'Mayhem' Program Wins Grand Hacking Challenge

A program named Mayhem has provisionally won a competition in Las Vegas to find software that does the best job of automatically defending against cyber-attacks.

Set up by the US Darpa research agency the competition hopes to spur interest in autonomous security systems.
Mayhem's creators will get $2million (£1.52million) to continue their work and make their creation more effective. Results will be confirmed on Friday at 10:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

Dubbed ‘The Cyber Grand Challenge’, the event was held at the Def Con hacker conference.

"I'm blown away by what just happened," said Mike Walker, the Darpa scientist who set up and oversaw the event. "We've had an all-computer hacking tournament." Mr. Walker said the event was intended to uncover techniques that can find and fix bugs in code far faster than humans can. It can take months or years for humans to notice some bugs, leaving them to be exploited by cyber thieves while patches are sought, he added.

The world's growing dependence on computer systems demanded the creation of some kind of smart, autonomous security system, he said.

Preliminary events held over the last three years whittled the entrants down to the seven that took part in the Vegas event. The teams in the final were drawn from universities, software engineering firms and security start-ups.

Alex Rebert, head of Team Forallsecure that created Mayhem, said the cash prize would be put towards further development of the program and keeping the small firm behind it going as it grows.

The second prize of $1million went to the team behind a program called Xandra which was drawn from security experts from the University of Virginia and European firm GrammaTech. The third prize of $750,000 went to the Mech Phish team from the University of California.

Thousands of Def Con attendees gathered in a ballroom in the Paris casino to watch the competition unfold. The Cyber Grand Challenge is modelled on the Capture The Flag hacker tournaments run at many conventions where security experts gather.

These CTF competitions see small teams analyze codes to find bugs they then patch to protect their own virtual territory while exploiting the same bugs to attack others taking part.

The winning team is the one that does the best job of finding and fixing bugs while using them to hamper the efforts of others.

In total, the Cyber Challenge ran for eight hours over 95 separate rounds with humans allowed to watch the closing hours of the digital battle. Mayhem took an early lead in the tournament and, despite a late crash which meant it logged some no-scoring rounds, held on until the end.

Some of the rounds were based on well-known software bugs such as Heartbleed, SQL Slammer and Crackaddr, that caused widespread disruption when they first appeared. These were added to see if the smart software could do a better job than humans did at finding fixes for these vulnerabilities when they first appeared.

The intense combat among the programs was displayed on giant screens set above a stage on which sat seven water-cooled supercomputers running the software.

The winning team also gets the chance to enter its system into the real Def Con CTF competition to see how it performs against the best human players of the offensive coding game.

Other grand challenges set up by Darpa accelerated research into autonomous vehicles and prompted pioneering work on robots that can help in disaster zones.

Source: BBC

These Are The Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016

A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including batteries capable of providing power to whole villages, “socially aware” artificial intelligence and new generation solar panels, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, according to a list published today by the World Economic Forum.

“Technology has a critical role to play in addressing each of the major challenges the world faces, yet it also poses significant economic and social risks. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is vital that we develop shared norms and protocols to ensure that technology serves humanity and contributes to a prosperous and sustainable future,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Chief Information and Interaction Officer, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

The Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2016 list, compiled by the Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies and published in collaboration with Scientific American, highlights technological advances its members believe have the power to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. It also provides an opportunity to debate any human, societal, economic or environmental risks and concerns that the technologies may pose prior to widespread adoption.

“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world, enabling timely expert analysis in preparation for these disruptors. The global community needs to come together and agree on common principles if our society is to reap the benefits and hedge the risks of these technologies,” said Dr Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer of IBM and Chair of the Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.
One of the criteria used by council members during their deliberations was the likelihood that 2016 represents a tipping point in the deployment of each technology. Thus, the list includes some technologies that have been known for a number of years, but are only now reaching a level of maturity where their impact can be meaningfully felt.

The top 10 technologies to make this year’s list are:

1. Nanosensors and the Internet of Nanothings
With the Internet of Things expected to comprise 30 billion connected devices by 2020, one of the most exciting areas of focus today is now on nanosensors capable of circulating in the human body or being embedded in construction materials. Once connected, this Internet of Nanothings could have a huge impact on the future of medicine, architecture, agriculture and drug manufacture.

2. Next Generation Batteries
One of the greatest obstacles holding renewable energy back is matching supply with demand, but recent advances in energy storage using sodium, aluminium and zinc based batteries makes mini-a
Much already has been made of the distributed electronic ledger behind the online currency Bitcoin. With related venture investment exceeding $1 billion in 2015 alone, the economic and social impact of blockchain’s potential to fundamentally change the way markets and governments work is only now emerging.

4. 2D Materials
Graphene may be the best-known, single-atom layer material, but it is by no means the only one. Plummeting production costs mean that such 2D materials are emerging in a wide range of applications, from air and water filters to new generations of wearables and batteries.

5. Autonomous Vehicles
Self-driving cars may not yet be fully legal in most geographies, but their potential for saving lives, cutting pollution, boosting economies, and improving quality of life for the elderly and other segments of society has led to rapid deployment of key technology forerunners along the way to full autonomy.

