Security

US's Greatest Vulnerability is Ignoring the Cyber Threats From Our Adversaries, Foreign Policy Expert Says (cnbc.com) 98

America's greatest vulnerability is its continued inability to acknowledge the extent of its adversaries' capabilities when it comes to cyber threats, says Ian Bremmer, founder and president of leading political risk firm Eurasia Group. From a report: Speaking to CNBC from the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, the prominent American political scientist emphasized that there should be much more government-level concern and urgency over cyber risk. The adversarial states in question are what U.S. intelligence agencies call the "big four": Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. "We're vulnerable because we continue to underestimate the capabilities in those countries. WannaCry, from North Korea -- no one in the U.S. cybersecurity services believed the North Koreans could actually do that," Bremmer described, naming the ransomware virus that crippled more than 200,000 computer systems across 150 countries in May of 2017.

Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, weighed in, stressing the economic cost of cyber crimes. "It is very hard to attribute cyberattacks to different actors or countries, but the cost is just unbelievable. Annually more than a thousand billion U.S. dollars are lost for companies or countries due to these attacks and our economy is more and more based on internet and data."

China

How Does Chinese Tech Stack Up Against American Tech? 168

The Economist: China's tech leaders love visiting California, and invest there, but are no longer awed by it [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. By market value the Middle Kingdom's giants, Alibaba and Tencent, are in the same league as Alphabet and Facebook. New stars may float their shares in 2018-19, including Didi Chuxing (taxi rides), Ant Financial (payments) and Lufax (wealth management). China's e-commerce sales are double America's and the Chinese send 11 times more money by mobile phones than Americans, who still scribble cheques.

The venture-capital (VC) industry is booming. American visitors return from Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen blown away by the entrepreneurial work ethic. Last year the government decreed that China would lead globally in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030. The plan covers a startlingly vast range of activities, including developing smart cities and autonomous cars and setting global tech standards. Like Japanese industry in the 1960s, private Chinese firms take this "administrative guidance" seriously.
AI

AI is Being Used To Raise Better Pigs in China (qz.com) 47

Alibaba's Cloud Unit has signed an agreement on with the Tequ Group, a Chinese food-and-agriculture conglomerate that raises about 10 million pigs each year, to deploy facial and voice recognition on Tequ's pig farms. From a report: According to an Alibaba representative, the company will offer software to Tequ that it will deploy on its farms with its own hardware. Using image recognition, the software will identify each pig based on a mark placed on its body. This corresponds with a file for each pig kept in a database, which records and tracks characteristics such as the pig's breed type, age, and weight. The software can monitor changes in the level of a pig's physical activity to assess its level of fitness. In addition, it can monitor the sounds on the farm -- picking up a pig's cough, for example, to assess whether or not the pig is sick and at risk of spreading a disease. The software will also draw from its data to assess which pigs are most capable of giving birth to healthy offspring. Tequ's CIO stressed that taking care of pigs is no easy task for large pig farms. "If you have 10 million pigs, relying on manpower is already not enough," he said, according to a report by local publication Tianxia Wangshang, adding that it's impossible to manually count each pig given how many are born every day.
China

China Reassigns 60,000 Soldiers To Plant Trees In Bid To Fight Pollution 125

According to The Independent, citing the Asia Times, China has reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plan trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country's forest coverage. The soldiers are from the People's Liberation Army, along with some of the nation's armed police force. From the report: The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing. The area is known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city. The idea is believed to be popular among members of online military forums as long as they can keep their ranks and entitlements. It comes as part of China's plan to plant at least 84,000 square kilometers (32,400 square miles) of trees by the end of the year, which is roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland. The aim is to increase the country's forest coverage from 21 per cent of its total landmass to 23 per cent by 2020, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Communications

119,000 Passports, Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found On Unsecured Amazon Server (gizmodo.com) 34

