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October Newsletter #2 2014

Assange: 'Google is Like A Privatised NSA'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused Google of behaving like a "Privatised version of the NSA" in the way it collects and stores information about people. He told Sky News the Internet giant was not doing anything illegal but its behaviour was highly questionable.

"It is not doing things which are illegal, what it is doing is legal," he said.

"It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.

"Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing. Since 2009 the NSA had been engaged in the Prism system where information collected online is available to it."

Assange also told Sky News he thinks he will eventually leave the Ecuadorian embassy in central London with his asylum status intact. The 43-year-old Australian took refuge there over two years ago after being accused of sex offences in Sweden, which he denies. He faces arrest and extradition to Sweden if he leaves the building.

The Snowden-Effect Can Make Lawful Surveillance Both Open and Effective

As the Snowden-Effect has shown democracy rests on the principle that legal processes must be open and public. Laws are created through open deliberation by elected bodies; they are open for anyone to read or challenge; and in enforcing them the government must get a warrant before searching a person’s private property. For our increasingly electronic society to remain democratic, this principle of open process must follow us into cyberspace. Unfortunately it appears to have been lost in translation.

The NSA, secretly formed after World War II to spy on wartime adversaries, has clung to military-grade secrecy while turning its signals-intelligence weapons on ourselves and our allies. While nominally still a “foreign-intelligence” agency, the NSA has become a de facto law-enforcement agency by collecting bulk surveillance data within the US and feeding these data to law-enforcement agencies. What walks like a duck and squawks like a duck is usually a duck, and since the NSA has been squawking like a law-enforcement agency, it should be subject to open processes like a law-enforcement agency.

Other agencies have also caught secret surveillance fever. Arguing that phone or Internet users have no expectation of privacy, the FBI secretly uses warrantless subpoenas to obtain bulk cell-tower records affecting hundreds of thousands of users at once, whether investigating bank robberies or harmless urban pranks. Police spy on entire neighborhoods with fake cellular base stations known as “StingRays” and have deliberately obfuscated warrants to conceal their use of the technology.

This process has been repeated in the UK and now many other parts of the world. All this secrecy, and its recent partial unraveling, has harmed our democracy and our economy. But effective surveillance does not require total secrecy. With a policy and technology framework that our team and others have developed, surveillance processes could be made open and privacy preserving without compromising their effectiveness.

Like Snowden we propose an openness practice, something we believe is necessary to constrain electronic surveillance in a healthy democracy. In brief, any surveillance process that collects or handles bulk data or metadata about users not specifically targeted by a warrant must be subject to public review and should use strong encryption to safeguard the privacy of innocent users. Only after law-enforcement agencies identify people whose actions justify closer investigation and demonstrate probable cause via an authorized electronic warrant can they gain access to unencrypted surveillance data or employ secret analysis processes. The details of an investigation need not be public, but the data collection process would be—what information was collected, from whom, and how it was encrypted, stored, searched, and decrypted. This is no different in principle from the way the police traditionally use an open process to obtain physical search warrants without publicly revealing the target or details of their investigation.

Technology we have developed could allow law enforcement to enact this approach without hampering their work. In fact it could even enhance it. Modern cryptography could enable agencies to find and surgically extract warrant-authorized data about persons of interest like needles in a haystack of encrypted data, while guarding both the secrecy of the investigation and the privacy of innocent users whose data comprise the haystack.

Secrecy-obsessed agencies will fret that open processes like those we propose might help terrorists evade surveillance. But it’s better to risk a few criminals being slightly better informed than to risk the privacy and trust of everyone. When intelligence leaders lie to Congress and spy on their overseers, we must ask whether the existential threat to our society is hiding in rocky caves or in Beltway offices. With the right technology, we can have both strong national security and strong privacy.

Cyber Security Summit 2014

Cyber Security Summit 2014 will bring together over 350 cyber security experts, senior officials and policy-makers from across public sector and industry to discuss the ever-changing threats posed by cyber-crime and share best practice strategies to help the UK effectively combat these threats.

