Thursday, 20 November 2014

US intelligence unit launches $50k speech recognition competition

cleanaspire chaldet 500 
There’s a new high-tech competition afoot that challenges participants to design speech-recognition software that can decipher conversations and other speech that happens over microphones in noisy, echo-prone situations.

The $50,000 challenge comes from researchers at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The completion, known as Automatic Speech recognition in Reverberant Environments (ASpIRE), hopes to get the industry, universities or other researchers to build automatic speech recognition technology that can handle a variety of acoustic environments and recording scenarios on natural conversational speech.
The ASpIRE challenge seeks to inspire the development of innovative speech recognition systems that can be trained on conversational telephone speech, yet work well on far-field microphone data from noisy, reverberant rooms. Challenge competitors will be given access to sample data against which they can test their algorithms that are different from the test set, but provide a good representation of microphone recordings in real rooms, IARPA stated.
Contestants are then asked to use their algorithms to submit transcriptions for the test set. The algorithm that produces the lowest word error rate in the single microphone condition will receive $30,000, and the algorithm that produces the lowest word error rate in the multiple microphone condition will receive $20,000. The single microphone condition evaluation will run February 4-11, 2015. The multiple microphone condition evaluation will run February 12-19, 2015.
There are two evaluation conditions, according to IARPA:
  • The Single Microphone (single-mic) Condition tests the ability to mitigate noise and reverberation given a single microphone recording (selected randomly) from speech recorded in several rooms with a variety of microphones. Single-mic evaluation data will be made available at 10:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time 04-Feb-2015 and submissions must be received by 11:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time 11-Feb-2015 to be eligible for award.
  • The Multiple Microphone (multi-mic) Condition tests the ability to mitigate noise and reverberation given all of the microphone recordings of speech recorded in several rooms with a variety of microphones. Multi-mic evaluation data will be made available at 10:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time 12-Feb-2015 and submissions must be received by 11:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time 19-Feb-2015 to be eligible for award.
  • In both conditions, word error rate will be used as the objective measure of performance. Contestants can participate in either or both conditions, IARPA stated.

No company immune from hacking

No company immune from hacking
Cyber security is a bog issue that has baffled the people of the world and no company in the world is safe from hacking or other forms of cyber-attacks that might have affected it. Even china has gotten influenced by these kinds of attacks which are on the system of the different companies.
These intrusions are made by hackers or cyber criminals who have not got the attacks on the Administrator systems in the different places where there are companies or other firms that are operating and the people who are responsible are not persecuted which instead promotes these kinds of acts that should be condemned.
It is the responsibility that the government has to undertake and there has to be better solutions by the government of the countries that are under threat of getting these cyber-attacks on their computerized environment and a halt should be made in these efforts.
The businesses that run in the different places have pressure that might get built on the people who are affected by these criminal attacks that could have been made on them and this is very lethal at times. There are cases in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and these people have no place in the society that is more or less the responsibility of the people themselves to pressure the government and make the amends to get these perpetrators behind bars.
The US has faced these problems of hacking in the past decade as well and they have not gone overseas to other countries to catch these hackers who had been attacking their systems were thought to be belonging to Russia and China as well.
Investment is more or less of concern in Paolo alto and there are different companies that have been trusted by the various people who are dealing with them financially or for the trading purposes depending upon the need that could be there for them.
The companies can have a firewall refresh and change their infrastructure which might be better suitable for them and their company as a whole and there is not much to be affected about when looking at these companies doing their different restrictive measures in the various places where they have computerized environment.

10 Best Security Apps for Android

Best Security Apps for Android
Today, as the smart phone has become the device of choice for all those on the move for accessing the Internet, data security has become an extremely sensitive issue the world over. Malware, viruses amongst other threatening software rule the dark side of the Internet with impunity. Extreme levels of care need to be taken, especially when the driving engine behind most smart phones is the Android OS.

As Android comes in many flavors as of today, and since it has been adopted by the majority of handset manufacturers globally, this issue has required to be tackled on a priority basis and on a war footing. The scenario can be even worse, if your phone is stolen or is accessed by undesired people. This article examines best apps for Smart phone security, especially those which are running Android:

iPhone owners may want to checkout our list of security apps for iOS devices.


If you are on the lookout for a free mobile app that is capable of protecting your android device around the clock from a wide range of mobile threats then Lookout Mobile Security is the right answer for you. This app is the perfect device security system in the post PC era. Lookout can secure you from unsecure WiFi networks, fraudulent links, malicious apps, etc.

Lookout Mobile Security can also backup contacts such as scheduling automatic backups, which can later be accessed online. It can also use this information to restore your device in case your phone crashes, or in the event of a data loss. You can also locate your phone on a Google map in case your phone is lost, even if the GPS is off.

