Welcome to the May 9, 2014 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Internet Companies, Two FCC Commissioners Disagree With Proposed Broadband Regulations
Wall Street Journal (05/07/14) Gautham Nagesh
Two commissioners at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, along with more than 100 tech firms, are at odds with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to allow broadband companies to charge content providers for access to the fastest lanes. Wheeler says he is willing to reclassify broadband as a utility if necessary to safeguard the open Internet, but plans to go ahead with a May 15 vote on whether the FCC should open up the proposal for public comment. His proposal would let broadband providers charge select users more for access to faster Internet connections, which critics say violates the principles of net neutrality. "Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent," said the tech companies in a letter to Congress on Wednesday. "The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low." A spokesperson for Wheeler says he is open to a "robust public debate" on the issue, while commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says she has "real concerns" about the proposal and the process being used to formulate the new rules
Tim Berners-Lee: World Wide Web Magna Carta by 2015
Computer Weekly (United Kingdom) (05/08/14) Alex Scroxton
World Wide Web founder and inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee on Wednesday again called for a Magna Carta for the Internet as part of the Web We Want campaign he launched earlier this year. Concerned about rising corporate influence, government oversight, and mass surveillance, Berners-Lee would like to complete the groundwork for an Internet bill of rights this year. "People have a feeling that they can't trust that the Web will have the properties that we trust in it in the next 25 years, or even in the next three years," he says. Berners-Lee believes an Internet Magna Carta would help the United Kingdom regain some of the trust lost due to the public's concern about the complicity of British intelligence services in the U.S. National Security Agency surveillance scandal. "What's now in order to re-establish the UK as a place to do business, as a place to store data, is a system that has checks and balances, as the Americans say, that has oversight," he says. "We have to have some sort of oversight to make it accountable to the public in general and to the courts, rather than just the government."
100 Self-Driving Volvos to Hit the Streets of Sweden
Computerworld (05/07/14) Lucas Mearian
Volvo Car Group's Drive Me project aims to have 100 self-driving cars on Swedish roads by 2017. The first prototypes are currently being tested, but they require the driver to continue monitoring the car's performance. "Our intention is that in the final product a driver can actually release the steering wheel without having to supervise so that he or she can do something else with their time," says Volvo researcher Erik Coelingh. Volvo's self-driving cars use radar, cameras, and laser technology to monitor the surrounding environment. In addition, each car uses a private cloud map service of the roads in the area in order to have the most up-to-date data for the vehicle's computer. The public pilot will provide Volvo with insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a part of the natural traffic environment, according to Coelingh. Volvo says this project is unique because it involves legislators, transportation authorities, a major city, a vehicle manufacturer, and real customers.
Government Launches Your Life Campaign to Boost STEM Interest
ComputerWeekly.com (05/08/14) Kayleigh Bateman
The U.K. government has launched the Your Life campaign with hopes of getting more young people interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The government has partnered with 170 businesses and institutions in order to make more than 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships available. More students are taking math and physics at A-Level, but uptake remains very low, says Education Minister Elizabeth Truss. "Too many teenagers, especially girls, don't realize that math and physics can get you anywhere," she notes. Entrepreneurs such as Sarah Wood, chief operating officer (CTO) of Unruly Media, and Edwina Dunn, founder of dunnhumby, will lead the push to show young people how STEM have helped them realize success. "Backing growth in sectors such as science, tech and engineering is part of our long-term plan to deliver economic security and sustainable growth for a more resilient economy," says Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Google, Microsoft, IBM, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, among other organizations, have pledged their support. Cisco Services CTO Monique Morrow says Your Life is off to a great start. "The more closely individuals and organizations from the technology industry work with young people at an early stage, the more likely we are to find and inspire tomorrow's IT professionals," she notes.
