Daily Tech Digest - January 16, 2017

Windows 10 Build 15007 boosts Edge browser

For PCs, the 15007 build's revised Edge application makes it easier to bring data like favorites, browsing history, and saved passwords from another browser when switching to Edge, said Dona Sparker, software engineer in Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group. The revised Edge can also share tabs with compatible Windows apps. XAML scrollbar improvements for Universal Windows Platform, for both the PC and mobile versions of the OS, ensure the scrollbar's availability when needed while taking up less space. The panning indicator now appears when the user mouses over a scrolling region, and the full scrollbar appears when a user wants to directly interact with it. This improvement will be visible in apps using the Windows 10 Creators SDK.

Expect trouble as Shadow Brokers retire, give away hacking tools

“The economics of the dark markets is mainly based on un-exclusive, common, and low priced tools for lower end cyber criminals that look for low hanging fruit. The more sophisticated hackers prefer to roll their own toolset and thrive on their own research to make exclusive and untraceable exploits. They are patient, as to the point they can stay for years in hiding, timing their actions well before making their ‘coup de grace',” he said. “But it is not improbable that the freebie left by Shadow Brokers will be picked up and used by the lower end of opportunistic cyber criminals in campaigns to extort victims for easy money,” he added. More than half of the windows tools are already known and detected by most anti-malware tools, so it is only a matter of time before security analysts close the gap and provide protection against all the threats in the toolset.

Tech's assault on (obliteration of?) consumer privacy

Some of the societal benefits and consumer privacy risks of these new technologies are similar to ones we already know about, Ramirez said. Geolocation data, for example, can help ease horrendous traffic jams on morning commutes, but it should not be collected or used without a person's consent. Risks from unauthorized geolocation information include stalking; exposure of political, health and religious affiliations; and burglary. But there are new challenges, Ramirez said, among them the number of actors "collecting, compiling, interpreting and using data in a world that operates on big data, IoT and AI." The expanding list ranges from consumer-facing companies, device manufacturers and publisher websites to behind-the-scenes software vendors that connect IoT products to the internet to advertisers and analytics providers. "This vast array of entities makes it difficult to provide consumers with informed choices," she said.

Op-Ed: Blockchain - Innocent Until Proven Guilty

This system of multi-member consensus clearing ensures that each member, on an automated basis, applies the same diagnostic approach to the verification of information against the same record, irrespective of the internal processes of each member. Accordingly, each member of the chain is always cognisant of the acquiesced process adopted in determining whether a block should be added to a chain. This system affords transparency to transactions processed through a Blockchain, bearing in mind that due to the flexibility of Blockchain, the system can be restricted depending on the particular needs and purpose of the Blockchain network. The built-in transparency feature of the Blockchain network arguably negates the need for the regulator to administer and enforce further transparency requirements. The regulator should rather focus on the members of the Blockchain network and not the technology itself.

Ericsson CTO on 5G Standards, the WiFi Angle, and Connected Cars

There is going to be a more distinct separation between the services and the cloud. You asked about car makers and the 5G Automotive Association. We launched that association based upon the idea of a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). An automotive maker would rather think: OK, why go to one service provider? Why not create our own platform and then buy the network piece from all of them? They might want to buy service from three or four networks. Why not have the best coverage and pay per bit? We are going to see more model development over the next few years. If we look at 5G now, I see three phases of the business: First, there is basic connectivity. That is coming now. We are building base stations. Second, we will see transformation of core networks triggered by this access. I believe in 2019 and 2020 we will see a big focus on making a high-performance core. Now we have a radio with almost no latency.

AI Technology Takes Center Stage At Retail Convention

At the National Retail Federation event in New York technology vendors are be showcasing some of the most cutting edge technologies for retailers, including chatbots, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and more. Are retailers ready? It depends. There's really a range of experiences across companies. Analytics can offer retailers value across many aspects of their businesses, from supply chain optimization to workforce management to understanding consumer behavior. Yet many retailers are still struggling to get their siloed data integrated. It's one thing to offer a retail app to your customers if you've been a brick-and-mortar retailer. It is a more daunting challenge to integrate customer data from mobile apps, the web, physical stores, catalogs, social media, and any other channels to create a comprehensive picture of consumer behavior that can inform your own business decisions.

