Category Archives: COMPUTER & PHONE ACCESS

This Algorithm & Robots Decides Crime Cases Almost As Well As A Judge

A Robotic computer program could help relieve the massive backlogs facing the world’s highest courts

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A computer algorithm took on the work of real human judges and did a pretty good job, predicting the decisions of one of Europe’s highest courts with 79 percent accuracy. The finding suggests artificial intelligence could help the world’s busiest courts work through their massive backlog of cases, even if an algorithm isn’t about to take up a digital gown and gavel and start actually deciding cases.

The AI analyzed cases tried before the European Court of Human Rights, which hears cases from people and groups who claim their civil or political rights have been violated in their home countries. An international team of computer scientists worked with a legal scholar to determine just how well AI could predict the court’s ultimate judgement based on how the written decision described the factual background of the case and the arguments of the parties involved. They found it agreed with the judges’ decision four of five times — and that the underlying facts of the case were by far the best predictor of the outcome of a case, rather than any of the more abstract legal arguments.

“The fact that we can get this accuracy, it means that there are some consistent patterns of violations that lead to overturning the [previous court’s] decision,” University of Pennsylvania computer scientist Daniel Preoţiuc-Pietro told Vocativ.

That suggests the court is typically less concerned with parsing philosophical questions of whether a specific instance is a human rights violation than it is determining how that situation fits into their already defined categories of violations. Preoţiuc-Pietro pointed to the example of people who allege mistreatment in prison as a situation that typically led to decisions in those people’s favor. “That’s definitely more likely for the court to actually accept that the state made a mistake and the people involved were actually justified,” he said.

More U.S. Military Wants Robots That Can Explain Themselves

The AI used what’s known as natural language processing to analyze the cases. This particular method involved looking at the text of a decision as a big bag of words, not worrying about any particular word order or grammar. Instead, the AI looked at what individual words and combinations of two, three, or four words appeared most frequently in the text, regardless of order. The AI then looked at all these combinations, known as N-grams, and clustered them into different overall topics.

The court’s decisions include lengthy sections recapping not only the factual background of the cases but also the original arguments made by the parties in the case. This gave the AI a broad sense of what each text was talking about and gave it the context necessary to predict the outcome of the case, which it did correctly in nearly four out of every five cases.

But that doesn’t mean the researchers are hoping to see AI judges anytime soon.

“We’re not advocating for automating any decisions,” said Preoţiuc-Pietro. “Decisions should still be made by the judges.” Where the AI can make a difference is in helping determining which cases make it to the judges in the first place.

More Artificial Intelligence Writes Extremely Bad Harry Potter Fan Fic

In 2015, the researchers found that nearly 85,000 petitions were submitted to the court, of which just 891 were actually decided upon. All the rest were thrown out as inadmissible, meaning the court couldn’t take them on and the previous decision by a lower court would have to stand. The European Court of Human Rights relies both on individual judges and committees to work through all these cases and figure out which are worth bringing to the actual court’s attention. Last year, that meant the entire court apparatus had to process more than 230 cases every single day, making it a huge challenge just to give each petition the human attention it deserves.

Artificial intelligence, by contrast, could zip through 85,000 petitions and decide which were most likely to be worth the court’s time, based on how similar each petition is to the court’s previous cases. Preoţiuc-Pietro suggested the algorithm could separate the cases into three groups based on the court’s prior history: those the court would likely rule on, those it likely would rule inadmissible, and those in a gray area. Committees could then devote more time to examining the cases already identified as being of uncertain status, rather than having them take valuable time doing all their own categorization.

“These committees are time-limited and beyond that very costly, so they can actually look at just the flagged cases which are more likely to be disputed and analyze them more thoroughly,” said Preoţiuc-Pietro, “while the others they can be sent for just individuals and they don’t need to be scrutinized by more people.”

The goal then wouldn’t be to take the human element out of the law, but instead the complete opposite: The European Court of Human Rights and other bodies like it would have more time to focus more time on its most difficult cases, while the AI would separate out the cases that would likely just get thrown out anyway.



Henry Sapiecha


Phishing, sophisticated attacks most troubling to IT security pros

Staffing, training, budget shortfalls impact ability to protect organization.

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IT security professionals fear phishing and sophisticated attacks the most, but worry that staffing, training and budget shortfalls will hinder their ability to protect their organizations.

