Category Archives: Uncategorized

Privacy apps to help fight back against companies that track you

Adverts that pursue us around the web are a familiar experience, but they’re just the most obvious manifestation of an intricate tracking network that follows our every move online. Now, researchers are building tools to help us understand not just who is tracking us, but how they are doing it, what they know, and how we can take back control.

Giving users control over their data can be tricky, since companies have built profitable businesses around “black box” algorithms that gather, crunch and share that data. At the Data Transparency Lab Conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week, researchers gathered to discuss new ways to poke holes in those boxes and show people what’s inside.

It’s an uphill battle. Surveys show that ordinary users have no idea about what happens to our data online. A team led by Blase Ur at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is helping to fill that knowledge gap.

They’re developing a browser extension that keeps an eye on every third party that tries to grab your data. Every time you go to a site, the extension takes a note of which advertisers are there, looking at what you’re looking at. It builds up a picture of what it thinks those companies have deduced about you: perhaps that you’re a fan of ice hockey, or where you go at weekends.

Ur is planning tests to see if the extension improves user awareness or changes their behaviour. “We just want to provide transparency and see what impact that has,” he says.

Web browsing isn’t the only way we’re tracked – social networks and smartphones are increasingly important. A system called the Facebook Data Valuation Tool, built by a team at Carlos III University of Madrid in Spain, tries to calculate the monetary value in real time of the data users generate while they’re browsing.

A project named ReCon, led by David Choffnes at Northeastern University in Boston, tracks how our smartphone apps connect to the internet, watching to see what information they are gathering. An experiment examining the top 100 most popular iOS, Android, and Windows apps detected information such as user location and contacts sent out in plain text, often from apps that had no need for that data.

“Users aren’t aware of just how much they’re being tracked,” says Choffnes. In early run-throughs with ReCon, even he was surprised to see certain apps broadcasting personal characteristics about him that they’d inferred, like his gender, location and date of birth.

“Advertisers are clearly inferring and learning a lot about us as individuals; properties that may or may not make users feel uncomfortable. I at least want users to be able to look at that data and make their own decision about if it seems reasonable or not,” Choffnes says.

His group is now working on a feature that will automatically notify users when it detects suspicious activity, giving them a chance to halt the traffic in its tracks if they want to.

Behavioural biometrics – the future of security

The jury is out on whether the humble alphanumeric password is dead, but the popularity of ‘123456’, ‘password’ and ‘qwerty’ doesn’t exactly breed confidence. Cue biometrics, in the form of a fingerprint sensor on an iPhone to power Apple Pay. But such ‘static’ biometrics is last year’s tech…

Typing recognition

What is static biometrics?

It’s all fingers, faces, eyes and even ears, with the theory going that while a credit card number, a password or a PIN number can be stolen, something unique to your body cannot.

Nobody is going to steal your face (although it does change over time, reducing accuracy), but like all static biometrics, there are serious shortcomings. For starters, fingerprint sensors and face recognition tech only tends to be on high-end smartphones, such as the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S devices. Such phones are popular in certain markets, but they’re certainly not ubiquitous, and the biometric systems themselves use proprietary technology that limits their use.

Static biometrics relies too much on hardware for mass adoption

Static biometrics relies too much on hardware for mass adoption

As well as requiring significant hardware, static – also known as physical – biometrics don’t offer ongoing security. You face or finger might get you into your phone to do a spot of internet banking, but is it still you using the handset five minutes later? The banks need constant reassurance of your identification, which is why they’re turning to a new technology that monitors the way you use your phone, whatever the model. This is behavioural biometrics, and it’s devastatingly simple.

What is behavioural biometrics?

The search is on to find a uniquely identifying characteristic not of what you are, but of what you do. An example is gait – analyse someone’s walking style and you can easily determine their identity. However, that’s not going to work on a smartphone. The next example is rather ironic; a person’s signature – once the only security layer in banking – can be analysed since exact handwriting style is unique to everyone. It’s possible that devices could soon analyse the speed, style and exact position on the screen of how you sign your name, probably using a stylus.

