Category Archives: News

Keep Your Kids Digitally Safe

Image Credit: pexels.com

Raising children has been a challenge in all times, no matter how science and technology progress. As technology evolves, new challenges emerge. With the advent of mobile phones and mobile internet, children have gone busy communicating over the Internet. They stare into the screens of their phones instead of running and rushing wildly around the neighborhood. Although sitting with a phone will hardly result in a broken arm or leg, there are other, even more serious perils.

Two sides of the coin

Like everything that has clearly defined positive sides, technological boom has its milestones. There are tons of information available over the Internet, and a large share of it is far from positive. Digital communication has opened up countless new venues. However, not all people are good, and in the hands of a bad guy a good thing can become a deadly weapon. There are a growing number of complaints from schoolchildren about cyberbullying. Some bad people use social network account to unify and zombify children, whose psyche is too weak and vulnerable to resist this psychological aggression. There statistics of social media-related suicides is really intimidating.

Control your kids properly

It is every parent’s duty to guard hand steer his/her children down the safest path. How can we do that? Stop letting them go outside without attendance? Take the phone away? Lock them inside a bedroom?

As kids grow older, they learn more about the world and, most important, learn and want to be independent. However, their desire to be independent outruns the understanding of the price we pay for it, because their mind is too young to comprehend it.

To avoid trouble, parents should start teaching their children to use phones and Internet properly. Children start getting involved in digital activities around 8-10 years old, when they are still unable to tell good from bad. It is during this age that they learn to exchange messages, share photos, videos, audio, etc. Now it is your biggest responsibility to teach your child the digital etiquette and get him/her used to the fact that you are going to monitor this activity. If you fail to do it now, it will be much harder to do it when he/she enters the teens and becomes naturally assertive. Indeed, teaching a kid to put up with having to be controlled is an extremely important thing. And it is even more important how you go that!

Do not be too authoritarian!

Image Credit: pexels.com

The radical steps mentioned in the beginning of the previous paragraph will hardly work, especially with teenagers. There are subtler and more ‘high-tech’ methods of keeping your child secure.

At some stage of life, you can and should explain to your kid some simple things. Let him/her know that they should not talk to strangers and why. A clear and laconic explanation can do wonders to even the fussiest young boy or girl.

Keep track of your child’s mood and reactions to things. Under usual circumstances they remain the same for years. If you have noticed that he/she has grown aloof, gloomy, or reserved, and it has continued for several days, something is definitely wrong. Not unlikely, your child has fallen in with some wild IT bunch or is being bullied online. Fortunately, there are good solutions, which can save you a lot of worries.

Use parental control software!

There are unique software tools like ExactSpy, PhoneSheriff, etc., which you can install on your and your child’s phone or tablet. These programs have a variety of tracking options, which allow you to tract and keep record off incoming and outgoing phone calls, instant messages, browser activity, use of multimedia, etc. There have been lots of cases whereby parents, who observed sudden changes in their kids’ behavior and mood, discovered that they were being abused online and took steps to stop it.

EI and Emotion Recognition Tools

Emotional Intelligence has recently become a much-talked of concept despite the fact that it was first introduced some 20 years ago – in 1995. This special ability of a person to recognize and handle one’s feelings and emotions was studied by Dr. Daniel Goleman, who actually brought public’s attention to this particular cognitive ability area.


emotion-circleSince that time there have been carried out a great number of various studies in the field and the importance of EI was actually proposed to be placed higher than one of IQ level (in any interpersonal activity, and especially in business).

With the advent of technologies (that were unthinkable in 1995) emotional intelligence research has stepped onto a new level. Not that we’ve learned everything about the concept as it is and how to implement the knowledge consciously on at least a personal basis, but we already try to dive deeper into emotional analytics with the range of tools we have recently acquired and are gradually updating.

