Saturday, 3 October 2015

Unhackable Kernel could Keep All Computers Safe from Cyberattack


Unhackable Operating Systems – Kernel

An autonomous helicopter gunship which seems to be flying over a military base in Arizona suddenly tends to lose radio contact. This is due to hackers taking control of an on-board computer. New Scientist can reveal that US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – DARPA utilised a similar scenario in a drill to test the cybersecurity of an unscrewed Boeing Little Bird helicopter.

Inspite of the hackers having unbound access to the computer, and making great attempts to disable the helicopter, crashing the computer, they were unable to disrupt the critical system. DARPA which is focusing in developing an unhackable drone by 2018 as a part of its High Assurance Cyber Military System – HACMS programme, the drill seemed to be successful.

It is said that the software which had kept the helicopter’s computer secure was at the core of its operating system and could be the most appropriate thing what could make everything from pacemakers, insulin pumps, power stations, cars immune to hacking.

Gernot Heiser from the newly formed Australian national research agency, Data61 had commented that his hope was that in 10 years, anything which could be security critical would be running on the system or some other one built on the principles established. One of the predecessors had developed the crucial component of the unhackable operating systems – its kernel.

Central Staple of the Operating System of the Computer

The kernel is said to be the central staple of the operating system of the computer. If the hackers tend to gain access to it, for instance, they could perform actions which could be meant to be prohibited such as turning a mobile phone into a signal jammer. Heiser’s team last year had proved mathematically that their kernel is unhackable.

The kernel, known as seL4, has some highly secured properties and can do only do what it is developed to do. Its code cannot be altered without permission and its memory together with the data transfers cannot be read without permission. Earlier version of it was known as OKL4 which is now on millions of smartphones. Heiser has informed that the two features support seL4’s security and one of it is a new way of isolating data within the kernel.

 However, the main development was making the code proficient of being checked mathematically. The other kernels may tend to have these properties though it would be impossible to know precisely without mathematical proof according to Heiser.

seL4 – Keep the Systems Separate

Two of the hackers in the month of July had played a prank by accessing remotely the computer of a Chrysler Jeep, making it stop abruptly on a highway and then crash it into a ditch. The consequences were that the company recalled 1.4 million vehicles.

The question that arises is – could seL4 prevent such an incident in the future?Heiser informs that one cannot stop hackers from gaining access to things like a car’s entertainment system, if it communicates through Wi-Fi. Hackers often tend to use non critical systems as a springboard to critical areas such as steering as in the case of the Jeep prank.

However, the seL4 kernel could keep the systems separate. According to Heiser,there are attempts occurring to roll this out to cars in order to protect them. It seems a big deal for cybersecurity according to Iman Shames from the University of Melbourne in Australia who states that there are ways to attack hardware even if the software is secure. Hackers could be capable of tricking the sensors of a device or jam incoming communication or any other signal which could be quite overwhelming.

Microsoft has Developed Its Own Linux


Microsoft’s Own Linux Distribution

Microsoft has created its own Linux distribution with Azure running its networking. Redmond has revealed that it has built something known as Azure Cloud Switch – ACS, defining it as a cross platform modular operating system for data centre networking.

This is built on Linux and the foray in building their own software to run network devices like switches.It is supposed to make it easy for the IT pros in managing their networking infrastructure over various types of hardware. It is especially important while running a bunch of networks across a group of data centres at cloud computing scales.

The important element is that Microsoft has envisaged a problem and decided to create Linux, as the best option to fix it. ACS has also permitted Microsoft to share the software stack across hardware from various switch vendors which is done through the Switch Abstraction Interface – SAI specification.

 This is the first open standard C API in programming network switching ASICs of the Open Compute Project – OCP.Redmond’s main architect from Azure Networking, Kamala Subramaniam has written that `at Microsoft, they are of the belief that there are several excellent switch hardware platforms available in the market, together with healthy competition among several vendors driving innovation, increases in speed together with reduction in costs.

Challenges – Integrating Totally Different Software

However, what the cloud and enterprise networks found challenging was that it is integrating totally different software operating on each of the different kind of switch in a cloud-wide network management platform. One would prefer all the benefits of the features implemented and the bugs fixed to stay on even as one goes with the tide of updated switch hardware innovation.

The software-defined networking – SDN is a fine idea. However, it seemed that Redmond did not find the SDN code to accommodate its particular needs and so it required to build new systems based on what the other industry were using and the experience includes Linux and not Windows as the path to SDN.

 It states ACS…. focuses on feature development based on Microsoft priorities and enable to debug, fix and test software bugs much quicker. Moreover it also enables the flexibility to scale down the software and create features which are essential for their datacentre as well as their networking needs.

ACS – Designed to Utilise Switch Abstraction Interface

ACS has been designed to utilise Switch Abstraction Interface, an OpenCompute attempt which provides an API for programming ASICs internal network devices. Microsoft’s post exposing ACS states a fair amount about its features, though it does not clarify the association between Microsoft and Linux. Probably the complexity of theswitching ecosystem of the world could be the reason.

