Jennifer Levin

Jennifer Levin

Friday, 03 February 2017 15:56

What Happens If Net Neutrality Goes Away?

We’ll likely see new business models and video streaming products from the big ISPs if Trump removes net neutrality rules, and upstart content providers could struggle to compete.

The “days are numbered” for the net neutrality rules enacted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission under Barack Obama, at least if you take President Trump’s newly appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s word for it. So what happens after they are gone?

Pai, an FCC commissioner since 2012, was a harsh critic of the agency’s “Open Internet Order,” which it passed in 2015 via a 3-2 party line vote. It bans Internet service providers from blocking or throttling legal content. It also prohibits them from engaging in business arrangements in which companies pay ISPs a premium to have their traffic prioritized, and gives the FCC the authority to police other practices it deems unfair or harmful to consumers on a case-by-case basis.

It’s not that Pai disagrees with the general concept of “net neutrality,” which is broadly a bipartisan issue. What Pai and other opponents of the Open Internet Order say they are most upset about is that it changed how the FCC classifies broadband from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” That gave it the authority to impose strict, utility-style regulations on ISPs.

Though President Trump has said very little about his views on net neutrality, his nomination of Pai suggests he is on board with eliminating the regulations. In the meantime, his FCC could simply choose not to enforce the rules.

To get a sense of how things will be different, look no further than AT&T’s new product called DirecTV Now, which lets users stream content from DirecTV (which AT&T owns) over the wireless network without it counting against their monthly data cap. The general practice of letting wireless users stream video for free is known in the industry as “zero rating.” Under the Open Internet Order, the FCC has the authority to police zero-rated services on a case-by-case basis, and late last year the agency expressed “serious concerns” that AT&T was unfairly favoring its own content. Pai’s FCC, on the other hand, will likely encourage such products.

We are also likely to see the emergence of so-called paid prioritization arrangements, in which companies pay to have their data prioritized. Many net neutrality proponents adamantly oppose this, viewing it as anti-competitive. One argument, made famous by the comedian John Oliver, is that whereas a big player like Netflix can afford to pay for an Internet “fast lane,” a startup streaming video company may not be able to compete.

There are plenty of potential paid prioritization arrangements that would not harm consumers and would actually be good for competition, argues Hal Singer, an economist and a senior fellow at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy who has been critical of the FCC’s outright ban on the practice. Consider a telemedicine provider that is willing to pay to make sure its ISP prioritizes its data. As long as the ISP is willing to offer the same deal to any other provider, that is fair, he says.

That’s not to say startups and smaller companies don’t need protections against discriminatory practices, though, says Singer, who worries that the Trump administration might go too far in weakening the FCC’s regulatory power. Members of the transition team have advocated for removing all of the agency’s authority to police unfair business practices by the ISPs and put that in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission. Singer and others are concerned that without a new mandate from Congress the FTC does not have enough authority to protect independent content providers adequately.

Author : Mike Orcutt

Source : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603432/what-happens-if-net-neutrality-goes-away/

Friday, 27 January 2017 12:28

The clickbait problem

It’s fashionable (and often useful to the person making the remark) to belittle a piece of writing by calling it clickbait. The term ‘clickbait’, after all, is intended to signify some sort of deception. In this construction, an article that is clickbait features an intriguing headline that compels you to ‘click’ on the link in question only to find that what you are reading falls short of what is promised – or, in some cases, is entirely inaccurate.

A few weeks ago an article published on an obscure website titled ‘Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC- 2016)’ made the rounds on the internet, inciting much hysteria.

Readers were led to believe that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was ‘dead’, in that most of the coral that comprises the reef had been destroyed by humanity. The headline is misleading, as is most of the information in the piece. Respected news outlets were quick to refute the report, stating that while the Great Barrier Reef is in fact under threat, it is nowhere close to being ‘dead.’ But it didn’t matter – by this time the website (Outside Online) that published the original story had no doubt racked up thousands of views.

This story above exemplifies clickbait and proves that the quest for ‘clickability’ can lead both the news source and reader astray.

However, while the Great Barrier Reef’s ‘obituary’ is truly clickbait (with all its negative connotations), we also have to admit that far too many news outlets are accused by competitors of being ‘clickbait-y’ as a means to discredit them. A truly engaging headline that leads to a competent story will often be dismissed as clickbait by a rival news source that wasn’t witty enough to think of it. So I suppose the question is: where does canny editorial judgement end and pure clickbait sly begin?

