Guns at School? If There’s a Will, There Are Ways

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. — The slim, black 9-millimeter handguns that the school superintendent David Hopkins selected for his teachers here weigh about a pound and slip easily into a pocket. Sixteen people, including the janitor and a kindergarten teacher, wear them to school every day.

Although state law prohibits guns on campus, Mr. Hopkins found a way around it.

Like rural educators who are quietly doing the same thing in a handful of other states, Mr. Hopkins has formulated a security plan that relies on a patchwork of concealed-weapons laws, special law enforcement regulations and local school board policies to arm teachers.

Without money to hire security guards for the five schools he oversees, giving teachers nearly 60 hours of training and their own guns seemed like the only reasonable, economical way to protect the 2,500 public school students in this small town in the Ozark foothills.

“Realistically, when you look at a person coming to your door right there with a firearm, you’ve got to have a plan,” Mr. Hopkins said. “If you have a better one, tell me.”

After the Newtown, Conn., rampage last December, 33 states considered new legislation aimed at arming teachers and administrators, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only 5 enacted laws that expanded the ability for public educators to arm themselves at school.

Still, some teachers and administrators around the country have carried guns for years under state or local laws that impose few restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried.

“It’s a fairly common practice among the schools that do not have sworn officers,” said Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman and a candidate for governor in Arkansas. He recently led the National Rifle Association’s school safety initiative, which produced a 225-page report that advocated armed security officers or, in some cases, armed teachers in every public school.

Mr. Hutchinson said he recently spoke with a superintendent in Arkansas who had been carrying a firearm for 10 years. The district was among 13 in the state, including Clarksville, that have special permission to use rules designed for private security firms to arm their staff members.

Just before the school year began, the state suspended the practice temporarily after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion that school districts could not act as private security companies. This month, however, a state board voted to allow the districts to continue using the law until the legislature reconsiders the issue in two years.

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A Police Dog Can Smell the USB Drive You’re Hiding

Even in the digital age, you can teach old dogs new tricks.

In 1986, police trained the first dog in the world to sniff out arson with the help of Jack Hubball, who identified accelerants that the canines could focus on. He then moved on to help police train dogs to detect narcotics and bombs.

The chemist’s latest trick? Getting dogs to pick up the scent for laptops, digital cameras and those easy-to-conceal USB drives. Devices such as these are often used to stash illegal materials like child pornography, which the FBI says is growing fast. The agency estimates that some 750,000 predators are online at any given moment with victims often found in chatrooms and on social networks.

To crack computer crimes, the 26-year forensics-lab veteran based in Connecticut had to first identify the chemicals associated with electronic-storage devices. Hubball took circuit boards, hard disks and flash drives of computers and tested each component. He narrowed the analysis down to a single common chemical, which police declined to specify or describe.

Two trainers, Mike Real and Mark Linhard, then worked with a couple of dogs who had flunked out of New York City’s Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, a black Labrador named Selma and later a golden Labrador named Thoreau. They excelled at this new endeavor.

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TSA: Woman arrested after luggage found to contain guns, ammo, pot

A woman traveling to Barbados on a Canadian passport was arrested at Kennedy Airport after Transportation Security Administration officers found two disassembled handguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and 33 pounds of marijuana concealed in her luggage, authorities said Monday.

Nyesha McPherson, 24, of Scarborough, Ontario, was arrested in Terminal 5 at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, port officials said.

Port Authority spokesman Joseph Pentangelo said the woman was scheduled to travel on a JetBlue flight and had not arrived on a connecting flight. The incident was uncovered when TSA officers pulled the woman’s bags off a conveyor and determined they were unusually heavy, he said.

Suspicious TSA officers then opened two pieces of checked baggage and found what was described as being “jam-packed with cans and boxes for baby wipes, coffee, floor-dusting sheets, lemonade mix, iced tea mix” — and a box of cat litter and a box of laundry tablets.

“But,” the TSA said in a statement Monday, “none of those boxes or cans contained the products on the labels.”

