An interesting issue of personal privacy arose this week with the publication by Wikileaks of yet more classified information held by the CIA. It unfolded thus:
On Tuesday in a press release, WikiLeaks said the CIA had "lost control" of an archive of hacking methods and it appeared to have been circulated "among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive. Televisions, smartphones and even anti-virus software are all vulnerable to CIA hacking, according to the WikiLeaks documents .
The capabilities described include recording the sounds, images and the private text messages of users, even when they resort to encrypted apps to communicate. While many of the attack technologies had been previously discussed at cybersecurity conferences, experts were startled to see evidence that the CIA had turned so many theoretical vulnerabilities into functioning attack tools against staples of modern life. These include widely used Internet routers, smartphones, and Mac and Windows computers.
In the case of a tool called “Weeping Angel” for attacking Samsung SmartTVs, WikiLeaks wrote, “After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on, In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.” The CIA reportedly also has studied whether it could infect vehicle control systems for cars and trucks, which WikiLeaks alleged could be used to conduct “nearly undetectable assassinations.”
And a specialized CIA unit called the Mobile Devices Branch produced malware to control and steal information from iPhones, which according to WikiLeaks were a particular focus because of the smartphone’s popularity “among social, political diplomatic and business elites.” The agency also targeted popular phones running Google’s Android, the world’s leading mobile operating system.
In response, the CIA, which is the United States' civilian foreign intelligence service, initially declined to comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents. The agency said in a statement that its mission was to collect foreign intelligence abroad "to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries" and to be "innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad." The CIA is legally prohibited from surveillance inside the United States and "does not do so", the statement added.
To misquote the sceptical words of Christine Keeler in the infamous 60s Profumo scandal trial ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they’! It is unthinkable that the CIA would be spying on its own citizens, or is it? The technology which might enable the agency to do so is in the public domain and has clearly been available, at least in theory, for some time. The surprise element comes in the revelation that the CIA has apparently put that theory into practice and has at least the capability of honing in on anyone anywhere with a compatible Smart device and thus surveilling their browsing and viewing habits, their phone and on-line conversations and tracking their every electronic move and contact.
Of course, the CIA had denied that this has been done on private US citizens but stopped short of saying that those of other countries had not been spied on and hacked; their excuse as always is that of the every-present terrorist threat which gives them carte blanche to micro-monitor any individual or group anywhere in the world whom they believe might be involved in such nefarious activities and thus pose a danger to the good citizens of the USA – all very noble and hard to counterpoint in a debate.
But what the opening of this latest Wikileaks can of worms has exposed is just how vulnerable each and every one of us now is to the scrutiny of an Orwellian, Big-Brother-style watch. Though such technology only existed in George Orwell’s rich imagination when he penned his novel `1984 way back in 1948 and though his estimate of the date when it might become available was a little out, such e-spying and privacy attacks are no longer the stuff of a novelist’s dreams but are a clear and present danger in all our lives.
Of course the counter argument has always been that if you’ve nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear but that platitude completely misses the point: It’s a question of legality, of boundaries and of personal privacy and liberty. To offer up a very basic example, there are many complaints on local social media sites of demands by store security guards to search the bags of customers, the presumption being that all customers are potential thieves.
Quite apart from the fact that most customers are exactly that – legitimate consumers – it is not legal in Botswana for anyone to search your private property apart from an officer of the law, and then only with good reason, which means not a fishing expedition. Yet we are all now subjected to similar searches when we travel, at airports and even some railway stations and bus terminals, if not hand searches, then by x-ray, the contents of our private luggage displayed on a screen for a stranger to scrutinise. Furthermore, many of us will have been victims of online hacking of our email and social media accounts, forcing us to change our passwords and beef up our security firewalls. The bad guys are out there and they’re attacking us where we live and work.
From there it doesn’t require much imagination to take that scrutiny one stage further and to imagine that it’s not only the conventional bad guys, but possibly the very people who are supposed to protect our civil liberties now the very ones who are attacking them, the ones who by rights should be the good guys.
I for one will be watching developments on this Wikileaks story with great interest. It may seem like something that’s happening a long way away but make no mistake, it’s closer than you think. Big Brother Is Watching You and it seems like he lives in Langley, Virginia!
In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.
It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.
… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan
With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.
Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.
If I say the word ‘robot’ to you, I can guess what would immediately spring to mind – a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and tv shows. Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name, Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama, Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…
Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator, Box in Logan’s Run, Police robots in Elysium and Otomo in Robocop.
And that’s to name but a few. As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves. And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of robotics in the workplace.
ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.
A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles. It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.
DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,
AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.
INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour
These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.
This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count! For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars. It’s a theory, at any rate.
Already,customers at the South-Korean fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic. The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners. Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.
‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP.
Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions.
Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders. Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.
These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.
And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth. Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.
But there may be more redundancies on the way as well. Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable? So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid? Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!