Central to the discussion will be:

JP Morgan largest data breach affects 76m households

Picture credit: Thinkstock

JP Morgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the US, said that a massive computer hack affected the accounts of 76 million households and about seven million small businesses, making it one of the largest of its kind ever discovered. Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses were compromised in a cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase but no "unusual" fraud has yet been detected.

The attack was under way for a month before it was discovered in July, and when it was disclosed in August, the bank estimated that about one million accounts had been compromised. But the latest information revealed on Thursday showed the attack was vastly more serious than earlier thought.

The bank said financial information was not compromised and that there had been no breach of login information such as account or social security numbers, passwords or dates of birth, however names, email addresses, phone-numbers and addresses of account holders were captured by hackers.

“As of such date, the firm continues not to have seen any unusual customer fraud related to this incident,” the bank said in a regulatory filing. It said customers would not be liable for unauthorized transactions on their account, so long as they promptly alerted the bank.
JP Morgan, the largest bank in the country by assets, is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US secret service to determine the roots of the attack.

The scale of the hack, one of the largest ever, comes after a series of massive data breaches at US institutions and follows in the wake of attacks on Target and Home Depot. In September, Home Depot confirmed its payment systems were breached in an attack that some estimated impacted 56 million payment cards. Last year’s attack on Target impacted 40 million payment cards and compromised the personal details of some 70 million people.

But the JP Morgan hack is considerably more serious, as banks holds far more sensitive information than retailers. In August, Bloomberg reported that the attack on JP Morgan had been linked to Russian hackers who FBI sources said had been able to extract “gigabytes of sensitive data”.

Earlier this year Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s chief executive, told shareholders the bank would spend $250m a-year on cybersecurity, employing 1,000 people to oversee its systems. “It is going to be a continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it - and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won,” Dimon wrote in his annual letter to shareholders.

The company’s shares fell 0.89% in after hours trading following the news.

Explainer: Can Russia Disconnect From The Internet?

Picture: A demonstrator in Moscow protests against a possible Russian Internet blackout or further restrictions

After chairing a meeting of the Russian Security Council on October 1, President Vladimir Putin insisted the Kremlin was not planning to limit access to the Internet or put it under total state control. The authorities would, however, take additional measures to increase cybersecurity and continue to shut down sites promoting extremism, xenophobia, terrorism, and child pornography. Putin's comments came amid widespread speculation about possible restrictions on the Internet -- or even a complete countrywide unplugging -- amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent and escalating tensions with the West over the conflict in Ukraine.

On September 30, the Kremlin said Russia was "rehearsing responses should our esteemed partners decide to switch us off from the Internet," possibly indicating a greater level of control from the state.

Regardless of Moscow's intentions, how easy would it be for Russia -- or any other country -- to unplug from the Internet?

Egypt shut off the country's Internet for five days in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests. Syria's Internet was shut off three times in 2011. Nepal and Burma (formerly known as Myanmar) have briefly disconnected, and China shut off access to the Xinjiang region during Uyghur unrest in 2009.

But how easy it is to unplug depends on the number of domestic Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that have purchased connectivity from another provider outside the country, according to Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn, an Internet performance company. More of these make it more difficult for a government to unplug from the Internet. As Russian President Vladimir Putin surely knows, there are more than 300 companies that have purchased Internet connectivity from outside the country.

"There's a protective effect because every one of those represents something that you would have to turn off in order to completely sever the country from the Internet," Cowie says.

Egypt has fewer than 10 of these connections, while Syria has just two. This made it easier for those governments to switch off the Internet. The Russian government would have to force all of these providers to shut down to fully sever itself from the Internet. It could be done, but it would take a lot longer and be much more labor-intensive.