Instead, agents found two disassembled .40-caliber handguns, 350 rounds of ammunition, four magazines to load bullets into the handguns and 58 “bricks” of marijuana — a total of 33 pounds of pot, officials said.
All the items, the TSA said, were “artfully concealed in the boxes, tubs and cans.”

McPherson was charged with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, possession of high-capacity magazines and possession of ammunition.
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Even Biometric Locks Can be Picked

How can we ensure that someone is who they say they are? How can be sure that the person in our system, both digitally speaking or physically in front of us, is who whom they claim to be?

You may think that a good password is the answer, but with so many ways to break into a computer system these methods are clearly not always effective – as can be seen from the unfortunate hacked celebrities whose naked pictures were strewn across the internet recently, or the Oleg Pliss ransomware that locks iPhones until the extortioner is paid. Even a combination of a good username and password may not be enough.

An organic alternative to passwords

What about biometrics? This technology uses human physical attributes as locks and keys, such as fingerprints, iris scans or, as is now suggested, the veins in the human fingertip, making them highly individual ways to identify one user from another.

Using biometrics is not especially new. For example, while the likes of iris scanners may be familiar from sci-fi films, they’re also (or were until recently) found in real life airports too. Often mistakenly called retinal scanners, they are based on scanning the unique pattern of the iris, the coloured part of the eye.

But the technology needed to complete an effective and trusted scan is expensive and can be tricked by technologically capable hackers. These are great for entry control systems on the buildings of large organisations, or for the occasional secret bunker seen in films. But they are extremely costly – prohibitively so if a bank was to insist that every customer had one at home – and false readings become a problem as the number of people using it scales.

On the other hand, fingerprint technology has become cheaper and more available – fingerprint scanners are now sufficiently small and accurate that they started appearing in laptops 10 years ago, and are even in small devices like the iPhone 5S. This is one way that banks could allow smartphone and laptop users to access their financial services, with users presenting a finger rather than a passcode.

In fact it’s easy to obtain a range of low-cost scanners for all sorts of authentication uses. But that doesn’t mean the users will like doing so – there are ethical issues to consider, as some UK schools discovered in 2012 when their use of fingerprint scanners to monitor pupil attendance led to an outcry and a government ban without explicit consent from parents.

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North Bergen high school “Eye in the Sky” keeps students safe

Behind a closed door in the administrative area of North Bergen High School sits a huge monitor, upon which are displayed dozens of images from throughout the building and vicinity.

The same images can be viewed by the police in real time at the town’s CCTV monitoring center, or even on handheld devices by school personnel.

A similar scenario applies to all the schools in the district. It’s all part of a $1.4 million effort to keep the school children of North Bergen safe and protected.

“Every time the school system can add a layer of security, whether it’s identification cards or uniforms or cameras, it only helps to increase the level of safety on the campus so that eventually they can meet their real goal, which is to give the best learning environment the students can possibly receive,” said Police Chief Robert Dowd.

As an example, “We had an incident last year where a woman came in demanding that her child was assaulted, and when we went to the video, we found out that her child was actually the aggressor,” said Dowd. “We got a girl who pulled the fire alarm too. It was clear she was the one who pulled the fire alarm.”

From analog to digital

The district first installed cameras in the high school about 12 years ago, at a time when thefts from lockers were common. Initially 65 or so cameras went into the hallways and were eventually increased to nearly l00. The cameras were low-resolution, with grainy images stored on clunky videotapes. Still, they served their purpose.

“As soon as word got around that we arrested people who stole things out of lockers, it was unbelievable how the thefts stopped,” recalled Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Solter. “The other thing was fighting in the hallway between students. We were able to see how the fight started so we were able to discipline appropriately. So the safety of the kids was greatly improved.”

Some incidents were caught even with the previous generation of equipment. “The old cameras were replaced entirely,” said School Business Administrator Steve Somick.

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5 Million Gmail Usernames And Associated Passwords Leaked

It’s time to change your Gmail password — again.

Around 5 million Gmail usernames and associated passwords were leaked on a Russian Internet forum on Tuesday.

