The European Space Agency <https://www.esa.int/ESA> had to move one of its satellites out of the way today to protect it from colliding with a SpaceX Starlink satellite, crashing into a mega-constellation satellite. Specifically, it had to fire the Aeolus satellite's thrusters in order to increase its altitude so it could pass over a SpaceX Starlink satellite. Aeolus <https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Aeolus>, a scientific satellite launched in August 2018 to improve weather forecasting, started returning data shortly after the time of the expected collision, showing it had successfully avoided a collision. ESA said it was rare that it has to dodge active satellites: most maneuvers of this sort are to avoid debris. Aeolus orbits considerably lower than the Starlink constellation's current orbit height so it is possible that the SpaceX satellite it had to dodge was one of the three that SpaceX is de-orbiting after it lost contact with them. <https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613907/spacex-has-lost-communication-with-three-of-its-60-starlink-satellites/> *Subtle dig:* It's hard not to interpret the news as a criticism of SpaceX's plans to launch 12,000 satellites to provide broadband Internet connections. Other firms, like Telesat, OneWeb <https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613043/oneweb-is-about-to-launch-its-first-internet-satellites-to-connect-the/> and LeoSat, have similar plans. SpaceX started by launching 60 of the satellites in May 2019, but it plans to rapidly ramp up the numbers in the coming months. <https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613580/spacex-has-launched-the-first-60= -satellites-of-its-space-internet-system/>, *Space debris:* The ESA is far from alone in its concerns. Space debris experts warn that these sorts of mega constellations of satellites have the potential to cause far greater and longer-lasting problems than more eye-catching stunts like India's anti-satellite missile test It's currently very rare to have to dodge active satellites, the ESA said <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613239/why-satellite-mega-constellations-are-a-massive-threat-to-safety-in-space/> <https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613228/india-says-it-has-just-shot-down-a-satellite-in-space/>. <http://blogs.esa.int/space19plus/programmes/space-debris/>, but we can expect to see several hundreds of collision warnings every week before long. *A potential solution:* Today's manual collision avoidance processes simply won't work in an age of mega-constellations. There will be too many to keep tabs on. As a result, ESA is preparing to automate this process using artificial intelligence systems, which assess potential collisions and move satellites out of the way. Until those are up and running, we're relying on human observation and intervention. <https://twitter.com/esaoperations/status/1168540912282165248> https://www.technologyreview.com/f/614250/one-of-spacexs-starlink-satellites-almost-collided-with-a-weather-forecasting-satellite/
“Within a year and a half, maybe two years, if things go well, SpaceX will probably have more satellites in orbit than all other satellites combined,'' Elon Musk said last week. This is an exaggeration. There are almost 2,000 operational satellites in space right now. But Thursday night's launch of 60 satellites for anew Internet network called Starlink is the first step towards that goal. Today, Musk's space company said it expects to launch six more times in 2019, with the goal of operating 720 satellites by the end of the 2020, and eventually more than 4,000. <https://qz.com/1618386/spacex-launches-first-starlink-internet-satellites/> The Federal Communications Commission—the lead regulator for American satellites—approved these satellite, among 13,000 new satellites okayed in the last year. That huge number has many in the space community nervous about the potential for collisions with other satellites or with space debris. <https://qz.com/1170077/chinas-plummeting-space-station-is-just-a-taste-of-the-worlds-space-junk-problem/> <https://qz.com/773511/photos-this-is-the-damage-that-tiny-space-debris-traveling-at-incredible-speeds-can-do/> Neither the United States nor the world has a reliable system for managing traffic in space, and policymakers are struggling to keep up with the private sector's growing ability to hurl computers into the cosmos at faster and faster rates. *Musk said the satellites his company launches will avoid potential collisions on their own. And Mark Juncosa, the SpaceX executive in charge of developing the Starlink satellites, downplayed concerns when answering press inquiries on the matter last week. “It might be worth mentioning for people that are not in the space industry space is really big,'' he said. https://qz.com/1627570/how-autonomous-are-spacexs-starlink-satellites/
Hypersonic missiles, stealthy cruise missiles, and weaponized artificial intelligence have so reduced the amount of time that decision makers in the United States would theoretically have to respond to a nuclear attack that, two military experts say, it's time for a new U.S. nuclear command, control, and communications system. Their solution? Give artificial intelligence control over the launch button. In an article in War on the Rocks titled, ominously, America Needs a 'Dead Hand,' U.S. deterrence experts Adam Lowther and Curtis McGiffin propose a nuclear command, control, and communications setup with some eerie similarities to the Soviet system referenced in the title to their query piece. The Dead Hand was a semiautomated system developed to launch the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal under certain conditions, including, particularly, the loss of national leaders who could do so on their own. Given the increasing time pressure Lowther and McGiffin say U.S. nuclear decision makers are under, “[I]t may be necessary to develop a system based on artificial intelligence, with predetermined response decisions, that detects, decides, and directs strategic forces with such speed that the attack-time compression challenge does not place the United States in an impossible position.'' https://thebulletin.org/2019/08/strangelove-redux-us-experts-propose-having-ai-control-nuclear-weapons# ...and pay for it with bitcoin.
