GW Online Master's in Systems Engineering

Welcome to the August 21, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."
New Tool Makes Web Browsing Easier for the Visually Impaired
University of Waterloo News
August 20, 2019

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, the University of Washington, and Microsoft have developed a tool that merges the best elements of voice assistants and screen readers to make free-form Web searches easier. The VERSE (Voice Exploration, Retrieval, and Search) tool allows people with visual impairments to get Web content quickly and easily. VERSE adds screen reader-like capabilities to virtual assistants, and allows other devices to serve as input accelerators to smart speakers. The researchers surveyed 53 visually impaired Web searchers, and found that more than half used voice assistants multiple times a day. Said Waterloo researcher Alexandra Vtyurina, "If people need more information, they can use VERSE to access other search verticals, for example, news, facts, and related searches, and can visit any article that appears as a search result."

Full Article

Images of tumors A Single-Photon Source You Can Make at Home
MIT News
Daniel Darling
August 9, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have discovered a simple technique for generating carbon nanotube-based single-photon emitters, or fluorescent quantum defects, using household bleach and ultraviolet light. The team submerged carbon nanotubes in bleach, then irradiated them with ultraviolet light for less than 60 seconds, producing fluorescent quantum defects. Operations at longer wavelengths with brighter defect emitters allow clearer and deeper tissue penetration for optical imaging, which could augment cancer detection and treatment. Said MIT’s Angela Belcher, “We have demonstrated a clear visualization of vasculature structure and lymphatic systems using 150 times less amount of probes compared to previous generation of imaging systems,” which constitutes a step towards cancer early detection.

Full Article
22 Texas Towns Hit with Ransomware Attack in 'New Front' of Cyberassault
National Public Radio
Bobby Allyn
August 20, 2019

State officials in Texas confirmed that computer systems in 22 municipalities have been hijacked by ransomware, with one town's mayor saying the hackers are demanding $2.5 million. The Texas Department of Information Resources suggested "one single threat actor" may be responsible. Mayor Gary Heinrich of the town of Keene said the attackers infiltrated information technology software used by the city and overseen by an outsourced provider, which supports many of the targeted cities. Recorded Future threat intelligence analyst Allan Liska said this event, the largest coordinated hack of its kind so far observed, "does present a new front in the ransomware attack." Research firm Recorded Future noted the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks targeting state and local government, detecting at least 169 cases since 2013. Liska said more than 60 such attacks have taken place this year alone.

Full Article

Woman asking the man a question New York City Teachers Get 'Culturally Responsive' Training
The Wall Street Journal
Leslie Brody
August 13, 2019

New York City's Department of Education is training public school teachers to add cultural responsiveness to their schools’ computer science (CS) classes. The goal is to enable educators to help students envision a personal connection to CS. At a recent training session in East Harlem, trainer Steve Borba highlighted students' use of color charts to find hues that match their skin tones when programming animated images of themselves; he said the lesson "gives them an understanding of how it is they can design something that they feel reflects their own identity." Debbie Marcus with the city's Computer Science for All initiative said the session helped to prepare teachers to learn more technical aspects of teaching.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration

A robot inspecting the equipment at an electrical substation Despite Chinese Efforts, U.S. Still Leads in AI
U.S. News & World Report
Sintia Radu
August 19, 2019

A study by think tank the Center for Data Innovation (CDI) found the U.S. remains the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research and development. The study ranked China second and the European Union (EU) third, compared to the U.S., in terms of talent, research, development, and hardware; China was ranked world leader in adoption of AI, and data. The study’s authors said the U.S. has the greatest number of AI startups, as its startup ecosystem has garnered more private equity and venture capital investment than was seen in any other country. CDI also said the U.S. "leads in the development of both traditional semiconductors and the computer chips that power AI systems; while it produces fewer AI scholarly papers than the EU or China, it produces the highest-quality papers on average."

Full Article
#MeToo Media Coverage Sympathetic to, but Not Necessarily Empowering for, Women
Carnegie Mellon News
August 14, 2019

Computational analysis by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers of #MeToo media coverage indicated that women claiming sexual harassment often are depicted with sympathy, but with less power than their alleged abusers. CMU's Yulia Tsvetkov and colleagues used natural language processing to review online media coverage of #MeToo narratives, which included 27,602 articles from 1,576 outlets. The team also studied media portrayals of perpetrators, and the role of third-party actors in news stories. Said Tsvetkov, "Subtle forms of biased language can be much harder to detect and to date we have no systematic way of identifying them automatically. The goal of our research was to provide tools to analyze such biased framing."

