Firewall Chats, S. 2, Ep. 2: Exploring Biometric Data

By | March 1st, 2016|Firewall Chats|

BiometricsAlmost five years ago, Facebook announced the debut of its facial recognition software, DeepFace, to make tagging photos of friends easier for users. The news spurred many articles questioning how exactly the technology worked and what steps could be taken to maintain privacy.

Today, having software instantly identity faces in our photos seems almost commonplace. Facebook’s billions of users upload nearly 350 million new pictures each day that are quickly scanned and tagged. Google Photos also has built-in facial recognition software that automatically organizes your photos based on the people you’re with. But this convenience doesn’t come without concern.

To hear the latest in biometric advances and facial recognition technology, we caught up with Olga Raskin, Research Manager at Novetta. In her current role, Raskin leads identity-related research projects for government and commercial clients, focusing on biometrics and online identity intelligence. She’s also been spotlighted for her biometric expertise on CNN, The Economic Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Raskin will present “Face Recognition and Online Identity” at SXSW 2016 next Saturday, March 12.

“Right now [sites like Facebook and Google] are [using face recognition] to help users tag and organize their photos,” Raskin explains. “And we’ve learned it’s pretty accurate.”

Facial recognition and biometric data can be beneficial in today’s social society, Raskin explains.

“It can be more convenient and more secure,” she said. “It may be considered safer in some cases because biometrics can’t be stolen as easily as passwords.”

However, having your face scanned and identified leaves most people feeling unsettled.

“In the United States there are no laws that strictly govern this space,” Raskin explained. “Self-regulation has been a challenge because it’s hard to get the privacy advocates – and the people implementing the technologies – to agree on the rules and guidelines.”

In this episode, Raskin delves deeper into the myths and facts behind traditional and modern technologies. Listen now and catch her SXSW session on Saturday, March 12 to learn even more.

Listen to the entire episode at And let us know your feedback on our Firewall Chats social channels on Twitter and Facebook.

Save the Date: Our next episode will air on Tuesday, March 7, and feature SXSW speakers Corey Ealons of VOX Global and Sterling Miller of Hilgers Graben on what to do if your business has been hacked. Be sure to tune in!

News Recap: Facelock provides a new biometrics-based password alternative

By | June 27th, 2014|Uncategorized|

FacelockPasswords are tough to remember, which is why researchers at the Universities of York and Glasgow are testing a new alternative to passwords: Facelock. This new password alternative allows a user to look at a grid of faces and single out one familiar face into order to log in securely to a website.

Rob Jenkins, the lead author of the report, believes this is a step in the right direction from a security standpoint.

“Pretending to know a face that you don’t know is like pretending to know a language that you don’t know — it just doesn’t work. The only system that can reliably recognize faces is a human who is familiar with the faces concerned,” Jenkins said in CBS News.

Not only does this provide a way to protect against cyber criminals and identity thieves, it also reduces how often a password is forgotten. NYMag’s Jesse Singal reports that “97.5 percent of users could get into their hypothetical account a week after selecting faces for a Facelock system, and a full year later that number had only dropped to 86 percent (think of what your success rate would be for a password you didn’t use for a year).”

Is this a system that you would implement to help reduce security vulnerabilities and resetting your forgotten password? How would businesses incorporate Facelock? Let us know what you think on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to check out our Tumblr for the latest industry news stories.

Evolution of Identity Management

By | February 6th, 2014|Uncategorized|

CS_Infographic_EvolutionOfID_LargeProtecting your identity isn’t as cut and dry as it was before the digital age. Before the internet, identity thieves would find personal data by hunting through the garbage for sensitive documents, phishing for private information via phone rather than email or purchasing personal data from unscrupulous store employees.

Now, with advances in technology, identity thieves have many more tricks and tactics to collect sensitive information, especially in the online world. The types of information that are valuable to identity thieves have also changed. Social Security numbers and credit cards still fetch a high price on the identity black market but email address and login information are also prized as they provide access to valuable online accounts such as Amazon or banking sites. Add this to the fact that social networking profiles have made it easier than ever for cyber criminals to collect personal information and it is easy to see that the need for identity management has become more important than ever.

Take a look at our identity management infographic to see what information cyber criminals are going after now and what security risks consumers and businesses should anticipate in the future. While identity management in this increasingly digital world can be daunting, there are many unique solutions both new and in the works that can help companies and consumers protect their sensitive information online and off.

