Card Fraud on the Rise, Despite on card chip Adoption

As we have passed the three-year anniversary of the US EMV migration deadline, it is evident that the majority of financial institutions were successful in providing their customers with new EMV enabled cards. However, contrary to the prevailing logic, migration to the EMV did not eradicate the card-present fraud. Of more than 60 million payment cards stolen in the past 12 months, chip-enabled cards represented a staggering 93%.These results directly reflect the lack of US merchant compliance with the EMV implementation.


Key Findings

  • 60 million US payment cards have been compromised in the past 12 months.
  • 45.8 million or 75% are Card-Present (CP) records and were stolen at the point-of-sale devices, while only 25% were compromised in online breaches.
  • 90% of the CP compromised US payment cards were EMV enabled.
  • The US leads the rest of the world in the total amount of compromised EMV payment cards by a massive 37.3 million records.
  • Financially motivated threat groups are still exploiting the lack of merchant EMV compliance.
  • An imminent shift from card-present to card-not-present fraud is already evident with a 14% increase in payment cards stolen through e-commerce breaches in the past 12 months.

Source: Card Fraud on the Rise, Despite National EMV Adoption

Basically they are saying this should go down as merchants employ the technology correctly at the point of sale. Big companies are starting to do this, but small ones are not, so they will become the prevailing targets in the next few years.

Why Big Tech pays poor Kenyans to teach self-driving cars

Each day, Brenda leaves her home here to catch a bus to the east side of Nairobi where she, along with more than 1,000 colleagues in the same building, work hard on a side of artificial intelligence we hear little about – and see even less.

In her eight-hour shift, she creates training data. Information – images, most often – prepared in a way that computers can understand.

Brenda loads up an image, and then uses the mouse to trace around just about everything. People, cars, road signs, lane markings – even the sky, specifying whether it’s cloudy or bright. Ingesting millions of these images into an artificial intelligence system means a self-driving car, to use one example, can begin to “recognise” those objects in the real world. The more data, the supposedly smarter the machine.

She and her colleagues sit close – often too close – to their monitors, zooming in on the images to make sure not a single pixel is tagged incorrectly. Their work will be checked by a superior, who will send it back if it’s not up to scratch. For the fastest, most accurate trainers, the honour of having your name up on one of the many TV screens around the office. And the most popular perk of all: shopping vouchers.


Brenda does this work for Samasource, a San Francisco-based company that counts Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Yahoo among its clients. Most of these firms don’t like to discuss the exact nature of their work with Samasource – as it is often for future projects – but it can be said that the information prepared here forms a crucial part of some of Silicon Valley’s biggest and most famous efforts in AI.


f you didn’t look out of the windows, you might think you were at a Silicon Valley tech firm. Walls are covered in corrugated iron in a way that would be considered achingly trendy in California, but here serve as a reminder of the environment many of the workers come from: around 75% are from the slum.

Most impressively, Samasource has overcome a problem that most Silicon Valley firms are famously grappling with. Just over half of their workforce is made up of women, a remarkable feat in a country where starting a family more often than not rules out a career for the mother. Here, a lactation room, up to 90 days maternity leave, and flexibility around shift patterns makes the firm a stand-out example of inclusivity not just in Kenya, but globally.

“Like a lot of people say, if you have a man in the workplace, he’ll support his family,” said Hellen Savala, who runs human resources.

“[But] if you have a woman in the workplace, she’ll support her family, and the extended family. So you’ll have a lot more impact.”

Source: Why Big Tech pays poor Kenyans to teach self-driving cars – BBC News

These Animated AI Bots Learned to Dress Themselves, Awkwardly

The ability to put our clothes on each day is something most of us take for granted, but as computer scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology recently found out, it’s a surprisingly complicated task—even for artificial intelligence.

As any toddler will gladly tell you, it’s not easy to dress oneself. It requires patience, physical dexterity, bodily awareness, and knowledge of where our body parts are supposed to go inside of clothing. Dressing can be a frustrating ordeal for young children, but with enough persistence, encouragement, and practice, it’s something most of us eventually learn to master.

As new research shows, the same learning strategy used by toddlers also applies to artificially intelligent computer characters. Using an AI technique known as reinforcement learning—the digital equivalent of parental encouragement—a team led by Alexander W. Clegg, a computer science PhD student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, taught animated bots to dress themselves. In tests, their animated bots could put on virtual t-shirts and jackets, or be partially dressed by a virtual assistant. Eventually, the system could help develop more realistic computer animation, or more practically, physical robotic systems capable of dressing individuals who struggle to do it themselves, such as people with disabilities or illnesses.

Putting clothes on, as Clegg and his colleagues point out in their new study, is a multifaceted process.

“We put our head and arms into a shirt or pull on pants without a thought to the complex nature of our interactions with the clothing,” the authors write in the study, the details of which will be presented at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2018 conference on computer graphics in December. “We may use one hand to hold a shirt open, reach our second hand into the sleeve, push our arm through the sleeve, and then reverse the roles of the hands to pull on the second sleeve. All the while, we are taking care to avoid getting our hand caught in the garment or tearing the clothing, often guided by our sense of touch.”

Computer animators are fully aware of these challenges, and often struggle to create realistic portrayals of characters putting their clothes on. To help in this regard, Clegg’s team turned to reinforcement learning—a technique that’s already being used to teach bots complex motor skills from scratch. With reinforcement learning, systems are motivated toward a designated goal by gaining points for desirable behaviors and losing points for counterproductive behaviors. It’s a trial-and-error process—but with cheers or boos guiding the system along as it learns effective “policies” or strategies for completing a goal.

