Not-So-Perfect Encryption: What You Must Know About the WhatsApp Vulnerability

5 Apr

WhatsApp is more than just a freeware messaging platform and SMS text messaging alternative. Since its original development by Facebook over eight years ago, it has become one of the most popular apps of its type in existence. According to a post on the company’s own blog, more than 100 million voice calls alone are made every day as of June 2016. By early January of 2015, the service had over 700 million monthly active users all over the world and sent over 30 billion text-based messages each day. By any metric you can think of, that’s a massive success.

A lot of WhatsApp’s popularity stems from the fact that it offers a very key feature that other services don’t — end-to-end encryption. Since 2014, WhatsApp has offered total encryption to all users free of charge. This means that only the person sending the message and the person receiving it can actually read it. Even if someone does happen to be using sophisticated technology to intercept that data while it’s in transmission, it would be completely unreadable. To its credit, Facebook has always claimed that NOBODY can intercept WhatsApp messages — even Facebook employees.

A recently uncovered vulnerability, however, calls all of this into question.

The WhatsApp Situation

For end-to-end encryption to work properly, only two people can have decryption keys — the sender and the recipient. So long as nobody has physical access to either of the two devices, a conversation is completely impenetrable. A security vulnerability — one that was intentionally built into the app’s code by its developers — changes things significantly, however. Experts have stated that WhatsApp actually has the ability to “force” the creation of a secondary set of encryption keys for offline users, all without actually telling the users what is going on.

This means that if someone is targeted by the United States government, for example, WhatsApp can actually generate a secondary set of encryption keys that would let officials spy on messages being sent and received. All the while, the original users would think that nothing was wrong.

The vulnerability was originally discovered by a cryptography and security researcher named Tobias Boelter at the University of California. He reported what he initially assumed to be a problem to Facebook in April of 2016, only to be told that this was “expected behavior.” Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see that this is less a flaw and more a “feature” — one that has harrowing implications on freedom of speech and cyber privacy in general. Since Boelter’s findings, other organizations like The Guardian have been able to confirm that the vulnerability still exists as of January 2017.

Naturally, this was big news when the story originally broke. Members of the WhatsApp team said that this is seen as “acceptable” because, in theory, it will never affect the majority of the service’s users. For this “security loophole” to be employed at all, a particular user or set of users must be targeted. It’s not like someone could read any of the billions of messages being sent each day if they wanted to, someone needs a reason to look at the messages of a select person. The fact that the vulnerability exists at all, however, calls the company’s entire mantra of “privacy for all” into question.

Thankfully, there is a mechanism built into the WhatsApp application that allows users to see if this vulnerability is actively being used. By opening the app and selecting the “Security” option, followed by the “Account” option and then navigating to the “Security” screen, they can enable a feature called “Show Security Notifications.” This will alert a user when a contact’s security code has been changed. While this does happen if someone buys a new phone or uninstalls and reinstalls the app, it will ALSO happen if decryption codes are changed due to someone making use of this security issue.

The Top Five Dash Cameras to Be Aware of for 2017

3 Apr

As technology continues to advance, keeping up with the latest innovations in certain product categories is more important than ever — especially if it’s something that helps to keep you safe every day. Case in point: Today’s dash cameras are more powerful, less expensive and have more features than even the top-of-the-line models from as few as five years ago. Whether you’re thinking of purchasing a dash camera for the first time in 2017 or you’re ready to trade in an old unit for a flashy new model, there are a few particular options you’ll absolutely want to consider.

The G1W-CB 1080P HD Car Dash Camera With Capacitor

The G1W-CB 1080P HD Car Dash Camera is actually a refresh of the popular G1W series and comes with all of the features the previous unit offered and so much more. In addition to a lens designed for absolutely perfect forward-facing surveillance, you get footage captured in stunning 1080P high-definition detail. Loop recording guarantees that you’ll never miss a minute of the important action, and the included capacitor allows it to withstand extreme temperatures. It stores 10 hours of fully HD video thanks to support for a 64GB memory card.

