Technology – Ideas in Motion

On this page, I post thoughts about technology, context awareness and predictive analytics. You can find out about my career in technology or my writing here as well.


Recent Blog Posts on these topics: 

Sterling Identity Launch

Posted by on Jun 25, 2019 in Identity, tech, technology | 0 comments

Over the last year, I had the pleasure of leading the SureID team in creating and launching new identity and access services. I’m very happy to see the culmination of our efforts in the launch of the new Sterling Identity brand, with a set of new products underway at Sterling and a new brand name for the former SureID team. Congratulations to the team! NEW YORK, NY (June 21, 2019) — Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services, today announced the launch of Sterling Identity, a business unit focused on identity and biometric solutions. Sterling Identity’s new solution, VerifyID — a powerful and flexible identity verification solution for businesses, is now available to gig economy customers via API and will soon be available to all Sterling customers. “Sterling Identity was formed to bring our innovative identity and biometric services to market. With VerifyID, the identity verification process has been significantly improved for businesses and their job candidates,” said Josh Peirez, CEO, Sterling. “We expect many companies will be adding identity verification to their background check programs in the near future,” added Peirez. Identity verifications performed by VerifyID — which uses human expertise coupled with AI-enabled comparison methodologies to increase accuracy and minimize data entry errors—are completed as a candidate’s selfie is uploaded and compared to a photograph of their driver’s license or other government-issued identification. With tens of millions of selfies taken and uploaded with apps every day, this is an easy, familiar process for most candidates, and the entire verification takes place in just seconds. “For businesses, VerifyID makes the identity verification process fast, convenient, and mobile, which improves candidate experience, increases hiring speed, and ultimately provides a foundation of trust and safety,” said Peirez. “Sterling Identity is committed to delivering advanced, technology-enabled services in the fight against identity fraud, which continues to be an ever-growing problem for businesses.” Sterling has been steadily working to improve its identity and authentication portfolio in the past few years, most notably through the acquisition of SureID in 2018. In a recent interview with FindBiometrics, SureID General Manager Ned Hayes indicated that the acquisition was made with an eye towards background checks and biometrics, laying the foundation for the creation of Sterling Identity.    Sterling Identity’s nationwide network of biometric collection locations spans nearly 700 cities across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Full details on Sterling Identity can be found at About Sterling Identity Sterling Identity is a leading provider of next-generation, technology-enabled identity and biometric solutions. Since identity is the foundation of trust, we provide businesses with the services that support hiring, promoting and supporting their trusted employees. Sterling Identity’s single-sourced nationwide network of biometric collection covers all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Visit Sterling Identity online at Please like &...

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Defending Biometric Security – Gluecon 2019

Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Identity, tech, technology | 0 comments

Great session at Gluecon 2019 yesterday on Defending Biometric Security — here are the overview slides on the session I conducted. High level overview, but a very useful and detailed conversation afterwards that went to a deeper level. Hope this high level overview is as useful to others as it was to our group who discussed at more depth at Gluecon. Defending Biometric Security from Ned Hayes Please like &...

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How to Use Biometrics to Ensure Security: An Interview with Ned Hayes of SureID — Toolbox Interview

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Identity, software, tech, technology | 0 comments

