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Welcome to the September 18, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Illustration of a tv emitting waves Smart TVs Sending Sensitive User Data to Netflix, Facebook
Financial Times
Madhumita Murgia
September 17, 2019

A study by researchers at Northeastern University and the U.K.'s Imperial College London found that certain smart TVs and streaming dongles transmit information like location and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to Netflix, Facebook, and third-party services, in some cases even when the devices are turned off. The researchers cited Amazon, Google, Akamai, and Microsoft as the most frequently contacted third parties, since they deliver cloud and networking services for smart devices to run on. Meanwhile, a study of smart TVs by Princeton University found apps supported by Roku and FireTV were channeling data such as specific user identifiers to third parties, including Google. Experts warned there is little regulation of how smart devices store and share personal data.

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Algorithm Can Distinguish Cyberbullies from Normal Twitter Users with 90% Accuracy
Binghamton University News
September 11, 2019

Machine learning algorithms developed by a team of Binghamton University researchers can differentiate bullies and aggressors on Twitter from normal users with 90% accuracy. The researchers analyzed behavioral patterns of abusive Twitter users and how they differ from the activities of other Twitter users. Binghamton's Jeremy Blackburn said the researchers then used crawlers, “programs that accumulate data from Twitter via a variety of mechanisms,” to gather the tweets and Twitter profiles of users, “as well as social network-related things, like who they follow and who follows them.” The application of natural language processing and sentiment analysis on the tweets, along with social-network analyses of user connections, led to algorithms that automatically classified cyberbullying and cyberaggression. Blackburn said, "In a nutshell, the algorithms 'learn' how to tell the difference between bullies and typical users by weighing certain features as they are shown more examples."

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DOE Unveils AI and Technology Office
Brandi Vincent
September 9, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has established an Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office to coordinate and accelerate the agency's enterprise efforts to leverage the technology. The DOE currently has a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications and projects under way, including strengthening the nation's national security posture, supporting the nuclear stockpile, and enabling the Internet of Things. The agency also conducts AI research at its national labs, where experts are building three exascale computers and conducting advanced research on four of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world. Said Energy Secretary Rick Perry, "The importance of [AI] to our country, the importance of this to your children, to our families, and economy, can’t be overstated."

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The WMG project trialled a range of CAV security systems U.K. Team Trials Cybersecurity Tech for Driverless Cars
The Engineer (UK)
September 17, 2019

Researchers at WMG (the Warwick Manufacturing Group) of the University of Warwick in the U.K. have tried out four technological innovations with the potential to enhance the cybersecurity and safety of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). The innovations included group signatures, a secure type of communications for vehicle platooning; authentication prioritization, a strategy that prioritizes the messages a vehicle receives according to verified sender information; edge computing via Decentralized PKI, which allows vehicles to confirm the identity of other vehicles much faster than existing techniques, and Decentralized PKI with Pseudonyms, in which new identities are issued periodically to vehicles on the road. Said WMG’s Carsten Maple, “The cybersecurity of CAVs is key to make sure that when the vehicles are on the roads, the data is trustworthy and that vehicle communications do not compromise privacy.”

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How Vocational Education Got a 21st Century Reboot
Erick Trickey
September 12, 2019

Ten U.S. states and 17 countries have adopted the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) vocational education model, which public school districts envision as a way of closing the skills gap. P-TECH concentrates on science, technology, engineering, and math, to prepare learners—mostly disadvantaged, low-income youth—for employment in technology fields requiring more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a four-year college degree. P-TECH schools are free and open-enrollment, supported collaboratively by high schools, community colleges, and industry partners; students in those schools are learning skills in software coding, website design, and artificial intelligence systems.

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Biobots – soft robotic devices powered by skeletal muscle tissue stimulated by on-board motor neurons Researchers Build Microscopic Biohybrid Robots Propelled by Muscles, Nerves
Illinois News Bureau
Lois Yoksoulian
September 16, 2019

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have developed soft biohybrid robots impelled by neuromuscular tissue that activates in response to light. The team used computational models to optimize the swimming devices' abilities. UIUC's Mattia Gazzola said simulations played a crucial role in designing the scaffold around which the biobots grow in order to maximize locomotion, "as we can span a number of possible designs and select only the most promising ones for testing in real life." Added UIUC's Taher Saif, “Given our understanding of neural control in animals, it may be possible to move forward with biohybrid neuromuscular design by using a hierarchical organization of neural networks.”

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A model airplane Engineers Develop Multimaterial Fiber 'Ink' for 3D-Printed Devices
MIT News
David L. Chandler
September 11, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a method of using standard three-dimensional (3D) printers to produce functioning devices with electronics already embedded within them. The devices are made of fibers containing multiple interconnected materials which can light up, sense their surroundings, store energy, or perform other actions. The system utilizes conventional 3D printers equipped with a special nozzle and a new kind of low-temperature filament to replace the usual single-material polymer filament. The new method is up to three times faster than other approaches in fabricating functional devices via 3D printing. MIT researcher Yoel Fink said the new method could be used to fabricate customized biomedical devices, including implants and prosthetics.

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AI Learns to Defy Laws of Physics to Win at Hide-and-Seek
New Scientist
Douglas Heaven
September 17, 2019

Scientists at the OpenAI artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory have developed AI bots that trained themselves to cooperate by playing hide-and-seek. The team had the bots play the game in a simulated environment containing fixed walls and movable boxes; each bot had its own perspective of its surroundings, and could not directly communicate with other bots. The bots that hid quickly deduced the fastest way to fool seekers was to find objects in the environment with which to conceal themselves; the seekers learned they could manipulate objects like ramps to overcome obstacles like walls. The bots learned that cooperation—like passing objects to each other or co-building a hideout—was the quickest way to win. Said Chelsea Finn at Stanford University, “The main limitation of this kind of work is that it is in simulation.”

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How Hackers Could Break Into the Smart City
The Wall Street Journal
James Rundle
September 12, 2019

The more connected a smart city is, the greater its vulnerability to cyberattack, with sensors collecting data from streetlights and buildings one likely attack vector. Connections to smart grids and water-supply systems also could be exploited and hijacked, as could connections to autonomous vehicles. Suggested prevention and mediation strategies include encrypting data being transmitted over smart city networks, and ensuring everything is not on the same network. Portland, OR, keeps its sensors separate from wider urban networks as much as possible; that city also anonymizes its data and deletes collected video footage immediately after analysis, under the aegis of the city’s Smart City PDX program. Meanwhile, officials in New York have established a testing laboratory for Internet of Things devices, which has completed examinations of more than a dozen devices for performance and vulnerabilities. Said Cesar Cerrudo, founder of Securing Smart Cities, “If you don’t cover security from the very beginning, then it becomes very difficult to protect it."

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