Here’s What’s Next for CenturyLink’s Data Center Business

There are some big differences between the two big data center deals that came at the tail end of 2016, however. The assets Equinix cherry-picked in its deal with Verizon will be integrated into an already massive global portfolio, while CenturyLink’s colocation business will become the foundation of a whole new company’s business. The name of the company has not been announced. What we do know is that it is a joint venture between Medina’s tech-focused private equity firm Medina Capital and the 30-year-old European buyout investor BC Partners. Its plan is to use the technologies of four of Medina’s previously acquired cybersecurity companies to provide a range of infrastructure products with emphasis on security, all running on top of the data center platform acquired from CenturyLink.

Coding school graduates: Are they worth hiring?

Coding bootcamps are an attractive educational option for certain populations, according to Kevin Kinser, department head of education policy studies at Penn State University. "They are one of the examples of new ways of thinking about providing access to education that is focused on providing marketable job skills," Kinser said. However, bootcamps are not accredited institutes of higher education. Therefore, a problem—such as a student not believing that the program lived up to its promises—would likely lead to a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, unlike at an institute of higher education, which has multiple layers of oversight. "You have to be assured based on your own understanding of the industry that what you're getting is going to have a return on investment," Kinser said. Longevity is an important factor to consider: If a coding school is not reputable, it's likely that they will not be around for long, Kinser said.

When Real-Time Threat Detection Is Essential

While organizations always want to find threats as quickly as possible, that ideal is far from being met. On average, dwell times last months and give cyber criminals all the time they need to peruse a network and extract valuable information that can impact a company, its customers and its employees. There are times when an organization will be especially vulnerable if they don’t have real-time detection capabilities, and in preparation for these events it’s a good idea to reevaluate tools and strategies. Mike Paquette, director of products, security market at Elastic, identifies some of the most common events that can leave an organization vulnerable, and offers advice to successfully navigating them.

IBM’s Watson Joins the War on Cybercrime

Network defenders are facing a constantly increasing number of alerts and anomalies every day. They have a huge workload screening and prioritizing these threats. Watson is trained to automate the typical duties of security analysts. Relying on machine learning and natural language processing, Watson for Cyber Security decides if a certain anomaly is a malicious threat or not. The system will use its vast amount of data to decide whether a specific security offense is related to a known malware or cybercrime campaign. Moreover, it will determine the potential vulnerabilities as well as the scope of the threat. Watson will also serve up a background about a user’s previous activities. For example, in the case of repeatedly failed log-in attempts, the system can make guesses about whether the event is simply related to an absentminded user or if it's a break-in attempt.

Quote for the day:

"Analyze your mistakes. You've already paid the tuition, you might as well get the lesson." -- Tim Fargo

Daily Tech Digest - January 15, 2017

New Study Paints a Frightening Picture of the Cyber Security Landscape

“The perfect storm is brewing that will pummel our nation’s public and private critical infrastructures with wave upon wave of devastating cyber attacks,” the report notes. “The Mirai malware offers malicious cyber actors an asymmetric quantum leap in capability; not because of sophistication or any innovative DDoS code, rather it offers a powerful development platform that can be optimized and customized according to the desired outcome of a layered attack by an unsophisticated adversary.” Script kiddies and cyber criminal gangs are already drastically expanding their control over vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which can be contracted in DDoS-for-Hire services by a virtually unlimited number of actors for use in an infinite variation of layered attack methods, the study says.

Big data and the challenges in the car industry

Beside big data why are we interested in autonomous driving? Well $500 billion could be saved in traffic accidents and the cost to society. And $507 billion could be saved in productivity gains. Think about if you could get that 90 mins back each day? Better traffic patterns and logistics lead to big savings. The overall auto model is changing. We don’t just want driving anymore, we want fleet, no need to own the car. And then there’s the possibilities for the media and the content that can be delivered into the vehicle. But with a 10 x increase in data from a vehicle by 2025, how do we manage that data, what can we do with it? Something has to change. ... We can speed up the innovation in automotive space, and that’s good for everybody. An autonomous vehicle is much safer than a speeding young teen driver, or an elderly person with slow reflexes. 5G will be crucial to get the speed of data up and back. A data centers to use deep learning to constantly update fleets.