Most of the top features are available for free with this app. However, the premium version offers much more with features such as remote locking, privacy scans, safe browsing, phishing protection, and app reports.

Snap Secure

Snap secure can automatically back up your data to your online account on a secure basis. From here, you can easily access your data, restore it, or transfer it to a new device if necessary. Snap Secure comes along with anti-virus as well as anti-spyware protection. It can also scan your new applications for malware. Calls from unknown or un-shown numbers and also unwanted SMS messages on Android devices can be easily blocked.

Snap Secure also includes a much-wanted privacy manager, in order to help you understand how apps are using your personal information. Also included are an anti-theft and a location tracker, which can be utilized in the case of the theft of your mobile device.
Another unique feature called the Personal Guardian helps the user to press a panic button to send out an email, SMS, or tweet along with your location, in case the user is in the midst of an emergency situation. This app is also available for iOS and BlackBerry devices. Both free as well as pro versions are available.

Avast Free Mobile Security

This is a free mobile security app from the popular antivirus developer Avast. The Avast Free Mobile Security App includes a wide spectrum of anti malware as well as anti-theft features. Also included is browsing protection.
This prompts the user if s/he visits a malicious website. Users can also make good use of the privacy advisor, which helps you identify potentially dangerous installed apps. At the same time, an application manager lets you manage running apps.

Avast Free Mobile Security also includes SMS and call filtering. This feature helps block incoming messages as well as calls including outgoing calls that are based on times and contacts selected by the user. While the app lacks any backup functionality, enhanced anti-theft features along with a firewall are provided for rooted devices.
With Avast, it is also possible to automatically scan apps that you install. Avast can also do full scans of your installed apps on the phone and on the SD card. This can be done manually or you can even specify the days and times for automatic scans.

ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus

The ESET mobile security comes with an interface that is completely easy to use as it provides real-time scanning of apps to detect malware and devious apps that try to send texts or make premium rate calls.

The ESET mobile security basic version is completely free and it also includes a set of anti-theft tools. With ESET Mobile Security and Antivirus, it is also possible to remotely locate as well as lock your Smartphone or tablet.

This feature also prevents anyone from uninstalling apps, by providing password protection. However, the remote wipe or SIM guard capabilities are available only with the premium version, which you have to pay for. This version provides additional features such as anti-phishing protection, an app audit feature, device monitoring so that unnecessary use of data can be checked, as also advanced call blocking.

Avira Antivirus Security

The Avira Antivirus Security for Android phones provides 100% detection rate along with no false positives. Hence, users can trust the free version of Avira to keep their android Smartphone or tablet safe. At the same time, it has a light footprint when it comes to performance. Also, it has a minimalist as well as sleek design, so that it fits snuggly with the Android platform.

With Avira, it is possible to scan apps for potential trouble, and it scans new apps or updates automatically. Also provided are a set of anti-theft tools, so that you can find your device remotely, or perform other actions such as locking, wiping, or even triggering an alarm.
Avira also provides an additional tool, which it claims is able to tell you whether your email account has been hacked, and what action you need to take if you have to. Also included are a variety of blacklisting options that can potentially take care of nuisance callers and spam.

BullGuard Mobile Security

BullGuard Mobile Security is a premier quality mobile security app that provides you with an online account so that you can remotely access your smart phone. You are also provided with a mobile security manager that works in tandem with your GPS, so in the case you lose your device, it can be easily locked remotely and can be wiped clean.

The BullGuard Mobile Security also includes a parental control module. This allows you to keep your children protected without directly accessing the phone. The app also includes anti-virus and anti-spyware, firewall, spam-filter, backup and restore features for contacts, along with SIM card protection. This app is available for Android, Symbian OS, Windows mobile, and Blackberry phones.

360 Mobile Security

With a detection rate of 100%, the focus of 360 Mobile Security (developed by Chinese Player Quiho) is a lightweight, streamlined and elegantly designed app that is completely free. With 360 Mobile Security, it is possible to safeguard your device from malware, spyware, and any threats of infection. At the same time, it is also capable of detecting as well as fixing system vulnerabilities. 360 Mobile Security cleans up idle background apps so that it can help your phone run more efficiently.
The app also includes a privacy advisor so that you can clear your usage history. In favor of a light touch, the app does not include a long list of extras. So, you will only find additional features such as call blocking, short cut toggles, as well as safe browsing option. This app also excludes the anti-theft component or the backup option.

