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Submission + - Neuroscience would Fail to Make Sense of a 1970's Era Microprocessor, Says Paper (biorxiv.org)

wherrera writes: According to a preprint entitled "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?" on the biology preprint archive bioRxiv.org, using the same techniques as used in with latest probes used to inspect the function of the mammalian brain and its connectome fail spectacularly when used to probe a running simulation of the MOS6502 processor used in playing the classic Atari era video games Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and Pitfall.

The investigators used probability analysis of correlation in signals as well as such techniques as "lesion studies" which used the destruction of a simulated transistor to imitate the process used by researchers investigating the effects of a lesion on the nervous system. They conclude that reverse engineering the brain is likely not to succeed until we have a better understanding of what the brain as a system is doing, since "we do not generally know how the output relates to the inputs" in the brain to even begin to properly guide such investigations.

Link to the preprint is here.

Submission + - Lights out: flaws in remote power management gear let hackers pull the plug (csmonitor.com)

chicksdaddy writes: Passcode is reporting (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Passcode/2016/0518/Flaws-in-networking-devices-highlight-tech-industry-s-quality-control-problem) that researchers are warning about security vulnerabilities in widely used remote power management (RPM) equipment could give malicious hackers the ability to remotely shut off power to critical information systems and industrial machinery.

Researchers at Georgia-based BorderHawk said that it discovered suspicious traffic emanating from compromised RPM devices while working at a large energy firm. An investigation found more reasons for concern: undocumented, no-authentication required features hidden in firmware that could be used to dump a list of user accounts and passwords to access the device. Researchers also found a link to a malicious domain located in China buried in a help file.

RPMs are simple network hardware containing two power outlets to plug in equipment as well as an Ethernet and serial ports for connecting to the network or directly to another computer.

The work by BorderHawk jives with work done by the security consulting firm Senrio Inc. (formerly called Xipiter -http://www.xipiter.com/). Researchers there analyzed the NetBooter NP-02B – made by the Arizona firm SynAccess Networks and found hidden, no authentication features in that device's firmware lets anyone remotely reset the NetBooter device to its factory default configuration. Another allows anyone to modify network and system settings. A third, hidden function could be used to extract data (like a recently entered password) stored in the device’s memory, according to Stephen Ridley, a principal at Senrio. Searches using the Shodan.io search engine reveal hundreds of publicly accessible SynAccess RPM devices deployed at universities, on government networks, and other businesses.

The problem is a byproduct of changes in the way that technology firms source and build their products, often relying on far-flung networks of manufacturers and suppliers who operate with little oversight or quality control.

"Hardware is a misunderstood, unknown territory," said noted electrical engineer and inventor Joe Grand of Grand Idea Studio. "People buy a piece of hardware and take it for granted. They assume it is secure. They assume it does what it does and only does what it does."

Submission + - Weak statistical standards implicated in scientific irreproducibility (nature.com) 1

ananyo writes: The plague of non-reproducibility in science may be mostly due to scientists’ use of weak statistical tests, as shown by an innovative method developed by statistician Valen Johnson, at Texas A&M University. Johnson found that a P value of 0.05 or less — commonly considered evidence in support of a hypothesis in many fields including social science — still meant that as many as 17–25% of such findings are probably false. He advocates for scientists to use more stringent P values of 0.005 or less to support their findings, and thinks that the use of the 0.05 standard might account for most of the problem of non-reproducibility in science — even more than other issues, such as biases and scientific misconduct.

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