Nerval's Lobster writes: MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine's onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles' distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot's controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. "A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. "You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors." For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world's hurdlers.
Fast Company profiles the rise of sites like Hackers List and Hackers For Hire, which provide consolidated markets for people to hire hackers to break passwords, alter databases, learn to operate malware, and more. People with the skills to circumvent security are putting themselves out there as freelancers for specific tasks, and people in need of their services are posting notices asking for help. Law enforcement agencies are warning about this new type of behavior, saying it's often illegal, and facilitated by online anonymity and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The number of deals currently being made through these sites remains small, but it's growing — particularly among business seeking to gain an advantage over competitors in other countries.
Last week saw the successful launch of the Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft, the solar-powered satellite that runs Linux and was crowdfunded on Kickstarter. The spacecraft worked flawlessly for two days, but then fell silent, and the engineering team has been working hard on a fix ever since. They've pinpointed the problem: a software glitch. "Every 15 seconds, LightSail transmits a telemetry beacon packet. The software controlling the main system board writes corresponding information to a file called beacon.csv. If you're not familiar with CSV files, you can think of them as simplified spreadsheets—in fact, most can be opened with Microsoft Excel. As more beacons are transmitted, the file grows in size. When it reaches 32 megabytes—roughly the size of ten compressed music files—it can crash the flight system." Unfortunately, the only way to clear that CSV file is to reboot LightSail. It can be done remotely, but as anyone who deals with crashing computers understands, remote commands don't always work. The command has been sent a few dozen times already, but LightSail remains silent. The best hope may now be that the system spontaneously reboots on its own.
blando writes: A trove of emails provided to The Intercept detail Russian schemes to obtain a crucial component for military thermal-imaging systems. Though emails about the thermal imaging systems date back as far as 2006, the plans to acquire them began in earnest much more recently, in 2013. To try to hide Russian involvement, a company called Cyclone established a new company in the Republic of Cyprus. They did so with the help of a company called Rayfast, which was owned by three other companies itself. After obfuscating the new company's ownership and military ties, they reached out to several Western companies who worked with the technology.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes: The dark web has become the go-to corner of the Internet to buy drugs, stolen financial data, guns...and counterfeit coupons for Clif bars and condoms? The FBI indicted Beauregard Wattigney yesterday for wire fraud and trademark counterfeiting on digital black market sites Silk Road and Silk Road 2. Wattigney allegedly spoofed coupons for dozens of products and sold collections of them online in exchange for Bitcoin. The FBI accused him of doing $1 million worth of collective damage to the companies he made coupons for, but a fraud consultancy believes the total financial cost of his actions was much higher. Wattigney also offered expensive lessons that taught people how to make their own coupons. "In his tutorials, [he] explained the simple breakdown of barcode creation using the increasingly universal GS1 standard: GS1 codes begin with a 'company prefix' that can be copied from any of the company's products. The next six digits are the 'offer code,' which can be any random number for a counterfeit coupon, followed by the savings amount listed in cents and the required number of item purchases necessary to receive the discount."
Vadim Makarov writes: Fifteen Chinese nationals living in the U.S. have been charged with creating an elaborate scheme to take U.S. college entrance exams on behalf of students. For the past four years, the accused provided counterfeit Chinese passports to impostors, who sneaked into testing centers where they took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and others, while claiming to be someone else, according to a federal grand jury indictment. Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan for Homeland Security Investigations of Philadelphia said: "These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation's immigration system."
coondoggie writes: Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) think online gamers can perform the tedious software verification work typically done by professional coding experts. They were so impressed with their first crowdsourced flaw-detecting games, they announced an new round of five games this week designed for improved playability as well as increased software verification effectiveness. “These games translated players’ actions into program annotations and assisted formal verification experts in generating mathematical proofs to verify the absence of important classes of flaws in software written in the C and Java programming languages. An initial analysis indicates that non-experts playing CSFV games generated hundreds of thousands of annotations,” DARPA stated.
New submitter Gob Gob writes: The Prime Minister of Australia has come out and ridiculed an opposition policy aimed at teaching kids to code. In response to the leader of the Labor Party's question about whether he would commit to supporting Labor's push to have coding taught in every primary school in Australia, the Prime Minister said: "He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously?"
m.alessandrini writes: In response to a ban of food imported from the European Union, an Italian grocery in Russia hired an ad agency to create a billboard with a camera and facial recognition software, that's able to change to a different ad when it recognizes the uniform of Russian cops. Gizmodo reports: "With the aid of a camera and facial recognition software, the technology was slightly tweaked to instead recognize the official symbols and logos on the uniforms worn by Russian police. And as they approached the billboard featuring the advertisement for Don Giulio Salumeria’s imported Italian goods, it would automatically change to an ad for a Matryoshka doll shop instead."
ourlovecanlastforeve writes: With biologists getting closer and closer to reversing the aging process in human cells, the reality of greatly extended life draws closer. This brings up a very important conundrum: You can't tell people not to reproduce and you can't kill people to preserve resources and space. Even at our current growth rate there's not enough for everyone. Not enough food, not enough space, not enough medical care. If — no, when — age reversal becomes a reality, who gets to live? And if everyone gets to live, how will we provide for them?
jfruh writes: The FCC's Lifeline program subsidizes phone service for very poor Americans; it gained notoriety under the label "Obamaphone," even though the program started under Reagan and was extended to cell phones under Clinton. Now the FCC is proposing that the program, which is funded by a fee on telecom providers, be extended to broadband, on the logic that high-speed internet is as necessary today as telephone service was a generation ago.
stowie writes: Rumors have been swirling for some time that GoPro was developing a drone. Well, now it's official. Speaking at the Code Conference, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman announced the company's plans to come out with a quadcopter in the first half of 2016. Woodman said "the quad is in some ways the ultimate GoPro accessory," adding that the company is testing software that will wirelessly sync up GoPro footage to the cloud. In a deal announced with Google, GoPro is also offering a virtual reality system using 16 cameras and Google software.
New submitter hamsterz1 writes: U.S. Officials say that the military mistakenly sent live anthrax to laboratories in nine states and an air base in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria. Four lab workers in the United States and up to 22 overseas have been given precautionary medical treatment. The CDC is investigating the incident and Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren says, "Out of an abundance of caution, [the Defence Department] has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation."
An anonymous reader writes with a link to some interesting commentary at Help Net Security from Drone Lab CEO Zain Naboulsi about a security issue of a (so far) unusual kind: detecting drones whose masters are bent on malice. That's relevant after the recent drone flight close enough to the White House to spook the Secret Service, and that wasn't the first -- even if no malice was involved. Drones at their most dangerous in that context are small, quiet, and flying through busy, populated spaces, which makes even detecting them tough, never mind defeating them. From the article, which briefly describes pros and cons of various detection methods: Audio detection does NOT work in urban environments - period. Most microphones only listen well at 25 to 50 feet so, because of the ambient noise in the area, any audio detection method would be rendered useless at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is also too simple for an operator to change the sound signature of a drone by buying different propellers or making other modifications. It doesn't take much to defeat the many weaknesses of audio detection.