BBC video: App that detects naked pictures on your smartphone

It may be a meme nowadays but “Send nudes” or “sexting” has been a phenomenon that’s giving parents nightmares specially that younger children are getting online much earlier than before. I’m a parent and whenever my 6-year-old daughter grabs hold of my phone and I don’t anything from it, I quickly go over and have a look at what she’s doing, watching or looking at.

The good folks over at YIPO Technologies has come up with an app that aims to help parents stop their kids from sending or receiving naked photos: Gallery Guardian. The BBC was able to take it for a spin and came up with some interesting results, check out their video below:

Gallery Guardian is still in development but clearly it has great potential. Can’t wait to have it installed on my daughter’s tablet device. If it will be made available in the Philippines that is.

BPI Phising Attack

Last Friday, March 10, 2017 just a few minutes before I clocked out of work, I saw an email from BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) with the subject “Bank Account Fraud Prevention!”.

I’m a BPI customer and have been using their Online banking app and services for quite some time. With some of my private information compromised when the COMELEC election database has been hacked last year, I take messages like this seriously. However, before acting on it, I did some quick checks to see if it’s really legit.

Opened the email and it looked pretty legit:

BPI phising attack
A legit looking email which turned out to be a phising attack against BPI customers.

Looked into the details of the sender and how it was sent, it still looked pretty legit:

Looked like it really came from BPI. Then again, phishing attacks are smart nowadays and they can easily spoof the sender’s email address.

Phishing attack emails contain a link that will take you to a website or contain malicious code that will steal your information, in this case the email had a link where I am supposed to verify my personal information. However, upon hovering on the link, which again looks legit, Chrome has revealed a completely different link:

At this point, the best thing to do for most is to just mark the email as spam or phising attack. Before that, I went further to confirm that this is a phishing attack. I opened the link and it did bring me to a site that looked exactly like BPI Online:

The link brings you to a legit looking-BPI site, but looking closely at the URI, and you know it’s a fake BPI site.

So there you have it. Always be cautious of emails like this. Double-check if it really came from your bank and if you can’t tell if it is legit or not, best thing to do is ignore the email, do not click any link it contains and call your bank first to confirm with them the information it contains. They would also give advise on how to secure your account.

Be smart. Be cautious. Stay safe everyone!

Transport Strike – Feb 27, 2017 – Jeepney phase out & plight of drivers

It’s true, transport groups will hold another transport strike on Monday, February 27. 2017 beginning at 6AM, it is being organized by transport groups PISTON, STOP and GO Coalition, and No To Jeepney Phase Out Coalition (NJPOC). According to the groups, their fellow drivers and operators will also hold a transport strike in the following cities nationwide including Baguio City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Phase out of 15-year old PUJs and PUBs

The transport strike is in protest of the planned phase out of Public Utility Jeeps and Buses that are over 15 years of age. This was laid down in DOTC Order 2002-03 which is further implemented by LTFRB Resolution No 2013-01 which basically mandates that PUB and PUJ units that are 15 years of age and over would no longer be given a Certificate of Public Convenience essentially removing these vehicles off our roads.

LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said the phase out of old jeepneys is part of the government program to “modernize” public transport. In place of the old jeeps that run on diesel, the government is pushing the promotion of e-jeeps which run on eletricity.

To help drivers and operators make the switch to E-jeepneys, Lizada said the government would buy the old jeeps and offer loans to help with the purchase. Which seems fair and reasonable, though I haven’t come across any news report or publicly available information about the details of this loan and ‘buy back’ scheme of the government.

Loss of livelihood

Transport groups fear that since most of the jeeps they use are over 15 years old, despite being in good road-worthy conditions, a lot from their sector would lose their means of livelihood. The e-jeep being offered by the government are too expensive for small operators to buy. They also have doubts about its reliability and mileage. Even with loans from the government, the E-jeeps would only contribute to an increase in fares as the costs would be passed on to the commuters. And with the additional requirements for operators to have at least 10 units to avail of the loans, this will only force the small operators out of business and deprive them of a means of living.

