[Via Jim Griffin/Pho] "bad engineering may be a more likely culprit than a sonic weapon." Kevin Fu, Wenyuan Xu and Chen Yan, IEEE Spectrum, 15 Mar 2018 How We Reverse Engineered the Cuban *Sonic Weapon* Attack: Examining overlooked clues reveals how ultrasound could have caused harm in Havana http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/how-we-reverse-engineered-the-cuban-sonic-weapon-attack Throughout last year, mysterious ailments struck dozens of U.S. and Canadian diplomats and their families living in Cuba. Symptoms included dizziness, sleeplessness, headache, and hearing loss; many of the afflicted were in their homes or in hotel rooms when they heard intense, high-pitched sounds shortly before falling ill. In February, neurologists who examined the diplomats concluded that the symptoms were consistent with concussion, but without any blunt trauma to the head. Suggested culprits included toxins, viruses, and a sonic weapon, but to date, no cause has been confirmed. We found the last suggestion—a sonic weapon—intriguing, because around the same time that stories about health problems in Cuba began appearing, our labs, at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and at Zhejiang University in China, were busy writing up our latest research on ultrasonic cybersecurity. We wondered, Could ultrasound be the culprit in Cuba? On the face of it, it seems impossible. For one thing, ultrasonic frequencies—20 kilohertz or higher—are inaudible to humans, and yet the sounds heard by the diplomats were obviously audible. What's more, those frequencies don't propagate well through air and aren't known to cause direct harm to people except under rarefied conditions. Acoustic experts dismissed the idea that ultrasound could be at fault. Then, about six months ago, an editor from The Conversation sent us a link to a video from the Associated Press, reportedly recorded in Cuba during one of the attacks. The editor asked us for our reaction. In the video, you can hear a piercing, metallic sound—it's not pleasant. Watching the AP video frame by frame, we immediately noticed a few oddities. In one sequence, someone plays a sound file from one smartphone while a second smartphone records and plots the acoustic spectrum. So already the data are somewhat suspect because every microphone and every speaker introduces some distortion. Moreover, what humans hear isn't necessarily the same as what a microphone picks up. Cleverly crafted sounds can lead to auditory illusions akin to optical illusions. [...] [Long item truncated for RISKS. Please check out the full article. Well worth reading. PGN]
Liam Tung, ZDNet, 19 Mar 2018 "World's smallest computer." But think of the uses in surveillance. IBM has big ambitions for its barely visible computer, including helping combat fraud with blockchain tech. http://www.zdnet.com/article/worlds-smallest-computer-ibms-fraud-fighter-is-so-tiny-its-almost-invisible/ selected text: IBM has unveiled a computer so small it can slip through a salt shaker and could help prevent the $600bn a year trade in counterfeit drugs, gadgets, and cash.
via NNSquad http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/uber-self-driving-vehicle-hits-kills-pedestrian-in-arizona/2018/03/19/59e97dfe-2b99-11e8-8dc9-3b51e028b845_story.html Police in a Phoenix suburb say one of Uber's self-driving vehicles has struck and killed a pedestrian. Police in the city of Tempe said Monday that the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel when the woman walking outside of a crosswalk was hit. It doesn't matter that she wasn't in the crosswalk. Humans always have the right of way in such situations—she might have been ticketed for not using the crosswalk, but the vehicle was still required to stop.
via NNSquad http://plus.google.com/~LaurenWeinstein/posts/a51Fdz9bY64 Some more info on the events surrounding the killing of a bicyclist by an Uber car in autonomous mode. First, it is reported that the woman was walking her bike across the street, and walked the bike (which also had plastic shopping bags hanging from it) into the lane of the Uber car away from crosswalks, as she attempted to finish crossing from the median. It's not clear what lighting conditions were at that location. There is no indication that the Uber car slowed or took any evasive action. Outlets today are reporting that the safety driver was a convicted felon who served four years for attempted robbery in the early 2000s—no impairment by that driver is reported. Early suggestions are that the Uber car was not technically at fault in a legal sense, yet there's a big BUT. My analysis of such situations asks a direct question—did the vehicle take actions to avoid the collision that any reasonable human driver might be expected to take. If you're like me, you've seen pedestrians—or bicyclists—standing on the median of a street many times, and always assumed that they might step out into the lane—after all, we know they're going to finish crossing the street. Many times I've slowed down or even moved into another lane in anticipation of their possibly stepping out. There is no indication that the Uber AI exhibited this crucial aspect of human common sense.
