Star American Professor Masterminded a Surveillance Machine for Chinese Big Tech

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A star University of Maryland (UMD) professor built a machine-learning software “useful for surveillance” as part of a six-figure research grant from Chinese tech giant Alibaba, raising concerns that an American public university directly contributed to China’s surveillance state.

Alibaba provided $125,000 in funding to a research team led by Dinesh Manocha, a professor of computer science at UMD College Park, to develop an urban surveillance software that can “classify the personality of each pedestrian and identify other biometric features,” according to research grant documents obtained via public records request.

“These capabilities will be used to predict the behavior of each pedestrian and are useful for surveillance,” the document read.

Alibaba’s surveillance products gained notoriety in 2020, when researchersfound that one of its products, Cloud Shield, could recognize and classify the faces of Uyghur people. Human rights group believe these high-tech surveillance tools play a major role in the ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang.

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How advanced technology is changing deterrence

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History’s bloodiest wars often begin with underestimation. The architects of the First World War expected fighting to last less than a year. In starting a war of aggression against Ukraine, Vladimir Putin incorrectly thought Kyiv lacked the will and the capability to resist.

Changes in military technology will increase the frequency of these mistakes. Wars are increasingly being decided by capabilities that are hard to observe or demonstrate before conflict begins.

Today’s would-be Putins might count divisions of tanks, aircraft carrier strike group visits or missile siloes captured on satellite imagery — and think twice. But wars in Azerbaijan and Ukraine have demonstrated that victory often rests on immaterial conditions: the ability to out-detect and out-communicate the enemy and the ability to outpace the enemy’s speed of decision.

These are difficult to assess until war has already begun. More wars of underestimation will be fought if leaders fail to appreciate the dynamic of this change.

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A new technology uses human teardrops to spot disease




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A new method to rapidly analyze teardrops could help scientists detect molecular signatures of disease.

Human tears could carry a flood of useful information.

With just a few drops, a new technique can spot eye disease and even glimpse signs of diabetes, scientists report July 20 in ACS Nano.  

“We wanted to demonstrate the potential of using tears to detect disease,” says Fei Liu, a biomedical engineer at Wenzhou Medical University in China. It’s possible the droplets could open a window for scientists to peer into the entire body, he says, and one day even let people quickly test their tears at home.

Like saliva and urine, tears contain tiny sacs stuffed with cellular messages (SN: 9/3/13). If scientists could intercept these microscopic mailbags, they could offer new intel on what’s happening inside the body. But collecting enough of these sacs, called exosomes, is tricky. Unlike fluid from other body parts, just a trickle of liquid leaks from the eyes.

So Liu’s team devised a new way to capture the sacs from tiny volumes of tears. First, the researchers collected tears from study participants. Then, the team added a solution containing the tears to a device with two nanoporous membranes, vibrated the membranes and sucked the solution through. Within minutes, the technique lets small molecules escape, leaving the sacs behind for analysis.

The results gave scientists an eyeful. Different types of dry-eye disease shed their own molecular fingerprints in people’s tears, the team found. What’s more, tears could potentially help doctors monitor how a patient’s diabetes is progressing. 

Now, the scientists want to tap tears for evidence of other diseases as well as depression or emotional stress, says study coauthor Luke Lee, a bioengineer at Harvard Medical School. “This is just the beginning,” he says. “Tears express something that we haven’t really explored.”








What is IoT? Guide to the Internet of Things


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The Internet of Things introduces opportunities for organizations to achieve practical gains and transformative changes.

The Internet of Things (IoT) shifts human and computer interaction to a broad and widely distributed framework. By connecting various “things” and “objects”—smartphones, lights, industrial machines, wearables, remote sensors and physical objects that have been equipped with RFID tags—it’s possible to drive advances that would have seemed unimaginable only a couple of decades ago.

The IoT—which serves as a broad term for a vast network of connected devices—has moved into the mainstream of business and life. It now serves as a fabric for far more advanced human-machine interaction. It encompasses everything from home thermostats and wearables to tracking systems and smart systems for agriculture, buildings and even cities.

Today, virtually no technology lies outside the realm of the IoT. Self-driving vehicles, manufacturing robots, environmental monitoring, supply chain tracking, transportation systems, and remote medical devices are just a few of the areas undergoing radical change due to the IoT.

Mobile phone company Ericsson reports that there are currently about 29 billion IoT devices in use worldwide. Businesses are increasingly turning to the IoT to drive innovation, trim costs, improve safety and security, and promote greater sustainability.

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FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications


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Washington (CNN)On paper, it looked like a fantastic deal. In 2017, the Chinese government was offering to spend $100 million to build an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Complete with temples, pavilions and a 70-foot white pagoda, the project thrilled local officials, who hoped it would attract thousands of tourists every year.

But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN.
Also alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said.

Federal officials quietly killed the project before construction was underway.    The Wall Street Journal first

reported about the security concerns in 2018.      The canceled garden is part of a frenzy of counterintelligence activity by the FBI and other federal agencies focused on what career US security officials say has been a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on US soil over the past decade.        Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.

