Privacy for Tigers

Ross Anderson has some new work:

As mobile phone masts went up across the world's jungles, savannas and mountains, so did poaching. Wildlife crime syndicates can not only coordinate better but can mine growing public data sets, often of geotagged images. Privacy matters for tigers, for snow leopards, for elephants and rhinos ­ and even for tortoises and sharks. Animal data protection laws, where they exist at all, are oblivious to these new threats, and no-one seems to have started to think seriously about information security.

Video here.

Posted on October 16, 2018 at 6:04 AM • 28 Comments

Comments

jbmartin6October 16, 2018 7:54 AM

This makes me think of David Brin's "Transparent Society". It illustrates the value of privacy, but Brin's premise was that complete loss of privacy is inevitable as technology grows more and more capable. His solution was a lack of privacy for everyone. So poachers might be able to find the tigers, but everyone else would be able to find the poachers since they have no privacy either.

echoOctober 16, 2018 8:20 AM

@jbmartin6

This makes me think of David Brin's "Transparent Society". It illustrates the value of privacy, but Brin's premise was that complete loss of privacy is inevitable as technology grows more and more capable. His solution was a lack of privacy for everyone. So poachers might be able to find the tigers, but everyone else would be able to find the poachers since they have no privacy either.

Hear, hear.

JonKnowsNothingOctober 16, 2018 9:02 AM

@jbmartin6, all

The problem is this: The Tiger is Dead.

You might have some sense of "revenge" aka "justice" in finding the poacher/killer afterward, but the tiger, elephant, whale, porpoise, human is not going to have a Living Resurrection.

You can plant all the trackers you want in the area, you can video every nuance from the killing to the butchery (except when there are Ag-Gag laws) to the sale of hide, meat, bones and various sportsman trophies but you cannot restore what was taken.

The rise of AI-Pre-Detention-On-Intent is coming but there isn't anyone here who will doubt that it will have a 99% predictive correctness that will be a 100% failure/catastrophe. But it's coming anyway. In the US our first attempt is called ICE.


name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsOctober 16, 2018 3:27 PM

Question Bruce,

What or how do you define "natural security"? This is the first time I've seen this tag...

"Natural Security" appears to be a paradoxicall term, nature as I understand, does not perform "security" functions. Auto-immunology, obfuscation in appearances, passive counter-measures, and active countermeasures (witness, the squid) are components of natural systems but I do not see them as separable. Only as so called conscious creatures (I think the jury is still out on this one) and as possible one of a plethora of so called intelligent beings in the universe I accept that we are ill prepared to define security in a context that could be called "natural". Our perception and lexicon lack sufficient clarity and definition to enumerate the space[s] in or within the context of nature. We can measure many things, but, we completely fail when it comes to a "full accounting" by every measure.

PeaceHeadOctober 16, 2018 4:23 PM

Those of us who value living and life itself and the delicate balances of ecosystems needed for life to continue are likely to comprehend this topic. Also, those of us who know what it's like to literally struggle against death and existential mistreatments to survive comprehend the collossal issues happening in this vein of experiences (and discussions).

Biophysics comes face to face with this issue-set also.

People who can't see the connections between Ecological realities and social realities can learn also though. But those who refuse to try to learn lock themselves away from the comprehension. And ironically, that kind of "locksmithing" might not be breakable.

Thanks for tying into this topic-set.

Security issues and existential threat measurements and countermeasures are certainly both valid concerns and not mutually exclusive of each other.

Thanks. This is a healthy topic and I imagine this field will gain larger comprehension from more lives as time goes on. And yet, too slowly means that too many innocent lives whether human or hybrid or non-human will unfortunately be tragically lost due to cultural slowness to seek to comprehend "the other" or even sometimes the "cryptic self".

Peaceful coexistence is not a bargaining chip. Thanks for considering.

Clive RobinsonOctober 16, 2018 4:24 PM

@ name.withheld...,

What or how do you define "natural security"?

You probably know we have run out of usefull Three Leter Acronyms so they can have many different meanings. Well we've the same issue with two word names for fields of endeavor and "Natural Security" is one of them...

In the UK it's had a few meanings over the years. The National Health Service used it as part of "medical managment speak"... When wasting money on "external consultants" was the way Politico's said they were spending 4Billion on the NHS...

The problem in this case is the word "security" is a bit of a weasly word, even in English as I found out when I was a Governor, their managment speak usage was for "records that had been correctly filled out"... Thus you could use them "securely" when applying funding formulars...

But you will also find it is used in other fields in different ways...

IBM has a "Natural Security" product... Which I'll let those that work there describe.

