2019 Seton Hall 16 Months

Welcome to the May 29, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The National Security Agency headquarters in Maryland In Baltimore and Beyond, Stolen NSA Tool Wreaks Havoc
The New York Times
Nicole Perlroth; Scott Shane
May 25, 2019

Security experts say ransomware that has frozen thousands of computers in Baltimore and crippled many city services contains a key element developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The tool, called EternalBlue, was dumped online two years ago by an as-yet-unidentified hacker group, and in the ensuing years foreign intelligence agencies and state hackers have employed it to orchestrate malware infections. Recent activity indicates local U.S. governments with superannuated digital infrastructure and few defensive measures are now prime targets. Former NSA operators said EternalBlue was originally designed to exploit a vulnerability in unpatched Microsoft software, and used extensively for intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. The vulnerability lets hackers spread malware faster and to a greater extent than they otherwise would, and hundreds of thousands of systems worldwide remain imperiled, despite Microsoft's release of a patch.

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OECD Members, Including U.S., Back Guiding Principles to Make AI Safer
Leigh Thomas
May 22, 2019

More than 40 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are supporting principles to improve the transparency of artificial intelligence (AI). The U.S.-endorsed guidelines urge the inclusion of fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI systems, and advise companies to detail sufficient information on how their systems function so people will understand their results and can dispute them. The principles also recommend AI bolster the rule of law, human rights, democratic values, and diversity. OECD head Angel Gurria said, "There are questions around the trustworthiness, the robustness of AI systems, including the dangers of codifying or reinforcing existing biases related to gender or race, or infringing on human rights and privacy." The principles will be presented to the Group of 20 countries later this year.

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Picture of two ships Big Ocean Cargo Carriers Join Blockchain Initiative
The Wall Street Journal
Costas Paris
May 28, 2019

Two European ship operators—France's CMA CGM and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping—have joined a blockchain platform initiative by Danish ocean carrier A.P. Moller-Maersk and IBM with the goal of adding transparency to supply chains and reaping significant savings. Blockchain lets trusted participants exchange information as goods travel through supply chains, while also promising to alleviate the financial burden of paperwork. The TradeLens project can only work with widespread participation across the supply chain, and IBM Blockchain general manager Marie Wieck said CMA CGM's participation is "a signal that the whole notion of blockchain tourism is over and that we are at a tipping point for scale where participants will share data in a trusted fashion." Large companies such as Walmart, Procter & Gamble, and DowDuPont, along with 100 ports, have been testing the blockchain technology to get a better view of their supply chains.

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Picture of a drone Drone Can Transform into a Tiny Car to Slide Under Small Gaps
New Scientist
Yvaine Ye
May 22, 2019

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have developed a shape-shifting drone that flies, and can transform into a car once it touches down. The FSTAR drone can move through a variety of surfaces and environments, making it a potentially useful tool in search and rescue missions. FSTAR is equipped with a wheel and a propeller on each of its four legs. The system flies as a quadcopter, and when it lands and receives the command to transform into a car, a motor on the drone's body pulls the legs from a horizontal position to vertical so the wheels touch the ground. The researchers plan to add GPS and artificial intelligence to the drone, to allow it to navigate autonomously and decide when it needs to change shape.

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Western Australia Launches Its First STEM Skills Strategy
Campbell Kwan
May 28, 2019

The state of Western Australia (WA), covering the eastern third of Australia, has launched a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills strategy with the goal of creating a globally competitive and innovative STEM workforce. The effort, called "Future Jobs, Future Skills: Driving STEM skills in Western Australia," is based on “pillars” that include skills for future jobs; STEM culture; school leadership and teacher excellence; diversity in STEM; and reskilling for jobs. The WA government has committed AU$34 million to achieving these goals, including a four-year professional learning program for 1,000 teachers working in lower socio-economic schools, mentoring programs, digital and technology programs, and the development of a STEM communication campaign. Said the state’s Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly, "If we can get our education, training and policy ahead of the game during this time of rapid change, we can maximize the creation of WA jobs and create a bright future for all."