The talk is about a plethora of APIs and SDKs that are able to interpret a person’s (a user’s) mood by means of tracking human emotive gestures. On the basis of reactions to visual, audio and kinaesthetic stimuli and distractions recent technologies are able to carry out the sorting of emotions into 7 major groups:

  • joy,
  • sadness,
  • anger,
  • fear,
  • surprise,
  • contempt,
  • and disgust.

Methods used: facial detection, sonic algorithms and semantic analysis; tools are photo and video materials, text and speech samples.

Such blend of psychology and technology provides a chance for a very specific analysis – with the conclusions that are all the more important, the larger the scale is.

Why It Matters?


Because it is profitable. For any business, for every business literally.


Getting back to EI as a basis – on a personal level in business – it is about leadership and organization with the use of emotional intelligence skills; we talk about human resources management on a different level.

Besides, emotion analytics is very likely to take the place of many analytical marketing tools that are in use now and considered effective so far – but not for long. In accordance with the recent news the only pure facial recognition market is likely to grow up to $6.19bln in next five years; and provided that emotional recognition is added to this equation – the number gets unscalable. Well, so do the uses for the method.

Take any group testing in business – for a commercial, or an audience response for a movie or a specific product. This is actually a marketing campaign on entirely new level – you get huge amount of automatically accumulated data that is not only collected in a more efficient way but is also much more reliable as immediate emotional reactions are very hard to control.

Thus, the response of any target audience is likely to be more sincere and all the more exemplary. The implementation, as it has already been said, barely has any limitations: from getting real TV ratings to improving security systems of any public venues (stadiums, airports, etc.)

In the opinion of Paul Zak (the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University) we are likely to get emotion-optimized products and services very soon; it is not even the question of tomorrow but rather of today. And getting back to the question of profit – every business that directly deals with customers won’t be able to stay unaffected.


reverantlightwaveOne of the most vivid examples is how large and influential businesses have already taken emotion analytics on board. Google and Pepsi along with 20th Century Fox and Jaguar have already applied for such “applied neuroscience platform” (in their own terminology) as Lightwave for parsing people’s biometrics, collecting and analyzing consumers’ emotional and mental states. The company also measured the audience’s response and the intensity of emotional reactions to the famouls movie “The Revenant” by using real-time biometric data (with a number of quite far-fetching conslusions). Lightware, as well as a growing number of similar apps and platforms pave the road to entirely new emotion economy.


affectiva

Among other APIs that recognize mood is Affectiva: it represents a new solution that allows large scale data collection and analysis – of facial expressions to be precise – with the help of visual analytic tools. At the present moment it owns a database of 3,289,274 analyzed faces.

The company’s CEO and Co-founder Rana el Kaliouby points out that EI factor can no longer be neglected; besides, it can no longer be accounted separately in the era of Internet of things. Digital devices have already become an inseparable part of our life; thus, they are also in need of being adapted in terms of emotional intelligence as well – the result will be all the more beneficial.


The same can be referred to the other two examples that of Synesketch and Moodies.

synesketchThe former represents text-to-emotion “converter”. It is an iTunes player for written text. Basically it represents an tool that allows analyzing text for emotive reaction that further on is converted into a unique visualization.

moodiesThe latter deals with translation from speech to the language of emotions. Literally, the way one is speaking, the words used, the tone and speed and other speech-related factors are analyzed; from this information actual feedback about general emotional state and mood of a speaker is given. Besides, the analysis allows making some conclusions with regards to a person’s characteristics in decision-making.


EI and Emotion Recognition Perspective

While the achievements are numerous and impressive the perspective is not clear. Emotional recognition via facial detection (or any other means) is only likely to advance, and with it a number of ethical questions is also likely to raise – especially the ones with regards to the authorization and consent granting for any such analysis. It is especially true with regards to business and advertising sector – where profit runs the show – and misuse can be expected.

