Oct 27 – Nov 2

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This week’s headline story: AIs battle over CAPTCHA

recaptchaIf you are like most humans, you probably get frustrated by CAPTCHAs. CAPTCHAs are those little tests that you get when you set up a new account that requires you to properly read and type the numbers or letters shown in a distorted image. CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, and though they frustrate humans, their intent is to stop automated programs from impersonating humans. CAPTCHAs are a response to hackers who create automated scripts that generate thousands of user accounts to use for spam and malware distribution.

This week San Francisco-based start-up Vicarious announced that it has created an algorithm that can “reliably solve modern CAPTCHAs,” including ones from Google, Yahoo, PayPal, Capcha.com and others. If the claim is accurate, the sudden vulnerability of this anti-bot test could become a significant problem for countless logon-protected sites. This talent for cracking CAPTCHAs is only the first public demonstration of the new Recursive Cortical Network technology developed by Vicarious. Rather than using brute force methods for AI application like IBM’s Watson, Vicarious’ approach utilizes what it describes as a distinctively human-like perception, requiring relatively minuscule amounts of data and computing power.

Google, on the other hand, has seen this coming, and has developed a smart system of its own. Google’s new updated ReCAPTCHA technology automagically detects bots programmed to crack CAPTCHAs and gives them more difficult CAPTCHAs designed to burn up cycles of processing power. So it comes down to a battle between AIs to see which can outwit the other!

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say [Washington Post]
    Did We Spy on the Pope? US Feels the Heat on NSA
    [NewsFactor]
    The latest documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how the National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. Leaked reports such as this are causing a lot of stress in Washington. In the past week, the U.S. has had to deny claims that the NSA spied on the Vatican and also had to find ways to minimize its spying on more than 30 countries and their leaders. Officials in Germany, Italy, France, Brazil and others have all registered protests in response to the revelations that the NSA was spying on them.
  • Passengers Can Now Enjoy Their E-Readers In Flight [NewsFactor]
    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided it’s safe to allow passengers to use their electronics during all phases of flight. It is expected that most airlines will be changing their policies to allow passengers to use electronic devices continuously from the time they board to the time they deplane, by the end of the year.

and in Information Security news this week..

  • Windows XP Infection Rate To Rise by Two-Thirds in April [NewsFactor]
    Desktop Operating System Market Share [Net Market Share]
    Microsoft is warning users of Windows XP that they had better upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 prior to April 8 or face a substantial increase in malware attacks. Windows XP still holds 31.24% of the desktop OS marketshare.
  • Hackers Hit Finland Government, Singapore Newspaper [NewsFactor]
    Hackers were busy this past week. Both the nation of Finland and Singapore’s largest newspaper were attacked. Finland is pointing a finger at China and Russia as possible suspects in the attack. Anonymous claimed responsibility for the Singapore attack in an effort to get Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to change its Internet regulations so that news organizations remain unregulated. Also, Syrian hackers claimed to break into President Obama’s Twitter account and an attack on Adobe compromised 38 million user accounts.
  • Google Beefs Up Malware Protection in Chrome Browser [NewsFactor]
    Google, has upgraded its security in Chrome Browser. The new Chrome browser flags more than 10,000 new Web sites daily via its Safe Browsing feature, which also has the capability to detect and block malicious downloads. Google’s Chrome browser has become the most widely used browser, and so has become the most targeted browser by hackers.

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Is Google Floating New Data Centers? [NewsFactor]
    For the past five years, Google has been sitting on a patent for a data center design that would allow the center to be cooled by ocean water. Now it looks as though the company may be acting on its unique idea. Investigative reports suggest that Google is building a data center in California adjacent to Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay and another off the coast of Portland. While floating data centers are costly to build, they provide savings and ecological benefits by cooling with sea water and being powered by ocean currents. They also offer an opportunity to store data in unregulated territories where snooping governments can’t gain access to it.
  • It’s Official: Dell Is a Privately Owned Company [NewsFactor]
    It’s official! Dell is now a privately owned company. The completed deal, made official Tuesday, sold the computer company to CEO and founder Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners for $24.9 billion.
  • Teen Dropout Rate Spooks Facebook Investors [Ecommerce Times]
    Facebook investors have become concerned over the companies inability to keep teens on board. While Overall, teen use in the U.S. was stable from the second quarter to the third, Facebook has acknowledged a decrease in daily use among younger teens. The news caused an abrupt slump in otherwise increasing investments.

and finally…

  • No, the Cat Didn’t Pee on Your Dell Latitude Ultrabook [NewsFactor]
    Dell has admitted to a slight problem discovered in its new Latitude Ultrabooks. They smell like cat urine. The issue came to light when customers began complaining. One customer posted “I thought for sure one of my cats sprayed it ….It’s embarrassing taking it to clients because it smells so bad.” A Dell representative posted that “the issue was fully investigated and Dell has determined that the smell is not at all related to cat urine or any biological contaminate…there is no health hazard related to the smell. The issue has been corrected on new units currently being ordered,” and that Dell is “finalizing plans for a full resolution for those who still have a unit that exhibits the issue.”

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