You are welcome to share this infographic on your website and can access the embed code on In the meantime, please let us know how you plan on managing your identity by leaving a comment on our Facebook or tweeting at us on Twitter. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest security news on our Tumblr.

Our SXSWi Panel Picks

By | March 1st, 2013|Uncategorized|

sxsw2013Austin is a-buzz with preparations for the 2013 SXSW Interactive Festival, and we’re so excited for it to kick off! For those of you attending this year’s events, here is a list of panels covering biometrics, identity, big data including healthcare, reputation management and privacy. And if you’re still in search of a place to stay, don’t forget to enter our giveaway before 3/6! See you at SXSWi!

Friday, March 8

I Know Where You’re Going: Location as Biometric

  • Summary: This session will discuss location data as the ultimate biometric identifier, including the legal and technical aspects of location information as biometrics, what this means for privacy and civil liberties and what consumers can do about it.
  • Speakers: Jennifer Lynch, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Jeff Jonas, IBM
  • Date/Location: Friday, March 8, 3:30 – 4:30 pm, Radisson Town Lake

The New Nature vs Nurture: Big Data & Identity

  • Summary: Increasing availability of data changes how we are able to know and define ourselves – at the risk of being defined by algorithms that we can’t control
  • Speakers: Jen Lowe, Assoc Research Scholar, Columbia University Spatial Information Design Lab and Molly Steenson, Asst. professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Date/Location: Friday, March 8, 5 – 6 pm, Radisson Town Lake


Saturday, March 9

Who Owns the Data? Self-Tracking to Health 2.0

  • Summary: While the healthcare system is in the midst of reform, what must we do to put the massive quantities of data it holds to more efficient use for the community?
  • Speakers: John Wilbanks, chief common officer, Sage Bionetworks and Martha Wofford, vp consumer platform, Aetna
  • Date/Location: Saturday, March 9, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Sheraton Austin


Monday, March 11

Privacy in a Location-Based World

  • Summary: A discussion on the boundaries of privacy and location-based services
  • Speaker: Damien Patton, Founder/CEO, Banjo
  • Date/Location: Monday, March 11, 5 – 6 pm, Sheraton Austin


Tuesday, March 12

Privacy in the Age of Augment Reality

  • Summary: What will privacy and anonymity mean in the coming age of augmented reality – a future where online and offline data will seamlessly blend?
  • Speaker: Alessandro Acquisti, professor at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Date/Location: Tuesday, March 12, 9:30 – 10:30 am, Radisson Town Lake

What’s in a name? Anonymity, Then and Now

  • Summary: A legal and historical look at the anonymity and anonymous speech on the internet
  • Speakers: Nabiha Syed, a First Amendment lawyer, and Katie Engelhart, a historian and author
  • Date/Location: Tuesday, March 12, 3:30 – 4:30 PM, Austin Convention Center

Reputation as Currency: Is the Resume Extinct?

  • Summary: What happens when online trust and social reputation move beyond the commerce space? Could online reputation replace traditional validation engines?
  • Speaker: Leah Busque, TaskRabbit, Founder and CEO
  • Date/Location: Tuesday, March 12, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Austin Convention Center

Forget Passwords: Here comes FIDO

By | February 21st, 2013|Uncategorized|

We’ve talked a lot about passwords on this blog, including how ineffective they are as a method of authentication. Over the past decade, many businesses, government organizations and non-profits have been trying to solve the password conundrum and come up with an authentication method that is secure, easy and simple enough that your grandmother can use it.

A new group recently threw their hat into the ring: the FIDO (Fast Identity Online) Alliance. FIDO’s ultimate goal is to create a new open standard for security that either swaps out or supplements our current password authentication system. The group is currently investigating a number of ways to do this including biometric solutions like voice and facial recognition, and existing standards like NFC and one-time passwords.

Many groups have preceded the FIDO Alliance with a similar mission, but what makes FIDO unique are the companies that comprise it – big names like PayPal, Lenovo and Infineon with more partnership announcements on the way. Adoption is key with any new authentication solution, and having the backing of some major companies is a good sign for the FIDO Alliance.

We are still years away from an authentication solution that will replace our current password system. Yet the seemingly unrelenting hacks and breaches of the past few years are certainly speeding up the replacement process. It looks likely the FIDO will play a role in this process and we look forward to seeing what the group can accomplish.

What do you think of FIDO? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.


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