Jake Smith for iGeneration, ZDNet, 19 Mar 2018 http://www.zdnet.com/article/uber-suspends-self-driving-car-program-after-death/ [Jake's text mostly duplicated above, and removed here in favor of Gene's questions:] [Nasty question time: 1) If there was someone behind the wheel, why didn't he stop the car? 2) What is that person's liability? 3) What does this say about the ability of a "driver" to take over from an autonomous/semi-autonomous vehicle? GW]
A car wends its way through a line of taxis in the Las Vegas rain, carefully steering around a tangle of sedans vying for passengers. As the black Lincoln MKZ gets closer, the steering wheel saws back and forth, but there's no one in the front seat. In fact, there's no one in the car at all. It's disquieting to be picked up by an empty car, and it's something of a milestone: Inside most autonomous research vehicles cruising public streets, there's a minder to keep a watchful eye and take control should things go awry. But with the MKZ, there was no human custodian. At least not one within view. Hundreds of miles away, Ben Shukman, a software engineer for Phantom Auto, was sitting in front of a phalanx of video screens in Mountain View, Calif. Using a live, two-way video connection along with the kind of steering wheel and pedals usually reserved for video games, he was driving the MKZ. http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/business/self-driving-cars-remote-control.html Presentation this week, I'm pretty sure indicated 93% of crashes aren't "accidents"—they're human error. So autonomous vehicles SHOULD be an improvement—except there's no recognition of human-caused folly/crashes. So car errors will be ridiculous a big deal, used to discredit autonomous driving, nevermind that overall they're better than flawed/distracted/drunk/drugged/reckless/idiot humans. And, of course—people will root cars to defeat safety. Good luck having L2/L3 humans attain situational awareness fast enough to deal with something the car can't handle. ESPECIALLY when it requires establishing a network connection for L3. ("Your safety is our top priority; please stand by and your emergency will be handled in the order in which it arrived.") SA is what keeps a competent human driver aware—sometimes not consciously!—of surroundings, such as nearby cars, including those in blind spots. Losing SA gets soldiers, cops, pilots, drivers killed.
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/17/594559516/u-s-government-launches-investigation-into-hyundai-and-kia-airbags "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation Friday into problems with air bags in Hyundai and Kia vehicles. NHTSA says it is currently aware of six crashes in which air bags failed to deploy. The crashes led to four deaths and six injuries. "The models being investigated are 2011 Hyundai Sonatas and 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortes, according to a document posted on the NHTSA website. The scope of the probe includes an estimated 425,000 vehicles. "Four of the crashes in question involved Hyundai vehicles and two of the crashes involved Kia vehicles, the document states. According to a statement from Hyundai spokesperson Jim Trainor, the company knows of three rare and unique accidents where airbag control circuitry was confirmed to be damaged, and a fourth accident is under investigation.' "The specific concern with the air bags is an electrical overstress condition (EOS), which happens when an electronic device experiences a current or voltage beyond its specified limit. In this case, according to the NHTSA document, the device affected air bag control units supplied by the auto part manufacturer ZF-TRW. The air bag control units in the Hyundai models detect collisions, control the deployment of air bags and can also tighten seat belts in anticipation of a crash. The NHTSA document says the agency understands the 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortes being investigated also used similar ZF-TRW-supplied air bag control units." 6/425000 ~= .0000141(1.41 X 10^e-5) or ~0.001% incident probability. Difficult to assess if the incidents arise from non-deterministic software stack issue in the air bag control unit, or if it is a transient electrical issue. Real-time control-system anomalies can be difficult to triage. Instrumentation and tooling can perturb circuit and s/w stack operation in subtle ways that cloud objective measurements and data acquisition. The calculated incident probability apparently exceeds six-sigma control limits, initiating the internal Hyundai/Kia investigation and subsequent effort to correct a defective part. "Hyundai was already aware of problems with air bag control units as of Feb. 27, when the company filed a defect information report that led to a recall of 154,751 model-year 2011 Hyundai Sonatas. "The NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation will be looking into whether the scope of Hyundai's recall was appropriate, whether the Kia vehicles in question in fact used the same or similar air bag control units and what led the air bag control units to malfunction. The investigation will also look into which other manufacturers used the same or similar ZF-TRW air bag control units." Hyundai acquired a part of Kia Motors following their bankruptcy, due in part to overstated mileage claims resulting in fines and penalties totaling ~US$ 350M in 2007. A textbook example of "Profit without Honor."
