All posts in Big Data

How a Crypto ‘Backdoor’ Pitted the Tech World Against the NSA

In August 2007, a young programmer in Microsoft’s Windows security group stood up to give a five-minute turbo talk at the annual Crypto conference in Santa Barbara.

It was a Tuesday evening, part of the conference’s traditional rump session, when a hodge-podge of short talks are presented outside of the conference’s main lineup. To draw attendees away from the wine and beer that competed for their attention at that hour, presenters sometimes tried to sex up their talks with provocative titles like “Does Bob Go to Prison?” or “How to Steal Cars – A Practical Attack on KeeLoq” or “The Only Rump Session Talk With Pamela Anderson.”

Dan Shumow and his Microsoft colleague Niels Ferguson titled theirs, provocatively, “On the Possibility of a Back Door in the NIST SP800-90 Dual Ec Prng.” It was a title only a crypto geek would love or get.

Seven Principles for Big Data and Resilience Projects

The following is a draft “Code of Conduct” that seeks to provide guidance on best practices for resilience building projects that leverage Big Data and Advanced Computing. These seven core principles serve to guide data projects to ensure they are socially just, encourage local wealth- & skill-creation, require informed consent, and be maintainable over long timeframes. This document is a work in progress, so we very much welcome feedback. Our aim is not to enforce these principles on others but rather to hold ourselves accountable and in the process encourage others to do the same. Initial versions of this draft were written during the 2013 PopTech & Rockefeller Foundation workshop in Bellagio, August 2013.

Boston Bombing Investigation Exposed Successes, Failures of Surveillance Tech

Despite multiple photos and surveillance video images of two suspects involved in the Boston Marathon bombings last month, as well as state-of-the-art facial-recognition software and two government databases, investigators were unable to identify the two suspected perpetrators, even after releasing several of the images to the public.

It was only after one suspect was shot in a showdown with police and was fingerprinted on his way to the hospital that authorities finally had a name to go with a face — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a Chechen youth who was already on two U.S. terrorist watch lists after Russian authorities warned the U.S. that he had become “radicalized.”

The watch lists were supposed to alert authorities if Tsarnaev attempted to travel overseas, but they failed as well, even after he returned last year from a six-month trip to Russia. The databases contained a misspelling of the suspect’s name — “Tsarnayev” instead of Tsarnaev — and two incorrect dates of birth.

The facial-recognition system failed because none of the images captured of the suspects at the bombing site were full-frontal shots that the system’s algorithms could recognize.

These are two of the technology failures discussed in a new documentary about the bombing manhunt produced by NOVA and airing on PBS stations tonight.