MS in Data Science
Welcome to the December 23, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Facebook Says Group Used Computer-Generated Faces to Push Pro-Trump Message
Joseph Menn; Raphael Satter; Munsif Vengattil
December 20, 2019

Facebook and outside researchers confirmed that the social network has removed a campaign that used computer-generated faces to spread pro-Trump and anti-Chinese government content. Researchers at social network analysis provider Graphika and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab called this the first large-scale disinformation effort of its kind. The researchers said telltales like distorted backgrounds and misshapen ears helped spot the fakes, but the technology is evolving to make artificial faces more believable. Facebook reported 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Pages, 156 Groups, and 72 Instagram accounts participated in the campaign, whose organizers spent over $9 million on promotional advertising. Facebook alleged the campaign was mounted by the U.S.-based Epoch Media Group—known for supporting Trump and opposing his critics—and individuals in Vietnam, although the accounts were more openly linked with the Beauty of Life media outlet.

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Dr Andrea Fratalocchi ‘Perfect Secrecy’ Achieved in Computing as Scientists Make First Unhackable System
Sarah Knapton
December 20, 2019

For more than a century, scientists had proposed that "perfect secrecy" could be achieved if it was possible to change the key which encrypts a message each time, based on the message itself. Now, researchers led by Andrea Fratalocchi of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, have developed a type of optical chip that effectively creates a one-time-only key from data being sent, encrypting the data before sending in a way that the researchers claim is unhackable. Digital information is first stored as light, then is passed through a specially engineered silicon chip containing complex structures that bend and refract the light, scrambling the information. Said Fratalocchi, “With the advent of more powerful and quantum computers, all current encryptions will be broken in a very short time. ... Implementing massive and affordable resources of global security is a worldwide problem that this research has the potential to solve for everyone, and everywhere."

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Smart Cities Initiative Tests In-Building IoT in Active Shooter Exercise
Government Computer News
Stephanie Kanowitz
December 16, 2019

Dozens of first responders recently tested a system that featured real-time video sharing, advanced building sensors, and smart-building technologies, in an active shooter exercise at George Mason University's Eagle Bank Arena. An Internet of Public Safety Things (IoPST) network and technologies throughout the arena were deployed for the exercise, which was funded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Smart City Initiative. Sensors and cameras connected to the network provided situational awareness, and the data was shared securely in real time, enabling the creation of real-time video and data visualizations within an interactive map-based floorplan interface. The exercise was led by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) Smart City IoT Innovation Labs in Virginia and powered by technology from Mutualink, which provides interoperability solutions for first responders. DHS' William Bryan said, “This event demonstrates what homeland security research and development is all about: bringing operational users together with academia and public- and private-sector partners to invest in technologies that keep our citizens safe."

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New Study Shows Just How Bad Vehicle Hacking Has Gotten
Kyle Hyatt
December 18, 2019

A new report from Israeli security firm has painted a grim picture of the state of vehicular cybersecurity. Automobiles have not been immune to the tsunami of Internet-connected upgrades that has swept through everyday life in recent times. The increased connectivity has made life easier, but it has also opened up more opportunities for hackers scheming to seize unauthorized control of automobiles. According to Upstream, there were 150 cases of vehicle hacking in 2019, a 99% increase from 2018. Moreover, the auto industry has experienced 94% year-over-year growth in hacks since 2016. Car manufacturers have turned to white hat hackers and bug bounty programs to expose flaws before malicious actors can exploit them, but bad actors are still responsible for 57% of cybersecurity incidents in the auto industry. About 82% of the hacks are done remotely, an alarming indication that hackers are capable of breaking into cars from the comfort of their own homes.

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Researchers Optimize Additive Manufacturing on Molecular Level
Penn State News
Erin Cassidy Hendrick
December 16, 2019

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers have optimized additive manufacturing by analyzing three-dimensional printing techniques and materials via atomistic-scale models, to visualize the physical interaction and strength of molecular reactions. Penn State's Adri van Duin and colleagues examined reactions in a binder-jetting solution combining chromium-oxide nanoparticles with water-based diethylene glycol; the researchers used the ReaxFF simulation program to create a computational framework, which found excessive curing and sintering temperatures can burn away critical hydrogen bonds, but modifying the solution's constituent ingredients could strengthen those bonds to tolerate higher temperatures. Said van Duin, "By understanding the process on a nanoscale, we don't have to redesign a printer. But you can greatly accelerate the optimization of the manufacturing."

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New System Transmits High-Speed Unrepeated Signal Over 520 Kilometers
MIPT News (Russia)
December 16, 2019

Researchers at Russia's Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and multiplexing telecommunication equipment maker T8 and U.S. industrial developer Corning created a system that facilitates high-throughput data transfer over great distances, without requiring signal repeating en route. The collaborators sent a signal across 520 kilometers (323 miles) at 200 gigabytes per second (Gbps), using commercial cables from Corning. The signal was initially amplified upon transmission and then twice more remotely to avoid attenuation. MIPT's Dimitriy Starykh said the Raman scattering effect enabled the use of passive optical fiber for amplification, and boosted the signal-to-noise ratio at link output. Said T8 CEO Vladimir Treshchikov, "We achieved signal improvement for rates of 200 Gbps and even 400 Gbps per channel. I think, next year we could set a further transmission distance record."