Your analysed behaviour could soon become a security key

Your analysed behaviour could soon become a security key

However, it’s the recognition and analysis of something all of us do all the time on our smart devices that is quickly gaining traction as a new way of establishing identity. Some banks are turning to typing recognition on smartphones as an extra layer of security against fraud, and Google is showing an interest, too.

Courtesy: Techradar

Internet of Things: Life Simplified with Connected Devices!

A vision of how life is enhanced and simplified by connecting our possessions to the Cloud. The Connected Devices Laboratory at Brigham Young University is bringing this vision to reality.

Source: Yotube, Brigham Young University

How secure is Internet of Things ?

Poorly secured webcams and other Internet-connected devices are already being used as tools for cyberattacks. Can we prevent this from becoming a catastrophic problem?

As growing mass of poorly secured devices on the Internet of things represents a serious risk to life and property, and the government must intervene to mitigate it. That’s essentially the message that prominent computer security experts recently delivered to Congress.

The huge denial-of-service attack in October that crippled the Internet infrastructure provider Dyn and knocked out much of the Web for users in the eastern United States was “benign,” Bruce Schneier, a renowned security scholar and lecturer on public policy at Harvard, said during a hearing last month held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. No one died. But he said the attack—which relied on a botnet made of hacked webcams, camcorders, baby monitors, and other devices—illustrated the “catastrophic risks” posed by the proliferation of insecure things on the Internet.

For example, Schneier and other experts testified that the same poor security exists in computers making their way into hospitals, including those used to manage elevators and ventilation systems. It’s not hard to imagine a fatal disaster, which makes it imperative that the government step in to fix this “market failure,” he said.

The problems with IoT devices are worsening because manufacturers lack incentives to prioritize security. Even if consumers wanted to assess the relative security of Internet-connected thermostats and other devices, there are no established ratings or other measures.

Read the full article here

A Secure Model of IoT with Blockchain

As the Internet of Things (IoT) adds more and more devices to the digital fold every day, organizations of all sizes are recognizing the IoT’s potential to improve business processes and, ultimately, accelerate growth.

Meanwhile, the number and variety of IoT solutions has expanded exponentially, creating real challenges. Chief among them: the urgent need for a secure IoT model for performing common tasks such as sensing, processing, storing information, and communicating. But developing such a model involves overcoming numerous hurdles.

Of course, there are multiple ways of looking at the IoT. For instance, the system view divides the IoT into blocks, such as connected things, gateways, network services, and cloud services, while the business view consists of platform, connectivity, business model, and applications. But one common thread connects all these views: security is paramount.

A prime illustration of security’s importance is the major distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in October 2016. This massive assault affected millions of Internet addresses and temporarily crippled the servers of popular services such as Twitter, Netflix, and PayPal. One source of traffic for the attack: the countless IoT devices that had been infected and hijacked by Mirai, a simple malware program readily available online, and used against the servers.

The Blockchain Model

Blockchain’s big advantage is that it’s public. Everyone participating can see the blocks and the transactions stored in them. However, that doesn’t mean everyone can see the actual content of a transaction; that information is protected by a private key.

A blockchain is decentralized, so no single authority can approve transactions or set specific rules to have transactions accepted. As a result, the model involves a great deal of trust, as all the participants in the network must reach a consensus to accept transactions.

Most important of all, it’s secure. The database can only be extended; previous records cannot be changed—or, at least, there’s a very high cost if someone wants to alter previous records.

Read the full article here

3D Printing and the Future of Prosthetics

In Paraguay, there are a large number of upper limb amputations due to bad working conditions and motorcycle accidents. Many people are also in the low income category, and they cannot afford the prosthesis. With advanced manufacturing, particularly with the use of 3D printing, a company is able to create sophisticated prosthetics at a low cost.

The company, called PO, has combined 3D printing with a control mechanism to make an arm that can perform specific actions. They teamed up with a company called Myo incorporating their armband that controls the mechanical aspect of the hand. Their armband monitors bioelectric muscle signals and interacts with the prosthetic, allowing a user to grip items and gesture as if the arm was part of their body.

For more information read

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Reality Editor is the Internet of Things Without the Privacy Sacrifice


Researchers from MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group have created an app called Reality Editor, which will allow users to control real world objects using virtual devices while keeping your data private. This app is a direct response to companies having control over data gathered from the use of the Internet of Things, a network of physical, real world objects that are user controlled.

