Welcome to the April 1, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Yoshua Bengio He Helped Create AI. Now, He Worries About 'Killer Robots'
The New York Times
Dan Bilefsky
March 29, 2019

Yoshua Bengio at the University of Montreal in Canada, a co-recipient of the 2018 ACM A.M. Turing Award, is concerned about artificial intelligence (AI) being weaponized. ACM president Cherri M. Pancake credited Bengio, along with his Turing co-recipients Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun, with laying the foundation for technologies used by billions of people. “Anyone who has a smartphone in their pocket” has felt their impact, she said, adding that their work also provided “powerful new tools” in the fields of medicine, astronomy, and material sciences. Although his general view of AI's societal applications is upbeat, Bengio backs the technology's regulation via an international treaty banning "killer robots" or "lethal autonomous weapons." However, Bengio is quick to dismiss ruminations of machines, programmed with human emotions, turning on their creators. He advocates for the need to investigate AI and other advanced technology, without ever losing sight of ethical considerations. Said Bengio, "We need to pursue scientific knowledge, or all we will do is run against a wall. But we need to do it wisely."

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Ocado robots Coles Partners With Ocado to Shake Up Online Grocery Shopping
The Australian Financial Review
Sue Mitchell
March 26, 2019

Australia’s Coles supermarket chain has partnered with leading U.K. online food retailer Ocado to launch a new Coles online shopping website and build two highly automated fulfillment centers in Melbourne and Sydney. Ocado will install and maintain equipment in the centers, which will each have about 1,000 robots moving orders around. Ocado also will provide Coles with its smart platform technology, including an online grocery platform, automated single-pick fulfillment services, and home-delivery solutions. Coles’ Steven Cain said the partnership will allow his company to deliver a best-in-class customer experience featuring a broader range of products and services, better product availability and freshness, enhanced pick accuracy, improved online capability at lower service cost, and more regular delivery windows.

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driverless car on oval track Driverless Car Learns to Perform High-Speed Turns Without Crashing
New Scientist
Donna Lu
March 27, 2019

Researchers at Stanford University used a neural network to create a self-driving system that allowed an autonomous car to learn to make high-speed turns without spinning out. The researchers trained the neural network on data from more than 200,000 motion samples taken from test drives on a variety of surfaces. The team then equipped a Volkswagen GTO with the algorithm and tested it on a race track. The car drove as fast as physically possible, monitoring its motion to adjust its steering and acceleration. When driving around a turn at 50 kilometers per hour (around 30 m.p.h.), the vehicle had a low tracking error, deviating less than 50 centimeters from its desired turning path. The researchers also found the neural network continued to work when the track was covered in snow or ice.

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industrial site Half of Industrial Control System Networks have Faced Cyberattacks, Say Security Researchers
Danny Palmer
March 27, 2019

Kaspersky Lab's "Threat Landscape for Industrial Automation Systems" report found that almost 50% of industrial systems display evidence of attackers attempting malicious activity—in most cases, detected by security software. The statistics, which are based on anonymized data submitted to the Kaspersky Security network by the company's customers, show that the main attack vector for these systems is via the Internet, with hackers on the lookout for unsecured ports and systems to gain access to; this method accounted for 25% of identified threats. The configuration used by many industrial networks leaves them open to self-propagating campaigns that can easily find them. Removable media was identified as the second most-common threat to industrial networks, following by email-based phishing attacks. The Kaspersky researchers recommend regularly updating operating systems and software on industrial networks and applying security fixes and patches where available.

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Banks Use AI to Catch Rogue Traders Before the Act
Financial Times
Laura Noonan
March 25, 2019

Over the past few years, banks have made significant strides in trader surveillance, embracing communication monitoring tools that look for obvious flash phrases and keywords. About a dozen banks have deployed IBM's Watson artificial intelligence (AI) software, which they use to monitor everyday communications. AI technology cuts down the number of "false positives" banks have to deal with under traditional systems, which flag hundreds of thousands of potential suspect messages a month. Watson can differentiate between higher- and lower-risk alerts, allowing banks to cut through the data they receive. In addition, banks are pulling other metrics into their surveillance systems, including human resources reviews and credit scoring reports to identify traders with either the motive, or predisposition, for rogue activity.

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U.K. IoT Research Center to Tackle Cyber Risk
Warwick Ashford
March 28, 2019

The British government has launched the Petras 2 (privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security) IoT (Internet of Things) Center of National Excellence as part of the U.K.'s efforts to design out cyber threats in IT hardware. The initiative supports research into the design and development of hardware to be more secure and resilient. The center aims to "design out" many cyber threats by "designing in" security and protection technology and solutions into hardware and chips. The center will focus on the opportunities and threats that arise from edge computing, an innovative way to collect and analyze data in machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. Said University College London’s Jeremy Watson, "Our research will create accessible and relevant knowledge with clearly visible economic, societal, or cultural impact that will help to cement the U.K.'s position as a world leader in this area."

