Thursday, November 07, 2019

Naked Security: Warrant let police search online DNA database

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Warrant let police search online DNA database
By Lisa Vaas,

Detective Michael Fields of the Orlando Police Department in Florida ... successfully used GEDmatch to identify a suspect in the 2001 murder of a 25-year-old woman that he’d spent six years trying to solve. So, because Fields didn’t want to stop using DNA records – he was searching for suspects in the case of a serial rapist who attacked a number of women decades ago – he took his disappointment to the court.

As Fields reportedly announced at a police convention last week, he won what he was after: a warrant to search GEDmatch’s full database. As the Times reports, he’s now working with the forensic consulting firm Parabon to try to find a DNA match that will lead him to that rapist.

Legal experts told the Times that overriding a site’s policies in this way is a “huge game changer” for genetic privacy. The newspaper quoted Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University:

The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.

I've been telling friends and relatives for years that submitting DNA samples to geneology databases is risky, and now we're seeing why. Courts are now deciding that law enforcement should have complete access to the databases. This sets a precedent that will, in short order, be used to justify use and abuse of this data by every law enforcement employee, government agency and elected official that asks for it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Naked Security: Stalker found pop star by searching eyes’ reflections on Google Maps

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Stalker found pop star by searching eyes’ reflections on Google Maps
By Lisa Vaas,

A predator has confessed to stalking and attacking a young Japanese pop star by zooming in on the reflections in her eyes from photos she posted on social media.
A 26-year-old man by the name of Sato was arrested and confessed to police that he’d used the star’s selfies to figure out where she lived. Each of her pupils reflected the nearby streetscape, which he plugged into the street map function of Google Map to find out matching bus stops and scenery.

Holy cow! This is the kind of analysis I used to think only existed in science fiction.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Auto-brewery syndrome

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Rare medical condition can turn bodies into breweries.
Here's how auto-brewery syndrome works

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY. Published 2:30 p.m. ET Oct. 25, 2019 | Updated 3:31 p.m. ET Oct. 25, 2019

Free beer: Great. Beer that ferments inside your stomach without you knowing why you're getting drunk: Not so great.

In a case study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal Open Gastroenterology, doctors describe a patient who repeatedly had elevated blood alcohol levels but denied ever drinking a drop.

The cause: a rare condition known as "auto-brewery syndrome," or ABS, which causes the carbohydrates one ingests to turn into alcohol, fermented by fungi or bacteria in the gastrointestinal system.

"ABS is probably an underdiagnosed condition," the study authors wrote, adding that no diagnostic criteria exists to confirm the syndrome or treat it. However, the researchers do propose treatment that could be tested in future studies.

A friend told me about this today. I didn't believe it could be true, but it apparently is.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Gee, this feels familiar...

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The Register:
Techie with outdated documentation gets his step count in searching for non-existent cabinet
By Team Register. 10 May 2019 at 07:03

5-minute job? We've heard that old chestnut before

Have you got that Friday feeling? El Reg does, mainly because we're bringing you the latest instalment of On Call.

Every week, we trawl through emails recounting the times readers have been faced with a particularly tricky call-out, searching for the best one to take you into the weekend.

This time, we meet "Wayne", who got rather more exercise than he'd bargained for when asked to do a "five-minute" extra job after finishing an upgrade to a pair of network routers. ...

You definitely need to click through the article's link and read the whole story.

And remember it the next time I say I'm coming home late from work because I needed to fix "one last bug before leaving the office".

Thursday, May 09, 2019

ECN Magazine: Radical Desalination Approach May Disrupt the Water Industry

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Radical Desalination Approach May Disrupt the Water Industry
Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science - Tue, 05/07/2019 - 1:50pm

Hypersaline brines—water that contains high concentrations of dissolved salts and whose saline levels are higher than ocean water—are a growing environmental concern around the world. Very challenging and costly to treat, they result from water produced during oil and gas production, inland desalination concentrate, landfill leachate (a major problem for municipal solid waste landfills), flue gas desulfurization wastewater from fossil-fuel power plants, and effluent from industrial processes.
A Columbia Engineering team led by Ngai Yin Yip, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering, reports that they have developed a radically different desalination approach—"temperature swing solvent extraction (TSSE)"—for hypersaline brines. The study, published online in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, demonstrates that TSSE can desalinate very high-salinity brines, up to seven times the concentration of seawater. This is a good deal more than reverse osmosis, the gold-standard for , and can hold handle approximately twice seawater salt concentrations.

This is incredible news. Now that we have seen the process in a lab, hopefully it can be scaled up for use in a commercial desalinization plant. A cheap and low-energy technology would pretty much solve the world's fresh water supply problems.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Register: It's time to list the five biggest lies about 5G

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It's time to list the five biggest lies about 5G
By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco, 25 Apr 2019 at 20:12

Let's cut the crap, El Reg style

Comment We thought the hype over next-generation mobile broadband networks couldn't get much thicker, but we were wrong. So let's just jump into the five biggest lies about 5G.

