Welcome to the June 13, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Adastral Park in Martlesham, Ipswich, the epicentre of BT’s research, technology and IT operations BT Builds the U.K.'s First 'Unhackable' Quantum-Secured Network
Silicon Republic
Ellen Tannam
June 12, 2018

It took two years for BT and the universities of Ipswitch and Cambridge, U.K., to construct a hack-proof quantum-secured high-speed fiber network between its laboratories in Ipswich and Cambridge in the U.K. The completed quantum-secured network link extends across a standard fiber connection, spanning many BT exchanges across 120 kilometers. The link can transfer data at speeds of 500 Gbps, and was deemed "unhackable" due to its reliance on single photons to relay encryption keys across the fiber. Any attempt to intercept communications will trigger a tampering alert, neutralizing the stolen photons and rendering the data stream indecipherable. "This quantum-secured network is an excellent example of the large-scale collaborative research that is feasible because of the creation of the U.K.'s Quantum Communications Hub," says Cambridge's Ian White. "The network will allow detailed analysis of the potential for this new technology to enhance security in advanced communication networks."

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London's Roadmap to Becoming the World's Smartest City
City A.M.
Emily Nicolle
June 11, 2018

London, U.K., mayor Sadiq Khan has released details of his plan to make his city the world's smartest. The Smarter London Together roadmap outlines more than 20 new initiatives to use technology to address challenges such as air quality, urban design, and Internet connectivity. The roadmap focuses its initiatives on five key missions, including increasing user-designed services and promoting diversity in technology; launching the London Office for Data Analytics program, which calls for a cybersecurity strategy and an open ecosystem; fostering gigabit connectivity and smarter streets via a Connected London program; enhancing digital leadership and skills through training, and improving city-wide collaboration by creating institutions to support common capabilities and innovation standards. In addition to the roadmap goals, the mayor's office is exploring initiatives on autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.

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Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand after a 2011 earthquake. How Computer Scientists Model the Role of Religion in Society
Wesley Wildman
June 11, 2018

Boston University's Wesley Wildman leads a research team that uses computers to study how religion interacts with the human mind. The Modeling Religion Project, a collaboration with researchers at the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston; the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University; and the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway, used computational models to evaluate how societies change under stress. The team designed an artificial world populated by computer-controlled characters, or "agents," programmed to follow rules and tendencies identified in humans through psychological experiments, ethnographic observation, and social analysis. In one experiment, the team populated a virtual world with 1,000 agents in order to watch changes in the agents' strength of religious conviction over time. After running the simulation millions of times with various settings and evaluating the resulting data, the researchers found that an agent's religious conviction was influenced by individual characteristics and environmental events. Said Wildman, “Human simulation in action is messier than modeling bridges, but it can be a useful way for researchers to understand just by people behave the way they do.”

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Boys' Interest in STEM Is Decreasing, New Study Says
The Denver Post
Natalie Weber
June 7, 2018

Only 24% of boys are interested in a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), compared to 36% in 2017, according to a recent survey of 1,000 students between 13 and 17 years old conducted on behalf of the non-profit Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young. Meanwhile, girls' interest in STEM-related careers remained stable, though low, at 11%. The study found the main factors influencing teenagers' top career choices are whether or not they are "good at it," and whether it helps people in some way. Teens' decreased interest in STEM may be attributable to a perception that these careers do not have a strong altruistic aspect, says Kim McGrigg, director of communication at Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain. McGrigg underscored the importance of highlighting ways STEM professions can help others, in order to capture and retain children's interest.

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'A System Purely for Developing High-Performance, Big Data Codes'
Rice News
Jade Boyd
June 11, 2018

Rice University researchers this week will debut the PlinyCompute platform at the 2018 ACM SIGMOD conference in Houston, TX. Developed under Rice's Pliny Project banner, the PlinyCompute tool was created to ease implementation of complex objects and workflows on big data platforms. Rice's Jia Zou says PlinyCompute differs from the Spark platform "because it was designed for high performance from the ground up." Compared to Spark, benchmarking showed PlinyCompute was at least twice as fast, and in some cases 50 times faster, at implementing complex object manipulation and library-style computations, Zou says. The Pliny project is aimed at creating programming tools that can "autocomplete" and "autocorrect" code.

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Meeting Updated Phishing Attacks Head On
Virginia Tech News
Amy Loeffler
June 11, 2018

New research from the College of Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) examines the increasing sophistication of phishing attacks. The team conducted end-to-end spoofing experiments on popular email providers by establishing user accounts under the target email services as the email receiver, then using an experimental server to send forged emails, with a fake sender address, to the receiver account. In tests of 35 popular email services, the researchers found that email providers tend to favor email delivery over security; just six email services displayed security indicators on forged emails, while four email services consistently displayed security indicators on mobile email apps. The clickthrough rate for people who received the email with a security indicator was 17.9%, compared to 26.1% without a security cue. The study recommends that email providers adopt SMTP extensions to authenticate emails and implement security indicators. Misleading elements, such as "profile photos" and email "history," should be disabled on suspicious emails, the researchers say.

