Written by Jake Moore, Cyber Security Specialist for ESET
In my days when I worked for the police, we would constantly try to profile criminals because it made our investigations easier. We would even regularly use specialist criminal profilers and psychologists to help with slow cases in order to gather additional clues, which at the very least would indicate a direction in determining “whodunnit.”
While I worked in the digital forensics unit, in which I spent nearly a decade, the profiling of a computer criminal became increasingly more difficult to decipher as time went by. However, around 60% of the crimes we reactively investigated were to do with paedophiles, which is a dark part of society to try to reconcile.
Nevertheless, profiling a paedophile in the early days was easier to categorise than, say, a fraudster, as they would usually fall into a small number of predetermined profiled groups. This was more straightforward as we would be told about the offence and then given full access into their computers and phones to look for evidence that would naturally give us an insight into their lives, families and hobbies. Most interesting would be that some would look “normal” on the outside but once you delve into the hard drive and search history, you would start to unravel a darker side.
At its worst, I started to think everyone could potentially be a criminal but I soon realised that if I carried on with that attitude I would simply never have faith in society again. However, the lives into which I would delve, searching for evidence to submit to court, shocked me: to think these people were up until now hidden in plain sight, masquerading as upstanding citizens. My investigations “hit list” of convicted paedophiles included a teacher, a scout leader, a police officer, and even the head of children services from a local council.
In my personal view from meeting these individuals and researching their lives prior to charge and conviction, I would only be able to sum these people up by calling them sociopaths. They were able to convince society that they were respectable and decent human beings, yet able to hide something so dark and sinister behind closed doors.
How does this relate to all cybercriminals? Are they sociopaths too? Well: sadly, it’s not as easy to profile and not that easy to get hold of a series of results to create a synopsis such as when I was in the Digital Forensics Unit with the ability to analyse all those computers from people on bail.
Researching criminals such as murderers, paedophiles, fraudsters and drug dealers all leave evidence on their computers for the digital forensics investigators to locate because of one flaw – they usually aren’t technical. Or at least not technical enough to even think how to mitigate the chance of capture. Yes, they can learn it, but they are usually late to the game when swotting up on forensic traces and hence leave a plethora of evidence leading an investigator back to the perpetrator. Moreover, crimes such as murder are usually in the heat of the moment or derived from passion, which leaves little time to open a TOR browser and buy a weapon with a digital currency.
The face of today’s cybercriminal is relatively unknown (and that’s nothing to do with the fact he/she is usually in a hoodie). The number of arrested cybercriminals is miniscule in comparison to the amount of cybercrimes that take place each year. When someone is arrested for murder or fraud etc., the suspect has phone, tablet and laptop etc. seized in order to search for evidence that may support the case. In more occasions than not, these were needle-in-a-haystack exercises, but at least there was information to go on. On the other hand, those who choose to become cybercriminals often meticulously learn the right skills before striking and learn how to cover their tracks.
In fact, when someone can download an anonymous browser, search in minutes for malware-as-a-service fully equipped with a service hotline and full money back guarantee, then the demographic of someone following simple procedure steps suddenly becomes even harder to predict and profile. In simple terms, anyone can be a cybercriminal. Anyone can learn how to do it in a lunch hour and, with little evidence left behind, it can be argued that it is quite attractive to even the less experienced wannabe “hacker”.
Criminals are still lazy, it’s just they are cleverer nowadays. That’s probably why they don’t walk into banks with a balaclava in a good old fashioned “stick ’em up” anymore. It’s easier to steal stuff online without leaving a ton of evidence behind and – to some – slightly more satisfying.
The problem is, the police get a tough time for “not doing enough” when it comes to combatting cybercrime, yet they are playing a huge cat-and-mouse game with the gap widening by the day. Funding will always be an issue, but that just seems like a quick way of the police saying they can’t do it so they go back to investigating “real world” crimes where DNA and fingerprints lead them to suspects.
Criminals no longer wear balaclavas or hoodies. They are amongst us and hidden in plain sight, which makes understanding them increasingly difficult. Law enforcement are struggling, but just as it may sound like all doom and gloom, there is one small glimpse of a win: prevention. If we all simply up our own game and awareness on security, we all stand a better chance on outing the scams, making them pointless so let’s all take a moment to rethink our awareness. Training and education is a key defence in the war on cybercrime and by working together we will beat the cybercriminals!
