Welcome to the August 12, 2013 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Cybersecurity Pros in High Demand, Highly Paid, and Highly Selective
CIO (08/08/13) Kenneth Corbin
The demand for cybersecurity professionals is outpacing other technology jobs by a wide margin, according to a Semper Secure survey. Cybersecurity professionals report an average salary of $116,000, which is nearly three times the national median income for full-time wage and salary workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, cybersecurity professionals say they actively seek employers with strong reputations for integrity and those that are recognized as leaders in their field. For top talent, cybersecurity "is about the hottest technology, deployed by honorable organizations, for a purpose that is inherently important," says Virginia secretary of technology Jim Duffey. Cybersecurity professionals cited reputation for integrity, reputation as a leader in cybersecurity, and known for addressing leading challenges in cybersecurity as the most important attributes of an employer, according to the Semper survey. Respondents also indicated that they prefer work that is interesting and important. The survey also found that 65 percent of cybersecurity professionals polled have worked at two or fewer organizations throughout their career. "Many of them want to work for federal agencies and most of them tend to stick with employers for the long term," says NetApp's Lee Vorthman.
Electric Therapy for Medical-Device Malware
Technology Review (08/09/13) David Talbot
University of Michigan researchers have developed WattsUpDoc, a system designed to catch malware on medical devices by noting subtle changes in their power consumption. The researchers say the technology could give hospitals a quick way to identify equipment with dangerous vulnerabilities. They note it also could be applied to computer workstations used in industrial control settings. Hospital devices such as pregnancy monitors, compounders, and storage systems for MRI machines are vulnerable to hackers because they are usually connected to an internal network that is connected to the Internet. The researchers tested WattsUpDoc on an industrial-control workstation and on a compounder, which is used to mix drugs. The malware detector first learned the devices' normal power-consumption patterns. Then it tested machines that had been intentionally infected with malware. The system was able to detect abnormal activity more than 94 percent of the time when it had been trained to recognize the malware, and up to 91 percent of the time with previously unknown malware. The researchers say the technology could alert hospital IT administrators that something is wrong, even if the exact virus is never identified.
NASA Calls on Researchers to Build Smarter Space Robot
Computerworld (08/08/13) Sharon Gaudin
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking outside its own walls to advance robotics technology. The space agency has announced a new challenge that focuses on building a smart robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples while maneuvering over rugged terrain on an asteroid or Mars. The Sample Return Robot Challenge is open to teams from academia and industry, and will offer $1.5 million in prize money that will be dispersed as they complete certain levels of the competition. NASA collaborated with Worcester Polytechnic Institute to offer the competition, which will be judged in June 2014. "The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies that NASA could incorporate into future missions," says NASA's Michael Gazarik. "Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore an asteroid or Mars, and advance robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth."
Ethernet Inventor Bob Metcalfe Discusses Gigabit Future
Government Technology (08/07/13) Sarah Rich
Speaking at the recent Gigtank Demo Day, Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe discussed the future of gigabit communities. "A key to networking and a key to entrepreneurial innovation is critical mass," he said. "Connections to the other gig cities would be a great place to start." Metcalfe's keynote address also covered the evolution of Ethernet. He noted that from the time Ethernet was first developed, and during each stage of building faster Internet connectivity, some individuals thought higher speeds would be too fast, or impossible. However, now that the Internet has reached unprecedented speeds, there are almost unlimited opportunities in innovation of Internet usage. This change can be good for some areas, especially energy, education, and health care, according to Metcalfe. For example, he noted that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a rising trend in education because they are a free or inexpensive way to provide online education to large numbers of people. Although some people worry that the MOOC model does not allow for proper interaction with professors and peers, Metcalfe said that developing a scalable learning community under the MOOC model could be one of the killer apps of a gigabit network.
Twitter Tracker Shows Where Food Poisoning Is a Risk
New Scientist (08/06/13) Hal Hodson
A new machine-learning system can track tweets and show which restaurants are giving people food poisoning. Adam Sadilek built the system, called nEmesis, when he was at the University of Rochester. From January to April, the machine-learning system was used to rank a pool of 3.8 million tweets sampled in New York for relevant words such as stomach and food, and then a crowd of workers from Amazon's Mechanical Turk labeled the 6,000 most promising tweets on whether the tweeter was likely to have food poisoning or not. The system looked for when a person tweeted from a city restaurant, and monitored the account for a few days for keywords such as "throw up," "my tummy hurts," or "pepto-bismol." The program then assigned a health score based on the tweets, which closely matched the official score from the city's food inspectors, and found 120 restaurants that seemed responsible for at least one bout of sickness during the trial. Sadilek, who is now at Google, says Twitter users might try to abuse the system now that they know it exists. For example, he says, "people will start tweeting that they threw up when they know they are near McDonalds."
Google's Project Loon Begins Tests in California
FierceBroadbandWireless (08/07/13) Tammy Parker
Google has planned a series of Project Loon tests for California's Central Valley. In late July, the company launched a small, test version of its low-cost, high-altitude balloons that are outfitted with radio equipment. Google wants to deploy a ring of radio-equipped balloons to fly around the Earth on stratospheric winds 12 miles above the earth and deliver Internet access at 3G or better speeds. The company plans to use plastic balloons equipped with radio gear, processors, and solar panels to deliver wireless broadband access to rural and remote areas. Google will need to address several technical issues, including how to power each balloon's radio equipment and computers to run for weeks at a time, day and night, in frigid high-altitude temperatures. The company also will need to reach agreements with multiple regulators and possibly international bodies. Thus far, Google has launched 30 balloons and initiated a pilot program in New Zealand.