The other concern is about data privacy policy and access to this valuable date. It is very likely to be another matter of concern. With the growing importance of personal emotional data it is only natural to suppose that emotion-aware devices are the future; however, with the number of present day available tracking software that is permanently advancing,we are going to get not only unthinkable new technologies but also absolutely new type of surveillance. This was the story of GPS and location tracking some years ago – now it’s a standard of living. It is very likely that the same will happen with emotions in business.

The Internet of Things – What It Is

Under the term the “Internet of things” (IoT) is currently understood a growing number of concepts; the idea has become increasingly popular. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of complexity behind the term as it is pretty much related to a number of things including technology and innovation and human factor and what not.

However, all this fails pretty much to cover up the idea of sense behind IoT. Thus, here are some things to understand.

Nowadays Internet as a phenomenon seems so natural, and it’s getting cheaper, more and more available, and inseparable from our daily lives with all the potential of Wi-Fi and smartphones and numerous other gadgets that inevitably invade our lives.

With all this in mind the basic concept behind IoT is that any device that has a potential for Internet access will be connected to it; and such devices will also be interconnected with one another. Thus, we are going to have all sorts of appliances and devices at home (and out) that create an actual network – and the prospects are that by 2020 we are going to have about 30 million devices connected in such a way. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

So, we are getting at entirely new level – not only it is things-people relationship but all the possible combinations as well. One of the concepts is of a smart city; the one that will live and develop effectively and will be able both to serve as a comfortable place to live and harm environment to a minimum at the same time. There are others, of course, as the potential of IoT is really great. In a sense it is hard to imagine all the opportunities and openings that such technology is to offer.

We will have everything connected, if it can be. Well, here is the point where questions and discussions start arising. Do we actually need so many things connected? Do we have to be surrounded by an invisible network of gadgets that, well, are able to think on their own? The discussions are numerous and some of the questions refer to a broader issue of artificial intelligence and all things related.

Some of the conversations do get negative hint that reflect eternal fear of the unknown and unconventional; and surely, there is plenty of challenge and risks to be taken. First and foremost is the question of security. With all the devices and gadgets brought up together in one network, there is no surprise that people may worry about their private data security. As the leak in one place will definitely be fraught with unpleasant (and sometimes even downright dreadful) consequences. Just imagine someone hacking into your coffee-maker and stealing all you personal photo from your smartphone, or credit card data, or else. Not nice, isn’t it?

Next issue the amount of data that is going to be produced and processed. Well, there’s going to be tons of information. And it will require monitoring, storage, analysis and so on – definitely there will be new job openings…


There are several talks about IoT on Ted.com. They dwell on the topic how IoT is going to affect our daily lives with the speakers trying to make attempts at understanding both the benefits and the challenges and how we can prepare ourselves to deal with such product of process to the best of our advantage.


Get a better idea by having a look at “The Internet of Things: Dr. John Barrett at TEDxCIT“.

Pokémon Go and Mobile Security Threats

llRecently it is fairly hard to find anyone unaware of Pokémon Go – which is definitely saying something about the popularity of the game app. The guess is that such popularity can be explained by the rare (and successful) mix of reality and virtual in one small app.

Surely, most of us have already seen those crazy people trying to catch a Pokémon at the street, in a mall, in your grandmother’s garden. Well, you can hardly miss it as your phone starts sending vibrations as soon as you approach one. The fancy part of the game is that no matter where you are – in Lisbon’s Alfama or Aukland, New Zealand – your  Pokémon will be catching #28 tram, or taking a stroll around the city as real. The more of them you collect by capturing, the cooler.

Quite fascinating, it is. Right?

The Sad Part

However, there is a silver lining. One of the things you have to do in the first place to play is to log in with a Gmail account. Then, the app gets your location data – well, this one is essential, otherwise how else you are going to get all these realistic creatures in those definite locations? By logging in, you grant the app full access to your personal data… and here is the question – what information is actually being collected by the app?

Here are several things to understand. The first one is not to grant full access to your personal information to anyone.  Most users do not clearly understand the mechanism as well as consequences of such apps’ functioning; thus a great number of problems may arise.

