Daily Tech Digest - November 20, 2019

Mind-reading technology is everyone's next big security nightmare

Non-invasive systems read neural signals through the scalp, typically using EEG, the same technologies used by neurologists to interpret the brain's electrical impulses in order to diagnose epilepsy. Non-invasive systems can also transmit information back into the brain with techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation, again already in use by medics. Invasive systems, meanwhile, involve direct contact between the brain and electrodes, and are being used experimentally to help people that have experienced paralysis to operate prostheses, like robotic limbs, or to aid people with hearing or sight problems to recover some element of the sense they've lost. Clearly, there are more immediate hazards to invasive systems: surgery always brings risks, particularly where the delicate tissue of the brain is concerned. So given the risks involved, why choose an invasive system over a non-invasive system – why put electronics into your grey matter itself? As ever, there's a trade-off to be had. Invasive systems cut out the clutter and make it easier to decode what's going on in the brain.

Mobile security perceptions don't approach reality

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Banks, for very good reasons, keep as many details about their security programs secret for as long as they can. So how can consumers claim to switch businesses based on information that they can't possibly access? The bottom line is that they can't. But — and here's where Molly Hetz, an Iovation product marketing manager and the main author of the report, makes a useful observation — those consumers can make such a decision based on their perception of security. And that's where things get tricky. Consider: One of the best security and authentication approaches today is continuous authentication, where the system considers typing speed, typing pressure (for mobile devices), IP address, time of access, what files are being accessed, duration of session, typing accuracy (number of typos per minute), etc. — and compares all of it against a profile of a session that presumably was of the actual user associated with those credentials. The best part about continuous authentication is that it's indeed continuous, meaning that it won't theoretically be fooled by an attacker who does everything properly and within character for 10 minutes and then does the evil things that the attacker always planned to do.

Technical Debt: How to Balance Between the Velocity of Production and Code Quality?

It is also important to create a road map of tech debt projects and evaluate the risks so the company can plan accordingly. According to Dmitriy Barbashov, the Chief Technology Officer at QArea, a service-level agreement might help as well. “I would say that transparent SLA established and agreed with developers would be a good reference point for them,” he notes. It goes without saying that striving for perfection in development is not always the right choice. For example, if a startup is building its first prototype, quickly created MVP minimizes the risk of investing much effort into an idea that won't work. Developers should be very careful when trying to deliver features rapidly or make some quick fixes. On one side, investing time in a solid foundation may help build new features in the future. On the other side, some hacky fixes or some cheapest and fastest solutions may accumulate and turn into too much technical debt. Like in many aspects, smooth communication plays an important role in finding and proving the balance between code quality and speed. Open conversation between executives and developers is crucial.

The leader’s secret weapon: Listening

Listening can be particularly challenging for anyone in a management or leadership position, given all the pressures they face. Dozens of unread emails pile up by the hour, and calendars are a wall of back-to-back meetings. It can be hard to be present in the moment. But listening is not just a nice-to-have skill for senior executives; it is essential for effective leadership for two distinct reasons. First, to navigate the disruptive forces roiling every industry, leaders realize they need to build a team that brings a diversity of perspectives and experiences to the challenges their company faces. Getting this right is just the start. Once they have assembled a diverse team, leaders then have to draw out opinions with intentional listening. Leaders can remind themselves in these team meetings of the WAIT acronym, which stands for “Why am I talking?” It’s a powerful reminder for senior executives to let others share their opinions first, and also to be brutally honest with themselves about their motives for speaking when they do chime in.

How to Become a Credible IT Leader

Building credibility, like many things in life, is easier said than done. I learned a hard lesson on credibility early in my career—one that, ironically, centered on failure. At the time, we were working on a complex, massive, and difficult IT project, one which turned out to be a lot more difficult than initially anticipated, and we were struggling to meet the demanding deadlines. We were working weekends for months on end, and I drove into the office one Saturday morning with boxes of donuts for the team. But I could see on their faces and in their body language a level of stress that no amount of sugar would fix. I stood in front of the group and told them we were delaying the project. Immediately, I could sense their relief. Their bodies relaxed, their jaws unclenched, and I felt the stress leaving the room. We regrouped, set new priorities and eventually delivered the project with the key functionality necessary for the business users. After we went live with the new system, our company CEO said, “I was worried how the delay may negatively impact your reputation within the company, however, the quality of delivery proved otherwise.”