FedEx left scanned passports, drivers licenses, and other documentation belonging to thousands of its customers exposed on a publicly accessible Amazon S3 server, reports Gizmodo. "The scanned IDs originated from countries all over the world, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, and several European countries. The IDs were attached to forms that included several pieces of personal information, including names, home addresses, phone numbers, and zip codes." From the report: The server, discovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Center, was secured as of Tuesday. According to Kromtech, the server belonged to Bongo International LLC, a company that aided customers in performing shipping calculations and currency conversations, among other services. Bongo was purchased by FedEx in 2014 and renamed FedEx Cross-Border International a little over a year later. The service was discontinued in April 2017. According to Kromtech, more than 119,000 scanned documents were discovered on the server. As the documents were dated within the 2009-2012 range, its unclear if FedEx was aware of the server's existence when it purchased Bongo in 2014, the company said.
China

US Senators Voice Concern Over Chinese Access To Intellectual Property (reuters.com) 115

Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday they were concerned about what they described as China's efforts to gain access to sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual property through Chinese companies with government ties. From a report: Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, cited concerns about the spread of foreign technologies in the United States, which he called "counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors. The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms (companies) like Huawei and ZTE that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government," Burr said. Senator Mark Warner, the committee's Democratic vice chairman, said he had similar concerns. "I'm worried about the close relationship between the Chinese government and Chinese technology firms, particularly in the area of commercialization of our surveillance technology and efforts to shape telecommunications equipment markets," Warner said.
AI

Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa (theverge.com) 70

According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.
Android

Chinese Phone Maker Xiaomi Deletes a Public MIUI vs Android One Twitter Poll After Voting Didn't Go Its Way (betanews.com) 61

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which sells handsets at razor thin margins, is increasingly dominating in its home market and emerging places such as India and Indonesia. To make money, the company relies on a range of homegrown software features in its Android-based MIUI operating system. In a surprising move earlier this week, the company asked its Twitter followers to choose between MIUI and Android One (which runs pure Android OS). Things didn't go as it had planned. From a report: Presumably the company was rather hoping that Twitter users would vote for its own MIUI which it could then rub in Google's face -- but the poll actually went against Xiaomi. Rather than leave the results of the vote up for anyone to see, the company decided to simply delete it and pretend it never happened. Take a look at the Xiaomi account on Twitter, and you'll see no hint that any such poll has ever taken place. But over on Reddit, there's a thread which was started by someone posting a link to the poll. In the comments, one Redditor noticed after a period of voting that: "So far it's 53-47 for android one."
Software

Researchers Are Developing An Algorithm That Makes Smartphones Child-Proof (technologyreview.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Researchers at the University of South Carolina and China's Zhejiang University have created an algorithm that can spot whether your kid is accidentally trying to, say, order from Amazon without your knowing. There are already plenty of activity-monitoring apps that aim to control what kids do on phones, but parents need to add them and turn them on, and they could be disabled by tech-savvy children. The researchers figured that automated age-range detection would make it easier for parents to hand their phones over to curious children without worrying that the kids will stumble upon an inappropriate website or get into a work e-mail account.

The researchers built a simple app and asked a group of kids between the ages of three and 11 -- and a group of adults between 22 and 60 -- to use it. The app had participants unlock an Android phone and then play a numbers-based game on it, so that the researchers could record a variety of taps and swipes. They also tracked things like the amount of pressure applied by a user's finger and the area it encompassed. The researchers used the resulting data to train an age-detecting algorithm that they say is 84 percent accurate with just one swipe on the screen -- a figure that goes up to 97 percent after eight swipes.

AI

AIs Have Replaced Aliens As Our Greatest World Destroying Fear (qz.com) 227

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Quartz: As we've turned our gaze away from the stars and toward our screens, our anxiety about humanity's ultimate fate has shifted along with it. No longer are we afraid of aliens taking our freedom: It's the technology we're building on our own turf we should be worried about. The advent of artificial intelligence is increasingly bringing about the kinds of disturbing scenarios the old alien blockbusters warned us about. In 2016, Microsoft's first attempt at a functioning AI bot, Tay, became a Hitler-loving mess an hour after it launched. Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United Nations to ban the use of AI in weapons before it becomes "the third revolution in warfare." And in China, AI surveillance cameras are being rolled out by the government to track 1.3 billion people at a level Big Brother could only dream of. As AI's presence in film and TV has evolved, space creatures blowing us up now seems almost quaint compared to the frightening uncertainties of an computer-centric world. Will Smith went from saving Earth from alien destruction to saving it from robot servants run amok. More recently, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Transcendence have all explored the complexities that arise when the lines between human and robot blur.