The A119 1440P Car Dash Camera with GPS Logger

Another unit making waves across the industry in 2017 is the A119 1440P Car Dash Camera with GPS Logger, which, as the name suggests, offers a high-definition resolution of 1440P — significantly greater than that of traditional HD video. The unit’s cover design is intended to keep it hidden, and thanks to the included G-sensor, all impact events are captured automatically. What really makes this model unique is the included GPS logger — not only is driving location recorded instantly, but speed information is included as well. All of this would be hugely beneficial if you ever need to use your footage in a court of law. Built to withstand extreme temperatures and offering advanced features like low-light recording, this is a perfect option for safety-conscious drivers everywhere.

The Garmin Dash Cam 35

The Garmin Dash Cam 35 is the company’s flagship model, including a built-in GPS system, 1080P HD resolution and a recording frame rate of 30 frames per second. It offers a 180-degree viewing angle to make sure that you get the most accurate representation of obstacles in front of your car (particularly in terms of distance) at all times. Though the unit doesn’t have the ability to record audio, it does support a 64GB MicroSD card — guaranteeing that you’ll have at least 10 hours of recording when you need it the most.

The ZeroEdge

What makes the ZeroEdge such a unique entry on this list is that it actually gives you your choice of recording resolutions. Options include 480P standard definition and both the 720P and the 1080P HD formats. It mounts right to the windshield of your car thanks to the included suction cup and features a 2.4″ screen that shows you everything you’re recording. It also includes, not only the ability to record audio but still photography as well – with the press of a button.

The Blackvue DR650GW-2CH

For consumers who are willing to spare no expense and who want to guarantee the highest level of protection possible, the Blackvue DR65GW-2CH is one of the best dash cameras available in 2017 or any other year. It’s a premium system that includes a front- and a rear-facing camera, guaranteeing that you have maximum coverage at all times. The front camera records at 1080P HD, while the rear camera records in a slightly lower resolution at 720P. Both record video at 30 frames per second. The unit also comes with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to both review and control the footage being recorded from an app that is compatible with both Android and iOS mobile operating systems. A massive 128GB SD card is also included, as is a G sensor for impact detection, timestamp support and so much more.

 

720P. Both record video at 30 frames per second. The unit also comes with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to both review and control the footage being recorded from an app that is compatible with both the Android and iOS mobile operating systems. A massive 128GB SD card is also included, as is a G sensor for impact detection, timestamp support and so much more.

 

The Majority of UK Drivers Support in-Car Dash Cameras to Fight Crash-for-Cash Fraudsters

29 Mar

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the majority of the “incredible dash camera” videos you watch on YouTube seem to have been recorded in Russia? The answer is simple — the country is currently battling a “crash-for-crash” epidemic that is costing drivers huge sums of money each year. In a “crash-for-cash” situation, a driver might go out of his or her way to hit your car — or make it look like you hit them — and file fraudulent insurance claims as a result. Some fraudsters don’t even bother using a car — they’ll just dive in front of your vehicle while you’re driving and say that you hit them, suing you for medical bills and pain and suffering.

While Russia may have been the birthplace of this phenomenon, it certainly isn’t the only country that is afflicted. The United Kingdom, for example, is currently home to a massive number of “crash-for-cash” schemes each year. According to the Association of British Insurers, the total amount of money obtained from these schemes reached an all-time high in 2013 of £811 million, or about $1.01 billion. All of this goes a long way toward explaining why, when responding to a poll, 71 percent of drivers across the country said that they overwhelmingly supported in-car dash cameras for British citizens.

Cash-for-Crash: Breaking It Down

When you really boil the situation down to cold, hard numbers, the overwhelming preference of British drivers makes a great deal of sense. Studies have estimated that even a single false claim like this could add about £90 per year to the average driver’s car insurance premiums, which is the equivalent of about $112 U.S. dollars. That isn’t exactly a small amount of money — to say nothing of how harrowing things can get if you’re the unfortunate victim of one of these types of schemes multiple times, which is absolutely a possibility.

When you consider that there are approximately 23.3 million private cars that travel the roads of the United Kingdom each day, these numbers begin to add up to huge totals.

Car dash cameras bring a wide range of different benefits to this situation that are far too important to ignore. For starters, even in legitimate crash situations, the footage recorded can be helpful. It helps to clear up confusion by recording footage that can eventually be used in a court of law, helping the appropriate people and legal teams get to the bottom of typical crash situations.