Car on Autopilot struck parked fire truck near Los Angeles* Report is second concluded by NTSB on Tesla automation U.S. transportation safety investigators found Tesla's design of its automated driver-assist system was partly to blame for a crash in which an inattentive driver slammed into a fire truck parked on a freeway near Los Angeles in 2018. The National Transportation Safety Board also cited the driver's failure to stop for the truck, which was parked with its emergency lights on, in the 22 Jan 2018, collision, which caused no injuries. The driver's actions were “due to inattention and overreliance on the vehicle's advanced driver assistance system,'' the NTSB said in a final report released Wednesday. The vehicle's design “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task'' the agency said, adding that the driver was using the system “in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from the manufacturer.'' The findings are the latest to put the coming wave of automated driving machines under a microscope over doubts about their safety and how they interact with the humans behind the wheel. In 2017 the agency cited the Tesla system's design as a contributor to a fatal 2016 crash in Florida, prompting two recommendations to the company and other manufacturers to improve the safety of partially autonomous driving tools. [...] https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Tesla-autopilot-is-found-partly-to-blame-for-2018-14413536.php https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-04/tesla-autopilot-gets-partial-blame-for-2018-crash-by-u-s-agency
Customer service says they don't know root cause and are all hands on deck to resolve. People stranded all over the country. Key card and fob work so if you have that with you, you are in luck. Call center is blowing up. https://www.reddit.com/r/RealTesla/comments/cyybke/tesla_customers_locked_out_of_our_carsunknown/ https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/tesla-ap-down.164885/
There has been recent discussion of hacks of the iPhone OS. See the article in *The Register*, which points to the detailed article by Google Project Zero. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/08/30/google_iphone_exploit_chain/ The complexity and subtlety of the attacks described in the Project Zero article is amazing. It appears that this is not done by one powerful wizard (like Mark Dowd) but rather a whole Ministry of Magic. My guess would be that there are additional, similarly elaborate, exploits not yet described. QA guy's rule of thumb: for every bug you found, there is one you haven't found yet. iPhones are programmed in a C-like language extended with rules, conventions, libraries, and frameworks. It is like making a 737 Max airliner out of trillions of individually glued matchsticks. It might fly... but the technology chosen is too delicate and vulnerable for the purpose intended, and there may be significant systemic weaknesses not addressed by choice of implementation technique. It seems clear that trying to write secure operating systems in C does not work. Very smart people have tried for 50 years, and the solution to the problem is not reduced to practice. I think we need even more powerful tools.. and by tools I mean ideas and approaches as well as compilers. Rust, Swift, Scala, Go. Well maybe. Focusing on the language is not enough. We tried that. SEL4, Haskell. Proof methodology. Not yet accepted as standard, the way C replaced assembler. When I look at the Multics B2 and Secure VMS projects, I get the feeling that we are still doing it wrong. Trying to build skyscrapers with two-by-fours and hammers. I used to say, “the software is crying out to us with the only voice it has, failure reports. We have to listen, and figure out why, and imagine solutions.'' I feel like our problem is philosophical. I'd like better clarity about what we require operating systems to do, and what kind of certainty we want about their behavior. We are still in the pit, and better shovels won't be enough.
Liam Tung, ZDNet, 5 Sep 2019 Browser maker Brave says Google is using a secret workaround to bypass EU data-protection laws and serve targeted ads. https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-accused-of-leaking-personal-data-to-thousands-of-advertisers/
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/02/world/africa/internet-shutdown-economy.html Internet shutdowns have become one of the defining tools of government repression in the 21st century ” but citizens bear the cost at work and at home.
Catalin Cimpanu, ZDNet, 5 Sep 2019 Default password is a danger for customers, but also for the vendor itself. https://www.zdnet.com/article/600000-gps-trackers-left-exposed-online-with-a-default-password-of-123456/ At least 600,000 GPS trackers manufactured by a Chinese company are using the same default password of `123456', security researchers from Czech cyber-security firm Avast disclosed today. They say that hackers can abuse this password to hijack users' accounts, from where they can spy on conversations near the GPS tracker, spoof the tracker's real location, or get the tracker's attached SIM card phone number for tracking via GSM channels. Researchers explain that accounts on the cloud service are created as soon as the GPS trackers are manufactured. They said that a malicious competitor could hijack these accounts before the devices are sold and change their passwords, effectively locking accounts and creating customer support problems for Shenzhen i365-Tech and its resellers later down the road.