However, sentient machines aren't a new anxiety. It arguably all started with Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. It's a stunning depiction of a sprawling, smog-choked future, filled with bounty hunters muttering "enhance" at grainy pictures on computer screens. ("Alexa, enlarge image.") The neo-noir epic popularized the concept of intelligent machines being virtually indistinguishable from humans and asked the audience where our humanity ends and theirs begin. Even alien sci-fi now acknowledges that we've got worse things to worry about than extra-terrestrials: ourselves.

Businesses

Anti-China Bill Being Softened After US Companies Complain (reuters.com) 71

Proposed legislation in Congress aimed at preventing China from acquiring sensitive technology is being softened after protests by big U.S. companies who fear a loss in sales, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. From the report: Two bills in the House of Representatives and Senate would broaden the powers of the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in hopes of stopping Chinese efforts to acquire sophisticated U.S. technology. The bipartisan legislation has the support of President Donald Trump's administration. "We are concerned that it vastly expands the scope and jurisdiction (of CFIUS)," said Nancy McLernon, chief executive of the Organization for International Investment, a group that represents global companies with U.S. operations. Given the alarm that the legislation has caused, Senator John Cornyn's staff is drafting changes to address industry concerns, according to three sources. Cornyn's office did not respond to a request for comment.
China

Police In China Are Scanning Travelers With Facial Recognition Glasses (engadget.com) 87

Baron_Yam shares a report from Engadget: Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily. The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based LLVision Technology Co. developed the devices. The company produces wearable video cameras as well and while it sells those to anyone, it's vetting buyers for its facial recognition devices. And, for now, it isn't selling them to consumers. LLVision says that in tests, the system was able to pick out individuals from a database of 10,000 people and it could do so in 100 milliseconds. However, CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that in the real world, accuracy would probably drop due to "environmental noise." Additionally, aside from being portable, another difference between these devices and typical facial recognition systems is that the database used for comparing images is contained in a hand-held device rather than the cloud."
China

Chinese Companies Hunt for AI Talent at American Conference (nikkei.com) 73

Chinese internet players have flocked to a research conference on artificial intelligence here, fighting to attract students from their home country who received a top-notch education in the U.S. From a report: Chinese is the language of choice among 34 company and group booths occupying prime real estate near the entrance to the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference, opened Friday. Native speakers represent companies including virtual mall operator Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, which runs the communication platform WeChat. They woo students, mainly of Chinese origin, with descriptions of comfortable jobs or invite them to attend parties. The intense competition reflects the great strides China has made in the field. This year, the AAAI received research submissions in record numbers -- at least 3,800. Entries from China increased 57% on the year to a level roughly even with those from the U.S. Moreover, Chinese researchers were involved with about 60% of the research posters on display -- a privilege given to selected papers. The research poster exhibition was sponsored by Chinese internet company Baidu.
Businesses

Bowing To Popularity, Apple Stores In China Accept Alipay (9to5mac.com) 23

hackingbear writes: Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has announced that its mobile wallet app Alipay is to be accepted in physical Apple Stores in the country. This would be the first time Apple has allowed retail store purchases to be made with a third-party mobile wallet app amid a push by the iPhone maker to revive growth in the world's No.2 economy. Apple has had to work hard to promote Apple Pay in China due to the popularity of existing, local mobile wallet apps like WeChat Pat and Alipay. The company had already bowed to the inevitable in allowing local apps to be used for online payments. Other American brands like McDonald's and Starbucks have already started accepting Alipay and WeChat Pay in China for sometimes.
Android

Android Oreo Passes 1 Percent Adoption After 5 Months, Nougat Finally Takes First Place (venturebeat.com) 98