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NIST Launches Biometric Databases to Boost Identity Verification Research
Brandi Vincent
December 18, 2019

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued three new biometric databases to expedite replicable research and clear a path for more secure and accurate identification solutions. Data included fingerprints, facial photos, and iris scans to enhance systems for authenticating identities before granting access. Sensitive identifiers were removed from the datasets, with all participants agreeing to have their information included. One dataset will help manufacturers assess the efficiency of their ID systems when working with legacy fingerprint ink records; another is NIST's first multimodal dataset, connecting individuals' distinct biometric markers for use via combined identification techniques; the third dataset includes scrubbed fingerprint data consensually gleaned through eight commercially available prototype devices. The datasets also feature user guides to help researchers integrate the information into their work.

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The Cigna headquarters in Bloomfield Cigna Uses AI to Check if Patients Are Taking Their Medications
The Wall Street Journal
Agam Shah
December 12, 2019

Cigna Corp. plans to expand its Health Connect 360 system, which uses artificial intelligence to identify gaps in the treatment of chronic diseases, such as patients skipping their medications. The system aggregates medical, pharmacy, lab, and biometric data into a dashboard that is accessible through an online interface, combining algorithms that analyzes data with predictive models to generate recommendations and ways to best engage a patient. The system was tested and partially deployed earlier this year, with results showing success in helping diabetic patients.

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Tool Could Help Researchers Design Better Cancer Vaccines
Broad Institute
Sarah C.P. Williams
December 16, 2019

Researchers at Harvard University, the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a computational tool that could help predict which tumor-specific antigens will be displayed on tumor cells. The researchers used machine learning to analyze a diverse set of more than 185,000 human antigens that they discovered. Then, the team generated a new set of rules that predict which antigens are presented on the surface of a person's cells. The machine learning algorithm analyzed the data and determined new rules dictating which antigens are presented by each human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. The team tested the new rules by inputting a second set of data, from 11 human tumor samples—three chronic lymphocytic leukemia, one ovarian, three glioblastoma and four melanomas—into the model. Said Broad Institute researcher Susan Klaeger, "It identified nearly twice as many antigens than previous approaches, and correctly predicted more than 75% of the HLA-bound peptides that were detected using mass spectrometry."

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Mapping Soil Moisture in High Definition
University of Delaware
Beth Miller
December 17, 2019

University of Delaware (UD) researchers have developed a model for soil moisture prediction mapping from complex datasets. UD's Rodrigo Vargas and Mario Guevara boosted such forecasts' accuracy by 20% with their model, which can cover much smaller areas in finer detail than standard models. The leading models deliver predictions in grids of approximately 27 square kilometers (about 10 square miles) per pixel, but Vargas and Guevara's model can narrow that resolution to 1 kilometer per pixel (just over 0.5 miles). The technique integrates data science and machine learning with quantitative analysis of land surface via topographic data, image analysis, and spatial statistics. Guevara said, "Superficial soil moisture ... influences soil productivity and ultimately soil health, as the water in the first few centimeters of soil is some of the water used by crops or by the soil biodiversity [cycling nutrients] controlling the capacity of soil to produce food, fiber, and store water."

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Robot’s arm Robot With Liquid Metal Tendons Can Heal Itself
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
December 17, 2019

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have developed a prototype for a robot leg with a tendon "fuse" made out of a metal that can repair fractures. The technology works by autonomously melting itself down and reforming into a single piece. The prototype is a life-sized robotic leg with an Achilles tendon made of a cable that transmits force from the foot around the ankle to the lower leg bone. The cable contains a bolt that will snap under stress lower than any other point in the system, meaning it will be the first thing that breaks—sacrificing itself to protect the robot's other joints. The bolt is made of an alloy with a low melting point of just 50 degrees Celsius. After the bolt snaps, internal heaters turn on, and the two halves of the bolt liquefy and melt back together. The whole process takes about half an hour.

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Quantum processor Russia Joins Race to Make Quantum Dreams Reality
Quirin Schiermeier
December 17, 2019

Russia plans to invest about $790 million over five years to build a practical quantum computer and catch up with other countries' quantum technology initiatives. Aleksey Fedorov at the Russian Quantum Center admitted that Russian quantum science is five to 10 years behind that of U.S. and European efforts. However, Fedorov said, "There's a lot of potential here, and we follow very closely what's happening abroad." Researchers at Russia's National University of Science and Technology have produced a prototype quantum processor based on superconducting materials that operates on two quantum bits (qubits), while Google has created a system that runs on 53 qubits. The National University's Ilya Besedin thinks government support could help put Russia's quantum efforts on equal footing with those of other nations.

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