6. Organs-on-chips
Miniature models of human organs – the size of a memory stick – could revolutionize medical research and drug discovery by allowing researchers to see biological mechanism behaviours in ways never before possible.

7. Perovskite Solar Cells
This new photovoltaic material offers three improvements over the classic silicon solar cell: it is easier to make, can be used virtually anywhere and, to date, keeps on generating power more efficiently.

8. Open AI Ecosystem
Shared advances in natural language processing and social awareness algorithms, coupled with an unprecedented availability of data, will soon allow smart digital assistants help with a vast range of tasks, from keeping track of one’s finances and health to advising on wardrobe choice.
9. Optogenetics
The use of light and colour to record the activity of neurons in the brain has been around for some time, but recent developments mean light can now be delivered deeper into brain tissue, something that could lead to better treatment for people with brain disorders.

10. Systems Metabolic Engineering
Advances in synthetic biology, systems biology and evolutionary engineering mean that the list of building block chemicals that can be manufactured better and more cheaply by using plants rather than fossil fuels is growing every year.
To compile this list, the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of global experts, drew on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends. By doing so, the Meta-Council aims to raise awareness of their potential and contribute to closing gaps in investment, regulation and public understanding that so often thwart progress.
Source: WorldEconomicForum

Vodafone Ghana Deepens Discussions On IoT

Vodafone Ghana has taken the discussion of Internet of Things (IoT) further by organizing a workshop in Accra, for the second time, to dialogue with Ghanaian content and web developers on how to adopt and make good use of the platform that Internet of Things presents. The workshop, which showcased Vodafone’s Business Solutions offering in Ghana, was also used to cement and extend the level of its deliverables across varied and multiple sectors in Ghana.

Speaking during the opening of the workshop, the Head of Vodafone Business Solutions, Angela Mensah-Poku, quoted statistics from Goldman Sachs reports which suggest that, the number of devices to be connected by 2020 will be 28 billion on the global scale; adding US$1.7 trillion to the global economy by 2019.

According her, as a leading network operator in the country, Vodafone Ghana see this as a great opportunity to further bring satisfaction and comfort to our customers. “Our ‘Internet of Things’ proposition seeks to serve customers across all sectors, with a focus on the high growth areas of automotive, utilities and consumer electronics. The Vodafone Group has expanded its number of connections to 21.5 million from 16.2 million just a year ago,” she said.

Ms. Mensah-Poku stressed that as a clear market leader in the Enterprise space in Ghana’s telecommunications sector, Vodafone Business Solutions will not rest on our laurels, but further entrench its position and continue to lead the way, using IoT as the pathfinder.

“Our reputation in this new technological frontier is unmatched across the world (taking the Vodafone Group into account) and we are excited that it has also taken off in a big way in Ghana” she added.

Currently the new phenomenon making its mark is the interesting concept of “Internet of Things” or, sometimes referred to as M2M technology. IoT envisages a world where machines and human being co-exist to ensure efficiency and greater returns to companies and organizations.

Companies now operate in an increasingly globalized world. Technology is quickening the pace of every aspect of human endeavor. Lifestyles are changing rapidly as a result of influences from far and near. Attitudes, consumption patterns and preferences for any reference group hold, but only for a short period.
Source: Biztechafrica

Government of Kenya to Rollout Free Internet Across The Counties

The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of ICT will rollout free internet in the 290 constituencies in Kenya, a move that will see locals enjoy free Wi-Fi.

The free Wi-Fi project under Constituency Innovation Hubs will be implemented by Members of Parliament in partnership with Telkom Kenya, since MPs are the main custodians of youth development issues at the constituency level. Each ward will receive four equipment under the Last Mile Internet project.

The advantage of this kind of free Wi-Fi is that it can be accessed via satellite internet (Very Small Aperture Terminal). The locally designed gadgets will also be available at the centres for leasing to the youth at nominal fee, whose proceeds will be used to sustain the centres or hubs. The project, while empowering the youth, will see MPs champion digitization programme of the youth in their constituencies.

This is part of Jubilee’s Manifesto under Uwezo pillar to enhance access to the internet as well as increase access to information in the digital economy. The project is meant to realize the Government’s agenda for broadband strategy as well as align it to the National ICT strategy.

It is expected that the Government’s agenda to offer broadband space will spur the economy and create digital talent. It will use MPs as curators of this empowerment. It is envisaged that this will assist the rural population make online applications for jobs, scholarships and access other Government opportunities.

The free Wi-Fi will also broaden the knowledge based economy with the rural population accessing services and online opportunities that were hitherto inaccessible to them.

Under the partnership, the Ministry of ICT will be paying about Ksh200 million annually for the broadband services while the CDF will offer the infrastructure – as communication is a basic human right.

The National Fibre Optic Project (NFOP) centres will also boost entrepreneurship by attracting investors to access the Centre for research. The project has been successfully piloted in Limuru.

The Government is also increasing the uptake of ICT through the rollout of the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP) which has seen schools get digital devices (commonly known as laptops).

Source: Techmoran