An alternative to shutting down the Internet is by filtering content. Russia has already blocked several opposition websites and passed a law requiring registration by some bloggers. Moscow has also indicated that foreign Internet companies will have to comply with its laws. Roskomnadzor, Russia's media regulator, sent a notice to Facebook, Twitter, and Google requiring them to comply with a law to register with the agency and store six months of archives of metadata on Russian soil.

The Russian government could also shut off the Internet in certain regions or cities, says Cowie. The telecommunications giant Rostelecom has been recentralized after a breakup into smaller regional firms in the 1990s, a move that could make a partial shutdown easier.

What are ways that users could get around an Internet shutdown or Internet controls? Internet users could turn to their smartphones' Internet access via 3G if mobile carriers were still operational while ISPs were shuttered.

Dial-up Internet would also be an option for those with an international phone line, albeit at a much-reduced speed -- and a much higher cost. European dial-up providers offered their services to Egyptians during its 2011 Internet shutdown and provided connections while Egypt's ISPs were shuttered. Short of a full shutdown, there are already technologies available that evade content filtering and monitoring. One already in use is Tor, a network of virtual encrypted tunnels that make a user's movements opaque to tracking by an ISP or other third party.

In other words, instead of information coming directly from your computer to an opposition website, the information travels across encrypted connections through a series of other servers before reaching the final destination.

The Internet in Iran - a Struggle Against Censorship

Getting through the strict Internet censorship of the Islamic Republic is a daily struggle for many Iranians; a game of cat and mouse in which, despite all the bother, in the end they can access all the online content they wish.

It is estimated that Iranian authorities block access to more than 5 million Web pages, including popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; in addition to porn sites, bank Web pages, and any media considered hostile to the Islamic Republic

Needless to say, sites of human rights organizations and dissidents are also blocked. However, according to government figures, at least 4 million Iranians have Facebook accounts; other sources raise that figure to 15 million in a country of 77 million inhabitants.

The most followed Facebook pages in Iran are those of singer Shadmehr Aghili, with almost 2 million “likes,” banned television channel Manoto TV and Colombian musical icon Shakira, who is followed by more than 1.5 million Iranians.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Zara and Gucci are the most-followed brands on social networks. In the sports category, first place goes to Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona, with 800,000 followers; while Real Madrid comes second with about 700,000 fans.

Millions of Iranians also have accounts on Instagram, and upload videos on Vimeo or YouTube. Even Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has a frequently-updated, verified Twitter account which can claim 200,000 followers.

But those figures do not prove restrictions are non-existent. The barriers make the simple act of accessing the Internet a considerable headache; while surfing the Web, exchanging programs or downloading files become challenging missions that can only be accomplished by experts who know how to breach the firewall.

Internet penetration in Iran is 55 percent, the second-highest in the Middle East, right behind Israel. The government estimates that the country has 45 million active Internet users.

Even though free speech restrictions and censorship have been features of the Islamic Republic since its inception, the situation worsened in 2009 following the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mass protests it sparked, many of which were organized through social networks.

Thus, surfing the Web has become a game of tag in which huge amounts of time and effort are wasted. Rather than actually preventing access, censorship simply complicates the matter a bit.

If the Met wants to deal with cyber crime then it can't simply chase headlines


The Metropolitan Police has officially launched a cyber crime task force under the name of “Operation Falcon”. The Met’s original cyber crime squad – with the much less catchy name the "Police Central e-crime Unit" – has been gobbled up by the new National Crime Agency.

The launch of Falcon has been much trailed over the last year or so, and it will be interesting to see if it actually gets anywhere, as opposed to its predecessors, which were useless. Essentially, it remains true that if you rob a bank with a gun, the police have fairly good ways of tracking you down – but if you rob a bank with a computer, the police will struggle to deal with it.
The problem with cyber crime is that much of it is so far removed from our shores. Look back a few months at the Gameover Zeus virus. While hundreds of British PCs were infected with the virus, – and hundreds of British bank customers lost money – the people actually running the scam were based somewhere between Russia and Kazakhstan.

