Darpa and Homeland Security working on Next Generation Airport Scanners

Forget about those old, defective, useless, dangerous airport body scanners in which governments spent millions of dollars.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | AUGUST 31, 2012

It took how long?… Hmmm… Let’s see… 5 years for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the main pusher of full body scanners, to admit that its toy of choice is a defective, useless and dangerous piece of junk. We all knew that a while ago, of course, and so did they. The inaccuracy, ineffectiveness and negative health consequences of the use of body scanners has been proven in multiple occasions before, but the DHS waited until it could no longer hide the fraud, to show a slight interest to ‘improve’ the technology.

As we reported before, the people with more to lose due to the adoption of full body scanners were their operators, who have gotten seriously ill after working around the scanners for 5 or 10 years.  On our article from June 28, 2011, we unveiled how numerous body scanner operators suddenly began discovering multiple cancerous tumors in their bodies. Back then, the Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained documents that showed how Transportation Security Administration  workers got sick with cancer, heart disease and stroke after being exposed to the radiation from the scanners.

This fact was denied by the TSA and the DHS just as they denied the ineffectiveness of the scanners in detecting whatever they were meant to find. The danger of getting sick due to the radiation together with the explicit violation of privacy and the proven incapacity of the scanners to detect objects attached to a human body, reinforced calls from the public and human rights organizations to stop the use of the scanners and the presence of TSA workers at security checkpoints in airports.

As in most cases of government fraud, the DHS is now requesting new technology to conduct the illegal searches and seizures of personal belongings in 180 airports around the United States. It seems that the more than 700 full body scanners are simply not doing the job anymore. The DHS has now asked DARPA to look into a new generation of image generators that are smaller, more precise and less vulnerable to hacking.

As many readers remember, DHS swore that images of passengers were not stored after completing a scan, but the public later learned that the scanners did in fact collect the images in computers that were connected to them. TSA workers were found to use the images to crack jokes on passengers or look at anyone’s private parts. But not only did the scanners store the images, they also were fit with the technology to send those images to a database. In fact, the TSA had required to the manufacturers that all airport scanners had to be able to store and transmit images for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.”

Last Monday, the DHS and DARPA announced that the coming scanners will try to accomplish two main objectives. First, what they defined as “real-time utilization of compressive measurement techniques.” According to both entities, this aspect will improve the collection of images. The scanners will also be less cumbersome and will have a more precise and reliable detection capacity, they said. So that is like saying, ‘we’ll make the violation of your privacy and constitutional rights a little bit more convenient.’

“The research seeks to identify novel signatures distinct from those typically employed in conventional X-ray tomography systems and multi-view dual energy projection scans,” they explained.

The second goal is to make memory chips less prone to being hacked into. The chips will need to have high-levels of functionality at a lower cost, while consuming less energy and more reliability. That means travelers will be stripped of their constitutional rights through the use of environmentally friendly technology. The scanners must have “extremely high-endurance, near unlimited wear for write, read, and erase cycles.”

The arrival of the full body scanners occurred after s supposed terrorist attempt to light up a bomb — the famous underwear bomber — on a plane going to Detroit, Michigan. This alleged terrorist plot was fake and by many considered a false-flag to help push the adoption of the scanners. In fact, the supposed bomber was later identified as a CIA double agent, who was helped into boarding the plane without having a passport. Kurt Haskell and his wife, who were witnesses on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 saw Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab at the boarding gate in Amsterdam.

Regarding the use of the scanners to indiscriminately screen passengers, the ACLU said that the machines produce “strikingly graphic images of passengers’ bodies, essentially taking a naked picture.” Both the DHS and the TSA ignored the questions about privacy and safety. As many readers are aware, the Backscatter X-ray scanners literally carry out a “virtual strip search,” which is only warranted by the Constitution if the agents have probable cause.

Both DHS and DARPA will meet on September 18 to discuss further details about the next generation of scanners. The new strategy will include both the search of passengers as well as a new way to check baggage. For this, DARPA is expected to present his Knowledge Enhanced Compressive Measurement program, a system created “to gather even more and better quality information.”

Like your Privacy? Fool that Smart Meter

By AURORA GEIB | NATURAL NEWS | JULY 16, 2012

The recent roll out of smart meters has brought about mixed reactions from consumers. On one hand, there are activist groups broadcasting the health and privacy concerns that smart meters may potentially have. On the other, the utility companies are championing the advantages of smart meters in the face of a $3.4 billion fund stimulus given by the government for smart grid technologies (it sure is nice of them to be advocating energy savings while they line their pockets with all that money from the government).

