The Surveillance State: Drones and The End of Society

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The human race is on the brink of momentous and dire change. It is a change that potentially smashes our institutions and warps our society beyond recognition. It is also a change to which almost no one is paying attention. I’m talking about the coming obsolescence of the gun-wielding human infantryman as a weapon of war. Or to put it another way: the end of the Age of the Gun.

 You may not even realize you have been, indeed, living in the Age of the Gun because it’s been centuries since that age began. But imagine yourself back in 1400. In that century (and the 10 centuries before it), the battlefield was ruled not by the infantryman, but by the horse archer—a warrior-nobleman who had spent his whole life training in the ways of war. Imagine that guy’s surprise when he was shot off his horse by a poor no-count farmer armed with a long metal tube and just two weeks’ worth of training. Just a regular guy with a gun.
That day was the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modernity. For centuries after that fateful day, gun-toting infantry ruled the battlefield. Military success depended more and more on being able to motivate large groups of (gun-wielding) humans, instead of on winning the loyalty of the highly trained warrior-noblemen. But sometime in the near future, the autonomous, weaponized drone may replace the human infantryman as the dominant battlefield technology. And as always, that shift in military technology will cause huge social upheaval.

The advantage of people with guns is that they are cheap and easy to train. In the modern day, it’s true that bombers, tanks, and artillery can lay waste to infantry—but those industrial tools of warfare are just so expensive that swarms of infantry can still deter industrialized nations from fighting protracted conflicts. Look at how much it cost the United States to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, versus how much it cost our opponents. The hand-held firearm reached its apotheosis with the cheap, rugged, easy-to-use AK-47; with this ubiquitous weapon, guerrilla armies can still defy the mightiest nations on Earth.

Read the Remainder at Quartz

Holocaust History: Syndrome K – The Fake Disease That Saved Jews From the Nazi’s

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In the fall of 1943, German soldiers in Italy began rounding up Italian Jews and deporting them—10,000 people were sent to concentration camps during the nearly two-year Nazi occupation. Most never returned. But in Rome, a group of doctors saved at least 20 Jews from a similar fate, by diagnosing them with Syndrome K, a deadly, disfiguring, and contagiosissima disease.

The 450-year-old Fatebenefratelli Hospital is nestled on a tiny island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River, just across from the Jewish Ghetto. When Nazis raided the area on Oct. 16, 1943, a handful of Jews fled to the Catholic hospital, where they were quickly given case files reading “Syndrome K.”

The disease did not exist in any medical textbook or physician’s chart. In fact, it didn’t exist at all. It was a codename invented by doctor and anti-fascist activist Adriano Ossicini, to help distinguish between real patients and healthy hideaways. (Political dissidents and a revolutionary underground radio station were also sheltered there from Italy’s Fascist regime.)

The fake illness was vividly imagined: Rooms holding “Syndrome K” sufferers were designated as dangerously infectious—dissuading Nazi inspectors from entering—and Jewish children were instructed to cough, in imitation of tuberculosis, when soldiers passed through the hospital.
“The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Vittorio Sacerdoti, a Jewish doctor working at the hospital under a false name, told the BBC in 2004. Another doctor orchestrating the life-saving lie was surgeon Giovani Borromeo, later recognized by Israeli Holocaust remembrance organization Yad Vashem as “righteous among nations.”

On June 21, Fatebenefratelli was honored as a “House of Life,” by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a US organization dedicated to honoring heroic acts during the Holocaust. For the occasion, 96-year-old Ossicini granted an interview to Italian newspaper La Stampa (video in Italian) about the invention of the disease:

“Syndrome K was put on patient papers to indicate that the sick person wasn’t sick at all, but Jewish. We created those papers for Jewish people as if they were ordinary patients, and in the moment when we had to say what disease they suffered? It was Syndrome K, meaning ‘I am admitting a Jew,’ as if he or she were ill, but they were all healthy.

The idea to call it Syndrome K, like Kesserling or Kappler, was mine.”