9 Bizarre and Surprising Insights from Data Science

We’ve entered the golden age of predictive discoveries. A frenzy of number crunching churns out a bonanza of colorful, valuable, and sometimes surprising insights Predictive analytics' aim isn’t limited to assessing human hunches by testing relationships that seem to make sense. It goes further, exploring a boundless playing field of possible truths beyond the realms of intuition. And so it drops onto your desk connections that seem to defy logic. As strange, mystifying, or unexpected as they may seem, these discoveries help predict. Welcome to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! of data science—the Freakonomics of big data. Below are nine colorful discoveries, each pertaining to a single predictor variable—from the likes of Walmart, Uber, Harvard, Shell, Microsoft, and Wikipedia.

Nokia's vision for digital health

Nokia has already struck up a partnership with the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital to develop remote monitoring products for neurology outpatients, saying the deal reflects "the company's intent to enter the regulated healthcare space". Is the company intending to focus more on the enterprise healthcare vertical as well as the consumer market? Nokia's digital health business aims to "bridge consumer device experience into healthcare patient solutions", Hutchings said. "One of the shared visions between Nokia and Withings is that there is no definite split or frontier between the consumer world and healthcare." ... "We'll see more and more from this common project [of Nokia and Withings] that involve what look like consumer products, but which really integrate and embed into healthcare and remote patient monitoring environments. We'll be seeing more and more of these pilots, and in the future, large-scale deployments of such solutions."

A Framework for FinTech

Today, after sustained stakeholder engagement, we are proud to publish a whitepaper, A Framework for FinTech, that takes our work one step further to provide that perspective. This whitepaper expresses the forward-leaning posture of this Administration to innovation and entrepreneurship, generally, and fintech in particular. This document sets forth Administration policy objectives that reflect widely-shared values and practical expectations for the financial services sector and the U.S. government entities that interact with the sector. It then provides ten overarching principles that constitute a framework policymakers and regulators can use to think about, engage with, and assess the fintech ecosystem in order to meet these policy objectives.

The Undeniable Power of Data Mining, Visualization and Infographics for Business

One of the most common misconceptions about data visualization is that you need to create amazing works of interactive art, like the cool map from Metrocosm here. Data visualization, massive graphic design budgets, and an in-depth knowledge of coding do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. According to most data experts, data visualization can be any map, chart, graph, etc. that you can make into a simple JPEG image, a video, or even a 3D model like the one above. The only criteria is that the visualization communicates data. It’s also important to point out that data visualizations are usually only visual representations of one data set; a pie chart to show different portions of a specific group, or a line chart showing growth of social media followers. An infographic, on the other hand, is a collection of multiple data sets designed to depict an overall trend, topic, or idea.

Why IoT needs AI

AI typically works in tandem with the Internet of Things (IOT) which includes devices like wearables and connected home gadgets. Simple put, IoT collects the information but AI is the engine that will power analytics and decision-making from that information. IoT connects disparate devices such as wearables and can scale to connect a nearly unlimited number of devices, continuously streaming data. AI processes, makes inferences about this data and ultimately enables recommendations in real-time. Let’s make some examples from the insurance industry A couple of years ago, when I was at Humana around 2012, one of the projects we worked on was understanding seniors (65+) living in their homes to better reduce the incidence of falls and predict the likely use of emergency services in real-time so we can act beforehand, improve their health status and save costs.

Q&A on The Antifragility Edge: Antifragility in Practice

Generally, embracing reality involves entrepreneurs who experiment with options to confront disorder. They are always exploring and seeking opportunities to enable them to thrive; when they encounter disorder and sufficiently and reasonably struggle (that is, experience sufficient and reasonable degrees of stress), they consider their options and experiment, making small and reversible errors that cause acute stress, distributed over time, with ample recovery time, to enable them to learn and grow. ... Antifragility is beyond agility. Agility and antifragility are distinct paradigms, each with a unique mindset, worldview, values, principles, practices, and techniques. The essence of antifragility is a delicate dance --- at the antifragility edge ---  between embracing reality and ensuring aliveness, where disorder or stress is at the intersection.