The fact is this: with more and more people consuming news through their social media feeds, and with a growing selection of online magazines for these readers to choose from, websites have to be extremely creative to attract eyeballs. To add to this, hard news and intelligent commentary jockey for attention with the likes of Fawad Khan’s latest photoshoot or what Sunny Leone ate for breakfast, and in an era where our attention spans are as brief as a Twitter bio, the average reader seems to favour short, snappy snippets of info over thick paragraphs of text.


We need to keep in mind that we are all simultaneously the bait and the catch. At any given click we are someone’s dupe. Our carefully constructed online personas are intended to be hooks for people who think like us.


For journalists and people in the media, circumventing this obstacle might mean doing stories that are unique and truly one-off, but most of the time it means presenting stories that are not unique in ways no one else has thought of, either through interesting headlines or interactive elements.

Doing this requires a precise understanding of reader psychology (one that is usually innate, and cannot be acquired only through dependence on analytics). It isn’t enough for a modern editor to ask: have I got a great story on my hands or not? He/she has to follow up with the question: how can

I present this great story in a way that readers will click on my site instead of on a picture of Kim Kardashian?

It’s not all gloom and doom. While sites that present a lot of clickbait do well – like Daily Mail, for example – this new situation has forced legacy brands to think outside the box. In Pakistan, Dawn.com, for example, has used listicles to impart hard news (“Cyber crime bill passed by NA: 13 reasons why Pakistanis should be worried”). If the object here is to increase audience awareness of new legislation, then using a headline that some may deem ‘clickbaity’ is, I think, clever.

These days, The New York Times features quizzes and The Guardian features highly clickable first-person stories. Sites like BuzzFeed that founded themselves on the viral potential of cat videos have taken up serious journalism and often scoop the competition. The line between what is frivolous and what has intellectual heft has blurred.

In this scenario, it’s easy to throw the word ‘clickbait’ around and hope it will stick to something. Which is why it has become all the more imperative to use the word with caution.

As an editor, to guard against accusations of clickbait, my own rules are as follows: Don’t overstate the facts or implications of a story in a headline. Don’t, under any circumstances, lie about the content. (I mean, this piece that you are reading now – if I had titled it: ‘The truth about clickbait: REVEALED’ – I suppose you could call it clickbait and your frustration would be justified). Focus on building a loyal audience rather than accumulating clicks from random sources. Unfortunately, this is not a formula budding news sites can afford to follow for long, unless they are backed up by significant funding.

And so, the clickbait problem – why it exists, why websites continue to indulge – is structural. In a system that rewards those websites that can boast of higher traffic, isn’t clickbait expected?

The good news is that websites are diversifying their sources of income by entering into partnership agreements with advertisers, by producing paid content and more. This takes some of the pressure off the single story, the single click. But it also brings with it a host of other ethical conundrums that purists will insist is the end of journalism as we know it.

In the end, I suppose we need to keep in mind that we are all simultaneously the bait and the catch. At any given click we are someone’s dupe. Our carefully constructed online personas are intended to be hooks for people who think like us. Navigating the online space these days, as a consumer or as an editor, means rubbing up against all kinds of clickability.

Moralising has never been more fraught with complications.

Author : Hamna Zubair

Source : http://aurora.dawn.com/news/1141631/the-clickbait-problem

Google buys millions of its own search ads, competing with customers and promoting its products atop search results

Alphabet Inc.’s Google runs the world’s largest advertising business, selling space atop its search results. Google is also among the biggest buyers of those ads, promoting products from its music service to its app store.

These days, Google often pushes its growing list of hardware products, from Pixel phones to Nest smart thermostats, in the top ad spot above its search results.

A Wall Street Journal analysis found that ads...

Author : JACK NICAS

Source : http://www.wsj.com/articles/google-uses-its-search-engine-to-hawk-its-products-1484827203

 

I find that I am more productive when I have ample time to complete what I need to do. Right when I find a time-saving hack that actually works, another time-sucking activity seems to appear and fill the void. It almost cancels out my efforts. To combat this, I put together some tips I use on a regular basis. I find them amazingly beneficial to finding more time in my schedule while letting go of tasks or other activities that tend to hog prime real estate on it.

1. Have items mailed directly to you

If you know you tend to shop once a month or every two months for certain items, see if you can automate recurring shipments that are sent directly to you on a certain date. You can save time making fewer trips to the store and simultaneously save money. Amazon offers a discount to those who sign up for their Subscribe and Save Program. It allows shoppers to repeatedly reap the benefits of getting a percentage off when you have items shipped regularly.

Choose from an array of household supplies, personal care items, office supplies, other work-related items and more. It’s a streamlined, time-efficient, cost-effective way to shop for necessities. I personally have items like toilet paper shipped. Convenience coupled with paying 41 cents per unit is enough to make me do a happy dance. The fewer shopping trips I have to make, the better. It allows me to take on more client work and make more money.