Albert Kesserling was the German commander overseeing Rome’s occupation. SS chief Herbert Kappler had been installed as city police chief, and would later mastermind the Ardeatine massacre, a mass killing of Italian Jews and political prisoners in 1944.

“The lesson of my experience was that we have to act not for the sake of self-interest, but for principles,” said Ossicini. “Anything else is a shame.”

Accounts of how many Italian Jews were saved by Fatebenefratelli Hospital vary from dozens to hundreds, but survivor testimonies gathered by Yad Vashem confirm that at least a few more lives were saved after Oct. 16. Several families with small children sheltered there through the winter, until German forces swept through the hospital again in May 1944. One attendant at the Wallenberg ceremony, 83-year-old Luciana Tedesco, was safely hidden in the hospital as a small child during the last raid.

Italy’s Jewish community is one of oldest in Europe, and Syndrome K is one of many WWII-era anecdotes of ordinary Italians taking extraordinary action to save the lives of fellow citizens, made even more striking against the historical backdrop of Italy’s own anti-Semitic laws. Nearly 9,000 Roman Jews, of a community of 10,000, ultimately managed to evade arrest, a feat sadly dwarfed by the Third Reich’s genocidal mania in the last years of the war.
Read the Original Article at Quartz

Fingerprint Spoofing: Yeah there’s An App for That

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So That Thumbprint Thing on Your Phone Is Useless Now

Last year, when the Office of Personnel Management notified 22 million people that their personal information was compromised in a massive data breach, one in four received especially nasty news. For most hack victims, the sensitive personal data that was exposed included Social Security numbers, health and financial records, names of relatives, and past addresses. But 5.6 million people learned that their fingerprints were also stolen.

At the time of the announcement, OPM downplayed the importance of the stolen fingerprints. “Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited,” an OPMstatement read. “However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves.”

That was in September. Now, researchers have developed a cheap and easy way to print out an image of a fingerprint with enough accuracy to fool commercially available fingerprint readers—using just a standard inkjet printer.

The method, outlined in a paper published last month, is certainly not the first one to produce fake fingerprints that are able to fool readers. But where earlier methods required more time and specialized materials, this new method is replicable in just about any home office.

To create a working copy of a fingerprint, the study authors—Kai Cao and Anil Jain, both researchers at Michigan State University—started by installing special ink cartridges and paper in a Brother inkjet printer. Both materials came from a Japanese company called AgIC: The ink can conduct electricity when printed on the specialized paper, effectively creating a printed circuit. The researchers scanned a fingerprint in high resolution, mirrored it, and printed it with the retrofitted inkjet.

The researchers placed the fake, printed fingerprint on the fingerprint readers of two popular Android phones, a Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Huawei Hornor 7. Both phones were set up to unlock with the owner’s real fingerprint—but the fake version of the same finger fooled them. (Cao told Quartz that he had mixed results when using an iPhone.)

The easy fingerprint-spoofing method is particularly worrisome in the context of the OPM breach. After all, prints aren’t just useful for unlocking smartphones—they can also be used to authorize financial transactions, from small Apple Pay purchases to large bank transfers. And, of course, once a fingerprint has been compromised, there’s no resetting it the way you can change a password—short of a thumb transplant.

The simplicity and speed of the new fingerprint-spoofing method makes it easy to copy a lot of fingerprints fast, Cao told me in an email. His method is remarkable because the fake fingerprints are two-dimensional—earlier techniques required raising the ridges of a fake fingerprint with latex or wood glue.

Fingerprint-copying enthusiasts following along at home can get started for cheap. Everything you need to create a paper version of your (or someone else’s) fingerprint can be shipped to your door for less than $450.

For the millions of OPM hack victims who had their fingerprint data compromised, that’s unhappy news. Until everyday fingerprint readers advance to the point that they can discern between a human hand and a printout, they may want to start unlocking their smartphones the old-fashioned way.

Read the Original Article at Defense One