Source: These Animated AI Bots Learned to Dress Themselves, Awkwardly

Chinese ‘gait recognition’ tech IDs people by how they walk

Chinese authorities have begun deploying a new surveillance tool: “gait recognition” software that uses people’s body shapes and how they walk to identify them, even when their faces are hidden from cameras.

Already used by police on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, “gait recognition” is part of a push across China to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance that is raising concern about how far the technology will go.

Huang Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix, said that its system can identify people from up to 50 meters (165 feet) away, even with their back turned or face covered. This can fill a gap in facial recognition, which needs close-up, high-resolution images of a person’s face to work.

“You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity,” Huang said in an interview in his Beijing office. “Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

Watrix announced last month that it had raised 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) to accelerate the development and sale of its gait recognition technology, according to Chinese media reports.

Chinese police are using facial recognition to identify people in crowds and nab jaywalkers, and are developing an integrated national system of surveillance camera data. Not everyone is comfortable with gait recognition’s use.

Source: Chinese ‘gait recognition’ tech IDs people by how they walk

Dutch cops hope to cuff ‘hundreds’ of suspects after snatching server, snooping on 250,000+ encrypted IronChat texts

Dutch police claim to have snooped on more than a quarter of a million encrypted messages sent between alleged miscreants using BlackBox IronPhones.

The extraordinary claim was made in a press conference on Tuesday, in which officers working on a money-laundering investigation reckoned they had been able to see crims chatting “live for some time.”

The suspects had been using the IronChat app on their IronPhones, which uses a custom implementation of the end-to-end off-the-record (OTR) encryption system to scramble messages.


While the officers did not detail how they got hold of and cracked the encrypted IronChat messages, they had seized BlackBox Security’s server. It sounds as though the encrypted conversations were routed through that system. Therefore, once collared, that box could have been set up to decrypt and re-encrypt messages on the fly, or otherwise intercept the connections, allowing the cops to spy on the chats.

Intelligence from these conversations was then used to snare folks suspected of laundering money and other crimes.

Specifically, the clog-plod seized the website and server of the Edward Snowden-endorsed company BlackBox Security after arresting two men apparently behind the business: a 46-year-old from Lingewaard, and a 52-year-old from Boxtel. Another three men were nabbed in Almelo and Enschede, and police expect to make “hundreds” more arrests in the course of their investigation.

Source: Dutch cops hope to cuff ‘hundreds’ of suspects after snatching server, snooping on 250,000+ encrypted chat texts • The Register

AINED looks at a Dutch national AI strategy – calls for info (Dutch)

De initiatiefnemers van AINED ontwikkelen met ondersteuning van de Boston Consulting Group (BCG) en DenkWerk een Nationale Strategie Artificial Intelligence (AI) voor Nederland, geïnitieerd door het Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat.

Het projectteam doet dit vanuit de overtuiging dat in het Nederlandse landschap de mogelijkheden van AI nog te weinig worden benut, en de randvoorwaarden van AI nog niet voldoende worden meegenomen in de ontwikkeling en toepassing van AI. In een wereld waarin andere landen dit wel doen en de techniek steeds waardevoller en krachtiger wordt, is het van groot belang voor Nederland om nu óók in te zetten op AI.

Voor de ontwikkeling van deze strategie is AINED opgestart: een samenwerking tussen het TopTeam ICT, VNO-NCW, ICAI, NWO en TNO, ondersteund door The Boston Consulting Group en DenkWerk.

AI ontwikkelt zich snel en heeft een grote belofte van innovatie en vooruitgang in zich. Het doel van de nationale strategie is de ontwikkeling en toepassing van moderne, data-gedreven AI-technologie in Nederland te versnellen, gericht op kansen voor Nederland en mét inachtneming van juridische, ethische en sociale randvoorwaarden. Als vertrekpunt voor de strategie met doelen en acties, wordt een landschapsschets opgesteld met initiatieven en wensen voor AI in het bedrijfsleven, de overheid, de wetenschap, het onderwijs en de non-gouvernementele sector.

De ontwikkeling van het voorstel loopt tot begin oktober. In een volgende fase zullen de initiatiefnemers van AINED met een brede groep aan stakeholders de doelen en acties verder uitwerken en afstemmen hoe zij kunnen bijdragen hieraan. Naast het Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat, de Ministeries van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, Defensie en Binnenlandse Zaken, zal een belangrijke rol weggelegd zijn voor het bedrijfsleven. In deze volgende fase zullen ook commitments op de doelen en acties behaald worden. Voor interesse om bij te dragen, neem contact op met Daniël Frijters, secretaris AINED op

Source: dutch digital delta

Old School ‘Sniffing’ Attacks Can Still Reveal Your Browsing History to any old website

Most modern browsers—such as Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, and even browsers such as FuzzyFox and DeterFox (different, security-focused versions of Firefox)—have vulnerabilities that allow hosts of malicious websites to extract hundreds to thousands of URLs in a user’s web history, per new research from the University of California San Diego.

What’s worse, the vulnerabilities are built into the way they structure links, meaning that major structural changes will have to take place in these browsers in order to protect user privacy. The only browser that was immune to the attacks was Tor Browser, as the browser does not keep track of a user’s internet history.