Math Makes Mobile Maps Meaningful
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (05/07/14) Monika Landgraf
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers say they have developed a method to ensure mathematically optimal adaptation of the labeling to the perspective and driving direction on digital maps. The researchers say the challenge is in keeping the representation and labeling clear, no matter how the user adjusts the visible range and how the route continues. "When the labelings overlap, jump, or flicker, the added value is lost and a driver distracted by irritating representations may be a danger in road traffic," says KIT researcher Martin Nollenburg. He notes this area of research is of interest to mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists. "When increasing the number of objects in the map, the required computing capacity grows exponentially, and computing capacity quickly reaches its limits, especially on mobile devices," Nollenburg says. To solve this problem, the researchers developed algorithms of higher performance due to a reasonable limitation of the general problem. "Instead of trying to maximize the number of displayed labelings, a good compromise of legibility, computing time, and information depth is reached by keeping the number of labelings in the given section constant," says KIT researcher Benjamin Niedermann.
CSTB Releases a Report on Cybersecurity and Public Policy
CCC Blog (05/06/14) Ann Drobnis
A new report from the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) highlights six key findings about U.S. cybersecurity and public policy. Cybersecurity is a never-ending battle, and a permanent solution is unlikely to be found in the foreseeable future, according to CSTB, a part of the National Academy of Sciences. The CSTB study also determined that individuals, companies, government agencies, and the nation put much value on reducing losses and damage from cybersecurity breaches. Improving cybersecurity requires efforts to more effectively and widely use what is known about cybersecurity improvement, as well as efforts to develop new knowledge about cybersecurity, while publicly available information and policy actions thus far have not galvanized the country. Although the issue is important to the United States, the nation has other interests which may conflict with the imperatives of cybersecurity, and tradeoffs are inevitable, the report notes. Moreover, the report says offensive operations in cyberspace to advance U.S. interests raise important technical, legal, and policy questions that have yet to be aired publicly.
How Anybody Can Measure Your Computer's Wi-Fi Fingerprint
Technology Review (05/06/14)
Computer security experts at the Technicolor Security and Content Protection Labs in Rennes, France, have discovered a method of uniquely identifying a computer by the way it accesses Wi-Fi resources. Their technique could help protect wireless networks from attacks such as MAC spoofing, in which a hacker hijacks a computer's MAC address to utilize its authorization. The researchers found that most computers have a "Wi-Fi fingerprint" with unique characteristics such as transmission rates and frame inter-arrival time. The team analyzed all the wireless traffic broadcast on a particular Wi-Fi channel in a number of different environments, using a standard wireless card that would be accessible to ordinary users. "We find that the network parameters transmission time and frame inter-arrival time perform best in comparison to the other network parameters considered," the researchers say. Under ordinary circumstances, such as using their office network, the researchers were able to identify machines with up to 95-percent accuracy. Under challenging conditions, such as during a conference with many users accessing a network simultaneously, the team was able to accurately identify up to 56 percent of devices. The researchers note wireless fingerprinting could be improved in the future and applied to a range of situations.
University Consortium Receives Funding to Develop State-of-the-Art Communication Network
University of Southampton (United Kingdom) (05/07/14)
University of Southampton researchers are part of a consortium to develop a national infrastructure that will enable experimentation on future Internet technologies. The UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council is funding a new National Dark Fiber Infrastructure Service that will enable researchers to access a dark fiber network using dedicated optical fiber connections. The network will connect the University of Southampton and the other participating universities to research networks around the world. Dark fiber is optical fiber that users can access at the optical data level, instead of the electrical data level used in conventional communications networks. "This network will allow our researchers at the University of Southampton to experiment with new technologies that will shape a faster, future-proof Internet, capable of meeting our demands both now and in years to come," says Southampton professor Periklis Petropoulos. Southampton researchers will be able to access the new network, called Aurora2, both at the university and remotely.
IU Computer Scientists Develop Tool for Uncovering Bot-Controlled Twitter Accounts
IU Bloomington Newsroom (05/06/14) Stephen Chaplin
Indiana University (IU) researchers have developed BotOrNot, software that helps users determine whether a Twitter account is operated by a human or an automated social bot. The researchers say the program is based on technology designed to counter misinformation and deception campaigns. BotOrNot simultaneously analyzes more than 1,000 features from a user's friendship network, their Twitter content, and temporal information. The system then calculates the likelihood the account may or may not be a bot. "We have applied a statistical learning framework to analyze Twitter data, but the 'secret sauce' is in the set of more than 1,000 predictive features able to discriminate between human users and social bots, based on content and timing of their tweets, and the structure of their networks," says IU professor Alessandro Flammini. The researchers used examples of Twitter bots, provided by Texas A&M University professor James Caverlee, to train statistical models to discriminate between social bots and humans. The researchers say BotOrNot can identify Twitter bots with 95-percent accuracy.
