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DARPA prepares for the next cyber-war (and how it impacts your life)

DARPA is preparing for cyber war, and while it sounds like an issue for experts, it is a problem that does AND WILL impact all of us. Here’s why you need to be up to date on the topic.

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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.

#CyberWar

Megan Ray Nichols is an editorialist at The American Genius, and is also the editor at Schooled By Science. She loves to keep up with tech industry trends and innovations. She hopes to discover and document unique ways technology can help advance society. Megan also enjoys writing about a variety of the sciences and how they tangibly impact your life.

Tech News

Earbuds that are noise cancelling hit the market just in time for the holidays

(TECH NEWS) There are no shortage of earbuds on the market, however, Nuheara’s noise cancelling, bluetooth earbuds are sure to top everyone’s wish list.

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earbuds noise cancelling

Noise cancelling earbuds are efficient for blocking out the world around you – when all you want to hear is your music and nothing else. However, for those who want a smaller, sleeker alternative, Nuheara is the perfect fit.

Nuheara are wireless audio earbuds that are customizable to your hearing needs. Even though they have the same power as noise cancelling headphones, they can be adjusted to amplify or minimize sound based on each situation.

You can choose to blend the sounds of the streets and your new favorite album in order to be aware of the world around you. The earbuds are ideal for any situation.

The noise cancelling earbuds use SINC (Superior Intelligent Noise Control) technology, which lets every user create their custom hearing experience.

There are numerous times when it’s hard to hear because of the noise around us. This may be in crowded restaurants, concerts or even when you’re at home trying to avoid the noisy neighbor in the apartment above you.

The SINC technology applies a frequency filter to sounds you choose to hear or want to avoid. Additionally, the left and right earbuds have their own settings, so that they can be customized individually. Everything is customized through the app, so it’s up to each user to decide!

Prior to founding Nuheara, Justin Miller and David Cannington worked in the oil and gas companies creating industrial strength hearing headsets.

The feedback they received during these experiences paved the way for inventing Nuheara. People wanted a sleek headset that they could wear in everyday life, not just at their job.

The earbuds will set you back a few hundred bucks, but they come with accessories like a battery charger, carrying case and 8 different silicone tips. The battery charger provides three full charges. Nuheara earbuds are also sweat and water resistant, but they are not yet waterproof.

As wireless headphones, Nuheara are also compatible with most Bluetooth connected devices. The earbuds also use tap-touch control to make hands-free phone calls, control music and adjust settings.

There is no need to connect Nuheara to external devices to use their noise cancelling capabilities.

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Tech News

Turn your FAQ page into a chatbot without knowing how to code

(TECH NEWS) An easy way to add a chatbot to your site and automate some of your work is through this new simple tool that doesn’t require any tech know-how.

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faqbot chatbot

Reduce your workload and personalize customer service engagement with Faqbot, the tool that turns your online FAQ into a customized chatbot.

Co-founded by Denny Wong and CEO Mathis André, Faqbot uses machine learning to streamline frequently asked questions into a handy chatbot pal.

Based on your existing FAQ content, Faqbot builds a database that learns from every conversation to improve responses. Faqbot can also be used to automate sales and lead generation.

You get to design the conversation flow, mapping out a custom path to guide users to a desired outcome. Set predefined choices or free text, customize the bot’s responses, and determine what leading questions the bot should ask.

For example, on the Faqbot site, I was given two pre-set choices to click after each response from the bot. Clicking “Thanks for helping” gets the polite response “You are welcome! ;-)” complete with an old-school emoji featuring a nose.

If you select “not my question,” Faqbot uses its general response to any unanswerable question: “Sorry, I’m a chatbot. I am constantly learning and have answers to frequently asked questions. Thank you for leaving your email and we will get back to you shortly.”

Choose your own responses based on already defined FAQ or come up with new messaging to better engage and inform your customers as needed. The free text option is also available if customers wish to continue asking questions.

Of course, I had to try out some less than frequently asked questions. When I asked Faqbot “are we friends?” it kindly replied, “Absolutely. You don’t have to ask.” So I’m smitten.

However, when I tried to take it to the next level by asking “Do you love me?,” which seems to be the internet’s favorite way to harass a bot, I got the “Sorry, I’m a chatbot” response.

That’s okay. I’ll recover. Faqbot isn’t here to love, it’s here to answer questions.

You can easily install the chatbot by either copy/pasting the snippet of codes directly into your webpage, or connect Faqbot to your company’s Facebook page. No coding skills required.

Pricing is based on number of users per month, but all levels include the same service offerings of FAQ database management, messaging interface, a ticketing system, and DIY guided conversation flow. You can try out Faqbot free for 14 days by signing up on their site.

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Tech News

This note-taking app is perfect for the creative mind

(TECH NEWS) The newest app for note-taking could be a tremendous asset for a very specific type of creative that tools like trello and evernote fall short on… not all apps work for all people.

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milanote

If you’re like me, you’ve had many phases in your idea-having, note-taking life. There was the AP History period, where I decided the quality of my notes would be judged based on the tininess of my handwriting and the number of innovative abbreviations coined. There was the “song collection” period, in which I wrote down song and band names with reckless abandon, on any scrap of paper or non-paper within reach, and promptly scattered the scraps everywhere. There was the post-it era, in which every single idea was carefully documented on a “Sticky Note” that tiled over my Windows desktop and was impossible to find thereafter.

And then, there was Evernote, and Trello, and I thought my evolution was complete. I had neatly organized “Notebooks” and “Cards” and I felt very structured and efficient and spiritually done with my note-taking journey.

But a whisper of rebellion called out to me. It sounded musical, colorful, whimsical. It asked me whether I wouldn’t like to liberate myself from those neat lists and stacks, let my ideas flow, visualize my thoughts?

It introduced me to Milanote – the note-taking app truly made FOR images, not just tolerant of them.

Milanote markets itself toward creatives: “For the research, thinking and planning behind your next great piece of work.”

But the strengths of this app could benefit anyone who could use a more freeform space to collect their thoughts. A blank page resembles a peg board, and users can add images, notes, links, and more in any configuration their hearts desire. You can also link any elements together with a web of lines, or leave them on their own.

This could be a great app for early-stage brainstorming and planning, when you need to play around and be flexible.

Milanote can be collaborative, like Trello, or individual and personal, like my always-evolving grocery list in Evernote. Milanote currently works in any web browser, and iOs and Android apps are coming soon.

For up to 100 notes, Milanote can be yours free of charge. More than that, though, and you’ll have to pay $9.99 for the pro version.

Something tells me infinity should cost much more, but the organic, customizable concept is something to hold on to.

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