Daily Tech Digest - December 07, 2019

Why a computer will never be truly conscious

Living organisms store experiences in their brains by adapting neural connections in an active process between the subject and the environment. By contrast, a computer records data in short-term and long-term memory blocks. That difference means the brain’s information handling must also be different from how computers work. The mind actively explores the environment to find elements that guide the performance of one action or another. Perception is not directly related to the sensory data: A person can identify a table from many different angles, without having to consciously interpret the data and then ask its memory if that pattern could be created by alternate views of an item identified some time earlier. Another perspective on this is that the most mundane memory tasks are associated with multiple areas of the brain – some of which are quite large. Skill learning and expertise involve reorganization and physical changes, such as changing the strengths of connections between neurons.

cloud server rack
One of the six customers impacted by the ransomware infection is FIA Tech, a financial and brokerage firm. Teh ransomware caused on outage of FIA Tech cloud services. In a message to customers, FIA Tech said "the attack was focused on disrupting operations in an attempt to obtain a ransom from our data center provider." FIA Tech did not name the data center provider, but a quick search identifies it as CyrusOne. We've been told by a source close to CyrusOne that the data center provider does not intend to pay the ransom demand, barring any future unforeseen developments. The company owns 45 data centers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and has more than 1,000 customers. It is also considering a sale after receiving takeover interest over the summer, according to Bloomberg. CyrusOne is a publicly-traded, NASDAQ-listed company. In an SEC filing last year, the company explicitly listed "ransomware" as a risk factor for its business.

Costs are likely to continue to improve as, among other things, companies reduce the level of pricey cobalt in battery components and achieve manufacturing improvements as production volumes rise. But metals mining is already a mature process, so further declines there are likely to slow rapidly after 2025 as the cost of materials makes up a larger and larger portion of the total cost, the report finds. Deeper cost declines beyond 2030 are likely to require shifts from the dominant lithium-ion chemistry today to entirely different technologies, like lithium-metal, solid-state and lithium-sulfur batteries. Each of these are still in much earlier development stages, so it’s questionable whether any will be able to displace lithium-ion by 2030, Field says. Gene Berdichevsky, chief executive of anode materials maker Sila Nanotechnologies, agrees it will be hard for the industry to consistently break through the $100/kWh floor with current technology. But he also thinks the paper discounts some of the nearer-term improvements we’ll see in lithium-ion batteries without full-fledged shifts to different chemistries.

Banking as a Platform- The Future is Now!

No matter what type or size a platform offering may be, some of the following will be a must. Embedded analytics which runs like an undercurrent and omnipresent will become a hygiene requirement to have and will also play a major role in revenue generation and profitability from the platform. AI and ML will be key differentiators in enhancing user experience and operational efficiency too leading to monetary benefits. BaaP’s DNA will be defined by how well is the API strategy of the bank and a complete agility in usage of APIs will be the new norm from the business teams. Scaling, multiple usage, Data privacy and cyber security compounded with regulatory guidelines will be quite crucial for the smooth and safe functioning of BaaP and these two aspects will be central to any decision making by banks. It may sound little too audacious to talk about future of platform banking which is still in nascent stage. But history always serves a great recipe to predict future (we are taking the data analytics route!).

AI Policies Are Setting Stage To Transform Healthcare But More Is Needed

New data standards proposals by Health and Human Services will empower patients and lead to better, faster diagnosis. The proposal would require electronic medical record (EMR) companies to provide portals called APIs for patients to access and share their health data. Currently it is ridiculously complex and expensive for patients to get copies of their own records. Shockingly, it may cost over $500 to get your medical record. Accessibility and data sharing are critical for better, faster diagnosis and treatments. AI has been used to predict heart attacks five years into the future. It is also able to predict who is at the greatest risk for suffering from depression. The new standards would put the patient in control of who uses their data and for what purposes. Entrepreneurial companies are leveraging venture dollars to build the best AI capabilities in the world, but they need access to health data to prove their benefits to patients. Patients should be able to choose how their data is used.

