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‘Stalked within your own home’: Woman says abusive ex used smart home technology against her





When Ferial Nijem moved into a smart home equipped with the latest in modern technology, she had no idea she was walking into what would become a living nightmare.

At the hands of an ex-partner, Nijem experienced what she calls “tech abuse.”

“If anybody would walk into this situation, they would think they were walking into a horror movie,” she said.

While smart technology — web-controlled devices like locks, lights, thermostats and cameras — can provide convenience and a sense of security for some, these tools are increasingly being used by others to monitor, harass, stalk and intimidate.

  • Also on Marketplace this week: Can food sensitivity tests really tell you which foods make you sick? And the truth about popular (and pricey) ‘teatoxes’? Watch at 8 p.m. Friday on CBC TV or online.

Looking back at the early days of her relationship, Nijem says she now can see there were signs of trouble. Her partner, at times, was quietly controlling.

“He wouldn’t just touch base with a text; he would call me on FaceTime and ask to say ‘hi’ to the person [I was with],” she said.

That was just the beginning of her ex using technology to keep track of her. Nijem says things eventually took a terrifying turn when the couple’s home was used against her.

The U.S. home was equipped with a built-in smart home automation system, allowing for the lights, heating, blinds, sound system and security cameras to all be controlled from anywhere using apps on a phone or another device.

‘Never outside the reach’

“It’s very convenient: you have total access and control over your entire home,” Nijem said. “But as my experience with home technology grew into [something] negative, then I realized the dangers and implications of what that type of technology can do.

“He was able to monitor me, you know, using the security surveillance cameras, even remotely, from thousands of miles away,” she said. “You’re never outside the reach of your abuser.”

The home Nijem shared with her ex-partner had a high-tech, built-in smart home automation system, similar to the one shown here. (YouTube)

During an especially strained time in their relationship, while they were living apart, Nijem said he maintained control of the house and would use it to terrorize her.

“In the middle of the night, I’m awoken, and my dogs are awoken, by this blaring music over the audio system. You have lights flickering on and off, TVs going on and off,” she said.

“It’s almost as if the house is haunted,” Nijem said. “It is only done to cause you trauma, to cause fear, to cause anxiety.”

Ferial Nijem describes how her tech abuse affected her on ‘a cellular level’:

Ferial Nijem describes how her tech abuse affected her on ‘a cellular level’ 0:51

Nijem said she was powerless to stop it; her partner had set up the system and she couldn’t override his control.

“Shutting down the system meant shutting down the house, shutting down the lighting system for myself as well,” she said.

Nijem shared her experience with Marketplace during an investigation that examined some of the potential risks that can come with smart home technology.

According to a recent forecast from market research firm International Data Corporation, there will be 158 million connected mobility and home devices in Canada by the end of 2018, with the number of smart-home devices alone expected to grow by 60 per cent over the next three years.

New technology for an old problem

As this type of technology becomes mainstream, it becomes yet another tool for abusers, says Laurie Lile, an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Any technology in the hands of an abuser “can quickly turn into a method to control, stalk and cause mental anguish for the partner,” said Lile, who works with the U.S.-based Women of Means program, geared toward helping victims whose abusers are wealthy and powerful.

“For individuals with financial means, a smart home with the latest bells and whistles is becoming a more common way to abuse a partner via technology within the home,” she said.

But smart technology and its ability to be abused is not reserved for the wealthy.

Joanne Baker, executive director of the BC Society of Transition Houses, which works with shelters to help those fleeing domestic violence, says she’s also aware of the dangers and implications of tech abuse.

Today’s technology is simply “a new means by which [abusers] can continue the old behaviour of abuse,” she said.

If your personal security camera is still relying on a factory-default password, there’s a chance it could be streaming live online. (Greg Sadler/CBC)

Baker urges victims who feel they’re being harassed through technology to contact anti-violence advocates, as they’re skilled in tech-focused safety planning.

“She can do a safety audit and privacy audit, and think about the information her abuser might have that is enabling him to use technology that they’re both connected into to terrify her,” she said.

Where possible, Baker suggests victims of tech abuse change their online passwords, use stronger passwords and set up double authentication on personal devices. It’s the same advice that security experts give to anyone with smart home devices.

As for Nijem, she says she contacted local police, but was told nothing could be done because her ex-partner owned the home.

She eventually got the help she needed from a women’s shelter, and now works with organizations that help domestic violence victims by sharing her story and the lessons learned with others.

One piece of advice? “You can get through this,” she said. “Join a program. Find a support group. Grab the tools and resources for healing. … Do trauma counselling, because PTSD is a big part of domestic violence.”

Nijem also says governments and smart-device manufactures need to do more when it comes to protecting potential victims.

“Domestic abusers, they always can find new and advanced ways to cause harm,” she said. “But these companies need to catch up, the laws and the protective policies need to catch up, because … tech abuse is a growing problem.”


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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future





Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M






Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.


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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study






The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”


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