Thursday, 22 June 2017

Cyber Firms Warn of Malware That Could Cause Power Outages


Malicious Software – Modified with Ease Harming Critical Infrastructure

It was recently noted that malicious software had been uncovered by two cyber security firms which is presumed to have caused a December 2016 Ukraine power outage, cautioning that the malware could be modified with ease in harming critical infrastructure operations all over the world.

A Slovakian maker of anti-virus software – ESET together with Dragos Inc. a U.S. critical-infrastructure security firm had released information analyses of the malware called Industroyer or Crash override and had dispensed private alerts to governments as well as infrastructure operators to assist them in defending against the threat.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had mentioned that they were investigating the malware but it had not perceived any evidence to put forward that it had infected U.S. critical infrastructure. The two firms had stated that they were not aware of who had been behind the cyber-attack. Ukraine had put the blame on Russia but the officials in Moscow had denied the blame constantly.

The firms still cautioned that there could be added attacks utilising the same method by the group that built the malware or by imitators who alter the malicious software. ESET malware researcher Robert Lipovsky had stated in a telephone interview that the malware was easy to repurpose and utilise against other targets which was certainly alarming and could cause wide-scale destruction to organization systems that are dynamic.

System Compromised by Crash Override

That warning had been verified by the Department of Homeland Security stating that it was working to understand better the threat posed by Crash Override. The agency had mentioned in an alert post on its website that `the tactics, techniques and procedure described as part of the Crash override malware could be modified to target U.S dangerous information networks and systems’.

 The alert had posted around three dozen technical indicators that a system had been compromised by Crash Override and requested firms to contact the agency if they had doubted that their system had been compromised by the malware. Robert M. Lee founder of Dragos had stated that the malware had the potential of attacking power systems all over Europe and had the tendency to be leveraged against the United States with small modifications.

Risk to Power Distribution Organizations

Lee had further mentioned by phone that` it is able to cause outages of up to a few days in portions of a nation’s grid but is not strong enough to bring down an entire grid of a country’. Lipovsky had stated that through modifications, the malware could attack other kinds of infrastructure comprising of local transportation providers, gas and water providers.

A leader of Kroll’s cyber security practice, Alan Brill had mentioned in a telephone interview that power firms are concerned that there will be more attacks. He further added that they have been dealing with very smart people who came up with something and deployed it. It represents a risk to power distribution organizations everywhere.

Industroyer had been the only second piece of malware that has been uncovered till date which has the potential of disrupting industrial process to manually intervene, without the help of hackers. Stuxnet was first discovered in 2010 and is generally believed by security researchers to have been utilised by the United States as well as Israel for attacking nuclear program of Iran. The Kremlin and Federal Security Service of Russia had refrained from replying to their request for clarifications.

Deep Learning With Coherent Nanophotonic Circuits

 Nanophotonic Circuits
Light processor recognizes vowels

Nanophotonic module forms the basis for artificial neural networks with extreme computing power and low energy requirements

Supercomputers are approaching the enormous computing power of up to 200 petaflops, ie 200 million billions of operations per second. Nevertheless, they lag far behind the efficiency of human brains, mainly because of their high energy requirements.

A processor based on nanophotonic modules now provides the basis for extremely fast and economical artificial neural networks. As the American developers reported in the magazine "Nature Photonics", their prototype was able to carry out computing operations at a rate of more than 100 gigahertz with light pulses alone.

"We have created the essential building block for an optical neural network, but not yet a complete system," says Yichen Shen, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. The nanophotonic processor developed by Shen, together with his colleagues, consists of 56 interferometers, in which light waves interact and form interfering patterns after mutual interference.

These modules are suitable for measuring the phase of a light wave between the wave peak and the wave trough, but can also be used for a targeted change of this phase. In the prototype processor, these interferometers, which in principle correspond, in principle, to a neuron in a neural network, were arranged in a cascade.

After the researchers simulated their concept in advance with elaborate models, they also practically tested it with an algorithm for recognizing vowels. The principle of the photonic processor: A spoken vowel unknown to the system is assigned to a light signal of a laser with a specific wavelength and amplitude. When fed into the interferometer cascade, this light signal interacts with further additionally fed laser pulses and different interference patterns are produced in each interferometer.

To conclude these extremely fast processes, the resulting light signal is detected with a sensitive photodetector and is again assigned to a vowel via an analysis program. This assignment showed that the purely optical system could correctly identify the sound in 138 of 180 test runs. For comparison, the researchers also carried out the recognition with a conventional electronic computer, which achieved a slightly higher hit rate.