| Interview with Ned Hayes (Re-posted from Toolbox) How to Use Biometrics to Ensure Security: An Interview with Ned Hayes of SureID By Neha Pradhan Thursday, February 14, 2019 “Biometrics provide multiple modalities and are not so easy to fake, spoof, or duplicate in real-time, they have now taken the pole position in terms of identity proofing.” The General Manager of SureID, Ned Hayes, weighs in on how the use of biom etrics technology has evolved over the years, allowing governments and users to create stricter laws around human rights and privacy. From iris scans to voice typing and gait tracking, Ned lets us know about the new methods of biometrics today and the security parameters that relate to them. As a technologist, identity researcher and author himself, Ned has created awareness on biometrics technology through his books and work. His most recent novel was the national bestseller The Eagle Tree, which was nominated for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. SureID has supported military installations through trusted credentialing, vetting, and screening services to become one of the first approved FBI channelers. In this interview, Ned identifies the top three industries for biometrics and AI. He answers questions around: How this space has evolved over the years? What outcomes can be drawn from biometrics today? How can startups be more cognizant and democratize the use of biometrics technology? And, how technology leaders can deploy biometrics technology in a responsible way?   Key takeaways from this interview: Understand the types of biometrics and its uses Learn more about the global biometrics market The latest trends to track in this space Here’s what Ned says about the impact of AI on cybersecurity and biometrics:   Ned, to set the context, data breaches continue to rattle digital experts globally. Over the last year, 34% of US consumers have reported a breach in their personal data. In your opinion, what are biometrics in this context and how have they evolved as credible solutions to these universal challenges? The interesting thing about biometrics over time is that fingerprints and other associated biometrics were once seen as just one way of proving identity – they weren’t seen as significantly different or superior in terms of usefulness or security compared to other means of proving identity. Yet the emergence of digital identity has led to numerous hacks of knowledge-based identity – when credentials are only comprised of something you know, these items become highly portable and easily duplicated. It’s all too easy to fake or replicate digitally-based identities. However, because biometrics provide multiple modalities and are not so easy to fake, spoof, or duplicate in real-time, biometric factors have now taken pole position in terms of identity proofing. As new methods of collecting ever-more-granular biometric data points emerge, from iris scans to voice typing to gait tracking, it’s been possible to create a gold standard from a holistic set of biometrics. The newer high-fidelity biometrics have raised the bar even further for identity proofing, so that safer environments can be created for consumers, with a minimum of technical buy in or hassle to end-users. What makes biometrics so compelling is that they are industry agnostic – no one vendor owns the standard – and biometrics potentially tie together different modalities. When combined, multiple biometrics can create a much safer environment for the consumer,...

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State of Identity – Ned Hayes Interview

Posted by on Feb 15, 2019 in Identity, tech, technology, Updates | 0 comments

Episode 107 Risk and Compliance Bridging the Physical/Digital Divide with Ned Hayes of SureID February 14, 2019 Join SureID General Manager Ned Hayes as he shares how SureID is bringing FBI-approved background checks to nearly 1,000 locations nationwide with military-grade biometric capture technology. Please like &...

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Taking ethical action in identity: 5 steps for better biometrics

Posted by on Jan 31, 2019 in Identity, tech, technology, Updates | 0 comments

| Published in Help Net Security this week: Taking Ethical Action in Identity – 5 Steps Towards Better Biometrics   Glance at your phone. Tap a screen. Secure access granted! This is the power of biometric identity at work. The convenience of unlocking your phone with a fingertip or your face is undeniable. But ethical issues abound in the biometrics field. The film Minority Report demonstrated one possible future, in terms of precise advertising targeting based on a face. But the Spielberg film also demonstrated some of the downsides of biometrics – the stunning lack of privacy and consumer protection. What’s fascinating is that many of these concerns were anticipated over a century ago. In 1890, Louis Brandeis advocated privacy protection when he co-authored an article with colleague Samuel Warren in the Harvard Law Review advocating “the right to be let alone.” Brandeis, a future Supreme Court Justice, stated then that the development of “instantaneous photographs” and their dissemination by newspapers for commercial gain had created the need for a new “right to privacy.” Today, technology has potentially swamped that right to privacy. From one public CCTV to the next, a long-term history can be stitched together from multiple video sessions to create one end-to-end picture of an individual’s journey. The owner of a shopping mall or private entertainment facility could easily track behavior from store to store, delivering specific data to store owners and making predictive findings on your behavior over time. There’s a fix for the Minority Report problem: transparency. Companies who control biometrics should be transparent about what they are collecting, how it is collected and stored and the potential for abuse or mis-identification. If an error occurs, companies should be transparent with that data and provide a publicly available fix for that mistake. Just as you have a right to know what Facebook is collecting on you, you should also have the right to know how your face can be identified by what company and for what purpose. You shouldn’t be surprised if recognized in a crowded public place, and you should know if law enforcement has access to that data. The degree to which your shopping behavior is “private” is arguable, but it is inarguable that we should discuss this topic rather than just letting commercial terms dictate what the world knows about us. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good grounding today in what an informed public discussion looks like. A recent Pew study demonstrated that 74% of the American public doesn’t understand that Facebook is targeting advertising to individuals based on a profile they’ve built of your interests. This is not the fault of the consumer: this is a problem caused by tech companies who have not served the public with full transparency and open information. All of these ethical issues can be addressed, but we need to start now. Here are some basic steps that can assist you and your team in anticipating and addressing potential ethical issues. 1. Put humans in the loop: First, we should ensure that a human being is always in the loop. Human beings are not immune to errors or biases, but having a qualified person review your facial or fingerprints file to determine if it’s correct should be a standard practice. Today, it is not, and far too many...

