Welcome to the July 11, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The 3D machining robot in action. The Robot Guerrilla Campaign to Recreate the Elgin Marbles
The New York Times
Franz Lidz
July 8, 2022

Roger Michel at the U.K.'s Institute of Digital Archaeology thinks three-dimensional (3D) machining, which uses a robot to create faithful copies of large historical objects, could help settle the dispute over whether relics like the Elgin Marbles from Athens should be repatriated to their countries of origin. The University of Oxford-based research consortium is using the 3D machining robot to copy the Elgin Marbles as prototypes for duplicates, which Michel believes could replace the originals at the British Museum. The museum had rejected a formal request to scan the statues, so two researchers visited the museum and used iPhones and iPads equipped with light detection and ranging sensors and photogrammetry software to capture 3D images of one sculpture. The robot carved a prototype from that scan in four days, with the final marble duplicate expected to be completed by the end of this month.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have produced smart textiles, like this smart shoe, that snugly conform to the body so they can sense the wearer’s posture and motions. Smart Textiles Sense How Their Users Are Moving
MIT News
Adam Zewe
July 7, 2022

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Wellesley College, and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University have fabricated smart textiles that can sense their wearer's posture and motions. The researchers used thermoforming to slightly melt plastic yarn, augmenting the precision of pressure sensors woven into multilayered knit textiles they call 3DKnITS. They applied this process to produce a smart shoe and textile mat, then assembled a hardware and software system to measure and interpret data from the pressure sensors incorporated in them. The system anticipated motions and yoga poses performed by an individual standing on the smart mat with about 99% accuracy. MIT's Irmandy Wicaksono said the fabrication process facilitates rapid prototyping and can be scaled up for extensive manufacturing.

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New iPhone 13 smartphones were introduced during a virtual event last year. Apple to Add 'Lockdown' Safeguard on iPhones, iPads, Macs
Associated Press
July 6, 2022

Apple has announced the forthcoming rollout of a "lockdown" option for iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, in order to shield those products from spyware launched by state-sponsored hackers. The company initially will offer lockdown mode as a test version so security researchers can identify any bugs or vulnerabilities. The feature is designed serve as an emergency button that Apple thinks will be needed by a small number of users. Activating lockdown will limit Web browsing, as well as disabling features like the ability to send attachments and links in texts, and to receive FaceTime calls from new numbers. Apple believes the additional safeguards will be important for activists, journalists, and other targets of hacks orchestrated by well-funded organizations.

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When Gamers Get Nasty
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
July 4, 2022

Researchers at the Netherlands' Utrecht University have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) model that can identify toxic behavior among gamers in real time. The model is designed to screen out problematic language, or to help moderators decide on sanctions for players using such language. Participants viewed videos of gamers playing Overwatch and rated their level of toxicity in the game's voice chat, which highlighted what Utrecht's Julian Frommel called "the challenge of subjectivity" in automatically detecting toxicity. The researchers used this data to build and validate the AI model, which can forecast a match's toxicity with 86.3% accuracy. Frommel said the model incurs few computational costs, and "can be automated and applied as a noninvasive approach in many games that use in-game voice chats."

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Bioinformatics Data Reduction Techniques Must Be Used with Caution
Pennsylvania State University
Mariah Chuprinski
July 1, 2022

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers studying bioinformatics data sketching tools determined that two such tools allowed for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in analyses and results. Data sketching involves systematically reducing the size of a dataset to enable faster analysis and estimation of the divergence between two genome sequences. The researchers found the Jaccard estimator to be biased and inconsistent, resulting in an inaccurate divergence regardless of the number of data points entered into the sketch. The MinHash estimator tool also was found to allow for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in its analysis and results. Said Penn State's Antonio Blanca, "These findings allow researchers to derive statistics and error estimates that they need to use sketching effectively in practice, leading to better measurements of the similarity and differences between organisms and more accurate methods of building DNA sequences."

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A mechanical computer component uses membranes thinner than a human hair. Computer Component Could Use as Little Energy as Physically Possible
New Scientist
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan
July 7, 2022

Researchers at Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) have built a nanomechanical logic gate that uses vibrations for information processing rather than electrons, which could approach the physical lower limit for energy consumption (the Landauer limit). The gate features an ultra-thin membrane that can vibrate with a low or a high amplitude corresponding to 0 and 1 values, so basic computations are possible by amplifying or dampening them. A sound wave inputs data into the gate, and its output can then be fed into an identically designed gate via sound wave. "Anything you can do with an electronic, semiconductor computer, you could do with these [nanomechanical] computers," said UQ's Warwick Bowen.