Adding to the anxiety, 72% of respondents said they felt it is likely their organizations would face a major data breach in the next 12 months. Fifteen percent said they had “no doubt” they would face a major security breach in the next year.

Those results are part of the findings of the 2016 Black Hat Attendee Survey, which was conducted in June with 250 security professionals. The annual Black Hat USA conference kicks off next week in Las Vegas.

The looming threat that eats at IT is phishing and other social engineering attacks. According to this year’s 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 30% of phishing messages were opened by the target recipient, up from 23% just last year. In addition, 12% clicked on the attachment that launched the malicious attachment, up from 11% in 2014.

Those numbers point to another finding in the Black Hat Attendee Survey, 28% of IT security pros said end-users who violate security policy are the weakest part of the corporate security chain. It’s a familiar refrain and a reality that today can come with damaging consequences.

On top of these concerns, the survey showed that companies are facing a serious shortage of qualified security pros. In the survey, 74% of respondents said they don’t have enough staff to deal with the threats they expect to see in the next 12 months.

And it gets worse. Those same IT security pros says they are not spending enough time on the things that most concern them, but instead are tasked with “measuring risk (35%), managing compliance with industry and regulatory requirements (32%), and troubleshooting security vulnerabilities in internally developed applications (27%).”

The survey indicated the gap between concerns and day-to-day actions is growing, and respondents said they were fearful that they are losing the war against cyber crime


Henry Sapiecha


FBI head insists that Apple hack request be complied with

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The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has defended his legal fight with Apple over encryption, saying the case involving the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone was “quite narrow” and not intended to set a precedent.

In the latest volley of an escalating war of words between the US authorities and the world’s most valuable company, James Comey made an emotional appeal to Apple and the US public in a blog post on specialist legal site Lawfare.


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“We can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead,” he said. “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land.”

The FBI director wrote that the tension between privacy and safety “should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living.”

Instead, he continued, the matter should be settled “by the American people” and called for a “long conversation” on the matter.

Mr Comey’s blog post comes ahead of Apple’s legal response later this week to a case that began last Tuesday when a judge in California ordered the iPhone maker to create tools that would help the FBI unlock a device used by Syed Rizwan Farook before he killed 14 people in December.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has refused to comply with the order, calling the demand for what he called a “back door” into the iPhone an “over-reach” by the authorities that has “chilling implications” for its customers’ privacy. Several other Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Facebook, have supported Apple’s position.

On Friday the US Department of Justice and Apple traded blows over both the intent behind the order and the handling of the investigation. The DoJ accused Apple of putting concerns about its “marketing strategy” ahead of its legal obligations and said Mr Cook had made “numerous mischaracterisations” of the government’s case.

Apple executives denied that allegation and implied that the FBI had bungled an opportunity to gain access to data stored on Farook’s iPhone, by changing the iCloud password in the hours after he was killed in a shootout with officers.

That password reset prevented the iPhone from sending its data to Apple’s servers through an automatic back-up, where it could be accessed by the company and the FBI through a standard legal process.

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The FBI on Saturday denied wrongdoing in that situation, saying the iCloud reset was a “logical next step” in its investigation and “does not impact Apple’s ability to assist with the court order”.

“It is unknown whether an additional iCloud back-up of the phone after that date — if one had been technically possible — would have yielded any data,” the FBI said.

Mr Comey on Sunday night attempted to step over the row about the iCloud back-up and appealed to the broader principles at stake in what he called a “heartbreaking” case of terrorism.

“The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice,” he wrote in his post, which does not directly mention Apple or the iPhone by name.

Apple must file its legal response to the judicial order by Friday, which is also the day the company holds its annual shareholder meeting at its Cupertino headquarters.

One survey late last week showed that US public opinion is finely balanced on the issue. An online poll of 1,093 US adults by SurveyMonkey found that 51 per cent agreed with the FBI while 49 per cent took Apple’s side. Even among iPhone owners, a narrow majority backed the FBI in the dispute.


Henry Sapiecha


An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Google’s security check list can help keep your data safe from prying eyes. Photo: Reuters

Along with an extra 2GB of free storage, taking Google’s security challenge offers a great safety checklist for all your online accounts.

These days most of us have the sense to take a few security precautions when creating a new online account, but security isn’t a set ‘n’ forget process. It pays to regularly update your accounts to ensure the security settings are up to scratch and you’re happy with the emergency contact details.