The first thing that the new police unit requires is a specialist unit with specialist staff. Obviously, that’s difficult in a climate where security researchers and “white hat” hackers can demand big money from big companies, but ultimately, you get what you pay for.

Secondly, the police have to be aware that as soon as you say “cyber crime”, you open the door on all kinds of things – everything from eBay fraudsters to paedophiles.

Met unit should have a laser like focus on major fraud carried out by big, organised networks.

Increasingly, these networks are targeting businesses – it’s much more lucrative to rip off a major high street retailer than going after individuals these days. So what is the answer to frauds like that? Ultimately the Met should focus more on telling firms how to protect themselves from becoming victims than actually trying to track down the criminals themselves.

Simultaneously, they need to give people and businesses the confidence that the cyber crime unit is actually effective, so they feel they can report frauds and attempted frauds.

Cyber Warfare In Cars

Should another world war occur, there will be two new domains of conflict in addition to air, naval and land forces: space and cyber warfare. The latter will be the first-ever, man-made domain of conflict, while the others are provided by nature. The highest aerial position is always a basis of competitive advantage in a conflict, be it for communications, observation, navigation or sniper fire. Space, therefore, provides an inherent military advantage. As the number of people who have access to the Internet reaches 5 billion, the world will see a 20-fold increase in the number of hackers globally, causing an increase in cyber warfare.

For most of the past decade, car companies were in denial that their cars could be hacked. They argued that cars had limited connectivity and electronics, and the electronic control units (ECUs) controlling the engine don’t talk to the ECUs controlling the anti-lock break system (ABS), which, in turn, are not connected to the ECUs for infotainment; thus, they all work in isolation… so they thought. That was fine when cars were not sophisticated, but today’s mid-segment cars like the VW Golf have more than 70 ECUs and high-speed Internet connectivity. Premium luxury cars from BMW and Daimler have double the number of ECUs, and these car companies are pushing high-speed LTE network connectivity to enable features ranging from Internet radio to creating a Wi-Fi zone in the car. Tesla, which is big into connectivity, even provides over-the-air updates – updates just like a smart phone user does to update apps – browsing on the move, and dedicated app stores on multiple operating systems like Android, iOS, etc.

Cyber security has therefore emerged as a key concern in the automotive industry as researchers across the world have demonstrated threats and risks by presenting various scenarios, such as taking control of the car by turning off engines and headlights, disabling brakes, and taking over steering control denial of services. With the massive push for a semi-automated and completely driverless experience, electronics and associated software will become central to all of this innovation and pose a higher risk for hacking.

The Internet’s Missing Link

When the web was originally designed, its creators aspired to include a way to transfer value. According to the HTTP standard, error code 402 was “reserved for future use” and was labeled “Payment Required.”

Just as we needed a way to freely share information, we needed a way to freely exchange value. Implementing a standardized payment protocol was a natural fit. But while data can live in a world where it’s easily reproduced, value inherently exists as the result of scarcity — in other words, the antithesis of the copy-and-paste nature of the information web.

It quickly became evident that overcoming this challenge was no easy feat, and the idea was shelved indefinitely. While information could be exchanged in a decentralized fashion, there was no way to transfer value online without a central operator.

That all changed in 2009 with the arrival of bitcoin, a medley of cryptography and peer-to-peer technology that elegantly solved this problem. From that vantage point, payment protocols like Bitcoin and Ripple — which allow us to transfer value online with each other directly — represent the continuation of the unfinished business of the web’s original founders.
Consequently, there are numerous parallels between the birth of the information web and the developments we’re seeing now.

It’s easy to take the Internet as it currently exists for granted. Its evolution from an esoteric network for researchers and hobbyists to today’s all-encompassing mainstream phenomenon was a long and arduous journey. It started with a classic chicken-and-egg problem: The Internet needed developers to build utility on it to attract users, but developers first needed users for whom to build.

