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Welcome to the February 10, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Lye-Poisoning Attack in Florida Shows Cybersecurity Gaps in Water Systems
NBC News
Kevin Collier
February 9, 2021

Experts said hackers' attempted lye-poisoning of a drinking water reservoir in Oldsmar, FL, last Friday highlights the vulnerability of the U.S. water supply. The hackers logged into a TeamViewer account to remotely access a computer associated with a water treatment plant, and sent instructions to poison the water. The nation's approximately 54,000 drinking water systems operate independently via either local governments or small corporations, using thousands of security setups often run by generalists. Cybersecurity consultant Bryson Bort said installing a computer program that lets users control sensitive industrial systems is very common in industrial systems that lack sufficient security expertise.

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Study Shows Online Searches Can Help Foreshadow Future Covid-19 Surges, Declines
New York University
February 7, 2021

New York University (NYU) researchers have found that online searches for mobile and isolated activities can help predict future Covid-19 surges and declines. The researchers analyzed searches from March through June 2020 in all 50 states, categorizing searches along a mobility index track concerning interactions with others outside the home, or an isolation index track covering at-home activities. Mobility and isolation indices used Google Trends data to track mobility- and isolation-related search trends, complemented by a net movement index of the difference between these two indices. Analysis of Covid-19 case growth 10 to 14 days later using data from state and local health agencies indicated that the net movement index correlated with new cases reported weekly in 42 states. NYU's Megan Coffee said, "Our research shows the same techniques could be applied to combatting a pandemic by spotting, ahead of time, where outbreaks are likely to occur.”

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In Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve, guide Mempong Gaston, left, and engineer Jacob Lewallen use a FieldKit weather station to gather data on the forest. Better Data, Cheaper Tech Promise to Unlock Nature's Secrets
The Wall Street Journal
Jackie Snow
February 8, 2021

Startups are developing open source environmental monitoring technology to effect inexpensive data collection, in order to support the work of nature conservationists. The groups behind the tech are often nonprofits, which usually come up with more affordable hardware and software than their commercial counterparts. Much of this technology is built atop open source tools designed for more general applications, like Raspberry Pi's single-board computer chips, and Google's Tensorflow machine learning platform. To help analyze all the collected information, citizen scientists have volunteered to annotate, transcribe, or otherwise organize data on many projects. Said Alasdair Davies, co-founder of the nonprofit Arribada Initiative, “We are riding the wave going on in the commercial space and repurposing it for conservation.”

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'Audeo' Teaches AI to Play the Piano
UW News
Sarah McQuate
February 4, 2021

University of Washington (UW) researchers have developed a system that generates audio from silent piano performances. UW's Eli Shlizerman explained the goal of the research “was to see if artificial intelligence could generate music that was played by a pianist in a video recording." Audeo decodes what transpires in the video and translates it into music, by first detecting which keys are pressed in each frame to produce a diagram; it then converts the diagram into something a music synthesizer would recognize as a sound a piano would make. This step de-noises the data and adds more information, like how strongly each key is pressed and for how long. When the UW team tested Audeo's compositions with music-recognition applications like SoundHound, the apps correctly identified the piece with about 86% accuracy. Said Shlizerman, “We hope that our study enables novel ways to interact with music.”

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A lab-grown rib-eye made using 3D bioprinting technology and animal cells. Raising the Steaks: First 3D-Printed Rib-Eye Is Unveiled
The Washington Post
Laura Reiley
February 9, 2021

Israeli company Aleph Farms has unveiled the world's first three-dimensionally (3D)-printed rib-eye steak, cultivated from live animal tissue. The process, which Aleph Farms developed with researchers at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, prints living cells incubated on a plant-based matrix to grow, differentiate, and interact to achieve actual steak properties. Aleph Farms' Didier Toubia said the 3D-bioprinted meat mirrors the sensory quality, texture, flavor, and fatty marbling of traditionally produced rib-eye. He said, "We control the cultivation process, and we can design meat specifically for a market, adjusting the amount of collagen and connective tissues and fat, to tailor meat to specific requirements. The idea is not to replace traditional agriculture but to build a second category of meat."

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Programming Languages: This Old Favorite Tops the Charts Again
Liam Tung
February 9, 2021

Swiss software company Tiobe found C is the top programming language today, accounting for 16.34% of all searches tracked across several search engines and beating out Java, Python, C++, and Microsoft's C#. Although Amazon, Microsoft, and Google engineers are focusing on Mozilla's Rust, which aims to correct memory-related security issues associated with C and C++ code, Tiobe's Paul Jansen said C is relatively stable compared to other languages. Jansen said the top eight programming languages on the TIOBE index has remain unchanged for the last seven years, adding that all except C release new versions frequently.