10 tips to push past your leadership comfort zone: Women in IT Award winners share

10 tips to push past your leadership comfort zone: Women in IT Award winners share image
Nicole Hu, CTO and co-founder, One Concern: As CTO, I don’t really code anymore. So the biggest strides I’ve made have been on the non-engineering aspects of my responsibilities, such as getting people to rally behind the business and managing the delicate and often complicated parts of people dynamics. It’s not just about the coding. I realized I had different shoes to fill. That really caused me to transform, because if I didn’t do it, it was going to hurt the entire team and company. I was very scared. I think that’s normal. Good support systems (your family, friends, partner) will help you believe in what you’re doing because there are days you won’t have the belief, or you’ll lose your resolve. Constantly surround yourself with people who are clear with what you want to do, have confidence in your ability to do it, and empower you to do your work. For me, the key was in realising the cost of inaction. What would happen if I didn’t step up? If I’m not loud enough in a meeting, what will happen?

Swedish hospitals suffer IT crashes

“The computers that have experienced serious crashes are spread all over the West Götaland region, in every division,” said Thomas Schulz Rohm, press secretary for the West Götaland authority. Maria Skoglöf, manager of the authority’s IT support centre, said the matter was being taken very seriously because many computers were affected. “The problem is not solved,” she said. “But the number of hard disk crashes has gone down since last week.” Skoglöf said she could not say where the problems had hit the hardest. “It is up to every division to say how they were hit and how they solved it,” she added. Staff have resorted to manual processes to alleviate the problems, said Skoglöf. “It is important to have manual routines to use when there are no computers available.” Skoglöf said that as far as she knew, the computer crashes had not affected any patients’ health.

Predicting Time to Cook, Arrive, and Deliver in Uber Eats

There’s no other way to ensure accuracy without utilizing machine learning technologies. However, challenges arise along the way with its core development. Compared with other machine learning problems, our biggest challenge is lacking ground truth data, which is pretty common in the online-to-offline (O2O) business model. However, it’s the most critical component in machine learning, as we all know "garbage in, garbage out." Another one is the uniqueness of Uber Eats as a three-sided (delivery partners, restaurants, and eaters) marketplace, which makes it necessary to take all partners into account for every decision we make. Fortunately, Uber’s in-house machine learning platform - Michelangelo has provided tremendous help in simplifying the overall process for data scientists and engineers to solve machine learning problems. It provides generic solutions for data collecting, feature engineering, modeling, serving both offline and online predictions, etc., which saves a lot of time compared to reinventing the wheels. ... The greedy matching algorithm only starts looking for a delivery partner when there’s an order coming in. The result is optimal for a single order but not for all the orders in our system from a global perspective. Therefore, we changed to the global matching algorithm so that we can solve the entire set of orders and delivery partners as a single global optimization problem.

Singapore moots regulated trading in cryptocurrencies

The regulator said: "While advancements in digital cryptography and distributed ledger technology have the potential to improve access to services, generate cost efficiencies, and spur competition between new and conventional business models, the specific use cases for digital tokens have, thus far, remained embryonic. Meanwhile, their transformative possibilities may produce new sources of risks, requiring participants and regulators to think of new ways to mitigate these risks, and retain the trust and stability in the financial sector." It noted that the trading of popular digital tokens such as Bitcoin and Ether had largely been on unregulated markets, which had been fraught with allegations of fictitious trades and market manipulation. This had spurred interest amongst international institutional investors for an alternative, regulated environment in which some of these risks could be mitigated, MAS said, adding that Bitcoin futures, for instance, currently were listed an traded on the US futures exchanges.  The Singapore regulator last year had warned eight cryptocurrency exchanges against engaging in unauthorised trading, specifically, those involving securities or futures contracts.

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While the number of jobs related to blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin has skyrocketed in the past four years, the number of searches for those jobs has drastically dropped recently, according to job search site Indeed. Over the past year, the share of cryptocurrency- and blockchain-related job postings per million has slowed on Indeed, increasing 26%. At the same time, the share of searches per million for jobs in the field has decreased by 53%. ... Bitcoin's value has been on a roller coaster ride in the past two years. In 2018, the cryptocurrency's price plummeted from nearly $19,500 in Februrary to around $3,600 by the end of last year. Over the past year, however, bitcoin's value jumped to more than $12,000 before settling back to about $9,200 today. The volatility seems to be turning potential job seekers off. "For the first time, the number of jobs per million exceeded the number of searches per million," Cavin wrote. It could be reasonable to assume that if bitcoin drops dramatically again, a candidate looking for a blockchain role would run into less competition than they would after a large increase."

Quote for the day:

"The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization." -- Fred Fiedler and Martin Chemers

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