Digital will disrupt insurance the way it disrupted the travel industry

The current model of insurance is B2B2C. Insurance companies sell through the agencies. Some life insurers sell through the bancassurance model. So it is a B2B2C model. Now with digital disruption, they will have to deal directly with the customers. This means they will need to be more customer-centric. Digitization will shake this model and make it D2C (Direct to Consumer). This is very different from other industries that are digitalizing because they have only one dimension to deal with. They only have to interact more digitally with their customers. ... So as an industry we need to get better in explaining our products. In principle, insurance is a very simple product. We need to explain that our product is relevant and reliable and we need to be transparent about it. If people can buy shoes online, why wouldn’t they buy insurance online?

Agile & Architecture

Two things change: first, filling the Solution Backlog — while still the responsibility of the Product Owner — becomes a consent-based collaboration between Product Owner and Enterprise Architecture (collaborating create&review roles, see below). And also: Enterprise Architecture can add items to the Architecture Backlog. Now, as in the Enterprise Chess approach for more classical projects, Enterprise Architecture’s role is checks & balances from the organisation-as-a-whole perspective. Hence, the Product Owner (in classic Prince2 terms, the Project Executive) is in charge of his project. But if there is no consent, then an escalation occurs to the level above the Product Owner, if need be up to the board of the organisation (after all: enterprise architecture’s checks & balances are from the perspective of the organisation-as-a-whole, for which the board is responsible).

Quote for the day:

"I believe it is important for people to create a healthy mental environment in which to accomplish daily tasks." -- Darren L. Johnson

Daily Tech Digest - January 14, 2017

Are these the gadgets most likely to change our lives in 2017?

The self-driving car has made significant progress in the last couple of years. That’s not surprising given that it has the potential to solve congestion, accident prevention and reducing carbon emissions. The pioneers come from the new economy: Google, Uber and Tesla all have partially or fully independent vehicles. However, most of the major car makers have plans to introduce autonomous vehicles by the early 2020s, and were showing off both concepts and future self-driving models at CES. Collaborations with leading technology companies - chip makers NVIDIA and Intel, Samsung and Apple, for instance – were high on the agenda, as was the need for reassurance on the safety of driverless cars. In this context, providing the computing ‘horsepower’ and depth of information needed so a car can assess its environment and make decisions were a major focus for exhibitors in Las Vegas.

WhatsApp’s Small Security Flaw Is the Price of Convenience

According to a new report by the Guardian, WhatsApp has a flaw that could, in theory, allow the company to read messages that users assume are safe from prying eyes. Tobias Boelter, a security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, tells the newspaper that WhatsApp can force a device to generate a new encryption key when a user is offline. Then, if someone is sending a message to that device while it’s offline, the sender will be made to re-encrypt the messages and resend them. Those messages could, says Boelter, be read by WhatsApp. And, presumably, by anyone who demanded the company turn them over, too. WhatsApp knows this is the case, and it is unapologetic about it. It has a compelling argument: convenience.

An Interview with Dr. David Bray and Michael Krigsman on Ethics and AI.

The ethical aspects of AI center on development, use, and application. AI offers its maker advanced capabilities that can be applied to fields as diverse as robotics, medicine, autonomous vehicles, weapons, and much more. As with any technology, the developer’s goals and objectives dictate how AI technology is used and in what fields it is applied. Given the power of AI to mimic human decisions and intelligence, the question of application is crucial to consider. For example, imagine AI technologies in the hands of a government planning to identify and target specific populations or groups for attack or discrimination. Most people would say this is an unethical use of AI. What about companies using AI to target consumers with levels of personalization unattainable today. At what point do we cross the line between appropriate and inappropriate use?

Your selfies might be leaving you vulnerable to hackers

According to research from a team at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII), cyber thieves can lift your fingerprints from a photo in order to access your biometrically protected data (like the info secured on your iPhone by the Touch ID system). But while it's technically possible, biometrics experts say there's no need to panic. The NII team's report focuses on the personal security threats posed for social media users who share lots of publicly accessible pictures. Using a set of photos taken by a camera placed about three meters away from a subject, the team was able to recreate the fingerprints accurately.  The Japan Times reports that NII researcher Isao Echizen told Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese language newspaper, that peace signs could be exploited without much effort. “Just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available,” he told the paper.