Public safety vs means of livelihood

The government claims that the phase out of old jeeps is to ensure the commuters have a safe public transport. Statistics on road safety, in particular, accidents involving PUJs are not readily available online. The only stats I’ve managed to find is from a post by Top Gear from data gathered by DOTC in 2012! The bit of statistics relevant to road safety are as follows:

79% – Road crash fatalities caused by driver error

11% – Road crash fatalities caused by defective vehicles

With no data on how many of these road accidents due to defective vehicles involved public utility jeepneys, we really can’t say if 15-year-old jeepneys are really a safety risk for the riding public. Given that there are far more road accidents caused by driver error. one could say it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is old or brand new.

Mr. George San Mateo, national president of the militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) in an article by Fred Dabu in UP Forum, explains why jeep drivers are among the poor and vulnerable of our society:

“Ang mga jeepney driver ay ‘mala-manggagawa’ kumpara sa mga bus driver na ‘manggagawa’ kasi may employee-employer relationship sa mga bus company habang walang employee-employer relationship sa mga jeepney driver. Karamihan dating magsasaka, iniwan ang lupa at pumunta sa sentrong lunsod.”

He went on to add:

San Mateo estimated the daily gross income of jeepney drivers on a 24-hour-run at Php500-600 or only equivalent to a Php250 per day take-home income for a 12-hour-shift, an amount way below the minimum wage standard for workers. He said there was no standard “boundary” or amount given to the jeepney operator. “Walang fixed amount, depende sa usapan, depende sa seating capacity, route, sitwasyon ng trapik.” For instance, short routes would require payments for operators as low as Php600 while long routes would require Php1,000 or more as boundary for a 24-hour-run.

The struggle for a more just means of ‘modernizing’ the public transport sector against the rights of the jeep drivers and operators to make a living has reached the Court of Appeals where in August of 2016 it sided with the government ruling that in the name public safety, the government’s right to police and regulate public transport must prevail over the rights of the few to earn a living.

Hence the transport strike, the 2nd this February, that will take place tomorrow.

Sympathize with the jeep drivers and operators

Tomorrow will be another difficult day for many of us commuters. While some schools have already announced class cancellations for tomorrow to spare their students and faculty of the inconvenience the transport strike would cause, it does nothing to address the issue. Sure some of us would be able to take a taxi, an Uber, a GrabCar to get to work tomorrow all while being annoyed and angry at the striking jeepney drivers, it also does nothing to solve the issue.

While we will be inconvenienced tomorrow by the transport strike, take a minute to think that the striking drivers would sacrifice a day of earnings to send their message across and to call out attention to their cause: if the government will have its way, they would lose their livelihood. There will be lesser jeepneys to go around, commuting will be a lot more difficult and costly even after the transport strike.

This issue is not just about old jeepneys, it’s about the terrible mess that our public transport has become. There’s a better way of modernizing our public transport. It doesn’t have to be just about the safety of the commuting public over the livelihood of drivers and operators.

More questions than answers – Lascanas retraction, EDSA people power, Duterte’s ouster

lascanas

Update: Hours after this post was published, the Senate through a vote of 10 Senators in favor against 7 who opposed, to refer Sen Trillanes’ motion to re-open the hearings on the Davao Death Squad to the Committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen Lacson. The Senate will then meet again to discuss on how to handle Sen Trillanes’ resolution.

Yesterday, in a press conference at the Senate, lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group and Sen Antonio Trillanes IV accompanied former police officer SPO3 Arthur Lascanas where he made public the confession that the ‘Davao Death Squad’ was real, he was its leader and former Davao City Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the DDS.

A complete turnaround of his previous testimony in a Senate investigation into the Davao Death Squad back in September 2016, that, at that time, he belied the testimony of self-confessed DDS member Edgar Matobato.

Media reports say that ‘in genral‘, Lascanas and Matobato’s testimonies match.

First question that comes to mind: Why has Lascanas retracted his earlier testimony? For sure, his lawyers from FLAG has advised that he will expose himself to perjury charges, not to mention earn the ire of Duterte’s loyal supporters. What made him change his tune? Was he being pressured back in September to deny the existence of the Davao Death Squad? Who was putting the pressure?