Android Device Manager

This is a must have app for all its useful features. With the ability to track your lost device, and even ring it at max volume if you cannot find it, you couldn’t’ find a better app elsewhere. You can even lock your device or wipe your device from the web interface. This is a good way you can keep all sensitive data out of the hands of others. The best part of the deal is that this device is free.

Hotspot Shield VPN

This is a VPN app for your android device and is one of the most reasonably priced as well as popular VPN apps for android. With HotSpot VPN, can detect unsecured Wi-Fi to automatically enable HTTPS protection as well as automatically unblock content whenever certain apps or sites are accessed. It encrypts traffic in and out of your device for ultimate privacy. The Wi-Fi connection is secured with banking level HTTPS encryption, as your Wi-Fi network can be vulnerable even if the device is secure. It prevents hackers from stealing your private information and mask your IP address to browse the web anonymously as well as privately.

Cerberus Anti Theft

This is a free anti-theft app that includes many features which you can use for finding your lost or stolen device. With a standard web interface that you can see your device’s location, you can lock the device; hide the app from the app drawer, so that people will not know it exists.

You can even record audio from the microphone to know what is going on around it as well as get information about the service the phone is connected to while getting call logs as well. You can even remote control your phone through their website and even via text messages. At the same time, you can even obtain alerts via the SIM checker if someone uses the phone with an unauthorized SIM card.

WhatsApp starts encrypting users' messages

GCHQ building 
 GCHQ's boss has criticised tech firms for their use of encryption
WhatsApp has turned on an encryption system to protect messages sent with the Android version of its app.
The WhatsApp Android application has been downloaded about 500 million times.
It said the data scrambling system should make it much harder to eavesdrop on the messages users exchange.
Tech firms have faced criticism by law enforcement figures who said greater use of encryption made it harder to track criminals and extremists.
Data scramble The encryption system being applied to WhatsApp is called TextSecure and has been developed by a non-profit group called Open Whisper Systems.
"I do think this is the largest deployment of end-to-end encryption ever," said TextSecure developer Moxie Marlinspike in an interview with tech news site Wired.
Unlike other encryption systems, which often scramble messages only as they travel from a device to the servers that companies use to route them to their recipients, TextSecure keeps the encryption intact throughout a message's journey from handset to handset.
Initially the encryption is being applied only to messages sent via the Android version of WhatsApp. Soon it will be extended to group messages, photos and videos sent via the Android app.
Open Whisper said it also planned to develop versions of TextSecure that work with WhatsApp apps on other smartphone operating systems but did not give a date for when those would be ready.
WhatsApp and Facebook logos  
Facebook acquired WhatsApp in a deal worth $22bn (£14bn)
The tie-up marks a huge boost in the numbers of people using TextSecure, which had reached about 10 million, mainly people who had installed the Cyanogen variant of the Android operating system.
WhatsApp said the encryption system would be turned on by default for its huge number of Android users. In October, Facebook completed a $22bn (£14bn) acquisition of WhatsApp.
In a separate development, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns on digital rights, has unveiled a project to make it easier and cheaper for smaller organisations and websites to use strong encryption.
Called Let's Encrypt, the initiative aims to produce software tools that automate, as much as possible, the process of using the web's standard encryption systems.
Many sites and organisations shy away from adopting these technologies because they can be technically demanding to install and administer, said Peter Eckersley, EFF technology projects director, in a statement.
"By making it easy, fast and free for websites to install encryption for their users, we will all be safer online," he said.
Let's Encrypt has been set up with the help of Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai and others and aims to launch in 2015.
Both moves could anger intelligence and law enforcement agencies, which have criticised tech firms for their greater use of encryption.
Earlier this month, GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan said US tech companies were becoming a "command and control" network for terror groups as more secure communications presented a surveillance challenge.

Asian mobiles the DDOS threat of 2015, security mob says

Vietnam, India and Indonesia will be the distributed denial of service volcanoes of next year due to the profieration of pwned mobiles, according to DDoS security bod Shawn Marck.
Vietnam clocked in fifth place in the firm's latest threat report, in which India and Indonesia did not feature, outpaced by China, the US, Russia and Germany.
"The new up-and-coming countries of origin for DDoS attacks identified by the Black Lotus mitigation team are Vietnam, India and Indonesia," the company said in the report.
"While these countries don't have the large bandwidth necessary to launch massive volumetric DDoS attacks, the large number of compromised end point devices, particularly smart mobile phones, make these countries prime sources of newly created botnets."
Attacks would become fewer and easier for big networks to handle, according to co-founder Marck, but would remain a pain for smaller businesses.
"The widespread education of ways to thwart NTP (Network Timing Attacks) caused attackers to resort to tried and true blends of SYN flood and application layer attacks, which are very difficult to mitigate using conventional network hardware as these types target the same port needed to serve legitimate users," Marck said.
The report covered attacks between 1 July and 29 September this year and found a 96 percent decrease in bit volume attacks compared to the rest of the year.
It found attack incidents fell from 462,621 in the first quarter to 201,721 in the third.
Enterprise defenders will need to refocus crosshairs on the mobile space as the number of servers open to NTP amplification falls after a surge in attacks earlier this year.
The report came as FastHost was hit with a large distibuted denail of service attack that together with a Windows vulnerability knocked the company offline for five hours this week.