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Context Sensing in the Wild – New Proximity Awareness on Dell Laptops

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in Identity, Intel, tech, technology | 0 comments

My team at Intel spent the last few years working on this great new Context Sensing awareness system that will be announced on new Dell laptops at CES 2019. Congratulations to the Context team at Intel!  Dell’s new Latitude laptop can detect your presence and wake itself — Your laptop might already use your face to sign in, but Dell is taking it one step further. Ahead of CES 2019, the computer manufacturer has unveiled an updated version of its commercial 2-in-1, the Latitude 7400. These enterprise devices don’t usually come with the most exciting technologies, but this one is different. The new Latitude 7400 device comes equipped with a feature that can actually sense your presence and use Windows Hello to log you in. Dell calls the feature “ExpressSign-In,” a technology that pairs a special proximity sensor that with Windows Hello to make sign-ins just a bit faster. Essentially, the sensor will detect a person’s nearby presence and will wake the system on its own, rather than waiting for someone to hit the power button. Once awake, the Windows Hello infrared camera then searches for a face match. It should make for automatic logins and signs out. Outside of the new sign-in feature, the convertible also packs some other enterprise features such as options for Cat 16 Gigabit LTE, a fingerprint reader, and the FIPS 201 Smart Card Reader. IT professionals can also enjoy the ability to manage Windows 10 endpoints with DCDD and Workplace One integration. KEY SPECS Processor: 8th-gen Intel Core Whiskey Lake Speakers: Stereo Speaker with MaxxAudio Pro Memory: Up to 16GB LPDDR3 SDRAM Storage: 256GB up to 2TB SSD Battery: 52 watt-hour or 78 watt-hour Ports: 2 USB 3.1 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, SD 4.0 memory card reader Security: Fingerprint reader, FIPS 201 Smart Card Reader, NFC, Windows Hello IR The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 has also been dubbed the world’s smallest commercial 14-inch 2-in-1, as it packs narrow borders that are 25 percent smaller than the previous generation. It is also light and comes in at 3 pounds in weight, with its machined aluminum and diamond cut finish. Elsewhere, Dell has redesigned the cooling system with a new “intelligent thermal responsiveness,” which can adjust to the way the laptop is used. Be it on the lap or a desk, Dell promises the system can keep the Latitude cool. Battery life is also boasted to not be an issue, as Dell is packing a super low-power panel, as well as support for express charge technologies. That should ensure that you can charge faster and get through the day without having to plug into an outlet. How long can it last? Up to a whopping 24 hours, according to Dell. The Latitude 14 7400 will be available in March for prices starting at $1,600. Please like &...

