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How Cutting Edge Technology Is Giving Us Safer Lives

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The unstoppable march of technology into a pillar of our society has unleashed a lot of forces, both positive and negative, and created many problems that are well documented – the impact of social media on mental health, the evolution in the way we process information, and the instant access culture being a few notable examples. A raft of reactionary cultural movements has also been spawned – mindfulness, minimalism and social protest among them. The more negative of these aspects tend to be what gains the most press, as a spiral of sensationalist, click-bait headlines compete for our fractured attention, so the echo chamber about the unsavoury effects of technology amplifies. However, there can be little doubt that a lot of the technological leaps currently being made are of huge benefit for our safety, health and wellbeing, Each month brings breakthroughs and positive developments driven by the power and speed of technological development. Here are just some of the headline advances making the world a safer place:

Robotic CSIs

York University hit the headlines recently for the development of robots that can assist at volatile crime scenes, most especially those that are hazardous to human workers such as those with chemicals or biological weapons. A range of cameras, sensor and gauges provide detailed live data feedback to skilled operators to interpret. They can even construct 3D maps of environments that are hostile to human investigation. The technology will also be of enormous help in disaster relief efforts and may help rescuers to locate casualties with much more accuracy and speed than is currently possible.

There May Be Trouble Ahead

When disaster strikes, it is unexpected by its very nature, a fact which puts relief operations very much on the back foot. But a wave of developments is giving authorities the tools to detect emergencies and disasters before they occur. There are now advances that can accurately predict landslides, as well as technology that can give early warning of forest fires – which are increasing due to global warming and kill over 400,000 globally each year – via reliable, low-cost wireless sensors developed by KUAST in the Middle East which monitor gas emissions and combine a huge range of data on temperature and humidity levels. The more ‘big data’ gathered by these sensors, the more accurately conditions that lead to these disasters can be identified. Emergency response can then be prepared in advance of a disaster happening – and this technology holds developments that could also be applied to the prediction of other, more abstract threats such as crime and illness as well.

Cars That Talk To Each Other

Sentient cars may be a trope that we more usually think of as belonging to comedy movies, but the tech behind getting vehicles to communicate with each other has the potential to save millions of lives each year by preventing road accidents and also taking the sting out of a daily commute by reducing congestion. A vehicle-to-vehicle dialogue exchanging vital data on direction, speed and positioning is fast becoming a reality, due to cutting-edge research in the US. And this prospect isn’t just a faraway dream – Volkswagen has forecast that they will have road-ready ‘talking’ vehicles by next year.

The City That Knows Your Name

Like something out of a sci-fi novel, advanced technologies are being piloted with hopes of making our cities safer too.  Singapore may already have one of the lowest crime rates in the world, but that is being further supported by a pilot programme called Safe City being carried out by the government there and technology consultancy Accenture. Video analytics applied to the city’s network of CCTV is being used to identify gang members and wanted criminals, deploying policing resources much more effectively and saving civic cost and disruption in the process. Data generated by movement is used to pick up patterns that alert authorities to a crime being committed. And although some find this use of technology distinctly Orwellian, biometric data such as this is already in use via our chipped passports. This sits alongside the development of a sophisticated audio technology called ShotSpotter that can pinpoint the sounds of gunfire and alert police, giving them a greater chance to catch the suspects in robberies and homicides.

On The Homefront

While many of us may feel ambivalent about our biometric data being used by the state, we may be more sanguine about using it to protect our homes. Existing technology is having a huge impact on home security, with fingerprints and retina scans viable alternatives to mortice locks in giving access to our houses. The Intel Security True Key app can memorise the mathematical proportions of your facial structure and act as enhanced security. Use of an app can now allow you to remotely lock entrances and arm or disable a security system from anywhere in the world, while allowing for house sitters, family members and dog walkers to gain entry. These systems can also remotely monitor and alert you to any unauthorised entry to your home or even your car, meaning that you can stay vigilant and protected at all times.

