DARPA is preparing for the threat
You might not know this, but the Internet wasn’t built for you and me. Back in the 1960’s, which somehow seems like an eternity ago, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) envisioned a network of computers that could collaborate on scientific and technological research projects from coast to coast. The name given to this proto-Internet was ARPANET, and by 1969, it represented the framework and series of standards that would later become the Internet as we know it today.
These days, DARPA is still developing breakthrough technology to answer the increasingly complicated demands of global security and defense. One of those demands, inevitably, is the ever-greater risk of cyber-attacks — both from within the United States and from without. To speak plainly, the amount of stuff on the Internet makes it more and more difficult with each passing day to keep our personal information — to say nothing of state secrets — safe from prying eyes.
This tug-of-war has become something of a full-time job over at DARPA. Here’s how they’re preparing themselves — and the country at large — for the newest threats to cyber-sovereignty.
There’s no “unhackable” code
DARPA’s Arati Prabhakar and Steve Walker will be the first to tell you: “There’s no unhackable code.” That’s a bit of a mood-killer, really, but it’s also old news — the best the tech community can hope for is to make “less hackable” code, and to try to stay ahead of the cyber-criminal (“hacker,” if you prefer) community and their ever-larger bag of tricks.
In answer to rising concerns over data breaches and cyber-terrorism, DARPA has spun off a new project called High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS. DARPA’s formal description of HACMS and its mandate is full of not-so-helpful jargon, so let’s break it down what they’re trying to accomplish in terms that will be familiar to anybody who studied sixth-grade math.
One can think of the HACMS approach to cyber-security in terms of basic mathematics. Everybody knows the Pythagorean Theorem: a2 + b2 = c2. This theorem is accepted because it works every time it’s put to the test. This is an effective metaphor for the long-sought unicorn that is unhackable code. Think about it like this: A right triangle is “unhackable” because a2 + b2 will never equal anything other than c2. The code being developed by the HACMS works a little bit like this — not literally, mind you, but the metaphor is a good stand-in for the kind of mathematics-based algorithms they’re trying to develop.
It works because it simply cannot work any other way.
And so far, they seem to be meeting with preliminary success. When the HACMS team unearthed an effective piece of code that works along the lines described above, they gave it to a team of “professional hackers” to try out. The HACMS team stored the code on a real-life, unmanned attack helicopter to see if their team could retrieve it.
The results were extremely promising: Even after the hackers were handed access to the actual source code of the helicopter, they were unable to penetrate the main systems and retrieve the code.
The implications of these preliminary tests are enormous. Americans are a fearful lot (Why else do we have more guns than people in this country?), and right now, cyber-attacks are at the top of the list in a recent Survey of American Fears. It’s encouraging to know that the institution that brought us the Internet in the first place is making significant progress toward discovering ways to make it hack-proof. We’re not there yet, but HACMS has delivered a promising proof-of-concept.
DARPA has also recently chosen to enlist the help of the public with the Grand Cyber Challenge — a competition (with a $2 million grand prize) that encourages self-styled hackers to build software that can compromise encrypted data faster than the competition. Think of it as a digital capture the flag game: The team that manages to retrieve a particular piece of data from a closed system gets the prize money and significant bragging rights in the hacker community.
It might sound counter-intuitive, encouraging people to break encryption. But DARPA considers challenges like these to be invaluable recruiting tools. They’re always looking for the next generation of government technologists.
Security is EVERYBODY’s problem
Like much of what DARPA gets up to, HACMS feels a little bit abstract, and perhaps difficult to apply to our everyday lives. The truth, though, is a bit more complicated. With huge battles brewing between corporate America and the government, emerging forms of encryption and new approaches to cyber-security are more important for the “average consumer” than ever before. Battle lines are being drawn between companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft and the would-be surveillance state envisioned by some of the more fearful statesmen serving in Washington, D.C.
And they’re also becoming important for modern entrepreneurs.
We’ve seen egregious lapses in cyber-security before, write large across national headlines. Remember Target’s data breach? Or the Sony hack that compromised some 102 million company records in 2011? The list of “unprecedented” data breaches is a long one, and becomes more precedented with each passing day.
Two reasons a business owner should care about cyber security
First: Modern entrepreneurs have to fight an uphill battle against market fluctuations and competition alike. Knowing your proprietary company secrets are under lock and key is hugely important if you want to make it.
But there’s a second reason, and it sometimes gets overlooked. To speak plainly, your customers take it for granted that you’re looking out for them. Almost every business stores a great deal of personal information about the people they sell to: Names, credit card numbers, addresses, and on it goes. People want to be able to count on their favorite businesses to make sure criminals can’t get their compromising data without a fight.
So — yes. This is a struggle that affects all of us. The world has turned downright Orwellian while our backs were turned. There are now eyes and ears everywhere. H
ow we go about answering this challenge in the coming years will reveal quite a bit about who we are and what we really value.
