10/13/2009

FBI delves into DMV photos in search for fugitives

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

In its search for fugitives, the FBI has begun using facial-recognition technology on millions of motorists, comparing driver’s license photos with pictures of convicts in a high-tech analysis of chin widths and nose sizes.

The project in North Carolina has already helped nab at least one suspect. Agents are eager to look for more criminals and possibly to expand the effort nationwide. But privacy advocates worry that the method allows authorities to track people who have done nothing wrong.

“Everybody’s participating, essentially, in a virtual lineup by getting a driver’s license,” said Christopher Calabrese, an attorney who focuses on privacy issues at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Earlier this year, investigators learned that a double-homicide suspect named Rodolfo Corrales had moved to North Carolina. The FBI took a 1991 booking photo from California and compared it with 30 million photos stored by the motor vehicle agency in Raleigh.

In seconds, the search returned dozens of drivers who resembled Corrales, and an FBI analyst reviewed a gallery of images before zeroing in on a man who called himself Jose Solis.

New Ad-Aware offers behavioral detection

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Lavasoft has updated its popular malware and spyware detection and removal tool Ad-Aware. Rather than a dramatic redo, version 8.1 builds on the improvements made in the previous version. The new version is faster, has better removal abilities, and introduces a behavioral detection engine.

Called Genotype, Ad-Aware’s heuristic-based behavioral detection engine isn’t explicitly called out in the interface. However, I noticed that files that had been flagged falsely as threats in earlier versions were no longer called out as such, and the Quick Scan was able to complete in about three minutes, as opposed to 10 minutes in the previous version. These are empirical observations, of course, but this version’s improvements should be easy to see for longtime users of Ad-Aware.

Removal techniques have also been improved. Lavasoft is calling the new system Neutralizer, although it’s not called out as such in the program interface. What users will see is a “family” of grouped similar threats, such as cookies, the category of the threat, and the action taken. The program defaults to the Recommended action, which means you need to click on the drop-down menu to the right of the listing to see what action will be taken on a per-threat basis. The big action buttons introduced in version 8 still reside at the bottom of the window, which feels further than necessary–it’d be better to have the action button closer to where the mouse already is, at the top of the window.

Apple acknowledges Snow Leopard data loss issue

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

For the past month, some Mac OS X users have been reporting their personal data missing after logging into their guest accounts, and Apple now says it’s working on finding a fix.

“We are aware of the issue, which occurs only in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix,” an Apple representative said in a prepared statement Monday.

It’s the first time Apple has said it is looking into the issue. In early September, a handful of Mac users reported the issue on Apple’s discussion boards. The problem, when it occurs, goes like this, according to CNET’s MacFixit: when logging into the guest account on their Mac first and then logging into their regular account, some users are finding all their data to be missing and their accounts completely reset.

SanDisk ships ‘X4′ flash chips

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

SanDisk said Monday that it is shipping memory chips that will allow consumers to store more data on tiny Secure Digital flash cards.

The Milpitas, Calif., company’s X4 technology packs four bits of data into each memory cell. To date, flash memory chipmakers typically stored one bit or two bits per cell. Each individual die–or chip–holds 64 gigabits of data, or 8 gigabytes. This is the highest capacity per die in the industry, according to SanDisk.

The technology is shipping now in 8GB and 16GB SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards as well as 8GB and 16GB Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, the company said.

Future related technology from SanDisk is expected to yield tiny Secure Digital (SD) flash cards that hold 64GB of data and larger capacities. Currently, mainstream SanDisk SD cards top out at 32GB.

The memory technology itself–the 4 bits per cell 64-gigabit memory–is codeveloped and co-owned by SanDisk and Toshiba. The X4 controller technology is solely owned by SanDisk.

Next Firefox can detect computer orientation

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The upcoming version 3.6 of Firefox will be able to tell if you’re listing to starboard–and pass that information along to applications running in the browser.

That’s because the browser will be able to detect the orientation of laptops and mobile devices equipped with accelerometers that can tell which way is down. The reason for the work: Web applications running in the browser will be able to use the information, useful for labyrinth-type games with virtual marbles rolling around boards, and any number of other gaming situations.

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