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The Kitchen Sync

January 22, 2021

FBI using facial recognition to ID Capitol mob

What’s new: The FBI and DC law enforcement are using facial recognition software to identify individuals who sieged the Capitol two weeks ago.

Why this matters: The software identifies people by comparing captured images with those from mugshots, social media, and other online sources, according to Reuters

Key points:

  • Many criminals have already been identified due to facial recognition linking them to university alumni lists.

  • Previously, this same software has helped the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to identify criminals “involved in an attack in Syria as part of research into global conflicts and disinformation.”

  • Not every lawmaker is pleased by this idea. Sen. Ed Markey is pushing law enforcement officials to “keep the public safe and hold criminals accountable without relying on invasive tools that are proven to have serious accuracy and bias issues.”

What we’re thinking: Look, there are problems with facial recognition; but, we’re not sure there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy when invading the US Capitol and, if you’re dumb enough pose for a picture of yourself stealing Nancy Pelosi’s lectern (for example), it’s hard to feel too sorry for you.

Card skimming goes social

What’s new: Cybercriminals are inserting card-skimming software in social media icons.

Why this matters: Consumer information, including your credit card data, can be stolen without any indication of trouble and it’s largely up to vendors to prevent these attacks.

Key points: 

  • “Online payment thieves developed a new method to hide payment skimmers in perfectly legitimate social media icons,” Joost Spanjerberg, a Sansec malware researcher, told Fox News.

  • “These malicious icons lurk on checkout pages of hacked stores, and log keystrokes of unsuspecting online shoppers. When you enter your credit card numbers, these icons will send your data to an offshore (often foreign) server for later collection,” Spanjerberg said.

  • “It is extremely hard for consumers to identify such fraud. Even for a trained professional, it takes hours to examine a store for possible payment skimmers. Actually, only merchants can prevent this kind of theft by running an ecommerce malware scanner on their server,” he said.

What we’re thinking: The cybersecurity cat-and-mouse game continues. Folks are most susceptible when manually entering credit card data — so you should really consider using a password manager that handles credit card information too. 

Drone starts sailing the seven seas

What’s new: An automated research vessel, the Saildrone Surveyor, launched from San Francisco this week to map the seafloor and identify marine life, according to Wired Magazine.

Why this matters: Researchers hope the solar-powered vessel, and others like it, will replace oceanographic research ships that are way more expensive and way less environmentally friendly.

Key points:

  • The Saildrone Surveyor will follow a preprogrammed route to collect and transmit data via its satellite link.

  • The founder and CEO of Saildrone, Richard Jenkins, says the information that they gather will be valuable in everything “from knowing where to place telecommunications and transoceanic cables, to safety of navigation, or looking for submerged seismic faults that cause tsunamis.”

  • The Surveyor’s multibeam sonars can reach 23,000 feet deep, and its acoustic doppler can detect the speed and director of water currents as deep as 3,280 feet.

  • Oceanographers want to understand ocean current circulation to get a better idea of how heat and carbon are being absorbed from the atmosphere and then distributed through the ocean.

What we’re thinking: Today, only about 19% of the ocean floor is mapped. With the Saildrone Surveyor and other new drone vessels to collect data at significantly lower operational costs, there’s a good chance to close a number of our key information gaps about what’s really happening in the world’s seas.

Parler using Russian services to get back online

What’s new: The Parler social media app is slowly coming back online.

Why this matters: Parler lost its webhosting services and was removed from the Apple and Google app stores following the Capitol riots on January 6th.

Key points:

  • Amazon, Apple, and Google all said Parler’s lack of content moderation was a violation of their respective contracts and was the primary justification for its removal.

  • After being offline for more than a week, Parler is working with a Russian company, DDOS-Guard, to bring its network back online. 

  • Russia, like China, has very aggressive data security laws that require companies to provide Moscow with access to information on their networks.

  • Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief operating officer, said in an interview that the concerns were overblown because DDOS-Guard supported only a temporary webpage for Parler. He said Parler would try to find other companies to operate its full social network. 

What we’re thinking: Regardless of how you feel about Parler’s circumstances, one thing is for sure: concerns about Russian data acquisition are not overblown.

Klon Kitchen is a managing director at Beacon Global Strategies and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.