Welcome to the October 12, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Amazon report Amazon Scraps Secret AI Recruiting Tool That Showed Bias Against Women
Jeffrey Dastin
October 9, 2018

Amazon has discontinued an artificial intelligence recruiting tool its machine learning specialists developed to automate the hiring process because they determined it was biased against women. Starting in 2014, a group of Amazon researchers created 500 computer models focused on specific job functions and locations, training each to recognize about 50,000 terms that showed up on past Amazon job candidates' resumes. However, because most resumes submitted to Amazon had come from men, the models tended to favor candidates who described themselves using verbs more commonly found on male engineers' resumes, such as "executed" and "captured." In addition, the program penalized resumes that included the word "women's" and downgraded graduates of two all-women's colleges. Although Amazon declined to comment on the technology's issues, the company said the tool was “never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates.”

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Genome Researchers Show No One's DNA Is Anonymous Anymore
Megan Molteni
October 11, 2018

Researchers at Columbia University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel collaborated with MyHeritage chief science officer Yaniv Erlich, a computational biologist, to determine a majority of Americans with European ancestry can be identified through their DNA via open genetic genealogy databases. The team analyzed MyHeritage's dataset of 1.28 million anonymous persons, tallying the number of relatives with large segments of matching DNA to find 60% of searches returned a third cousin or closer. Further examination of 30 genetic profiles with the GEDmatch open data personal genomics database and genealogy website could make similar identification of relatives at a rate of 76%, yielding a list of about 850 individuals that could be narrowed down using basic demographic information. Erlich says he expects accurate identity searches in genetic databases to be possible on anyone who leaves even traces of DNA behind relatively soon.

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Pentagon Cyber Tests Showed 'Nearly All' New Pentagon Weapons Vulnerable to Attack, GAO Says
National Public Radio
Bill Chappell
October 9, 2018

Most of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) newest weapons systems are plagued by security issues, including passwords that took seconds to guess or were never changed from their factory settings, and cyber vulnerabilities that were known but never corrected, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The study found the Pentagon is “just beginning to grapple with” the scale of the vulnerabilities to its weapons systems. Analysis of data from cybersecurity tests conducted on DoD weapons systems from 2012 to 2017 found by using simple tools and techniques, malefactors could hijack systems and largely operate undetected because of basic vulnerabilities. DoD researchers also interviewed cybersecurity officials, analyzing how the systems are protected and their responses to attacks. The report cited "widespread examples of weaknesses in each of the four security objectives that cybersecurity tests normally examine: protect, detect, respond, and recover."

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virtual driving landscape Waymo's Cars Drive 10 Million Miles a Day in a Perilous Virtual World
Technology Review
Will Knight
October 10, 2018

Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, says its autonomous vehicles have completed more than 10 million miles of driving since 2009. The company also said its software now drives the same distance inside a sprawling simulation of the real world every 24 hours—the equivalent of 25,000 cars driving non-stop—for a total of more than 6 billion virtual miles. The virtual test track enables researchers to examine the latest software updates on a variety of new scenarios, including situations that have not yet occurred in the real world. The system also makes it possible to test scenarios that would be too risky to do in reality, such as how the self-driving vehicle reacts when other vehicles are driving recklessly at high speeds. However, says the University of Michigan’s Ramanarayan Vasudevan, “The question is whether simulation-based testing truly contains all the difficult corner cases that make driving challenging.”

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Forbes Releases Inaugural Top Women in Tech List in Honor of Ada Lovelace Day
October 8, 2018

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day 2018, Forbes has issued its inaugural unranked list of Top Women in Technology, who were cited for bringing diversity to the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) sectors. U.K. computer scientist Sue Black was among the 50 European women on the list; Black created an online course to educate and empower women through technology, and was instrumental in saving the historic codebreaking site Bletchley Park. Others on the list were cited for their contributions to technology specialties including robotics and artificial intelligence. Said Forbes technology writer Parmy Olson, "This list features three generations of women from across Europe who are continuing Ada Lovelace’s legacy, by taking up positions in established organizations or using their entrepreneurial skills to set up powerful and innovative new ventures.”

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Photo of the HyQ quadruped robot. HyQ Steps Across Gaps Despite Getting Yanked Around
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
October 4, 2018

Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology used a convolutional neural network to reduce the amount of time the HyQ quadruped robot needs to plan its foot placement by several orders of magnitude. Using the new technique, the robot can now make dynamic adaptations, enabling it to better withstand potentially destabilizing external forces. The new controller permits HyQ to replan almost continuously, facilitating adjustments in real time, even when in the middle of a step. The convolutional neural network was trained on terrain templates including gaps, bars, rocks, and other obstacles to interpret a three-dimensional map of the area before it, which is created by its onboard sensors. The network is up to 200 times faster than traditional planning systems in terms of computing footstep selection.