 

Just note that not everything on Amazon can be shipped this way. See what items are eligible for this program and give your shopping list a breather. It can’t hurt to try it. If worse comes to worse, you can always unsubscribe. You aren’t locked into a contract of any sort. You can give your shelves and cabinets a reboot without having to block out time for DIY inventory control.

2. Do boring tasks less frequently if possible

While I like being organized, it wasn’t something I was naturally good at doing. I follow tips and tricks that go with my personality and habits. I readily adopt any tidbit that’s focused on staying the most orderly with the least amount of effort. I basically implement processes that are low maintenance. For example, I have a folder of paperwork that has to be filed. I file the items once a month. I know that if I ever needed one of the papers from the current month, they sit in sequence by date so I know it wouldn’t be hard to find something if I needed it.

I implement this idea whenever I can. It’s not to procrastinate and have a stack of papers waiting for me. It’s an effort to put my energy where it’s needed most and do less desirable tasks in batches to get it over with all at once. It also frees up my schedule to make more money in less time.

3. Exercise your right to say no

While it’s great to catch up with friends, speak at an event or volunteer for a great cause, we can’t always fit this into our schedules. If something is going to encroach on your work or make you sacrifice something else that is more important to you at the time, you’re better off saying no. I personally appreciate someone saying no upfront versus committing and then canceling later. Though we all have to do this at times, I believe it should be the exception and not the rule. If you really aren’t sure, saying maybe is a good second option.

The Bottom Line

Try to find ways to reclaim your time to be more productive. Short cut your shopping efforts by having items sent to you, cut back on how often you do certain tasks and say no when you know you can’t commit to an event or task.

Source : https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287471

Airbus is not kidding around about flying cars – the maker of airborne transportation vehicles plans to test out a prototype self-flying small urban transport made for single-passenger travel by the end of this year, according to Airbus CEO Tom Enders (via Reuters). Airbus has been developing its autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) concept through Project Vahana, an internal project designed to test viability and refine a prototype for urban air transport.

The project is something that Airbus takes “very seriously,” Enders told the DLD tech conference in Munich on Monday, noting that airborne transit for goods and individual passengers would actually be tremendously beneficial in terms of alleviating urban congestion, and reconfiguring how urban planners think about designing cities.

Vahana aims to have a viable production urban aircraft for short-haul trips available by 2021, and so actual prototype tests by the end of this year make sense given those timelines. In fact, the company previously said it was hoping to field a full-scale prototype sometime in 2017, so it looks like Enders is still committed to keeping his company to that timeline, including active flight testing.

The vehicle will likely use a four-rotor design with variable positioning possible to help with vertical take off, and then shift for propelling the craft through the air. The design process is taking into account what’s feasible and most efficient, given requirements like an electric motor, which Airbus is focusing on so that a fleet of the vehicles, once deployed, will not actually have a worse ecological impact than ground-based transportation in terms of contributing to air pollution.

 

Flying cars may still seem outlandish and primarily the province of science fiction, but helicopter-maker Airbus actually believes that they’d be ignoring the category at their peril, given the pace and progress of technology that can help make it possible, including autonomous driving systems and electric battery tech.

The proof will still be in the flying pudding, but at least now we could get a glimpse of that later this year. If Airbus can pull off the prototype, the biggest hurdle might be regulation – transporting humans by drone is still a big legal no-no in dense metropolitan areas, and it’ll be a challenge to prove its safety both to end users and municipal regulators.

Author : Darrell Etherington

Source : https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/16/airbus-plans-to-test-self-driven-airborne-taxi-by-the-end-of-2017/

Google’s Director of Strategy and Operations for Asia Pacific, Spaniard Bárbara Navarro is a high achiever and as demanding of herself as she is of others – overly so, she would say. She’s also a born leader and passionate about tackling new challenges.

Born in Madrid 42 years ago to a senior energy executive, she graduated in law at the Spanish capital’s Comillas University, studied an executive MBA at the prestigious IESE Business School and started working for Google in 2007. She is the mother of three girls aged three, six and 11 and lives in Hong Kong, from where she promotes the digital explosion in Asia – a vast region with a population of over four billion.

Politicians who are not up on technology are scared of tech companies with the power to engineer change

Both a marathon runner and a meditation buff, Bárbara recognizes the dilemma inherent in either operating under the censorship of the Chinese government or ignoring the massive Chinese market. But the Asian consumer is already setting the pace of digital innovation, she says, and it won’t be long before the big Chinese tech companies take the inevitable leap towards globalization.