Hewlett Foundation lays out MEELLIONS on security

The Hewlett Foundation has found US$45m in its other jacket, and has anointed three lucky US universities to spend on security research.
MIT, Stanford and UC Berkeley will share the simoleons, in a program MIT says is designed to generate a “robust marketplace of ideas”, whatever that is. On a more pragmatic basis, the universities will respectively work on “quantitative metrics and qualitative models” (MIT's Cybersecurity Policy Initiative); policy frameworks (Stanford, via its Cyber Initiative); and predictions of the future (UC Berekeley's Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity).
MIT says its CPI will start by looking at things like threat intelligence sharing in the finance industry, policy frameworks for emerging technologies like drones and autonomous vehicles; and international co-operation.
Stanford's announcement focuses on “how to resolve trust and security problems endemic to networked information technologies, how to govern the Internet in a world where people often disagree about what they value, and how to anticipate unexpected developments in information technologies that could affect national security, intellectual property, civil liberties and society”.
It's harder to encapsulate UC Berkeley's predict-the-future work, but it includes “forward-looking” and “interdisciplinary”, which can't be a bad thing.

Duggan: Detroit database held for ransom

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan detailed Monday how Detroit has been victimized by cyber crimes, including how a city database was frozen in April and held for ransom.
Duggan said the city database was held hostage for a ransom of 2,000 bitcoins, an encrypted digital currency. A bitcoin is currently worth $401.75, making that ransom worth $803,500. Duggan said the ransom was not paid and the database wasn’t used or needed by the city.
“It was a good warning sign for us,” he said at Michigan’s third summit focusing on cyber security issues in government, business and other sectors at the North American International Cyber Summit at Cobo Center.
Duggan also noted Monday that a person involved in Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case recently was the victim of a cyber attack that involved threatening emails and a “significant” amount of money taken from a personal checking account.
“The timing was such that he certainly thought it was a political agenda,” the mayor said.
The attack was one of several examples Duggan gave of the city’s lack of updated technology and security.
“It was pretty disturbing what I found,” said Duggan, who began his four-year term as mayor Jan. 1. “I found the Microsoft Office system we had was about 10 years old and couldn’t sync the calendar to my phone.”
The city is in the process of improving security and updating technologies, including recently switching to a faster email system, said the mayor, a former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center.
“We’re in the early stages of ramping up,” he said. “The stakes in play in the state and in the country are enormous.”
Other featured speakers at the summit include Gov. Rick Snyder, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, military leaders and private-sector analysts. Experts from across the country will also talk about trends and best practices in cyber security.
Data theft and security breaches can be costly, both to businesses and the government. According to the state, the Michigan government suffers more than 500,000 computer attacks each day, including spam, Web browser attacks and network intrusion.
Snyder in his keynote speech Monday said an increasingly connected world leaves the private sector vulnerable to cyber attacks.
“Twenty years from now, your car is going to be driving itself,” he said. “The vehicle will be talking to other vehicles, making decisions on when to stop and when to brake.”
A hacker could gain access to that system and control a vehicle from the outside, Snyder said.
“The risks we have today are only going to dramatically increase,” he said.
Snyder also said he thinks businesses and nonprofit groups are more vulnerable to an attack than the government.
“The easiest way to disrupt our world is to go through the private sector,” he said.
Snyder stressed civilian involvement to combat this risk.
“We need to get everyone involved, not just the government,” he said. “It’s the private sector, the individuals all learning more about cyber security.”
In his speech, Snyder unveiled the Michigan Cyber Initiative 2015, outlining steps needed to protect the state from growing threats of cyber attacks.
He announced an expansion to the Cyber Civilian Corp., a group of volunteers from the private sector trained to respond to a cyber attack.
The group first was announced last year at the cyber summit.
“I’m glad to say within the next few months, we’ll have a dozen teams,” Snyder said.
Snyder compared the corps to the Army National Guard.
“It makes sense to use a model that we’ve used for 200-plus years in this country,” he said. “It’s the citizen cyber solider concept.”
Snyder also highlighted the Cyber Command Center with the Michigan State Police, designed to coordinate state efforts to monitor cyber threats.
“Just like we have a Michigan intelligence operation for physical crimes, now we’ve done that for cyber crimes,” he said.
Snyder also spoke about the Michigan Cyber Range, created in 2012 to allow people to train and take cyber security certification courses.
Following his speech, Snyder told reporters it was a matter of time before a significant cyber attack hits the state.
“It’s just a ‘when’ question,” he said. “That’s the point of us being prepared and that’s why I’m so proud to say Michigan is a leader in being prepared.”
Snyder also briefly touched on topics other than cyber security, including his hope to get a road funding bill on his desk by the end of the year. The state Senate approved a boost of more than $1 billion in state road money Thursday with a change to Michigan's fuel tax that is certain to raise the price at the pump. The gas tax increase bill will now go to the Republican-controlled House.
“There’s still quite a bit of work to be done on the House side of this,” he said. “But if you look at the Senate, work was done in a great bipartisan fashion and I hope we can replicate that in the House.”
He also addressed his upcoming fourth annual trip to China.
“It’s about jobs here in Michigan,” he said. “How can we get more exports to China, how can we get more Chinese investment in Michigan, and how we can continue working together to build a strong economic relationship?”
Snyder said that while there have been “multiple” investments from China into the Michigan auto industry, he also is looking into other fields.
“We’re looking to broaden that into other fields (like) agricultural exports,” he said. “We’re the second most diverse state in the nation; most Michiganders don’t even recognize that.”

