Terrorists Used Burner Phones Not Encryption To Evade Detection

In light of the recent discussions regarding privacy vs security, such as those being discussed by Apple and the FBI in congress, the discussion often comes back to the encryption and whether groups or government agencies should be able to break it when it comes to security. It could perhaps be damaging to groups like the FBI to learn that it wasn’t encryption that stopped the people responsible for the terrorist attacks in Paris from being detected earlier on but it was instead burner phones.

Burner phones is a term used to describe phones that are used only briefly before being disposed or burned. The concept being that the longer you hold onto a device the easier it is to track and monitor your actions with it. Several phones linked to the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks only activated their phones the day before, or even minutes before the events occurred.

Currently, all the burner phones involved had sent no online chat messages or emails, throwing more doubt over if terrorists use methods which federal agencies are often targeting and claim they need access to monitor and track.

With little to no evidence that encryption played any part in their communications, recent calls to unlock encryption communication because of these events could struggle to hold the sway they did before while traditional methods of burner phones and “dead drops” (where you leave a package or message at a specific location for picking up at a later date) could require more old-fashioned work to catch early on.

EU Considers Bitcoin Ban After Paris Attacks

Following the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, France on 13th November, the European Union is meeting to discuss a ban on cryptocurrency Bitcoin, according to Reuters. The move comes following unconfirmed rumours that the ISIS operatives responsible for the devastating attacks had up to $3 million in their Bitcoin wallet.

In a document obtained by Reuters, the EU‘s executive arm, the European Commission, outlines plans to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by prepaid cards.” But, as The Washington Post adds, so far there is no concrete evidence that the terrorists responsible used any kind of encrypted system to support its activities, and that the EU itself is still investigating whether cryptocurrencies were involved in funding those responsible.

Ben Bernanke, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, has also raised concerns over Bitcoin’s function. “The real serious problem that [Bitcoin] has is it’s anonymity,” Bernanke told Quartz, “which is a feature, and is also a bug, in that it has become in some cases a vehicle for illicit transactions, drug selling or terrorist financing or whatever. And you know, governments are not happy to let that activity happen, so I suspect that there will be oversight of transactions done in bitcoin or similar currencies and that will reduce the appeal.”

At the EU summit, taking place today, Members of European Parliament will also discuss plans “to curb more effectively the illicit trade in cultural goods.”

Government Officials Blame Snowden Leaks for Paris Attacks

In the wake of the tragic and devastating attacks in Paris last week, many questioned why the authorities were unable to predict and stop the attacks. In fact, despite the wide-ranging and intrusive surveillance systems in place, the only whiff of intelligence was about a generalized threat against France. Now many officials are coming out across the spectrum and blaming Edward Snowden and his leaks for allowing the terrorists to go undetected.

Former director of the CIA James Woolsey has been among the most forceful, claiming Snowden “has blood on his hands” while current CIA director John Brennan blames the unauthorised disclosures as well. London Mayor Boris Johnson has also blamed Snowden for teaching the terrorists “how to avoid being caught”.

Encryption and methods of avoiding electronic detection, however, have not been new to the terrorist toolkit. Since before the 9/11 attacks and in the many that followed it, terrorists have used encryption and other methods of secure communication to co-ordinate. Those attacks all happened before Snowden even revealed the surveillance systems in place, revelations which only confirmed what many already believed the government was already doing. This is especially true of terrorists who knew they would be monitored and generally used methods to conceal themselves already, with Bin Laden famously using couriers only to communicate.

With the focus in recent days on backdoors, it would not be surprising to see pressure placed on Sony to allow monitoring of the PSN and PS4 given its use by the terrorists. Even if governments end up creating backdoors in many popular products, there will still be nothing to stop peer-to-peer encryption and other forms of encrypted communications from being used.

Paris Attackers Allegedly Used PS4s and PSN to Communicate

In a development that is likely to place more pressure on the technology sector, reports are coming out that the perpetrators of the recent Paris attacks used Sony PS4s to communicate and coordinate their attack. This comes after authorities have taken away the PS4s from the attackers homes and Belgian home affairs minister has said that the PS4 was chosen due to its difficulty to track.

Games and consoles have always been on the radar for authorities in monitoring suspects. After all, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA and GCHQ had agents embedded into MMORPG World of Warcraft and Second Life in order to monitor suspects. XBox Live was monitored and part of the reason many were hesitant about the always on functions of the new consoles and the once mandatory Kinect.

At that time, PSN, the Sony’s Playstation Network was not mentioned as a target for monitoring. If it turns out the PS4 was used, authorities will likely start looking into PSN communications as well. Given the myriad number of ways players can communicate with each other in game, the large volume of communications and the importance of context, whether or not extra monitoring would help remains to be seen.

Facebook Started Looking for EU Talent by Opening an AI Research Lab in Paris

Are you a Ph.D. graduate or really good and enthusiastic about artificial intelligence? Well, if you live in Europe, you should know that Facebook is opening a new AI research lab in Paris and is looking for the best Europe can offer in the latter area of expertise.