Chris Matyszczyk for Technically Incorrect, ZDNet, 5 Sep 2019 They say technology changes human behavior. As I've found when I invite friends to my house. Thanks, Apple. https://www.zdnet.com/article/how-apples-homepod-turned-my-friends-into-rude-troglodytes/ Still, here was a friend I'd known for some time who, after dinner, suddenly decided to take control. Take control of my HomePod that is. Usually, when friends come over, I ask Siri to play a little quiet music to add serenity to the atmosphere. Some Keith Jarrett, perhaps. Or, if I don't want the friends to stay too long, some Mud and Bay City Rollers hits from the 70s. Until that fateful night, though, no one had expressed unease about the music. Until my friend suddenly shouted across the room: “Hey Siri, play some Tears For Fears.'' Normally, this friend is politeness itself. There was no “do you mind if we change the music?'' There wasn't even a hint of “you know Beethoven's not cool anymore, don't you?'' It was as if it was de rigueur to shout to Siri—in the belief that she's actually your own Alexa—and get what you feel like. Would anyone have behaved this way with previous technologies? Did guests simply walk over to the record player, the cassette player, the CD player and change the music whenever they felt like it?
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/algorithmic-foreign-policy/ “Last year, China unveiled its development of a new artificial intelligence system for its foreign policy. It's called a 'geopolitical environment simulation and prediction platform,' and it works by crunching huge amounts of data and then providing foreign policy suggestions to Chinese diplomats. According to one source, China has already used a similar AI system to vet almost every foreign investment project in the past few years. “Consider what this development means: Slowly, foreign policy is moving away from diplomats, political-risk firms and think tanks, the 'go-to' organizations of the past. Slowly, foreign policy is moving toward advanced algorithms whose primary objective is to analyze data, predict events and advise governments on what to do. How will the world look when nations are using algorithms to predict what happens next?'' Computer software digests human events and reactions to them. It does not forget the past, but assigns weights to their apparent impact on the governing world, regional, local or social order. Use this production system (ala OPS5) to simulate (extrapolate) future events. Risk: Coupled to an armed forces situation room, this platform seems certain to possess `alarm fatigue' potential. What ever happened to game theory and wisdom? Have these techniques and experts become so expensive, or their advice so easy to mistrust, that only a computer's recommendation can be accepted? See The Man Who Saved the World for a fortuitous example of human common sense at work.
Ask Amy: Son left home, but left behind racy mementos Parent opened files on home computer to find nude photos. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/advice/ask-amy-son-left-home-but-left-behind-racy-mementos/2019/08/27/32b661f4-c04c-11e9-a5c6-1e74f7ec4a93_story.html
> Identifying all these failure modes in advance obviously takes more > expertise and foresight—but is that really too much to ask of the > relevant experts? It is a lack of imagination. The 'relevant experts' are often what Nassim Taleb calls Intelligent Yet Idiot. The experts transgress beyond their expertise and wrongly (and disastrously) believe that NOTHING CAN GO WRONG, beyond what they have considered. They lack the imagination to see other scenarios. In Taleb's words, they cannot see black swans, therefore no black swan can exist. What is actually needed in the planning/design stage is to present the unexpected scenario to people who face the real situation every day, and ask them “X has just failed. What can happen next? What do you do? What can happen then?'' And present it to *lots of people in the relevant field*. Some one of them will likely have experienced it, or recognized it lurking just out of sight, and *not gone there*. The ultimate underlying cause of the crash of AF447 was that there was NO FEEDBACK between the two flight controls. There was during the design stage *and thereafter*, a total lack of imagination that the two pilots would do or even WANT TO DO, different things. And, most importantly, no feedback to tell the pilots that they *were* doing different things. The pilot was unaware that the co-pilot had `frozen' with the stick full aft. If he had known that, he would have called 'my plane' and whacked the co-pilot across the face if necessary to regain control. There was a complete lack of imagination of the human factor by 'the experts'. That can happen even in hindsight: compare the 'investigation' scenes in the movie Sully, where the 'experts' are utterly convinced that Sullenberger 'ought to have turned back'. But they wanted him to do so *instantly*. They pointed to the fact that, in simulations, pilots were able to land safely. Not particularly noticeable in the scene, is the revelation that it took the 'expert' pilots 17 attempts to land at Teterboro, even though they knew exactly what was going to happen and could react instantly in their *simulation*. Only when Sully forced a recognition of the human factor was reality made real. The scenes are a great example of the power of tunnel vision and how it can blind the best of the experts. Add politics or money (but I repeat myself) and the mixture is toxic. The other underlying causes of FA447 are also due to a lack of imagination of *what could happen next*. The autopilot shut off when it lost air-speed data. Why was it not commanded to cross-check with GPS data? Why was there no *explicit* error message, followed by an automatic over-ride command to turn on pitot heat, (as pitot icing is the most likely reason for a loss of airspeed data and it cannot