Whistleblower describes how firm linked to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon compiled user data to target American voters http://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election
Searches starting *video of* returned autocomplete suggestions of sexual videos and child abuse content Facebook has been forced to apologise after it spent hours suggesting bizarre, vulgar and upsetting searches to users on Thursday night. The social network's search suggestions, which are supposed to automatically offer the most popular search terms to users, apparently broke around 4am in the UK, and started to suggest unpleasant results for those who typed in *video of*. Multiple users posted examples on Twitter, with the site proposing searches including [expurgated quotes—unnecessarily crude for RISKS]. Others reported similar results in other languages. Even after the offensive search terms stopped being displayed, users still reported odd algorithmic suggestions, seemingly far from what Facebook would normally offer, such as *zodwa wabantu videos and pics* (a South African celebrity) and **cristiano ronaldo hala madrid king video call*. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/16/facebook-apologises-child-sexual-abuse-offensive-autocomplete-terms
via NNSquad http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/world/europe/cambridge-analytica-ceo-suspended.html?partner=rss Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm with ties to President Trump's 2016 campaign, suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, on Tuesday, amid a furor over the access it gained to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The decision came after a television broadcast in which Mr. Nix was recorded suggesting unseemly practices to influence foreign elections and the furor over the access it gained to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The company, founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor who has put at least $15 million into it, offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.
Lauren's Blog http://lauren.vortex.com/2018/03/20/seriously-its-time-to-ditch-facebook-and-give-google-a-try One might think that with the deluge of news about how Facebook has been manipulating you and violating your privacy—and neglecting to tell you about it—Google would be taking this opportunity to point out that their own Google+ social system is very much the UnFacebook. But sometimes Google is reticent about tooting their own horn. So what the hell, when it comes to Google+, I'm going to toot it for them. Frankly, I've never trusted Facebook, and current events seem to validate those concerns yet again. Facebook is fundamentally designed to exploit users in particularly devious and disturbing ways (please see: "Fixing Facebook May Be Impossible"). http://lauren.vortex.com/2018/03/18/fixing-facebook-may-be-impossible Yet I've been quite happily communicating virtually every day with all manner of fascinating people about a vast range of topics over on Google+, since the first day of beta availability back in 2011. http://plus.google.com/%2BLaurenWeinstein The differences between Facebook and Google+ are numerous and significant. There are no ads on Google+. Nobody can buy their way into your feed or pay Google for priority. Google doesn't micromanage what you see. Google doesn't sell your personal information to any third parties. There's overall a very different kind of sensibility on G+. There's much less of people blabbing about the minutiae of their own lives all day long (well, perhaps except when it comes to cats—I plead guilty!), and much more discussion of issues and topics that really matter to more people. There's much less of an emphasis on hanging around with those high school nitwits whom you despised anyway, and much more a focus on meeting new persons from around the world for intelligent discussions. Are there any wackos or trolls on G+? Yep, they're out there, but they never represent more than a small fraction of total interactions, and the tools are available to banish them in short order. There is much more of a sense of community among G+ users, without the "I hate it but I use it anyway" feeling so often expressed by Facebook users. Facebook posts all too often seem to be about "me"—G+ posts more typically are about "us"—and tend to be far more interesting as a result. At this juncture, the Google-haters will probably start to chime in with their usual bizarre conspiracy theories. Other than suggesting that they remove their tinfoil hats so that their scalps can breathe, I can't do much for them. Does Google screw up from time to time? Yes. But so does Facebook, and in far, far more egregious ways. Google messes up occasionally and works to correct what went wrong. Unfortunately, not only does Facebook make mistakes, but the entire philosophy of Facebook is dead wrong—a massive, manipulative violation of users' personal information and communications on a gargantuan scale. There simply is no comparison. And I'll note here what should be obvious—I wouldn't use G+ (or other Google services) if I weren't satisfied with the ways that they handle my data. Having consulted to Google, I have a pretty decent understanding of how this works, and I know many members of their world-class privacy team personally. If only most firms gave their customers the kinds of control over their data that Google does ("The Google Page That Google Haters Don't Want You to Know About"). http://lauren.vortex.com/2017/04/20/the-google-page-that-google-haters-dont-want-you-to-know-about But whether or not you decide to try Google+, please don't keep playing along with Facebook's sick ecosystem. Facebook has been treating its users like suckers since day one, and there's damned little to suggest that they're moving in other than an increasingly awful trajectory. And that's the truth.