Curiously, in all this haste to accomplish the government’s energy program, no federal safeguards seem to have been designed to protect customer information from being accessed by others – information that smart meters could be sending (the activist group may have a point on this one). Worse, it appears that smart meters themselves are not an impregnable fortress – the meter can be subject to hacking.

Smart meters hacked in Puerto Rico

In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated widespread incidents of power thefts in Puerto Rico believed to be related to smart meter deployment. The FBI believed that former employees of the meter manufacturer and employees of the utility company were tampering with the meters charging between $300 to $1,000 to reprogram residential meters and $3,000 to reprogram commercial meters.

The perpetrators were said to have hacked into the smart meters using an optical converter device connected to a laptop, allowing smart meters to connect with the computer. The hackers were able to change the settings for recording power consumptions using software available on the internet after making a connection. This method does not require the removal, alteration or disassembly of the meter.

Another recent example of smart meter hacking was demonstrated by Mike Davis, a security consultant. He reverse-engineered a meter bought on Ebay and installed a computer program that replicated itself across the wireless network and blocked the utility company as it went. Jack Bode, writing for Canada.com, made the wry observation that we won’t have to worry about getting bombed if ever we go to war again. The enemy only has to “hack us and turn off the power.”

Fooling smart meters

The old ways of tampering with analog meters may no longer apply to smart meters. One of the reasons smart meters were employed was to curb electricity theft. In fact, it is estimated that millions of dollars are annually lost due to electricity theft.

Nevertheless, the Puerto Rico incident demonstrates that a smart meter can still be vulnerable to attack using a simple laptop, an optical converter device and a program that can be downloaded from the internet. To date, this is probably the best proven way to fool a smart meter.

At the cost of sounding unscrupulous, the following are some suggestions made by experts on how to fool a smart meter:

1) Attacking a smart meter’s memory-through hardware – If a smart meter hasn’t been built with protective features, inserting a needle on each side of the device’s memory chip can do the trick. The needle intercepts the electrical signals in the memory chip. From these signals, a device’s programming can be determined. If security features are in place, it is still possible to obtain the data through customized tools.

2) Using a digital radio – The two-way radio chip in a smart meter allows the device to be read remotely and receive commands over the network. A hacker, who has cracked the meter’s programming, can use security codes from the software in the chip to get on the network and issue commands.

3) Accessing the meter – Another method of hacking the smart meter is through a wireless device. Using a software radio programmed to mimic a variety of communication devices, a hacker can listen in on wireless communications in the network and guess over time how to communicate with the meter. Another method is to steal a meter and reverse-engineer it; although inexpensive, the process would require a good knowledge of integrated circuits.

4) Spreading malware to the network – With access to the smart meter’s programming codes, it is possible to connect with all other meters in the network that have the same brand. David Baker, director of services for IOActive, a Seattle-based research company , demonstrated this possibility when he designed a virus that could replicate itself in other meters and enable a hacker to shut down the system remotely. In simulations, Davis was able to show that if his malware were to be released in a location where all the houses were fitted with the same brand of meter, it could spread to 15,000 homes in 24 hours.

5) Measuring electrical consumption – Inside smart meters are sensors that measure energy consumption. Under the old mechanical meters, interfering with the meter’s ability to report accurately has been the means of many unscrupulous individuals to save money on electricity, like by the use of magnets. The old method used with analog meters may not be difficult to use in fooling the old meters but the new generation of smart meters were designed to protect against such automated methods.

Caveat

If only for the sake of discussion, the main point in discussing how to fool a smart meter is only for the purpose of guarding privacy in the home. This article is not intended to aid or abet criminal activity.

Fooling your meter so you get to save on the electricity bill is illegal and down right unethical.

Human Barcoding Now Being Megaphoned as Convenient

NY DAILY NEWS | JUNE 2, 2012

Would you barcode your baby?

Microchip implants have become standard practice for our pets, but have been a tougher sell when it comes to the idea of putting them in people.

Science fiction author Elizabeth Moon last week rekindled the debate on whether it’s a good idea to “barcode” infants at birth in an interview on a BBC radio program.

“I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached — a barcode if you will — an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals,” she said on The Forum, a weekly show that features “a global thinking” discussing a “radical, inspiring or controversial idea” for 60 seconds .

Moon believes the tools most commonly used for surveillance and identification — like video cameras and DNA testing — are slow, costly and often ineffective.

In her opinion, human barcoding would save a lot of time and money.

The proposal isn’t too far-fetched – it is already technically possible to “barcode” a human – but does it violate our rights to privacy?

Opponents argue that giving up anonymity would cultivate an “Orwellian” society where all citizens can be tracked.

“To have a record of everywhere you go and everything you do would be a frightening thing,” Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Daily News.

