Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Technology

11Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Flight Path Diverted Via Computer System

In the days following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, numerous theories have emerged regarding both the plane’s whereabouts and its reason for crashing. Suspected causes for the disappearance have included weather, terrorism, and, more recently, murder-suicide carried out by the flight's two co-pilots.

The newest reports from the investigation indicate that the flight path’s diversion away from its intended route — from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing — was carefully orchestrated. According to the New York Times, the plane could only have been diverted by someone with knowledge of the aircraft's computerized cockpit system. The flight veered to the west after an individual had typed specific keystrokes into the plane’s flight management system, investigators claim.

This planned flight diversion supports the theory that the plane’s disappearance was intentional. Initial reports had indicated that the flight lost communications with ground controllers due to maintenance failures, but officials from various governments now believe those failures may have been carried out by individuals on board the aircraft. Because the flight was diverted via the computer system rather than manually, any individuals involved in foul play would have to have been highly knowledgeable about the plane. 

Despite this new theory, investigators are no closer to actually finding tangible evidence of the plane’s remnants. Multiple governments, including the U.S., Australia, and Indonesia, are aiding China and Malaysia in the search for the missing aircraft.

According to CBS News, investigators are checking the backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members of the flight in order to determine a suspect potentially responsible for a mass murder, sabotage or suicide.

11Face Scanning System Could Curb Road Rage

New technology may help predict and prevent road rage incidents before they occur. The website RT.com reports that researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed a dashboard sensor that can detect emotion by scanning a driver’s face. They claim the face-scanning system can detect human emotions such as fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise or suspicion. 

“We know that in addition to fatigue, the emotional state of the driver is a risk factor,” the developers told Sarah Griffiths of the Daily Mail. “Irritation, in particular, can make drivers more aggressive and less attentive.”

“The problem was to get the device to recognize irritation on the face of a driver, because everyone expresses this emotional state differently,” they said.

Furthermore, they needed to figure out how to make the new device small enough to fit into the already-crowded dashboards of modern cars. They have solved that problem by placing a tiny infrared camera behind the steering wheel. 

Other problems still exist, as the computer can be confused by drivers who express emotions differently from the ways in which it is programmed to recognize. 

If all of these problems are ironed out, the system could prove useful in the United States, where aggressive driving is seen as a problem on highways and roads. Although no agency compiles official numbers on road rage incidents, it is estimated by the Archives of General Psychiatry that as many as 16 million Americans succumb to road rage at some point during their lifetimes. Psychiatrists classify road rage as "intermittent explosive disorder,” according to an article on healthday.com.

Before the system can be released, though, the researchers need to decide what to program the computer to do with the information once it predicts that a road rage incident may occur. It is unclear whether they would program the computer to slow the speed of the car or issue a calming message to the driver.

Testing on the system is currently being conducted in France.

Sources: RT.com, Daily Mail, Healthday.com

11Los Angeles Police Claim All Cars Are Under Investigation

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) use an electronic camera program called the "Automatic License Plate Reader" (ALPR) that records all of the license plates of cars on the road.

The ALPR cameras are mounted on police and sheriff cruisers, and on street poles.

Under the California Public Records Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the LAPD and LASD what the ALPR had recorded for the past two years and what their policies were for using this technology, noted Reason.com.

However, the LAPD and LASD refused to answer.

According to the EFF, the LAPD and LASD stated in a court brief: "All ALPR data is investigatory—regardless of whether a license plate scan results in an immediate 'hit' because, for instance, the vehicle may be stolen, the subject of an 'Amber Alert,' or operated by an individual with an outstanding arrest warrant."

This means that all motorists in Los Angeles are under 24/7 surveillance for and their information may be kept for an unlimited amount of time.

However, the EFF claims this huge data sweep is not part of any actual  "investigation" as the LAPD and LASD claim.

Ironically, the LAPD told the court that releasing this information might violate "individual citizens’ privacy interests," which it did not mention to citizens when secretly recording their plate information.

The LASD also claimed that to be concerned about releasing the "personal identifying information” that it got from people's license plates without their knowledge.

The EFF is scheduled to argue their case in court tomorrow.

Sources: EFF and Reason.com

11Ex-Microsoft Employee Arrested, Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets

It’s probably a bad idea to leak the trade secrets of one of the most powerful companies in the world. Former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo is finding that out the hard way.

Kibkalo was booked on federal charges Wednesday and is accused of stealing and releasing a number of Microsoft trade secrets while working for the company. He allegedly leaked the secrets to a French blogger after receiving poor performance reviews from the company.

Kibkalo is accused of leaking Windows 8 code and Microsoft’s Activation Server Software Development Kit. The server software development kit is a key Microsoft tool used to combat software piracy.

Kibkalo was caught after the blogger went to Microsoft to confirm the authenticity of the leaked information. Microsoft prodded into Kibkalo’s email and chat history and found a number of incriminating messages.