Many have heard about identity theft, however, it is only when it happens, we do realize the scale of a problem. Personal data – from health to finance – is not something we want others to be aware of; when it is lost, it can be fraught with serious consequences.

About 1 billion of personal records are lost annually in accordance to official resources; and the situation isn’t likely to improve. Sad fact is that we often make it accessible on our own by allowing such apps as Pokémon Go into our smartphones.

ddAnother study shows that about 43% of all software companies faced with identity theft issues recently and hackers are getting better and better in their ways to get personal data (FBI have numerous reports about email phishing campaigns and etc.) In many cases it is not anything complicated taking into consideration the fact that people grant access to their data by themselves simply by being unaware that a simple click and login/password procedure opens the doors wide to viruses, and consequently, to any third parties who gets your name, financial and private data in an instant.

Data breaches can never be harmless, no matter on a personal or a company level. Thus, it is quite essential to learn some tricks about security and use them.

What to Do

Kaspian - Keynote smalllcGetting back to Pokémon Go, here are some things to remember when you download and install any app to your smartphone:

Gaming is fun, let’s make sure it is safe for our kids. Don’t permit access to your personal data and privacy. Grant third-party applications limited access to your data and take precautions to protect your family from the possibility of being hacked.

  • First of all, use two-factor authentication. This refers especially to the apps that deal with finances – e.g. banking apps, online shops and etc. Such measure allows higher level of security and your financial data will be much safer.
  • Antimalware can also come handy. It won’t save you from a professional hack attempt, however, it will definitely keep away any unwanted apps and viruses, as well as intrusive spyware.
  • Firewall and security apps. Those will help to keep away any attempts at security breach at least by blocking them.
  • One more thing not to forget is to have a feature that allows remove blocking of a device. Dead useful in case of stealth.

To Cap It All

Pokémon Go is not that dangerous as any other app that you download to your device. It is fun to some extent and for some period of time it is likely to go on being popular. For those who haven’t joined this fun – make sure you take all the above mentioned precautions into consideration.

Popular Flash Keyboard Appeared to Be a Spy Program

flashIn accordance with the recent news a very popular Flash-board disclosed some functions of data collection and transfer to third party servers.

Fkash Keyboard is one of the numerous Android application that has become popular due to its functionality as well as multilingual support and also due to nice design. It was positioned as “extremely adaptive” as well as easy to use in any situation. The total number of downloads as well as installs for this app actually exceeded the ones for WhatsApp; and that’s saying something.

However, it seems that the keyboard was not only useful for its users. As the research by Pentest shows, it actually asked for more permissions than necessary and got access to some private data of its users. For example:

  • the app got access to a camera of the device;
  • it was also able to replace the lock screen with the ad one;
  • it sent alert messages;
  • was able to terminate some of the background processes (e.g. antivirus apps);
  • it also seems to send the collected data (mostly data about the device model, manufactur, GPS location data as well as IMEI number) to the serves in the US, China and the Netherlands. Pentest believes that these data might have been used for analytics platforms.

Surely, such services are not threatening in their nature; however, the excessive permissions as well as excessive data are one of the things that can always be misused by someone.

It is believed that the app was not developed to be a tracking one intentionally; however, it is rather strange that the Hong Kong-based developer of Flash Kewboard DotC United refused to comment the situation when asked for it by several media resources.

As of late, the application was taken down and is no longer available in Google Play Store; however, a new analogous keyboard developed by the same company is now available for general public. Let’s hope, it does not use the same tricks.