Question. Google is much more than a search engine as became obvious from the political-diplomatic dispute that unraveled over its supposed omission of the label ‘Palestine’ on Google Maps. What is Google’s diplomatic strategy in regions riven by conflict?

Answer: Google’s strategy is to remain as neutral as possible. Our mission is to make information universally accessible and to make freedom of speech a principle that is respected, but it’s not always possible to avoid conflict.

Q. You describe yourself as both self-taught and a natural leader. How do those characteristics make your job easier?

A. They allow me to face challenges and not be afraid of making mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, including big ones, but the key is to take responsibility for them, correct them and learn from them. At times, I’ve managed my team badly, without knowing how to recognize their strengths and motivate them properly. I am very demanding of myself and, perhaps because of that, I have at times been overly demanding of others.

Q. Your life seems to have followed an unbroken course. You were born into a wealthy family and you were a good student with clear ideas. You graduated from prestigious universities, set your goals and worked on you skills until landing an important role.

A. That’s a simplification but it’s fairly accurate, although I have to say that there were a few setbacks on the way because I haven’t always been a good student and because I have had to invest a lot of energy, effort and determination to get where I am today.

Q. What childhood memory first comes to mind?

A. When I was six or seven years old, my family moved to America and I refused to learn English. But I needed to communicate with my new friends so I decided to teach them Spanish. Also, adventures with my three brothers. We formed a band without a lot of success [laughs]. And I still haven’t forgotten when they ganged up on me and chucked me out of the bedroom. It still hurts!

Q. You must have done something to make them behave like that. Maybe you tried to give them English classes…

A. Not at all. They were just that way inclined [laughs]. I think part of my personality was shaped right there. But I get on really well with them.

Q. How does a young mother with three children manage to become a senior executive at Google? How did you manage to break through the glass ceiling?

A. Through making personal and family sacrifices. My husband and children are pillars of energy and affection. We try to make sure the time we have together is quality time, although we don’t always achieve that ideal level!

I don’t mind admitting moving to Google Asia has been much harder than I thought it would be," says Bárbara Navarro.

Q. Between work and family, is there any time left over for you?

A. I do make time for myself. I run, I meditate and I go out with my friends. I need that to keep balanced and sort out my ideas. Sport is part of my life because if I feel good physically, I’m better mentally too. Running is hard, but I’m very stubborn and it’s very satisfying to have pushed yourself to the limit. There’s also the moment of glory when you cross the finishing line.

Q. Why are so many senior executives addicted to running?

A. Because effort, pleasure and the ability to endure are all linked. There’s a clear correlation between the challenge of running and the challenge of work. In both cases, you have to push yourself mentally and test the limits of your capabilities. Over long distances, 80% is down to your mind and 20% is your body.

Q. So running has become a training ground for work?

A. You could see it like that, but effort, discipline and sacrifice also help me to juggle my career with family life and personal affairs. Life is like a marathon.

Q. Has the leap from Google Europe to Google Asia been a culture shock?

A. I don’t mind admitting that it has been much harder for me than I thought it would be – I have had a tough time. I underestimated what the change would entail. I have had to reinvent myself a little, unlearn some things and learn others.

Q. What have you had to unlearn?

A. “The idea that things and people can’t be so different in other parts of the world. In Asia, a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ don’t necessarily mean the same as they do here in Spain. For example, instead of directly rejecting an idea or project, you find that its development gets put on hold or meetings to move it forward get delayed. For a long time I was under the impression that I was not making myself understood.”

The average Asian is a very sophisticated, permanently connected consumer who is setting the pace.

 

Q. How do you manage in meetings with senior officials in countries such as Saudi Arabia where women’s rights are not respected?

A. It’s a country that came under my remit, but I have not been there in a professional capacity, nor in others where women have to wear the veil. In hierarchical situations where women aren’t considered equal to men, meetings can be a real challenge.

Q. Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your sex?

A. Not as a general rule. Although there are noticeable differences in the treatment of women from one country to another, the established hierarchy is what dictates relationships in the workplace to the point where having executive power renders being a man or a woman irrelevant.

Q. What strengths can Google draw on when it comes to working within dictatorships?

A. The support of its users and a technology that is trying to change the world for the better. Our products try to be useful and build platforms for expressing opinion. That’s our view.

Q. Who is scared of Google?

A. Politicians who are not digital natives or don’t know about the use and potential of transforming technologies are scared not only of Google but of all tech companies with the power to engineer change.

Q. Is there any reason to fear new technology?

A. We should learn to use it and know what impact it can have on our lives. We seek to develop the best products, taking into account that consumers are demanding and the sector is extremely competitive.

