Hologram Love

“My Holo Love” is really good; this show is everything I was talking about, in my last post: augmented reality, Google glass/smart glasses, driverless cars, smart homes and the Internet of things.

Holograms marry advancements in AI, since the widespread use of digital personal assistants, like Siri and Alexa, with augmented reality, already in some video game systems, phones and virtual reality headsets. 

The show is about a hologram digital personal assistant, that works through a smart glasses, that passed the Turing Test, developed by Alan Turing, in 1950. Turing helped break the German Enigma code, during WWII.

This hologram AI can also drive digitally-enhanced cars, operate smart homes and telephone land lines, and smart TVs. However, it’s not hard to see an evil version of this AI being hacked to become some kind of Skynet, HAL 9000 or Eagle Eye, that can use the power grid, power lines and the Internet of things against unsuspecting people.

Also, the AI, in the TV show, isn’t a perfect AI. It’s so human-like because it’s based on its still living creator, who lives in a lab, underscoring that there are still many things robots and AI can’t do. Other AI cultural touchstones referenced: Chobits and of course, the Spike Jonze film “Her.”

Here is what is available now – not in the near future – now: the technology to mine a nation’s cellphone network has been around for at least two decades.

In the early days of cell phone networks, agencies, such as the FBI and the NSA, perfected surveillance and data-gathering practices, that are still in use today, to police protests and track down criminals.

A historical tipping point was the growth of cell phone networks, in the early 2000s. The market for cell phones was mushrooming, at an exponential rate. Back then planes were developed that could log into cell phone towers, while still in the air. Every cell phone, in the midst of a call, could be scanned, and singular calls could be separated out, with accurate locations, attached to them.

An individual could carry a sensor, that could be encoded, to detect only a certain cell phone number – even if the cell phone was off. Someone could secretly power-on a phone that had already been turned off, by its owner – and then use the cell phone’s microphone, to broadcast everything and anything, in its range.

A single person can re-image several computer drives, at one time; with a fresh battery and SIM card, it is possible to clone cell phones – even without the original phone – and employ them as dummy clients, that can send and receive text messages, like the real cell phone owner.

Individuals, with pocket-sized SIM-card readers, can “borrow” a target’s phone, pull off the battery cover and copy the phone’s SIM card. The original SIM card goes back in the user’s phone – without the owner being any the wiser – while the tech-savvy operative now has the information to create dummy copies of that phone, in multiple burner phones.

As is also well-known now, cell phone calls and text messages can be monitored, for any flag-worthy information. Even back in 2003, multiple signals could be intercepted simultaneously, even as the calls and the messages were being sent out.

A group, organized enough to conduct cyber ops, can turn a national cell phone network into a gold mine of open-source intelligence. Managing the fire hose of information can be handled by gathering metadata – who, when, how long, where – on every phone call. A nifty keystroke recognition software can also secretly hack, and control a computer’s webcam or a cellphone’s camera(s), to conduct a positive-ID, of the target and his or her surrounding environment.

Cyber-defense can also be employed, to protect one’s own cell phone information, from also being siphoned off and hacked. Cordless phones can be converted into makeshift walkie-talkies – or a kit can be easily bought to build walkie-talkies, from scratch.

Other counter-measures: stop using cell phones, sometimes, to stop the data, from the phone, from being collected and used. Despite cell phone network growth, opponents can’t link a cell phone, to someone not even using a cell phone.

Internet cafes or PC rooms were – and still are – incredibly popular – but they are also mass dumping grounds for user information. Sent emails, stored on external servers, can easily be read by unfriendly eyes. Even if multiple people log in, with the same email username and password, and leave draft emails for each other – emails that are never sent, after they have yielded any useful information – an opposing force can create a warning, or a notification, whenever the same username and password is used, to log into an email account, in several locations, at the same time, or within a few hours, of each other.

Once the usernames and passwords, for target accounts, are known, an opponent can even go to an internet cafe, and upload spyware to computers, that ping every time certain usernames and passwords are used, in conjunction with one another.

Another element to avoid: opposing force operatives posing as electronics shop employees, peddling bugged cell phones and computers. Tracking down a cell phone. triangulating a phone call – pulled from real-time cell phone traffic – all of this is available and possible today, to be acquired, with ease, at a relatively low cost.

However, I want to stress that I am not a fatalist or an alarmist. I think wallowing in doomsday despair is like giving up. 

There are seriously people today who believe the earth is flat, or that the moon landing was faked. The answer is not to go back, and hide in the past, or stick our heads in the sand.