As outlined in the UC San Diego report, this sniffing could happen in a couple of ways: they could force the browser to reload multiple complex images or image transformations that differ based on whether you’ve visited a link or not, which would create drastic differences in the loading time for each. With this strategy, actors can test 60 sensitive URLs per second.

In Google Chrome, the actor could also exploit what’s called a bytecode cache, which speeds up the loading time for revisiting a link that you’ve already visited. By embedding a special script in a web page, the actor can test how long it takes for a web page to load and infer whether you’ve visited it or not. Actors can probe 3,000 URLs per second with this method. But when the researchers reported the vulnerability to Google, the company marked the issue as “security-sensitive” but “low-priority.”

Source: Old School ‘Sniffing’ Attacks Can Still Reveal Your Browsing History – Motherboard

20th Century Fox is using AI to analyze movie trailers and find out what films audiences will like

Machine learning is, at heart, the art of finding patterns in data. That’s why businesses love it. Patterns help predict the future, and predicting the future is a great way to make money. It’s sometimes unclear how these things fit together, but here’s a perfect example from film studio 20th Century Fox, which is using AI to predict what films people will want to see.

Researchers from the company published a paper last month explaining how they’re analyzing the content of movie trailers using machine learning. Machine vision systems examine trailer footage frame by frame, labeling objects and events, and then compare this to data generated for other trailers. The idea is that movies with similar sets of labels will attract similar sets of people.

As the researchers explain in the paper, this is exactly the sort of data movie studios love. (They already produce lots of similar data using traditional methods like interviews and questionnaires.) “Understanding detailed audience composition is important for movie studios that invest in stories of uncertain commercial,” they write. In other words, if they know who watches what, they will know what movies to make.

It’s even better if this audience composition can be broken down into smaller and more accurate “micro segments.” A good example of this is 2017’s Logan. It’s a superhero movie, yes, but it has darker themes and a plot that attracts a slightly different audience. So can AI be used to capture those differences? The answer is: sort of.

To create their “experimental movie attendance prediction and recommendation system” (named Merlin), 20th Century Fox partnered with Google to use the company’s servers and open-source AI framework TensorFlow. In an accompanying blog post, the search giant explains Merlin’s analysis of Logan.

First, Merlin scans the trailer, labeling objects like “facial hair,” “car,” and “forest”:

While this graph only records the frequency of these labels, the actual data generated is more complex, taking into account how long these objects appear on-screen and when they show up the trailer.

As 20th Century Fox’s engineers explain, this temporal information is particularly rich because it correlates with a film’s genre. “For example,” they write, “a trailer with a long close-up shot of a character is more likely for a drama movie than for an action movie, whereas a trailer with quick but frequent shots is more likely for an action movie.” This definitely holds true for Logan, with its trailer featuring lots of slow shots of Hugh Jackman looking bloody and beaten.

By comparing this information with analyses of other trailers, Merlin can try to predict what films might interest the people who saw Logan. But here’s where things get a little dicey.

The graph below shows the top 20 films that people who went to see Logan also watched. The column on the right shows Merlin’s predictions, and the column on the left shows the actual data (collected, one assumes, by using that pre-AI method of “asking people”).

Merlin gets quite a few of the films correct, including other superhero movies like X Men: Apocalypse, Doctor Strange, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It even correctly identifies John Wick: Chapter 2 as a bedfellow of Logan. That’s an impressive intuition since John Wick is certainly not a superhero movie. However, it does feature a similarly weary and jaded protagonist with a comparably rugged look. All in all, Merlin identifies all of the top five picks, even if it does fail to put them in the same order of importance.

What’s more revealing, though, are the mismatches. Merlin predicts that The Legend of Tarzan will be a big hit with Logan fans for example. Neither Google nor 20th Century Fox offers an explanation for this, but it could it have something to do with the “forest,” “tree,” and “light” found in Logan — elements which also feature heavily in the Tarzan trailer.

Similarly, The Revenant has plenty of flora and facial hair, but it was drama-heavy Oscar bait rather than a smart superhero movie. Merlin also misses Ant-Man and Deadpool 2 as lure’s for the same audience. These were superhero films with quick-cut trailers, but they also took offbeat approaches to their protagonists, similar to Wolverine’s treatment in Logan.

Source: 20th Century Fox is using AI to analyze movie trailers and find out what films audiences will like – The Verge

Solid state of fear: Euro boffins bust open SSD, Bitlocker encryption (it’s really, really dumb)

Fundamental flaws in the encryption system used by popular solid-state drives (SSDs) can be exploited by miscreants to easily decrypt data, once they’ve got their hands on the equipment.

A paper [PDF] drawn up by researchers Carlo Meijer and Bernard van Gastel at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and made public today, describes these critical weaknesses. The bottom line is: the drives require a password to encrypt and decrypt their contents, however this password can be bypassed, allowing crooks and snoops to access ciphered data.

Basically, the cryptographic keys used to encrypt and decrypt the data are not derived from the owner’s password, meaning, you can seize a drive and, via a debug port, reprogram it to accept any password. At that point, the SSD will use its stored keys to cipher and decipher its contents. Yes, it’s that dumb.

The egghead duo tested three Crucial and four Samsung models of SSDs, and found them more or less vulnerable to the aforementioned attack, although it does depend on their final configuration. Check the table below for the specific findings and settings to determine if your rig is vulnerable. All of the drives tried, and failed, to securely implement the TCG Opal standard of encryption.