Q. How do you respond to the charge by the European authorities that Google abuses its dominant position in the market?

"We have had long discussions about operating under censorship this because freedom of expression is in our DNA." GIANFRANCO TRIPODO 

A. The charge is being investigated but there are other countries, such as Canada, that have decided Google doesn’t have a monopoly. Perhaps what’s missing is a proper grasp of the technology market where some authorities are concerned. In Europe, we need to learn to relax regulations so they don’t strangle innovation.

Q. What about the charges that Google has been dodging taxes?

A. We act in accordance with the tax laws in each of the countries in which we operate, but if politicians don’t think that’s enough, they only have to change the laws and we will abide by them. I think entities such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development would be perfect forums for establishing regulations. Everybody would be happier with an easier and more transparent system.

Q. On my phone, Google Maps knows where I’m going to be and when, given that Booking.com sends me the confirmation of a reservation by Gmail. Is keeping that information ethical in your opinion?

A. As soon as we download an application and accept the terms of use, we are authorizing this information to be stored. Data is fundamental to innovation and the development of new products. But managing our privacy is up to us.

Q. The internet is a jungle in which anyone can use lies to attack the reputation of another and then give the attack more prominence and increase damage by employing certain techniques. After the US elections, Google announced it was implementing measures against websites that were putting out misleading or false information. Are you also planning measures to defend the reputation of victims of libel?

A. Any user can ask Google to de-index a URL – the address of a web page, video or image on internet – but they need to justify their request. Google then evaluates whether to carry it out or not. Users can also ask us for the removal of content from other platforms such as Blogger, YouTube and Google+ but they should know that just because Google has de-indexed it, it won’t necessarily disappear from Internet. We advise users to go the source of the information and ask for its removal. If this happens, Google will no longer index it.

Q. So you have to wait for libelers and slanderers to voluntarily remove their slander? It’s as if you leave your rights to honor and privacy at the door when you enter the virtual universe of Internet.

A. There’s a form for de-indexing requests you can consult “How to remove content from Google” and follow the steps.

Q. So Google doesn’t consider itself responsible for the protection of those rights?

A. We are a search engine that collects information that already exists on Internet. We don’t create it.

Q. What do you think about the effect Google has had on journalism? Do you think the PageRank algorithm as it is currently designed is sufficiently respectful of the press when it ranks sites according to the number of hits and links rather than the quality of the content?

A. Google has had commercial and innovation agreements with the press for years. We have launched a project to train editorial offices in the use of technology and to collaborate with the industry in the creation of innovative products. We have a budget of €150 million to finance journalistic innovation projects.

Life is like a marathon. The effort, the discipline and the sacrifices help me to juggle my career with family life

Q. Is Asia overtaking Silicon Valley in digital innovation?

A. The cellphone connectivity that allows access to content and purchases on this side of the world – where more than 50% of its population lives – is greater than in the US and Europe. Countries such as India have ambitious entrepreneurial and digital programs. China has tech companies that are right up there and a market of more than 700 million people connected to the internet. The big change will come when these big companies go global and that’s around the corner. They will be able to tap into a billion more users from India and Indonesia, making Asia the key player in digital innovation. The average Asian is a very sophisticated, permanently connected consumer who is setting the pace. The selfie was born here.

Q. Government censorship is at work in many countries, posing the dilemma of whether to operate under these conditions or abandon these markets. Is it better to stay and offer at least some platform for freedom of expression than to withdraw?

A. We have had long discussions about this because freedom of expression is in our DNA. We believe that our presence provides people with opportunities and we fight against the removal of content that we believe falls within the framework of freedom of expression. Getting the balance right is not always easy.

Q. Google withdrew from China when it was announced that the Chinese government was investigating Google users. It doesn’t look as though the Chinese authorities have agreed to stop censoring content or keeping an eye on users, or limiting the field of Google Play. Are there negotiations in progress with a view to Google returning to China?

A. I’m sorry but I can’t talk about that right now. What I can say is that we run the risk of creating a bigger gulf between that part of humanity which can connect freely and people who are subject to all kinds of limitations. And that has consequences.

Author : JOSÉ LUIS BARBERÍA

Source : http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/01/09/inenglish/1483961206_806036.html

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 16:05

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy

It’s one thing that most people struggle with when it comes to the web, and that’s how to protect yourself from the intrusion of prying government eyes. No one likes being spied on, and the fact that this happens on a daily basis has put many people off in terms of surfing the web or being connected to the internet in any other way. Government officials, white hat hackers, and criminal hackers are all constantly monitoring things that we do on the web. Whether it’s what we write, read, or buy, there’s always the chance that someone’s watching when you’re connected to the web. But, what can you do about it? The first step is to keep reading. 