Latinos Aren't Interested in STEM Fields and That's a Problem for Everyone
NextGov.com (05/07/14) Brittany Ballenstedt
U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) employment has risen by more than 30 percent, from 12.8 million jobs in 2000 to 16.8 million in 2013, according to the new U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index. In addition, the number of undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees granted increased during this period, although the proportion in terms of total degrees granted was relatively flat. However, the number of available STEM jobs continues to significantly outpace the number of people qualified for those positions. There also is little evidence that government initiatives have had a significant impact, with the lack of progress among female and minority students in STEM fields remaining a key issue. The continuing split that puts Asian-Americans and white males on the side of those driven to acquire STEM skills and women, blacks, and Latinos on the other is a big part of the problem, says U.S. News & World Report editor Brian Kelly. "The labor pool going forward will not be made up mainly of white males and Asian-Americans," he predicts. "The labor pool will be increasingly Latino, and that group is not advancing in STEM fields right now."
Dogs, Technology, and the Future of Disaster Response
The Abstract (05/05/14) Matt Shipman
A team of U.S. researchers led by North Carolina State University (NCSU) are working on the Smart Emergency Response System (SERS), which aims to use cyber-physical systems to share information and coordinate emergency and disaster response and recovery. The researchers have developed a high-tech harness equipped with sensors and other devices that make rescue dogs more effective at collecting information. "We're not trying to replace dog handlers; we're trying to open the door to new possibilities," says NCSU professor David Roberts, director of the Canine Instruction with Instrumented Gadgets Administering Rewards (CIIGAR) Lab. The SERS dog harnesses include environmental monitoring, dog monitoring, and active communication. The dogs will be equipped with passive environmental monitoring devices that enable them to retrieve and transmit data from the field in real time. "We're developing a platform for sensors that is designed to be plug-and-play, allowing emergency responders to further customize the harness," says NCSU professor Alper Bozkurt, director of the Integrated Bionic Microsystems Laboratory. The harness also includes new sensors that monitor a dog's behavior and physiology.
Free Game Programming Curriculum Invades Math Classes
Campus Technology (05/01/14) Dian Schaffhauser
Code.org and the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC) plan to use the Bootstrap curriculum to help educators learn how to teach students algebraic and geometric concepts with computer programming. The two nonprofits will use middle-school lessons within schools and districts where they have a presence. Code.org and CSNYC promote adding computer science classes to schools starting in early grades. The curriculum is free and aligns with Common Core math standards. Launched as a 10-week after-school program, Bootstrap is now transitioning to become an in-school program in which students learn a programming language and other concepts and create a game. "The whole curriculum is a sequence of steps that get you to the point where you have a working game at the end," says Brown University professor and Bootstrap co-developer Shriram Krishnamurthi. "Once we tell [students] they're going to make their own game, the motivation is done."
Molecular, Neural and Bacterial Networks Provide Insights for Computer Network Security, Carnegie Mellon Researchers Find
Carnegie Mellon News (PA) (04/30/14) Byron Spice
The robust defenses that yeast cells have evolved to protect themselves from environmental threats can be used to design computer networks and analyze how secure they are, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) Machine Learning Department. The researchers say they factored environmental "noise" into an established model for the evolution of molecular connections, which resulted in an algorithm that gives rise to a rich range of architectures found in biological, computer, and other types of networks. The approach is particularly helpful in understanding how networks respond to cascading failures, whether an overloaded power grid or a computer network being overwhelmed by fake identities in a Sybil attack. The generative model the CMU team developed can be used to tailor networks to the environments in which they are expected to operate. The team modified the duplication-divergence model used to explain the evolution of molecular networks, which they used to develop a method than can be implemented to generate or evaluate the interconnection, or topology, of networks that work in a variety of environments.
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