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Welcome to the November 8, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Bloomberg’s Jennifer Zabasajja, left, discusses blockchain and smart transaction platforms with Chia Network’s Gene Hoffman, center, and David Frazee of Richmond Global Partners. World Bank Program Looks to Blockchain to Solve Carbon Emissions Data Issues
Bloomberg Green
Crystal Kim; Jennifer Zabasajja
November 5, 2021

The World Bank's Climate Warehouse program is consulting with cryptocurrency startups like the Chia Network to build a "public-good layer" for climate. Chia's Gene Hoffman said the layer would impart trust and transparency by sitting atop a blockchain, and allow countries and groups to disclose and vet carbon assets in a centralized fashion. Chia's data layer harnesses its permissionless public blockchain to allow project peers to exchange data in an auditable manner without ceding control of the data owned by each peer. Nations using the platform could indicate compliance with the Paris Agreement on reducing carbon emissions by submitting a verifiable dataset.

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Boxing Body Uses AI Vetting of Judges to Restore Trust
Associated Press
November 5, 2021

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) used an artificial intelligence (AI) system to evaluate judges and referees before clearing them for the current men's world championships, and to restore its credibility following claims of corruption. AIBA's Richard McLaren said the automated voice analysis system "measures the cognitive functions of the brain in the verbal responses," and assigns judges low-, medium-, or high-risk grades. McLaren said the AI project "clearly identifies problems" if employed in a broader series of pre-competition vetting, follow-up interviews, and "a human assessment" of officials' suitability. He suggested the AI system could help AIBA "to put their house in order," and could be used by other Olympic sports that rely on judges to determine event outcomes.

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U.K., U.S. Governments Agree to Joint Quantum Collaboration
Cliff Saran
November 5, 2021

The U.K. and U.S. governments have announced a collaboration in quantum science, part of a £1-billion U.K. government and industry investment through the National Quantum Technologies Programme to commercialize quantum innovations. A joint statement from U.K. science minister George Freeman and U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy director Eric Lander details shared priorities, including promoting joint research, data sharing, and building the global market and supply chain. Other priorities include facilitating interactions between government, academia, and the private sector, and developing the next generation of scientists and engineers. The two governments plan to encourage the exchange of people working in quantum centers, hubs, and universities participating in quantum information science and technology research and development.

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Aalto University researchers have developed a program that can model indoor air flows more easily and more quickly than previous methods. Program Models Airflows Much Faster—Without Supercomputer
Aalto University (Finland)
November 4, 2021

Researchers at Finland's Aalto University have developed open source software that could simplify and accelerate the process of modeling indoor air flows, without requiring the use of a supercomputer. The software runs on a desktop computer equipped with a graphics card, like those used for gaming. The program can model the impact of air change systems, ventilation, people, walls, and furniture on indoor air flow and carbon dioxide content. Said Aalto's Ville Vuorinen, "The models are good at showing how easily black shadow areas with stuffy air can appear in a room. On one side of a screen the air can be fresh, and on the other side carbon dioxide content can be very high. This has certainly been known before, but it has not been adequately recognized."

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Widespread Security Risk Identified in Phones, Bluetooth Devices
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
November 4, 2021

Bluetooth hardware contains a security flaw that may compromise about 40% of mobile devices, according to University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers. The hardware underlies the operation of phone-tracking applications, which UCSD's Nishant Bhaskar said "require frequent and constant transmission of Bluetooth beacons to be detected by nearby devices. Unfortunately, this also means that an adversary can also find out where we are at all times by simply listening to the Bluetooth transmissions from our personal devices." Defects or imperfections during manufacture can slightly distort Bluetooth signals from individual devices, resulting in the generation of a unique signature. Experiments showed approximately 40% of mobile devices could be identified individually within crowds based on their Bluetooth signal signatures.

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Logo of the U.S. Department of Justice. Drone at Pennsylvania Electric Substation First to 'Specifically Target Energy Infrastructure'
Sean Lyngaas
November 4, 2021

A recent memo from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and National Counterterrorism Center revealed that a July 2020 drone crash near a Pennsylvania power substation was the first known case of a "modified unmanned aircraft system likely being used in the U.S. to specifically target energy infrastructure." The memo said the drone likely was modified to create a "short circuit to cause damage to transformers or distribution lines, based on the design and recovery location." The agencies further stated that "we expect illicit [unmanned aircraft system] activity to increase over energy sector and other critical infrastructure facilities as use of these systems in the U.S. continues to expand."