The years sneak up on you, it could be a decade or more since you created some of your webmail, cloud storage and social media accounts. That’s why Google is offering a quick security safety check to coincide with Safer Internet Day, rewarding you with an extra 2GB of cloud storage if you complete the checklist.

Whether or not you have a Gmail account, Google’s safety checklist is a great starting point for conducting a quick security check on all your online accounts.

Check your recovery information

It’s important to ensure your phone number, recovery email address and security question are up-to-date to help you recover control of your account should something go wrong.

It’s convenient to forward all your email addresses to the one inbox, so you can stay on top of things, but you don’t want your recovery email address forwarding to your Gmail inbox. In the event that your Gmail account is compromised, there’s no point in Google sending password recovery details and other sensitive information to your recovery email address if it will be forwarded to your Gmail address so the hackers can see it.

If you’re particularly concerned about security it might be worth setting up another email account that you only use for receiving security confirmations. Webmail services encourage you to link your accounts, but keep this one separate and secret.

Use an alias

Better yet, use an email service that lets you create aliases and use the alias as your recovery email address. For example, create an email address like and then go to the advanced settings and create as an alias which forwards to

Now use the alias as your recovery email address. You’ll get messages at but hackers won’t have any luck breaking into because it’s not a real email account. It sounds complicated but it’s pretty simple to do and it makes life harder for hackers.

Email aliases are also useful for protecting sensitive accounts such as your Amazon account. If your public email address is then create an alias like for logging into your Amazon account. Hackers won’t get any joy trying to break into your account using because that account doesn’t exist. It also helps foils social engineering attacks on Amazon’s support team.

It’s also worth reassessing your security questions. For example, the answer to a question like “What was your first phone number?” might have seemed obvious at the time, but is it referring to the house you grew up in, your first landline number when you moved out of home or your first mobile number? If you’re not sure then change the question to something less ambiguous

Don’t make your security questions too easy for people who know you well, considering that a disgruntled friend or relative might be the one who tries to break into your account. If you’re going through a messy breakup it’s definitely worth overhauling your online security.

Check your connected devices

Run your eye down this list to see if there are any devices you don’t recognise. You can click on the dropdown arrow to see more details about where and when they accessed your account.

If something jumps out at you, Google offers a “Something looks wrong” button. Regardless of which service you’re using, the first steps would be to change your password to something more secure and consider enabling two-factor authentication as an extra layer of security.

Also remove devices that you recognise but haven’t used for a long time, especially if you’ve handed them down to someone else. When in doubt, boot it out. You can always add the device to your account again if you realise you need it.

Check your account permissions

This list can grow surprisingly long over the years as you jump between online services which want access to your Gmail account, including a wide range of mobile apps. It can be a trip down memory lane as you discover old online services which bit the dust long ago.

The same as connected devices, look for anything you don’t remember adding or you no longer use and boot them out.

Check your app passwords

Entries in this list are one-off passwords generated for devices and services which don’t support two-factor authentication.

They’re most likely to be your computer and mobile devices accessing your contact and calendar information. You might also find devices like your printer, broadband modem or network storage drive which needs email access to send you alerts.

You definitely want to boot anything that shouldn’t be here. Also delete devices and services you no longer use, such as your previous smartphone, to close potential security loopholes.

Check your 2-Step Verification settings

Another name for two-factor authentication, this stops someone logging into your account from a new device unless they know your password and a one-time code which is usually sent to you as an SMS or generated by a mobile app.

It’s a good idea to enable two-factor authentication for all your services which support it. You can tell them to remember your devices, so you don’t need a two-factor code every time you log in from your own computer, smartphone or tablet (but make sure these devices are locked with a password).

Even two-factor authentication isn’t 100 per cent foolproof, there are reports of hackers hijacking and porting mobile phone accounts in order to intercept text messages authorising access to online banking business accounts. If you’re concerned about this, consider using a mobile app to generate your two-factor code.

While you’re conducting your security audit it’s worth checking all your accounts, here are links to the security preferences pages for a few other popular services;







When was the last time you conducted a personal security audit? Which other security threats did you deal with?