When someone deliberately causes an accident in order to make a fraudulent insurance claim, however, the cameras can also add an additional layer of protection that the victim wouldn’t otherwise have. Whether the opposing driver’s poor driving was to blame or the crash didn’t take place at all, the camera won’t lie. Many experts agree that dash cam technology is one of the only ways to prove what actually happened in a situation that has essentially boiled down to “your word versus mine” since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

Not only do more than 70 percent of UK drivers support the idea of in-car dash cameras, another survey found that 40 percent of drivers across the country were actively considering purchasing one for their vehicle. When you have to make the choice between a $100+ annual increase in your insurance premium and a one-time purchase of a few hundred dollars (or less) for a dash cam, you suddenly realize that you’re not looking at a choice at all.

Again — Russia and the United Kingdom are not the only countries afflicted by crash-for-cash schemes. It’s something that is increasing in popularity across the United States, too. Since the problem eventually gets so severe that the majority of drivers in a location use dash cameras to combat it, it will be interesting to see if the same cycle plays out in an identical way in the U.S. over the next few years.

 

Protecting Yourself From Cell Phone Spying: What You Need to Know

27 Mar

Think for a moment about just how sensitive your cellphone really is. Not only is it a device that you regularly use to make personal calls ― talking about all sorts of private and potentially compromising information in the process ― but it’s also a device that literally has more computing power than what NASA used to send men into space in the 1960s. It doesn’t just have your call history or text logs in it. It likely has your bank account information, photos that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands, your Web browsing history, and files and other documents that could be devastating to you, both personally and professionally, if they were to become compromised.

With all that in mind, it’s safe to say that protecting yourself from cellphone spying is important. Luckily, just as technology can be used to invade your privacy, it can also be used to protect it. If you really want to take the steps to safeguard your life from cellphone spying, there are a few key steps you’ll want to take.

The Wonders of Modern Technology

One of the major ways to protect yourself from cellphone spying is to purchase a device like the Protect GSM Safe 2. Not only does it offer built-in protection against any type of covert or illegal cellphone use, but it also detects any cellphone or cellular data use in the immediate area. This means that if there IS some type of bug or other electronic device siphoning your data and sending it elsewhere, this is the best way to find out about it.

Compatible with virtually all GSM cellphones, the Protect GSM Safe 2 also includes a built-in “white noise machine” for advanced counter surveillance. It automatically generates white noise while you make your calls, making sure that even if someone is trying to listen in, they won’t actually be able to gain access to a record of the details that call contained.

Tighten Up Those Settings

Many people don’t realize that the factory-set default settings on most smartphones do little to protect your privacy ― meaning that you could be being spied on from the moment you turn it on for the first time. This isn’t necessarily nefarious in nature ― it’s less “someone is trying to steal your confidential work information” and more “advertisers are trying to monetize your private data,” but it is concerning just the same.

Because of this, you should always go into the “Settings” app on your phone and immediately increase the privacy as much as possible. Turn off “share my location” or related features on all apps that don’t explicitly need it. Make sure you’re paying close attention to which apps you’re giving permission to access your call history, your text messages, your photos or even your emails.

Stay Alert

Though this won’t necessarily prevent someone from listening to your calls, one step that you should absolutely take to prevent general cellphone spying is to turn on features like two-factor authentication whenever possible. Two-factor authentication requires a second form of input in addition to a password to gain physical access to the device.

So instead of just putting in your password and unlocking all your data, you would usually need a specific code from an email to access the account in question. Even if someone does steal your password, without that second form of input, they wouldn’t be able to gain access.

Along the same lines, if your smartphone supports fingerprint authentication instead of passwords ― as is true with the Apple iPhone and many Samsung phones ― you should absolutely enable it. Passwords are far too easy to crack and even easier to guess, while it’s much harder for someone to steal your fingerprint. Even if you lose your phone, this will go a long way toward preventing someone from gaining unrestricted access to the confidential information hidden inside.

 

Best Practices for Journalists: Staying Safe and Identifying Physical Surveillance

22 Mar

If you were tasked with coming up with a list of some of the most dangerous, yet important professions in our society, you might immediately think of people such as police officers, firefighters, government agents and more. Though you might not necessarily think of it right away, journalism is a job that absolutely deserves a spot near the top of that collection.

Journalists are more than just people who collect, write and distribute information and other news items. They’re purveyors of the truth. They’re the champions of all that is right and honest. Journalists were deemed so important to society by our Founding Fathers that they were protected by the very first amendment to the Constitution. They’re essentially always operating with a target on their collective back as a result. Journalists are regularly under physical surveillance in today’s society by everyone from foreign governments to criminals who wish to monitor, influence, direct or otherwise harm them.