It's also a slightly recent term in Darwinian eveloutionary thinking with a book from a decade or so back titled "Natural Security" unsuprisingly it deals with prey / preditor, host / parasite / symbiot relationships and how they came about.

Then there people who have renamed biometrics as "Natural Security" for marketing reasons...

But in France the word Security also means safety so there is way more permutations there...

But the most likely definition in this case has come about because "bio-security" has already been taken abd "biome-security" would be to confusing/frightening[1] ;-)

Have a look at,

https://www.stimson.org/programs/natural-security-strategies

[1] You've probably heard of "Magnetic Resonance Imaging" (MRI) and might even have wondered what was being resonated by magnetic influence? Well it used to be "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging" (NMRI) but somebody decided havibg the word "nuclear" in the name made it way to scarry for the general public, so they just droped "nuclear" of the front of the name and thus made the name non descriptive...

Clive RobinsonOctober 16, 2018 5:41 PM

@ All,

Even if the natural world is not your thing the talk is very definitely worth listening to. For instance it gives several reasons as well as some real world examples of why security --context-v-role-- systems often fail miserably (hint the designers impose rather than interpret). But it also at the end goes into lessons for the likes of IoT in homes.

Oh and there is a fun asside as to why all blockchain types should be killed ;-) a little after 35mins, it's a point I can not help but agree with irrespective of the 7GW of wasted power (even if it does screw with the Chinese economy more than it does else where).

JonKnowsNothingOctober 16, 2018 7:48 PM

@meow

iNaturalist, a project by the California Academy, where people upload geotagged observations of organisms, automatically obscures the location

There is an ongoing project to re-GPS all images that do not have a GPS location embedded in the meta-data. It wouldn't surprise me if it also verified the GPS data in known images.

The project uses all existing images on the internet that belong to The Big Dogs (as do all images uploaded to their sites) along with Government Image Datasets. They are planning to analyze the images down to the smallest details like: trees, shrubs, buildings, stairways and other items in the images. Matching these many Selectors to a known-good-image-GPS to determine day, time, orientation and elevation of how the image was taken. Giant databases will be created so that any image taken can be mapped to a physical location on the planet.

Individuals have no ability to remove all the geotags or edit logs or even obscure them enough to prevent them from IDing either the location, the photographer or the subject area.

It's not hard to find fish in the ocean - even if there is a lot of water. It's not hard to find the needle in the haystack when all you need is a heat-map to locate CIA black sites.

meowOctober 16, 2018 11:26 PM

@JonKnowsNothing wide-angle images including landmarks can be triangulated, but the typical iNaturalist observation is a narrow-field-of-view image. You can tell something about the photo was taken it lives based on the plant community it is associated with, but that's nowhere near sufficient to identify the specific location for most images; you generally end up with province-level location information, which isn't enough to be a poaching issue.

On the whole, I think they're doing a decent job balancing the benefits of allowing research access to their information archive with protecting rare and endangered species from poaching.

WinterOctober 17, 2018 1:17 AM

@Clive
"Well it used to be "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging" (NMRI) but somebody decided havibg the word "nuclear" in the name made it way to scarry for the general public, so they just droped "nuclear" of the front of the name and thus made the name non descriptive..."

This was done because there were ACTUAL patients who refused to undergo an MRI because of the name. As such, the name would drive patients to forgo needed imaging, or even switch to X-ray scans because they were convinced there was nuclear radiation involved in NMR. We live in a world where many people think microwave ovens and mobile phones are a kind of X-ray sources.

There are pregnant women who refuse an ultra-sound imaging because they are afraid of radiation damage.

There was ample reason to change the name.

RealFakeNewsOctober 17, 2018 8:01 AM

I've always thought attempts to stop poachers so far have been as futile as CCTV to stop crime; namely you record the act yet fail to prevent it occurring in the first place.

Without putting a small army in the jungles to protect the wildlife, I can't see how we can stop the threat of poaching due to the diminishing number of animals involved.

JonKnowsNothingOctober 17, 2018 8:27 AM

@meow

wide-angle images including landmarks can be triangulated, but the typical iNaturalist observation is a narrow-field-of-view image. You can tell something about the photo was taken it lives based on the plant community it is associated with, but that's nowhere near sufficient to identify the specific location for most images; you generally end up with province-level location information, which isn't enough to be a poaching issue.

Just to point out: you don't need the details from the photo to figure out where. You need the details of the Photographer. Got a smartphone? Made a satellite upload? Bought a plane ticket? Used a credit card?