Will the Senate re-open its investigation into the Davao Death Squad? Sen Trillanes has already filed a resolution to do so, yet Sen Dick Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee Justice and Human rights which conducted the September investigation has given the thumbs down. For him, this matter should now be brought to before the courts.

Which brings us to the next question, can Duterte be sued for the alleged serious crimes before he became President? In other words, would Presidential immunity necessitate his impeachment first, before he can be properly charged for the murders that the so-called Davao Death Squad committed thru his orders?

This brings to mind a discussion on the Presidential or executive immunity by constitutional expert Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ where he cited landmark cases decided by the US Supreme Court that dealt with its limits. He then moved on to a similar case closer to home: the prosecution of former President Joseph Estrada for the alleged plunder during his term, and whether he still had immunity after he has be removed from office since the alleged crimes took place while he was President. Our own Supreme Court ruled against Estrada but I don’t think it squarely applies to Duterte’s case as the allegations: murder of which he was allegedly the mastermind, are criminal offenses that took place before he became President. It seems this issue will also end up before the Supreme Court.

Going back to the impeachment of Duterte, this will not happen, yet, as he still enjoys the support of the supermajority in the Lower House. Who knows, the ever-reliable Lozano may yet again beat everyone to the punch by filing an impeachment case only to be rejected by Duterte’s allies in Congress giving the President another year of being shielded from impeachment.

What about extra-constitutional means of removing Duterte from power? Talk is ripe about a planned ouster of President Duterte that will coincide with the upcoming celebration of the EDSA People Power’s 31st anniversary. Would this happen? Is this the reason why this year’s program of commemorating the EDSA revolution has been toned down by the Palace and held within the safe walls of Camp Aguinaldo?

And what does Sec Martin Andanar knows that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana doesn’t that he’s the only government official that’s been vocal about these so-called plans of removing Duterte from the Presidency? The press has already had its field day with Sec Andanar regarding this issue, yet the question still stands: what is the basis for his claims?

Or is this the administration’s tactic of handling the recent retraction and accusation of Lascanas? For now, we don’t know if what he has told yesterday at the Senate, that Duterte was behind the Davao Death Squad after all, or is just really another push by those who want Duterte out of power?

The lawyers from FLAG, now the laywers of Lascanas, are battle-tested lawyers for justice, human rights and accountability. They would not take on Lascanas if they think he doesn’t have the goods or he is not credible.

What will happen next? Only time will tell.

Image by ABS-BCN News

Infographic: Growing Human Organs in a Pig

There’s still a great demand for human organs all the world. And there aren’t enough donors to meet that demand. That’s why scientists are working hard to alternatives to meet the demand and even spare individuals for giving up their own to save another life.

One such research is led by Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte from the Salk Institute, which had made progress in growing human organs in pigs. The process is explained in the nifty infographic below:

grow human organs in pig

If you’re squeamish, you’d never look at pork chops the same way again. Still, it’s a fascinating way of growing organs. There are other ideas being researched on, like growing organs in the lab, or even using 3D printers which have been a trend of late. How it all turns out, the future has good promise for those who are or would need a new organ.

Source: Scientific American

I’m not one of most who’s been wrong about where the Death Star trench was

GenDodonnaBriefing

Quite surprised that most Star Wars fans and those who have seen the films have believed that the infamous trench on the Death Star that Luke Skywalker and his fellow Rebel pilots flew in to get to the tiny exhaust port and blow up the dreaded battle station was its equatorial trench. You know, the most visible feature on the Death Star aside from the dish of the super laser.

io9 has a good post that breaks down why most fans thought it was the equatorial trench based on visual effects artist Todd Vaziri’s story on his blog, FXRants.

I never bothered with this notion because I assumed, as it was quite clear from the scene in A New Hope where General Jan Dodonna’s briefing to the Rebel pilots have clearly shown that based on the Death Star plans, the trench that leads to the exhaust port is perpendicular to the equator. In other words, it is longitudinal or runs north to south on the Death Star’s surface.