Research leader Valentin Heun proposes that instead of the “Internet of Things,” users should have what he calls “Connected Objects” that are controlled using the Reality Editor app. The app communicates with these objects through existing networking technologies and is used by pointing a device’s camera at the object in order to access its programmed capabilities, which will be available for editing.

These Connected Objects then send their “FingerPrints” and network IP to the Reality Editor app. From there, users will be able to drag virtual lines connecting these objects to each other to establish functional systems. These connections are on decentralized private networks and are not constantly connected to central entities that require a central cloud services to function. All interface, data, connection and functionality are saved within the Connected Object, keeping all that data safe and secure.

You can see how it works, and learn more about the process, in the video below.


Through all the different virtual-to-real connections, all produced data would be retained by the user and remain private unless absolutely necessary, like when connecting to third party networks.

In an interview with The Creators Project, Heun says, “If I switch a light switch on at home that light switch communicates directly with the light. There is no need to send this action all around the world and then back into my home. Data connections should always take the most possible direct rout, reflecting a user’s privacy interests.”

He adds, “What we consider virtual or digital is defined by the paradigms of a personal computing. The Reality Editor is a first small step to create a new set of paradigms.”

An avid biker and an engineer join hands to build an IoT device that ensures road safety

According to Jayanth Jagadeesh, VP BD and Marketing, eLsys Intelligent Devices Pvt Ltd, India is among the nations that have the highest number of road accidents in the world: one person dies every four minutes. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his radio address to the nation, too, has expressed the strong need to build a national emergency system/framework to manage, analyse and avert road emergencies,” he says.

Jayanth, therefore, calls it a wonderful coincidence that his company has been working on solving the same problem for the last year-and-a-half. “Our vision is to revolutionise how Indians call for help, and how India responds to road emergencies,” he says.

Bringing road safety through IoT

Through its product Raksha SafeDrive, eLsys aims to leverage the power of IoT (Internet of Things) devices, telecom revolution and cloud technologies to create an integrated road accident management and analysis platform. The device is capable of automatic crash detection, two-way call connectivity, GPS tracking, engine health monitoring, and smart panic button.

Genesis and foundation of the core team

The idea to leverage technology to avert and manage road accidents better came to Prasad Pillai in 2013, after narrowly averting an accident himself. “Most drivers on Indian roads experience a close shave every week. We thank our stars, curse the other commuter and move on. It is important that our accident preparedness and management is not so unorganised. Our passion is to apply technology in making roads safer and drivers responsible,” says Prasad.


Jayanth and Prasad

Jayanth, on the other hand, is an avid biker, and has even completed a 5,000-km solo motorcycle road trip from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The duo met through a common friend and their passion for road safety got them to work as a team. “Travel and exploration is meant to be fun. Road trips are supposed to excite people and make them come alive. But most people do not dare to explore. Raksha SafeDrive answers most of the ‘what-if’questions,” he adds.

What does the product do?

Jayanth says Raksha SafeDrive is capable of automatically detecting an accident and proactively calling for emergency care assistance. The team claims that it has leveraged multiple technologies to devise an intelligent road accident management platform that can detect, alert, notify and perhaps even predict driver behaviour that may lead to an accident.

Raksha SafeDrive follows the subscription model for revenue. The revenue comes from the one-time device cost and a monthly/yearly fee for continuous accident monitoring and human assistance for emergencies, roadside assistance and parking location retrieval.

Challenges and future plans

Jayanth says that Raksha SafeDrive is a complex electronics product complemented by IoT, telecom and cloud technologies. Unlike a software product, the successive iterations in designing, building and testing a stable and sturdy product is both time and resource consuming. The team has invested two years of research and development to come up with the product.

“Currently, the company is sustaining its operations from the founders’capital investment. We are exploring the possibility of an angel funding to accelerate our go-to market plans,” says Jayanth.

The team would like to build an effective and technology-assisted accident management and analysis system in India. It has also initiated a ‘Road Safety Consortium’, a platform for organisations that care about making roads safer and minimising accidents in India. It is reaching out to car manufacturers, emergency care providers, roadside assistance providers, NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) and other government and NGO entities to join hands in making the roads safe.