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Welcome to the June 10, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Zaman Receives Test of Time Award
Yale School of Management
June 9, 2020

A 2010 study by Yale School of Management professor Tauhid Zaman was awarded the ACM SIGMETRICS Test of Time Award, which recognizes research with a lasting impact on computer systems performance evaluation. Said Zaman, who co-authored the study with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Devavrat Shah, "We had found a way to find the source of anything spreading in a network, ranging from biological viruses in contact networks to ... rumors in social networks. Our key insight was realizing that the shape of a network contained information on who the source was, if you looked at it the right way." Zaman's research concentrates on addressing operational issues related to social network data, probabilistic simulations, network algorithms, and contemporary statistical techniques.

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Plundering of Crypto Keys From Ultrasecure SGX Sends Intel Scrambling Again
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
June 9, 2020

Two separate academic teams reported two novel exploits that breach Intel's Software Guard eXtension (SGX), enabling hackers to plunder encryption keys and other sensitive data. Both the SGAxe and CrossTalk hacks compromise SGX-protected processor regions via separate side-channel attacks, measuring signals from the data storage system to infer sensitive information. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Australia's University of Adelaide determined that SGAxe can steal large chunks of SGX-protected data of an attacker's choice. Meanwhile, researchers at the Netherlands' Vrije University and Switzerland's ETH Zurich described CrossTalk as exploiting an undocumented "staging buffer" used by all Intel processor cores, retaining the results of previously executed offcore instructions across all cores. Intel expects to make fixes for the newly disclosed exploits available within weeks.

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A close-up view of a new neuromorphic “brain-on-a-chip.” Engineers Put Tens of Thousands of Artificial Brain Synapses on a Single Chip
MIT News
Jennifer Chu
June 8, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have designed a 'brain on a chip' composed of tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses, or memristors. MIT's Jeehwan Kim said, "Traditionally, metallurgists try to add different atoms into a bulk matrix to strengthen materials, and we thought, why not tweak the atomic interactions in our memristor, and add some alloying element to control the movement of ions in our medium." The silicon-copper alloy chip can "remember" and replicate stored images many times over, in versions that are sharper and cleaner compared with unalloyed designs. The goal is to build actual neural network hardware for portable artificial intelligence systems, rather than constructing the synapses as software.

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Cosmonauts installing an antenna on the International Space Station in 2018. With an Internet of Animals, Scientists Aim to Track, Save Wildlife
The New York Times
Jim Robbins
June 9, 2020

Sensors and other equipment aboard the International Space Station will be used to monitor wildlife, revolutionizing the science of animal tracking. This new approach, called ICARUS, for International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, can track animal migration over larger areas than other technologies using solar-powered bio-loggers the size of two fingernails and weighing less than three grams. ICARUS uses off-the-shelf technology, including solar and GPS units, along with new communication technology specifically designed to track small animals, including insects. The system’s sensors monitor animal physiology as well as external conditions like weather. Said Yale University’s Walter Jetz, “It’s a new era of discovery. We will discover new migration paths, habitat requirements, things about species behavior that we didn’t even think about. That discovery will bring about all sorts of new questions.”

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IBM Will No Longer Offer, Develop, or Research Facial-Recognition Technology
The Verge
Jay Peters
June 8, 2020

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna declared in a letter to Congress that the company will discontinue developing, researching, and offering general-purpose facial-recognition or analysis software. He stated that IBM opposes the technology's application "for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency." Even as artificial intelligence has drastically improved facial recognition, the technology has been found to exhibit bias along lines of age, race, and ethnicity, which can reduce reliability for law enforcement and security, and lead to civil rights abuses. IBM in 2018 issued a public dataset to help reduce bias, as part of the training data for a facial-recognition model. However, the company was found to be sharing a separate dataset of about 1 million photos taken from Flickr without subjects' consent.

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Vulnerabilities in Popular Open Source Projects Doubled in 2019
Catalin Cimpanu
June 8, 2020

An analysis of the top 54 open source projects by RiskSense found an increase in the number of security vulnerabilities in these tools, from 421 in 2018 to 968 in 2019. Between 2015 and March 2020, RiskSense discovered 2,694 bugs in open source tools like Jenkins, MongoDB, Elasticsearch, Chef, GitLab, Spark, and Puppet. The company noted that it took 54 days on average for bugs found in these tools to be reported to the National Vulnerability Database. RiskSense found that although other open source projects had fewer bugs, those bugs were sometimes easier to weaponize, as with Vagrant virtualization software and the Alfresco content management system.