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How to be Smarter about Biometrics

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018 in software, tech, technology, Updates | 0 comments

| Article in Cyber Defense Magazine, January 2019 — Ned Hayes, General Manager, SureID Facial recognition, one of the most popular methods of biometric enrollment and customized marketing, will bring us to ultra-surveillance, targeted assassinations and Black Mirror-style oversight. At least, this is what critics of the technology would have you believe. Yet we don’t see such dystopian outcomes in commercial authentication and identity verification today. So why are these critics so concerned, and what can security professionals do to alleviate their concerns? By 2024, the market for facial recognition applications and related biometric functions is expected to grow at a 20% compounded rate to almost $15.4 billion. Already, almost 245 million video surveillance systems have been deployed worldwide, and that number is growing. Video facial recognition technology isn’t going away. Yet as the technology keeps expanding to new segments and use cases, ethical concerns have not settled down – in fact, they’ve proliferated. Early concerns focused on the surveillance itself: should human beings be watched 24/7? As the use of CCTV data in criminal investigations proved to have value, though, these concerns have grown to focus on the data that video stream provides and the inferences that can be drawn from that data. Machine learning and new predictive techniques, when used to analyze a video stream, can produce findings well beyond facial identity. They can infer emotional state, religious affiliation, class, race, gender and health status. In addition, machine learning methods can determine where someone is going (travel trajectory), where they came from (national origin), how much they make (through clothing analysis), diseases they have (through analysis of the vocal track), and much more. Yet like all technology, these techniques are imperfect. They don’t always recognize faces accurately: false positives and false negatives happen. Some algorithms get confused if you wear a hat or sunglasses, grow a beard, or cut your hair differently. Even worse, training data used to develop many early facial recognition algorithms was originally mostly Caucasian, so people of African and Asian descent are not recognized as well. This can result in biased conclusions, even if the intent was not to create a biased system. And biometrics themselves are not a foolproof system. Some facial recognition systems can be “hacked” with dolls, masks and false faces. Recently, Philip Bontrager, a researcher at NYU, revealed that he’d created a “DeepMasterPrint” fingerprint that could combine the characteristics of many fingers into one “master print” that could log into devices secured with only a single fingerprint authentication routine. A single finger on a pad or a single face seen by a camera should be insufficient to grant access. Biometrics are hackable, and over time it’s clear that we’ll find increasing exploits that take advantage of known and unknown weaknesses. So the critics of biometrically-based recognition and authentication have a right to be concerned about the weaknesses of an early technology that is only now beginning to mature, yet is already broadly deployed in critical infrastructure and identity verification scenarios. Two recent developments that are changing the game for everyone who relies on biometrics magnify the importance of these concerns. And this time, artificial intelligence researchers, activists, lawmakers and many of the largest technology companies also express concern. These two developments, happening simultaneously, are: Machine Learning in Real-time: The...

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Beating the DeepMasterPrint Exploit