Full Article

A “Vote Here” sign 16 Million Americans Will Vote on Hackable Paperless Machines
Technology Review
Patrick Howell O'Neill
August 13, 2019

A study by researchers at New York University found that at least 16 million Americans in eight states will vote on completely paperless machines in the 2020 U.S. elections, despite a strong consensus among cybersecurity and national security experts that paper ballots and vote audits are necessary to ensure election security. While the states in question are not historically battleground states, some are likely to be more closely contested than usual. Said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, “Congress needs to set mandatory federal election security standards that outlaw paperless voting machines and guarantee every American the right to vote with a hand-marked paper ballot.” Wyden cited experts as requiring hand-marked paper ballots and post-election audits to defend against hacking. “Vendors should recognize that fact or get out of the way.”

Full Article

Danny Cohen Danny Cohen, Who Helped Set the Stage for Digital Era, Dies at 81
The New York Times
Katie Hafner
August 16, 2019

Danny Cohen, a computer scientist whose pioneering research on computer graphics and networks led to advancements as diverse as flight simulation, Internet telephony, cloud computing, and online dating, died last week at age 81, the result of Parkinson’s disease. The U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency tasked Cohen in the 1970s to explore sending voice calls over Arpanet, an Internet precursor. Cohen's team developed the predecessor of Internet telephony and teleconferencing, a breakthrough that led to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Said the University of California, Los Angeles' Leonard Kleinrock, Cohen “had the uncanny ability to employ his deep mathematical intellect and insight to real world challenges, with enormous impact.”

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
Advanced Data Analysis Enhances Precision Medicine Prenatal Genetic Testing Applications in Clinics
University of Helsinki
August 14, 2019

Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland, and Estonia’s University of Tartu and Competence Center on Health Technologies, have demonstrated a computational analysis framework for targeted high-coverage sequencing-based Non-Invasive Prenatal genetic Screening (NIPT). The framework can detect the potential for fetal trisomy through targeted high-coverage sequencing data of a pregnant subject's blood sample during the first trimester of pregnancy. The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland's Priit Palta said, "We now have...laboratory and computational tools for developing and providing more feasible and cost-effective NIPT applications that have potential in clinical practice."

Full Article

The shape of a severe storm Facial Recognition Technique Could Improve Hail Forecasts
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Laura Snider
August 19, 2019

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) researchers have found that the same artificial intelligence method used in facial recognition systems could help improve the prediction of hailstorms and their severity. The researchers used machine learning to train a convolutional neural network to recognize features of individual storms that affect the formation of hail. The model was trained on images of simulated storms, along with information about temperature, pressure, wind speed, and direction. Once trained, the model was able to determine which features of the storm correlate with whether or not it will hail, and how big the hailstones of a specific storm are likely to be.

Full Article
CROKAGE Helps Developers Find Stack Overflow Answers
SD Times
Jakob Lewkowicz
August 19, 2019

A team of researchers from the Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil and Canada’s University of Saskatchewan has developed a tool to help software developers easily pinpoint relevant information on the Stack Overflow question and answer (Q&A) website. The Crowd Knowledge Answer Generator (CROKAGE) uses the description of a programming task as a query, then supplies relevant code snippets and explanations it finds on Stack Overflow so developers can easily apply that to their efforts. The researchers trained a word-embedding model with FastText using millions of Stack Overflow Q&A threads, then expanded the natural-language query to include novel open source software library and function terms. They said CROKAGE outperformed six baselines and returned more relevant results than leading research tool BIKER. Stack Overflow's Ben Popper said, "A combination relevant code and corresponding explanation is very likely to help a developer understand both the solution to their problem and how best to implement that code in practice."

Full Article
App Allows Inspectors to Find Gas Pump Skimmers Faster
University of California, San Diego
Ioana Patringenaru
August 14, 2019

An app developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Illinois can detect devices installed in gas pumps to steal consumer credit and debit card data. These devices, called skimmers, use Bluetooth to transmit the data they steal. The Bluetana app detects the Bluetooth signature of the skimmers, allowing inspectors to find the devices without needed to open the gas pumps. The researchers developed the algorithm Bluetana uses to distinguish skimmers from legitimate Bluetooth devices, based on the results of a field study during which the team analyzed scans of Bluetooth devices taken by inspectors at 1,185 gas stations across six states.

Full Article
Harvard Data Science Review
2019 Stanford University Frontier of AI-Assisted Care Scientific Symposium

Association for Computing Machinery

1601 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10019-7434

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]