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Deep Learning Accelerates Detection of Live Bacteria Using TFT Arrays
UCLA California NanoSystems Institute
July 5, 2022

A team of scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles and Texas A&M University has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bacterial colony detection system using a thin-film transistor (TFT) array. The 27-millimeter (mm) x 26-mm array allows the system to capture the growth patterns of bacterial colonies without requiring scanning. The system analyzes the images it captures as a function of time, and automatically detects colony growth using a deep neural network. After a colony is detected, a second neural network classifies its bacteria species. The researchers were able to detect colonies of E. coli, Citrobacter, and Klebsiella pneumoniae with over 90% accuracy within nine hours, and classified the species of each colony within 12 hours.

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Using Big Data to Find Cancerous Mutations in Cells
News-Medical Life Sciences
Emily Henderson
July 5, 2022

Ryan Layer at the University of Colorado Cancer Center employed big data to identify cancerous cell mutations. Layer searched massive public DNA databases for common cell mutations that are typically benign, so researchers can identify rarer, potentially cancerous mutations. Layer and colleagues developed a process that focuses on verification of mutations rather than detection, by sifting through raw data from thousands of DNA samples for any evidence upholding a specific structural variant (SV). Said Layer, "We scanned the SVs identified in prior cancer studies and found that thousands of SVs previously associated with cancers also appear in normal healthy samples," which he said indicates "that these variants are more likely to be benign, inherited sequences rather than disease-causing ones."

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Daycare apps such as this one are designed to make everyday life easier, but they often fail to ensure adequate data protection. How Daycare Apps Can Spy on Parents, Children
Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)
Julia Weiler
July 7, 2022

German researchers uncovered serious flaws in 42 European and U.S. daycare applications. The researchers analyzed Android apps in the Google Play Store that offer the ability to record children’s development, a messenger function allowing daycare staff to communicate with parents, and administrative daycare management support functions like scheduling. Eight apps were found to have vulnerabilities that could permit hackers to view children's private photos, while 40 others could allow spying on parents and teachers. Some app manufacturers sell users' data to third parties, often Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft, which use it for targeted advertising. Maximilian Golla of the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy noted that children’s data is subject to special protection under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act; “Unfortunately, we found that many apps fail to guarantee this protection.”

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Solving Algorithm 'Amnesia' Reveals Clues to How We Learn
UCI News
July 6, 2002

University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have gained insights into how algorithms can absorb information more efficiently, which could yield clues to the brain's learning process. The researchers looked at artificial neural networks (ANNs) that mimic the behavior of neurons, but which tend to forget previously acquired knowledge when they ingest fresh knowledge too fast. The traditional solution involves retraining the network on the complete set of past data, whether or not it was closely related to the new data. Said UCI's Rajat Saxena, "When ANNs interleaved a much smaller subset of old information, including mainly items that were similar to the new knowledge they were acquiring, they learned it without forgetting what they already knew." Saxena said this implies an underlying brain mechanism for why experts at something can gain new knowledge of that subject faster than non-experts.

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This year’s Adidas-designed 'official' World Cup ball, the Al Rihla (“the journey” in Arabic), is equipped with a sensor to track its location. AI-Enhanced System to Track Players for Offside Calls at 2022 World Cup
PC Magazine
Emily Dreibelbis
July 5, 2022

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will use a semi-automated artificial intelligence system to help referees make offside calls during the 2022 World Cup. The system features 12 cameras mounted under the stadium roof, which will track 29 body position data points for each player 50 times per second, and a sensor in the ball to track its location. The system issues an alert if a player is determined to be offside, with a team of referees in a video room tasked with reviewing the alert and making the final determination of the call. Said FIFA's Pierluigi Collina, "Even the best referee can make mistakes and that's why we implemented a system that can really reduce the possibility that a human mistake can affect the outcome of the match."

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Nearly 1 Million Exposed Misconfigured Kubernetes Instances Could Cause Breaches
Alessandro Mascellino
June 28, 2022

Researchers from cybersecurity firm Cyble discovered more than 900,000 exposed Kubernetes (K8s) that could be targets for cyberattacks or malicious scans. The open source systems automate the deployment, scaling, and administration of containerized applications. The researchers attributed the exposure to misconfigurations, often due to the use of default settings. The researchers said that misconfigurations of Kubernetes, like utilizing default container names, not having the Kubernetes Dashboard protected by a secure password, or leaving default service ports open to the public, “can place businesses at risk of data leakage." They recommended companies keep Kubernetes updated to the latest version, and remove debugging tools from production containers.

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