Another fact: the equatorial trench was clearly much wider than the trench as the scenes of the trench run have clearly shown that only 3 small starfighters could barely fly through it.

Probably because unlike most of who have seen A New Hope, I paid attention to, in particular the computer animation of the Death Star plans indicating where the trench was, during General Dodonna’s briefing.

Do check out Todd Vaziri’s post as it has lots of good stuff about the final trench run and more Star Wars.

Image credit: io9

How bad is the COMELEC data breach?

Back in March 27, 2016 hackers under the banner, Anonymous Philippines hacked into the website of the Commission on Elections defaced it to demonstrate how weak the poll body’s online security measures are. A few days later, another group of hackers LulzSec Pilipinas made available online the entire database of COMELEC – 338GB in size containing information of more than 55 million voters.

COMELEC Chair Andres Bautista said that no confidential information was leaked. COMELEC has downplayed the scale of the data breach to allay fears that it could compromise the results of the 2016 elections. While a valid concern and the election results were untainted, it brushed aside the other equally great risk for the millions of registered voters whose personal identifiable information has been compromised.

The newly established National Privacy Commission has just finished its investigation of the data breach and had made public the types of personal data that has been made available to anyone online including criminals:

“The voter database in the Precinct Finder application contained each voter’s complete name, date of birth, gender, civil status, address, precinct number, birthplace, disability, voter identification number, voter registration record number, reason for deletion/deactivation, registration date, and update time.”

“The voter database in the Precinct Finder application contained information on each voter’s verified name, date of birth, gender, civil status, post of registration, passport information, with number and expiry date, taxpayer identification number, e-mail address, mailing address, spouse’ name, the complete names of the voter’s mother and father, the voter’s addresses in the Philippines and abroad, post or country of registration, old registration information, Philippine representative’s complete name, citizenship, registration assistor, profession, sector, height and weight, identifying marks, biometrics description, voting history, mode of voting, and other textual reference information for the voter registration system.” the decision further reads, depicting how much personal data are now most likely in the hands of criminal elements as a result of the COMELEC data breach.

Here’s a rundown of the personal identifiable information that has been leaked:

  • voter’s verified name
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • civil status
  • post of registration
  • precinct number
  • birthplace
  • disability
  • voter identification number
  • voter registration record number
  • reason for deletion/deactivation
  • registration date and update time
  • passport information with number and expiry date
  • taxpayer identification number
  • e-mail address
  • mailing address
  • spouse’ name
  • complete names of the voter’s mother and father
  • voter’s addresses in the Philippines and abroad
  • post or country of registration
  • old registration information
  • Philippine representative’s complete name
  • citizenship
  • registration assistor
  • profession
  • sector
  • height and weight
  • identifying marks
  • biometrics description
  • voting history
  • mode of voting
  • other textual reference information for the voter registration system

To criminals who is into identity theft, use of forged documents and IDs, impersonation, blackmail and harassment, the COMELEC data leak is a gold mine.
If you’re a registered voter, you are vulnerable to hacking of your social media and other online accounts, identity theft which would compromise your bank accounts, utilities, academic or professional records, etc it could even be used to manipulate the next elections.

The NPC is just right in recommending the filing of criminal charges against COMELEC Chair Andres Bautista as he is liable for this catastrophic violation of Republic Act No 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

I don’t know how else to say it, but this has really got me scared.

Cavite Number Coding Scheme

Cavite number coding scheme

It’s now official. Starting January 9, 2017 the Number Coding Scheme in the Province of Cavite will start its dry run. During the dry run period, only warning tickets will be given to violators. Strict implementation will begin on February 1, 2017 so full penalties and fines will be imposed.