Source: Solid state of fear: Euro boffins bust open SSD, Bitlocker encryption (it’s really, really dumb) • The Register

Facebook releases Horizon, a reinforcement learning platform

Horizon is an open source end-to-end platform for applied reinforcement learning (RL) developed and used at Facebook. Horizon is built in Python and uses PyTorch for modeling and training and Caffe2 for model serving. The platform contains workflows to train popular deep RL algorithms and includes data preprocessing, feature transformation, distributed training, counterfactual policy evaluation, and optimized serving. For more detailed information about Horizon see the white paper here.

Algorithms Supported

Palau plans sunscreen ban to save coral

A spokesman for President Tommy Remengesau said there was scientific evidence that the chemicals found in most sunscreens are toxic to corals, even in minute doses.

He said Palau’s dive sites typically hosted about four boats an hour packed with tourists, leading to concerns a build-up of chemicals could see the reefs reach tipping point.

“On any given day that equates to gallons of sunscreen going into the ocean in Palau’s famous dive spots and snorkelling places,” he told AFP.

“We’re just looking at what we can do to prevent pollution getting into the environment.”

The government has passed a law banning “-toxic” sunscreen from January 1, 2020.

Anyone importing or selling banned sunscreen from that date faces a $1,000 fine, while tourists who bring it into the country will have it confiscated.

“The power to confiscate sunscreens should be enough to deter their non-commercial use, and these provisions walk a smart balance between educating tourists and scaring them away,” Remengesau told parliament after the bill passed last week.

Environmental pioneer

The US state of Hawaii announced a ban on reef toxic sunscreens in May this year, but it does not come into force until 2021, a year after Palau’s.

The Palau ban relates to sunscreens containing chemicals including oxybenzone, octocrylene and parabens, which covers most major brands.

Palau has long been a pioneer in marine protection, introducing the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, in a move that has been widely imitated.

It has also banned commercial fishing from its waters and last year introduced the “Palau Pledge” requiring international visitors to sign a promise stamped into their passport that they will respect the environment.

Craig Downs, executive director at the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Hawaii, said other nations would be watching Palau’s move closely.

“It’s the first country to ban these chemicals from tourism. I think it’s great, they’re being proactive,” he said.

“They don’t want to be like Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, where they’ve had to shut down beaches. The coral reefs around those beaches have died.”

Downs said there were numerous scientific papers pointing to a link between sunscreen chemicals and .

“What we’re saying is that where there are lots of tourists getting in the water, sunscreen pollution can have a detrimental effect on nearby coral reefs, as far as five kilometres (3.1 miles) away,” he said.

Downs called on manufacturers to “step up and innovate”, saying the chemicals used for UV protection had been largely unchanged for 50 years.

He said there were some sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that were not reef toxic but added: “The other alternative we’ve been pushing is sunwear—cover up, wear a sunshirt.”

Read more at:

Source: Palau plans sunscreen ban to save coral

FlexPai is the world’s first phone with fully foldable screen: 4″ 2 sided phone or 7.8″ tablet

The first foldable phone is a reality – the FlexPai. Well, it’s actually a tablet as unfolded it boasts a 7.8” screen (4:3 aspect ratio). Folded, that drops to a more manageable 4”. And get this, this device is the first to use the 7nm Snapdragon 8150!

Back to the screen, it’s an AMOLED that folds down the middle. The software (dubbed Water OS) switches to using only half of the screen, displaying a wallpaper on the other half.

You get to choose which half you use, though, one has slightly more screen, the other is next to the dual camera, which can be used for selfies and video calls in this configuration. It’s a 16+20MP camera, by the way, the second camera module has a telephoto lens.

FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150 FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150 FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150 FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150 FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150 FlexPai is the world's first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150
FlexPai is the world’s first flexible phone/tablet and the first with Snapdragon 8150

The FlexPai measures 7.6mm thick. However, it doesn’t fold flat so it’s thicker than than 15.2mm when folded (certainly near the “hinge”). The hinge is rated to being folded 200,000 times.

The device is powered by a 7nm Qualcomm chipset and only the Snapdragon 8150 fits that description. The base configuration has 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, but other options include 8/256 and 8/512GB. A proprietary Ro-Charge fast charging tech is supported – it goes from 0% to 80% in an hour.

The price starts at CNY 9,000 – $1,300/€1,135 – which doesn’t seem so high considering that some Android flagships cost that much without a next-gen chipset or a foldable design.

Source: FlexPai is the world’s first foldable phone, first with Snapdragon 8150 too – news

The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise through Google scraping, killing ~30 agents

From around 2009 to 2013, the U.S. intelligence community experienced crippling intelligence failures related to the secret internet-based communications system, a key means for remote messaging between CIA officers and their sources on the ground worldwide. The previously unreported global problem originated in Iran and spiderwebbed to other countries, and was left unrepaired — despite warnings about what was happening — until more than two dozen sources died in China in 2011 and 2012 as a result, according to 11 former intelligence and national security officials.


One of the largest intelligence failures of the past decade started in Iran in 2009, when the Obama administration announced the discovery of a secret Iranian underground enrichment facility — part of Iran’s headlong drive for nuclear weapons. Angered about the breach, the Iranians went on a mole hunt, looking for foreign spies, said one former senior intelligence official.