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DJs of the Future Don't Spin Records—They Write Code
Michael Calore
March 26, 2019

Artists in the underground electronic music culture are performing live-coding shows or "algoraves," in which they program software algorithms to create new forms of music. Musicians synthesize individual sounds on their computers, then direct the software to string those sounds together based on a set of predefined rules; the end product has the artist's signature, but is algorithmically sculpted. When the same routine is run again, the song will sound familiar and contain the same elements, but the composition will be structured differently. Performances often are enhanced with screens displaying the running code as trippy visuals. A popular venue for this emergent art form is the Algorithmic Art Assembly, a two-day festival in San Francisco.

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Palantir Wins Competition to Build Army Intelligence System
The Washington Post
Shane Harris
March 26, 2019

The U.S. Army has chosen Palantir Technologies to deploy a complex battlefield intelligence system for its soldiers, marking the first time the government has selected a Silicon Valley software company, as opposed to a traditional military contractor, to lead a defense program of record. The contract is potentially worth more than $800 million. In March 2018, the Army chose Palantir and Raytheon to compete for the next phase of the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A, for Army), which lets users gather and analyze information about enemy movements, terrain, and weather to create detailed maps and reports in real time. Unlike most Silicon Valley start-ups, Palantir believed from the start that its data analytics tools would find a willing market among U.S. spy agencies and the military, which are constantly trying to manage ever-expanding streams of information.

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A screen of icons showing Apple TV channels Apple Promises Customers a Safer Digital World — for a Price
Seth Fiegerman
March 26, 2019

Several Apple executives recently laid out a vision for a safer digital world for consumers—one in which privacy is paramount, real people review and recommend content, and families can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing their children are watching age-appropriate videos in a protected environment. As privacy becomes the preeminent factor in new technologies, Apple is offering the promise of better digital safeguards for customers and their families—for a price. The company last week unveiled a series of potentially expensive subscription products and made safety a key part of its sales pitch for each. For example, a premium version of Apple News was debuted with the promise of "user privacy" and human editors curating articles for readers. In addition, Apple plans to launch a new subscription gaming platform that will not permit any data collection from users.

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Insurers Creating Consumer Ratings Service for Cybersecurity Industry
The Wall Street Journal
Leslie Scism
March 26, 2019

Some of the world's largest insurers have launched a joint program to evaluate cybersecurity software and technology sold to businesses. Marsh & McLennan's Marsh brokerage unit will collate scores from participating insurers, which will individually gauge the offerings and identify products and services considered effective, for publication on Marsh's U.S. website. Corporate policyholders that use the designated offerings may be eligible for improved terms and conditions on policies negotiated individually with participating insurers. The Cyber Catalyst program will concentrate on offerings that address risks like data breaches, business interruption, data corruption, and cyber extortion, including technology-based products such as firewalls and encryption, threat-monitoring tools, and training and incident-response planning. Potential benefits insurers stand to reap include reduced claims from hacking disruption, while cross-insurer collaboration has better odds of highlighting flawed cybersecurity products that should be avoided by manufacturers in global supply chains.

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A soft computer gripping a tennis ball. Squishy Robots Now Have Squishy Computers to Control Them
Popular Science
Kat Eschner
March 25, 2019

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a rubber computer that runs on "digital logic," which could serve as a software replacement for hard electronic components. Robots that have this computer as part of their design will be completely made of soft parts. The rubber computer works on a series of gates that open and close, transferring information down pathways. In the Harvard system, the soft computer is made out of silicon tubing and pressurized air. The air moving through the "gates" in the rubber acts in the same way as electricity does moving through the computer chips in traditional computers. Currently, the robots have 10-20 logic gates, but the researchers hope to develop robots with up to 1,000 logic gates. Each of those extra gates would make the robot more sophisticated, allowing the system to execute more actions.

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A monitor at the Changi Airfreight Terminal show digital images of cargo packages. $540-Million Kitty to Spur Medical Advances Using AI, Robotics in Singapore
The Straits Times
Irene Tham
March 28, 2019

A research fund managed by Singapore's National Research Foundation (NRF) will allocate an additional $540 million for the creation of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to identify patients predisposed to chronic diseases, to build robots to perform menial tasks, and to develop wearable sensors to provide early intervention for heart failure. With the addition, the fund will now see a total of $900 million allocated to research and development in fields like AI, robotics, and supercomputers. Said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, "We must and will continue to invest in science, technology, and innovation ... to keep Singapore competitive and relevant globally." The NRF is supporting a number of projects under the initiative, including Speedcargo, an AI software that takes digital images of cargo packages and plans how the packages should be packed to optimize space.

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