If you’re a journalist who wants to be able to stay safe and identify physical surveillance when you encounter it, here are a few key things to keep in mind.

Physical Surveillance vs. Digital Surveillance

The most important step to take in order to remain protected as a journalist involves knowing as much as you can about exactly what it is that you’re up against. Though our society is increasingly digital, people will always rely on the tried-but-true methods of physical surveillance to get what they want.

An example of physical surveillance is someone parked in a suspicious van across the street from your office, monitoring who goes in and out in an attempt to collect compromising information. Digital surveillance might be keeping an eye on your email account for similar purposes. Though they share similar characteristics, they’re still two very different approaches and should be treated as such.

Think About What Someone Would Want From You

If you really want to identify physical surveillance, you need to get inside the head of the person who might be watching you. For the sake of example, say you believe that a hidden camera might be inside your office. As the person who is being monitored, you have the benefit of knowing exactly what you’re up to — and what information or activities that someone might be interested in. Start by asking yourself a simple question: “what is this person’s goal?”

Then, you could break things down further. Where would YOU have to place that camera inside the office in an attempt to gain access to that information? Where would a listening device have to be placed in the room to hear what you’re saying on the phone? Who has access to your office who might be able to place that device, and for how long?

You can also buy a variety of devices aimed at “counteracting” these physical surveillance techniques. Lens finders can help identify hidden cameras in your home or office, and similar devices exist to help you discover discreet listening devices and more.

Suspicious Cars, People and More

The same is true if you think you’re being followed in public. Keep an eye out for people who may be standing where they don’t belong, stopping in unusual places or discreetly trying to readjust personal equipment. Be sure to filter out coincidence, however. Just because you’ve never seen someone before or they don’t look as if they’re from the area doesn’t necessarily mean they’re concerned with you. Watch for three individual signs that something (or someone) is out of the ordinary before elevating your suspicions to the next level.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that if you believe you’re being physically surveyed, the most important thing that you can do is to stay safe. Your end goal is not to “lose” your tail or somehow trick them or prove how otherwise clever you are. It’s to make it home at night to your family in one piece. If you think that someone is paying attention to your every move, notify others. If your gut instinct is telling you that a physical confrontation may be just on the horizon, contact the authorities as soon as you can.

 

Keeping Alzheimers Patients Safe With GPS Tracking

20 Mar

Alzheimer’s is more than just a chronic neurodegenerative disease – it’s an absolutely debilitating condition that millions of people struggle with on a daily basis. According to the experts at ALZ.org, more than five million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s in the United States alone. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in this country, something that ultimately leads to the death of one out of every three seniors and also costs family caregivers more than $5,000 per year.

Alzheimer’s patients often find themselves in dangerous situations due to the heightened levels of confusion they experience regularly. They may go outside, forget what they were trying to do in the first place and wander off – leading to a very serious situation for their loved ones. Thankfully, technology has evolved in recent years in ways that make this process easier for all involved. GPS tracking, in particular, has seen incredible gains in terms of keeping Alzheimer’s patients safe and sound at all times.

Alzheimer’s and GPS Tracking

According to one study, more than 15 million caregivers provided roughly 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients around the country in 2015. Again, a large part of this was devoted to just making sure that an affected patient was safe and accounted for as much as possible.

According to another study, as many as 60 to 70% of those who are affected by Alzheimer’s will wander (and likely get lost) at some point during their battle with the disease. If they are not found within 24 hours, their chance of death increases by an unfortunate 50%.

Many organizations are stepping up to the plate to help relieve these concerns as much as possible through technology, with Project Lifesaver being just one notable example. Over the course of the last 15 years, Project Lifesaver has outfitted patients and their caregivers with GPS tracking devices built with safety in mind.

Affected patients can be given a small “Protect and Locate” tracker, also commonly referred to as a PAL tracker. It operates nearly identically to the GPS that you may use for turn-by-turn directions in your car, with one notable difference – each device has a unique signal tied to the wearer and can be worn around the wrist, almost like a sports watch or a fitness tracker. If an Alzheimer’s patient happens to wander, a caregiver can contact Project Lifesaver and trained emergency response teams will be notified. Project Lifesaver’s website indicates that the average recovery time in these situations is 30 minutes or less.