“I would leak the enterprise today probably," Kibkalo told the blogger in one message.

“Hmm,” the blogger answered. “Are you sure you want to do that? Lol…pretty illegal.”

“I know :),” Kibkalo answered.

Kibkalo allegedly admitted to leaking Windows 7 documents as well. One of his messages also revealed that he tried to break into a Microsoft building and copy a server.

Investigators found they had more than enough evidence to charge Kibkalo, and they did exactly that on Wednesday. He was arrested and charged with theft of trade secrets. 

Sources: engadget, Seattle PI

11New Snowden Leak Reveals Ability Of NSA To Retrieve, Replay Phone Calls

New documents, released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reveal the existence of that agency’s ability to collect and listen to 100 percent of the phone calls within a targeted nation according to The Washington Post

The voice interception program, known as MYSTIC, began in 2009 and was first used to target an undisclosed nation in 2011. The program utilizes a “retrospective retrieval” tool referred to in the documents as RETRO. Planning documents regarding the program detail plans to use the technology in other countries.

In a Washington Times story, one U.S. official said the technology acts like a “time machine” and allows the NSA to go back and listen to phone calls as old as 30 days.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the revelations “chilling” in a USA Today story.

“The NSA has always wanted to record everything, and now it has the capacity to do so," he said. "The question now is simply whether we have the political will to impose reasonable limits on the NSA's authority – that is, whether we have the political will to protect our democratic freedoms.”

The news of the program also raises questions as to whether President Barack Obama was being truthful in a January speech when he said the U.S. government did not spy on ordinary citizens.

"Now let me be clear: our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments – as opposed to ordinary citizens – around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does," Obama said at the time.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines would not confirm or deny the existence of the program. 

"NSA does not conduct signals intelligence collection in any country, or anywhere in the world, unless it is necessary to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and to protect its citizens and the citizens of its allies and partners from harm,” she said in a statement.

Others believe that programs like MYSTIC go to far.

Greg Nojeim, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said, "It's time for the United States to begin honoring its global human rights obligations and enact legal reforms that set reasonable limits on foreign surveillance practices."

Sources: Washington Post, Washington Times, USA Today

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11Man Fights Power Company Over SmartMeters that 'Spew Radiation'

SmartMeters have been installed in several cities to record the use of electric power in intervals of an hour or less for monitoring and billing purposes.

For the past few years there have been conspiracy theories about how SmartMeters can spy on people inside their homes and emit large amounts of dangerous radiation, noted The Las Vegas Sun.

Kevin Schmidt, of Marshall, Texas, is currently fighting his power company SWEPCO/AEP, which he claims installed a SmartMeter at his home without his permission.

Schmidt says that he and his wife don't want to be "spied upon" or "have unwanted radiation spewed into our home."

However, SWEPCO/AEP claims that it did not install a SmartMeter, but rather a RF meter.

“It’s an electronic way to read the meter, the technology has been around for years. It’s a way for us to get a more accurate read and to read it in a quicker, more efficient way," SWEPCO Senior Communications Consultant Kacee Kirschvink told MarshallNewsMessenger.com.

“SmartMeter knows the things that you can do to monitor your usage and see when the best day to do your laundry is, but that is not what we have,” added Kirschvink.

However, a disbelieving Schmidt told News-Journal.com, “I noticed we had a new meter and had heard about it in the past and that there were various problems with it with people. I didn’t know the SmartMeter was installed, but it was producing radio magnetic frequencies and that alarmed me.”

Schmidt wrote on DollarVigilante.com:

 In that effort to defend our safety, health, and privacy we sent SWEPCO/AEP (the power company) a demand notice giving them 30 days to remove the smart meter, and replace it with a safe analog meter.

The same day SWEPCO/AEP received the notice they sent a young man to our home attempting to calm the crazy people.

...After I escorted the robot to the door, he let me know that they will not change the meter and if we do so then the power to our house will be cut off.

Schmidt ignored the warning, hired an electrician to install an analog meter and sent the new meter back to the power company, which then cut his power off.

Schmidt and his wife have moved in with family members until this imaginary SmartMeter situation is resolved with the power company.

Sources: DollarVigilante.com, MarshallNewsMessenger.com, The Las Vegas Sun, News-Journal.com

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11New Documents Show NSA Uses Fake Facebook Profiles To Spread Malware

NSA leaker Edward Snowden, currently living in political asylum in Russia, appeared via video feed to speak to a crowd of tech community members at this year’s South by Southwest conference. Snowden covered several topics regarding Internet security and the NSA throughout his question-and-answer panel, but the whistleblower still has yet to release many of his documents detailing the covert practices carried out by his former government agency. 

According to a new report from the Washington Times, one such NSA practice consists of hacking into individuals’ Facebook profiles and using malware bots to extract data. This information was found in a 2009 NSA slide presentation, released by The Intercept.

