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Tech News


Facial Recognition to Span All Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport will start a comprehensive roll out of biometrics technology next summer, bringing facial recognition to each point of the departing passengers journey, from check-in, bag drop and security clearance, to boarding. The £50 million project, touted by the airport as the worlds largest biometrics roll out, looks to cut down on physical documents required to get through the various airport stages and speed up the transition of travellers. The airport will be working with a number of companies for the rollout, including Yoti and camera provider Aurora.  Digital identity supplier Yoti will work with the airport for the system. An initial proof of concept at the airport allowed travellers to use the Yoti app to share both passport and biometrics information, with the option to check in before they arrive at the airport.

UK supermarkets plan facial recognition trials.

Asda, Morrisons and Tesco are in the frame for a facial recognition technology trial at the checkout desk, to enable customers to buy beer and cigarettes, without requiring the intervention of shop staff. The technology will be rolled out at self-service checkouts in 2019 and, if successful, trialled more widely. The pilot project is being led by NCR, one of the worlds largest providers of checkout and self-service technology. Its UK customers include Asda, Morrisons and Tesco. The company will integrate what it describes as an AI-powered camera into the machines, which will be used to estimate the age of shoppers when they buy age restricted items. The aim, of course, is to reduce the need for staff intervention in sales of age-restricted items. Robin Tombs, CEO of digital identity app Yoti, which partnered with NCR on the scheme, told The Telegraph: Waiting for age approval at self-checkouts is a source of frustration for many shoppers, who just want to get home as quickly as possible. Our integration with NCR delivers a frictionless and innovative way for customers to prove their age in seconds. It is a simple process that helps retailers meet the requirements of regulators worldwide. Tombs added that the facial recognition system would not retain any visual information about the shoppers, post-purchase. However, regulars will be able to expedite the purchasing process by uploading their mugshots and providing a form of identity in order to use the Yoti app.

Another Linux distro poisoned with malware

Last time it was Gentoo, a hard-core, source-based Linux distribution that is popular with techies who like to spend hours tweaking their entire operating sytem and rebuilding all their software from scratch. That sort of thing is not for everyone, but it is harmless fun and it does give you loads of insight into how everything fits together. That sets it apart from distros such as ElementaryOS and Mint, which rival and even exceed Windows and macOS for ease of installation and use, but do not leave you with much of a sense of how it all actually works. This time, the malware poisoning happened to Arch Linux, another distro we would characterise as hard-core, though very much more widely used than Gentoo. Three downloadable software packages in the Arch User Respository were found to have been rebuilt so they contained what you might refer to as zombie malware. Bots or zombies are malware programs that call home to fetch instructions from the crooks on what to do next. The hacked packages were: acroread 9.5.5-8, balz 1.20-3 and minergate 8.1-2;  they have all apparently been restored to their pre-infection state.

Biometrics of five million taxpayers taken by HMRC

HMRC has been accused of building a biometric voice database of 5.1 million taxpayers without their explicit consent. The database was built using what HMRC called its Voice ID service, in which callers to the organisations self-assessment helpline were obliged to provide a Voice ID, without being given a clear choice to opt-out. Thats according to privacy group Big Brother Watch, which made the claims in an investigation. While it was possible to avoid opting in to Voice ID by shouting no three times in response to the automated helpline demand, HMRC did not provide any apparent way for taxpayers to opt out, while the nature of the phone line meant that most callers could not simply put the phone down either. Voice ID technology is a form of biometric identification and authentication, as sensitive as a fingerprint, explained Big Brother Watch.

Poisoned smartphone batteries can act as keyloggers

Power trace sniffing, a badly-designed API and some cloudy AI spell potential trouble. A group of researchers has demonstrated that smartphone batteries can offer a side-channel attack vector by revealing what users do with their devices through analysis of power consumption. Both snitching and exfiltration were described in this paper *(PDF), accepted for Julys Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium. Nobody needs to panic yet, because the attack is not yet more than a decently-tested theory and it would be hard to execute. But there is also a real-world implication because the paper shows how a too-free API can help attackers in ways its designers never imagined. The paper, by researchers from UT Austin, the Hebrew University, and Technion explained that a poisoned battery can gather enough information about power-hungry phone components to reveal user activity.

Hey Cortana, Help Me Hack this Laptop

Microsofts smart assistant Cortana will helpfully let hackers change a password on locked computers, access data on the device and execute malicious code, a security researcher at cybersecurity company McAfee has revealed. The vulnerability, patched Tuesday by Microsoft, is the result of default settings that enable the Hey Cortana voice activation from the lock screen. As senior principle engineer at McAfee, Cedric Cochin puts it: This led to some interesting behavior and ultimately vulnerabilities allowing arbitrary code execution. The vulnerability was submitted to Microsoft as part of the McAfee Labs Advanced Threat Research teams responsible disclosure policy, on April 23.