Agents in the war on terror attempt to identify unknown persons each and every day, but technology developed to battle criminality around the globe could soon be identifying persons of questionable identity going back centuries. Facial recognition software designed for various security and law enforcement applications is being adapted by art historians at the University of California to identify unknown faces in portraits.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research, which is the lab arm of the Disney Company that focuses on computer animation and interactivity, among other things, have worked out a new version of capacitive sensors--the same sensors used in modern smartphones and tablets. This version is able to detect touch in much more detail, like identifying which finger you've used to tap it.
The workaday residents of London are again being asked to participate in the defense of the city. Bow Quarter in East London is a white collar, somewhat pedestrian neighborhood populated by young families and professional types, but this summer residents very well might see their sleepy enclave militarized.
It’s perfectly understandable why commercial shipping vessels are prohibited from carrying arms in international waters. But when it comes to dealing with the threat of piracy, battles that pit water hoses against small arms and RPGs are decidedly one sided. So Japanese companies MTI and Yokoi have teamed to create what they call the “Anti-Piracy Curtain,” a system that makes it difficult--and quite intimidating--for anyone to board a ship without the consent of a crew.
It gives the term skeleton key a whole new meaning: a prototype system from AT&T Labs that beams a unique vibration through a user’s bones to be picked up by a receiver in a door handle, automatically unlocking the door at the touch of the handle. Using piezoelectric transducers, the system could someday be embedded in smartphones or wristwatches to create doors that automatically unlock when the right person touches them and stay firmly dead-bolted when anyone else tries to gain entry.
Diginfo brings us news of this Hitachi Kokusai system that can monitor video feeds from around the world in real time, scanning for a particular face. When it finds what it's looking for, it closes in to provide footage of what the person has been doing previously and what he or she is doing next.
West Virginia has launched a smartphone app that's one part clever crowdsourcing and community engagement and one part sinister report-on-your-neighbor Big Brotherism. The Suspicious Activity Reporting Application is exactly what it sounds like. See something that looks like a violation of the law, no matter how insignificant? Snap a pic, tag it with GPS, and anonymously report it to the state.
Fox News revealed this morning the identity of the man who's been assisting the FBI in their takedown of LulzSec, a hacker group loosely associated with Anonymous that's variously referred to as a group of "hacktivists," "pranksters," and "cyber terrorists," and is responsible for attacks against government agencies like the CIA and FBI in addition to corporations like Sony. According to Fox News, the FBI arrested one Hector Xavier Monsegur back in August. Monsegur has been helping the FBI track down and arrest other members of the group ever since--and he's been in a good position to do so, since he's is also known as Sabu, the original leader of LulzSec. More analysis over at Gizmodo.
This NASA hack story keeps getting worse and worse. We knew that NASA had been the target of a handful off attempted cyber attacks last year, but in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology over the last week, we're getting the details straight from Paul Martin, NASA's inspector general. NASA was targeted 47 times last year and 13 of those hacks were successful, at various points handing hackers "full functional control" of critical NASA networks. At one point the agency even lost the keys to the International Space Station.
The Department of Homeland Security is carefully watching the internet. They search through publications like this one (actually, specifically this one: we've been on the DHS watch-list for awhile), as well as all of our public social media lives, for possible "Items of Interest," which they find by searching for a whole bunch of sometimes-ridiculous keywords. (Animal New York rounded up a bunch of them.) It got us wondering: We write about a lot of security and military stuff here at PopSci. What's the DHS reading on our site?