Henry Sapiecha

Dozens of government agencies request access to citizen metadata without warrants

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Nearly all the agencies which accessed citizens’ private information in the past have applied for continued access. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Nearly all of the government agencies which last year snooped on citizens’ phone and internet records without warrants have reapplied to access the data following the introduction of legislation which was meant to reduce the scope of access.

Sixty-one non-law enforcement federal and state agencies, including organisations such as Australia Post and Sydney’s Bankstown City Council, have applied to access citizens’ metadata for pursuing criminal activity or protecting public revenue.

The telecommunications data may include information such as phone numbers and addresses of people who called each other, or email addresses and the times messages were sent.

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Attorney-General George Brandis has yet to decide which agencies may have access to telecommunications metadata.

By comparison, the latest official government report on metadata access, covering a period before new mandatory data retention legislation came into effect in October last year, showed 69 agencies accessed metadata. At that time they were automatically authorised to access this data, however following the legislation, non-law enforcement agencies must now apply directly to federal Attorney-General George Brandis for temporary approval to access metadata for up to 40 parliamentary sitting days.

No warrant is required to access the data.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s department said Mr Brandis had not temporarily approved metadata access to any agencies who requested access.

The list of agencies was revealed in a Freedom of Information request filed by former Electronic Frontiers Australia vice chair Geordie Guy, and released to the public on Monday.

More agencies may have requested metadata access since Mr Guy’s FOI request was filed in November last year.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia has called on Mr Brandis to reject most of the agencies’ applications.

EFA executive director Jon Lawrence said “only two or three” agencies would have legitimate reasons to access the private information.

“If the Attorney-General is serious about the integrity of his legislation and about protecting the civil liberties of all Australians, then he must act swiftly to reject the majority of these applications,” Mr Lawrence said.

In previous years local city councils have come under fire for using information gleaned from residents’ metadata to chase small-time infringers and recoup fines.

Melbourne’s Knox City Council last year accessed call charge records, and name and address details, to prosecute people who damaged property or were guilty of cruelty against animals or illegal signage, a council spokesperson said.

Bankstown City Council in Sydney appears to be the only council so far to have reapplied for access under the new regime.

A Bankstown spokesperson previously told Fairfax media the council used data to catch residents who dumped waste illegally. The agency made 13 information requests in the year to June 2015.

EFA’s Mr Lawrence said such matters were “hardly a national security issue” which might have justified its access to private information.

Other government agencies which have reapplied to access private communication records include Australia Post — which made 625 information requests last year — state racing bodies, the RSPCA and the Tax Office.

Australia Post has previously said that it requests phone records from telecommunication companies so it can chase people who steal phones or SIM cards from its stores, or pursue people who make “serious threats” to staff or engage in corruption and fraud.

The frequency of metadata requests from non-law enforcement agencies grew 9 per cent last year.

Below is the full list of agencies that applied for access to the data, except for four that were redacted in the FOI documents as their disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest”.

1. Australian Financial Security Authority, Commonwealth
2. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), Commonwealth
3. Australian Postal Corporation, Commonwealth
4. Australian Taxation Office, Commonwealth
5. Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Commonwealth
6. Civil Aviation, Safety Authority (CASA), Commonwealth
7. Clean Energy Regulator, Commonwealth
8. Department of Agriculture, Commonwealth
9. Department of Defence (ADFIS and IGD), Commonwealth
10. Department of the Environment, Commonwealth
11. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Commonwealth
12. Department of Health, Commonwealth
13. Department of Human Services, Commonwealth
14. Department of Social Services, Commonwealth
15. Fair Work Building and Construction, Commonwealth
16. National Measurement Institute, Commonwealth
17. ACT Revenue Office, ACT
18. Access Canberra (Department of Treasury and Economic Development), ACT
19. Bankstown City Council, NSW
20. Consumer Affairs, VIC
21. Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading – Department of Justice), TAS
22. Consumer and Business Services, SA
23. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, QLD
24. Department of Commerce, WA
25. Department of Corrective Services, WA
26. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, QLD
27. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (Fisheries), VIC
28. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, VIC
29. Department of Environment Regulation, WA
30. Department of Fisheries, WA
31. Department of Justice and Regulation (Consumer Affairs), VIC
32. Department of Justice and Regulation (Sheriff of Victoria), VIC
33. Department of Mines and Petroleum, WA
34. Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), NSW
35. Environment Protection Authority, SA
36. Greyhound Racing Victoria, VIC
37. Harness Racing New South Wales, NSW
38. Health Care Complaints Commission, NSW
39. Legal Services Board, VIC
40. NSW Environment Protection Authority, NSW
41. NSW Fair Trading, NSW
42. Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW
43. Office of Fair Trading (Department of Justice And Attorney-General Office of the Director General), QLD
44. Office of State Revenue, NSW
45. Office of State Revenue, QLD
46. Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, VIC
47. Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), SA
48. Queensland Building and Construction Commission, QLD
49. Racing and Wagering Western Australia, WA
50. Racing NSW, NSW
51. Racing Queensland, QLD
52. Roads and Maritime Services NSW, NSW
53. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), VIC
54. State Revenue Office, VIC
55. Taxi Services Commission, VIC
56. RevenueSA, SA
57. Victorian WorkSafe Authority, VIC