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Paraguayan Indigenous Community Turns to Technology to Protect Ancestral Lands
Voice of America News
May 26, 2019

The indigenous Isla Jovai Teju community in Paraguay is using technology to safeguard its ancestral lands from deforestation and the encroachment of farming. The tools that trained forest watchers use include software mapping via smartphone, and global-positioning system-based localization and tracking. This project is part of a collaborative effort with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which is training young people from local communities to serve as forest watchers. Watchers capture images of natural landmarks with a smartphone app, identifying the photos with ancestral terms. These labeled images are then used to plot out a map that displays the area's boundaries.

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Algorithm Uses Disease History to Predict Intensive Care Patients’ Chances of Survival
University of Copenhagen
Cecilie Krabbe
May 24, 2019

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have developed an algorithm to predict patients' chances of survival in intensive care units. The algorithm, developed from disease data on more than 230,000 intensive care patients from the past 23 years, could help doctors and nurses determine the most effective treatment for each individual patient. The algorithm is significantly more accurate in predicting a patient's mortality risk than other existing methods. Said Soren Brunak of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, "We 'train' the algorithm to remember which previous diagnoses have had the greatest effect on the patient’s chances of survival."

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The Ghanaian All-Girls Robotic Team Ghanaian All-Girls Robotic Team Winner of the World Robofest Championship
Tech in Africa
May 24, 2019

Team Acrobot, an all-girls robotics team from Ghana, won the 20th edition of the World Robofest Championship, held May 16-18, at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI. The competition included teams from the U.S., South Korea, Egypt, and Mexico, among others. As part of the competition, each team had to develop a robot to complete challenges in 10 categories. Robofest started in 1999, and since then has held competitions in which more than 25,000 students from around the world have participated.

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Multiple Inputs for self-driving cars. Bringing Human-Like Reasoning to Driverless Car Navigation
MIT News
Rob Matheson
May 22, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have invented a system to enable autonomous vehicles to navigate complex environments by checking a basic global positioning system-like map and employing video feeds from cameras. The autonomous control system first "learns" humans' steering patterns on suburban streets via the map/video combination. In training, a convolutional neural network correlates steering wheel spins to road curvatures, as seen through cameras and the inputted map. Once trained, the system can pilot a car along a preplanned route in a new area by emulating a human driver. The system also continuously identifies any mismatches between the map and road features to sense whether its position, sensors, or mapping are wrong, and makes appropriate course corrections. Said MIT’s Alexander Amini, “With our system, you don’t need to train on every road beforehand. You can download a new map for the car to navigate through roads it has never seen before.”

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DNC, RNC Still Vulnerable to Hackers
The Washington Post
Joseph Marks
May 21, 2019

Researchers at cybersecurity ratings and risk analysis firm SecurityScorecard have found the computer networks of both the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which was hacked prior to the 2016 presidential election, and the Republican National Committee, which was hacked during the 2018 election cycle, still contain hackable vulnerabilities. While the DNC and the RNC have made significant improvements since these breaches took place, the fixes may not be sufficient to keep either organization secure in 2020, according to the researchers. The report identified weaknesses in the current networks of both organizations, such as gaps in encryption that hackers could use to steal employees' log-in credentials.

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'Mona Lisa' Comes to Life in Computer-Generated 'Living Portrait'
Jason Daley
May 28, 2019

Researchers at Samsung's AI Center in Moscow and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia have created artificial intelligence (AI)-animated portraits of the Mona Lisa, as digitally modified images or "deepfakes." The researchers used a self-training convolutional neural network to analyze reference images, and then apply facial movements from a series of frames to a static image. These living portraits' performance improves as the network uses more angles and reference images. The researchers suggested the AI could generate "perfect realism" with only 32 reference images. The neural network monitored three different training videos, and the three resulting living-portrait iterations of Mona Lisa based on those frames seem to have distinct personalities.

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