Hacking facial-recognition systems is so easy a kid could do it.
One Irish politician found this out the hard way when he discovered the reason he kept finding his laptop battery drained. It turns out his kids were using his campaign flyers — prominently featuring a picture of his face — to bypass the facial-recognition lock on his computer.
“So, I was wondering why the battery on my laptop was running down every time I left it at home,” Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, who represents the Midlands Northwest constituency, tweeted Tuesday. “Turns out the kids have been using my election leaflets to get through the facial recognition lock…”
Yeah, not exactly elite hacker moves, but effective nevertheless.
This is of course not the first time we’ve seen supposedly sophisticated facial-recognition systems defeated with a simple photo. Just last summer Mashable managed to trick the OnePlus 6’s face unlock with a printed mask. In general, experts consider this form of biometric security to be a questionable method of securing your phone or computer at best.
Carthy, however, has mixed feelings about getting owned.
“I’m not sure whether to be proud by the wit or concerned by the sneakiness,” he wrote of his children.
And while what the politician thinks of his offsprings’ ingenuity is his business, we do have one suggestion for him: start using an alphanumeric passphrase.
Pixel 4, 4 XL Go Official With 90Hz OLED Screens And New Telephoto Cameras.
The elevator pitch for the Pixel 4 duo is “90Hz screens and dual cameras”. The two flagships come at the tail end of 2019 and represent Google’s views of the current perfect Android phone.
The screens are just about the only thing that sets the two models apart. The Google Pixel 4 features a 5.7” OLED panel with 1080p+ resolution. The XL model gets a larger, sharper 6.3” display with QHD+ resolution. In both cases, the aspect ratio is a clean 19:9 – there are no notches to complicate UI layout. There is a bit of a forehead that houses a lot of hardware, but more on that later.
The new Smooth Display feature enables 90Hz refresh rate. To save on battery, the display will revert to 60Hz when there’s nothing interesting happening. The screen has HDR support and an Always On mode as before and gets a new Ambient EQ that tracks the surrounding light to optimize the colors on the display for the best viewing experience.
The Pixel 4 XL is equipped with the same camera hardware as its smaller sibling. The main shooter has a 12MP sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus. This camera has optical and electronic image stabilization, plus 1.4µm pixels and a bright f/1.7 aperture. However, it’s the new Pixel Neural Core and Google’s proprietary algorithms that will make the biggest impact on the image quality – not the sensor, lens or ancillary hardware.
The new Pixel Neural Core, the camera app can render HDR+ in real time, showing you an approximation of the result in the viewfinder. This will help you adjust the exposure properly. The Dual Exposure Controls give you manual control over the shadow and highlight rendering. In extreme darkness, the revamped Nightsight can capture up to fifteen 16s exposures if you're into astrography.
The telephoto camera is new to the Pixel brand. It sports a 16MP sensor (1.0µm) plus OIS and EIS. The focal length is not quite double that of the regular camera, but the Super Resolution Zoom software will try to extend that beyond 2x zoom. The second camera also helps with bokeh rendering (previous models relied just on the Dual Pixel tech).
The main camera tops out at 4K 30fps video capture and a 120fps slow-motion mode at 1080p. Pixels never had the best video quality (though they’ve made up for that with top-notch video stabilization).
There’s a third module on the back, but it’s not a camera it's a spectral + flicker sensor. There’s no ultrawide angle camera here, even though the Pixel 3 duo had one (on the front, but still).
Speaking of, the Pixel 4 phones have an 8MP selfie camera. What makes it special is the 3D depth sensor (structured light) that is used for secure face unlock (there’s no fingerprint reader anywhere on this phone), plus bokeh in selfies.
Yet another piece of hardware above the screen is the Soli radar – that’s right, radar rather than an optical system. This is more accurate when it comes to tracking hand gestures, but has the unexpected drawback of being disabled in some countries (e.g. Japan).