This system is still a long way from a photonic light computer, which can perform extremely fast speech recognition or solve even more complex problems. But Shen and colleagues believe it is possible to build artificial neural networks with about 1000 neurons from their nanophotonic building blocks.

In contrast to electronic circuits of conventional computers, the energy requirement is to be reduced by up to two orders of magnitude. This approach is one of the most promising in the future to compete with the viability of living brains.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Gelsight Sensor Giving Robots a Sense of Touch

Innovative Technology – GelSight Sensor

The research group of Ted Adelson at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory – CSAIL had unveiled an innovative sensor technology known as GelSight sensor, eight years ago which utilised physical contact with an object in providing an amazing comprehensive 3-D map of its surface.

The two MIT teams have now mounted Gelsight sensors on the grippers of robotic arms providing the robots with better sensitivity and agility. Recently the researchers had presented their work in twofold paper at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

Adelson’s group in one paper had utilised the data from the GelSight Sensor to allow a robot to judge the hardness of surfaces it tends to touch a crucial ability if household robots are to handle the daily objects. In the other Robot Locomotion Group of Russ Tedrake at CSAIL, GelSight Sensors were used to allow a robot to manipulate smaller objects than was earlier possible.

The GelSight sensor is said to be somewhat a low-tech solution to difficult issues comprising of a block of transparent rubber. The gel of its name is one face which is covered with metallic paint. When the paint coated face is pressed against an object, it tends to adapt to the objects shape

GelSight Sensor: Easy for Computer Vision Algorithms

Due to the metallic paint the surface of the object became reflective and its geometry became much easy for computer vision algorithms to understand. Attached on the sensor opposite the paint coated surface of the rubber block one will find three coloured light with a single camera.

Adelson, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences has explained that the system is said to have coloured light at various angles and it tends to have this reflective material and on viewing the colours, the computer is capable of figuring out the 3-D shape of what that thing would be.

A GelSight sensor in both the groups of experiments had been mounted on one side of a robotic gripper which is a device to some extent like the head of pincer though with flat gripping surfaces instead of pointed tips.

As for an autonomous robot, gauging the softness or hardness of objects is needed in deciding where and how hard to grasp them but also on how they would behave when moved, stacked or even laid on various surfaces. Moreover physical sensing would also assist robots in differentiating object which may look identical.

GelSight Sensor: Softer Objects – Flatten More

In earlier work, robot had made an effort to evaluate the hardness of object by laying them on a flat surface and gently jabbing them to see how much they give. However this is not how humans tend to gauge hardness. Instead our conclusion depends on the degrees to which the contact area from the object to our fingers seems to change as we press it.

Softer objects seem to flatten more increasing the contact area. This same approach had been utilised by the MIT researchers. A graduate student in mechanical engineering and first author on the paper from the group of Adelson, Wenzhen Yuan had utilised confectionary mould in creating 400 groups of silicon objects with 16 objects for each group.

 In each group, the object seemed to have the same shapes though with altered degrees of hardness which was measured by Yuan utilising a standard industrial scale. Then GelSight sensor was pushed against each object physically and thereafter documented on how the contact pattern seemed to change over a period of time thereby producing a short movie for each object.

In order to regulate both the data format and keep the size of the data adaptable, she had extracted five frames from each movie, consistently spaced in time describing the formation of the object which was pressed.

Changes in Contact Pattern/Hardness Movement

Eventually the data was provided to a neural network that mechanically looked for connections between changes in contact patterns and hardness movements resulting in the system taking frames of videos as inputs producing hardness scores with high accuracy.

A series of informal experiments were also conducted by Yuan wherein human subjects palpated fruits and vegetables ranking them according to their hardness. In every occasion, the GelSight sensor -equipped robot came to the same rankings.

The paper from the Robot Locomotion Group originated from the experience of the group with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotics Challenge – DRC wherein academic as well as industry teams contended to progress control systems which would guide a humanoid robot through a sequence of tasks linked to theoretical emergency.

 An autonomous robot usually tends to utilise some types of computer vision system in guiding its operation of objects in its setting. Such schemes tend to offer reliable information regarding the location of the object till the robot picks the object up.

GelSight Sensor Live-Updating/Accurate Valuation

Should the object be small most of it will be obstructed by the gripper of the robot making location valuation quite difficult. Consequently at precisely the point where the robot needs to know the exact location of the object, its valuation tends to be unreliable.

 This had been the issue faced by the MIT team at the time of the DRC when their robot had picked up and turned on a power drill. Greg Izat, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and first author on the new paper had commented that one can see in the video for DRC that they had spent two or three minutes turning on the drill.