A poacher making pennies from the misery they create might not figure it out but anyone with the ability to link into these databases won't have an issue.

Years and Eons ago, whalers used man-made maps to track whales. The captain's logs where Top Secret Directions to making Money. If you didn't have the Top Secret Logs... all you had to do was follow the Other Guy. They did so well at it now we fight over the fate of the few whales left.

First Recognition Needed: You cannot save what's there by assuming no one will figure out where you are.

aside: There was a wonderful documentary video on Siberian Tigers made by a guy who spent years sitting in a tiger blind and getting wonderful images of these secretive animals. It's about all that's left. The poachers know the area too and the epilog indicated nearly every tiger filmed was killed for skin and bones. I might not know how to find a Siberian Tiger but clearly others do.

echoOctober 17, 2018 1:21 PM

@JonKnowsNothing

It's amazing how brave tiny men become with a gun in their hand or the bureaucratic equivalent. I have metafew like this. They may only be a minority but can cause massive damage for years before they are caught.

meowOctober 17, 2018 4:23 PM

@JonKnowsNothing That stuff doesn't get you sufficient accuracy to engage in poaching. The rare stuff is HIGHLY localized. Depending on what, you need accuracy of 1/2 mile or less if you want to just go out and find it.

The kinds of things you are talking about tell you something, but nowhere near what it takes to conduct poaching without spending a lot of time on the ground exploring the area.

Clive RobinsonOctober 17, 2018 4:33 PM

@ RealFakeNews,

Without putting a small army in the jungles to protect the wildlife,

Did you listen to what Ross said?

He described it as a low level war with both sidea armed with AK47's, and some Rhino's having a 24x365.25 armed guard.

The simple fact is although not mentioned, some of the poachers are more scared of the Chinese midle men than they are of either the rangers or the authorities, as the middle men know where not just the poacher but his family and extended family live... It might start with "a bit of bush meat" but soon they find they are in effect entrapped.

A famous economist pointed out there realy was only two ways to stop the drugs trade, kill the manufacturers/growers or/both shoot the customers. The Chinese tried this and had some success.

Thus it might be said if you want to stop wild life getting shot, perhaps shooting the "customers" in the Town Square might reduce the poaching business[1]. But as the customers are usually wealthy elites you can guess how far that would get currently.

[1] In Scotland they also had some success with sending the Inland Revenue after poachers for tax evasion via the civil courts where the poachers could not get legal aid and the balance of proof the IR had to provide was negligable.

SteveOctober 17, 2018 5:46 PM

@jbmartin6: So poachers might be able to find the tigers, but everyone else would be able to find the poachers since they have no privacy either.

I'm all for letting the tigers find the poachers. With exterme prejudice.

By the way, how do you poach a tiger? Seems it would take a fair amount of court-bouillon.

Clive RobinsonOctober 17, 2018 7:17 PM

@ ALL,

The cooking jokes are wearing a little thin...

Just out of historical interest the two main definitions of poaching are derived from the French word for pouch/bag which makes obvious there meanings as cook in a pouch/bag rather than in paper or parcel. And as in the 125year old Australian song by Banjo Paterson of "waltzing Matilda", the "swagman" (bushman) protagonist and poacher grabbed the "jumbuck" (ram) and put --part of-- it in his "tucker bag" (large pouch or bag for holding food).

The third meaning of "poaching" comes from 16th Century english and referes to the effect herbivore hoves cutting up soft turf and soil especially in times of noticable or significant precipitation.

To me anyway the clever jokes or puns would be about the third meaning...

Cincinnatus__SPQROctober 17, 2018 7:33 PM

Two things could be done:

Since the bad guys most likely use push-to-talk radios, those could easily be geolocated using traditional VHF interception methods. Small teams of shooters (4 people, including one sniper) could then go after the poachers. Depending on the terrain, motorcycles could be used. Take a look at how a handful of Taureg militiamen defeated U.S. Special Forces (October 4, 2017) in the Tongo Tongo debacle in Niger: find, fix, finish.

Getting shot at 600 to 800 meters by a swollen, red-hot piece of jacketed steel and lead should discourage poaching greatly. The costs of such an operation are not that high, but the good guys are going to need a decent paycheck and some night vision. They are also going to need encrypted communications. And the main ingredient in the soup is leadership on the ground.

Secondly, the bad guys probably have cell phones. That is good. According to the news, much can be done. How about taking the info from those phones and tracking the smuggling networks across Africa and into places such as the airport in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand; then across Laos and into Vietnam.

The technology that the bad guys are using is a double-edged sword. In fact, it creates an opportunity to crush them.