hurt), and to *turn off the stall warning* as it was misleading. And an announcement. Moreover, if the airspeed data is suspect, the warning should refer to a transfer to GPS data, and adjust the displays accordingly so to not be misleading. As it was, iirc, the autopilot silently disconnected itself, without announcement, and suddenly, the stall warning started blaring *which caused the copilot to panic*. What really should have happened was an announcement along the lines of: “Warning: airspeed indication does not agree with GPS data. Autopilot changing to use of GPS data. Turning on pitot heat. Stall warning deactivated.'' Note that a similar cross-check of airspeed v GPS could have prevented the 737 disasters. If the plane were commanded to use the higher of the two inputs (and warn accordingly) it is quite possible that neither disaster would have occurred. (I presume that a non-operating GPS is now 'do not fly' checkbox for commercial flights). (But of course, that might have actually cost more money and the airlines did not request an upgrade being unaware of the actual danger.) Another example of lack of imagination is the Fukushima disaster. None of 'the experts' considered what would happen if a tsunami did overflow the sea-wall: But, but, but you will never, ever, get 10 feet of water on the site! I am reasonably certain that any graduates of the U.S. Navy's reactor school would have instantly recognized that having the 'emergency' generator, AND its fuel at the lowest level of the site was a major mistake. The generator and its fuel should have been some distance away, and placed in an elevated location, such as the top of a berm a couple of miles inland from the reactors. As another point, why was there no vent in the roof to disperse the hydrogen? We know that a meltdown will release hydrogen. The great majority of the damage to the building was not from the tsunami, it was from the explosion of the (contained) hydrogen. This also destroyed a large amount of the piping which could have been used for remediation/reduction of the meltdown. Putting the used reactor fuel storage in a pool six stories up, was just plain stupid, especially in an earthquake prone site. It was apparently not damaged by the tsunami, but *by the explosion*! They had to bring in concrete pumpers to replenish the water in the fuel pool, which was now leaking. But due to the damage to the building they had no way to remove the fuel bundles, nor easily fix the leaks. All a failure of imagination. What could go wrong next? How do we avoid that event? Lack of imagination is a widespread failure. I am sure that no engineer in Minneapolis ever thought to consider what happens to the bridge if acid from pigeon poop reduces that tie-plate from 1" down to a half inch? Or put another way, what is the minimum allowed thickness of the structural components before repair is necessary. Possibly that should be required in the as-designed blue-prints, as instructions for upkeep.
Liam Tung, ZDNet, 4 Sep 2019 AI-generated audio was used to trick a CEO into wiring $243,000 to a scammer's bank account. https://www.zdnet.com/article/forget-email-scammers-use-ceo-voice-deepfakes-to-con-workers-into-wiring-cash/
> And that part of that bump recycles 20% of all the oxygen in the > atmosphere. It is unclear what `recycle' is supposed to mean, but if this phrase was supposed to say that a mature forest produces oxygen, then it is not the case. While the forest takes in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and converts it to oxygen to support new growth, it also gives off comparable levels of carbon dioxide when old trees die. To really `produce' oxygen one needs to sink the produced carbon, for example, in a swamp.
This court decision is not really that important. Even if there were a ruling which would require Facebook to get the consent of users for sharing their data among its apps, it is easy to imagine what could happen: Immediately afterward, every user in a country where such legislation is in effect, would not be able to post anything on any of these apps, without encountering a VERY LONG message of convoluted legalese, with an `I agree' button at the end. You can bet that 99.99% of them would click the button within 1 second. Voila! There you have it: consent.
> This should be a golden rule for anyone reading email: Never click on any > link in an unsolicited incoming message, especially not one from your bank > (or any other service which may have access to your money). Can you tell whether a message is unsolicited? Can you _really_? This reduces easily to “Never click on any link in an incoming message.'' and from that we can quickly reach “Never trust any message's text/html part.'' Alas, banks and others believe that their customers NEED to see the corporate logo and the custom layout and the tracking bugs, and are increasingly prone to have a fake text/plain part, usually along the lines of “your client can't display this message.'' (I would remind them, if they cared, that RFC2046 5.1.4 requires that 'Each part of a *multipart/alternative* entity represents the same data'.)
For years I have heard similar anecdotes from Canadian friends. They say that U.S. Customs and Immigration employees seem to not know the rules. Agents just make up rules as they go along. Every agent has a different idea of what the rules are. That might be the real story in the Harvard student case. Just a civil servant doing security checks by ad hoc methods, and without adequate training. If there really were specific rules and procedures governing who is and is not allowed in the country, it would be as thick as an old fashioned phone book, and it would have been leaked to the press long ago.
If the access control locks out after n tries (where << 10), then anyone can carry out a denial of service attack (or at least: anyone who has n or more fingers).
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