Why A Human Firewall Is The Biggest Defence Against Data Breach

Hackers are targeting servers that haven’t been set up correctly, giving them access to sensitive data with minimal effort. Cloud-based systems such as Office365 don’t have multi-factor authorisation, or web-based systems that are not patched result in vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Also, sometimes hardware such as firewalls can be configured incorrectly, or poor security settings on individual devices, can lead to loopholes that can be exploited. ... A hacker only needs to gain access to one user’s account, to then gain control and access the compromised network and data. An approach known as the “known good” model works in a way where anomalies that stray from the established normal baseline are identified and highlighted as a potential threat and cyber-attack. Business leaders are widely criticised and held accountable for failing to protect their consumer’s data especially in the light of the vast IT and training budgets that are at their disposal, yet it is the daily performance of front-line staff that reveal the true strengths and weaknesses within any organisation.

Two Russians indicted over Dridex and Zeus malware

“Sitting quietly at computer terminals far away, these cyber criminals allegedly stole tens of millions of dollars from unwitting members of our business, non-profit, governmental, and religious communities. “Each and every one of these computer intrusions was, effectively, a cyber-enabled bank robbery. We take such crimes extremely seriously and will do everything in our power to hold these criminals to justice.” The losses incurred through the activities of Yakubets’ group – known as Evil Corp – totalled hundreds of millions of pounds in both the UK, the US, and other countries. Additional investigations in the UK targeted a network of money launderers who funnelled profits back to Evil Corp, for which eight people have already gone to prison. Other intelligence supplied through UK law enforcement has helped support sanctions brought against the group by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. The NCA described the operation as a sophisticated and technically skilled one, which represented one of the most significant cyber crime threats ever faced in the UK.

Your Privacy Could Be at Risk Without These Updates to Behavioral Biometrics

Mastercard is one of the major brands investing in passive biometrics. The goal is to determine the probability that the authenticated user is present during the respective interactions. The credit card provider’s system evaluates more than 300 signals to make a conclusion. They include how a person navigates around a site on their device or the amount of pressure they put on a touch-sensitive screen. Passive behavioral biometrics measurements also allow catching some strange behaviors that might not immediately become apparent through small samples of data. For example, if a person typically uses the scroll wheel on a mouse to navigate, but then switches to using keyboard commands, that change could indicate someone else has gotten access to a system and is using it fraudulently. Keep in mind that passive and active biometrics both have associated pros and cons. No single method works best in every case. However, the use of passive biometrics to gauge probabilities is relatively new. Since well-known brands like Mastercard are working with it, there’s a good chance this option will become even more prominent.

FBI recommends that you keep your IoT devices on a separate network

"Your fridge and your laptop should not be on the same network," the FBI's Portland office said in a weekly tech advice column. "Keep your most private, sensitive data on a separate system from your other IoT devices," it added. ... The reasoning behind it is simple. By keeping all the IoT equipment on a separate network, any compromise of a "smart" device will not grant an attacker a direct route to a user's primary devices -- where most of their data is stored. Jumping across the two networks would require considerable effort from the attacker. However, placing primary devices and IoT devices on separate networks might not sound that easy for non-technical users. The simplest way is to use two routers. The smarter way is to use "micro-segmentation," a feature found in the firmware of most WiFi routers, which allows router admins to create virtual networks (VLANs). VLANs will behave as different networks; even they effectively run on the same router. While isolating IoT devices on their own network is the best course of action for both home users and companies alike, this wasn't the FBI's only advice on dealing with IoT devices.

Usability Testing and Testing APIs with Hallway Testing

Hallway testing can be described as using "random" persons or group of people to test software products and interfaces. "Randomness" of a person depends on what we are trying to test. Marchewka suggested trying to engage people who will be using the product (i.e. members of the target group) to get the best understanding of how they will do that. For their hallway testing session they invite a truly random group of people if they are checking mobile app, and a random group of API users if they are verifying UX of an API. Using the specific background and experience of all the people taking part in a particular session of hallway testing, we can uncover all inefficiencies of the user interface in a tested product, said Marchewka. The app or software does not need to have a GUI to benefit from hallway testing; it can be used as part of API prototyping activity, as Marchewka explained. Consumers of API can be asked to use an early version during a hallway testing session; for example, creators can find out if methods are named correctly.

Quote for the day:

"Courage is leaning into the doubts and fears to do what you know is right even when it doesn't feel natural or safe." -- Lee Ellis

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