Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the October 19, 2009 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

HEADLINES AT A GLANCE


Jeff Dozier of UCSB's Bren School Wins Microsoft Research's Jim Gray Award
University of California, Santa Barbara (10/16/09) Desruisseaux, Paul

University of California, Santa Barbara professor Jeff Dozier has received Microsoft Research's second annual Jim Gray eScience Award. The award was created to honor the memory of the late Microsoft visionary in data-intensive computing, and Dozier was recognized because of the impact that his research in remote sensing, water resources, and climate change has had on environmental science and computer science. "Jeff Dozier's work epitomizes what the Jim Gray eScience Award is all about ... using data-intensive computing to accelerate scientific discovery and, ultimately, to help solve some of society's greatest challenges," said Microsoft's Tony Hey, who presented the award during the recent 2009 eScience Workshop at Carnegie Mellon University. Dozier said he first met Gray while serving on a National Academy committee in the early 1990s. He noted that he was interested in taking advantage of large data streams back when he served as senior project scientist in the early days of NASA's Earth Observing System. "Over the years, we had many fruitful exchanges about current technology and the likely computing future," Dozier said.


IT Jobs Will Expand Globally by Nearly 6 Million in 4 Years
eWeek (10/16/09) Sears, Don E.

IDC predicts that by 2013, jobs in information technology (IT) will expand by 5.8 million worldwide, and that 75,000 new businesses will be created during that time. IDC says that growth in software and cloud computing will be major factors in new business and job creation, and expects new cloud-based businesses to generate $800 billion in revenues by 2013. IDC also predicts that IT spending will increase to $1.7 trillion annually by 2013, up from $1.41 trillion in 2009, in the 52 countries covered in the report. The rate of increase in IT spending will be more than three times the expected rate of gross domestic product growth in the 52 countries. "The advantages of a growing IT sector are more extensive than the raw numbers alone suggest," the IDC report says. "IT jobs tend to be higher skilled than most others, particularly in emerging economies, and countries with higher computerization can be more competitive in world markets." Information Technology and Innovation Foundation founder Robert D. Atkinson says the past 20 years have shown how investments in IT innovations foster economic growth. Atkinson says that continued IT innovation and investment will help to jump-start the economy out of the current recession and will significantly contribute to job and new business creation.


Q&A: Defcon's Jeff Moss on Cybersecurity, Government's Role
CNet (10/16/09) Mills, Elinor

Defcon founder and organizer Jeff Moss, who was named to the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council in June, notes that there is a desire in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies to augment the cybersecurity alert system as well as adopt Web 2.0 technologies. "It goes back to this theme I keep hearing from people there that they need to fully engage in the cyber area with distributing information," he says. "They want to be more transparent and they want to communicate information faster to broader audiences in different ways. The hang-up seems to be, what are the best ways to do it?" Moss says that DHS has been authorized to hire as many as 1,000 cybersecurity employees over the next three years, but he does not think that specialists are available in such numbers. Moss says agencies' fierce protection of their bureaucratic fiefdoms plays a part in the U.S. government's inability to respond adequately to a cyberattack. He acknowledges that the position of cybersecurity czar has been marked by a lot of turnover, and he presents a theory that "the longer you go without a czar the more they realize that maybe they don't need one, that what they envision what a czar doing, the role is changing." Moss argues that the position should be one tasked with coordinating intelligence, civilians, and the military. "So it's probably more important to get the right person and explain the position so they don't end up with one of these 'all the responsibilities and none of the authority' situations, which is what it sounded like, [a] multiple reporting structure with little budget and little staff and no real authority," he says.


Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2010 Conference: Call for Proposals
USACM Technology Policy Weblog (10/16/09)

Organizers of the 20th annual ACM Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference, which takes place June 15-18, 2010, in San Jose, have announced a call for proposals to help shape the program for next year's gathering. The theme of the conference is Computers, Freedom, and Privacy in the Networked Society and seeks to address how constant connection in social, communication, information, and physical environments impacts freedom and privacy, and how computers can be used to improve freedom and privacy. Organizers are seeking suggestions for speakers, topics, workshops, tutorials, and panel sessions. The proposals should take advantage of the location of the conference, include a diverse set of panelists and new voices, offer a number of perspectives on challenging issues, and explore cutting-edge technology, legal, and policy issues. Possible topics include social networks, cloud computing, surveillance networks, anonymity in a networked world, ethics and computing, accessibility, open source, and media concentration, advertising, and political campaigning on the Internet. The final program will be assembled partly from the proposals. The early bird deadline for proposals is Dec. 1, 2009, and the final deadline is Jan. 31, 2010.