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These Scientists May Be Your Next Members of Congress
Popular Science
Lexi Krupp
October 10, 2018

A growing number of aspiring candidates for congressional offices have a background in science, including Jacky Rosen, a congresswoman for Nevada's third district running for the Senate as a Democrat. Rosen, a computer programmer and software developer, said computers first interested her for the problem-solving challenges they provide. She said she applies her software-coding background to politics, explaining that creating software requires "working with big databases and you have lots of teams and end users. Every piece has to merge with each other or the system isn't working right. You work smarter, not harder, by listening to what the clients' needs are. I bring that with me to Congress and everything I do." Last year, Rosen introduced the Building Blocks of STEM Act, a bill that would establish programs encouraging girls to pursue computer science, and apportion funding for research in science education to teach children analytical skills. Said Rosen, "Learning how to solve problems is a universal thing."

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Quantum Technologies Can Be Applied on a Standard Telecommunications Network
October 2, 2018

Researchers at the Research Center for Computational Simulation in Spain have integrated a quantum cryptography network into a commercial optical network via technologies based on software-defined networking. This development could permit the implementation of quantum and classical network services in a flexible, dynamic, scalable manner. The network relies on a fiber infrastructure that connects three facilities in the Madrid metropolitan area, in a trial that started last May. The researchers say the network integrates quantum key distribution (QKD) devices, demonstrating that QKD techniques can be used to combine the transmission of data and quantum keys over the same fiber. Vicente Martin, head of the Research Center for Computational Simulation, said, “Now we have, for the first time, the capability to deploy quantum communications in an incremental way, avoiding large upfront costs,” by using the existing optical fiber infrastructure.

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Representatives from some of the 150 organizations supporting the CSforALL Accessibility Pledge. Nearly 300 Organizations Announce New Computer Science Education Commitments
Colin Wood
October 9, 2018

At its second annual summit at Wayne State University this week, the U.S. National Science Foundation's CSforALL initiative announced new commitments to computer science education from 294 organizations. The announcement covered a range of projects and partnerships aiming to increase access to computer science (CS) education through general education programs, after-school or summer programs, research efforts, learning aids, or new accessibility tools. CSforALL estimates these commitments will produce new learning opportunities for 47 million K-12 students and 246,000 teachers. One of the most extensive commitments was a pledge signed by a coalition of 105 organizations to increase access to CS educational resources by students with disabilities. Said CSforALL's Michael Preston, "We went from a place five or six years ago where people said nobody was doing computer science to a place where comfortably a lot of places are committing to it."

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Scientists Develop Mobile Phone App to Diagnose TB
The Telegraph (United Kingdom)
Anne Gulland
October 9, 2018

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K. and Universiti Putra in Malaysia have developed a mobile app that can diagnose tuberculosis (TB) with 98% accuracy. The application uses a biosensor device and a smartphone’s camera to analyze the color of a patient's sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus); the app concludes whether the sample is positive or negative for TB based on its color. Anglia Ruskin University's Alamgir Hossain said, "By using the phone's camera to capture the sample, rather than manually using color charts, it eliminates human error and avoids any subjectivity around interpretation. It also means that positive and negative samples do not need to be distinguishable to the human eye or depend on perfect color vision." The researchers hope to add DNA sequencing to the app to make the diagnosis more robust.

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Code Execution Bug in Malicious Repositories Resolved by Git Project
Charlie Osborne
October 8, 2018

The Git Project reported a severe vulnerability that can lead to the execution of arbitrary code in Git version-control software. The CVE-2018-17456 option-injection attack can be used to compromise the software's submodules, and malign repositories which are cloned and use a .gitmodules file with a URL field beginning with a "-" character can be used to execute code at the time of processing. According to the Git Project, "The command-line git clone tool does not correctly sanitize submodule URLs. When cloning submodules, for example using git clone—recurse-submodules or git submodule update, the URL of a submodule could be interpreted as a command-line argument to git clone." The latest version of the software, Git V2.19.1, was released with a patch for the security flaw. The Git Project also has released backports for Git v2.14.5, v2.15.3, v2.16.5, v2.17.2, and v2.18.1 to eliminate the bug in older software.

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The Continuing Arms Race: Code-Reuse Attacks and Defenses
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