He warned of a “check-point society” where everyone carries an internal passport and has to show their papers at every turn, he said.

“Once we let the government and businesses go down the road of nosing around in our lives…we’re going to quickly lose all our privacy,” said Stanley.

There are already, and increasingly, ways to electronically track people. Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags (RFID) that store all the information in the passport, plus a digital picture of the owner.

In 2002, an implantable ID chip called VeriChip was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The chip could be implanted in a person’s arm, and when scanned, could pull up a 16 digit ID number containing information about the user.

It was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety.

Still scientists and engineers have not given up on the idea.

A handful of enterprising companies have stepped into the void left by VeriChip, and are developing ways to integrate technology and man.

Biotech company MicroCHIPS has developed an implantable chip to deliver medicine to people on schedule and without injection. And technology company BIOPTid has patented a noninvasive method of identification called the “human barcode.”

Advocates say electronic verification could help parents or caregivers keep track of children and the elderly. Chips could be used to easily access medical information, and would make going through security points more convenient, reports say.

But there are also concerns about security breaches by hackers. If computers and social networks are already vulnerable to hacking and identify theft, imagine if someone could get access to your personal ID chip?

Stanley cautioned against throwing the baby out with the bathwater each time someone invents a new gadget.

“We can have security, we can have convenience, and we can have privacy,” he said. “We can have our cake and eat it too.”

Students will be tracked via chips in IDs

By FRANCISCO VARA | MYSA | MAY 25, 2012

Northside Independent School District plans to track students next year on two of its campuses using technology implanted in their student identification cards in a trial that could eventually include all 112 of its schools and all of its nearly 100,000 students.

District officials said the Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags would improve safety by allowing them to locate students — and count them more accurately at the beginning of the school day to help offset cuts in state funding, which is partly based on attendance.

Northside, the largest school district in Bexar County, plans to modify the ID cards next year for all students attending John Jay High School, Anson Jones Middle School and all special education students who ride district buses. That will add up to about 6,290 students.

The school board unanimously approved the program late Tuesday but, in a rarity for Northside trustees, they hotly debated it first, with some questioning it on privacy grounds.

State officials and national school safety experts said the technology was introduced in the past decade but has not been widely adopted. Northside’s deputy superintendent of administration, Brian Woods, who will take over as superintendent in July, defended the use of RFID chips at Tuesday’s meeting, comparing it to security cameras. He stressed that the program is only a pilot and not permanent.

“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. “Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.”

Chip readers on campuses and on school buses can detect a student’s location but can’t track them once they leave school property. Only authorized administrative officials will have access to the information, Gonzalez said.

“This way we can see if a student is at the nurse’s office or elsewhere on campus, when they normally are counted for attendance in first period,” he said.

Gonzalez said the district plans to send letters to parents whose students are getting the the RFID-tagged ID cards. He said officials understand that students could leave the card somewhere, throwing off the system. They cost $15 each, and if lost, a student will have to pay for a new one.

Parents interviewed outside Jay and Jones as they picked up their children Thursday were either supportive, skeptical or offended.

Veronica Valdorrinos said she would be OK if the school tracks her daughter, a senior at Jay, as she always fears for her safety. Ricardo and Juanita Roman, who have two daughters there, said they didn’t like that Jay was targeted.

Gonzalez said the district picked schools with lower attendance rates and staff willing to pilot the tags.

Some parents said they understood the benefits but had reservations over privacy.

“I would hope teachers can help motivate students to be in their seats instead of the district having to do this,” said Margaret Luna, whose eighth-grade granddaughter at Jones will go to Jay next year. “But I guess this is what happens when you don’t have enough money.”

The district plans to spend $525,065 to implement the pilot program and $136,005 per year to run it, but it will more than pay for itself, predicted Steve Bassett, Northside’s assistant superintendent for budget and finance. If successful, Northside would get $1.7 million next year from both higher attendance and Medicaid reimbursements for busing special education students, he said.

But the payoff could be a lot bigger if the program goes districtwide, Bassett said.

He said the program was one way the growing district could respond to the Legislature’s cuts in state education funding. Northside trimmed its budget last year by $61.4 million.

Two school districts in the Houston area — Spring and Santa Fe ISDs — have used the technology for several years and have reported gains of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for improved attendance. Spring ISD spokeswoman Karen Garrison said the district, one-third the size of Northside, hasn’t had any parent backlash.

In Tuesday’s board debate, trustee M’Lissa M. Chumbley said she worried that parents might feel the technology violated their children’s privacy rights. She didn’t want administrators tracking teachers’ every move if they end up outfitted with the tags, she added.