The mole hunt wasn’t hard, in large part, because the communications system the CIA was using to communicate with agents was flawed. Former U.S. officials said the internet-based platform, which was first used in war zones in the Middle East, was not built to withstand the sophisticated counterintelligence efforts of a state actor like China or Iran. “It was never meant to be used long term for people to talk to sources,” said one former official. “The issue was that it was working well for too long, with too many people. But it was an elementary system.”

“Everyone was using it far beyond its intention,” said another former official.


Though the Iranians didn’t say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous.


In fact, the Iranians used Google to identify the website the CIA was using to communicate with agents. Because Google is continuously scraping the internet for information about all the world’s websites, it can function as a tremendous investigative tool — even for counter-espionage purposes. And Google’s search functions allow users to employ advanced operators — like “AND,” “OR,” and other, much more sophisticated ones — that weed out and isolate websites and online data with extreme specificity.

According to the former intelligence official, once the Iranian double agent showed Iranian intelligence the website used to communicate with his or her CIA handlers, they began to scour the internet for websites with similar digital signifiers or components — eventually hitting on the right string of advanced search terms to locate other secret CIA websites. From there, Iranian intelligence tracked who was visiting these sites, and from where, and began to unravel the wider CIA network.


But the events in Iran were not self-contained; they coincided roughly with a similar debacle in China in 2011 and 2012, where authorities rounded up and executed around 30 agents working for the U.S. (the New York Times first reported the extirpation of the CIA’s China sources in May 2017). Some U.S. intelligence officials also believe that former Beijing-based CIA officer Jerry Lee, who was charged with spying on behalf of the Chinese government in May 2018, was partially responsible for the destruction of the CIA’s China-based source network. But Lee’s betrayal does not explain the extent of the damage, or the rapidity with which Chinese intelligence was able to identify and destroy the network, said former officials.


As Iran was making fast inroads into the CIA’s covert communications system, back in Washington an internal complaint by a government contractor warning officials about precisely what was happening was winding its way through a Kafkaesque appeals system.

In 2008 — well before the Iranians had arrested any agents — a defense contractor named John Reidy, whose job it was to identify, contact and manage human sources for the CIA in Iran, had already sounded an alarm about a “massive intelligence failure” having to do with “communications” with sources. According to Reidy’s publicly available but heavily redacted whistleblower disclosure, by 2010 he said he was told that the “nightmare scenario” he had warned about regarding the secret communications platform had, in fact, occurred.

Reidy refused to discuss his case with Yahoo News. But two former government officials directly familiar with his disclosure and the investigation into the compromises in China and Iran tell Yahoo News that Reidy had identified the weaknesses — and early compromise — that eventually befell the entire covert communications platform.

Reidy’s case was complicated. After he blew the whistle, he was moved off of his subcontract with SAIC, a Virginia company that works on government information technology products and support. According to the public disclosure, he contacted the CIA inspector general and congressional investigators about his employment status but was met with resistance, partially because whistleblower protections are complicated for federal contractors, and he remained employed.

Meanwhile, throughout 2010 and 2011, the compromise continued to spread, and Reidy provided details to investigators. But by November 2011, Reidy was fired because of what his superiors said were conflicts of interest, as Reidy maintained his own side business. Reidy believed the real reason was retaliation.


“Can you imagine how different this whole story would’ve turned out if the CIA [inspector general] had acted on Reidy’s warnings instead of going after him?” said Kel McClanahan, Reidy’s attorney. “Can you imagine how different this whole story would’ve turned out if the congressional oversight committees had done oversight instead of taking CIA’s word that he was just a troublemaker?”

Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst with the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit that works with whistleblowers, put the issue in even starker terms. “This is one of the most catastrophic intelligence failures since Sept. 11,” he said. “And the CIA punished the person who brought the problem to light.”

Source: The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise

NVIDIA Launches Year-Long Research Residency Program

If you’re a researcher looking to deepen your exposure to AI, NVIDIA invites you to apply to its new AI Research Residency program.

During the one-year, paid program, residents will be paired with an NVIDIA research scientist on a joint project and have the opportunity to publish and present their findings at prominent research conferences such as CVPR, ICLR and ICML.

The residency program is meant to encourage scholars with diverse academic backgrounds to pursue machine learning research, according to Jan Kautz, vice president of perception and learning research at NVIDIA.

“There’s currently a shortage of machine learning experts, and AI adoption for non-tech and smaller companies is hindered in part because there are not many people who understand AI,” said Kautz. “Our residency program is a way to broaden opportunities in the field to a more diverse set of researchers and spread the benefits of the technology to more people than ever.”

Applicants don’t need a background in AI, and those with doctoral degrees or equivalent expertise are encouraged to apply. Residents will work out of our Santa Clara location.

Source: NVIDIA Launches Year-Long Research Residency Program | The Official NVIDIA Blog

Google AI offering a share of $25m for social AI ideas is issuing an open call to organizations around the world to submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges. Selected organizations will receive support from Google’s AI experts, grant funding from a $25M pool, credit and consulting from Google Cloud, and more.

Source: Impact Challenge – Google AI

It’s Kind of Brilliant How This Dual-Screen Smartphone Avoids the Notch

Created by Chinese smartphone company Nubia (which is partially owned by ZTE), the Nubia X solves the problem of where to put the selfie cam on an all-screen phone by dodging the question entirely. That’s because instead of using the main 6.1-inch LCD screen and a front-facing camera to take selfies, you can simply flip the phone around and use its rear camera and 5.1-inch secondary 1520 x 720 OLED screen on the back to frame up your shot.