High Tech Health

As the recent mania for fitness trackers has shown, we’re all keen to use technology to gain insights into our personal health and wellbeing, from scales that analyse our body fat percentage to DNA kits that give custom diet and health advice. A growing number of apps are now focused on our health and wellbeing. ShopWell provides custom dietary advice and helps you build shopping lists and a healthy eating plan, Headspace can proactively manage stress and anxiety, while MySugr helps diabetics to track their glucose levels to support the work of their health professional. Meanwhile, smartphones are also making it easier to access instant medical advice via platforms such as PushDoctor, meaning conditions are more likely to get diagnosed and managed earlier by those with busy lifestyles who never find the time to make it to a doctor’s office. MedAdvisor is a prescription management tool for those on complicated medical regimes. Whatever your health concerns, a raft of tailored support apps are out there – with more being developed all the time.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.

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You haven’t virtualized yet – why you should do so as soon as possible

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keyboard laptop virtualization

Virtualization is not a new thing, it has been around for some time now, and is one of the key ways a business can protect their IT infrastructure and reduce costs.

Opting for cloud vdi (virtual desktop infrastructure), is absolutely the way forward for businesses, but there could be many reasons why you haven’t been able to make the change yet.

Maybe you have not had a good enough network to support externally hosted desktops and applications, or you are a smaller business that is only just beginning to think of moving to a virtual enterprise structure. It could also be that you are suffering from the hangover of an older infrastructure with your own onsite servers and just coming to the end of the asset life time. Either way your next move should be to look at virtualization and here is why.

The savings can be substantial

Without a doubt the biggest reason is the cost savings you will make. Any company or business needs to be fully aware of the bottomline, and while the project to virtualize will need a little investment, long term it will save your business a lot more.

For example, you will no longer need onsite servers. Hardware is expensive to replace, and in order to keep up with technological investment they need to be replaced every few years. They also need to be upgrades, require server engineers to manage them, a specialised location to store them with adequate cooling and they use a lot of electricity. And this is before you even begin to think about the licences for the operating systems and applications.

Increased reliability and security

With security becoming so much more important, especially if you are holding any personal data, you need to be sure that you have adequate security measures in place to protect your IT services. Through application virtualization a data centre via the cloud, you can make sure that those provisions meet exactly what you need.

You can also increase the uptime and availability for your users, through better mirroring and failover provisions. Data centres are geared towards maximum uptime, and even should something go wrong with a server, users will like never even know as the services move over to alternative servers. To create and host this type of infrastructure yourself will require a whole IT department!

Increased productivity for your workforce

By moving to desktop virtualization your employees will be able to access their documentation and applications from almost any device. From mobile devices, tablets, laptops they will be able to do whatever they need, whenever and wherever they need it. For companies operating internationally or with a lot of travel involved this is absolutely vital.

It can also set the scene for flexible working – already proved to make the workforce much more productive. It also means that should a device breakdown, it is simple enough to switch to another.

Management of company devices is also a lot simpler, with setup and deployment happening remotely. All your installations, updates and patches, back ups and virus scans can be controlled centrally. It also means much better management of software assets.

In addition your service provider should be able to provide a whole range of support for your IT teams, with access to many disciplines and expertise to keep you running at your maximum 24 hours a day if needed.

Desktop virtualisation is definitely the way forward for any business. It makes end user environments much more secure. Reliability and uptime is better, which also keeps those end users happy and productive in their own work. No more lost working hours due to broken servers. Approached strategically, this can revolutionise your business and its operations well into the future.

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Concerns and Limitation of Cyber Warfare

Alexandra Goman

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cyberwarfare stuxnet

The discovery of Stuxnet, a malware that targeted a nuclear facility, was somewhat revolutionary and groundbreaking. It targeted ICS which monitor and run industrial facilities. Before that, most of malicious programs were developed to steal information or break-in into financial sector to extort money. Stuxnet went beyond went and targeted high-level facilities. It is not hard to imagine what damage it could have inflicted if the worm were not detected. What is more worrisome, the technology is out. It might not be perfect, but it is definitely a start. Regardless of the intentions behind Stuxnet, a cyber bomb has exploded and everyone knows that cyber capabilities indeed can be developed and mastered.

Therefore, if they can be developed, they will probably be. The final goal of Stuxnet was to affect the physical equipment which was run by specific ICS. It was done in order to manipulate computer programs and make it act as an attacker intended it to act. Such a cyberattack had a particular motivation; sabotage of industrial equipment and destruction could have been one of the goals. So, if they were indeed the goals, it might have been an offensive act, conducted by an interested party, presumably, a state for its political objective. Yet, there are certain limitations when it comes to so-called “cyber weapons” (malware that might be employed for military use or intelligence gathering). 