Thankfully, less than 2 percent of real, current username and password combinations, or about 100,000, were released, Google’s Spam & Abuse Team wrote in a blog post. Many are old and many don’t match — for example, the user name is for Gmail, but the password is for Facebook.

If your current Gmail password and username were compromised, Gmail would have let you know by now.

“It’s important to note that in this case and in others, the leaked usernames and passwords were not the result of a breach of Google systems,” Google wrote. “Often, these credentials are obtained through a combination of other sources.”

Hackers may have gotten these names and passwords from other sites. If people used the same usernames and passwords on Gmail as they do on a site that was hacked, your Gmail could be compromised. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: don’t repeat or reuse passwords.

There’s a link being passed around called IsLeaked.com, where you can allegedly check to see if your Gmail was hacked. DO NOT DO THAT!

Some point out that the website launched right before the hacks, and may be a trap to gather more email addresses.

When in doubt, just change your password.

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Phone Firewall Identifies Rogue Cell Towers Trying to Intercept Your Calls

Rogue cell phone towers can track your phone and intercept your calls, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re as ubiquitous as GPS trackers. But at least now there’s a way to spot them.

A firewall developed by the German firm GSMK for its secure CryptoPhone lets people know when a rogue cell tower is connecting to their phone. It’s the first system available that can do this, though it’s currently only available for enterprise customers using Android phones.

GSMK’s CryptoPhone 500, a high-end phone that costs more than $3,000 and combines a Samsung Galaxy S3 handset with the CryptoPhone operating system, offers strong end-to-end encryption along with a specially hardened Android operating system that offers more security than other Android phones and the patented baseband firewall that can alert customers when a rogue tower has connected to their phone or turned off the mobile network’s standard encryption.

The problem with rogue cell towers is widespread. The FCC is assembling a task force to address the illicit use of so-called IMSI catchers—the devices that pose as rogue cell towers. But the task force will only examine the use of the devices by hackers and criminals—and possibly foreign intelligence agencies—not their warrantless use by law enforcement agencies bent on deceiving judges about their deployment of the powerful surveillance technology.

IMSI catchers, stingrays or GSM interceptors as they’re also called, force a phone to connect to them by emitting a stronger signal than the legitimate towers around them. Once connected, pings from the phone can help the rogue tower identify a phone in the vicinity and track the phone’s location and movement while passing the phone signals on to a legitimate tower so the user still receives service. Some of the IMSI software and devices also intercept and decrypt calls and can be used to push malware to vulnerable phones, and they can also be used to locate air cards used with computers. The systems are designed to be portable so they can be operated from a van or on foot to track a phone as it moves. But some can be stationary and operate from, say, a military base or an embassy. The reach of a rogue tower can be up to a mile away, forcing thousands of phones in a region to connect to it without anyone knowing.

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Fake Security Screener Highlights a Concern

THE man wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants stood casually inside a security screening area at a San Francisco airport terminal. As security officers and passengers bustled, he pointed to a woman and took her into the private screening room. Later, he pointed to another woman, and she followed him in as well.

The man, despite also wearing the blue latex gloves used by screeners, was no professional officer, said John S. Pistole, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. He was just another passenger with an international ticket.

Mr. Pistole described the encounters for me based on the surveillance video from the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport. Around noon on July 15, the man acted “like a security officer,” Mr. Pistole said, directing two women into the private area for extra screening, for about a minute at a time.

Each woman left the room not exhibiting apparent signs of distress. But an actual screener thought that something was wrong. Only female officers are supposed to accompany women sent into the private room for extra screening, which can include a full-body pat-down. And blue shirt and gloves notwithstanding, the man had no badge or emblem on his shirt, clearly not a screening officer.

The man, whom the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office identified as Eric Slighton, 53, was arrested, charged with public intoxication, taken to jail and released on bail. He had been scheduled for an arraignment this week, but on Friday, the district attorney’s office said it would not prosecute. “We could not prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Albert A. Serrato, an assistant district attorney.