The early Internet was bootstrapped by academia and the military. Though the network was already open, global in scope, and quite powerful, there was little consumer utility. Instead, mainstream consumers used proprietary network solutions that were in vogue at the time. The likes of AOL (owner of TechCrunch) and CompuServe provided value-added services, from news to messaging to games.

The only problem was that these pre-Internet networks didn’t interoperate. If you were on GEnie, there wasn’t a straightforward way to interact with your friends on AOL in the ‘80s. That’s not so different from how our payment networks currently operate, where systems like PayPal, Alipay and M-PESA aren’t yet federated.

Two key developments unfolded in 1989: Tim Berners-Lee conceived the idea of the World Wide Web, and CompuServe became one of the first major online services to provide an email gateway, allowing its users to communicate via the Internet. These events marked the beginning of the federation phase of the Internet’s evolution. In both cases, standardized protocols allowed users to share information or communicate with each other directly, no matter what service, software, or hardware they used

Why we need Tor now more than ever

Since Edward Snowden leaked documents demonstrating the breadth of the National Security Agency’s digital surveillance last year, the global conversation around Internet freedom has shifted from censorship to surveillance. Where once the focus was on China’s Great Firewall or Iran’s vision of a “halal Internet,” now eyes are trained on the use of FinFisher for targeted surveillance or the NSA’s global dragnet.

But censorship and surveillance go hand in hand. Just as censorship restricts individuals from accessing information and communicating freely, surveillance also chills speech, causing fear amongst a populace and hindering innovation, communications, and progress.

Initially developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA, Tor (which originally stood for “the onion router”) is free software that enables anonymity and censorship circumvention. Since 2006, the Tor Project has operated as a nonprofit organization based out of Massachusetts; it receives funding from a range of sources, including individual donors. Karen Reilly, the Tor Project’s development director, told me that since the organization enabled donations with Bitcoin—the peer-to-peer payment system that allows users to send money anonymously—the organization has seen an uptick in donations, an unsurprising development given their user base.

Tor often gets a bad rap for its ability to enable criminals to operate anonymously online, but for many of its users around the world, it’s a necessity.

From Syria—where tech-savvy Internet users have long taken advantage of Tor’s ability to circumvent state censorship—to countries like the United States, where people utilize the tool for a variety of reasons, Tor (when used correctly) ensures that governments, individuals, and corporations alike are unable to spy on Internet users’ activities. It serves as a digital shield, protecting the identity and communication of those who need it most, like domestic abuse victims and transgendered service members, to give but two examples of oft-overlooked Tor users.

It isn’t just individuals in repressive environments that value Tor, however. Zack Whittaker, an editor with CBS Interactive, says that for journalists, the tool is vital.

“Covering national security, law, politics, and technology, particularly in the post-Snowden era, means source secrecy is more important than ever,” Whittaker argues. “Without Tor, I couldn’t do my job.”

Tor (when used correctly) ensures that governments, individuals, and corporations alike are unable to spy on Internet users’ activities. Post-Snowden, it seems Tor’s biggest challenge might be in meeting user demand. Tor’s software relies on a volunteer network of “relays,” operated by individuals and organizations around the world. In other words, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained in a recent challenge to improve the network, “the more Tor relays we have running, the faster, more robust and more secure the Tor network will be.”

Apart from the aforementioned concerns about malevolent usages of Tor, an oft-expressed concern from new users is that using the software will make them more suspicious. However, the more users on the Tor network in a given locale, the more hidden each individual user is. That’s why widespread adoption is crucial in the areas where it’s needed most, and that’s why Tor needs to push forward despite its more nefarious capabilities.

The anonymity that Tor provides either works for everyone or it works for no one. It can only assist massive liberation movements like the Arab Spring or help to defend journalists and free speech from oppressive regimes even if it can also enable criminals. If anonymity is to be truly safe and secure, that means it has to be safe and secure for everyone.