Anyway, Soli completes the hands-free experience of using a Pixel 4 – you can use it to check notifications or change tracks, for more complex actions you just say “Hey, Google” and talk to the new, updated assistant. Active Edge makes a comeback and you can trigger certain actions by squeezing the phone.
While the screen size is the obvious difference between the vanilla and XL models, the battery capacities are different too. The Pixel 4 gets a small 2,800mAh battery, the XL is much better off with a 3,700mAh battery.
In both cases they support 18W USB Power Delivery fast charging using the included charger. You can use a Qi wireless charger instead, which activates Ambient Mode – it offers at-a-glance info courtesy of the Assistant and turns the phone into a smart display.
We haven’t mentioned the processing hardware yet and there’s not much to tell. The two phones are powered by the Snapdragon 855 (non-plus) with 6GB of RAM. The base models get 64GB of storage, the only upgrade option is 128GB.
There’s no microSD slot or any second card slot of any kind. Instead, you get the usual combo of nano-SIM plus eSIM. The good news is that the support for eSIM by carriers have expanded so it’s almost as good as having a second SIM slot.
The Pixel 4 phones have an aluminum frame with a matte finish. The glass-covered back comes in three different colors: Just Black, Clearly White and the new Oh So Orange. But because the metal frame and square camera island on the back are always painted in black, the latter two options have a dual tone look. Note that Orange is a limited edition.
The phones are IP68 water resistant for extra durability and feature stereo speakers. We’ve come to see these things as standard on Pixels, so no surprises here.
The Pixel 4 phones are already up on pre-order in a number of countries - shipping begins on October 22 in the US and Taiwan and October 28 in Europe. Australia and Canada are getting them first - October 21.
Pricing starts at $800 for the 64GB Pixel 4 and $900 for the 64GB Pixel 4 XL. The storage upgrade is $100 on top of that. You can check out pricing for other markets here.
Re-register Your SIM Cards By June 2020 – Gov’t Orders Ghanaians
The Communications Ministry has directed that owners of SIM cards of various networks in the country re-register them by June 2020.
The directive, according to the ministry, is to fight fraud and other crimes in the country.
The sector minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful who made this known during the ministry’s turn at the regular Meet-the-press session said the re-registration window will be opened from January 2020 to June 2020.
She cautioned that persons who fail to comply with the directive will have their SIMs deactivated.
“It is quite clear that the current SIM card registration regime is deficient and fraught with many challenges, defeating the purpose of the SIM registration regulations. Mindful of this, cabinet earlier this year directed the Minister for Communications to instruct all telecommunication companies to fully comply with the law governing sim card acquisition which requires the presentation of a valid ID document prior to registration,” the minister said on Monday.
“The ministry has consulted all relevant stakeholders and hereby announces that from 1st January 2020, we would all be required to re-register our SIM cards. Any SIM card which is not registered will be deactivated by June 2020, giving a six-month time frame for this exercise. We entreat all citizens, residents and visitors to cooperate with us to ensure the success of this exercise for our collective security,” she added.
The early part of this year saw the Communications Ministry pledging to rectify all shortfalls that come with SIM card registration in the country.
The Ministry in a statement instructed all stakeholders including telecommunication companies to ensure strict compliance with the SIM registration and activation processes in line with the relevant statutory provisions.
Mobile users were also urged to confirm the status and details of their registration by dialing *400# on their mobile handsets and following up with their respective mobile networks to correct errors in the registration detail.
The use of wrongly registered SIM cards to perpetrate cyber crimes and other forms of fraud in the country has been on the ascendancy.
Despite efforts to deal with the problem, the situation has persisted.
Uber Begins The Pilot Phase Of Its Boat Service In Nigeria.
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)As part of its expansion plans into Africa, global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies launched a pilot test of their taxi boat service on Friday in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub.
To attract customers who want to avoid the city's frequently congested roads, Uber will operate a two-week pilot phase of the boat service in conjunction with the Lagos State Water Authority (LASWA) and local boat operators, Texas Connection Ferries.