Henry Sapiecha

Crime Commission to give evidence on disrupting illegal online activity

The ability of government agencies to disrupt the operation of illegal online services has proven to be a useful tool for Australian law enforcement to prevent harm to the Australian community caused by serious and organised crime, according to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).

On Wednesday morning, the House Standing Committee on Communications will hear evidence from the ACC at its third public hearing for its inquiry into the use of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

The ACC is a strong advocate of maintaining section 313 of the Act, which gives powers to some agencies to disrupt illegal online activity, and also supports improvements in transparency and accountability in the use of the section.

In its submission, the ACC said that balancing transparency, accountability and law enforcement effectiveness can be achieved by creating a regime that is proportional to the threat posed by serious and organised crime.

Committee Chairman Jane Prentice said, “Striking a balance between freedom and protection is the essence of democratic government. The scale and nature of criminal activity online demanded a response from governments and law enforcement agencies. Nonetheless, agencies must be accountable for the use of the powers they are granted, and those powers must be proportional to the threat.”

Mrs Prentice noted that the Committee would be examining those issues to ensure that the use of the powers conferred under section 313 was appropriate, proportionate and subject to effective accountability.

Details of the hearing are as follows:
Date:  Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Time:  8:00 am
Venue:  Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra

Further information on the Inquiry, including the full terms of reference and how to prepare a submission can be obtained from the Committee’s website at or from the Secretariat on (02) 6277 2352.


Henry Sapiecha

Meet the phone cracker Navid Sobbi explains what a treasure trove of information your phone can be and how to protect your information.

If you thought wiping your mobile phone once to delete its contents, or having a passcode to protect it from prying eyes was enough, think again.

Meet the ultimate mobile phone data extractor, a $40,000 Israeli-made machine manufactured by Cellebrite and used by private investigator Navid Sobbi’s business National Surveillance and Intelligence and numerous law-enforcement agencies around the word.

The machine can crack passwords and extract varying degrees of data from almost every smartphone on the market bar a number of Blackberry models and the iPhone 5 and above. Photos, texts, locations and more can be extracted from the phone’s memory even if previously wiped.

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Navid connects an iPhone up to a laptop to begin examination of the data recovered. Photo: Tessa Stevens

In total, the device claims to be able to extract varying degrees of data from about 8000 phone models. Newer iPhones are not susceptible to the password cracking because Apple’s encryption methods have improved over time, but most phones are still able to have their data extracted if the password is provided, Mr Sobbi said.

“If it’s a smartphone such as Android or Apple we can get absolutely everything,” he said.

“So that’s locations, SMS, MMS, passwords, notes, emails and call logs.”

The Cellebrite system phone access image www.intelagencies (1)

The Cellebrite system has a cable for every phone on the market. Photo: Tessa Stevens

Often data from mobile phones is used to corroborate or disprove theories in criminal trials.

In one recent case, US forensic investigators looked at data stored on murder suspect Pedro Bravo’s smartphone to infer he used the phone’s flashlight when he buried the body of a former friend in a remote wooded area. Bravo was later found guilty of the murder.

Mr Sobbi said most phones were “easy” to get into.

The Cellebrite system phone access image www.intelagencies (2)

The Cellebrite system can extract data from a variety of phones. Photo: Tessa Stevens

He said the could bypass an iPhone 4 passcode and get into the phone “within about five minutes”.

Some Android phones, such as the HTC One, were also easy to crack but piecing the data together was a time consuming task. Blackberrys for example were “extremely hard to get into”, he said.

