More on the downside of technology innovation

Sometimes technology can be a bit scary. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Just like technology is constantly being used in ever more exciting ways, technology is also being used in ever more scary ways. A few articles illustrating the downside:

  • Hotel hacked by ransomware, locking guests in rooms
  • Police surveillance cameras hacked with ransomware
  • Software to help plagiarists evade plagiarism detection software
  • Cloning voice patterns to create voice recordings
  • Insurance companies using social media for background checks

1/28 – The Local, in Austria – Hotel ransomed by hackers as guests locked in rooms – A 4-star hotel got hit hard by cyber crooks, who locked the key-based door system. Every door in the place was locked Guests could neither get into a room or leave.

Hotel paid a ransom in bitcoins  of 1,500 Euros, or about US$1,608.

This was the third hit at the hotel. They successfully defended against a fourth attack.

Oh, the hotel has a plan to prevent future attacks…

They will shortly be installing traditional locks. You know, the ones with metal keys.

1/30 – Ars Technica – DC police surveillance cameras were infected with ransomware before inauguration – DC police discovered that seventy percent of the remote DVRs used in their camera surveillance system were infected prior to the inauguration. All were quickly fixed. Obvious route of infection was the ‘net since all of the DVRs in the system are accessed via the internet.

The security weaknesses in the Internet of Things are massive and severe.

4/26/17 – Retraction Watch – A troubling new way to evade plagiarism detection software. (And how to tell if it’s been used.) – In the academic world, there is such a thing as plagiarism detection software (yes, yes, I know it has been around for quite some time, but I’m slow to catch on).

Apparently a lot of teachers and profs run their students’ papers through such software to see who is taking material without attribution.

So the new thing is for a writer to steal some text and run it through a paraphrasing software. The words will not be the same as the original and thus pass the plagiarism testing.

Article points to this dark side of technology.

Also points to ideas on detecting the evasion software. In essence the phrasing will be odd or awkward or slightly off topic.

5/2/17 – Tech Dirt – New Tools Allow Voice Patterns To Be Cloned To Produce Realistic But Fake Sounds of Anyone Saying Anything – Image manipulation software has been around a while now which makes it possible to change any photo or create whatever images you wish. Want to see George Washington and Abraham Lincoln at a joint press conference with your favorite president in your lifetime? You can do it. Want a picture in your office of you in the Oval Office shaking hands with a president who died before you were born? That’s old hat.

New software is available that can allow you to edit your own speeches. Missed a word or mispronounced something? The software can analyze your speech patterns and insert the word you need with it sounding like you said the word.

Now stretch that concept forward. How about taking the speech of some politician, running it through the software, then creating a short clip that would be quite embarrassing for said politician. How about running that faked clip on the evening news or in a campaign ad?

Newest versions of such software can create a voice recording completely from scratch.

The article says humans can tell the results are synthesized. Wait a few years and I’ll guess the quality will be good enough that only forensic audio engineers will be able to tell what is real and what is fabricated.

2/28/17 – PJ Media – Insurance Company Cancels Couple’s Policy After Seeing Pic of Their Dog on Facebook – A couple tried to add umbrella coverage to their homeowner policy. They said in their application they do not own any “dangerous breed” of dogs.

The insurance company looked at the couple’s Facebook page as a part of their background investigation, saw a Rottweiler mix, determined the dog is a “dangerous breed”, and denied the policy.

Only issue?

The dog in question is a Labrador/hound mix, not a Rottweiler.

That was not an error by the couple. It is worth noting the wife is a veterinarian. A vet. That means she is quite capable of accurately identifying the breed of their three dogs.

She was able to persuasively explain to their insurance company that they made an incorrect determination.

Lesson to be learned?

Be careful what you share on Facebook or any other social media. Or set the maximum privacy settings possible on your accounts.

I suppose the remaining alternative is to make sure your veterinarian license is current before you apply for an umbrella insurance policy if you own any dogs.

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