I love and appreciate science, technology and medicine. There is no such thing as magic; magic, miracles and coincidences are simply science that one hasn’t understood yet.

Plus, taking the world back to the Middle Ages or the Stone Ages wouldn’t change anything. Technology and science would simply go underground, and become inaccessible to the masses again, which wouldn’t be good for humanity. Science would go back to being state secrets, coded as “magic” or “alchemy.”

Technology and science are like the devious – and righteous – nature of the human condition: it’s been around forever, and it’s here to stay, whether we like it or not. We cannot escape ourselves. The answer isn’t fear, but learning to manage these elements of our daily lives.

Naylor, Sean. Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command – St. Martin’s Griffin – 2016.

Tech World 2020

Google Glass should be banned, like drones are banned on military installations. Casinos and those concerned with film piracy should also ban it.

Any (LED) light, that comes on to say the device is recording, can easily be worked around by software, like the ban on facial recognition apps, that Google originally placed in the device. Just ban the whole thing. 

Using this head mounted display while driving should be punished like texting and driving is now. One Google Glass app, Winky, allows people to take a picture with a wink of an eye – literally.

Note that I am not against augmented reality or virtual reality gizmos, but things like Google Glass – which can masquerade as a normal object (fomite), while surreptitiously recording visual and audio of everything and everyone, in its vicinity.

At least, it’s quite obvious if someone takes a phone out to record someone or something. The Google Glass device in effect weaponizes the user, making them an agent, for whatever ideology or motivation they happen to espouse that day. And then, all the crash reports go back to Google.

Software or malware can be installed on Google Glass too, to secretly record people typing or drawing in their phone passwords – much like a key-logging malware, that captures passwords and anything typed on a computer, a nightmare for public computer rooms.

Driverless cars are a bad idea. Ban those too. Especially on military sites. Anyone could hack one. If you’re afraid of people hacking the power grid, and other cyber-attacks or cyber warfare, why make a driverless, remote-controlled car a thing? Taxi drivers should boycott any driverless cars, like they did Uber and Lyft.

I am not against technology. However, it is my knowledge of technology and forensics that leads me to respect how powerful technology is, and how it can be misused and abused. Technology can be cool; it’s humans who can’t be trusted.

Technology is a set of tools. In the right hands, a tool can be used therapeutically or medically. In the wrong hands, technology or a viral idea is a dangerous act of terrorism, or crime, waiting to happen. Anyone can see that.

Anyone with a basic working knowledge of the human condition can see which new pieces of technology have far more potential for abuse – that outweigh any of their potential benefits. That’s just good governance and policing.

Ban driverless cars and Google Glass, without a second thought, and with no regrets. It is too easy to hypothesize what an evil person could and would do with them. Police-work is about imagining what an enemy/unsub (criminal) could do with the same tool or piece of information. Preemptive strike: just ban it.

Business-owners should be able to put up a sign saying ‘no Google Glass’ and reserve the right to escort any such person off of the premises, for the potential to illegally record people, without a warrant.

I fully support public CCTV, for its role in psychologically reducing most crime. I do not support people surreptitiously recording people, without them knowing, for whatever random motivation – especially if they are not law enforcement, with a warrant. It’s not hard to imagine. And if an average person can imagine it, a criminal or a terrorist has already built it, and tested it.

There’s been technology and software/malware that can surreptitiously activate even “off” phones, and secretly broadcast microphone audio, and front and back cam phone video, since 2003. It was used in Iraq. It’s not magic. It’s science. It’s not supernatural; it’s real life.

I am not a Luddite or a technological singularity alarmist. People will be devious, even with spears and arrows. It’s not technology that people should be afraid of, but other people. “Technology” doesn’t destroy people; people destroy people. 

I am all for fast Internet and I am not a fatalist. Everything has its limits. Even good things need to be used, in moderation. Everyone has their own personal (technological) limits. It is the law’s job to corral those limits into socially acceptable boundaries, when certain technologies – Google Glass, driverless cars – have way more potential for abuse, than others.

Smart home. Internet of things. All those things can be hacked. Easily. I inherently distrust wearables. All it is, is another thing that can surreptitiously record video and audio, and a locating device. You might as well chip yourself, like a dog.

We have had microfilm since the ’50s. There are tiny cameras that can fit in pens or hollowed out books. Since at least the ’70s, you could easily wire tap a whole house. People can be recorded, without them knowing: it is public knowledge, even in commonly consumed political and intelligence pop culture fictions, like “Homeland” or “Scandal.”

Bottom line, there are some technologies more susceptible to abuse, that should be banned, limited or restricted.