Daily Tech Digest - July 20, 2021

3 Ways To Make Conversational AI Work For Your Organization

AI systems possess features unlike any mechanisms we use in human-human conversation. Consequently, you can use them in powerful ways to create conversations and experiences that go beyond what’s possible with people alone. Unlike humans, AI can be available around the clock -- whether to answer a question in the middle of the night or to support an asynchronous conversation that stretches over many days. In addition, machines have an absence of emotion and moral judgment that provides a distinct advantage in some situations. When the subject of a conversation is sensitive, interactions with AI can afford a degree of anonymity that some customers welcome. And when it comes to detecting patterns, AI excels at detecting fraud or breaches of regulatory requirements. AI is vigilant about events about to happen and can proactively engage in anticipation, thereby creating superior experience. And finally, AI is moving to a point where it can literally read your mind. ...  Another point of tension is the potential for manipulation. Persuasive computing can change people’s attitudes or behaviors, while practices like hyper nudging use data to influence people to certain decisions.

Making transformation stick

Leaders must model the behaviors that will be required to sustain change. This can be done with literal acts and symbolic acts that communicate to rank-and-file employees the leaders’ commitment to the transformation. A study by the National Institute for Health Research in the UK highlights the importance of role modeling. The institute reviewed transformation programs in clinical settings and found that out of a variety of factors affecting the longevity of the transformation, senior and clinical leader role modeling was the highest predictor of sustainable change. The study defined role modeling as leaders being seen promoting and investing in the change. The transformation experience of one of our clients bears out this finding. The company recently adopted customer relationship management software that features a tool for gathering insights from client meetings. But using the tool requires the company’s client-facing employees to write up meeting notes, something many find tedious. So, the CEO of the business regularly uses the tool and sends notifications of his written reports to his executive team and their direct reports. This is a powerful example of role modeling.

How smarter data analysis can transform financial planning

Reliance on legacy spreadsheets is inefficient and causes a tremendous amount of overhead and friction for analysts – the opposite of what you want in a process that should be essential for every business. Many of the solutions to these problems involve moving away from Excel entirely, which also isn’t practical in many cases. Smaller businesses, in particular, may not have the time or manpower to migrate their data and the deep logic they’ve built into their Excel sheets to a new platform. “While the rest of the business world moves to powerful, cloud-based SaaS solutions driven by AI and automation, finance departments remain entrenched in Excel,” says Gurfinkel. “While it’s a powerful tool, it lacks modern features that could help drive better forecasting. The ideal solution is one that builds on Excel to leverage its strengths while minimising its weaknesses, rather than trying (and failing) to replace it.” “Automation” has nearly reached buzzword status at this point, but that doesn’t mean the advantages it offers aren’t real. Automation has the potential to transform nearly every facet of work – including financial planning.

Banking is broken. This small FinTech startup plans to fix it

The sheer breadth of banking services Modularbank covers is one of the company's key strengths, says Vene, who points out that competitors have often had to partner with third-party firms to provide the same services. She also believes that the decades of technology and banking experience under Modularbank's belt mean it can tackle complex use cases and customer demands more comfortably than some of its competitors. "To build highly configurable modules, you have to know the product side of finance well. It's not enough to have great technology and great engineers in your team if you don't know what the customer needs to configure in your products," says Vene. Security is another area where experience plays a critical role, and arguably nowhere is this more important than in finance. "We have been working in this field for so many years with highly regulated organizations, so it was normal for us to focus on liability and security from day one," says Vene. For instance, GDPR compliance has been designed into Modularbank's products from the beginning, she says. 

How We Tracked a Threat Group Running an Active Cryptojacking Campaign

After the attackers find and enter into a Linux device with inadequate SSH credentials, they deploy and execute the loader. In the current campaign, they use .93joshua, but they have a couple of others at their disposal; .purrple and .black. All of the loaders are obfuscated via shc. The loader gathers system information and relays it to the attacker using an HTTP POST to a Discord webhook. By using Discord, the threat actors circumvent the need to host their own command-and-control server, as webhooks are means to post data on Discord channel programmatically. The gathered data can also be conveniently viewed on a channel. Discord is increasingly popular among threat actors because of this functionality, as it involuntarily provides support for malware distribution (use of its CDN), command-and-control (webhooks) or creating communities centered around buying and selling malware source code and services (e.g. DDoS). The information gathered at this step lets the threat actor witness the effectiveness of their tools in infecting machines. The list of victims may also be collected to carry out potential post-exploitation steps.