According to Google's Platform Versions page, Android 8.0 Oreo mobile operating system finally has 1.1 percent adoption. Like Android Nougat before it, Android Oreo took five months to pass the 1 percent adoption mark. VentureBeat reports: On the bright side, Nougat this month has passed Marshmallow, meaning the second newest Android version is now the most widely used. The latest version of Android typically takes more than a year to become the most-used release, and so far it doesn't look like Oreo's story will be any different. Google's Platform Versions tool uses data gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don't have Google Play installed (such as many Android phones and tablets in China, Amazon's Fire line, and so on). Also, Android versions that have less than 0.1 percent adoption, such as Android 3.0 Honeycomb and Android 2.2 Froyo, are not listed. The two next-oldest Android versions are thus set to drop off the list sometime this year. The Android adoption order now stands as follows: Nougat in first place, Marshmallow in second place, Lollipop in third, KitKat in fourth, Jelly Bean in fifth, Oreo in sixth, ICS in seventh, and Gingerbread in last. All eyes are now on Oreo to see how slowly it can climb the ranks.
Iphone

Apple Launches Free Repair Program For 'No Service' IPhone 7 Bug (betanews.com) 61

Mark Wilson writes: Apple has launched a new repair program aimed at iPhone 7 users who are experiencing a "No Service" problem. Apple says that affected models that were sold since September 2016 will be repaired free of charge. The company explains that the No Service bug only affects a "small number" of handsets, and it is caused by a failed component on the main logic board...

Apple says that the problematic iPhone 7s were sold in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, and the US between September 2016 and February 2018. The specific model numbers are A1660, A1780 and A1779 and anyone whose phone is displaying a "No Service" message even when signal is available is told to contact their nearest Apple Authorized Service Provider, Apple Retail Store or Apple Technical Support.

China

This Chinese Math Problem Has No Answer. Perhaps, It Has a Lot of Them. (washingtonpost.com) 443

Fifth-graders in China's Shunqing district were recently asked to answer this question: "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?" The Washington Post: The apparently unsolvable question sparked a debate over the merits of the Chinese education system and the value it places on the memorization of information over the importance of developing critical thinking skills. "Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," a statement by the Shunqing Education Department posted Jan. 26 reportedly said. One student offered a pragmatic law-abiding answer: "The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship." Meanwhile on Twitter, some have gone with 42, a reference to the science fiction novel "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams, in which 42 is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything." BBC: "If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?" another asked. Some however, defended the school -- which has not been named -- saying the question promoted critical thinking. "The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that," one person commented. "This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this," another said.
Verizon

Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure (bloomberg.com) 69

Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.
China

China Denies Report it Hacked African Union Headquarters (reuters.com) 37

China and the African Union dismissed on Monday a report in French newspaper Le Monde that Beijing had bugged the regional bloc's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital. From a report: An article published Friday in Le Monde, quoting anonymous AU sources, reported that data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years. After the massive hack was discovered a year ago, the building's IT system including servers was changed, according to Le Monde. During a sweep for bugs after the discovery, microphones hidden in desks and the walls were also detected and removed, the newspaper reported. The $200 million headquarters was fully funded and built by China and opened to great fanfare in 2012. It was seen as a symbol of Beijing's thrust for influence in Africa, and access to the continent's natural resources.
Intel

Intel Told Chinese Firms of Meltdown Flaws Before the US Government (engadget.com) 134

According to The Wall Street Journal, Intel initially told a handful of customers about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, including Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Lenovo, before the U.S. government. As a result, the Chinese government could have theoretically exploited the holes to intercept data before patches were available. Engadget reports: An Intel spokesman wouldn't detail who the company had informed, but said that the company couldn't notify everyone (including U.S. officials) in time because Meltdown and Spectre had been revealed early. Lenovo said the information was protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Alibaba has suggested that any accusations of sharing info with the Chinese government was "speculative and baseless," but this doesn't rule out officials intercepting details without Alibaba's knowledge. There's no immediate evidence to suggest that China has taken advantage of the flaws, but that's not the point -- it's that the U.S. government could have helped coordinate disclosures to ensure that enough companies had fixes in place.

Slashdot Top Deals