Losing the cyber war: Get out of the box and win

The United States is losing the cyber war. Despite hugely increased expenditures on cyber security, every day the situation worsens and we continue to fall behind. As I write there is no government or military website that has not been hacked and vital information stolen. It is not just the government –banks, health care systems, financial transactions, credit card data, identity theft, social security numbers, legal briefs, strategy documents, corporate secrets, intellectual property –the list is nearly endless.

Throwing more money at “the problem” is not a panacea. Our government, military, and critical infrastructure cannot continue running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That is the sum of what is happening today.

The entire infrastructure of information technology is based on mostly an open architecture approach to computer systems and network infrastructure. That is conducive to a fairly rapid spiral development of new commercial technology. Unfortunately, the commercial approach downside is that security plays second or third fiddle to the push for bagging commercial dollars from investors and customers alike.

It is time to break free from the open source globalized approach when it comes to government, military and critical infrastructure mobile and fixed computers and networks. Instead of wasting billions on hopeless security “solutions” while we continue to fall behind in the cyber war battle, is senseless, wasteful, frustrating and demonstrates bad leadership and hopeless management. Let’s stop.

What we need a an American secure operating system and an American secure network environment built in a trusted environment by reliable people in safe manufacturing locations. Not in China. Not offshore. Here.
The talent to do this surely exists, it is just being wasted today on “other” projects.

A Strategic Plan would look like this:

  1. Replace all critical infrastructure operating systems and networks with a US developed secure operating system in three to five years.
  2. Assure that connectivity outside of the secure environment is carried out separately from vital secure computing.
  3. Impose the massive use of encryption and truly protected authentication on the new secure operating system.
  4. Make sure all OS and Secure Network users are properly cleared and vetted.
  5. Put in place a compartmentalization system based on need to know and create a series of decentralized and regulated security centers to make sure the thresholds on need to know and a permission based environment are carefully maintained.
  6. Do not use any equipment made outside the United States in the critical infrastructure.
  7. Create a T&E center to check all hardware, firmware, software with independent auditors and engineers.
  8. Create a Red Team to constantly try and break the system, point out vulnerabilities, and fix them immediately. The Red Team should be large and heavily incentivized to find problems.
  9. Never, ever, share the US system with anyone outside the US. Make sure that the technology is controlled fully by the US government. And design the system so that if a piece is lost, it can be deactivated remotely and never be useful to an adversary or enemy.
  10. Make sure the intellectual property, the technology developers, the Red Teams, and the system of compartmentalization are secret.

Arab Twitter Users Like Iran Even Less Than the US

After decades of bombings, invasions, and other military interventions, it’s no surprise that attitudes toward the United States are overwhelmingly negative in the Arab world. But according to a recent study, there’s at least one country that’s less popular than the US in the region—that would be Iran, at least on Twitter. (Israel was not monitored in the study.)

Using a tool created by the social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, researchers from Princeton and Harvard analyzed millions of Arabic-language tweets from 2012 and 2013 to gauge anti-Americanism in the region. They examined Arab reaction to events such as Hurricane Sandy, the firestorm over the “Innocence of Muslims video,” the Boston Marathon bombing, and the removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

The researchers found that Arabs overwhelmingly had a negative view of Washington’s interventions in the region (in the case of Egypt, only 4% of tweets were pro-US). But when they examined a further estimated 27 million tweets geared toward Iran, they found an even deeper level of animosity.

“We found that as Iran intervened or was perceived to intervene in Syria and elsewhere [in 2012 and 2013], hostilities toward Iran on Twitter from Arab users increased,” Robert Keohane, a Princeton professor of international affairs and a co-author of the paper, told Quartz. “This, I think, was yet more evidence that it doesn’t matter if it’s Shiite Iran or the US or another power in the future—the non-Arab military interventionist power in the region is a target for this sentiment.”