WinterOctober 18, 2018 4:28 AM

I remember having seen the "same" problem in (civil) war situations.

I cannot find a link, but there was a charity that was publishing (Google) maps overlays indicating human rights atrocities in a war zone (Sudan or South Sudan, IIRC). They stopped publishing them when they found out the parties were using these maps to find villages they had missed destroying the first time.

Clive RobinsonOctober 18, 2018 5:54 AM

@ Winter,

I remember having seen the "same" problem in (civil) war situations.

Likewise in "crime in your area" heat maps.

I know I'm becoming a bit like a cracked record on this score but,

Technology is agnostic to use, it's the directing mind that decides it's use for good or evil.

Sometimes when we build things we might be filled with good intent but there will always be some one who will abuse it.

Historically churches were not just monuments of glory they served also as a strong hold against both attacks by "mother nature" and raiders in which people could seak refuge and shelter. Unfortunatly some attackers then realised that those inside were ineffect imprisoned so burning the church down became a tactic of state terror...

Skip forward to the begining of this millennium, did the designers of the jet aircraft used by the 9/11 suicide attackers realise they were also designing guided missiles? We know the threat had been considered long before the attack due to having shoulder launch anti-aircraft missiles bring part of Whitehouse security measures.

Thus every time we come up with a "good" idea, one of our fist thoughts should be how to build in mitigation from "evil" use.

JeremyOctober 18, 2018 7:36 AM

Thus every time we come up with a "good" idea, one of our fist thoughts should be how to build in mitigation from "evil" use.

And our second thoughts should of course be how might that mitigation be turned to evil purpose...

divOctober 18, 2018 1:37 PM

The problem is that, as everyone knows, Tigers will just immediately click the "I Agree" button if offered a bit of raw steak in exchange for their data.

echoOctober 18, 2018 2:04 PM

@Clive

Thus every time we come up with a "good" idea, one of our fist thoughts should be how to build in mitigation from "evil" use.

In theory the European Union treaties create economic and social and military security, and the European Convention which all EU member states must sign mitigates against harm.

SteveOctober 18, 2018 6:35 PM

@Clive Robinson
The cooking jokes are wearing a little thin...

Sorry about that, Chef. It's what happens when I read security blogs just before dinner.

Jon (fD)October 19, 2018 2:16 AM

Around here the exact frequencies of the radio tracking collars on the mountain lion population are secrets, but that ain't much for security.

Jon (fD)

Clive RobinsonOctober 19, 2018 3:46 AM

@ Jon (FD),

Around here the exact frequencies of the radio tracking collars on the mountain lion population are secrets, but that ain't much for security.

No it's not difficult to do.

If you get a photograph of somebody using a directional antenna it's likely to be a uda-yagi array which more than likely will be "cut for gain" not bandwidth. It's thus not difficult to work out to within a couple of MHz at VHF what frequency they operate on. You then go looh up the frrquency range in any obe of a number of public databases what the band is used for and in some cases who they are licencesd to.

Because of the way the collars are used the frequencies in use have certain characteristics you can use to refine your search.

Then just going to the area selecting a good vantage point and listening on the likely candidate frequencies will probably give them to you.

Modern Software Defined Radio (SDR) has made it easier a lot easier as they can act as "Channel Bank Receivers" across 10-100 channels at a time, ie the full bandwidth of the antenna so you just have to rotate the antenna slowly the once for all channels not many times for each channel.

This sort of technology is getting very small these days and there are ways of using cell phones to automate the process thus get an almost automated "three beam fix"

As was shown by the TAO catalogue the three steps are called "Find, Fix and Finish" the above will get to you the "Finish"...

As I've pointed out a couple of times in the past a lot of secrets get leaked via telephoto lenses, I think the one that most got people at the time was photographing peoples keys whilst hanging from their belt to get a cutting profile. Well as you can see from the above the first step is getting hold of a photograph.

Which is why it's important to remember,

    Whilst photographs do not steal your soul, they do steal information at a very high bandwidth if you let them.

With the added problem of,

    You never know when you are being photographed

Thus people realy need to rethink what "Security by obscurity" means to them.

Thankfully the old VHF and UHF tracking collars are getting replaced with those where you don't need to send out teams with tracking antennas any longer, so the problem is getting very much easier to manage...

That said SDR systems can now make small mobile radio cells that work like "stingrays", so the game is still on but in a different way.

And if you think that might be hard/expensive, apparently such systems have been used for sending malware etc in China for around getting on for a couple of years,

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/23/fake_base_stations_spreading_malware_in_china/

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