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Deepfake Detectors Can Be Defeated, Computer Scientists Show for the First Time
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
February 8, 2021

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) demonstrated for the first time that detectors programmed to spot deepfake videos can be beaten. Presenting at the Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision 2021 in January, the researchers explained how they inserted adversarial examples into every video frame, inducing errors in artificial intelligence systems. The method also works after videos are compressed, because the attack algorithm estimates across a set of input transformations how the model ranks images as real or fake, then uses this calculation to alter images so the adversarial image remains effective after compression and decompression. The USCD researchers said, "We show that the current state-of-the-art methods for deepfake detection can be easily bypassed if the adversary has complete or even partial knowledge of the detector."

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A rack of shirts. How Blockchain Could Make Fashion Greener
Isabelle Gerretsen
February 8, 2021

Hong Kong and India-based TextileGenesis is looking to blockchain technology to help guarantee environmentally friendly materials are used when producing clothes touted by fashion brands as being sustainable. The company is using the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies to create a permanent record of every stage of a garment’s production. TextileGenesis' Amit Gautam explained, "The raw material sometimes exchanges 10 hands before it is converted into a t-shirt." The company uses digital tokens known as "fiber coins" to provide a time-stamped record of the movement of physical products through the logistical network. Said Florian Heubrandner of Austria-based textile manufacturer Lenzing, the blockchain-based technology "allows [brands and retailers] to see exactly where the fiber was spun into a yarn, where the yarn was woven or knitted and where the final garment was produced."

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Holography 'Quantum Leap' Could Revolutionize Imaging
University of Glasgow (U.K.)
February 4, 2021

Physicists at the University of Glasgow in the U.K. have encoded information in a hologram using quantum-entangled photons. Like classic holography, the new quantum holography process uses a beam of laser light split in two by shining a blue laser through a special nonlinear crystal, entangling the photon both in their direction of travel and in their polarization. The two streams of entangled photons then travel different paths, one to determine the thickness and polarization response of a target object by measuring the deceleration of the photons while passing through it, the other hitting a spatial light modulator. Said researcher Hugo Defienne, "Using entangled photons offers new ways to create sharper, more richly detailed holograms, which open up new possibilities for practical applications of the technique."

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Researchers Zero In on Zeroes Problem
WSU Insider
Tina Hilding
February 8, 2021

A computer chip designed by Washington State University (WSU) and Duke University researchers saves algorithmic time and energy otherwise wasted by multiplying and adding zeroes when processing relationships data. WSU's Aqeeb Arka said the system employs state-of-the-art resistive random-access memory (ReRAM), which can store memory and execute calculations on-chip, removing the need to access stored memory multiple times in search of data. In simulation, the chip design operated three times faster and with 11 times greater energy-efficiency than graphical processing units. Said Arka, "With our architecture, we could scale down those huge supercomputers into small chips that could be used in our phones."

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Canada’s privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien. Clearview AI's Facial Recognition App Called Illegal in Canada
The New York Times
Kashmir Hill
February 3, 2021

Canadian authorities declared the Clearview AI facial recognition application illegal, with Canada's privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien calling it a tool for mass surveillance. App developer Clearview said it used more than 3 billion photos from social media networks and other public websites to build Clearview AI, currently used by more than 2,400 U.S. law enforcement agencies. Canada's privacy laws mandate obtaining Canadians' consent to use personal data; Clearview claimed it did not require consent to use facial biometric information taken from publicly available photos online. The commissioners balked at the images being used in a manner that the photos' posters had not intended, in a way that could "create the risk of significant harm to those individuals."

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A hacker at work. Doorbell Security Cameras Are Easily Hackable, Researchers Find
Florida Today
Jim Waymer
February 8, 2021

Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) researchers demonstrated that smart home security systems, including doorbells connected to a wireless camera, can be hacked easily. FIT's Terrence O'Connor and Daniel Campos identified flaws in seven models of smart cameras and doorbells made by smart home device vendor Geeni and parent company Merkury Innovations, by reverse-engineering the firmware using cybersecurity firm ReFirm Labs' Binwalk Enterprise Internet of Things devices security tool. The FIT researchers found that hackers only need to figure out the default password the device shipped with in order to gain access. Merkury's Sol Hedaya said updated firmware will be issued this month.

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Code Nation: Personal Computing and the Learn to Program Movement in America
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