Firstly, to make sure that only the person intended to get your message gets access to it you need an end-to-end encryption. This is where your message is sent across as encoded text and is only decrypted once it’s arrived at its intended destination. Both WhatsApp and Signal use end-to-end encryption and are free to download for both Android and iOS. The only stipulation for this to work correctly is that both the sender and recipient are using the same app. So that’s calls and texts covered, now it’s on to emails. Two of the best services that offer end-to-end encryption in email are Tutanota and ProtonMail. But, bear in mind that if those you are sending emails to are not using a secure email service, then these may not be encrypted.

When it comes to being untraceable on the internet, that’s not quite so easy to do. You can, however, get a free piece of software called a browser extension that will block sites from tracking your visit. Two of these that are available free and are worth looking into are Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin. You can also use a VPN to encrypt any data you are sending, but there are charges involved. One that’s recommended by many is Freedome by F-Secure. It works with mobile devices; it’s easy to use, and only costs a few bucks a month. Also, if you don’t want anyone to be able to see what you’ve been searching for online then try out DuckDuckGo or F-Secure Safe Search. The first is a search engine that doesn’t record search queries, and the second will provide a safety rating for each search result, making it more child-friendly.

 

For adding extra security to your social media account, email, or other online accounts, get 2FA (two-factor authentication) enabled. For extra protection, this will require a username and password, and one other piece of information too (usually a pin code sent to your phone), before you’ll be allowed to log in. Facebook, Google, and loads of other companies support 2FA and will work for both Android and iOS. Lastly, make sure you don’t give out any unnecessary information to anyone. Also, whenever you sign up for new accounts, use a throwaway email address and a Google Voice number to ensure if the company is ever hacked, your personal details aren’t compromised.

Author : Andrew Thomas

Source : http://trendintech.com/2017/01/08/how-to-protect-your-digital-privacy/

‘Fast radio bursts’, discovered only a decade ago, were found likely coming from dwarf galaxy about 3bn light years from Earth but cause remains uncertain 

A mysterious type of radio wave from deep space, discovered only a decade ago, has been traced to a precise source for the first time, astronomers said on Wednesday.

So-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) picked up in 2016 by a telescope in New Mexico likely emanated from a dwarf galaxy some 3bn light years from Earth, the scientists reported in the journal Nature.

FRBs flash only for an micro-instant, and can emit as much energy in a millisecond as the sun does in 10,000 years.

Exactly what causes these high-energy surges of long waves at the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum remains the subject of intense debate.

The new discovery will not settle the issue, but it definitively eliminates several theories that had been in the running, scientists said.

There have been 18 fast radio bursts registered since 2007, but only one – observed in 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and dubbed FRB 121102 – recurred numerous times.

That prompted a team of scientists led by Shami Chatterjee of Cornell University to prepare in case it happened again.

The idea paid off: in 83 hours of observation over six months, the Karl G Jansky multi-antenna array of radio telescopes – more powerful that any to have spotted a FRB in the past – detected nine distinct pulses.

“We now know that this particular burst comes from a dwarf galaxy more than 3bn light years from Earth,” Chatterjee said in a statement. 

The discovery does not answer the core question of what produces these strange emanations that long escaped the notice of professional stargazers.

“Still, even without a clear answer, the finding is a real game-changer,” said Heino Falcke, an astronomer at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands who was not involved in the research.

Until recently, many experts speculated that FRBs are produced by cataclysmic events such as stars exploding into supernovas, or neutron stars collapsing into black holes.

While it is possible that these one-off scenarios also produce such bursts, all of them are inconsistent with multiple pulses such as those generated by FRB 121102.

The new data also dispels another widely discussed possibility, explained Shriharsh Tendulkar, a scientist at McGill University in Montreal.

“Before we knew the distance to any FRBs, several proposed explanations for their origins said they could be coming from within, or near, our own Milky Way,” he said.

Such a close source can now be ruled out – at least in this case.

“It’s not something in our backyard,” said co-author Casey Law, an astronomer at the University of California in Berkeley.

That still leaves plenty of room for speculation.

One of the top candidates, the astronomers suggested, is a neutron star – possibly a type known as a magnetar – surrounded by material ejected by a supernova explosion.

A neutron star – small but extremely dense – is formed by the gravitational collapse of a star not quite massive enough to produce a black hole when it explodes.

A magnetar is a type of neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field.