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A woman typing at her desk. NYU Report Calls On Social Media Titans to Stop Outsourcing Content Moderation
The Washington Post
Cat Zakrzewski
June 8, 2020

A New York University (NYU) report urges social media companies to stop outsourcing the moderation of their content. Misinformation on these platforms is of growing concern amid civil unrest and the coronavirus pandemic, which are transpiring in an election year, with the industry anticipating interference by malefactors. NYU's Paul M. Barrett said content moderation, which involves rooting out offensive and harmful content, carries a psychological toll for moderators, while outsourcing that role gives companies a plausible excuse to deny accountability when such material is not removed. Barrett's recommendations include increased human vetting of content, having a senior official oversee the task, and greater investment in moderation in at-risk nations. He also calls for better healthcare for moderators and in-depth research into the job's health risks, use of "narrowly tailored" regulation to set standards for distribution of harmful content; and better fact-checking of misinformation.

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Some delivery robots. Stanford Lab Envisions Delivery Drones That Save Energy by Taking the Bus
Khari Johnson
June 3, 2020

In an effort to redesign urban package delivery, researchers in Stanford University's Intelligent Systems Laboratory and Autonomous Systems Lab developed a methodology that allows delivery drones to access buses or trams, which could reduce traffic congestion and energy consumption while allowing the drones to travel farther. The artificial intelligence network underlying this system, which can accommodate up to 200 drones delivering up to 5,000 packages, was designed for cities with up to 8,000 stops. The approach is aimed at minimizing the time required to complete a delivery, according to the researchers, who added that it “can achieve significant commercial benefits and social impact.”

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Technology Aims to Provide Cloud Efficiency for Databases During Data-Intensive Covid-19 Pandemic
Purdue University News
Chris Adam
June 4, 2020

Purdue University researchers have developed technology designed to improve cost and performance efficiencies for cloud-hosted databases, by optimizing resources to benefit cloud vendors, who can pass on those savings to their clients. Purdue's Somali Chaterji said OPTIMUSCLOUD “may help researchers who are crunching their research data on remote datacenters, compounded by the remote working conditions during the pandemic, where throughput is the priority.” The OPTIMUSCLOUD software uses machine learning and data science principles to create algorithms that help optimize both virtual machine selection and the database management system options. Said Chaterji, "Our system takes a look at the hundreds of options available and determines the best one normalized by the dollar cost."

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Virtual Metabolic Humans—Harvey and Harvetta, Novel Computational Models for Personalized Medicine
Science Foundation Ireland
June 3, 2020

Researchers at National University of Ireland and the Netherlands' Leiden University have created whole-body human computational models for personalized medicine called Harvey and Harvetta. The models can simulate individual metabolisms, physiologies, diets, and gut microbiomes; they also can predict known biomarkers of inherited metabolic diseases, and facilitate investigation of potential metabolic interactions between humans and their gut microbiomes. Harvey and Harvetta are anatomically interconnected whole-body virtual male and female models incorporating more than 80,000 biochemical reactions distributed across 26 organs and six blood-cell types. Their development required the creation of novel algorithms and software for constraint-based simulation of high-dimensional biochemical networks. Leiden University's Ines Thiele said, “Harvey and Harvetta will usher in a new era for research into causal host-microbiome relationships and greatly accelerate the development of targeted dietary and microbial intervention strategies.”

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An internal view of three-dimensionally printed knees. People with Damaged Knees, Hips Could Be Treated with 3D-Printed Artificial Cartilage
Daily Mail (U.K.)
Joe Pinkstone
June 8, 2020

University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) scientists three-dimensionally (3D)-printed artificial cartilage for potentially treating damaged hips, knees, and vertebrae. The technique entails the manipulation of liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs), a highly flexible material with an outstanding ability to dissipate high energy. The researchers converted LCEs into a honey-like resin and loaded them into a specialized 3D printer which prints the resin in a honeycomb-like lattice that emulates the structure of human cartilage. The resin is hardened into its final shape by exposure to ultraviolet light. CU Denver's Christopher Yakacki said the method offers the potential to repair spinal damage, because "with 3D printing—and the high resolution we've gotten from it—you can match a person's anatomy exactly."

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Code Nation: Personal Computing and the Learn to Program Movement in America
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