This solution might sound like overkill, but in some ways, it’s a much simpler overall design. Cameras are quickly becoming much more difficult and expensive to make than screens, and by only including one module on the back, it gives phone makers the ability to focus more on delivering a single, high quality photography experience.

On top of that, with the prevalence of so many phones designed with glass panels in front and back, the Nubia X shouldn’t be much more fragile than a typical handset. Also, that extra display can be used for way more than just selfies. Nubia says its rear, always-on display can show off your favorite art or be used as clock, or it can double as a full-on second display with access to all your standard Android screens and apps.

Now, the back of your phone doesn’t need to be reserved for blank glass.
Image: Nubia

Inside, the Nubia X’s specs look pretty solid as well—featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB/8GB of RAM, up to 128GB of storage, and a sizable 3,800 mAh battery. And because there’s no room in front or back for a traditional fingerprint sensor, Nubia opted for an in-screen fingerprint reader like we’ve seen on the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20.

Source: It’s Kind of Brilliant How This Dual-Screen Smartphone Avoids the Notch

Flex Logix Says It’s Solved Deep Learning’s DRAM Problem

Deep learning has a DRAM problem. Systems designed to do difficult things in real time, such as telling a cat from a kid in a car’s backup camera video stream, are continuously shuttling the data that makes up the neural network’s guts from memory to the processor.

The problem, according to startup Flex Logix, isn’t a lack of storage for that data; it’s a lack of bandwidth between the processor and memory. Some systems need four or even eight DRAM chips to sling the 100s of gigabits to the processor, which adds a lot of space and consumes considerable power. Flex Logix says that the interconnect technology and tile-based architecture it developed for reconfigurable chips will lead to AI systems that need the bandwidth of only a single DRAM chip and consume one-tenth the power.


In developing the original technology for FPGAs, Wang noted that these chips were about 80 percent interconnect by area, and so he sought an architecture that would cut that area down and allow for more logic. He and his colleagues at UCLA adapted a kind of telecommunications architecture called a folded-Beneš network to do the job. This allowed for an FPGA architecture that looks like a bunch of tiles of logic and SRAM.

Distributing the SRAM in this specialized interconnect scheme winds up having a big impact on deep learning’s DRAM bandwidth problem, says Tate. “We’re displacing DRAM bandwidth with SRAM on the chip,” he says.


True apples-to-apples comparisons in deep learning are hard to come by. But Flex Logix’s analysis comparing a simulated 6 x 6-tile NMAX512 array with one DRAM chip against an Nvidia Tesla T4 with eight DRAMs showed the new architecture identifying 4,600 images per second versus Nvidia’s 3,920. The same size NMAX array hit 22 trillion operations per second on a real-time video processing test called YOLOv3 using one-tenth the DRAM bandwidth of other systems.

The designs for the first NMAX chips will be sent to the foundry for manufacture in the second half of 2019, says Tate.

Source: Flex Logix Says It’s Solved Deep Learning’s DRAM Problem – IEEE Spectrum

Experimental AI lie detector will help screen EU travelers

In the future, you might talk to an AI to cross borders in the European Union. The EU and Hungary’s National Police will run a six-month pilot project, iBorderCtrl, that will help screen travelers in Hungary, Greece and Latvia. The system will have you upload photos of your passport, visa and proof of funds, and then use a webcam to answer basic questions from a personalized AI border agent. The virtual officer will use AI to detect the facial microexpressions that can reveal when someone is lying. At the border, human agents will use that info to determine what to do next — if there are signs of lying or a photo mismatch, they’ll perform a more stringent check.

The real guards will use handhelds to automatically double-check documents and photos for these riskier visitors (including images from past crossings), and they’ll only take over once these travelers have gone through biometric verification (including face matching, fingerprinting and palm vein scans) and a re-evaluation of their risk levels. Anyone who passed the pre-border test, meanwhile, will skip all but a basic re-evaluation and having to present a QR code.

The pilot won’t start with live tests. Instead, it’ll begin with lab tests and will move on to “realistic conditions” along the borders. And there’s a good reason for this: the technology is very much experimental. iBorderCtrl was just 76 percent accurate in early testing, and the team only expects to improve that to 85 percent. There are no plans to prevent people from crossing the border if they fail the initial AI screening.

Source: Experimental AI lie detector will help screen EU travelers

Empathetic machines favored by skeptics but might creep out believers

Most people would appreciate a chatbot that offers sympathetic or empathetic responses, according to a team of researchers, but they added that reaction may rely on how comfortable the person is with the idea of a feeling machine.

In a study, the researchers reported that preferred receiving sympathetic and empathetic responses from a chatbot—a machine programmed to simulate a conversation—than receiving a response from a machine without emotions, said S. Shyam Sundar, James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. People express when they feel compassion for a person, whereas they express empathy when they are actually feeling the same emotions of the other person, said Sundar.


However, chatbots may become too personal for some people, said Bingjie Liu, a doctoral candidate in mass communications, who worked with Sundar on the study. She said that study participants who were leery of conscious machines indicated they were impressed by the chatbots that were programmed to deliver statements of sympathy and empathy.

