Daily Tech Digest - September 07, 2020

Brain-Inspired Electronic System Could Make AI 1,000 Times More Energy Efficient

In the new study, published in Nature Communications, engineers at UCL found that accuracy could be greatly improved by getting memristors to work together in several sub-groups of neural networks and averaging their calculations, meaning that flaws in each of the networks could be canceled out. Memristors, described as “resistors with memory,” as they remember the amount of electric charge that flowed through them even after being turned off, were considered revolutionary when they were first built over a decade ago, a “missing link” in electronics to supplement the resistor, capacitor, and inductor. They have since been manufactured commercially in memory devices, but the research team say they could be used to develop AI systems within the next three years. Memristors offer vastly improved efficiency because they operate not just in a binary code of ones and zeros, but at multiple levels between zero and one at the same time, meaning more information can be packed into each bit. Moreover, memristors are often described as a neuromorphic (brain-inspired) form of computing because, like in the brain, processing and memory are implemented in the same adaptive building blocks, in contrast to current computer systems that waste a lot of energy in data movement.

Management skills: Five ways building your network will help you get ahead

Mark Gannon, director of business change and information solutions at Sheffield City Council, says smart digital leaders make sure they carry on learning – even once they get to the very top. Gannon says developing experiences outside the day job has always been important to him, both as full-time CIO and in his stint as a consultant before joining the council. "There's the basic stuff about just getting out there and understanding your customers and spending time to speak with them. Consulting was interesting because it gave me the opportunity to look outside my own experience and see what other organisations were doing. I think it's really important to be constantly learning," he says. Gannon suggests his determination to develop new skills might be something to do with having completed a doctorate prior to joining the IT profession. His interest in education continues to this day – Gannon is a school parent governor. "Being a governor is interesting and getting out and engaging with other networks in the city is something I do a lot. We've developed a cross-community network, called dotSHF, which is about how we bring together the work that's being done by sole traders, and private and public sector organisations around digital," says Gannon.

Telling tales: using behavioural AI to reconstruct attack storylines

Behavioral AI can be used to mitigate automatically—a seriously powerful gamechanger. The technology is capable of making a decision on the device, without relying on the cloud, or on humans, to tell it what to do. Monitoring behaviour is a tricky, complex problem, and you want to feed your algorithm robust, informative, context-rich data which really captures the essence of a program’s execution. To do this, you need to monitor the operating system at a very low level and, most importantly, link individual behaviours together to create full “storylines”. For example, if a program executes another program, or uses the operating system to schedule itself to execute on boot up, you don’t want to consider these different, isolated executions, but a single story. Training AI models on behavioural data is similar to training static models, but with the added complexity of the time dimension. In other words, instead of evaluating all features at once, you need to consider cumulative behaviours up to various points in time. Interestingly, if you have good enough data, you don’t really need an AI model to convict an execution as malicious. For example, if the program starts executing but has no user interaction, then it tries to register itself to start when the machine is booted, then it starts listening to keystrokes, you could say it’s very likely a keylogger and should be stopped. 

Microsoft Updates Edge With Exciting New Features To Beat Chrome

Microsoft’s Edge browser is growing in popularity, reaching the number two position in the desktop browser market, even beating privacy-focused option Firefox. Now Microsoft has just unveiled a bunch of new features that make it a valid alternative to Google Chrome as an increasing number of people work from home. One very useful update which would be great if it comes to fruition was spotted by Windows Latest in the Edge Canary developer build is a new feature called “Web Capture” which allows you to take a screenshot of a webpage—in full or cropped—and copy it to the clipboard or preview it. ... Meanwhile, more new features to boost your security are expected in Edge 86, which is due to drop in the next few weeks, Microsoft has confirmed. This includes new alerts for the Edge password monitor if a compromised password is detected. At the same time, Edge will add the option to show or hide the favorites bar from the favorites management page. Edge will also add policy improvements for enterprises using the browser for various users and applications. Just last week, Microsoft started to roll out Edge 85 with multiple features aiming to help those working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

How AI will automate cybersecurity in the post-COVID world

At a basic level, AI uses data to make predictions and then automates actions. This automation can be used for good or evil. Cybercriminals take AI designed for legitimate purposes and use it for illegal schemes. Consider one of the most common defenses attempted against credential stuffing – CAPTCHA. Invented a couple of decades ago, CAPTCHA tries to protect against unwanted bots by presenting a challenge (e.g., reading distorted text) that humans should find easy and bots should find difficult. Unfortunately, cybercriminal use of AI has inverted this. Google did a study a few years ago and found that machine-learning based optical character recognition (OCR) technology could solve 99.8% of CAPTCHA challenges. This OCR, as well as other CAPTCHA-solving technology, is weaponized by cybercriminals who include it in their credential stuffing tools. Cybercriminals can use AI in other ways too. AI technology has already been created to make cracking passwords faster, and machine learning can be used to identify good targets for attack, as well as to optimize cybercriminal supply chains and infrastructure. We see incredibly fast response times from cybercriminals, who can shut off and restart attacks with millions of transactions in a matter of minutes.

