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Space Invaders: New Technology That May Threaten Your Privacy Rights:

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget


How many of you read the book 1984. Well, if you’re anywhere close to my age, you probably read it just before, during, or just after (the year) 1984.

Except for the few conspiracy theorists, the notion seemed a bit distant, and perhaps paranoid, and NOT necessarily something we would experience in our lifetime. Well here we are just over two decades later and “Big Brother” is lurking perhaps where you least expect it.

From highway radar to phone taps, and the ability for employers to spy on your net surfing and phone conversations, and the ability to be tracked 24/7, we now face the next level of privacy intrusion. According to experts some major companies and researchers have found a way to “case” your computer based on the sounds it makes while you type away.

While the clicks and clacks of the keys may seem like little more than an imminent part of the job, those distinct noises were translated with approximately 96% percent accuracy by (another) computer.

Research specialists used numerous 10-minute recording of individuals typing at their keyboards and fed the recording to a computer that used algorithms to identify subtle differences in the keys and the sound they make according to which key is struck.

Initial experiments yielded results with 60 percent accuracy for identifying characters and 20 percent accuracy for words. However, once spelling and grammar checks were conducted, accuracy increased to 70 percent for letters and 50 percent for words.

The software continued to improve as researches replayed the recordings, using results of spelling and grammar checks as a barometer of accuracy. Ultimately, the software was able to accurately identify 96 percent of typed characters and 88 percent of typed words.

Existing limitation include the click of the mouse as well as the “shift”, “control”, “backspace” or “caps lock” keys. But, a method for identifying those is also (currently) under way.

Another key factor was controlled conditions, such as using the same keyboard and training the software with known text and corresponding sound samples.

Just think if the program is perfect, with the help of a simple, inexpensive microphone, anyone can spy on your average PC user….and the implications are endless.


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