Tracking Devious Phishing Websites
Technology Review (10/16/09) Naone, Erica

Internet security experts have discovered that many phishers are using a trick called a flux, which allows a fake Web site to rapidly change its URL, making it difficult for defenders to block phishing sites or warn unsuspecting users. New research has found that about 10 percent of phishing sites are now using flux. Indiana University professor Minaxi Gupta says that because phishers often have access to thousands of hijacked machines they can quickly move a site around the Internet, protecting it from security professionals while keeping the fake site operational. To use a flux, phishers must control a domain name, giving them the right to control its name server. The phisher can then set the name server so it directs each new visitor to a different set of machines, rapidly cycling through the thousands of addresses available within its botnet. If the name server also is moved to different locations on the Internet, it is particularly difficult for defenders to pinpoint a central location where the fake site can be shut down. Gupta has identified several methods for detecting a flux and suggests that flux detection should be incorporated into the domain name system itself, because only a fraudulent site is likely to use a flux. There are some legitimate reasons for using a flux, but a legitimate flux looks different from a flux on a botnet. Shortening the detection time of phishing sites by even a few hours can make a major difference and make the scams less profitable for criminals, Gupta says.


Study Backs Open Access to Broadband Networks
Computerworld (10/14/09) Lawson, Stephen

The majority of countries with the most successful broadband deployments have opened up the networks of their main carriers to competing service providers, according to a draft report issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The report, by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, analyzed findings from a variety of market-oriented democracies in an effort to understand what approaches are the most successful at ensuring that citizens have adequate high-speed Internet access. Most of the highest ranked countries use open access policies in which the incumbent carriers must allow competitors to lease capacity on their networks to offer their own services. In comparison, the United States established open access rules in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but has backed away from implementing them early in this decade, according to the report. The study found that open-access policies were a major contributor to the success of many first-generation wired network transitions, and is now helping second-generation wired rollouts. Japan, South Korea, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are among the countries that have used open-access rules to foster strong broadband markets. In most measurements of broadband success, the United States ranks in the middle of developed countries, according to the study's analysis. The U.S. ranks 15th on broadband penetration per 100 people, and 19th in 3G wireless penetration. However, the U.S. ranks fifth in both median upload speed and in a broad measure of prices for low-speed broadband, and ninth in the number of Wi-Fi hotspots per 100,000 people.


UAB International Conference Focuses on Preventing High-Capacity Computer Data Theft
University of Alabama at Birmingham (10/14/09) Hayenga, Andrew

At the recent International Conference on Applied Modeling and Information Security Systems, high-performance computing researchers cautioned that worldwide computer use puts a growing amount of digitally stored modeling, design, and supercomputer-processed projects at risk for theft by hackers and called for renewed vigilance in field-related data security. "Modeling and computing helps to solve the world's complex problems, but the information we process on the high-speed devices of our field can easily be abused if lost to those with ill intent," says Bharat Soni of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which hosted the conference. "That is why our conference has focused on securing the data we generate as researchers." At the conference, applied modeling information security experts gave lectures on the strategies for securing high-performance computing data, with an overall theme of creating awareness for the threat of data theft. "Now when we work to generate new information and data, we will know to protect it," says Eastern Illinois University professor and conference chair Suhrit K. Dey. "The information developed in computer modeling is the intellectual property of the researchers and designers, and we do not want it abused."


Going Plasmonic in Search of Faster Computing, Communications
ICT Results (10/16/09)

Researchers working on the European Union-funded Plasmocom project have demonstrated some of the first commercially viable plasmonic devices, which they say could lay the foundation for a new era of high-speed communications and computers capable of handling electronic and optical signals simultaneously. The devices, which are expected to be incorporated into commercial products within a decade, use electron plasma oscillation to transmit optical and electronic signals along the same metal circuitry through waves of surface plasmon polaritons. Plasmonics is an emerging nanoscale technology that shares the same benefits as fiber optics--including ultra-high-speed data transfer rates--and the benefits of electronic components. The technology could lead to all-optical computer chips capable of operating at ultra-high speeds, faster communications, and new sensing devices. "For the last five years or so it has been possible to build an optical computer chip, but with all-optical components it would have to measure something like half a meter by half a meter and would consume enormous power," says Queen's University of Belfast researcher Anatoly Zayats. "With plasmonics, we can make the circuitry small enough to fit in a normal PC while maintaining optical speeds." Until now, however, plasmonics had been unachievable due to the limited distance over which plasmons could transmit data signals, which Zayats and his team say they have solved. "I think that we will start to see this technology make its way into commercial applications over the next five to 10 years," Zayats says. "A key breakthrough will be using plasmonics for inter-chip communication, making it possible to transmit data between one or more chips at optical speeds and eliminating a major bottleneck to faster computers."