The police tried to identify which flights any possible victims might have taken or where they might have flown, the sheriff’s office said. But the women have not been found.

Attempts to reach Mr. Slighton, who had a ticket that day to fly to Hong Kong, were not successful. A resident of San Francisco and Hong Kong, Mr. Slighton is a director at Aktis Capital Singapore, a private equity firm. A statement acknowledging the incident by the related Aktis Hanxi Group said, “Mr. Slighton has been granted a leave of absence.” Calls and emails to the group’s offices were not returned.

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Google Just Bought a Company That Snoops on Your Chats

Google just bought another online communications channel it can fill with ads.

The tech giant confirms it has acquired Emu, a startup that offers a kind of instant messaging tool. The price was not disclosed, but Google’s interest in the company isn’t hard to divine: Emu has built a system that can monitor chats, infer what people are talking about, and insert relevant links—including ads.

Emu, which has been subsisting for two-and-a-half years on venture funding, doesn’t insert such ads today. Instead, it uses its monitoring tools to identify certain other information that might be helpful to you. For example, if you’re chatting on the Emu service and the other person types something about getting lunch, Emu might suggest nearby restaurants or show the mid-day schedule from your calendar. But it’s a very short leap from such information to commercial promotion. A nearby cafe might pay for ad to appear every time the word “coffee” comes up in your chat.

The Emu buy is part of a much larger trend to monitor and thus profit from new chunks of people’s lives. Foursquare just rolled out a new version that, by default, tracks your movements continuously, negating the need for a “check in” button. Google, meanwhile, isn’t just interested in chats; the company has said that it may eventually show ads on internet-connected home devices, such as thermostats.

A NEARBY CAFE MIGHT PAY FOR AD TO APPEAR EVERY TIME THE WORD “COFFEE” COMES UP IN YOUR CHAT.

Emu fills a growing hole in Google’s ad offerings. Google mines search terms and emails for advertising purposes, but not yet chats. As people shift their computing to smartphones and other mobile devices, chatting—short, immediate, and part of phone culture for decades—has become more popular.

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Police getting real-time access to private security cameras

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Downtown businesses are giving area law enforcement agencies greater access to private video surveillance feeds under a new push to increase real-time monitoring capabilities in Grand Rapids.

Jack Stewart, Kent County emergency management coordinator, said the Grand Rapids Police and Kent County Sheriff’s departments are increasing access to the downtown surveillance apparatus under a new public-private partnership program.

The two agencies are tapping into private video feeds from existing cameras mounted on the exterior of private commercial buildings downtown, he said.

Previously, police would request video from private feeds during the course of a criminal investigation. Now, police will be able to monitor the feeds in real time from county and city dispatch centers.

“This is the same technology that helped catch the Boston Marathon bombers,” said Stewart. “This is not day-to-day monitoring. It’s just in the event of an emergency. There would have to be an event serious enough to trigger us to monitor the cameras.”

The program, which Stewart said is pursuing federal Dept. of Homeland Security grants to expand the surveillance capability downtown with new and upgraded equipment, has been in the works for several years.

“Some of the cameras are hooked-up already, but we’d like to offer to enhance and expand to other businesses and facilities that want to hook-up to the project,” said Stewart about uses for the possible grant money.

The program is a response to increasing activity in the downtown area, and disclosure of the project follows a pair of downtown shootings this month that have caused Grand Rapids police to step up their presence in the district.

Shots fired outside McFadden’s Saloon on June 15, and the shooting of a two teenagers downtown on June 18 after the Bruno Mars concert are “good examples” of when the technology would be used, said Stewart.

Large events like ArtPrize or the Fifth Third River Bank Run are also examples of when real time monitoring would be useful, he said.

Stewart said there are roughly 100 exterior video cameras right now that are or could be accessed under the program, many of them concentrated around government and critical infrastructure buildings.

Non-disclosure agreements precluded Stewart from naming specific businesses participating in the program, but some were willing to disclose that on their own.

Cameras mounted on Amway Hotel Corporation properties downtown are part of the program, according to Amway Corp. representatives.

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