombs and bullets, and where the danger of hearing loss is always present due to the continuous noise, which makes it difficult even to have a normal conversation with colleagues, thus increasing the potential risk of accidents.

By improving communications, it could be possible to prevent fatal accidents, for example the one that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

A micro helicopter controlled via iPhone

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

On this blog, a few months ago, we reported about AR Drone entering production. It is a micro helicopter which can be remotely controlled thanks to an iPhone application. During an initial launch period, AR Drone was only available in the United Kingdom.

Now Parrot, manufacturer of this nice toy, has announced that it will be available for sale on the international market, starting from the beginning of September, at a price around 300 dollars.

It is a quadricopter, that is, a small miniature helicopter with 4 rotors, which can be open or protected by a hull. Thanks to its hulled rotors configuration, AR Drone can therefore be used also indoors, without any fear of damaging objects around it. Also, its carbon fiber body makes it light yet solid.

Initially, the idea started as a mostly leisurely accessory, for example to be used for acrobatic shows, amateur contests, virtual battles against similar drones or as an accessory for videogames, all controlled via an iPhone application; the opportunity to maneuver it via cellphone, though, gives way to different scenarios, due to its extreme ease of use.

For example, AR Drone could become a handy tool for surveillance operations of for urban warfare conditions, thanks to its built-in video cameras, which can be used to view images that are sent directly on its controller’s iPhone, thus providing a tactical advantage over their enemies.

Piloting an AR Drone is nice and easy< once it takes off, just keep your fingers on the screen to move it up, down, right or left. If you happen to have your fingers off the screen, it will automatically float at approximately 50 cm of height, only to land softly after a certain period of inactivity.

Biometric security, now also portable

agosto 1, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Just yesterday we had the chance to talk about how important it is to protect our sensitive data, and the confidential information we use at work, either in electronic format on our computers or in paper, such as for example documents, offers, pricelists and so on.
To prevent prying eyes from looking where they should not, there are several protection methods.

Something new in this direction comes from Italy, and is called Ekey. At a first glance, it looks just like an ordinary key ring, maybe one of those with an embedded USB drive. Actually, it is a small biometric scanner, which can be used to access all those environments, at home or in the office, where access is restricted only to authorized personnel.

On Ekey’s body, in fact, there is a small fingerprint scanner, and the USB plug is used to connect it, for example, to a computer that manages access privileges. Just plug the USB connector into the computer, run your finger on Ekey’s scanner, and if the system recognizes you, a small LED on the scanner’s body will turn to green, granting you access to the restricted area or to the data saved on the computer itself.

This system might be very useful, for example, to protect shared computers and prevent the data from leaking outside a circle of authorized people, or to save time and space by using a single small biometric scanner to save access data (that is, your fingerprints) to several places or computers, without having to carry along several small biometric devices which might get lost or damaged, or end up in the wrong hands with potentially dangerous consequences.

A solution for ill people: using eyes to communicate

luglio 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For those who, after suffering from a stroke or a degenerative disease, have lost the ability to speak and have serious difficulties in moving normally, among the several problems that they encounter to carry out even the simplest tasks of daily life, one of the hardest is often the one that involves communication with others.

Not being able to move is already hard and painful enough, but the inability to communicate one’s emotions and needs to the people around must be a further hard blow, especially from an emotional point of view.

To assist patients with this task, only apparently easy but as high as a mountain for those who can not move, a new device has just been introduced, which can solve the problem by using eye movement to communicate thanks to Morse language.

i-Mos, as it is called, is basically something like a pair of glasses, equipped with a sensor that detects eye movement. By moving them to the left or to the right, it is possible to “write” in Morse code, as the sensor would read the movement in either direction as a line or a dot.

Along with this, the glasses also feature a display which shows the letters that the patient has “written”, and thanks to the automatic fill function, the counterpart can already try to guess the word after a few letters, and suggest it, thus saving the i-Mos user time and effort.

Among those who could possibly benefit from using this device, which is only a concept now, but that we hope to see in production soon, there are for example patients suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other degenerative diseases which hamper motion and communication abilities; thanks to i-Mos, their life could be a bit better, at least from an emotional point of view.

Panasonic to enter the mini camcorder market

luglio 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

With a delay that it’s hard not to notice, finally Panasonic has decided to play its cards on the mini camcorders market, a market dominated by devices with an extremely small size, a generally affordable average price and a good quality (which of course may vary depending on the price, and vice versa).

To do so, it has just announced the launch of its mini digital video recorder, called HM-TA1, with an attractive price tag of just 170 US dollars.

In spite of its low price, it is one of the smallest pocket video recorders available, with a candybar design which is now the standard for this kind of devices, available in several colors and with pretty good technical features, such as a 3 megapixel sensor which, although its resolution may be a bit lower than many competitors, gains in terms of quality thanks to its backlight which allows for a good performance in conditions of low lighting.

The presence of many buttons, in a field that tends to me as minimalistic as possible, makes it not so easy to use, but certainly one of its strong points is the possibility to use HM-TA1 as a webcam, also using its built-in microphone, by simply connecting it to your computer via USB cable.

It will then be possible to use it not only for good quality video recordings, but also to achieve a higher flexibility during your Skype or VOIP calls. In fact, while other webcams are more difficult to move around (when they are not embedded in the laptop monitor), moving around during a video chat will be easier thanks to this model.

All this comes at a low price, with a weight of only 100 grams and very small size.


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