The findings, Keohane explains, offer a unique perspective of the “Arab street” on social media. Whereas a public opinion poll might reflect a controlled group’s varied opinions on a particular subject matter, Twitter offers an unfiltered look at a broad range of people. Researchers can monitor public opinion through tweets on a daily basis, Keohane said, offering the ability “to look at events and have a much more modulated understanding of them as they are happening.”

Predicting crime with Big Data

Big Data can reveal amazing insights and now includes predictions on where crime is going to happen. Crime has patterns just like everything else humans do when we’re viewed as a large enough group. Thus, while individual behavior can be hard to predict, determining the average behavior of a population and then matching individuals to that template to determine “fit” can be surprisingly accurate.

This is the world of predictive analytics; the scientific version of a crystal ball. Instead of peering into a glass globe you peer into (ideally) massive amounts of data and using Big Data mining techniques such as statistics, modeling, and machine learning you look for patterns that are indicative of current or future behavior.

Predictive analytics has become very sexy over the last few years and has produced some impressive insights into human behavior and, occasionally, problematic revelations (see footnote below).

A recently published paper entitled Once Upon a Crime: Towards Crime Prediction from Demographics and Mobile Data discusses the use of mobile phone data and demographic data to predict crime geographically:

The main contribution of the proposed approach lies in using aggregated and anonymized human behavioral data derived from mobile network activity to tackle the crime prediction problem. While previous research reports have used either background historical knowledge or offenders’ profiling, our findings support the hypothesis that aggregated human behavioral data captured from the mobile network infrastructure, in combination with basic demographic information, can be used to predict crime. In our experimental results with real crime data from London we obtain an accuracy of almost 70% when predicting whether a specific area in the city will be a crime hotspot or not. Moreover, we provide a discussion of the implications of our findings for data-driven crime analysis.

This was derived from “anonymized and aggregated human behavioral data computed from mobile network activity in the London Metropolitan Area. This all sounds pretty good but there is a potential downside; anonymized data often isn’t that anonymous so actually tracking specific people could be possible and could lead to abuse in real world deployments.

Even so, it’s probable that predictive analytics for geolocating future crime areas will become an accepted and valuable law enforcement technique.

A recently published paper titled Once Upon a Crime: Towards Crime Prediction from Demographics and Mobile Data by Andrey Bogomolov, Bruno Lepri, Jacopo Staiano, Nuria Oliver, Fabio Pianesi, and Alex Pentland discusses the use of mobile phone data and demographic data to predict crime geographically:

The main contribution of the proposed approach lies in using aggregated and anonymized human behavioral data derived from mobile network activity to tackle the crime prediction problem. While previous research reports have used either background historical knowledge or offenders' profiling, our findings support the hypothesis that aggregated human behavioral data captured from the mobile network infrastructure, in combination with basic demographic information, can be used to predict crime. In our experimental results with real crime data from London we obtain an accuracy of almost 70% when predicting whether a specific area in the city will be a crime hotspot or not. Moreover, we provide a discussion of the implications of our findings for data-driven crime analysis.

This is fascinating paper and the approach, as many commentators have pointed out, is eerily reminiscent of The Minority Report.

The Minority Report is a 1956 science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick, first published in Fantastic Universe. Like many stories dealing with knowledge of future events Dick’s story questions the existence of free will.


The Cyber Security Summit 2014

The Middle East has become a hotspot for cyber-attacks amid an escalation of computer-led warfare across the globe. As organisations brace themselves for increasingly sophisticated cyber-crime, Governments have a major responsibility for protecting national security and their citizens.

Qatar now wishes to lead the way in developing and employing cyber protection and assert itself as a model for Cyber Security. Current estimates value the Middle East Cyber Security sector at $25bn over the next 10 years.

Register below. Cyber Security Summit 2014 Conference & Exhibition
1st– 2nd December 2014 Marriott Hotel | Doha, Qatar

The full web site is currently under development and will be available during 2014