Microsoft’s latest HUGE investment: Self-driving car technologies
(TECH NEWS) Microsoft invests in self-driving car technology by joining other investors in a combined equity investment of $2 billion.
Microsoft has put its money into self-driving car technology. The tech giant has partnered with General Motors and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned driverless car startup, to “accelerate the
commercialization of self-driving vehicles.”
“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race – it’s also a trust race,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a press release. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”
Along with Honda and other institutional investors, the companies are investing a combined $2 billion into the autonomous car company. This new funding round brings Cruise to a post-money valuation of $30 billion.
The long-term strategic partnership between the companies will be a collaborative one and beneficial for both. To roll out its fleet of self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, Azure.
In turn, as GM’s and Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, Microsoft will use the car company’s “industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.”
Besides helping bring the self-driving technology out to the market quicker, the companies will also work together on other digitization initiatives. For instance, they will collaborate on artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. And, explore opportunities to streamline operations and increase productivity.
“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred
cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”
“Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth.”
Wow! This synthetic cornea gave a legally blind man his vision back!
(TECH NEWS) Another instance of “technology is amazing:” this minimally invasive eye implant has opened new doors for sight restoration surgeries for the legally blind.
After being the first patient to receive a cutting-edge cornea implant, a legally blind 78-year-old man can see again. Directly after his surgery, the patient was able to recognize his family members and read an eye chart. The KPro implant comes from the company CorNeat.
KPro is the first implant that can be directly integrated into the eye wall, replacing damaged or deformed corneas with no donor tissue. The clear layer that protects the front portion of the eye is called the corona. The corona is susceptible to degeneration or scarring, as well as a number of diseases such as keratopathy, keratoconus and pseudophakia bullous.
While artificial cornea implants already exist, the surgeries are complex and typically only used as a last resort when transplants or cornea ring implants don’t work. That is perhaps what makes the CorNeat transplants so remarkable – it’s a simple procedure that’s minimally invasive.
Additionally, KPro uses a biomimetic material that “stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration”. Not only can these implants give you your sight back instantly, but they also can help the natural tissue in your eyes to grow back and integrate. Now, THIS is cool stuff.
CorNeat said that ten more patients in Israel are approved for trials, as well as two in Canada. Six others are in the approval process in France, U.S., and the Netherlands. Professor Irit Bahar of CorNeat stated that he believes this project will ultimately impact millions of people’s lives. Only time will tell.
This advancement in biotech comes at a time where many Americans are uninsured and at a higher risk for health ailments due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent effects. At its best, CorNeat’s KPro offers some hope – while COVID has brought many industries to their knees, advancements in medical technology seem to persist.
If the results of the implants continue to stay as promising as they are now, who knows – maybe we’ll all be receiving cornea implants as a normal part of health upkeep in the not-so-distant future. I know I’ll be first in line.
The top 10 languages you can know as a programmer
(TECH NEWS) Considering a career as a developer or programmer? You’re not alone. Here’s top 10 programming languages to enhance or start your career.
The COVID economy has thousands of Americans reconsidering their career paths – with so many jobs dissolving due to various reasons (i.e., automation, a decrease in full-time creative positions), it’s no wonder why scores of professionals are seeking to reskill ASAP.
If this sounds like you, look no further; have you ever considered the lucrative career of computer programming?
Programmers on average make a salary of $89,590 a year. And better yet, coding jobs might never become obsolete. The trick is to know exactly what you want to do – different coding languages best serve specific purposes. So, which one should you learn first?
Top ten languages for new developers:
- Python – Learn Python if you’re interested in data analysis, machine learning, scripting, web development and Internet of Things (it’s the future!). Python is also the easiest language to learn, so give it a go!
- The Go Programming Language – You can learn to build simple, reliable, and efficient software.
- Java – Want to work on computer programs, games, apps and web applications? What about Internet of Things and robots? Learn Java to tap into these fields. Keep in mind, Java is considered difficult for novice programmers.
- C# – C# is great for websites, web applications, games, and apps – especially Windows apps. It’s also perfect for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
- PHP – Want to get your hands dirty doing back-end website programming? PHP is the language for you.
- C++ – For programming apps, games and web browsers, C++ is the language you’ll need to learn. Though it’s notoriously tough to grasp, knowing this language could be the competitive edge you need to set you apart from the pool of programmers.
- C – C will prepare you for operating systems, compilers and databases.
- R – The world is always in need of those who conduct data and statistical analyses – check out R to dive in.
- Swift – For apps and software for Apple devices, check out Swift.
My advice? Figure out exactly it is you want to do in your new career as a programmer. Set your goal. Then, after you’re sure what direction you want to go in, see which programming language best suits your needs.
Get proficient at one language to start and become top-notch at it. Then, you can expand your rolodex to include multiple languages and grow your abilities as a programmer.
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