One of the main concerns of cyber offence is that code may spread uncontrollably to other systems. In terms of another physical weapon, it is like a ballistic missile that anytime can go off-course and inflict damage on unintended targets and/or kill civilians. Cyber offensive technology lacks precision, which is so valued in military. For example, in ICS and SCADA systems one may never know what can backfire because of the complexity of the system.  The lack of precision consequently affects military decisions. When launching a weapon, officers should know its precise capabilities; otherwise, it is too risky and is not worth it. 

In case of Stuxnet, the program started replicating itself and infected computers of many countries. For this moment we do not know if it were planned in that way.  However, provided that that target was Natanz facility, it is unlikely. Symantec Corporation started analyzing the case only with external help; it did not come from Natanz. This exacerbates the case if a country decides to launch an offensive cyberattack.

If the military planning cannot prevent cyber technology to go awry or to go out in the public, it brings more disadvantages than advantages.  Moreover, given a possibility of the code being discovered and broke down to pieces to understand what it does, it may potentially benefit an opposing party (and any other interested party along the way). This is unacceptable in military affairs.

Similarly, when the code is launched and it reaches the target, it can be discovered by an opponent. In comparison to nuclear, when a bomb explodes, it brings damage and destruction, but its technology remains in secret. In case of cyber, it may not be the case, as when a malware/virus is discovered, it can be reverse engineered to patch vulnerability. By studying the code, an enemy would find out the technology/tactics used that could be unfavourable in the long-run for the attacker.

Additionally, it should be said that not every malware is meant to spread by itself. In order to control the spread, vulnerability can be patched, meaning updating the software which had that vulnerability. An anti-malware can also be introduced; this will make the computer system immune to that particular vulnerability. Nonetheless, if the malware spreads uncontrollably, there is nothing much that an attacker can do. It is not possible to seize the attack. In this scenario, an attack may only release information about this certain vulnerability so that someone else can fix it. However, a state is highly unlikely to do so, especially if the damage is extensive. It would not only cost the state diplomatic consequences, but also it might severely impact its reputation.

An AI-enabled cyberattack could perhaps fulfill its potential. That means involvement of artificial intelligence. AI systems could make digital programs more precise, controlling the spread. In contrast, it could also lead to a greater collateral damage, if a system decides to target other facilities that may result in human death. Similar concerns are raised in the area of autonomous weapon systems in regard to the need of leaving decision-making to humans and not to technology. AI technology has a potential to make existing cyberattacks more effective and more efficient (Schaerf, 2018).

Aforementioned concern leads to another and affects the end result. When a certain weapon is employed, it is believed to achieve a certain goal, e.g. to destroy a building. With cyber capabilities, there is no such certainty. In the case of Stuxnet, the malware clearly failed to achieve its end goal, which is to disrupt the activities of the industrial facility.

Alternatively, the true costs of cyberattacks may be uncertain and hard to calculate. If that is so, an attacker faces high level of uncertainty, which may also prevent them from a malicious act (particularly, if nation states are involved). However, the costs and the benefits may always be miscalculated, and an attacker hoping for a better gain may lose much more in the end (e.g. consider Pearl Harbour).

Another concern refers to the code becoming available to the public. If it happens, it can be copied, re-used and/or improved. Similar concerns in regards to proliferation and further collateral damage emerged when Stuxnet code became available online.  An attacker may launch a cyberattack, and if it is discovered, another hacker can reverse engineer the code and use it against another object. Moreover, the code can be copied, improved and specialized to meet the needs of another party. Technology is becoming more complex, and by discovering a malware developed by others, it also takes less time to produce a similar program and/or develop something stronger. (For instance, after Stuxnet, more advanced malwares were discovered – Duqu and Flame).

Furthermore, there are other difficulties with the employment of cyber offensive technology. In order to maximize its result, it should be supported by intelligence. In case of Stuxnet, an offender needed to pinpoint the location of the facility and the potential equipment involved. It has to find zero-days vulnerabilities that are extremely rare and hard to find[1]. Cyber vulnerability is all about data integrity. It should be reliable and accurate. Its security is essential in order to run an industrial infrastructure.