How good are you at telling the difference between domain names you know and trust and impostor or look-alike domains? The answer may depend on how familiar you are with the nuances of internationalized domain names (IDNs), as well as which browser or Web application you're using. For example, how does your browser interpret the following domain? I'll give you a hint: Despite appearances, it is most certainly not the actual domain for software firm CA Technologies (formerly Computer Associates Intl Inc.), which owns the original ca.com domain name: http://www.%D1%81%D0%B0.com/ http://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/03/look-alike-domains-and-visual-confusion/
[Comments on the Handley Page Victor ...] I think some things have got lost in translation there. The Victor was one of the UK's nuclear V-bombers (along with the Valiant and Vulcan), not a fighter aircraft. One HP.80 prototype Victor (WB771) did crash, but this was due to the tailplane detaching as it only had 3 bolts connecting it and all 3 failed due to metal fatigue. A prototype designated HP.88 was actually a 0.36 scale aerodynamic testbed for the Victors wings and tail and was based upon a Supermarine 510 fighter, which might explain the confusion. It flew a number of times before crashing, which was attributed to the tailplane servo system failing. There was also a 1/3 scale RC glider which crashed on its first flight. http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/victor/history.php http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handley_Page_Victor http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=86892 http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp=aircraft_id%3D241 http://www.airvectors.net/avvictor.html Chris Samuel, http://www.csamuel.org/ [Many thanks for correcting the record—and my memory! PGN]
This reminds me of the often quoted statistics about 80% (or 90, or some other very high number) of dead SCUBA divers being found with their diving weights still on. And then someone looked at some actual incident reports and found they included e.g., a guy who climbed on the boat unassisted and collapsed on the deck later—before taking his weight belt off. (I also had a door open on me as I was biking past... The guy had already folded his door mirror, and even if the wonder-camera does still work in that configuration and is able to detect a bicycle in the blind spot, is it going to stop the driver from opening the door? How?—All that notwithstanding.)
On how do you tell which domains are legitimately used by a product? Microsoft Office 2016 connects to multiple sub-domains in a large list of domains, including: akadns.net akadns6.net akamaiedge.net akamaized.net a-msedge.net apple.com azure.net azurewebsites.net bing.com bing.net dc-msedge.net e-msedge.net edgekey.net edgesuite.net enlighten.com live.com live.net microsoft.com msecnd.net msedge.net msn.com nsatc.net oaspapps.com office.com office.net onenote.com onenote.net optimizely.com s-msedge.net sharepoint.com sharethis.com skype.com webtrends.com windows.net But not azuredge.net! So good luck trying to recognize safe domains vs. malware in disguise.
Perhaps one risk of computer technology is assuming an overcomplicated privacy-invading solution, when a simpler solution exists. Especially when there hasn't actually been any mention of the overcomplicated solution! The most obvious way to detect whether a station is crowded using a camera is to count heads; or, rather, to notice that the pixels of the image have changed from empty station colors (grey, white, yellow stripe) to the colors of heads (hair and skin tones). This doesn't require any sophisticated processing. For WiFI, it is counterproductive to link a MAC address to its owner if all you want to know is how many people there are; devices which do not connect to the in-station wifi network will be using randomly generated MAC addresses but their owners still contribute to crowding.
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