Facial recognition is everywhere these days. Cloud servers churn through every picture uploaded to social media, phone cameras help put faces to names, and CCTV systems are being used to trace citizens in their day-to-day lives. You might want to dodge this without arousing suspicion, just for a little privacy now and then. As it turns out, common makeup techniques can help you do just that.
In research from a group at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the team trialled whether careful makeup contouring techniques could fool a facial recognition system. There are no wild stripes or dazzle patterns here; these techniques are about natural looks and are used by makeup artists every day.
The trick is to use a surrogate facial recognition system and a picture of the person who intends to evade. Digital techniques are used to alter the person’s appearance until it fools the facial recognition system. This is then used as a guide for a makeup artist to recreate using typical contouring techniques.
The theory was tested with a two-camera system in a corridor. The individual was identified correctly in 47.57% of frames in which a face was detected when wearing no makeup. With random makeup, this dropped to 33.73%, however with the team’s intentionally-designed makeup scheme applied, the attacker was identified in just 1.22% of frames.
The attack relies on having a good surrogate of the facial recognition system one wishes to fool. Else, it’s difficult to properly design appropriate natural-look makeup to fool the system. However, it goes to show the power of contouring to completely change one’s look, both in front of humans and the machines!
Facial recognition remains a controversial issue, but nothing is stopping its rollout across the world. Indeed, your facial profile may already be out there. Paper after the break.
Death and passwords: two things we just can’t avoid. With so much of our lives tied up in cloud services nowadays, there’s good reason to worry about what happens to these accounts if we drop dead tomorrow. For many of us, important documents, photos, financial information and other data will be locked behind a login prompt. Your payment methods will also expire shortly after you have, which could lead to data loss if not handled promptly. The most obvious way to address this is to give a trusted party access in case of emergency.
A Bad Solution
Let’s start with the simplest solution: using the same password everywhere. Great, all you need to do is put this on a Post-it note, stuff it in an envelope, and let someone know where to find it. Unfortunately, using a single password for many services is a terrible idea. Password breaches happen, and if you’re using a single password across the internet, they can be disastrous.
Password breaches are usually the result of an attacker finding a vulnerability that allows reading password data from an application’s database. Odds are high that your information has been leaked in one of these breaches. You can check if your email is on a list of known breaches with Have I Been Pwned. Don’t feel bad if you’ve been pwned, my email shows up on six different breaches, and this service only indexes publicly known breaches!
Depending on the competency of the company that was breached, your password may have been stolen in a few different formats. In the worst case, the passwords were stored as-is (i.e., cleartext), and the breach contains your actual password. Nowadays, storing passwords in cleartext is never considered acceptable. A hash of the password is stored instead. Attackers need to use a tool like hashcat to try to recover the passwords via brute force hash cracking. This is slow for complex passwords, but is always getting faster as GPUs improve.
So we really need to use different passwords everywhere, or our Tumblr account from 2013 could give access to our bank account. Given the large number of services we use and our inability to remember passwords, we’re going to need to use a password manager. Continue reading “The Postmortem Password Problem”→
Have you ever been looking for a screwdriver, USB stick, or your keys, only to find them right where you left them in plain sight? We have. As many prolific geocachers know, hiding things out in the open is a great way to make sure that people overlook them.
Why hide bookmarks to begin with? A browser’s bookmark collection can give away the habits, interests, and needs of the person who put them there. Bookmarks to gifts, domestic abuse support websites, and other private destinations might be best kept away from prying eyes.
Inspired by port knocking — opening connections to specific network ports in sequence to gain access through a firewall — bookmark knocking requires clicking bookmarks in a specific order to open a link. When the bookmarks are accessed in the proper order, the third bookmark reveals a hidden site. It’s not only a novel approach to hiding things in plain sight, it’s very cool to use!
We especially appreciate [Jacob]’s motivation: Helping those who are vulnerable to protect themselves in any way possible. It’s a solid reminder that technology can be elevated to a higher stature when put to a noble use. Be sure to check out the demonstration so you can try it for yourself!