Attracting the Next Cybersecurity Pros
GovInfoSecurity.com (08/06/13) Jeffrey Roman
In an interview, Winnie Callahan, director for business, education, government, and health innovations at the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi's Information Sciences Institute, recently discussed the school's new master's degree in cybersecurity. The United States will need 700,000 new cybersecurity professionals by 2015, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Ideal candidates for the USC program, which begins this fall, will be "the best and brightest" who recognize the significance of information security, and are prepared to address challenges, Callahan says. The program emerged in response to her interactions with professionals involved in critical infrastructure, such as power and transportation at various organizations, including the U.S. Strategic Command and the National Security Agency. USC has recruited several top cybersecurity professionals with government and military backgrounds to teach courses for the new program. Callahan says the United States must focus on engaging students in science and math fields at a younger age, because "if a young person doesn't kind of see something exciting that they can do in some of these harder courses, they kind of self-eliminate as they go into junior and senior high." In addition, she says organizations and schools should try to reach women and minorities at a younger age.
DHS Adds Foraging to Tech Arsenal
Federal Computer Week (08/06/13) Mark Rockwell
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can turn to technology foraging when it does not have a particular technology needed to solve a problem. The concept involves scouring the tech ideas and gear from other agencies, research groups, or private industry, and adapting what is found to make a suitable solution. Such technology foraging became a cornerstone of the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate's mission in 2011. People often think of a lab genius who creates a breakthrough when they think "innovator," but today innovators are also needed to adapt it, package it, and then field it, says Stephen Hancock, head of the S&T tech foraging initiative. "It is the reinventing of invention itself," Hancock notes. For example, in a collaboration with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on disaster-victim detection technology, S&T modified a NASA-developed human heartbeat detection monitor for use in search-and-rescue operations. The program "leverages existing research to save time and money while jump-starting a technology's application for homeland security," says DHS spokesperson Nicole Stickel.
5.5-Million-Euro Virtual Train Tests Project Nears Completion
University of Huddersfield (08/06/2013)
University of Huddersfield researchers have developed DynoTRAIN, a project that could enable manufacturers of rail vehicles to use virtual testing of trains in order to ensure safety standards throughout Europe while saving on development costs. DynoTRAIN aims to accelerate the process of certifying rail vehicles so that they can run safely on tracks throughout Europe. The project relied on the Institute of Railway Research (IRR) to develop modeling software that can simulate the dynamic behavior of railway vehicles, helping to estimate the safe operation of a train in differing conditions. "One of our tasks as part of DynoTRAIN has been to build mathematical tools that take data collected from different countries about the track and synthesize that data into a representative track that you would use in a virtual test environment," says IRR's Yann Bezin. Manufacturers would be able to use virtual test tracks to make adjustments to vehicles based on the conditions in which they would be employed. The researchers hope that DynoTRAIN will help to establish virtual testing as a legitimate route to certification.
From Theory to Practice
MIT News (08/06/13) Jessica Fujimori
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D. student Kuang Xu has developed a way to reduce emergency room waiting times by using predictive modeling. Adding flexibility to services and having some advance knowledge of how many people will arrive in the emergency room significantly cuts waiting time, Xu says. "It turns out that in the flexible system we considered, if you know a little bit about the future, it brings you tremendous improvement even on top of what you already have with this flexibility," he says. "I anticipate, so I vacate a resource earlier on, so I can essentially smooth out the process." To gain this information about the future, Xu used existing models to cull predictive parameters, such as the day of the week and weather conditions, which he incorporated into an algorithm. He says the algorithm improves wait times by 10 percent, cutting the average waiting time by 40 minutes. "I could be solving a computer problem, which is still important, but the ability to possibly save some lives and improve health care by a little bit could be very profound," Xu says.
Boosting Productivity and Inspiring Innovation Through the Cloud
CORDIS News (08/05/13)
The European Union-funded fostering mobile business through enhanced cloud solutions (MO-BIZZ) project aims to demonstrate the importance of mobile cloud computing to businesses by encouraging small and medium enterprises to deliver business solutions that fully exploit the new technology. The project's researchers say MO-BIZZ will help businesses that want to access mobile network assets, such as user billing, short-messaging service, and user location. Mobile cloud computing combines mobile computing, cloud computing, and wireless networks, which can enhance the capabilities of mobile devices and provide a much richer user experience. The researchers say MO-BIZZ uses the resources of various clouds and network technologies to provide unrestricted functionality, storage, and mobility. Over the next three years, MO-BIZZ plans to develop several pilot projects to showcase the potential of mobile cloud computing as a productivity booster for companies. The project also will build a strategic global approach to the mobile cloud and develop international cooperation in order to create a thriving community of developers. The researchers note that app developers and technology providers who want to be able to easily deploy their business apps and access mobile network assets stand to benefit the most from this technology.
Hardware Trick Could Keep Cloud Data Safe
IEEE Spectrum (08/05/13) Davey Alba
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created Ascend, a chip that could protect data in the cloud by concealing the way in which central processing units request information in cloud servers. Assuming that data is already encrypted, Ascend addresses side-channel attacks in which perpetrators gain information about a program's behavior by gauging measures such as computation time, memory traffic, and power consumption. Ascend changes the pattern of memory-access events by rearranging all memory addresses into a binary-tree structure, which resembles a family tree in which each node is connected to only one parent node but could have multiple child nodes. Memory addresses are randomly assigned to a node, with a location on a path that can start from the tree's root and end at the tip. Using this approach, the memory controller reads not only the address of the data that is being requested, but the whole path of addresses. Although this technique, called Oblivious RAM, is not theoretically new, this is the first time that a processor design has directly incorporated applications for the method. The MIT team believes that hardware is preferable to the more typical software approach to security because hardware is designed more carefully and offers greater stability.
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