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Nobody likes self-checkout. Here’s why it’s everywhere

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New York (CNN Business). “Unexpected item in the bagging area.”
“Please place item in the bag.”
“Please wait for assistance.”
If you’ve encountered these irritating alerts at the self-checkout machine, you’re not alone.  According to a survey last year of 1,000 shoppers, 67% said they’d experienced a failure at the self-checkout lane. Errors at the kiosks are so common that they have even spawned dozens of memes and TikTok videos.
“We’re in 2022. One would expect the self-checkout experience to be flawless. We’re not there at all,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who has researched self-checkout.  Customers aren’t the only ones frustrated with the self-checkout experience. Stores have challenges with it, too. 

Inside America’s Massive Rocket Factory: How NASA Is Going Back to the Moon

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NASA is about to go on a journey it hasn’t taken in 50 years. To get there, it has built its most powerful rocket ever. I went behind the scenes to see what it takes to build a once-in-a-generation spacecraft.


How do you start a journey you haven’t taken in half a century? 

For the past 50 years, humans haven’t traveled more than a few hundred miles above Earth. Short hops (in the celestial scheme of things) that’ve seen civilization maintain a presence in space but not venture the great distances we once did. 

Now, however, NASA once again has its eyes on the moon, and its ambition to get there is kicking into high gear. 

For this voyage, the space agency needs its most powerful and advanced spacecraft ever: a super heavy-lift rocket known as the Space Launch System and a high-tech crew vehicle called Orion. 

Together, these impressive pieces of space hardware make up Artemis, a historic exploration vehicle and a broader space program that’ll take the first woman and the first person of color to the moon and push humanity farther into deep space than we’ve ever been.

NASA has three flights planned for the early stages of the Artemis program, all using the Space Launch System. Each SLS rocket will fly only once. There will be no test flight. 


WATCH: “A Tour of NASA’s Rocket Factory” and view images

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This machine looks like a robot from ‘Wall-E,’ but it can turn air into drinking water

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Tunisian startup Kumulus developed a device that mimics the natural condensation process to convert humid air into safe drinking water.

About three years ago, Iheb Triki went on a four-day camping trip in the Tunisian desert. After a six-hour drive through mountains of sand, he and nine friends arrived at their destination with 100 liters of bottled water. Then three things happened: Triki saw the sheer volume of bottles laid out in front of him; he noticed the piles of empty plastic trash left over from previous campers; and the next morning, he spotted tiny droplets of dew on the surface of his tent. So Triki, an engineer by training, had an idea.

Triki is now the CEO of a Tunisian startup called Kumulus. The company has developed a device that mimics the condensation process to convert humidity in the air into drinking water. Powered by solar panels, Kumulus 1 is about the size of a large armchair and can produce anywhere from 10 to 50 liters of clean water per day, depending on the levels of humidity in the air.

For now, three devices have been deployed in Tunisia and Paris, where they’re being tested. But in the three weeks since it launched, the startup has already received more than 100 preorders, worth around $700 million, from clients in France, Italy, Mexico, and Uruguay.

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These rechargeable batteries are more sustainable and safer than lithium—and half the cost


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The battery is water-based and uses other cheap, readily available materials like manganese and metal oxide.


Since lithium-ion batteries were first sold 30 years ago, they’ve dropped in cost by 97%. But they’re still too expensive for making electric cars that can compete in cost with fossil-fueled cars without subsidies, or to economically store wind and solar power on the grid. That’s why one Boston-area startup is developing a different type of rechargeable battery that it says can cut costs in half—while avoiding some of the other flaws of current batteries, from the environmental impact of mining to the fact that lithium-ion batteries can catch on fire.

“Our motivation was to make it affordable, so that it could be widely deployed as opposed to niche,” says Mukesh Chatter, CEO and cofounder of the startup, Alsym Energy, which emerged from stealth today and has raised $32 million from investors, including Helios Climate Ventures. Right now, many automakers are following Tesla’s lead and making luxury EVs. But Alsym wants to enable manufacturers to make lower-cost vehicles, including its first partner, an automaker in India. Tackling climate change “requires everybody’s contribution,” Chatter says. “It cannot be 1% of the people buying expensive luxury EVs.” The batteries are also affordable enough that they could be used in developing countries to store off-grid solar power for people who don’t have electricity access now.

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MIT Researchers Discover New Flaw in Apple M1 CPUs That Can’t Be Patched

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A novel hardware attack dubbed PACMAN has been demonstrated against Apple’s M1 processor chipsets, potentially arming a malicious actor with the capability to gain arbitrary code execution on macOS systems.

It leverages “speculative execution attacks to bypass an important memory protection mechanism, ARM Pointer Authentication, a security feature that is used to enforce pointer integrity,” MIT researchers Joseph Ravichandran, Weon Taek Na, Jay Lang, and Mengjia Yan said in a new paper.

What’s more concerning is that “while the hardware mechanisms used by PACMAN cannot be patched with software features, memory corruption bugs can be,” the researchers added.

The vulnerability is rooted in pointer authentication codes (PACs), a line of defense introduced in arm64e architecture that aims to detect and secure against unexpected changes to pointers — objects that reference an address location in memory.

PACs aim to solve a common problem in software security, such as memory corruption vulnerabilities, which are often exploited by overwriting control data in memory (i.e., pointers) to redirect code execution to an arbitrary location controlled by the attacker.

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