‘Black Panther’ and its Science Role Models Inspire More Than Just Movie Awards
Written by Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
It has been said many times that the Marvel movie “Black Panther” is an important landmark. I’m not referring to its deserved critical and box office success worldwide, the many awards it has won, or the fact that it is the first film in the superhero genre to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.
Instead, I’m focusing on a key aspect of its cultural impact that is less frequently discussed. Finally a feature film starring a black superhero character became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a successful run of intertwined movies that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. While there have been other superhero movies with a black lead character – “Hancock” (2008), “Blade” (1998), “Spawn” (1997) or even “The Meteor Man” (1993) – this film is significant because of the recent remarkable rise of the superhero film from the nerdish fringe to part of mainstream culture.
Huge audiences saw a black lead character – not a sidekick or part of a team – in a superhero movie by a major studio, with a black director (Ryan Coogler), black writers and a majority black cast. This is a significant step toward diversifying our culture by improving the lackluster representation of minorities in our major media. It’s also a filmmaking landmark because black creators have been given access to the resources and platforms needed to bring different storytelling perspectives into our mainstream culture.
2017’s “Wonder Woman” forged a similar path. In that case, a major studio finally decided to commit resources to a superhero film headlined by a female character and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Female directors are a minority in the movie industry. Jenkins brought a new perspective to this kind of action movie, and there was a huge positive response from audiences in theaters worldwide.
And beyond all this, “Black Panther” also broke additional ground in a way most people may not realize: In the comics, the character is actually a scientist and engineer. Moreover, in the inevitable (and somewhat ridiculous) ranking of scientific prowess that happens in the comic book world, he’s been portrayed as at least the equal of the two most famous “top scientists” in the Marvel universe: Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). A black headlining superhero character written and directed by black artists is rare enough from a major studio. But making him – and his sister Shuri – successful scientists and engineers as well is another level of rarity.
Scientists On Screen
I’m a scientist who cares about increased engagement with science by the general public. I’ve worked as a science adviser on many film and TV projects (though not “Black Panther”). When the opportunity arises, I’ve helped broaden the diversity of scientist characters portrayed onscreen.
I’ve also recently published a nonfiction graphic book for general audiences called “The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe.” Its characters include male and female black scientists, discussing aspects of my own field of theoretical physics – where black scientists are unfortunately very rare. So the opportunity that the “Black Panther” movie presents to inform and inspire vast audiences is of great interest to me.
The history and evolution of the Black Panther character and his scientific back story is a fascinating example of turning a problematic past into a positive opportunity. Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he’s the first black superhero character in mainstream comics, originally appearing as a guest in a “Fantastic Four” Marvel comic. As a black character created and initially written by nonblack authors, guest-starring in the pages of a book headlined by white characters, he had many of the classic attributes of what is now sometimes controversially known as the “magical negro” in American cultural criticism: He ranked extremely highly in every sphere that mattered, to the point of being almost too unreal even for the comics of the time.
Black Panther is T’Challa, king of the fictional African country Wakanda, which is fathomlessly wealthy and remarkably advanced, scientifically and technologically. Even Marvel’s legendary master scientist – Reed Richards of the superhero team Fantastic Four – is befuddled by and full of admiration for Wakanda’s scientific capabilities. T’Challa himself is portrayed as an extraordinary “genius” in physics and other scientific fields, a peerless tactician, a remarkable athlete and a master of numerous forms of martial arts. And he is noble to a fault. Of course, he grows to become a powerful ally of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel superheroes over many adventures.
The key point here is that the superlative scientific ability of our hero, and that of his country, has its origins in the well-meaning, but problematic, practice of inventing near or beyond perfect black characters to support stories starring primarily white protagonists. But this is a lemons-to-lemonade story.
Black Panther eventually got to star in his own series of comics. He was turned into a nuanced and complex character, moving well away from the tropes of his beginnings. Writer Don McGregor’s work started this development as early as 1973, but Black Panther’s journey to the multilayered character you see on screen was greatly advanced by the efforts of several writers with diverse perspectives. Perhaps most notably, in the context of the film, these include Christopher Priest (late 1990s) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (starting in 2016), along with Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, writing in “World of Wakanda” (2016). Coates and Gay, already best-selling literary writers before coming to the character, helped bring him to wider attention beyond normal comic book fandom, partly paving the way for the movie.