Many consumer-grade products are already available to purchase on your own, even if you’re not interested in partnering with an organization like Project Lifesaver. Devices are almost always wearable in nature, which cuts down on the possibility of them being lost, damaged or stolen. Loved ones can use a smartphone app or log into a website (depending on the device in question) and instantly find the location of their elderly family member at all times –generating some much-needed peace of mind and relieving much of the stress that comes with these situations.

Other Considerations

It’s important to note, however, that GPS trackers cannot prevent a loved one from wandering –  they will only help you when wandering does occur. In an effort to remain as prepared as possible, it’s always important to take a few key steps. First, make sure the Alzheimer’s patient’s home is safe and secure – significantly cutting down the risk of them accidentally harming themselves. Create a detailed plan for what you will do if they happen to wander – who will you call, what steps will you take, etc. Always keep a recent photograph of the loved one handy in the event that you need to contact the authorities.

Above all else, always let friends and neighbors know as much about the situation as possible. Remember that we’re all in this together, and caring for an Alzheimer’s patient isn’t something you should attempt to do on your own.

 

Hidden Cameras Shed Light on What Women Have to Deal With Every Day

15 Mar

Harassment is one of those things that people tend to not really think about until it happens to them. People are so busy these days that their attention is fractured in a million different directions ― they often aren’t thinking about the experiences that people on the street next to them are having, even though they’re ostensibly doing the same thing at the same time. If you haven’t been a victim of street harassment yourself, it’s easy to feel as if the problem isn’t as serious as certain people make it out to be.
But it very much is a serious problem. Now, thanks to one enterprising project, we have the hidden camera footage to prove it.

Female Harassment: By the Numbers

That women have to deal with harassment throughout their daily lives is certainly nothing new. The experts at Stop Street Harassment.org have compiled statistics that paint a fairly harrowing picture of the situation as it currently stands:

  • According to a 2,000-person survey that was conducted in 2014, nearly 65 percent of all women had experienced some form of harassment on the street.
  • Of those women, 23 percent had been touched in a sexual or inappropriate way.
  • 20 percent of the women who responded to the survey said that they had been followed in a way they felt threatened by.
  • Another 9 percent said that they had been forced at one point to do something sexual against their will.

It’s a problem that does not discriminate and that can be found almost anywhere ― whether you live in a major city like Indianapolis or California or another country like Canada or Egypt. Yet the thing to remember is that sometimes, facts and figures like these keep us at an arm’s length from the real situation. It’s easy to discount a statistic or to look at it as a mere number on a page.

Thankfully, hidden cameras are being used on a regular basis to give faces to these figures ― to paint incredibly vivid pictures of exactly what is going on and what women have to deal with in a way that is impossible to ignore, as harrowing as it may be.

The Power of Hidden Cameras

Hollaback is an anti-street harassment organization that recently enlisted the services of Rob Bliss Creative, a video marketing agency, to produce a video that detailed exactly what it’s like to be a woman walking alone on a city street. Even after reviewing the footage for only a few minutes, the thesis is clear: The experience is exhausting, demeaning and downright scary, often all at the same time.

Video marketer Rob Bliss hid a camera inside a backpack that was worn by actress Soshana B. Roberts. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and holding a microphone, Roberts then walked around New York City for 10 hours. She was completely minding her own business ― not going out of her way to do anything in particular or interact with anyone.

Despite this, the cameras didn’t just catch street harassment ― they caught it all. Men often approached Roberts, leered at her from afar or even followed her as she went about her day. Some men shouted seemingly innocent comments in her direction such as, “Have a nice evening,” while others took it a degree further and shouted things like “Sexy!”

Throughout those 10 hours, the hidden camera recorded more than 100 instances of street harassment. Note that this number does not include actions like winking and whistles.

In the end, this film goes a long way toward showing exactly what it’s like to be a woman on a daily basis. Remember that Roberts is just one person; at any given moment, thousands like her are experiencing these and other types of harassing incidents all day, every day. Thankfully, hidden camera projects such as this one exist to capture everything in stunning detail. The major lesson is clear: This isn’t a problem that can be ignored. This isn’t just people on the street being annoying or impolite; it’s an issue that needs to be addressed as a collective moving forward.