Posted by on Dec 4, 2018 in Identity, tech, technology | 0 comments

DECEMBER 3, 2018 Philip Bontrager, lead researcher on the “DeepMasterPrint” fingerprint hack, thinks that the SureID process for high-fidelity fingerprint enrollment has multiple layers of protection against hackers. “The NYU research into DeepMasterPrint is fascinating, but it focuses on low-fidelity, smartphone-based authentication,” says Ned Hayes. “SureID’s system is built with patent-pending technology that prevents fraudulent activity.” Bontrager’s DeepMasterPrint uses artificial intelligence techniques to create a 3D representation of many prints, all of them derived from low-fidelity situations such as smartphone fingerprint login sensors. Bontrager agrees that the SureID solution is secured in ways that are inaccessible to the DeepMasterPrint exploit. The NYU research – Bontrager – even draws a strong delineation between the study’s research and SureID’s fingerprinting process. “With multiple fingerprints, a higher area of print, and multiple biometrics – these elements, combined with personal assistance, makes it much harder to pull off a presentation attack in that setting,” he says. Bontrager described the SureID system as more secure for three top reasons. 1. Our System is More Sophisticated First, SureID uses a much more sophisticated fingerprint enrollment system than those Bontrager and team researched. “The DeepMasterPrint research focused on sensors commonly used with smart phones, which are low-fidelity and only scan a small portion of one or two fingers,” Bontrager tells us. In contrast, SureID’s fingerprint scanning system is fully FBI certified for higher-fidelity fingerprint capture with coverage of the complete fingertip. This additional scanning provides a much larger attack surface for any hacker and thus provides a higher level of security. 2. We Capture More Second, SureID captures all ten fingerprints, including full flat prints of all four fingers at once. “That’s a much more secure setup than the smaller, low resolution sensors we tested,” says Bontrager. “Ten full roll fingerprints are much more unique than the small phone scans, creating a stronger and separate attack vector for each finger.” 3. Our Security Includes People Finally, SureID’s fingerprinting process requires a trained technician to both validate the person’s identity using ID documents and assist in the fingerprint capture – a process not tested by Bontrager’s research. “We’re not aware of DeepMasterPrints being used in the wild,” he told us. Hayes contrasted this with our process: “With a trained, certified individual present, it is harder to spoof data or biometrics. We provide a high security environment for the enrollment of multiple biometrics.” The security and privacy protection the SureID enrollment system provides is attracting attention, since it provides greater protection for government, financial, and other corporate customers. “In the future, high-security environments like SureID’s can power much more than fingerprint-based government reports,” saya Hayes from SureID. “Due to customer demand, we are looking at new use cases, such as high-security access management, automobile and vehicle access, smart phone and device access, and emerging IOT and financial use cases.” About Philip Bontrager NYU PhD candidate Philip Bontrager is the lead researcher on the DeepMasterPrint project, presented in late 2018 at a security conference in Los Angeles. The original published paper is titled “DeepMasterPrints: Generating MasterPrints for Dictionary Attacks via Latent Variable Evolution.” Contributors include Philip Bontrager, Aditi Roy, Julian Togelius, Nasir Memon of New York University and Arun Ross of Michigan State University. The published paper can be found here: Please like &...

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The Biometric Threat – Some Preventative Measures

Posted by on Nov 28, 2018 in Identity, tech, Updates | 0 comments

|New post published by Technica Curiosa. Complete article here >> We live in an age where personal information is difficult to protect, and passwords are far from unbreakable. Recently, IBM surveyed nearly 4,000 people and learned that 67% are comfortable using biometrics, and 87% would be comfortable using biometric authentication in the future. Millennials are particularly comfortable with biometric security, with 75% reporting that they’re at ease with today’s technology. In fact, if you used a fingertip scan to log into your phone to read this article, you just used biometrics to verify your identity. From passwords to PINs to tokens, there are many ways we provide credentials, but no method has grown in popularity more than biometrics. Biometrics have steadily moved in to replace document-based identities such as a driver’s license, physical credentials like swipe cards used for secure building access, and especially the username/password system that’s been in use since the dawn of the computer age. Biometrics are also the future of background checks. Instead of submitting documents and identity in person, you can enroll your biometrics through several nationwide systems to instantly prove and verify your identity. FBI channelers use biometrics for regulated purposes and retrieve a criminal background check in near real-time. Fingerprints can even now be used for on-the-spot drug testing. Today, customers of all sizes are increasingly providing biometric identifiers for verification, authentication, access and secure transactions. Are Biometrics Safe from Hacking? It’s a lot easier for a hacker to crack the password you created that uses your dog’s name and your first child’s birthdate, but biometrics aren’t immune to hacking. Dolls, masks, and false faces can break some facial recognition systems. Philip Bontrager, a researcher at NYU, created a fingerprint that combined the characteristics of many fingerprints into one fake finger that contains multitudes — he calls this hack the “DeepMasterPrint.”. The DeepMasterPrint could be used to log into devices with only a single fingerprint authentication routine, such as a smartphone, a tablet or even your home security system. What Bontrager did here was simply prove the obvious: Biometrics are hackable. The Security Cold War If you’re paying attention to the history of hacking security mechanisms, we all know how this story goes. Here’s the pattern of the security cold war: A secure system is hacked through one extremely complicated exploit, explained by academics.Security experts demonstrate solutions to the first hack and create an ongoing set of solutions designed to circumvent the first hack. Many consumers ignore this fix. Professional state actors or black hats use the same general method to hack unprotected systems, raising the bar on security professionals and system protection. Unfortunately, their efforts often go for naught as the original hack is replicated by script kiddies and used voluminously to steal identities, money and goods. Eventually, we end up in a place where complicated solutions exist to prevent the original hack and all hacks that emerged out of the same system weakness. The matrix above has been replicated across multiple systems and functions over time. Right now, with biometric-based identity, we are at the early stage (1), and I’m here to provide stage (2) — the security expert explains the need for protection and demonstrates a set of solutions. If people don’t ignore this set of fixes, it’s unlikely...