New AI-Based Augmented Innovation Tool Promises to Transform Engineer Problem Solving

What will often happen is that as you work through both the “Functional Concepts” and “Inventive Principles” lists you begin to realize that you’ve omitted elements to your description, or that your description should go in a slightly different direction based on the results. While this represents a slightly iterative process, each iteration is just as fast as the first. In fact, it's faster because you no longer need to spend 10 minutes writing down your changes. All along the process, there's a workbook, similar to an electronic lab notebook, for you to jot down your ideas. As you jot down your ideas based on the recommendations from the AI, it will offer you the ability to run a concept evaluation, telling you whether the concept is “marginally acceptable” or “good”, for example. You can use this concept evaluation tool to understand whether you have written your problem and solution in a way that it's unique or novel, or whether you should consider going back to the drawing board to keep iterating on it.

Unconventional Superconductor May Unlock New Ways To Build Quantum Computers

Scientists on the hunt for an unconventional kind of superconductor have produced the most compelling evidence to date that they’ve found one. In a pair of papers, researchers at the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Quantum Materials Center (QMC) and colleagues have shown that uranium ditelluride (or UTe2 for short) displays many of the hallmarks of a topological superconductor — a material that may unlock new ways to build quantum computers and other futuristic devices. “Nature can be wicked,” says Johnpierre Paglione, a professor of physics at UMD, the director of QMC and senior author on one of the papers. “There could be other reasons we’re seeing all this wacky stuff, but honestly, in my career, I’ve never seen anything like it.” All superconductors carry electrical currents without any resistance. It’s kind of their thing. The wiring behind your walls can’t rival this feat, which is one of many reasons that large coils of superconducting wires and not normal copper wires have been used in MRI machines and other scientific equipment for decades.

Combating deepfakes: How we can future-proof our biometric identities

Deepfakes refer to manipulated videos or other digital representations produced by sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI), which yield fabricated images and sounds that appear to be real. While video deepfakes are arguably the most common, audio deepfakes are also growing in popularity. ... Firstly, we must think about how biometric authentication works. Take voice biometrics as an example: a good fake voice (even just a good impersonator) can be enough to fool a human. However, voice biometric software is much better at identifying differences that the human ear either doesn’t discern or chooses to ignore, which means that voice biometric ID can help prevent fraud if identity is checked against the voice. Even so-called deep fakes create a poor copy of someone’s voice when analyzed at the digital level; they make quite convincing cameos, especially when combined with video, but again these are poor imitations at a digital level. Outside of this, the ability for deepfakes to bypass biometrics-based solutions will ultimately be dependent on the type of liveness detection that is integrated into the solution. 

Is EDR The Silver Bullet For Malware?

Absolute security isn’t possible, as we all know — our control framework is only as strong as our weakest link. In recent years, we’ve seen great strides in innovation surrounding virtualization tools. This new technology, while useful to organizations and users in general, has also given hackers more power to bypass traditional defenses. To prove this, I carried out a small exercise — I aimed to avoid an EDR solution using a virtualization tool. Virtualization technology has opened up many doors for businesses hoping to scale up, but security controls haven’t scaled fast enough to secure these virtualized environments. As such, we’re currently only focused on deploying EDR solutions on physical endpoints because many people assume that anything running on a physical host will be protected from malicious activities. When it comes to virtualization, these tools create an opaque layer on which they manage an environment. Because of this, any EDR solution running on the physical host won’t have visibility on the files and services running on that virtualized image. I used this concept to bypass an EDR solution running on a physical host to simulate an attack on the network.

Moving into "Modern Test Leadership"

Test leaders can ignite passion in testers by finding ways to engage them. Start a community of practice, share blogs, videos, podcasts or get external speakers to come and share their wisdom with the team. You may find from trying some of these, that some of the testers may start wanting to try new ways of testing, or start learning new skills. The next step would be to nurture that passion, point them in the right direction for their career and let them run with it. ... The role of a test leader needs to change; gone are the days of a test manager being the sole point of contact from a quality perspective and being responsible for handing out testing tasks to a team. With the world of agile/DevOps becoming a lot more prominent, the role needs to evolve to being more a test coach, advocating for good testing practices, helping to evolve the culture, raising awareness of what the testers can do and what good quality is. They need to be a servant leader and support their team to fulfil their potential. Being a test leader in the current world is a challenge, but you really can reap what you sow. 

Quote for the day:

"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it. " -- Marian Anderson

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