The Intercept claims the following: “In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social-media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyber attacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.”

This statement means that the NSA has lured Facebook users to fake profiles in order to gain access to their computers, data and hard drives. This practice can have far-reaching implications throughout the world, especially since Facebook is such a widely-used social network. This practice, then, does not just affect United States citizens under the jurisdiction of the federal government agency. 

Still, Facebook denies that the U.S. government has been carrying out such a practice. A Facebook spokesman explained that the site now only uses secure servers. 

“We have no evidence of this alleged activity. In any case, this method of network level disruption does not work for traffic carried over HTTPS, which Facebook finished integrating by default last year. If government agencies have privileged access to network service providers, any site running only HTTP could conceivabbly have its traffic misdirected,” the Facebook spokesman said.

Regardless of whether or not Facebook is aware of the practice, Snowden has urged large tech companies like Facebook and Google to refrain from collecting so much data involving its users. Speaking at SXSW, Snowden claimed that the revenue model for many online businesses is misguided, as companies succeed by collecting data and retuning targeted advertisements toward individuals. If the federal government then demands that data be handed over, companies like Facebook would remit a wealth of information regarding specific users.

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11Apple iPhone 5s Saves Soldier's Life In Afghanistan Suicide Bombing (Video)

A Utah soldier wants to thank Apple after his iPhone helped save his life from a suicide bomb explosion while on tour in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Shaun Frank had his iPhone 5s in his front pocket when he and his unit were confronted by a teenage bomber who triggered a bomb filled with ball bearings, KSL reports. Frank came under a barrage of ball bearings, but the metal body of his iPhone 5s protected his femoral artery from several of them. Doctors believe that the iPhone may have saved his life.

Not much is left of the phone, with a shattered screen and a metal-bending exit hole sticking out from the aluminum back cover.

(Photo via New York Post)

“They did tell him when he got back to base that that iPhone probably saved his life,” Frank’s sister, Alisha Lantz, told the TV station.

Frank did suffer from several wounds, but his body armor protected him from much of the damage.

The New York Post reported that Frank initially sent his iPhone to Apple to see if insurance would cover the damaged phone. The company gave him the option to either keep his old device or get a replacement, but he couldn’t do both. Frank decided to keep the iPhone 5s as a memento of the day he almost died.

Once the soldier’s story gained public attention, support started coming in, with people offering to purchase a new phone for him. But a few months later, Apple finally agreed to replace Frank’s iPhone 5s and let him keep the old one.

“It’s the same phone he had previously, minus a hole or two,” Lance said.

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11'Popcorn Time' Makes Illegal Movie Downloading Too Easy

"Popcorn Time" sounds like a trip to the concession stand, but it's actually a website that makes the illegal downloading of films almost too easy.

BitTorrent has been around for years but is mainly used by tech-savvy types to download films and TV shows.

Popcorn Time is also a torrent but makes downloading movies super easy, without needing much tech knowledge.

By activating the free, downloadable Popcorn Time software, users can download movies and "seed" those same films to other Popcorn Time users.

According to DigitalTrends.com, Popcorn Time's library includes older films, such as Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" from 1951, as well as movies that are still in theaters.

Popcorn Time's website library looks very much like Netflix, but unlike that pay service, Popcorn Time is technically illegal because it doesn't have licensing rights to the films.

“We don’t expect legal issues," the website's designer, called "Sebastian," told TorrentFreak.com. "We don’t host anything, and none of the developers makes any money. There are no ads, no premium accounts, and no subscription fees or anything like that. It’s an experiment to learn and share."

However, similar free experiments have been shut down for copyright violations, such as Limewire and Kazaa.

On its website, Popcorn Time seems to be trying to offer protection to its users: "Your movies will stay buried in a secret folder somewhere in your drive until you restart your computer. Then it will be gone for good."

Sources: Popcorn Time, TorrentFreak.com, DigitalTrends.com

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11Minneapolis Man Punches 8-Year-Old Boy In Face, Steals His iPad

Prosecutors filed felony aggravated robbery charges against a 32-year-old Minneapolis man after he was caught on video punching a child in the face and stealing the boy's iPad.

Police in Hennepin County were dispatched Thursday to the intersection of 28th Street and Nicollet Avenue South after a report that a man was being chased by a group of men.

Upon arrival, the police met 32-year-old Aaron Wayne Stillday, who said that men had chased him for no reason. However, police learned that the pursuit began when Stillday punched an 8-year-old boy walking out of daycare and stole his iPad.

Stillday allegedly approached the boy, saying: “Give me that, n****.”

In the video, the boy can be seen lying motionless on the ground as his nose bleeds.

The boy was taken to the hospital and Stillday was taken into custody.

On Monday, Stillday was charged with felony first-degree aggravated robbery.

Sources: Fox, Got News Wire

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