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Launch to Exit: The Oly Arts Success Story

Posted by on Oct 17, 2018 in publishing, software, Updates, writing | 0 comments

|Founder of local multi-platform publication group successfully sells off publication unit to local entrepreneur >> Coverage included: The Olympian: Founder Sells to Local Marketing LeaderSound Sound Business: Oly Arts Bought by Local Publisher OLY ARTS, the three-year-old multiplatform publication focused on arts and cultural events in Thurston County and surrounding regions, announced today that the publication has signed an acquisition agreement with local media expert Billy Thomas, who currently serves as the publication’s associate publisher. In an equity-only transaction valued at $350,000, Mr. Thomas will become the publication’s owner and primary publisher and will take over all daily operations for all OLY ARTS media properties in October 2018. “I am honored to take the helm for such a wonderful team,” said Thomas. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for this publication as we expand into new media ventures.” Thomas has previously led public relations, marketing and sales for the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and facilitated community relations and advertising sales at both The Olympian and The News Tribune. Thomas has been part of the OLY ARTS staff since late 2017. Ned Hayes, a technology entrepreneur and former journalist, founded the publication in 2015. “I am excited to transition our successful publication, growing audience and supportive advertisers to Billy Thomas,” said OLY ARTS founder Hayes. “Billy has been a fantastic partner and manager for the publication over the last year, and I am excited to have his energetic leadership as OLY ARTS moves into the future.” Olympia leaders and national publications have recognized the success of OLY ARTS over the past three years. The Seattle Times has worked with the OLY ARTS team on coverage of theater issues at Harlequin Productions in Olympia. In September 2018, the Washington Post also contacted OLY ARTS for regional media assistance and worked closely with OLY ARTS founder Hayes to write a comprehensive travel guide article about Olympia regional attractions. “OLY ARTS has greatly enhanced the profile of our local arts and cultural assets, not only in Olympia but in the surrounding region as well.” said Olympia mayor Cheryl Selby. “I’m happy to see the publication continue to grow with this new management team.” Under Hayes’s tenure as owner and publisher of OLY ARTS, the publication launched online, mobile, and podcast media outlets, and created from scratch a regional audience of tens of thousands of readers for print and online versions of the publication. OLY ARTS also moved from a quarterly publication in its first year to a schedule of seven annual print editions. Hayes also created partnerships with the City of Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation for lead sponsorship of the twice-annual Olympia Arts Walk, as well as partnerships with all local theaters, the City of Lacey’s summer In Tune program and the annual Oly Old Time Festival. In recent months, Thomas has led the publication’s transition from a newsprint circular into a bound glossy premium print magazine distributed throughout Thurston, Lewis, Mason, and Pierce counties, and at every local arts event and festival. He has continued OLY ARTS’ vision of community involvement by leading partnerships with local arts organizations such as Emerald City Music, Broadway Olympia and the Olympia Film Festival. As the acquisition concludes, Hayes will transition into a new role as President of the parent company,...

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