“I think this is overstepping our bounds and is inappropriate,” Chumbley said. “I’m honestly uncomfortable about this.”

Northside has to walk a tightrope in selling the idea to parents, some of whom could be turned off by the revenue incentive, said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm.

The American Civil Liberties Union fought the use of the technology in 2005 at a rural elementary school in California and helped get the program canceled, said Kirsten Bokenkamp, an ACLU spokeswoman in Texas. She said concerns about the tags include privacy and the risks of identity theft or kidnapping if somebody hacks into the system.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said no state law or policy regulates the use of such devices and the decision is up to local districts.

Loving your Servitude: Microsoft’s Kinect Console Paves the Way for In-Home Spying

By LUIS R. MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | APRIL 5, 2012

Tyranny isn’t awful only because of the mayhem it achieves, but also because of the way it spreads its tentacles before it tightens the noose around unsuspecting populations. Tyranny will come in a uniform, says a proverb. But most of the time the uniform is just the last step in the process of achieving total control in a society. Hitler, perhaps the best example of what tyrants can accomplish, did not come into power with his brown shirt goon army stomping into people’s homes. It was an incremental process that intelligently carried out a series of actions through a series of steps which ended with Germans begging for tyrannical measures in the name of common good.

The remaining time of the twentieth century after Hitler was deposed and what has passed of the twenty-first century, has seen the rise of tyranny to levels that only H.G. Wells had been able to envision. This is a sign that puppet tyrants are not the bedrock of tyranny; they are just temporary mules that make it portable throughout the decades. Although twenty-first century tyranny seems to be rooted on the same principle that originated it back in the previous two centuries — security –, this principle can only be turned into a reason for tyranny if there is a necessity for it. But it isn’t even security as a principle the main driver of tyrannical regimes. For a temporary or permanent oppressive government to take control, it uses other tools that sort of complement the loss of freedom and the advancement of an out-of-control security grid. This complement is of course technology.

It would take much longer to achieve a complete state of tyranny if the tyrants intended to impose this state of affairs through force alone. That is why the men and women behind oppressive regimes use two of their best allies to achieve their goal: time and technological advances. Incremental changes through long periods of time in a way that conditions are engineered to promote a certain scenario are better accepted by populations who are worried 24 hours a day about their security. This is the reason why a heightened environment of insecurity together with the implementation of policies that reduce freedom and deviate attention from the loss of freedom are a perfect combination to bring about the best version of tyranny in the twenty-first century. In the case of our modern society, technological dependence has taken on the role that food scarcity and conflict, for example, played in previous eras.

One of the best ways to carry out tyrannical policies is to keep a population distracted while policies are created, accepted and put in place. In an era where self-security and economic imbalances are easily distracting people from opening their eyes and seeing what is really going on, technology is now more than ever playing a monumental role in advancing the tyrannical agenda thought out a long time ago. Not only have countries, companies and individuals embraced technology as part of their daily lives, but they’ve also become dependent to a degree that is no longer a choice to simply ‘get disconnected’ from it. Financial transactions, commerce, resource management and education are just a few of the areas in which technology has become a necessary evil. The problem is that technology users for the most part only have a myopic view of what technological advancements offer. This is a problem because technology is undoubtedly a double edge sword.

When it comes to technology and its applications, the two edges of the sword are usually defined as (1) the convenience it provides to our daily lives, and (2) the type of applications it can have. One-dimensional thinking always focuses on the benefits and the convenience. In fact, these are the terms in which technology is always presented. The other side, the not so positive consequences or misuse of technology is what is always hidden from the unsuspecting public, who only understand technological advances as entertainment; the opium of a population that hurts economically, mentally and that lacks the capacity — by design — to see beyond their leisure needs. Two-dimensional or three-dimensional thinking renders new and different ways of understanding. The three-dimensional way of thinking that also sees the sharper edge of the sword, the one that easily cuts through ignorance and that allows oppressive regimes to bring about their tyranny, is always acknowledged by the tyrants, but not by technology users.

Is it convenient to have a search engine that knows what you want to search, even before you type it in? Sure it is. But one needs to ask how does the company behind the search engine achieves this and what other applications would this technology have and whether or not they’d be as beneficial as the search results, or if they are beneficial at all. Google, has publicly announced that it will use every camera and microphone embedded in computers to spy on people in order to create profiles for commercial purposes. Although that way of spying is already alarming, one must wonder what else are they going to do. Is it comfortable to have newer, more efficient appliances at home? Sure. However, it is within our purview to investigate whether the comfort these devices bring are worth loosing privacy. For example, recently, the head of the CIA, David Petraeus publicly said that that organization along with the National Security Agency (NSA) would be using technological advances to spy on people through their appliances. This by the way is not limited to the United States. In fact, as we speak, the United States is building a seven football-stadium-sized facility that will house the largest spying apparatus in the planet. The NSA is well-known for their Echelon program and their work with Fusion Centers nationwide in the United States. Both Echelon and the Fusion Centers make up the largest spying force with the capacity to operate around the world.

