Pindrop analyzes phone calls for call center workers to determine whether the people on the other end are trying to defraud the company. The software quickly pinpoints a call’s city of origin without tracing it.
The bad guys version of innovation. Time on 5 cybercrime hotspots
Crime syndicates in Russia use some of the most technologically advanced tools in the trade, according to Sherry. “The Russians are at the top of the food chain when it comes to elite cyberskill hacking capabilities,” he says. Even before the latest revelations of stolen online records, the United States charged a Russian man, Evgeniy Bogachev, of participating in a large-scale operation to infect hundreds of thousands of computers around the world. The massive data breach of the retailer Target last year has also been traced to Eastern Europe. But why Russia, and its smaller neighbors? Trained computer engineers and skilled techies in Russia and countries like Ukraine and Romania may be opting for lucrative underground work instead of the often low-paying I.T. jobs available there.
Traditionally when a user types in a web address, his web browser sends a request to access the site’s servers. CloudFlare acts as a virtual middleman, fielding requests and neutralizing threats. The startup also stores some of its customers’ content on servers across the U.S., Europe, and Australia, an approach that enables pages to load superfast because the content is located closer to the web surfer. It’s an approach not unlike that of older rival Akamai Technologies , but CloudFlare uses a freemium model: A free basic plan promises sites speed tweaks and protection. Paid options serve up faster performance and deeper security features. As Prince likes to point out, his little startup now signs up as many as 5,000 new users a day, roughly the size of Akamai’s entire client base.
A German startup is offering a high-tech monitoring system for this problem, which is set to grow more urgent as the developed world begins dealing with a spike in senior citizens. The company has developed an advanced, conductive textile floor covering they call SensFloor that detects when people are walking or lying on it. The innovation is already alerting European nursing homes when a senior has fallen.
Their flooring is a polyester fleece textile measuring just eight-hundredths of an inch in thickness. They use an ordinary textile production process to laminate a thin, conductive piece of metal into the fleece to make patterns like those found on circuit boards. Some parts of the pattern become sensor fields and others become conductive lanes. These are connected to embedded radio modules that communicate real-time data to the system’s cigarette-box-sized controller.
SensFloor switches lights, controls automatic doors, and detects unauthorised intrusion. For high-security applications like access control in combination with RFID, SensFloor can count individual people.
I heard Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland As, describe in a humorous talk how the book Moneyball came to be. The author Michael Lewis initially told him he was working on an article for the New York Times. A few weeks later it had turned into a longer article for the NYT Magazine. A few months later, the conversations had become the basis for the best selling book.
I chuckled when I saw Lewis interview a panel of sports executives last year. I wondered if they were wondering where the conversation would show up in Lewis’s prolific writing. Certainly as I was reading Lewis’ new book Flash Boys I kept wondering how he got so many of the characters to talk so openly and in so much technical detail.
So, as a fellow author, I found the book fascinating.
As a technologist, I enjoyed all the details of speed of electrons via fiber and microwave, the mining of competitive intelligence via LinkedIn, the mindset of Russian coders and the gritty nuances of trading systems.
But, taking those author and technologist hats off, I found the book somewhat plodding. The blistering start turns out to be difficult to sustain. The main characters are not that interesting. Most of them are workaholics and not sure allowed Lewis too much insight into their personal lives. Lewis’ snark makes for lively reading, though. He describes an Irish character : “(had) the uneasy caution of a man who has survived one potato famine and is expecting another”
The book also does not have clear villains. The high frequency traders are mostly faceless (and he ends the book with a cryptic pointer to one of them). The Feds – the SEC and the FBI - come across as incompetent more than evil. Goldman Sachs comes off looking bad in several parts of the book, but gets more sympathetic treatment towards the end. If there is a clear “bad guy” it is Regulation NMS which while well intentioned has allowed speed to trump other goals trading systems should be focused on.
The gist of the book comes in this sentence “The entire history of Wall Street was the story of scandals ….linked together tail to trunk like circus elephants”. And in talking to folks in New York recently many have dismissed the book as Lewis’ morality play.
To me, the scary takeaway is in our growing digital world the scandals are going to be ever more geeky with most regulators and common folk having even less of a chance of catching on for a long, long time.
NSA’s spies divide targets into two broad categories: data in motion and data at rest. Information moving to and from mobile phones, computers, data centers, and satellites is often easier to grab, and the agency sucks up vast amounts worldwide. Yet common data such as e-mail is often protected with encryption once it leaves a device, making it harder—but not impossible—to crack.
Retrieving information from hard drives, overseas data centers, or cell phones is more difficult, but it’s often more valuable because stored data is less likely to be encrypted, and spies can zero in on exactly what they want. NSA lawyers can compel U.S. companies to hand over some of it; agency hackers target the most coveted and fortified secrets inside computers of foreign governments.
Tor, an acronym for “the onion router,” is software that provides the closest thing to anonymity on the Internet. Engineered by the Tor Project, a nonprofit group, and offered free of charge, Tor has been adopted by both agitators for liberty and criminals. It sends chat messages, Google (GOOG) searches, purchase orders, or e-mails on a winding path through multiple computers, concealing activities as the layers of an onion cover its core, encrypting the source at each step to hide where one is and where one wants to go. Some 5,000 computers around the world, volunteered by their owners, serve as potential hop points in the path, obscuring requests for a new page or chat.
An example of “innovation” where you least expect it…this time in Tibet
“Cybersecurity experts call this "advanced persistent threat" (APT) -- a constant onslaught of targeted attacks requiring resources that are normally unavailable to individual hackers. "Dharamsala is ground zero for advanced persistent threat, really," says Greg Walton, a doctoral candidate at Oxford University's Center for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security. Walton traveled to Dharamsala in 2008 to help the Dalai Lama's private office better understand what, and who, had been compromising its systems. His team discovered that the most likely culprit was a shadowy hacker group responsible for a series of network intrusions that American investigators had dubbed "Byzantine Hades." The group, according to U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, had ties to a unit of the People's Liberation Army, China's military, based in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu.” -
One night last April, 500 cells at the Montgomery County Jail in Maryland clicked open. No convicts wandered out, and authorities brushed off the incident as a simple computer glitch. But across the globe in Moscow, the security breach sent chills through a Russian billionaire -- Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, one of the world's biggest computer-security companies.
To Kaspersky, the malfunction proved his years of warnings: that increasingly digitized infrastructure is vulnerable to attack, including stock exchanges, power grids, and rapid-transit systems. "We are fighting with the cyber-devil," he says over a dinner of oysters, fish, and beer in Brussels in December. "We have to expect we will be fighting against very professional people."