Blackberry is well known for its secure phones, being the preferred brand of governments for their leaders and diplomats. Sydney bikies have also reportedly used them to thwart police efforts to intercept their communications.

Based in Sydney, Mr Sobbi has worked with NSW Police on criminal matters and also in tendering evidence for family court cases. He has also assisted with corporate leak investigations, where employees have taken a company’s intellectual property to a competitor.

Those that have accidentally deleted data – like family photos – also go to him for help and in about 90 to 95 per cent of cases he has been able to successfully retrieve the data.

“But it all comes down to how the phone is used,” he said. “So if, for example, the phone has been factory-reset a number of times or damaged, then our success rate is a lot less.”

After using the Cellebrite tool for several years, Mr Sobbi said it was most surprising it could get location data even when a phone’s GPS was turned off.

“We’ve noticed that [some phones] still store probably every 15 minutes or once every hour … a location of where the device is,” Mr Sobbi said.

“Even if [location is] off in the GPS option, it might store it from the cell tower option.”

He advised people to wipe their phones several times before selling or disposing of them.

“When a consumer wants to change their phone or just wants to give their phone to someone else, the best thing to do is at least restore it back to factory settings a minimum of about five times.

“The more you do that the harder it becomes for the forensic examiner to recover the data.”

He said he could also extract data from tablets and computer hard drives.

Although many law-enforcement agencies praise the Cellebrite system, not everyone is happy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has previously expressed concern about how its state police force has used the gadget, saying it can “quickly download data from cell phones without the owner of the cell phone knowing it”.

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Henry Sapiecha


Image-recognition software uplifts results in web searches

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HANOVER, N.H. – Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues have created an artificial intelligence software that uses photos to locate documents on the Internet with far greater accuracy than ever before.

The new system, which was tested on photos and is now being applied to videos, shows for the first time that a machine learning algorithm for image recognition and retrieval is accurate and efficient enough to improve large-scale document searches online. The system uses pixel data in images and potentially video – rather than just text — to locate documents. It learns to recognize the pixels associated with a search phrase by studying the results from text-based image search engines. The knowledge gleaned from those results can then be applied to other photos without tags or captions, making for more accurate document search results.

The findings appear in the journal PAMI (IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence).

“Images abound on the Internet and our approach means they’ll no longer be ignored during document retrieval,” says Associate Professor Lorenzo Torresani, a co-author of the study. “Over the last 30 years, the Web has evolved from a small collection of mostly text documents to a modern, gigantic, fast-growing multimedia dataset, where nearly every page includes multiple pictures or videos. When a person looks at a Web page, she immediately gets the gist of it by looking at the pictures in it. Yet, surprisingly, all existing popular search engines, such as Google or Bing, strip away the information contained in the photos and use exclusively the text of Web pages to perform the document retrieval. Our study is the first to show that modern machine vision systems are accurate and efficient enough to make effective use of the information contained in image pixels to improve document search.”

The researchers designed and tested a machine vision system – a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn without being explicitly programmed — that extracts semantic information from the pixels of photos in Web pages. This information is used to enrich the description of the HTML page used by search engines for document retrieval. The researchers tested their approach using more than 600 search queries on a database of 50 million Web pages. They selected the text-retrieval search engine with the best performance and modified it to make use of the additional semantic information extracted by their method from the pictures of the Web pages. They found that this produced a 30 percent improvement in precision over the original search engine purely based on text. The new system was developed by researchers at Dartmouth College, Tecnalia Research & Innovation and Microsoft Research Cambridge.

A Closer Look: Ways to hide, secure data on police proof phones

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NEW YORK (AP) — Apple got a lot of attention last week when it released a new privacy policy along with a declaration that police can’t get to your password-protected data.

Essentially, your photos, messages and other documents are automatically encrypted when you set up a passcode, with or without a fingerprint ID to unlock the phone. Apple says it cannot bypass that passcode, even if law enforcement asks.

Google says it will also encrypt data by default in an upcoming Android update. The option has been there, but many people don’t know about it or bother to turn it on.

Apple, Google and other tech companies have been trying to depict themselves as trustworthy stewards of personal information following revelations that the National Security Agency has been snooping on emails and other communications as part of an effort to identify terrorists. Apple is also trying to reassure customers about its commitment to security and privacy after hackers broke into online accounts of celebrities who had personal photos stored on Apple’s iCloud service.