Twitter CMO finally explains the purpose of Twitter

As Berland and her colleagues set out to clarify just what Twitter is and why it exists, they landed on the most obvious definition of all. "Twitter is the place to see what's happening," she said. "We've been asking the same question from you for years and years. We've been searching and searching, and the answer was staring in front of us all along." That central question — "what's happening?" — appears right in Twitter's main compose field. "The first thing we did is we actually took ourselves out of the social networking category in the app stores and we put ourselves where we belong, which is news," Berland said. "As we were telling the story about us being in the center of what's happening in the world, reflecting on what's happening in the world, there was in fact a lot happening in the world right here on Twitter," she said.

You should read this super-interesting AMA with AI researcher Joanna Bryson

There are two things that humans do that are opposites: anthropomorphizing and dehumanizing. I’m very worried about the fact that we can treat people like they are not people, but cute robots like they are people…We are used to applying ethics to stuff that we identify with, but people are getting WAY good at exploiting this and making us identify with things we don’t really have anything in common with at all. Even if we assumed we had a robot that was otherwise exactly like a human (I doubt we could build this, but let’s pretend like Asimov did), since we built it, we could make sure that it’s “mind” was backed up constantly by wifi, so it wouldn’t be a unique copy. We could ensure it didn’t suffer when it was put down socially. We have complete authorship. So my line isn’t “torture robots!” My line is “we are obliged to build robots we are not obliged to.”

“OK Facebook”—Why stop at assistants? Facebook has grander ambitions for modern AI

On the road to this human-like intelligence, Facebook will use machine learning (ML), a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), to understand all the content users feed into the company’s infrastructure. Facebook wants to use AI to teach its platform to understand the meaning of posts, stories, comments, images, and videos. Then with ML, Facebook stores that information as metadata to improve ad targeting and increase the relevance of user newsfeed content. The metadata also acts as raw material for creating an advanced conversational agent. These efforts are not some far-off goal: AI is the next platform for Facebook right now. The company is quietly approaching this initiative with the same urgency as its previous Web-to-mobile pivot. 

One Startup’s Vision to Reinvent the Web for Better Privacy

Blockstack’s vision is made possible by an identity system built to be independent of any one company, including the startup itself. It uses the digital ledger, or blockchain, underpinning the digital currency Bitcoin to track usernames and associated encryption keys that allow a person to control his or her data and identity. A collective of thousands of computers around the globe maintains the blockchain, and no one entity controls it. Blockstack’s system uses the blockchain to record domain names, too, meaning there’s no need for an equivalent to ICANN, the body that oversees Web domains today. Software built on top of the name and ID systems gives people control over the data they let online services use. Microsoft is already collaborating with Blockstack to explore uses for its platform.

Developing Transactional Microservices Using Aggregates, Event Sourcing and CQRS

On the surface, using events to maintain consistency between aggregates seems quite straightforward. When a service creates or updates an aggregate in the database it simply publishes an event. But there is a problem: updating the database and publishing an event must be done atomically. Otherwise, if, for example, a service crashed after updating the database but before publishing an event then the system would remain in an inconsistent state. The traditional solution is a distributed transaction involving the database and the message broker. But, for the reasons described earlier in part 1, 2PC is not a viable option. ... A message consumer that subscribes to message broker eventually updates the database. This approach guarantees that the database is updated and the event is published. The drawback is that it implements a much more complex consistency model.

Is this the year IoT standards will finally make sense?

There’s too much at stake in a potentially huge market for major companies to give up the chance to dominate home IoT, Greengart said. “I’m highly skeptical that 'co-opetition' in this regard will prevail over competition. And given than nobody knows what layer of the stack is going to be the most valuable one, everyone is fighting for their own,” he said. The common thread that will make smart homes work may turn out to be a system from one vendor, like Apple’s HomeKit, Greengart said. Apple is as well-positioned as any company to make that happen. But even though many manufacturers at last week’s CES show introduced products that use HomeKit, they didn’t play up that capability much, he said. Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based AI platform that made a splash at CES, at least provides a single user interface, though Greengart said it’s not really a full IoT platform like HomeKit -- yet.

Quote for the day:

"It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another." -- Nelson Mandela