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Justice Dept. scrambles to jam prison cellphones, stop drone deliveries to inmates

General News Tweet Watch

The Justice Department will soon start trying to jam cellphones smuggled into federal prisons and used for criminal activity, part of a broader safety initiative that is also focused on preventing drones from airdropping contraband to inmates. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein told the American Correctional Association's conference in Orlando on Monday that, while the law prohibits cellphone use by federal inmates, the Bureau of Prisons confiscated 5,116 such phones in 2016, and preliminary numbers for 2017 indicate a 28 percent increase. "That is a major safety issue," he said in his speech. "Cellphones are used to run criminal enterprises, facilitate the commission of violent crimes and thwart law enforcement." When he was the U.S. attorney in Maryland, Rosenstein prosecuted an inmate who used a smuggled cellphone to order the murder of a witness.


Zipline Expands Its Medical Delivery Drones Across East Africa

IEEE Spectrum

While companies like Amazon pour considerable resources into finding ways of using drones to deliver such things as shoes and dog treats, Zipline has been saving lives in Rwanda since October 2016 with drones that deliver blood. Zipline's autonomous fixed-wing drones now form an integral part of Rwanda's medical-supply infrastructure, transporting blood products from a central distribution center to hospitals across the country. And in 2018, Zipline's East African operations will expand to include Tanzania, a much larger country. Delivering critical medical supplies in this region typically involves someone spending hours (or even days) driving a cooler full of life-saving medicine or blood along windy dirt roads. Such deliveries can become dangerous or even impossible to make if roads and bridges get washed out.


Telecom Companies Turn To Drones For Help After Hurricanes

NPR

A drone is flown during a property inspection following Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The mass destruction brought on by Harvey has been a seminal moment for drone operators, proving that they can effectively map flooding, locate people in need of rescue and verify damage to speed insurance claims. The mass destruction brought on by Harvey has been a seminal moment for drone operators, proving that they can effectively map flooding, locate people in need of rescue and verify damage to speed insurance claims. According to Kate Harris, a spokesperson for Verizon, the company began using drones last October during Hurricane Matthew to inspect cell towers in North Carolina.


Siri and Alexa can be turned against you by ultrasound whispers

New Scientist

Assistants falling for the ploy included Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Now, Samsung S Voice, Microsoft Cortana and Huawei HiVoice, as well as some voice control systems used in cars. When a voice assistant hears these sounds, they still recognise them as legitimate commands, even though they are imperceptible to the human ear. The owner's voice had to be surreptitiously recorded for playback as Apple's system recognises the speaker. To secure voice assistants in the future, sounds outside the human voice range could be suppressed or machine learning algorithms could listen out for similar style attacks, Vaidya says.


House Passes Self-Driving Car Bill

WIRED

The bill, called the SELF DRIVE Act, lays out a basic federal framework for autonomous vehicle regulation, signaling that federal lawmakers are finally ready to think seriously about self-driving cars and what they mean for the future of the country. It officially gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration power to regulate vehicle design, construction, and performance--the way it does with, well, normal cars. Finally, the legislation makes it a lot easier for self-driving cars to hit the road. Today, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS, for those who are hip with it) govern how vehicles are designed.


Drones Play Increasing Role in Harvey Recovery Efforts

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Before the devastation throughout southern Texas, lawmakers and trade groups representing drone manufacturers specifically urged the FAA to adopt policies providing swift regulatory exemptions in the event of emergency applications. Since the FAA began clearing the way for unmanned aircraft around Houston, people familiar with the details said at least one company has received the green light to survey coastal damage using drones operating beyond the sight of ground-based pilots. Despite FAA flexibility, drone industry groups have called for further easing of rules. All drone operations were prohibited without specific FAA approval, and the FAA explicitly warned that "flying an unauthorized drone could interfere" with official rescue and recovery efforts.


We can't ban killer robots – it's already too late Philip Ball

#artificialintelligence

One response to the call by experts in robotics and artificial intelligence for an ban on "killer robots" ("lethal autonomous weapons systems" or Laws in the language of international treaties) is to say: shouldn't you have thought about that sooner? There are shades of science-fictional preconceptions in a 2012 report on killer robots by Human Rights Watch. Besides, there's a continuum between drone war, soldier enhancement technologies and Laws that can't be broken down into "man versus machine". By all means let's try to curb our worst impulses to beat ploughshares into swords, but telling an international arms trade that they can't make killer robots is like telling soft-drinks manufacturers that they can't make orangeade.


Hackers Are the Real Obstacle for Self-Driving Vehicles

MIT Technology Review

Before autonomous trucks and taxis hit the road, manufacturers will need to solve problems far more complex than collision avoidance and navigation (see "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017: Self-Driving Trucks"). These vehicles will have to anticipate and defend against a full spectrum of malicious attackers wielding both traditional cyberattacks and a new generation of attacks based on so-called adversarial machine learning (see "AI Fight Club Could Help Save Us from a Future of Super-Smart Cyberattacks"). When hackers demonstrated that vehicles on the roads were vulnerable to several specific security threats, automakers responded by recalling and upgrading the firmware of millions of cars. The computer vision and collision avoidance systems under development for autonomous vehicles rely on complex machine-learning algorithms that are not well understood, even by the companies that rely on them (see "The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI").


Driverless Cars Need Ears as Well as Eyes

WIRED

Hearing plays an essential role in how you navigate the world, and, so far, most autonomous cars can't hear. It recently spent a day testing the system with emergency vehicles from the Chandler, Arizona, police and fire departments. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and even unmarked cop cars chased, passed, and led the Waymo vans through the day and into the night. Sensors aboard the vans recorded vast quantities of data that will help create a database of all the sounds emergency vehicles make, so in the future, Waymo's driverless cars will know how to respond.


Veritas Genomics Scoops Up an AI Company to Sort Out Its *DNA*

WIRED

On August 3, sequencing company Veritas Genomics bought one of the most influential: seven-year old Curoverse. In a step forward, the company also hopes to use things like natural language processing and deep learning to help customers query their genetic data on demand. He points to a 2013 study that used polygenic testing to predict heart disease using the Framingham Heart Study data--about as good as you can get, when it comes to health data and heart disease. "They authors showed that yes, given polygenic risk score, and blood levels, and lipid levels, and family history, you can predict within 10 years if someone will develop heart disease," says Butte.