 It would have been much better if they had a live-updating, accurate valuation of where that drill had been and where their hands were relative to it. This was the reason why the Robot Locomotion Group had turned to GelSight. Izatt together with his co-authors Tedrake, the Toyota Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Aeronautics and Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering, Adelson together with Geronimo Mirano, another graduate student in the group of Tedrake had designed control algorithms which tends to utilise computer vision system in guiding the gripper of the robot towards a tool and thereafter turn location estimation over to a GelSight sensor when the robot is said to have the tool in hand.

Microsoft Issues Urgent Windows XP Updates to Block US Spy Tools


The recent attacks- ransomware has created a great chaos among the netizens. So, Microsoft has done a U turn when it as time to provide the most important updates of security for the Windows XP. They were supposed to provide an important patch in order to protect the computers from cyber-attacks.

The Tech giant company has asked the users who were still using the software version of 2001 to get the update and the patch for the security purposes. Those who have not opted for it have to bear the brunt and face a huge issue. Some were asked to pay huge amount of bucks and the worst part of the ransomware was that even after paying the amount they were unable to get the info or their precious data back from the hackers. The Wannacry attack has realty shaken the world.


The Windows operating system has been idle for more than three years as they were not providing any kind of support from 2014. There are still computers or machines which use the Windows XP version even though it has become outdated. Well, some people have the habit of using the old versions and things and this has cost them a lot recently.

The reports state that more than 5 percent still use the same old version of the Windows XP. The attacks don’t guarantee that they would get the updates of Windows XP even after the attacks of ransomware. So, the people are at a big mess.

The recent report is a bit confusing from the windows team as they have revealed that they are not going to provide any kind of support. The current attack is more threatening and so they would look into this very carefully. The engineers have decided to post the updates more efficiently in a broader spectrum.


The initiative has been taken as the Wannacry have already damaged a great number of computers over the world in a span of two days. The global attack has created a fear among the common multitude to use the internet or do any kind to transactions online.

The attack was mainly done with the help of Eternal Blue tool which was formed by the security Agency. But unfortunately, it got leaked and went into the hands of one of the famous hackers round the world who are known as the Shadow Brokers. The attack has hit very badly even the top organisations in like the Airports of England, Health departments and many more.


The tech giant released a patch which has solved more than 94 problems but there are few issues which needs to be solved. Else the hackers may take advantage again. The users should update their systems in order to be safe. However, it has released a patch as an exception for the Windows XP in order to completely bring an end to support the old version of Windows XP.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

What Facebook Knows About You


Model Devised to Analyse Facebook `Likes’

Whenever the advertisements on one’s Facebook newsfeed tends to appear unusually significant, it could be due to the social network giants being aware of you very well. The social network takes pride of having almost two billion users and provides a amazing amount of free content which has a tendency of keeping most of the users engrossed for hours daily. It intends to improve its efforts further in the near future by keeping the users on-site for even a longer time or in other owned properties of Facebook such as the Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram.

Facebook is said to have accumulated an estimated $26.9 billion by way of ad revenue in 2016 by drawing out its massive troves of data on its 1.86 billion users in order to sell directed information to advertisers used to provide products as well as services depending on their particular preferences. There seems to be more disturbing methods wherein companies tend to utilise personal information. A model had been devised by researcher Michal Kosinski which tends to analyse Facebook `likes’ of a user in predicting information like ethnicity, sexual orientation together with political belief in creating as well as locating personal psychological profiles.

Facebook Most Appalling Spying Machine

As it was recently revealed by tech publication Motherboard, wherein an identical scheme was reported to have assisted Donald Trump in reaching the White House, on sending directed campaign ads which had appealed to individual needs together with requirements. Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, in an interview with Russian news site RT, had called Facebook as the most appalling spying machine which has ever been invention.

 Assange had claimed that they have the most comprehensive database regarding people in the world, their relationships, their names together with their addresses, their locations as well as the communications with each other, their relatives, all being within the United States and accessible to U.S. intelligence. He added at a book launch in 2014, that each time one goes to a party, takes an image and posts the same on Facebook, you are being a traitor.

However even his organisation finds it difficult to refrain from joining the damage. Wikileaks tends to have its own Facebook page that seems to disclose the secrets of the rulers of the world. What Facebook intends to do with the data seem to be a subject of debate though the data it has is alarmingly all-inclusive. The following details will bring about an awareness of how much details Facebook can have regarding its users:

1. How much Facebook tends to know about the user, its family and friends

The source of one’s profile seems to be the on-site behaviour that covers the profile information one tends to provide, the advertisements clicked on, the events created and attended, items one prefers and the information that one has posted. All these behaviour tends to expose the age, gender, language together with the educational level, the electronic device one may utilise and how one would connect to the internet.