Through all of the improved writing of T’Challa and his world, his spectacular scientific ability has remained prominent. Wakanda continues to be a successful African nation with astonishing science and technology. Furthermore, and very importantly, T’Challa is not portrayed as an anomaly among his people in this regard. There are many great scientists and engineers in the Wakanda of the comics, including his sister Shuri. In some accounts, she (in the continued scientist-ranking business of comics) is an even greater intellect than he is. In the movie, T’Challa’s science and engineering abilities are referred to, but it is his sister Shuri who takes center stage in this role, having taken over to design the new tools and weapons he uses in the field. She also uses Wakandan science to heal wounds that would have been fatal elsewhere in the world.
If They Can Do It, Then Why Not Me?
As a scientist who cares about inspiring more people – including underrepresented minorities and women – to engage with science, I think that showing a little of this scientific landscape in “Black Panther” potentially amplifies the movie’s cultural impact.
Vast audiences see black heroes – both men and women – using their scientific ability to solve problems and make their way in the world, at an unrivaled level. Research has shown that such representation can have a positive effect on the interests, outlook and career trajectories of viewers.
Improving science education for all is a core endeavor in a nation’s competitiveness and overall health, but outcomes are limited if people aren’t inspired to take an interest in science in the first place. There simply are not enough images of black scientists – male or female – in our media and entertainment to help inspire. Many people from underrepresented groups end up genuinely believing that scientific investigation is not a career path open to them.
Moreover, many people still see the dedication and study needed to excel in science as “nerdy.” A cultural injection of Black Panther heroics helps continue to erode the crumbling tropes that science is only for white men or reserved for people with a special “science gene.”
The huge widespread success of the “Black Panther” movie, showcasing T’Challa, Shuri and other Wakandans as highly accomplished scientists, remains one of the most significant boosts for science engagement in recent times.
TP-Link to Showcase Neffos X20 and X20 Pro at MWC 2019
Neffos, TP-Link’s sub-brand for smartphones, will be exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, on February 25. The theme for the year’s biggest technology convention for mobile products and innovations is intelligent connectivity, which is in line with TP-Link’s slogan of “Faster Wi-Fi, Better Signal Phone, Smarter Home.”
At the MWC 2019 tech show, Neffos will display Neffos P1 as well with a built-in projector feature for beaming HD content onto a large wall. Neffos P1, which adds a laser projector that can throw a picture as large as 200 inches wide onto a wall or any flat surface in high resolution.
For the first time, the company will also showcase its new Neffos X20 and X20 Pro flagship phones. The two models are expected to hit the market sometime in June, along with Neffos’ own NFUI 9.0 software based on the Android 9.0 Pie operating system. As NFUI 9.0 hasn’t launched yet, the X20 and X20 Pro will be the first devices to run the latest user interface out of the box.
OPPO’s VOOC Charging System Gets TÜV Rheinland’s Certification
OPPO has received a new safety certification for its proprietary flash charging technology known as VOOC, which can charge a flat smartphone batter up to 40% in just 10 minutes. “The company recognizes that fast charging is now one of the most important demands from smartphone users globally who want a device that can fully charge in minutes, not hours,” said the company in a statement.
OPPO’s VOOC flash charging uses a special adapter and cables to charge devices safely at 25W without overheating—far above the industry standard. The company also offers a Super VOOC system that boosts the charging power to a massive 50W, capable of charging a flat battery to a full charge in just 35 minutes. Most high-end smartphones today take around 2 hours to fully charge.
The latest certification from renowned international safety authority TÜV Rheinland acknowledges that OPPO’s VOOC charging system has undergone rigorous testing across multiple sessions and test cycles to ensure its safety for daily usage. The VOOC system also allows users to safely use their smartphone during charging without it overheating.
OPPO’s VOOC flash charge technology is already used in more than 100 million smartphones worldwide including several models available in the Middle East today. The system is featured in OPPO’s flagship premium handset, the OPPO Find X, as well as its mid to high-end OPPO R17 and R17 Pro devices.
“Such innovations will continue as OPPO plans to raise its global R&D investments to around $1.43 billion in 2019, a 150% year-on-year increase,” said the company.
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