Beyond setting up passcodes, some phones have additional tools for hiding or securing sensitive photos and documents stored on the phone, particularly if you need to lend or show your phone to someone.

Here’s a closer look at some of those options:


i phone image black on white

In the latest software update for mobile devices, iOS 8, Apple offers an easier way to hide photos from your collection in the Photos app. Simply press down on the photo or the thumbnail of it and tap “Hide.”

However, the photo will still appear in individual albums, including a new one called “Hidden.” You can go there to unhide hidden photos.

So why bother? This feature is mainly useful when you want to let people glance through your entire collection of photos. That could be when you’re sitting with a friend in the same room or making a presentation before a large audience. You can hide embarrassing or incriminating photos – such as naked selfies – as long as you remain in control of the device. If you hand it to a friend and walk out, your friend can browse through the albums section.


samsung-galaxy-alpha image white

The Galaxy S5 phone introduced a private mode. You turn it on in the settings, under “Private Mode” in the Personalization section.

You then go through your phone to mark certain content as private. With photos, for instance, just go to the Gallery app and select the photos or albums you want to keep private. Then hit the menu icon for the option to “Move to Private.” This also works with selected video, music, audio recordings.

After you’ve marked your files as private, you need to go back to the settings to turn Private Mode off. Think of that setting as the door to a vault. Turning it on opens the door and lets you move stuff in and out. Turning it off closes and locks the door. It’s the opposite of what you might think: Private Mode needs to be off for your content to be secure.

Once locked, it is as though the content never existed. No one will know what’s inside the vault, or whether there’s even anything inside. To unlock the vault, you need your passcode or fingerprint ID.

The private-mode feature is also part of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S tablets and the upcoming Galaxy Note phones.

 LG G 3


LG’s flagship phone has a guest mode. You can lend a phone to a friend without giving your friend access to everything. You can even set a separate unlock code for the guest, so that you don’t have to give out yours.

Look for “Guest mode” in the settings under the General tab. You then specify which apps your guest can access. For instance, you might want to give access to the phone, alarm clock and music, but you might want to block email and texts.

In some cases, guests have limited access to your content. With the Gallery app, your collection of photos won’t generally appear unless they are in the “Guest album.” Guests can take photos, too, and have them appear there. On the other hand, if you enable access to the Photos app, your guest gets everything. Likewise, there are no restrictions with email or texts if you allow access to those apps.

I recommend logging in as a guest – with the alternative code – to verify what’s available after you pick the apps to allow.

Beyond the guest mode, the G3 lets you lock certain images in the Gallery app during normal use, similar to what the Galaxy devices offer.


Digital Life A Closer Look Phone Privacy

These tips touch only the surface of what you can do to protect your privacy.

For instance, these apply only to data stored on the device. For files stored on Internet-based storage services such as iCloud and Dropbox, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong password and turn on a second layer of protection, often known as two-step verification. I covered that in a previous column, which can be found here: .

You’ll also want to pay attention to what data you’re sharing through apps.

With iOS, you can choose which apps can know your location and when, such as all the time or only when the app is actively running. Go to the “Location Services” settings under “Privacy.” Unfortunately, it tends to be all or nothing with Android. You can turn off location services, but that affects all apps, including maps and others that might need your location.

With both iOS and Android, you can choose to limit ad targeting based on your interests and surfing history.

For an explainer, read our column here: .

Henry Sapiecha



phone-texting by man image
PhoneSheriff is a mobile employee control software that allows you to monitor and restrict the smartphone and tablet activities of your employees with ease. You will finally be able to track their activities. You will be able to block those you see unfit.

Protecting your company is as simple as installing the software onto the compatible smartphone or tablet. The program will record SMS text messages, calls and other activities and then silently upload the data to your private online account using the Internet.

PhoneSheriff for Business (12-Month License)

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More info here


Do you need to monitor your child’s iphone or ipad? Then use the Phone Sheriff Investigator

 but don’t want to Jailbreak it?

Now you can thanks to the new PhoneSheriff Investigator Program. All you have to do is enable the iCloud service on the iPhone or iPad, then login to the PhoneSheriff online control panel to configure your Apple ID settings. Once the iPhone backs up to the cloud, you can then go to the online control panel to check your child’s activities and GPS locations.

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More info here


Henry Sapiecha