The post and the profile provide the details of your Facebook data footprint though the company gathers a huge selection of information from the other sources for adding personal information beyond those which have been significantly uploaded.

The user’s online behaviour together with the information from third-party sources are inclined to get mixed in conveying to Facebook about their job, whether the user is married, engaged or intending celebrating an event, whether you are a parent or expecting to be one. Moreover, it is also aware of who is in the family, how far they seem to be living and their anniversaries and much more.

2. Facebook aware of your finances and spending habits

It has a tendency of paying data brokers like Experian and Epsilon for added information they have compiled over a period of time in collection of additional information from government, surveys together with commercial sources like magazine subscription list.

 This conveys to them where one may shop, what is purchased and whether one owns a car. It also tends to be aware of the value, size, and composition together with the type of property one may be living in and when the said property had been constructed. Besides this, it not only knows what may be in possession with the user, but also what one purchases, on comprehending their tastes and when they would be likely in upgrading to some degree.

The financial information of the user is all taken hold wherein Facebook can forecast what one had invested in, or if is in possession of a credit card and if it is in debt, your net worth and income, together with details if one is a member of a credit union, national bank or regional bank

3. Facebook is aware of the websites visited and the apps utilised

The online activity of the user tracked by Facebook is not restricted to the social media site only. Should the user visit a web page which utilises Facebook technologies like Facebook pixel, then the publishers as well as Facebook can trail visits from the users. The information is utilised by the advertisers to craft ads for the individuals who tend to visit the website or use the mobile app.

 It covers any page with `like’ or `share’ button which informs Facebook where one could be browsing, any downloads of their mobile apps as well as any purchases done from the site or products which may have been added in the shopping cart. The family of apps and services of Facebook comprises of Instagram and WhatsApp which tend to add to the data record of the company.

4. Facebook knows the whereabouts of the user

The location data is utilised by Facebook to support advertisers in targeting individuals in or within a specific area. This detail is conveyed by the IP address where one tends to connect to the internet, the GPS as well as the location services on your phone, your check-ins together with the listed areas in your Facebook and Instagram profiles. In June 2016, debate came up when Facebook had first acknowledged and later denied that it was using smartphone location details to recommend friends, though eventually revealed that it had briefly done the previous year.

5. Facebook knows about your beliefs

Directed advertising utilised by the Donald Trump team before the US presidential election of 2016, had revealed the value of Facebook data in the political campaigning. If one mentions their political preferences, expresses a political leaning or like a page connected with one, Facebook has the tendency of utilising the information in presuming your political opinions.

 However, the company is not only in need of direct evidence. If the user like pages viewed as characteristic of a certain position, it could recommend you to share those beliefs. Liking Exxon for instance could specify that you are more expected to be traditional. Facebook tends to combine the details with demographic information to classify the users as substantial, traditional or reasonable.

6. Facebook knows your secret thoughts

The old saying of `think before you speak’ has given a new lease to life on social media where the fake security shield of screen together with the keyboard has given rise to several regrettable tap of the enter key. Recently it had been revealed by data scientist Vicki Boykis that Facebook tends to know what the user could be thinking even when they choose not to comment on it.

 The company can trail your typing in order to read your mind. Facebook tends to gather the text as it is typed by sending code to the browser which has the tendency of analysing the keystrokes and report the metadata. It comprises of deleted post, comments together with check-ins. The company has named these unpublished thoughts as `self-censorship’ and had earlier utilised the data in researching the human behaviour.

The overall incoming data amounts to about 600 daily terabytes if the estimates of 2014 of Facebook engineers tend to be precise. As per the calculations of Boykis, this could be the equivalent of uploading 193 million copies each day of the novel War and Peace.

7. How to find out what Facebook know about you

A board outline of information is provided by Facebook that tends to accumulate in its Data Policy though does not expose the complete details of how it functions. This can be found out by going to your ad preferences on the social network which comprises of profile information, categories of interest together with advertisers the user may have interacted with as a customer, a website user or by just clicking on their ads.

One could also hide advertisements regarding sensitive issues which you would like to opt out. Users of Facebook could also block certain kinds of ads by going to Facebook ads settings. The only means of averting the controls of the Facebook data collectors together with their partners is by quitting the social network completely though it may not provide you with a clean break.

 The data of the user has left an ineradicable mark and once the user tends to agree to hand it over they are no longer entitled to get the same back. However, one could download the complete Facebook data history as a ZIP file by utilising a self-service tool that has been designed by the company.