There are readers available from multiple sources, but [RevK] found them either compact but with no prototyping space or plenty of prototyping space and a large footprint. High-speed UART (HSU) was selected over I2C for communication with an ESP32 as testing showed it was just as fast and more reliable over long distances at the cost of only one additional wire.
After a few versions, the resulting PN532 based NFC reader has just enough GPIO for a doorbell and tamper switch and three status LEDs, with board files and a 3D-printed case design included in the open source project on GitHub. When looking into the project, we appreciated learning about tamper switches that can include closed or open contact status when an NFC is read, most often used in the packaging of high-value and collectible products. If you have worked with this tamper feature of NFCs, let us know about it.
As a society, we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons over the last year and a half or so. But one of the strongest lessons we’ve faced is the true fragility of our infrastructure. The crumbling buildings and bridges and their tragic consequences are one thing, but along with attacks on the food and energy supply chains, it’s clear that our systems are at the most vulnerable as their complexity increases.
And boy are we good at making complex systems. In the United States alone, millions of miles of cables and pipelines stitch the country together from one coast to the other, much of it installed in remote and rugged places. Such far-flung systems require monitoring and control, which is the job of supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems. These networks have grown along with the infrastructure, often in a somewhat ad hoc manner, and given their nature they can be tempting targets for threat actors.
Finding ways to secure such systems is very much on Éireann Leverett’s mind. As a Senior Risk Researcher at the University of Cambridge, he knows about the threats to our infrastructure and works to find ways to mitigate them. His book Solving Cyber Risk lays out a framework for protecting IT infrastructure in general. For this Hack Chat, Éireann will be addressing the special needs of SCADA systems, and how best to protect these networks. Drop by with your questions about infrastructure automation, mitigating cyber risks, and what it takes to protect the endless web of pipes and wires we all need to survive.
One of the main advantages of cheap wireless modules is that they get used in consumer electronics, so if you know what’s being used you can build your own compatible hardware. While investigating the RF interface used in a series of cheap “smart” solar inverters [Aaron Christophel], created an Arduino library to receive inverter telemetry using a $2 RF module. See the demonstration after the break.
[Aaron] bought the inverter and ~40 euro USB “Data Box” that allows the user to wirelessly monitor the status of the inverter. Upon opening the two units, he found that they used LC12S 2.4Ghz modules, which create a wireless UART link. With a bit of reverse engineering, he was able to figure out the settings for the RF modules and the serial commands required to request the status of the inverter. He doesn’t delve into the possible security implications, but there doesn’t appear to be any form of encryption in the link. It should be possible for anyone with a module to sniff the messages, extract the ID of the inverter, and hijack the link. Just knowing the status of the inverter shouldn’t be all that dangerous, but he doesn’t mention what other commands can be sent to the module. Any others could have more severe implications.
Even if not all of us are blockchain savants, we mostly have a pretty good idea of how they function as a distributed database whose integrity is maintained by an unbroken chain of conputational hashes. For cyryptocurrencies a blockchain ledger stores transaction records, but there is no reason why the same ledger can not contain almost any other form of digital content. [Bruce Schneier] writes on the potential consequences of content that is illegal or censored being written to a blockchain, and about how it might eventually form a fatal weakness for popular cryptocurrencies.
[Schneier] uses these two content cases to pose the question as to whether this might prove to be a vulnerability for the whole system. If a government such as China objects to a block containing censored material or a notoriously litigious commercial entity such as Disney objects to a piece of copyrighted content, they could take steps to suppress copies of the blockchain that contain those blocks. Being forced by hostile governments or litigious corporations to in effect remove a block from the chain by returning to the previous block would fork the blockchain, and as multiple forks would inevitably be made in this way it would become a threat to the whole. It’s an interesting possible scenario, and one that should certainly be ready by anyone with an interest in blockchain technologies.