 

mSpy Got PTPA Winner’s Seal of Approval

sealGood news to all mSpy customers – the company has recently got an award and it is the PTPA Winner’s Seal of Approval.  As a matter of fact, PTPA Media represents a digital agency with the aim of Parental Advocacy, Community Building and Digital Communications. They are the part of Parent Tested Parent Approved™ and they have got one of the largest volunteering stuff in Northern America (about 70,000), and mSpy was rated by more than 22,000 parents across North America worth of the Most Trusted Seal; which speaks for its own.
The seal is a very important sign of the product quality and reliability. All the tests are conducted by volunteering parents at their own will and at their homes and free time; the feedbacks are numerous and unbiased, and they are also compared and the entire decision is made about this or that product. PTPA Winner’s Seal in this respect proves the excellence of mSpy services and high quality of the product.
This is a real honor and achievement for mSpy company to get such high evaluation from parents and families. This is also a motive to upgrade and develop the product further in order to make it better and more useful for parents and kids alike.
Here is more information about the certification as well as mSpy feedbacks: http://ptpa.com/product/mspy/.

StealthGenie Story and Consequences

Right at the present moment cell phone spying software is a hot topic in the media. The owners of the software install spy apps to the targets phones and are then able to get a clear picture of all interactions, contacts and relocations. At the present moment there is a number of mobile tracking companies that offer such products and some of them got a lot of negative publicity of late.

One of them is StealthGenie – a software company owned by a Danish citizen. The latter was fined $500,000 in the United States on the basis of illegal dealings. He actually admitted selling and advertising the product and by doing so was found guilty of such software abuse.

This incident with StealthGenie can’t explain the fact that there are other spy companies around and they are still well and running. The question here is for how long they will go on?

As a matter of fact, such spy software provides a very broad surveillance potential and it runs in a stealth mode as well; it is actually the tool that should be used by governments only in cases of defense when it is really necessary but not in cases of domestic spying when personal privacy is invaded.

This is the point of view that seems to gain more and more support of late. Women’s Aid had a survey that showed the rate of spy software use to be quite high; the major user groups were parents and spouses. Taking into consideration the fact that these applications have become broadly available only fairly recently, it is also understandable that there haven’t been any one clear opinion whether they are legal or not on a major scale.

But it is definitely getting clearer now; if you recall StealthGenie recent FBI operation. In accordance with the Assistant Attorney General’s statement the company’s operation was defined as illegal and in even stronger terms, it is a crime. All the similar application cases on that matter have very high probability to be put on the same line in the nearest future.

That is why all spy software companies that offered call recording and listen to surrounding feature have closed it right after StealthGenie case. Taking into consideration that this is the first feature that is supposed to be used solely by government agency and law enforcement, most companies considered it unwise to go on with such risks.

The example of StealthGenie was very demonstrative in many ways and especially for other companies in this business. The government put is quite straight that any attempts of personal privacy invasion, any ads and illegal attempts will have their consequences.

Encrypted Smartphone and Consumers’ Reaction

In the light of all the interesting information revealed about the NSA actually spying on their own citizens, the problem of mobile security got more attention. It has become known that the National Security Agency was involved in various surveillance activities that included cell phones’ tracking and the like. In this respect the appearance of the new device – an encrypted smartpone is probably not surprising to anyone.

Taking into consideration the fact that the idea and device are new and it is hard to predict the number of customers who can potentially be interested in buying such a smartphone.

The new encrypted device got the name of the Blackphone and is a creation of Silent Circle. The company specializes in encryption and cell phone security and as they claim, the created a product that can be relied on. In accordance with their words the best effort was made to make sure that a user’s privacy is secured and that no side control over the device is possible. In the light of the recent revelations is it quite clear that many smartphone users feel uneasy and less secure about their mobile devices and there are great expectations that the new Blackphone will gain popularity pretty soon.

The main goal of the Blackphone creation was to make a cell phone that could send and receive encrypted messages and calls without the risk of the latter being intercepted and interpreted. The smartphone is claimed to be easy to use and familiar with the customers in terms of interface and applications and general appearance.