“The majority of people in our sample did not really believe in machine emotion, so, in our interpretation, they took those expressions of empathy and sympathy as courtesies,” said Liu. “When we looked at people who have different beliefs, however, we found that people who think it’s possible that machines could have emotions had negative reactions to these expressions of sympathy and empathy from the chatbots.”

Source: Empathetic machines favored by skeptics but might creep out believers

Artificial intelligence bot trained to recognize galaxies

Researchers have taught an artificial intelligence program used to recognise faces on Facebook to identify galaxies in deep space.

The result is an AI bot named ClaRAN that scans images taken by radio telescopes.

Its job is to spot radio —galaxies that emit powerful radio jets from at their centres.

ClaRAN is the brainchild of big data specialist Dr. Chen Wu and astronomer Dr. Ivy Wong, both from The University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

Dr. Wong said black holes are found at the centre of most, if not all, galaxies.

“These supermassive black holes occasionally burp out jets that can be seen with a radio telescope,” she said.

“Over time, the jets can stretch a long way from their host galaxies, making it difficult for traditional computer programs to figure out where the galaxy is.

“That’s what we’re trying to teach ClaRAN to do.”

Dr. Wu said ClaRAN grew out of an open source version of Microsoft and Facebook’s object detection software.

He said the program was completely overhauled and trained to recognise galaxies instead of people.

ClaRAN itself is also open source and publicly available on GitHub.

Read more at:

Source: Artificial intelligence bot trained to recognize galaxies

Let’s store solar and wind energy – by using compressed air

Energy is already stored, of course, in batteries or various other technologies. Even reservoirs can act as huge stores of energy. However nothing that exists or is in development can store energy as well, and as cheaply, as compressed air.

The concept seems simple: you just suck in some air from the atmosphere, compress it using electrically-driven compressors and store the energy in the form of pressurised air. When you need that energy you just let the air out and pass it through a machine that takes the energy from the air and turns an electrical generator.

Compressed air energy storage (or CAES), to give it its full name, can involve storing air in steel tanks or in much less expensive containments deep underwater. In some cases, high pressure air can be stored in caverns deep underground, either excavated directly out of hard rock or formed in large salt deposits by so-called “solution mining”, where water is pumped in and salty water comes out. Such salt caverns are often used to store natural gas.

Salt caverns are ideal for storing air as they are impermeable and don’t react with oxygen. Maria Avvakumova / shutterstock

Compressed air could easily deliver the required scale of storage, but it remains grossly undervalued by policymakers, funding bodies and the energy industry itself. This has stunted the development of the technology and means it is likely that much more expensive and less effective solutions will instead be adopted. At present, three key problems stand in the way of compressed air:

1. It’s not a single technology

The above description of how it works is an over-simplification. CAES is, in fact, not a single technology but a wide family that includes compression machinery, expansion machinery, heat exchangers, the design of air stores and the design of thermal stores. These all require meticulous engineering to get right.

An artist’s sketch of a proposed CAES plant above a disused limestone mine in Ohio. US Department of Energy

2. It’s better for longer-term storage

At the moment, wind and solar still make up only a small proportion of the overall sector. As electricity generated from fossil fuels can cover the overcast or wind-free days, renewable energy is often used straight away and only needs to be stored for short amounts of time. For these situations, batteries work quite well and can be economically viable.

Large-scale decarbonisation will require us to store energy for much longer periods, however, for instance from a sunny day to use on a cloudy day. CAES is especially suited for storage durations of some hours through to several days.

All affordable energy storage involves converting energy from the form of electricity to some other form and storing it in that other form. For pumped-hydro storage, for instance, the other form is water that has been lifted up to a great height. For CAES, that other form includes both heat and high-pressure air.

The UK’s largest pumped storage station is in Snowdonia, Wales. Water is pumped from a low level reservoir to a high one (seen here) during off peak hours, then released downhill to generate energy during peak hours. Hefin Owen, CC BY-SA

For such systems, there are separate costs for the equipment that does the conversion and for the storage itself. Systems like CAES and pumped-hydro involve relatively expensive equipment for the power conversion but very inexpensive provisions for the storage of energy. These systems, where small amounts of power can fill up very large amounts of storage, are therefore very economical for storing energy over a long period.

3. CAES lasts a lifetime

Private investment requires high rates of return. An indirect effect of this is that investors place less value on what utility may be left in an asset in the longer term.

In most CAES systems, costs are concentrated in things that naturally have very long lifetimes. For example, a solution-mined cavern in a salt deposit might reasonably be expected to operate for at least 100 years, while high power machines for compressing and expanding air can typically operate for 50 years or more. With returns over such a long timescale, there is a strong argument that at least some large-scale compressed air installations should be treated as national infrastructure projects financed by governments.

Two large compressed air plants were built decades ago, one in Huntorf, Germany and the other in McIntosh, Alabama. Both are still working extremely well. Many refer to these two plants to draw conclusions about how efficient CAES can be and how much or little it can cost.

But this is misleading and pointless. Both plants were designed with very different priorities from those relevant today. It is imperative that we now think again about compressed air energy storage and evaluate it properly in light of what can be achieved by exploiting modern methods and knowledge.

Source: Let’s store solar and wind energy – by using compressed air

AI can predict the structure of chemical compounds thousands of times faster than quantum chemistry

AI can help chemists crack the molecular structure of crystals much faster than traditional modelling methods, according to research published in Nature Communications on Monday.

Scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a research institute in Switzerland, have built a machine learning programme called SwiftML to predict how the atoms in molecules shift when exposed to a magnetic field.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is commonly used to work out the structure of compounds. Groups of atoms oscillate at a specific frequencies, providing a tell-tale sign of the number and location of electrons each contains. But the technique is not good enough to reveal the full chemical structure of molecules, especially complex ones that can contain thousands of different atoms.

Another technique known as Density functional theory (DFT) is needed. It uses complex quantum chemistry calculations to map the density of electrons in a given area, and requires heavy computation. SwiftML, however, can do the job at a much quicker rate and can perform as accurately as DFT programmes in some cases.

“Even for relatively simple molecules, this model is almost 10,000 times faster than existing methods, and the advantage grows tremendously when considering more complex compounds,” said Michele Ceriotti, co-author of the paper and an assistant professor at the EPFL.

“To predict the NMR signature of a crystal with nearly 1,600 atoms, our technique – ShiftML – requires about six minutes; the same feat would have taken 16 years with conventional techniques.”

The researchers trained the system on the Cambridge Structural Database, a dataset containing calculated DFT chemical shifts for thousands of compounds. Each one is made up less than 200 atoms including carbon and hydrogen paired with oxygen or nitrogen. 2,000 structures were used for training and validation, and 500 were held back for testing.

SwiftML managed to calculate the chemical shifts for a molecule that had 86 atoms and the same chemical elements as cocaine, but arranged in a different crystal structure. The process took less than a minute of CPU time, compared around 62 to 150 CPU hours typically needed to calculate the chemical shift of a molecule containing 86 atoms using DFT.

The team hopes that SwiftML can be used to supplement NMR experiments to design new drugs. “This is really exciting because the massive acceleration in computation times will allow us to cover much larger conformational spaces and correctly determine structures where it was just not previously possible. This puts most of the complex contemporary drug molecules within reach,” says Lyndon Emsley, co-author of the study and a chemistry professor at EPFL.

Source: AI can predict the structure of chemical compounds thousands of times faster than quantum chemistry • The Register

MINI cars personalised with 3D printed parts – powered by Twikit

Advanced car personalization running on Twikbot®

Car personalization has been popular ever since. In which level it was applied depended on many factors like the availability of options from the car manufacturer itself or the artistic skills of some of its customers.

Today, car manufacturers already offer a wide range of pre-defined options. In the end though, options are limited to colors, finnishes and interior materials. This widely known car-configuration is already adapted within the automotive industry.

MINI Yours Customised powered by Twikit Twikbot Software

Beyond full-option

To stand out from the competition car brands are emerging towards more complex customization options. With new technologies like 3D printing and legacy manufacturing technologies like lasercutting and CNC, car parts can get personalized on a more advanced level.

MINI decided to tap into this, and became a pioneer in offering next level car individualization through an online platform where the end-consumer can personalize and design car parts for their own vehicle.

In order to enable personalized production at scale, the MINI yours customised experience runs on Twikit’s Twikbot platform technology. Our universal software supports the full customization journey, from product input, where all personalization assets are created, to front-end customer experience and the right output for production.

Source: Case – MINI Yours Customised – powered by Twikit

Qualcomm Says Apple Is $7 Billion Behind in Royalty Payments

Qualcomm Inc. says its fight with Apple Inc. over how much the chipmaker can charge for essential patented technology used in iPhones and iPads is getting pricey.

“They’re trying to destroy our business,” Qualcomm lawyer Evan Chesler said at a hearing Friday in federal court in San Diego. “They’re now $7 billion dollars behind in royalties. The house is on fire and there is $7 billion of property damage right now.”

Qualcomm wants as many as 56 patent-related claims and counterclaims cut from a lawsuit with Apple and its Asian manufacturers, arguing that these are just a sideshow to the broader licensing dispute between the companies. Apple, through its manufacturers, halted royalty payments to Qualcomm last year and the tech giants’ showdown has escalated into some 100 legal proceedings around the world.

Apple argues that Qualcomm is using its intellectual property to bully customers into paying excessive royalties even as it tries to duck scrutiny over whether its patents are valid. “You can’t just let Qualcomm walk away from this,” Apple’s lawyer, Ruffin Cordell, told the judge at Friday’s hearing.

Source: Technology – Bloomberg

Unsure why you can’t log into Office 365? So is Microsoft

Microsoft’s Office 365 has been giving some users cold sweats. No matter how hard they try to log in, they simply can’t access the service and haven’t been able to for hours – others say it has wobbled for days.

Sporadic reports of unrest began to emerge on Down Detector on Friday (26 October) in the UK and across the pond, stopped over the weekend and started again prior to 0800 GMT today. Office 365’s web woes have still not been resolved at the time of writing.

The first complaint was spotted on Twitter just after 0700 GMT.

Microsoft, at least initially, seemed to know nothing of the activation worries to which admin Tom Ruben referred, but he was backed up by others.

Admins raised support tickets with Microsoft but complained they’d only received acknowledgement of the outage early on in the screw-up and had precious else since.

Microsoft has said it is “investigating issues related to repeated credential prompts and users being unable to log in using the Outlook client under EX152471”. It asked admins to “please check the admin centre for more details”.

Source: Unsure why you can’t log into Office 365? So is Microsoft • The Register

Ouch – trusting the cloud can hurt!

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