The company also did some research into available talent and noticed that France has quite a reputation in AI research. LeChun, who is said to be a renowned AI researcher, said that one of the key areas AI scientists in the country are focusing on include deep learning and computer vision.

Facebook is said to have already hired six researchers and is looking to hire around 25 more next year. The main focus Facebook is keen on researching into links to image tagging, predictions and face recognition. Aside from the latter, Facebook is also working on their own virtual reality projects and I bet you get really excited when you see the possibilities of merging both research fields.

However, Facebook is not the only company interested in AI. Google, Amazon and other tech companies are researching and looking to acquire AI talented individuals. They may not research the same AI related topics such as Facebook, but they do work on researching methods of processing large amounts of data.

Thank you WJS.D for providing us with this information

Apple Watch Boutiques Coming to Luxury Stores in London and Paris

Apple is seemingly building pop-up boutiques in luxury Parisian and London stores. One store is expected to open in Paris’ Galeries Lafayette and London’s Selfridges store. Mac4Ever spotted signs of construction in the Parisian store, while a number of job opportunities have appeared for Apple Store employees in London.

A section of Selfridges Wonder Room has been boarded up recently, suggesting that the 19,000-square-foot hall will be the location of Apple’s store-within-a-store. The Wonder Room is a focal point for watch and jewellery brands, making it suitable for Apple’s latest product. The rumours are in line with Apple’s intentions for the watch, that it is a fashion-centric product, designed to be both technologically advanced as well as something you might wish to wear.

The watch is due to be available in April, with Apple holding an event next Monday to potentially reveal more details about the device.

Source: Mac4Ever, MacRumors

Huge Assassin’s Creed: Unit Map Leaked

The new map for Assassin’s Creed: Unity has leaked! Not only is this map freaking huge, but it also looks remarkably similar to maps of what Paris should have looked like in the 18th century.

The map really is quite large, Reddit user Skelaa who uploaded the image said “To give you an idea of size : just look at the “Île de la Cité” in the middle, all the streets, almost a little village”

When compared side by side to that of 18th century Paris you can really see that there are some similarities between the two and the developers have no doubt called upon a lot of historic details to help them create the location. Albeit they’ve likely shuffled a few things around to create lot of unique and rather convenient run, climb and jump friendly areas, oh and lets not forget the hay bails dotted around for your convenience.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is already shaping up to be quite exciting, but will it just be another AC game, or can we expect some real innovation this time around? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thank you BehindGames for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Reddit.

Watch Dogs Browser App Brings the Hacking Experience into Your Browser

Everyone who has played Ubisoft’s latest hacking game title, Watch Dogs, knows about what Aiden Pearce, the main character in the game, has in his smartphone. For those who do not know, his smartphone is basically a mobile NSA tracking and hacking ‘supercomputer’, having the power to disable traffic lights, fiddle with bridges, smartphones, power lines and even the city’s grid.

Although in the real world you cannot do all of this with just a smartphone, Ubisoft has apparently made a ‘light’ version (without all the hacking features of course) of the app, which is available in your browser. Real world data from cities such as Berlin, Paris and even London can be displayed and accessed via the Watch_Dogs WeAreData browser app, displaying publicly accessible location-based data.

The application in question appears to display where mobile phones are, show and read tweets from the locations they were triggered, link CCTV feeds, traffic lights and more. It is said that each city displays a host of data, including transportation, network nodes, city infrastructure such as ATMs and public toilets, social media data from Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Flickr, all displayed with location data and positioned accordingly.

Though this seems as an incredible tool, it has its limitation. All data gathered by the app is said to come from sources which gave their consent on sharing location information. There is no information or data from unauthorized sources from, let’s say, the government. Nonetheless, it is fun to click around and see how the connected world is and looks like daily, and even spy on ‘unsuspected’ victims who post location tags and/or pictures all around these cities. Anyone interested in looking at one of the three available cities can go on the Watch_Dogs WeAreData website here.

Thank you Cult of Mac for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Cult of Mac

French Graffiti Block To Be Preserved In Virtual 3D Gallery

Magasins Généraux Pantin from Paris has been a place for most street artists from all over the capital and beyond. Originally an embodiment of French industry, the building closed at the turn of the century, only to be reimagined as “Graffiti Général,” a five-floor monument to graffiti. The building is now scheduled for refurbishment, although the artwork done so far inside the building will not quite be lost just yet.

There been an effort to preserve the works of art that lie within, although the demolition and construction of a new office building is imminent. However, the newly entitled tenant, namely an agency named BETC, has created a 3D model of the building, and incorporated over 5,200 high-resolution photos of the art that covers it.

It can be viewed from a website set up by BETC, where you can walk a virtual road full of graffiti artwork, just like you do with street view in Google Maps. There’s also a graffiti mode where you can add you own piece to the building’s walls. It’s an interesting concept, that you can “preserve” something tangible with a purely digital copy. For those interested in viewing this modern virtual gallery, BETC’s website can be found at the following address.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of The Verge