Is it convenient to have a communication device that allows us to talk to anyone, anywhere, as long as there is an electromagnetic signal available? Absolutely. But again, we should also know that, leaving health issues aside, cell phones are basically portable spying devices for a group of corporations whose real owners cannot sleep at night thinking of ways to learn about everything we do. Recently, both Apple and Google devices were in the news for their ability to record users’ movements and deliberately sending such information to an Artificial Intelligence-controlled hard drive or server somewhere. This information was collected without the users being aware of it, without their permission or consent. What did Eric Schmidt, Apple’s CEO had to say about it? “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Why isn’t the public able to realize that iPhones, Microsoft phones and Android Google phones can be used to do many more things besides calling someone? Because technology has become — again not by accident — the opium of the people. They have been indoctrinated and programmed by the educational systems to lose their ability to think critically and to be innovators. Historically, humans have been transformed into users instead of creators. For at least a century — in modern society — the creators are the tyrants who figured out that technology could be used to enslave while it functioned as a distraction for the decadent masses.

Just as the Romans had their gladiator fights, we have football games, TV shows and of course our iPhones, Laptops and Game Consoles. Have you heard about Kinect? If not, this Microsoft gaming platform is the mother of all spying tools for in-home usage. If you like Happy Meals or Jack-in-a-Box, you’ll love Kinect. That’s right. While we were all sleeping, the tyrants figured out a way to make us like our servitude, and they’ve done a superb job. Not only will people be distracted playing games that will either make them psychos or dummies, but they’ll also be victims of direct spying by the military industrial complex. The reach of technologies like Kinect, which are only advertised as trendy, fun devices, goes beyond what most of its users even begin to fathom. With military contractors already working on ways to ‘better’ use the technology embedded in the game console, as well as publicly saying they intend to spy on people through it to steal their information, what exactly is there inside Kinect? As explained by multiple media outlets, Microsoft’s latest Xbox 360 has:

* Four microphones — a first, according to CEO Kyle Wiens. “We’ve taken apart binaural devices before, but this is our first quadaural sensor setup!”

* Two cameras (pictured).

* An IR transmitting diode.

* One fan. Wiens says that for a 12-watt device, Microsoft seems very paranoid about heat dissipation and blames this paranoia on the infamous red-ring-of-death problems that have plagued the 360. “This is a good thing for consumers, but we can’t help but wonder if they’ve gone overboard in the cooling department,” Kyle said.

* 64 MB of Hynix DDR2 SDRAM.

* A “tiny, diminutive, even” motor (pictured).

* A three-axis accelerometer.

* A Prime Sense PS1080-A2. “Kinect is based on Prime Sense’s motion detection technology,” explains Kyle. “This chip is the Kinect’s brains —– all the sensors are wired into here for processing before transmitting a refined depth map and color image to the Xbox.”

If you are technologically challenged or simply are not interested in technical details at all, because all you care about is having fun with Kinect, you are in trouble. The Quadaural sensor enables Kinect to listen to and identify up to five different voices. The two cameras are capable of taking pictures and recording video. The Infrared (IR) transmitting diode can create and record a thermal image of people in the room, which then becomes a powerful identification tool. The 64 MB hard drive makes sure that all the information collected is comfortably stored for easy access by outside users — military spies and hackers — and the Prime Sense sensor, the brain, closes the gift list that any control freak would dream about. The chip simply detects any movement that takes place in the room where Kinect is. Sadly, this kind of technology is not limited to Kinect. Other game consoles like Nintendo Wii and Playstation already use similar components which are sold as the best way to enhance gaming experience. How thoughtful of the creators! Much like the makers of the latest television sets, satellite boxes and fridges, Kinect is simply Big Bother in a box.

Any recommendations to stave off Big Brother from coming into our houses? According to a ‘freedom fighter’, it is a good idea to “make sure you disconnect Kinect whenever you are not using it”. Really? How about not buying a Kinect? How cattle-like have people become! Have your Soda pop, but make sure you drink it only one sip at the time so that the aspartame in it kills you slowly. Buy a cell phone, but use it less often, that way the cancer will take a decade or two to appear. We have indeed become comfortable slaves who not only enjoy but actually love our servitude.

I guess H.G. Wells fell way short of what a New World Order would look like.

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