The Principles of Planning and Implementing Microservices

Each service should have a version, which updates regularly in every release. Versioning allows to identify a service and deploy a specific version of it. It also enables the consumers of the service to be aware when the service has changed, and by that avoid breaking the existing contract and the communication between the services. Different versions of the same service can coexist. With that, the migration from the old version of the new version can be gradual without having too much impact on the whole application. ... In a microservices environment, there are many small services that communicate constantly with each other, so it is easier to get lost in what the service does or how to use its API. Documentation can facilitate that. Keeping valid up-to-date documentation is a tedious and time-consuming task. Naturally, this can be prioritised low in the tasks list of the developer. Therefore, automation is required instead of documenting manually (readme files, notes, procedures). There are various tools to codify and automate tasks to keep the documentation updated while the code continues to change. Tools like Swagger UI or API Blueprint can do the job. They can generate a web UI for your microservices API, which alleviates the orientation efforts. once again, standardization is an advantage; for example, Swagger implements the OpenAPI specification, which is an industry-standard.

How Cybercriminals Take the Fun Out of Gaming

The underground market is also active. In a recent blog, Singer broke down the world of cybercrime in games. "The first thing to understand about the criminals who attack the games industry is that they participate in a working, fluid, day-to-day economy that they manage completely themselves," he wrote. "Cybercriminals have built informal structures that mirror the efficiencies of standard enterprise operations. They have developers, QA folks, middle managers, project managers, salespeople, and even marketing and PR people who hype vendors and products." Austin Francisco, security analyst at Key Cyber Solutions (KCS) – who has "been gaming since the '90s" – says hackers advertise stolen goods and cheats as "a product and not like a hack," offering player values such as the ability to "have 100% accuracy aim" or "see people through walls," for example. Singer doesn't understand the appeal, but "there are enough people who enjoy it that there's a thriving industry," he says. One popular attack is account takeovers (ATO), which is used to steal other players' goods. It's a large market due to the sheer amount of value tied to a player account: from in-game currencies to achievements unlocked to player status and "skins"

“Enterprise-Class Open-Source Data Tools” Is Not an Oxymoron

Open source may bring up pictures of dark alleys and bug-ridden software, but in today’s data-driven world, there’s a new class of solutions. These open-source tools are the basis for inquiries into the deepest complexities of artificial intelligence and big data, designed around the massive data load we create each day. The open-source community works fast, addressing bugs, security loopholes, and the simple need to make streamlined tools for real-time insight. Today’s open-source tools result from years of research and a generation of developers who don’t remember a time when data wasn’t the new oil. Data itself is coming unlocked from previous silos and repositories, existing in a continuous state—data in motion. Leveraging open-source tools allows companies to dream of a reality in which company decisions are data-driven by the second. Every person in the organization has access to the data they need. Enterprises must find open-source tools with layers of capability explicitly designed for their unique data picture. These tools facilitate complex governance without creating pipeline bottlenecks. They provide automated documentation of changes, usage, and authorship.

Threat identification is IT ops' role in SecOps

Identifying important assets helps focus SecOps efforts. Additionally, IT operations teams should base threat identification practices on workflows. The goal is to understand workflows and their properties, as well as the statistical results of valid workflow patterns. IT ops teams can thus recognize the ways in which a workflow deviates from the norm, and potential threats because of this deviation. There are generally two pieces to this process: threat incident logging and tracking, and workflow monitoring for abnormal patterns. Many security threats to IT systems require multiple attempts by the attacker. At least some of these attempts get recognized, reported and logged as violations. However, logging tools often ignore a low volume of incidents. These tools use pattern analysis to indicate an active threat. To help the tools find these patterns, classify threat incidents. For example, a series of incidents from a single location or individual that has rarely generated an incident -- imagine someone entering the wrong password -- is a potential threat indicator. While multiple incidents stemming from one source is suspect, so is a series of incidents generated by different sources. Intruders might try several different IP addresses in an attack, for example. In this example, a pattern of events in the threat incident log will be obvious.

Demystifying Behavior Driven Development with Cucumber-JVM

Keeping aside the fancy terms for end-to-end test writing such as reusability, maintainability, and scalability, I always prefer to have a simple definition for writing them. That is, test cases should be written and arranged in a way that they can run any number of times, in any sequence, and with a variety of different datasets. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. This kind of test writing approach demands different teams to collaborate to discuss product behavior from the very first day. Therefore, Behavior Driven Development is based on a fair collaboration among three amigos (Business Analysts, Developer, and Tester) to its entirety. Intriguingly, the primary reason for the popularity of BDD testing is its non-technical, clear, and concise, plain English [or any other international language of your choice ] language. This way, a business owner can play a significant yet prompt role by specifying the requirement in a language which is understood not just by different teams (developers and testers) but also by the testing framework as well. In our case of Cucumber-JVM, the commonly understandable language is Gherkin, which shapes the overall concept. Gherkin is a language with no technical barriers; 

Quote for the day:

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself." -- Henry Ward Beecher

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