This is rather impressive. A software engineer named Vladimir Yuzhikov who specializes in signal and image processing has released a tool that takes some of the best known methods for enhancing an out-of-focus image and makes the process a point-and-click affair. Take a look at the before and after examples below:
Unfortunately, it now appears that we in security will have to concede that yes – SOMETIMES – you can get details out of a blurry image like they do on TV… Now if only Mr. Yuzhikov can find a way to read a license plate from four pixels of a blurry CIF recording…
Here is the project page: Vladimir Yuzhikov
A Windows executable can be downloaded from GitHub here.
…and it’s only a matter of time before the technology creates real problems here in the U.S.
Facebook and other online services are amassing vast amount of user data linked and tagged to identifiable images. What they (and others) will do with this information remains to be seen, but the range of possibilities is concerning to many. This article from c|net summarizes the current state of regulation and concern nicely, and also points to a NIST project from 2010 that is worth a look if you are interested in understanding the present capabilities of the technology. Police departments are expanding their use of image matching as well, as this article reports.
According to the NIST report summary, “the best algorithm correctly recognized 92 percent of unknown individuals from a database of 1.6 million criminal records.” Presumably, this performance has only improved in the last two years. For security professionals, those numbers are exciting – and problematic. We now have the ability to compile massive public and private “suspect” databases if we choose, and search times will be sufficiently fast for most applications, but between false positives and misses – the technology must be carefully deployed, and expectations managed.
The NIST report can be viewed here.
It seems unlikely that facial recognition programs will be allowed to expand unchecked. At a minimum, we should expect a minefield of state and local restrictions that will be enacted in the years to come…