The Blackphone is surely to draw the attention of those users who are involved in the spheres with high security levels necessity as well as businessmen and so on. It will be also of interest to general public as in the light of the NSA recent activity, many people are not really happy about the perspective of being tracked or overheard, and stripped of their privacy. As long as the devise has just recently been launched, it is hard to make any definite prediction about its mass market perspectives or the like. Besides, it is really not very clear whether the Blackphone is really as reliable as the promises sound.

One thing is for sure, the Blackphone is a new word in mobile world and it definitely has much better encryption for security among the existing mobile phone models; however, unless it becomes more available for general public and proves that it works the way it should, it is hardly likely that the model won’t stay the choice of only narrow circle of interested people.

Ways the NSA Uses in their Surveillance Practice

In accordance with the recent article published in the Spiegel the NSA has got a great number of ways that it uses for spying. Its ANT division is equipped with a great number of tactics and some of them have very strange and even funny names. However, this does not interfere with them being highly effective.

As a matter of fact, there are more than several dozens of such techniques and here are just several of them.

IRONCHEF
This hardware is a tricky one and is manufactured by Hewlett-Packard. It stays alive put even after the spyware is removed.

ANGRYNEIGHBOR
This spyware has a very eloquent name and it is able to track the objects in your house, in the rooms and etc. It makes possible to track what’s happening on any computer screen in the house.

SURLYSPAWN
This program is able to log the keystrokes even in the offline status and as far as the street across, isn’t it impressive? This spying soft is closely related to the aforementioned “angryneighbor” and it does not presuppose any downloads as it works on radio frequency.

TAWDRYYARD
This one serves as a beacon that helps to locate the necessary units. It is a part of RAGEMASTER and its cost is just $30 but it works perfectly and it is able to intercept video.

CANDYGRAM
In fact, the agency does not have any need in going into contact with any of the cell phone companies as they have this tracking software – candigram. This one is very interesting as it is able to imitate the GSM cell tower and make the observations without any need for direct interference.

NIGHTSTAND
The agency is able to attack any computer that works on Windows OS within the distance of 8 miles. It can be done via an 802.11 wireless exploit and it is usually used when there is no option for wired access.

IRATEMONK
IRATEMONK activity is based on either remote access or interdiction. It is usually installed on a target’s computer and can be accessed every time whenever the PC starts.

Surely, these are just the simplest ones of the NSA’s cell phone spying techniques and tactics and in some ways it is even better not to know about the rest of the surveillance options.

 

New Anti-Spy Cell Phones Are Coming

anti-spy cell phoneNews about two new anti-spy mobile phones appearing at the cell phone market spread fast. Two major French security companies plan to release new age cell phones with completely advanced level of security and encrypted communications. Their release is connected with the recent news about NSA surveillance activity and other revelations about the U.S. government activity in this field.

The first company, a well-known Bull, announced the release of new business smartphone named Hoox m2. It is Andoid based and has got some special filling resistant to hacking.

The other company, Thales, has also plans of releasing new enterprise-software system named Teopad. It’s designed to split an Android-based device “in two,” as they say, and the first part is presupposed for personal use while the second is specially developed for making secure calls and dealing with business apps securely.

Surely, the release of these two cell phones is just the beginning as in the light of the recent news and revelations more and more companies and business will be interested in such devices. As one can see, the demand for secure and encrypted communication is already on the rise. It is expected that the market of secure cell phone software will increase to $3 billion by 2017 at the very least.

It is only natural that recent revelations about the U.S. NSA’s surveillance and intelligence activity caused many to become more attentive and even if the cases of surveillance are not the ones of exact espionage, this is still a call for many businesses and individuals to pay more attention to their security systems.

However, there surely be questions and the first one is whether these devices are as secure as they are claimed to be? It is surely quite hard to make any positive (or negative) statement as a certain period of time should pass. Surely, there always be hacker, if there are encryptions.

Open cooperation can be the solution but not every company will be eager to disclose its methods with the rivals. Besides, outsiders are likely to find faults in security and let general public know about them. So, open-source communication and approach is a way out but it seems to be not exactly right now.