Field Experiment on a Robust Hierarchical Metropolitan Quantum Cryptography Network
Science in China Press (10/16/09) ZhengFu, Han

The University of Science and Technology of China recently demonstrated a metropolitan quantum cryptography network (QCN) for use by the government in Wuhu, China. The researchers say that combining quantum key distribution (QKD) with a "one-time pad" algorithm can create unconditionally secure communication between users. With that objective in mind, the researchers built a QCN that uses a hierarchical structure with multiple levels and three different existing networking techniques. In the Wuhu QCN, nodes with different priorities and demands are set in the central backbone net or the subnet, and assigned suitable networking methods. All QKD links are based on the BB84 protocol with decoy state method, which provides security for the network. The Wuhu WCN runs the Faraday-Michelson interferometer system, which is a unidirectional QKD scheme capable of auto-compensating for the influence of the birefringence in the transmitting channel, which can jeopardize the performance of QKD systems. Several demonstrations of the QCN show that the stability and robustness of the QKD device is sufficient for practical applications. The researchers say that quantum cryptography should eliminate security issues such as hackers and Trojans.


NSF's Cyber-Network Now Expands Across the Northern Hemisphere and Connects Half the Globe
National Science Foundation (10/14/09) Zgorski, Lisa-Joy

The Taj network, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), has expanded to the Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development (GLORIAD), and now connects India, Singapore, Vietnam, and Egypt to the GLODRIAD global infrastructure. The Taj network will support every knowledge discipline, including high-energy physics, atmospheric and climate change science, renewable energy, nuclear nonproliferation, genomics, medicine, economics, and history. The population of countries with access to the NSF-sponsored GLORIAD program now exceeds half the world. "Science is increasingly data driven and collaborative, and does not respect national borders," says NSF's Ed Seidel. "High speed optical networks are critical to both national and international scientific efforts." NSF's Bill Change says the Taj network provides a new model of international cooperation, will make sharing global network management tasks easy, and focuses on user-leave performance. The Taj expansion significantly extends GLORIAD's existing research and education network and upgrades existing U.S.-China network service from 2.5 Gbps to 10 Gbps, allowing for the placement of high capacity network applications on dedicated lightpaths. Taj principal investigator Greg Cole says the network dramatically expands the world's science infrastructure by connecting scientists, educators, and students with the most advanced services available.


Radio Waves 'See' Through Walls
University of Utah (10/12/09) Siegel, Lee J.

University of Utah engineers have demonstrated that a wireless network of radio transmitters using radio tomographic imaging (RTI) can track people moving behind solid objects. "By showing the locations of people within a building during hostage situations, fires, or other emergencies, radio tomography can help law enforcement and emergency responders to know where they should focus their attention," write Utah professor Neal Patwari and doctoral student Joey Wilson. A study on the RTI-based system involved placing a wireless network of 28 radio transceivers, or nodes, around a square-shaped portion of an indoor atrium and an outdoor area. The strength of the radio signal between the nodes was measured as a person walked in each area. The radio signal strength data was displayed on a computer screen to create a bird's-eye view of the area, which included a blob-like image of the person. A second study showed that an improved version of the system allows for tracking through walls, and demonstrated how variations in radio signal strength within a wireless network of 34 nodes could be used to track people moving behind a brick wall. The system can be used to track a person to within three feet of their actual location. RTI, which is less expensive than radar, measures "shadows" in radio waves that are created when they pass through a moving object or person. RTI has several major advantages, since radio signals can travel through obstructions like walls, trees, and smoke, which optical and infrared systems cannot.


The A-Z of Programming Languages: Arduino's Tom Igoe
Computerworld Australia (10/12/09) Clarke, Trevor

Tom Igoe is a co-developer of the Arduino programming language, which he says was created out of a desire to provide a tool for teaching physical computing to artists and designers, with a specific focus on microcontroller programming. "The assumptions of those coming at it from a background other than computer science or electrical engineering are quite different, and we wanted tools that matched those assumptions," he says. Igoe points out that many people currently being introduced to code and microcontrollers went by the assumption that the computer's graphical user interface was its core interface, and that learning is a matter of copying and tweaking code. Arduino was thus designed to dovetail with that mindset, he says. Igoe calls Arduino the embodiment of "glass box encapsulation," in that it removes the need to look at the lower level code that constitutes the libraries, but still leaves it as an option. In addition, Arduino's hardware designs are completely open source, and the software has been cross-platform from the outset. "The open source nature of [Arduino] has had a huge impact on its spread, I think," Igoe says. "There are tons of clones out there. Many of them aren't even looking for a customer base beyond their friends, students, etc. But there is great learning value in making your own version of a tool you use."


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