"We are aware of the man hours and productivity that are lost every day due to vehicular traffic in Lagos state and are looking at ways to provide commuters with an easy and affordable way to get in and out of the city's business districts," said Lola Kassim, Uber's general manager for West Africa, in a statement.
The launch of the UberBOAT service comes four months after Uber's global head of business development, Brookes Entwistle, said the company was looking to gain more ground on the continent.
The service will be available only on weekdays for the next two weeks and will cost 500 naira ($1.30) per trip. The boats will move four times during the day between the Ikorodu Ferry Terminal, northeast of Lagos, and the Falomo Cowries Terminal, according to the Uber statement.
Lagos has an estimated population of about 22 million people and counting, more than double London or New York's tally. One study said commuters in Lagos an average of 30 hours a week stuck in traffic.
Its large population combined with frequent traffic congestion has made it important to develop new modes of transport like UberBOAT, said Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement.
"The last couple of years have seen the Lagos State Government commit to building up infrastructure that supports multi-modal transportation, which includes water transport," he said. "We collaborated with Uber on this because of the shared vision to utilize the waterways more as a means of decongesting the city," he said in the statement.
This is not Uber's first service outside vehicle ride-sharing. In January, it launched taxi boats in Mumbai, India.
Facebook Researchers Use Maths For Better Translations.
Designers of machine translation tools still mostly rely on dictionaries to make a foreign language understandable.
But now there is a new way: numbers.
Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue -- even if a universal communicator a la Star Trek remains a distant dream.
Powerful automatic translation is a big priority for internet giants. Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as Russia's Yandex, China's Baidu and others are constantly seeking to improve their translation tools.
Facebook has artificial intelligence experts on the job at one of its research labs in Paris.
Up to 200 languages are currently used on Facebook, said Antoine Bordes, European co-director of fundamental AI research for the social network.
Automatic translation is currently based on having large databases of identical texts in both languages to work from. But for many language pairs there just aren't enough such parallel texts.
That's why researchers have been looking for another method, like the system developed by Facebook which creates a mathematical representation for words.
Each word becomes a "vector" in a space of several hundred dimensions. Words that have close associations in the spoken language also find themselves close to each other in this vector space.
- From Basque to Amazonian? -
"For example, if you take the words 'cat' and 'dog', semantically, they are words that describe a similar thing, so they will be extremely close together physically" in the vector space, said Guillaume Lample, one of the system's designers.
"If you take words like Madrid, London, Paris, which are European capital cities, it's the same idea."
These language maps can then be linked to one another using algorithms -- at first roughly, but eventually becoming more refined, until entire phrases can be matched without too many errors.
Lample said results are already promising.
For the language pair of English-Romanian, Facebook's current machine translation system is "equal or maybe a bit worse" than the word vector system, said Lample.
But for the rarer language pair of English-Urdu, where Facebook's traditional system doesn't have many bilingual texts to reference, the word vector system is already superior, he said.
But could the method allow translation from, say, Basque into the language of an Amazonian tribe?
In theory, yes, said Lample, but in practice a large body of written texts are needed to map the language, something lacking in Amazonian tribal languages.
"If you have just tens of thousands of phrases, it won't work. You need several hundreds of thousands," he said.
- 'Holy Grail' -
Experts at France's CNRS national scientific centre said the approach Lample has taken for Facebook could produce useful results, even if it doesn't result in perfect translations.
Thierry Poibeau of CNRS's Lattice laboratory, which also does research into machine translation, called the word vector approach "a conceptual revolution".
He said "translating without parallel data" -- dictionaries or versions of the same documents in both languages -- "is something of the Holy Grail" of machine translation.
"But the question is what level of performance can be expected" from the word vector method, said Poibeau.
The method "can give an idea of the original text" but the capability for a good translation every time remains unproven.
Francois Yvon, a researcher at CNRS's Computer Science Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, said "the linking of languages is much more difficult" when they are far removed from one another.
"The manner of denoting concepts in Chinese is completely different from French," he added.
However even imperfect translations can be useful, said Yvon, and could prove sufficient to track hate speech, a major priority for Facebook.