 Redmond has commented that it has demonstrated ACS across with `four ASIC vendors namely Mellanox, Broadcom, Cavium and the Barefoot software switch, six implementation of SAI – Broadcom, Dell, Mellanox, Cavium, Barefoot and Metaswitch with three applications stacks – Microsoft, Dell and Metaswitch.

Subramaniam ends his post by conveying that they were talking about ACS publicly as they were of the belief that this approach of disaggregating the switch software from the switch hardware would tend to continue as a growing trend in the networking industry and that they would like to contribute their insights as well as experiences to the journey starting from here.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Top Gadgets and Accessories for Hardware and Data Security


Encrypted Hard Drives to NFC Blockers

Hardware security solutions could help in preventing access to data and tends to offer some strong protection against tampering as well as unauthorized access on the devices. In order to securing data and physical items, one could consider investing in an encrypted NFC hard drives.Encrypted hard drives to NFC blockers have various options of protecting yourself and your data. The following gadgets and accessories could be helpful to the users according to their requirements:

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC encrypted storage

Encrypted drives such as the Buffalo’s MiniStation Extreme NFC encrypted storage HD utilises NFC technology to prevent unauthorized access to information that could be stored on the device. User would find it difficult to unlock and access information from external smart card, removing the requirement for a password which could be tampered. An added benefit of the storage device is the military grade shock, dust and water protection which tends to protect the data from getting corrupted or lost in the event of it being dropped. One could get hold of a 1TB option for $129.99 or a 2TB drivefor $199.99.

iStorage datAshur Pro USB 3.0 secure flash drive

Should the need of something secure though smaller be essential, iStorage’s datAshur Pro USB 3.0 secure flash drive is the choice. Focused for business and government users, the flash drive includes FIPS 140-2 level 3, CESG CPA Foundation Grade together with NLNCSA level 2 accreditation together with 256-bit hardware encryption, a read only protect mode. A brute force hack detection tool is also included which tends to aid in keeping the data secure in case of theft or loss. The range of datAshur Pro is available from £69 to £129 in 8, 16, 32 and 64 GB models.

3M mobile device privacy filters

These are available for smaller mobile devices and laptops and are a sure way in stopping users from snooping on your phones when one could be using their devices. The anti-glare, transparent screen is placed across the display which tends to reduce the visibility and stops anyone from viewing at an angle. The right size depending on the dimension and brand with varying prices could be obtained accordingly.

Laptop Lock

One could consider investing in a simple laptop lock for a simple way of protecting the device and the data. Ruban’s laptops lock and cable system is available at $9.90 which is complete with a four digit lock that can swiftly attach the PC to a table when left for a moment. Though being away from the desk for a short while could mean that you come back to an empty surface, this simple lock could prevent a lot.

The Wocket smart wallet

A cause for worry for consumers is theft or loss of their credit cards. The Wocket smart wallet helps to store securely these cards together with permitting a one-time uses of various credit cards through a single physical card that has been provided by the company. This helps in enabling you to replace all the cards with a single one. To use the physical card one could swipe the credit or loyalty cards, get the verification of the identity through a PIN code and biometrics and thereafter Wocket utilises a wireless connection to pair with a payment provider. Chip and PIN does not support this system. One could store up to 10,000 cards together with other data inclusive of passwords.

Mobile device PIN codes, biometric scanners

This seems to be an easy to setup option in protecting the device and does not cost much, sadly often overlooked. By taking time in order to set up a digital PIN code password or a pattern on mobile device or to take advantage of biometric fingerprint readers, could help in stopping your personal data going into wrong hands in the event of theft or loss.

Yubico YubiKey Neo

These ranges of items are keys that tend to secure application. The keys which are adequately small to fit on the keychain tends to plug into devices to secure apps and services inclusive of remote access VPNs, password managers, online logins like Gmail and open source and enterprise solutions. The YubiKey backs the USB and contactless protocols, one-time passwords, OpenPGP and PIB. They can also be configured for utilisation with the Universal 2nd Factor –U2F protocol. YubiKey NEO or NEO is available for $50.

Silent Pocket RFID blocker

With the combination of fashion together with the post Snowden flow in privacy trimmings, Silent Pocket’s v2 range come with smooth leather wallets, briefcases as well as bags comprising of flat magnetic seal for the prevention of RFID, cellular, indicators getting through from Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and Bluetooth. By averting these signals from getting to your cards, users could help in the prevention identity and credit card theft together with device tracking, staying off the grid in the process. The v2 range can be pre-ordered and is available in the price range from $16.95 to $675

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Boeing Patents an Aircraft Engine Run by Lasers and Nuclear Fusion


Boeing Patents for Laser & Nuclear Driven Airplane Engine

Recently, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had approved an application from Robert Budica, James Herzberg and Frank Chandler from Boeing, for a laser and nuclear driven airplane engine.Future aircraft could now be powered by lasers and nuclear explosions if Boeing intends to have its way.