  1. China is using the tech to spy on God-fearing Western nations
  2. There is a "race to 5G"
  3. 5G is ready to go now
  4. 5G is the answer to all our broadband / fast internet needs
  5. Spectrum auctions will solve all the issues

I've been saying some of this for some time now. Especially the first two. I listen to a lot of political news podcasts and people can't stop making insane claims that if Huawei sells a cell tower to Verizon that they will be able to listen in on every conversation and intercept every web session that crosses the tower (or in some more paranoid versions, over Verizon's entire network).

Even if they built in a "send all packets to China" feature, and somehow managed to turn it on without Verizon's NOC noticing that the amount of traffic has instantly doubled, how is this any less secure than using public Wi-Fi in a restaurant? The answer is that it isn't. Which is why every web site and Internet service that cares about security (including your banks, e-mail services and social media sites) use encryption - that little "s" in https: isn't just for decoration.

Sure, maybe the Chinese want to fill their servers with thousands of terabytes of encrypted spam so they can spend the next decade decrypting it in order to learn a secret that, by the time they decode it, will have been all over the New York Times for several years. But I think they have better things to do.

Those people who are likely targets of espionage already need advanced security, with or without 5G. The fact that Huawei makes some equipment used by your cell carrier doesn't magically give them the ability to decrypt all the traffic flowing through that equipment.

That having been said, I am opposed to Huawei selling equipment to the US or anyone else. Not because they're going to take over the world, but simply because they should be allowed to profit from decades of intellectual property theft and massive government subsidies. Level the playing field by taking those away and I'll be happy to let them (try and) compete against Ericsson and Nokia.

All of that now having been said, there actually is a national security threat from Chinese network equipment like that from Huawei and ZTE. Not that they can intercept the world's communications, but that they could turn it off. They could build a hidden kill switch into their products that would probably not be detected. If a war should break out between China and some other nation, they could trigger that switch, disabling their enemy's entire communication network. I think that threat is plausible and should be taken seriously.

Could Ericsson or Nokia build in a kill switch? Sure they could, but since they are not owned by any government, the odds of them doing it on their own or in response to a government request is far lower than products built by companies that are subject to control by a foreign and hostile government.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hello World on the Qualcomm QCA4020 developer board

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I have recently started working on an IoT project involving the use of a Qualcomm QCA4020 Development Kit prototype board. The board has many useful features for IoT prototyping, but a clear set of "getting started" instructions is not one of them.

Qualcomm's developer network has published a Hello World demo application, but the procedure is for Windows PCs and I want to use Linux for my development platform. Qualcomm's SDK says that Linux and macOS are supported platforms, but any documentation resembling a tutorial is strictly Windows-based.

This blog post is the procedure I worked out for getting their Hello World demo working using a Linux PC to cross-compile the code and flash the Qualcomm developer board

Monday, April 01, 2019

Interpreting Verizon's contract buzzwords

I recently upgraded my phone to a new iPhone 6+. It's great, but that's not the point of this article. In reading through the contract information, both before and after signing, I became aware of the fact that my contract has a lot of buzzwords that are not clearly defined.

In Googling for the definitions, I found that it is very hard to find definitions for most of these. As a service to my readers, here are all the line items from my contract, and the best explanation I've found so far for them. Some come from Verizon or from user-forum discussions I ran across. Some are based on my own intuition and understanding of wireless technology.

Corrections are welcome and will help to make the list more complete. I don't promise that it's all correct, but I hope people with specific knowledge will be able to help me improve it and make it correct.

Updated on June 4, 2015, based on reader comments. Thanks much!

Updated on April 1, 2019, based on the receipt we got when we upgraded one of our phones last July.

Friday, March 29, 2019

New invention: the phone booth!

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T-Mobile installs phone-charging purple booths on city streets
by Linda Hardesty |

Every Phone BoothE comes with power for smartphone charging along with a compatible cord. And the booth features a large vertical screen that connects to the customer’s T-Mobile smartphone to use with video calls or just to enjoy a big screen for better internet browsing. The large screen can also be set as a background for customers to take selfies.

The booth offers a quiet, temperature-controlled space complete with walls and windows. If they could fit a couch in the booth, people may never leave.

Phone BoothE is reserved just for T-Mobile customers, who can unlock the booths with a smartphone app. They can download the T-Mobile Phone BoothE App from the App Store or Google Play (coming soon). They can also use the app to find and reserve a BoothE nearest them.

It's about time. Ever since the demise of public phone booths, we've needed a way to make a private call without renting office space.

Of course, now T-Mobile is going to have to deal with the problems that AT&T had with the classic phone booths - of homeless people living in them, drug addicts shooting up in them, etc. But maybe they have a solution in place for all this.

Update: It appears that the "Phone BoothE" was an April 1st joke, even though they announced it on March 29th. It still sounds like a good idea, though.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dry Bones: No big deal

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DryBonesBlog. March 27, 2019

Hamas Rockets From Gaza Hit Israel ...again!!

Sadly, this seems to be the absolute truth. Terrorists can bomb Israel and nobody cares, but if Israel fires even one bullet in retaliation, then they are condemned by the entire world.

You would think that after 60 years of this, Israel would stop caring what the world thinks. If everything you do makes the world hate you, then why should you even listen to them?