Source : https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/04/radio-wave-source-discovered-space

Over the last few months, the cybersecurity industry has been observing some very interesting trends, including an uptick in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks with unprecedented rates of associated traffic.

The recent spate of DDoS attacks are not taking advantage of amplification techniques, which have been the most prevalent types of DDoS attacks in recent years.

Instead, the attacks are just flooding links with traffic generated from the sources, the traditional way of implementing a DDoS.

Lastly and most concerning, is that the attacks have been largely comprised of Internet of Things (IoT) devices from all corners of the globe.

The industry has known for a long time that IoT devices would eventually come into play in the cyber security game.

On average, IoT devices are inexpensive, and this is based on their target market, which today are mostly made up of home users.

As a result, manufacturing organisations have little financial margin to invest in building IoT devices with higher levels of security as this an expensive process).

The average consumers of modern day IoT devices are not technologists who understand how to secure a network connected device.

So, if an IoT device does have a security control, for example authentication via a username and password, it is usually not configured correctly by the end user.

Further, being inexpensive means that larger numbers of devices will be purchased by the consumer market, which leads to scale.

Security practitioners have known for a while now that massive numbers of inexpensive and highly insecure IoT devices were going to start popping up all over the Internet.

That time has now come to pass. It has brought us to a point of computational scale that, if leveraged successfully by cyber criminals, can lead to massive disruption of service across the Internet ecosystem.

Unfortunately, it appears that cyber criminals are indeed able to leverage this computing power.

The recent DDoS events of the past few months were spurred by “IoT botnet malware” source code that was released back in 2015.

You might have heard the terms BASHLITE, Lizkebab, or Gafgyt – these are various names of the botnet malware and its variants.

This code was used to create the so-called “LizzardStresser” botnet whose success inspired many other cybercrime organisations to pursue similar endeavours.

In September, one of these botnet malware variants was used to invoke a very massive scale attack targeting the well-known security blogger Brian Krebs, with traffic volume surpassing 620 gigabits per second.

A few days after the attack on Krebs, source code for new IoT botnet malware named Mirai was released, and this led to yet another very large-scale DDoS attack in October that targeted Dyn, a technology company that provides DNS and other Internet services.

The attack disrupted Dyn’s ability to provide DNS to its customers which, in turn, caused websites such as Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, and Spotify to become unavailable.

DNS is critical infrastructure for the Internet.

The thought of a bunch of web cameras, routers, WiFi switches, and such (i.e., IoT devices) being able to take down systems that are vital to the Internet is just downright scary.

These botnets have been successful enough to encompass hundreds of thousands (and some speculate over 1 million) IoT devices.

Consequently, with a cyber army as large as this, it is no surprise that we are seeing such unprecedented rates of DDoS attack traffic that can break part of our Internet infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the situation will not abate, but likely get worse because more and more IoT devices will continue to come online, and device security is not likely to move in the right direction for quite some time.

Where do we go from here?

Building a highly secure device is not easy—security is a hard problem. In order to make headway, we must focus on the two main aspects: the technology component and the human component.

Overall, the cyber security industry is making progress advancing the technology needed to alleviate various aspects of security pain points.

However, until society starts to address the human component of this problem, the good guys in this game will continue to lag behind the bad guys.

How should society address the human component? One solution: education. At this time, our educational ecosystem is really failing in this area.

Indeed, there are good educational programs out there for those who want to work in the cyber security industry.

Living in the highly digital and interconnected world of near-tomorrow, enabled by the IoT, is much different than the connected world we live in today.

In the near tomorrow, IoT devices and, more importantly the data collected and processed by IoT devices, will influence our lives in a way that is hard to even predict.

The DDoS attacks mentioned above are scary; but, that is just low hanging fruit.

The really scary scenario is when the bad actors figure out how to exploit the data-driven aspects of tomorrows IoT —the same data-driven aspects that influence our every action.

If the cyber security wants to make an impact on the future world driven by IoT devices and associated data, it has to dive deeper into the human component.

In the short term, the industry has to start teaching its children the consequences of using digital technology.

In the long term, we must enhance our curricula, especially those in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs.

Cyber security fundamentals should be incorporated into the curricula with the same vigour and pervasiveness as math, physics, and chemistry.

The industry cannot make a dent in this problem by just teaching a few cyber security professionals about how to protect us.

Though this is important, we also must start teaching those who will be developing the IoT technology of tomorrow the basics and fundamentals of cyber security.

For example, if a designer makes a decision to incorporate some type of cyber technology into some gadget, they should understand the security implications of that decision.

If everyone involved understands the problem, then creating new technologies with security considered at inception will become commonplace and the result will be a more secure IoT.