MIT Lands Major Cyber-Security Funding Injection

Three of the leading American academic centres have secured a major funding deal in order to develop a cyber-security initiative, that will allow organisations to build and develop effective policies to combat the ever-increasing threat of cyber-crime.
The Massachusettes Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed that its Cybersecurity Policy Initiative (CPI) has received $15m (£9.6m) in funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. William Hewlett, who died in 2001, was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard along with David Packard.


But MIT’s CPI is just one of three new academic initiatives to receive a total of $45m (£29m) from the Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative. Other funding tranches went to Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley.
The idea behind the funding deals is to try and “jump-start a new field of cyber policy research.” Essentially, the thinking is to generate a “marketplace of ideas” about how best to bolster the trustworthiness of computer systems, whilst at the same time “respecting individual privacy and free expression rights, encouraging innovation, and supporting the broader public interest.”
So far, the Hewlett Foundation has pledged $65m (£42m) to strengthening cybersecurity, which is apparently the largest-ever private commitment to this field. The goal of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is to “help people build measurably better lives.”
cyber war - Shutterstock: © jcjgphotography“Choices we are making today about Internet governance and security have profound implications for the future,” said Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation. “To make those choices well, it is imperative that they be made with a sense of what lies ahead and, still more important, of where we want to go. We view these grants as providing seed capital to begin generating thoughtful options.”
“I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Larry Kramer throughout this process,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “His dedication and the Hewlett Foundation’s remarkable generosity provide an opportunity for MIT to make a meaningful and lasting impact on cybersecurity policy.”
The funding for the three American universities will allow each institution to take complementary approaches to addressing the cyber-security challenge. MIT’s CPI for example will focus on establishing quantitative metrics and qualitative models to help inform policymakers.
Meanwhile Stanford’s Cyber-X Initiative will focus on the core themes of trustworthiness and governance of networks. And over at UC Berkeley’s Center for Internet Security and Policy, the funding there will allow it to assess the possible future developments of cybersecurity.
For its part, MIT’s CPI will utilise scholars from three key disciplinary pillars, namely engineering, social science, and management. Engineering expertise is needed in order to understand the architectural dynamics of the digital systems in which risk occurs. Social science should help explain institutional behaviour and frame policy solutions, while management scholars offer insight on practical approaches to institutionalise best practices in operations.

Across The Pond

“We’re very good at understanding the system dynamics on the one hand, then translating that understanding into concrete insights and recommendations for policymakers,” said Daniel Weitzner, the principal investigator for the CPI and a principal research scientist in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “And we’ll bring that expertise to the understanding of connected digital systems and cybersecurity.”
In the UK meanwhile, Prime minister David Cameron has pledged to shore up Britain’s digital defences, when he announced in July a £1.1 billion spending package for the UK’s defence industries, which includes funding to tackle cyber crime and cyber terrorism.
The UK Government has also pledged to give a total of £4 million to small businesses that can develop new ways to tackle cyber security threats.
Earlier this year, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the UK government’s innovation agency, awarded grants worth almost £400,000 to seven cyber security start-ups located in the Severn Valley – an area which was identified as the most important security hub of the country.