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Australia Says U.S. Facial Recognition Software Firm Clearview Breached Privacy Law
Byron Kaye
November 3, 2021

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said U.S. facial recognition software company Clearview AI violated privacy laws by collecting images from Websites without Australians' consent, and without checking the accuracy of its matches. Clearview cross-references photos scraped from social media sites into a database of billions of images. Information commissioner Angelene Falk said the company's actions carried "significant risk of harm to individuals, including vulnerable groups such as children and victims of crime, whose images can be searched on Clearview AI's database." She called the clandestine collection of images "unreasonably intrusive and unfair." OAIC has ordered Clearview to stop collecting facial images and biometric templates from people in Australia, and to delete images and templates collected there.

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Intelligent Algorithm Improves Efficiency of Humanitarian Logistics
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain)
Agustin Lopez
November 4, 2021

Researchers at Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) have proposed a new intelligent algorithm paradigm to enhance the efficiency of large-scale activities, including humanitarian logistics. Agile Optimization (AO) algorithms are designed to process large datasets to improve decision-making in real time by combining biased and randomized heuristics with parallel computing. UOC's Leandro do Carmo said, "Taking freight transport as an example, routes could be optimized by taking into account new information about traffic and weather conditions. AO algorithms can be properly applied in these types of contexts that require the system to be recalculated and optimized in real time, as new data are added." The researchers used the algorithms to optimize logistics for the collection and delivery to hospitals of products designed by volunteers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dutch tech startup MX3D 3D-printed a stainless steel bridge in its warehouse, then installed it over a canal in Amsterdam. 3D-Printed Bridges Promise Smarter, Greener Transit Links
The Wall Street Journal
Daniel Michaels
November 3, 2021

Three-dimensionally (3D)-printed bridges have been erected in the Netherlands, China, Spain, and the U.S., and Dutch technology startup MX3D this summer installed an artistic pedestrian bridge 3D-printed from stainless steel in Amsterdam. Advocates believe the technology will eventually scale up to accommodate longer bridges that are easier to maintain and build at less environmental cost. MX3D's system uses an industrial robotic arm that welds the tip of an unspooling metal wire on a constantly changing path. Meanwhile, the U.S. Marines in 2018 3D-printed a concrete foot bridge across a gully in California using standard construction equipment and custom-designed machinery. Mike Haley at design software company Autodesk expects longer bridges that can support vehicles to be 3D-printable within five years.

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Sorry, Gen Z Isn't Going to Solve Your Tech Skills Crisis
Owen Hughes
November 3, 2021

A survey of 500 IT decision makers and 542 members of Generation Z (ages 16 to 24) by U.K. jobs board CWJobs found that 72% of IT leaders believe Gen Z will solve the digital skills shortage, but just 24% of young people view their age as an advantage when applying for technology positions. The survey also revealed that 56% of young respondents believe technology careers are complicated, and 55% want more information from schools and educators about what those careers entail. Further, the survey found that 51% of businesses lack the resources to provide tech training to Gen Z employees, while another 32% of tech leaders said they would not know how to train those employees even if they had such resources.

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This smart toothbrush could be the command and control center of a malicious Internet of Things botnet. Botnet Buster Finds IoT Command and Control Centers
UC Riverside News
Holly Ober
November 5, 2021

University of California, Riverside (UCR) computer scientists have developed a tool that cripples botnets by fooling them into exposing their Internet of Things (IoT) command and control (CnC) servers. The CnCHunter tool contacts a suspicious Internet server using actual malware, and observes how the malware communicates with it; meaningful dialogue between suspect and malware in botnet language indicates the server is a CnC. UCR's Michalis Faloutsos said, "We try to detect botnets proactively and by fooling malware twice, first by activating the malware in a safe environment, and then intercepting and redirecting the traffic where we want to trick the botnet to engage with us." The researchers ran the tool on "selected 100 IoT malware samples collected between 2017 and 2021 and were able to find their CnC servers with a 92% precision," said UCR's Ali Davanian.

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Penn Researchers Show 'Encrypted' Peptides Could be Wellspring of Natural Antibiotics
Penn Engineering Today
Melissa Pappas
November 4, 2021

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Italy's University of Naples Federico II algorithmically discovered "encrypted" antimicrobial peptides in the code of the human genome. Penn's César de la Fuente said, "We knew the sort of molecules we were looking for, and utilized the algorithm to act like a search function to find them throughout the human body." The algorithm searched the proteome and found 43,000 peptides eight to 50 amino acids long,; it then narrowed the scope to 2,603 peptides based on their fitness function inclusive of all parameters. Fifty-five encrypted peptides were synthesized and exposed to eight pathogens, and 63.6% exhibited antimicrobial activity. "This work highlights that every organism is a dataset of code to which AI [artificial intelligence] can be applied to find relevant molecules," de la Fuente said.

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