After pinpointing vulnerability, security specialists need to write a specific code, which is capable of bridging through an air-gapped system. In case of Stuxnet, all of abovementioned operations required a certain level of intelligence support and financial capability. These complex tasks involved into development were exactly the reason why Stuxnet was thought to be sponsored and/or initiated by a nation state. If intelligence is lacking, it may not bring a desirable effect. Moreover, if cyber offense is thought to be used in retaliation, malicious programs should be ready to use (as on “high-alert”) in the event of necessity.

Regardless of some advantages of cyber offence (like low costs, anonymity etc), this technology appears to be unlikely for a separate use by military. There is a high level of uncertainty and this stops the army of using technology in offence. Truth is when you have other highly precise weapons, it does not make sense to settle for some unreliable technology that may or may not bring you a wanted result. Yet, other types of cyberattacks like DDoS attacks can give some clear advantages during military operations and give an attacker some good cards in case of a conflict. When such attacks used together with military ground operations, they are much more likely to bring a desired result.


[1] For better understanding, out of twelve million pieces of malware that computer security companies find each year, less than a dozen uses a zero-day exploit.

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Be carefull! It is possible to read someone else’s WhatsApp conversations without getting caught

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Social media came into our lives a few years ago and they are here to stay: Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp are essential applications for many of us nowadays, and we don’t imagine our smartphones lacking any of them. They are useful to communicate in our daily life with our family or coworkers, and they help us to easily catch up on what is happening in our long-distance friends’ lives by simply scrolling down their timelines. And while it is true that social media can be very useful in many cases, it is also true that there are situations where we’d like we could go a little further and use them to investigate. Let’s be honest: at some point, we all have wished we could spy whatsapp to find out what a certain person does –in order to corroborate if what they are telling us is real, or to know what they say about us when they talk to their friends.

Since everyone uses Whatsapp, Instagram or Facebook to have private conversations, it is easy to imagine the different reasons that could lead a person to want to read someone else’s private conversations. In the case of couples, if you think that your partner may be cheating on you, it is probably not enough for you to ask them questions to find out what you want to know, which will make very important for you to figure out what they might be hiding in their phone. Another frequent case are parents who fear for the safety of their adolescent children and want to know who they relate to through social media and what type of content they send and receive to make sure they stay safe from drugs, sexual predators, or bullies .

But the recurring question asked by most of the crowd who are trying to spy on someone else’s social media is: Is it actually possible to hack an smartphone to be able to read their conversations and see their pictures without getting caught? Fortunately for the “spys” –and unfortunately for their target’s privacy, there’s no system that can not be hacked by an experienced hacker. And even if you are not one, hacking WhatsApp without getting caught is now easier than ever with this guide on how to spy on WhatsApp Android.

There some free ways that you can use to spy on someone else’s WhatsApp: from the oldest software capable of intercepting conversations through WiFi, to more rudimentary methods such as scanning the WhatsApp’s QR code from the person whom you want to spy on and opening their session on another device. But the problem with all these methods is that you run the chance of being caught because they always leave a trail. Therefore, it is more advisable to use untraceable methods such as SpySocial, which is 100% undetectable.

The success of their system is based on a lot of hard work, and a very simple concept: you can’t get caught if you are not directly connected to the target’s phone.  The “spionage” is done through their servers, so you don’t even need to be close to the phone you want to spy on. Thus, as the entire system works through third-parties, you can spy on their online activities without there ever being a link between you and their phone. Plus, the company doesn’t keep any access logs at all, so they can’t know who you are – meaning the person you are spying on can’t figure it out either. The only thing you need to know and provide is the target’s phone number. With just this, you’ll have access to their WhatsApp chat messages and images, and you’ll also be able to see their location and cameras in real time, and also have their future WhatsApp calls recorded for you.

Besides WhatsApp, with this tool you can also easily spy on Instagram accounts, Facebook. You’ll have access immediately to their messages, pictures and private stories in Instagram, or to all the information that a Facebook profile can provide: personal information, photos and videos, status updates, Friends list and even watch them use Facebook in real-time. If you are not interested that much on the profile but you’d like to see who they speak to most regularly on Facebook Messenger, you will be able to do so, as well as downloading the photos and videos sent via Facebook Messenger and spying on their Facebook Messenger chats as they happen.

Sounds cool, right? The process is easy: you enter the target’s WhatsApp phone number, Instagram username or their Facebook URL, wait for the Spysocial servers to connect to their device, and then they create a connection package for you. After that, just enter your details, download the associated file install the connection tool… And let the spying begin.

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