Author : Nick Ismail

Source : http://www.information-age.com/combat-fraud-analytics-123463730/

2016 HAS BEEN A ROUGH YEAR, BUT IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

1 of 14

Pandas are no longer endangered

In September, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature moved panda bears from their "endangered" list to merely "vulnerable." And pandas aren't the only ones. The fuzzy creatures that inspired teddy bears got de-red-listed, and monarch butterfly populations seem to be bouncing back as well. Keep up the good work, guys.

Panda

2 of 14

SpaceX sticks the landing

SpaceX sticks the landing

Remember that time, back in April, when SpaceX made history by landing its rocket on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean? That was pretty cool. It was also kind of a big deal. Landing on a moving platform makes it easier for the company to recover and (hopefully one day) reuse their rocket boosters, which could cut the costs of going to spaceby 30 percent.

3 of 14

sony vr

Virtual reality for everyone

While most high-quality VR experiences require powerful (read: pricey) computers, Sony's headset works via the PlayStation 4. It also doesn't require an engineering degree to set it up. For its plug-and-play ease of use and relative affordability, Popular Science thinks this is the virtual reality headset that will finally take America by storm.

4 of 14

That time we found gravitational waves


That time we found gravitational waves

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from a pair of black holes that collided 1.3 billion years ago. It's the first time we've ever been able to sense these ripples through space-time, which will give scientists a whole new way to study the cosmos.

5 of 14

2015

Hero judge defies petroleum industry, lets kids sue government over climate change

The world is heating up, and the next generation is going to have to bear the brunt of the melting ice caps, drying farmlands, wildfires, and more severe storms. But thanks to Oregon judge Ann Aiken, a group of 21 youths has won the right to sue the government for failing to curb climate change. This strategy worked last year in the Netherlands, when a court ruled that the government "has to ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 percent lower than those in 1990."

6 of 14

IMLYGIC

A virus that fights cancer

Scientists have long known that viruses could trigger the immune system to attack cancer, but modifying the viruses without affecting our resistance to them has taken time. In late 2015, IMLYGIC became the first FDA-approved viral cancer drug. Green-lit to treat melanoma, the modified herpes virus is injected into a tumor, where it may ignite an immune response to the cancer.

7 of 14

planet edge of solar system

Our solar system may have a 9th planet

Scientists turned up evidence that a giant, Neptune-sized planet may dwell at the edge of our solar system, 10 to 20 times further out than Pluto. Although the planet's existence is still being confirmed, evidence is mounting that it's out there. If so, our 9-planet solar system may be restored.

8 of 14

A smartphone with WhatsApp encryption on a table.

WhatsApp encryption makes 1 billion people safer

Starting in April, WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption for voice calls and texting, making it much harder for the NSA or third-parties to snoop on our conversations.

9 of 14

Ross Sea

New nature preserves

Thanks, Obama! No, really, thank you for setting up marine preserves in Antarctica and the Atlantic Ocean. The penguins, orcas, and octopi that live there would probably thank you, too, if they could.

10 of 14

A vaccine for dengue

A vaccine for dengue

Every year, 400 million people contract dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease that causes high fever, severe headaches, vomiting, and sometimes death. This year, the World Health Organization ­started recommending the first vaccine to prevent dengue, and inoculations have begun in hot zones like Brazil and the Philippines.

11 of 14

Proxima b

A potentially habitable neighbor

The star closest to our Sun is home to a roughly Earth-sized, rocky planet in the habitable zone. Proxima b is the nearest neighboring exoplanet to Earth, and although we don't know if it's exactly Earth 2.0 (chances are it's not), it's fun to dream about escaping our solar system to visit it someday. We just have to wait for some genius to invent the warp drive—here's looking at you, Elon Musk.

12 of 14

Solar Impulse

A solar-powered flight around the world

Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi, marking the end of an epic, 26,000-mile solar-powered flight around the world. The team hopes the journey will inspire more environmentally friendly aircraft.

13 of 14

Ozone Hole

The ozone hole is healing

The giant hole in the ozone layer that protects Earth from UV radiation has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles since its peak in 2000, thanks to a combination of a reduction in CFCs and changing weather patterns.

14 of 14

tasmanian devil

An alternative antibiotic, from Tasmanian devil milk

The devil may actually care. As bacteria grow increasingly resistant to humankind's antibiotics, antimicrobial peptides found in the milk of Tasmanian devils could provide a new weapon against bacterial disease.

Author: Sarah Fecht
Source: http://www.popsci.com/14-science-and-tech-breakthroughs-were-thankful-for-this-year

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