edward snowden

SNOWDEN DESIGNS SMARTPHONE CASE THAT DETECTS HARMFUL MALWARE
September 23, 2016 9:18 am

According to a projection by Statista, the number of people using smartphones worldwide in 2016 is expected to be nearly 2.08 billion.  While the advantages of smartphones are numerous, they also present numerous opportunities for harmful attacks.

Malicious apps can transmit metadata to ad agencies, cyber criminals and identity thieves.  Hackers can access your phone’s native functions, such as the camera and voice-recorder.  These are merely a few examples.  There are numerous ways in which your phone can make your information vulnerable.  That said, there are several steps you can take to make your data more safe.

For example, recently Edward Snowden, and Andrew “Bunnie” Huang launched a malware detecting smartphone case, that can help protect your information and make you aware if your phone is at risk of unwanted surveillance.

In their paper titled “Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance,Snowden and Huang discuss the implications of smartphone attacks with specific regard to journalists, stating that surveillance and access to metadata from unwanted third-parties “leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability.” – Snowden, Huang 

Snowden and Huang developed an open-source tool called the introspection engine, to be attached to a phone and used to determine if the device is secure.

“As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time.” – Snowden, Huang

According to the article, Snowden and Huang plan to prototype throughout this year.  Although the introspection engine was designed specifically with regard to the iPhone, the processes involved could potentially be applied to other mobile devices. Snowden and Huang proposed that in the future these processes could be more quickly retrofitted for other operating systems.

References: Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang, Edward Snowden.  “Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance.”  PubPub, (2016)

Featured Image Source – Flickr

DJ SNOWDEN REQUESTS AN EXIT
April 28, 2016 6:00 am

Trapped in Moscow and bored out of his mind (snowed in?), NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden got busy with some turntables. The resulting track is “Exit,” and I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s incredibly frantic, high-energy EDM, reminiscent of that moment in movies when shit gets real and everything explodes. But just because I don’t want to listen to it doesn’t mean it isn’t legit af.

Legendary electronic music pioneer and longtime French celebrity Jean Michel Jarre collaborated with Snowden during his ongoing politically charged exile from the United States. Snowden, of course, released classified information about the National Security Agency in 2013, and has been a vocal opponent of government surveillance ever since. After the first three-ish minutes of manic house music, “Exit” slows down for Snowden’s passionate voiceover:

“Technology can actually increase privacy. The question is: why are our private details that are transmitted online, and why are private details that are stored on our personal devices, any different than the details and private records of our lives that are stored in our private journals? (Stored in our private journals?) I think, you know, saying that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. It’s a deeply antisocial principle, because rights are not just individual, they’re collective. And what may not have value to you today may have value to an entire, you know, population, an entire people, or an entire way of life tomorrow. And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will? (And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will?)

Then it returns to it’s pulsating house vibe, repeating and if you don’t stand up for it then who will a few times for good measure. Powerful question indeed, what with the NSA and all, but the real message is something more personal, more immediate: Snowden would like to leave Russia. In case the music isn’t crazy, stressful, “get-me-out-of-here” enough, the name “Exit” should also give it away. He’s even offered to go to jail in the US if it means seeing his family. Fuck all the noise and bullshit, this human being just wants to go home.

Speaking of which, Academy Award®-winning director Oliver Stone & company just released the trailer for their new biographical political-thriller. Snowden is scheduled to be released September 16th:

EX MACHINA: MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY, INVERTED
June 7, 2015 3:48 pm

WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

“Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?”  -Ava

Going into Ex Machina, I expected a soundtrack reminiscent of The Matrix: something gritty and electronic, with beeps and boops and screeching computer noise. What I got was far closer to Her than The Matrix, with melodic textures emphasizing a decidedly human view of technology and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Cold, reverberant soundscapes dominate the film, especially scenes involving the humans Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Nathan (Oscar Isaac). However, once the artificially intelligent Ava (Alicia Vikander) enters the picture, the soundtrack reflects a distinctly organic quality. The first guitar is introduced just as Caleb sees Ava from afar. Cellos erupt when we first meet Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), Nathan’s servant and AI prototype. Scenes of nature, however, are peppered with pulsating synths and digital noise. This inversion of humanity and technology permeates the film and gives it its distinctive, otherworldly quality. 

Take, for example, the many sessions Caleb enjoys with Ava, under Nathan’s watchful eyes. A pulsating, heartbeat-esque bass synth enhances each of these intimate moments, helping to underline Ava’s inherent humanity, one of the central themes of the film. Her robotic body belies her very human personality, and the music furthers this contradiction. As Caleb (and the audience) try to decipher and define Ava’s unique reality, our preconceptions are consistently undermined by the instrumentation and mood of the soundtrack.

Ex-Machina the movie

There is one scene in which human characters interact with “human” music, but the effect is notably uncomfortable; Caleb and Kyoko have a bizarre interaction in which Kyoko tries to initiate sex with Caleb, only to have Nathan interrupt. To Caleb’s increasing discomfort, Nathan and Kyoko begin a loosely coordinated dance, complete with loud, overwhelmingly out-of-place disco music. The apparent humanity of the music would be the only outlier of the human/AI inversion-dynamic of the film, were it not for the audience’s natural empathy toward Caleb, and our corresponding feeling of discomfort. 

The intersection of Ava’s artificial intelligence and her humanity lies in her sexuality, which begins as a seemingly innocent byproduct of AI and develops into an invaluable tool at her disposal. At first, these scenes are notably absent of music; Caleb and Nathan discuss the purpose of sex and attraction in a moment of quiet relief. When Caleb and Ava do eventually kiss (during a poorly explained dreamlike fantasy), guitars suddenly burst through quiet ambient synths. As Ava learns how to control her sexuality, the corresponding analog sounds turn more and more digital, so at the final climax when Ava covers herself in synthetic skin and completes her attempt at becoming human, the audience is finally blasted with the computerized, bit-crushed noise that I had expected to hear throughout the film. The effect is powerful, and the inverted relationship between human identity and computerized music reaches its conclusion. 

Ex-Machina the movie

While the technology behind artificial intelligence is central to the film, the more salient point is the process behind Ava’s seamless interaction with humanity. Nathan is the founder and CEO of “Bluebook,” an obvious allegory to Google, and as such he holds an enormous wealth of information at his fingertips. In order to give Ava as much information to work from as possible, Nathan reveals that he has hacked into all the world’s search engine data—yes this is illegal, he says, but the phone companies can’t call him out without revealing that they, too, are illegally monitoring citizens’ private conversations. Apparently this film takes place in an alternate, Edward Snowden-less universe, but the point remains that megadata is very powerful, and a company’s ability to harness this power dictates its ability to grow and develop its technology. Nathan explains that while owning a search engine provides access to what people think, the real treasure is determining how people think, and that with the right analysis of humanity’s megadata we can recreate the human brain, and thus create artificial intelligence.

Whether this is a good idea remains to be seen.

Ex-Machina the movie