The technology would mean that the spaceships and planes would need only a fraction of power for operating as per the recent patent filed by the company. Airplane makers are continuously on the look-outin finding new and efficient options of powering their products and this laser engine seems to be the latest notion by the engineers at Boeing.

The idea patented was to make air travel an efficient one. Presently we have airplanes like the Solar Impulse 2 which uses only solar energy to travel across Pacific and intends going on a world tour. For a long time now, airlines have been attempting to come up with concepts to decrease carbon emissions and nuclear powered airplanes would be great innovation.

The engineers give some insight on how the nuclear powered tend to work. The radioactive material is vaporized by a targeted Laser on them, leading to a controlled Nuclear Fusion reaction with high energy neutrons discharging out.

Boeing Dreamliner Powered by Several Turbofan Engines

Besides the radioactive material, the engine requires very little with regards to external energy. The high energy matter is absorbed which then propels the aircraft forward.As all the nuclear reactions tend to go, it sustains itself.

The uranium 238 which is coated on the interior of the thruster’s wall undergoes nuclear splitting when struck by high energy neutrons that are generated by the earlier reaction. This tends to generate plenty of heat. Heat that is from the fusion chamber is cooled off and directed to a generator which powers the Laser.

All this seems quite convincing on paper though several queries with regards to controlling the nuclear reactions and its safety tend to come up.Modern airliners like the Boeing Dreamliner are powered by several turbofan engines which organize a series of fans as well as turbines to compress air and ignite fuel in order to provide push.

Power Rockets/Missiles/Spacecraft

The newly patented engine of Boeing provides push in a different and unique way and as per the patent filing, the laser engine could also be utilised in powering rockets, missiles as well a spacecraft. This is one of the ideas which the engineers have proposed to power an airplane. Bio-fuels too have been in testing for a long time.

 According to United Airlines, flights which tend to run on fuel resulting from farm waste would soon begin from San Francisco and Los Angeles. These seem to be the main steps being adopted in helping to protect the environment. Up to now, the engine tends to live only in patent document and the technology is such that it is unclear if anyone would ever intend to build it.

It seems to be one of those patents which in no way indicate that the company that filed it intends working on what the patent is patenting. This is because Boeing does not seem to be actively developing a laser triggered fusion powered jet engine. Speculations are on whether the nuclear powered airplanes would become a reality or not.

Brain Translator lets Paraplegic Man Walk with Own Legs Again


Technique – Re-routing Brain Signals to Paraplegic Patient

A ground breaking technique in re-routing brain signals directly to the knees has aided a paraplegic man to walk once again with his legs for the first time after suffering from a spinal cord injury – SCI.The American patient of 26 years, who had met with an accident, had lost the ability of using his legs five year back.

However researcher at the University of California at Irvine managed to restore the link between his brain and legs, enabling him to walk once again without the need of robotic limbs. The patient could walk a distance of 3.5 meters donning a cap that was fitted with electrodes which could pick up brain signals, sending them wirelessly to a computer.

 The computers interpreted the signals and sent the decision to walk or stand still to a micro controller placed on the man’s belt, thus triggering the nerves on his legs. According to the researchers as reported in the Journal of Neuro-engineering and Rehabilitation, the system is not seemingly a plug and play and the patient requires wide training on the utilisation of it. The patient begins by wearing the cap and moves a character on a screen for the purpose of building up the potential of producing clear signals for the system to understand.

20 Sessions – 19 Weeks of Work

Thereafter the patient is totally put off to learn how to move his legs and refine the movement in order to walk. He would also need support in training his muscles to support his own weight.

According to the team, the procedure tends to take around 20 sessions in order to help the patient to walk, amounting to around 19 weeks of work. In due course, he was capable of holding basic conversation while walking.

 The system, instead of reading `walk left’ and `walk right’, relied on differentiating between `walk/don’t walk’ signals, which meant that the movement achieved by him was restricted. Beside the team also mentioned that the proof of concept study was dynamic in portraying that the brain could yet develop signals useful for walking, years after the ability had been lost.

Braingate and its successors, the future systems that are capable of more accurate collection and interpreting brain signals, could utilise the similar concept, possibly, to restore movement in a more broad sense.

Provided Proof-of-Concept for Direct Brain Control

The paper reported that the consequences provided a proof-of-concept for direct brain control of lower extremity prosthesis in order to restore basic ground walking after suffering from paraplegia due to spinal cord injury.

The system reported here represented an important step towards the development of technologies which could restore or progress walking in case of paraplegia patients due to SCI. Dr An Do, who co-led the study had informed the Guardian, that the system seemed to be an advance over those who use robotic exoskeletons.

She stated that they have showed that one can restore intuitive, brain controlled walking after complete spinal cord injury and the non-invasive system for leg muscle stimulation seems to be a promising method. It is an advance on present brain controlled system that utilises virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton.

The next stage seems to be to ensure that the computer does not tend to mix up signals for balance and precision with walking and to find out other options for various and more natural kinds of movement which can be translated by the system.