It follows the same schedule in Metro Manila based on the license and conduction sticker ending in the following numbers:

  • 1 and 2: Monday
  • 3 and 4: Tuesday
  • 5 and 6: Wednesday
  • 7 and 8: Thursday
  • 9 and 0: Friday
  • The number coding scheme is in effect during the following time windows: 6AM to 9AM and 3PM to 7PM. It applies to all private cars, vans, motorcycles and trucks. The roads covered by the number scheme are as follows:

    Aguinaldo Highway – covering the stretch of Bacoor to Dasmarinas-Silang boundary
    Governor’s Drive – covering the stretch of Carmona to Trece Martires City-Tanza boundary
    Molino-Salawag-Paliparan Road – from Zapote, Bacoor, to Paliparan, Dasmarinas
    Molino Boulevard – covering Talaba 4, Niog 3, Ligas 2, Ligas 3, Bayanan, Mambog 4, Molino 2, Molino 3, San Nicolas 1, and San Nicolas 3 in Bacoor.
    Daang Hari Road – covering the stretch of Aguinaldo Highway, Imus to Molino, Bacoor

    Exemptions

    • All public utility vehicles – jeeps and buses
    • Ambulance, firetrucks, police patrol cars, military vehicles with permanent marking indicating the vehicles as such. Privately owned firetrucks and ambulances are also exempted.
    • Vehicles carrying person/s needing immediate medical attention
    • Government vehicles with government plates
    • Vehicles delivering perishable goods in commercial quantity, which include fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers; raw meat and fresh seafood; ice products; baked products with shelf life of 24 hours; medicine/vaccine expiring within 24 hours; and cooked food/catering
    • Vehicles used by medical practitioner in an emergency
    • Duly franchised school buses and company shuttle service vehicles
    • Vehicles on mission to carry relief goods to identified calamity or highly depressed areas.

    Penalty
    Violators will be fined Php 300.00

    Will this number coding scheme solve the horrendous traffic situation in Cavite? Let’s wait and see…

    Source

    From ‘Free tuition in SCUs’ to ‘not available to all’

    Oblation - UP Diliman by Deondre Ng

    When news broke out that Php 8 billion pesos has been allotted to the Commission on Higher Education’s 2017 budget to allow for free tuition in State Colleges and Universities, the public broke out in celebration. At long last, the dream of a free higher education which the people specially the youth have long struggled for, was at hand.

    KABATAAN Partylist even hailed the move as a ‘game-changer‘:

    The Filipino youth celebrates and embraces this development, which potentially makes the Philippines at par with some of the great nations of the world – including Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Germany – when it comes to providing for free tuition in state schools.

    Part of the statement was warning, that now it seems, turned out to be prophetic:

    We must do everything in our power to have it implemented quickly and with a positive effect on students and the SUC community

    How so? It turns out that when Duterte affixed his signature to the 2017 budget, he vetoed some items and put others under “conditional implementation“:

    Yet, as with all new programs, there is a need to safeguard the proper implementation of the provision of free tuition fee. It is important to underscore that we must give priority to financially disadvantaged but academically able students.

    CHED was quick to dance the President’s tune and clarified what would the “conditional implementation” be actually like, according to CHED chair Patricia Licuanan:

    To bring the country closer to the reality of free college education, the commission will work overtime to ensure that the wisdom and specific intentions of lawmakers will be accurately reflected in the free tuition guidelines it is set to create.

    It will be guided by fairness, cost recovery and alignment of incentives. CHED will ensure that the wide-reaching implications of this major reform in Higher Education will be brought about effectively, and any negative consequences will be minimized.

    She may not have spelled it out, but it means that the Php 8 billion peso fund will no longer cover the tuition fee for all students in state Colleges and Universities, it will be used to further implement the ‘socialized tuition system’ and other scholarship programs in UP and other SCUs. No blanket free tuition for all.

    With this, celebrations for free higher education may have to be cut short as these recent developments need the further vigilance and scrutiny of the public specially the youth. Php 8 billion is no small fund. It must be used as intended, to provide for free tuition in state colleges and universities. More on this in the following days.

    Image by Deondre Ng

    Stephen Hawking: This is the most dangerous time for our planet

    the rural poor flock to cities, to shanty towns, driven by hope. And then often, finding that the Instagram nirvana is not available there, they seek it overseas, joining the ever greater numbers of economic migrants in search of a better life. These migrants in turn place new demands on the infrastructures and economies of the countries in which they arrive, undermining tolerance and further fuelling political populism.

    For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

    Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

    Opinion piece on The Guardian