A Steem essay discusses a Venezuelan working group that has formed to meet the country's need for respirators; Harvard professors think autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt everything; A new malware can jump air gaps and has hallmarks state sponsorship; A new AI technique can find and classify galaxies in astronomical data; and the Brave browser discloses more about it's anti-fingerprinting technique, farbling
Science and technology digest for May 18, 2020
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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt.
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- Steem @lanzjoseg:The artificial respirator, created by Venezuelans - At the present time, the country of Venezuela has about 100 functioning respirators and expects to need about 5,000 to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to close the gap, a group of Venezuelan professionals has launched the "Oxygen Pro" project to produce more. The CEO, Raul Rodriguez, announced the project on his Twitter feed. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @lanzjoseg)
- Autonomous Vehicles Are Ready to Disrupt Society, Business—and You - Subtitle: The rise of autonomous vehicles has enormous implications for business and society. Professors William R. Kerr and Elie Ofek explore the factors influencing development and commercialization as well as future success and consumer adoption in their recent case studies cases. - GM first predicted self-driving cars in their exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, and produced their first self-driving vehicle in 1958. More than 60 years later, we're reaching a point where the widespread deployment of these vehicles is starting to seem realistic. Kerr began his studies of this topic through his involvement in a class called, "Managing the Future of Work." Ofek became interested because of his interest in studying the impact of breakthrough technologies. Picturing a world with fully-developed autonomous vehicles, Kerr imagines a world with "a lot of Roombas" without bumping into the couch, and Ofek imagines a world where humans adjust quickly to the new capabilities and come to take it for granted. The pair agree that the modern impetus into the growth of autonomous vehicles came from an early 2000s DoD mandate that 1/3 of vehicles on the battlefield should be autonomous, and then they describe a six-tier framework for autonomy that increases from level 0, where a car needs a human operator for everything to level 5, where the car almost never needs a driver. Kerr argues that publicly available products are now at level 2 (Tesla), with level 3 being tested in the research labs. Ofek arues that the business utilization of autonomous vehicles will start with companies like Amazon and Apple, followed soon after by firms like Uber and Lyft. Additionally, he says that there are about 2,000 startup companies working on the technology.
- New Ramsay malware can steal sensitive documents from air-gapped networks - Subtitle: Ramsay can infect air-gapped computers, collect Word, PDF, and ZIP files in a hidden folder, and then wait for exfiltration. - Researchers have identified three different version of the new, Ramsay, malware, two are injected from malicious word documents, and the third is injected from a malicious installer. This is significant because of its rarely encountered ability to jump between airgapped computers - i.e. computers that are not network connected. Security expert, Bruce Schneier, suggests that the most likely organizations who would want this capability is a state actor, and the researchers suggest that it has similarities to a previous malware that was developed by a hacking group known as, DarkHotel. Many believe that DarkHotel has common interests with the South Korean government. -h/t Bruce Schneier
- Powerful new AI technique detects and classifies galaxies in astronomy image data - Subtitle: UCSC researchers developed a deep-learning framework called Morpheus to perform pixel-level morphological classifications of objects in astronomical images - Morpheus is described as a, "deep-learning framework that incorporates a variety of artificial intelligence technologies developed for applications such as image and speech recognition". The program was developed by Brant Robertson and Ryan Hausen from the Computational Astrophysics Research Group and published on May 12 in Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. The pair are also going to release the code to the public and providing online demonstrations. Describing the need for the technology, Robertson says, "There are some things we simply cannot do as humans, so we have to find ways to use computers to deal with the huge amount of data that will be coming in over the next few years from large astronomical survey projects." -h/t Communications of the ACM: Artificial Intelligence
- Brave Fingerprinting Protections v2: Farbling for Greater Good - This is the fourth article in a series on Brave's new privacy protections that make use of randomizations in order to protect browser users from tracking by browser fingerprints. The traditional method for protecting users from fingerprinting has been to make users look as similar to each other as possible. Since it's not possible to make users look identical, however, this technique is less than perfect. In recent updates of their browser, Brave has been adding a technique that they call, "farbling, which involves the use of randomized output from the browser settings that can be used for tracking and identification, making a user look different from themselves upon repeated checks. The so-called farbling protections have three levels of strenght: off where they re disabled; default where they are engaged, but done in a way that is meant to be interoperable; and Maximum which engages farbling in a way that is so strong that it risks breaking certain web pages. As of now, the protections are only available in the browser's nightly builds, but the company hopes to make them available in the released version within a few months. Click through for the particular browser settings that will receive farbling. Later, the firm also hopes to further improve protections against fingerprinting by working with the W3C to improve standards.
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