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Icon for Instagram app on a smartphone screen Squashing Cyberbullying: New Approach Is Fast, Accurate
CU Boulder Today
Daniel Strain
June 11, 2018

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder) researchers have developed a cyberbullying identification technique that blends multiple computing tools to scan massive volumes of social media data, alerting parents or network administrators of abuse. CU Boulder's CyberSafety Research Center first had people teach a computer algorithm to differentiate between innocuous and abusive online comments, and then designed a system whose operation is similar to triage: when a user uploads a new social media post, tools quickly scan the comments and prioritize further checking if the comments appear questionable. Real-time tests on data from the Vine video-sharing platform and Instagram found the system could flag cyberbullying behavior with 70% accuracy, and post alerts within two hours after such abuse is identified.

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And the Top Spot for Software Developers in the U.S. Is...San Antonio?
The San Antonio Current
Sanford Nowlin
June 8, 2018

A study by moving and storage company Sparefoot ranked San Antonio, TX, as the top U.S. city for software engineers. Sparefoot analyzed data from online job site ZipRecruiter to gauge job availability for software engineers, average engineer salary, and urban cost of living by city, and found San Antonio was the second-highest in the U.S. in terms of software engineer pay (average annual wage: $89,621), and ranked third in software developer job opportunities (the number of software jobs advertised, divided by the number of qualified job seekers). In addition, San Antonio's cost of living remains 14% below the national average.

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Tiny footballers coming to a table near you. Watch Real Football Matches in Miniature Played on Your Desk
New Scientist
Chris Baraniuk
June 8, 2018

University of Washington researchers led by Konstantinos Rematas have taught a machine learning neural network algorithm to render two-dimensional (2D) video clips posted on YouTube as three-dimensional (3D) images. The researchers collected footage from the FIFA football video game as a training dataset since the game estimates the position in three dimensions of each player, yielding data about their actual location as well as how they are displayed in 2D. Once that training was complete, the researchers were able to use the algorithm to transform YouTube clip imagery into three dimensions. Viewers using an augmented reality headset can see the enhanced versions of the clips as though they were positioned on a flat surface in front of them. Once certain technical issues are addressed, Adrian Leu of U.K. digital agency Inition believes the process could increase the accessibility of virtual and augmented reality applications.

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3D illustration of a fingerprint Nanotech Sensor Turns Molecular Fingerprints Into Bar Codes
Laure-Anne Pessina
June 7, 2018

Scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, working with colleagues at the Australian National University, have created a system that can detect and analyze molecules with great precision, which could lead to large-scale, image-based detection of materials aided by artificial intelligence. The nanophotonic system can identify a molecule's absorption characteristics without using conventional spectrometry, which is complicated and requires expensive equipment. The system, compatible with CMOS technology, has already been used to detect polymers, pesticides, and organic compounds. The system's engineered surface has hundreds of small sensors called metapixels, which generate a distinct bar code for every molecule with which they come into contact. These bar codes can be classified using advanced pattern recognition and sorting technology. The new system uses nanostructures that can trap light on the nanoscale, which provides high detection levels for surface samples. Combined with artificial intelligence, the system could help create a catalogue of molecular bar codes for various compounds, allowing researchers to rapidly detect small amounts of compounds in complex samples.

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Clone Wars: Finding Buggy Code Copies
University of Saskatchewan
Kris Foster
June 7, 2018

Chanchal Roy at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada is researching finer detection of "cloned" software to spot coding errors that are often duplicated along with the software itself. Together with Queen's University's James Cordy, Roy has created several clone detection systems that seek out similar code fragments. One such system, NICAD, meets the primary criteria for good clone detection: precision, or the ability to identify clones correctly; and recall, indicated by the percentage of clones spotted from the total number of clones in existence. "Once we define what similarities to search for, NICAD can detect modified clones," Roy notes. He also says more than 9 million cloned fragments were vetted by human operators to ensure NICAD's accuracy. Roy envisions a "safe cloning system" that not only spots corrupt clones, but also suggests patching or automatic bug removal strategies.

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Medical Imaging AI Software Is Vulnerable to Covert Attacks
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
June 4, 2018

Deep learning neural network systems for analyzing medical images can be exploited by cyberattackers in ways that humans cannot detect, according to a new study. Harvard Medical School's Samuel Finlayson warns this relatively simple adversarial attack method could be easily automated. His team tested deep learning systems with adversarial examples on three common imaging tasks: classifying diabetic retinopathy from retinal images, identifying pneumothorax from chest x-rays, and finding melanoma in skin photos. The exploits involve altering pixels within images so people would mistake them for noise, when in fact they are deceiving the software into misclassifying the images, potentially up to 100% of the time. "We feel that adversarial attacks are particularly pernicious and subtle, because it would be very difficult to detect that the attack has occurred," Finlayson notes.

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