Chinese Companies Hunt for AI Talent at American Conference ( 73

Chinese internet players have flocked to a research conference on artificial intelligence here, fighting to attract students from their home country who received a top-notch education in the U.S. From a report: Chinese is the language of choice among 34 company and group booths occupying prime real estate near the entrance to the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference, opened Friday. Native speakers represent companies including virtual mall operator Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, which runs the communication platform WeChat. They woo students, mainly of Chinese origin, with descriptions of comfortable jobs or invite them to attend parties. The intense competition reflects the great strides China has made in the field. This year, the AAAI received research submissions in record numbers -- at least 3,800. Entries from China increased 57% on the year to a level roughly even with those from the U.S. Moreover, Chinese researchers were involved with about 60% of the research posters on display -- a privilege given to selected papers. The research poster exhibition was sponsored by Chinese internet company Baidu.

Bowing To Popularity, Apple Stores In China Accept Alipay ( 23

hackingbear writes: Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has announced that its mobile wallet app Alipay is to be accepted in physical Apple Stores in the country. This would be the first time Apple has allowed retail store purchases to be made with a third-party mobile wallet app amid a push by the iPhone maker to revive growth in the world's No.2 economy. Apple has had to work hard to promote Apple Pay in China due to the popularity of existing, local mobile wallet apps like WeChat Pat and Alipay. The company had already bowed to the inevitable in allowing local apps to be used for online payments. Other American brands like McDonald's and Starbucks have already started accepting Alipay and WeChat Pay in China for sometimes.

Android Oreo Passes 1 Percent Adoption After 5 Months, Nougat Finally Takes First Place ( 98

According to Google's Platform Versions page, Android 8.0 Oreo mobile operating system finally has 1.1 percent adoption. Like Android Nougat before it, Android Oreo took five months to pass the 1 percent adoption mark. VentureBeat reports: On the bright side, Nougat this month has passed Marshmallow, meaning the second newest Android version is now the most widely used. The latest version of Android typically takes more than a year to become the most-used release, and so far it doesn't look like Oreo's story will be any different. Google's Platform Versions tool uses data gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don't have Google Play installed (such as many Android phones and tablets in China, Amazon's Fire line, and so on). Also, Android versions that have less than 0.1 percent adoption, such as Android 3.0 Honeycomb and Android 2.2 Froyo, are not listed. The two next-oldest Android versions are thus set to drop off the list sometime this year. The Android adoption order now stands as follows: Nougat in first place, Marshmallow in second place, Lollipop in third, KitKat in fourth, Jelly Bean in fifth, Oreo in sixth, ICS in seventh, and Gingerbread in last. All eyes are now on Oreo to see how slowly it can climb the ranks.

Apple Launches Free Repair Program For 'No Service' IPhone 7 Bug ( 61

Mark Wilson writes: Apple has launched a new repair program aimed at iPhone 7 users who are experiencing a "No Service" problem. Apple says that affected models that were sold since September 2016 will be repaired free of charge. The company explains that the No Service bug only affects a "small number" of handsets, and it is caused by a failed component on the main logic board...

Apple says that the problematic iPhone 7s were sold in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, and the US between September 2016 and February 2018. The specific model numbers are A1660, A1780 and A1779 and anyone whose phone is displaying a "No Service" message even when signal is available is told to contact their nearest Apple Authorized Service Provider, Apple Retail Store or Apple Technical Support.


This Chinese Math Problem Has No Answer. Perhaps, It Has a Lot of Them. ( 443

Fifth-graders in China's Shunqing district were recently asked to answer this question: "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?" The Washington Post: The apparently unsolvable question sparked a debate over the merits of the Chinese education system and the value it places on the memorization of information over the importance of developing critical thinking skills. "Some surveys show that primary school students in our country lack a sense of critical awareness in regard to mathematics," a statement by the Shunqing Education Department posted Jan. 26 reportedly said. One student offered a pragmatic law-abiding answer: "The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship." Meanwhile on Twitter, some have gone with 42, a reference to the science fiction novel "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams, in which 42 is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything." BBC: "If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?" another asked. Some however, defended the school -- which has not been named -- saying the question promoted critical thinking. "The whole point of it is to make the students think. It's done that," one person commented. "This question forces children to explain their thinking and gives them space to be creative. We should have more questions like this," another said.

Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure ( 69

Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.

China Denies Report it Hacked African Union Headquarters ( 37

China and the African Union dismissed on Monday a report in French newspaper Le Monde that Beijing had bugged the regional bloc's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital. From a report: An article published Friday in Le Monde, quoting anonymous AU sources, reported that data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years. After the massive hack was discovered a year ago, the building's IT system including servers was changed, according to Le Monde. During a sweep for bugs after the discovery, microphones hidden in desks and the walls were also detected and removed, the newspaper reported. The $200 million headquarters was fully funded and built by China and opened to great fanfare in 2012. It was seen as a symbol of Beijing's thrust for influence in Africa, and access to the continent's natural resources.

Intel Told Chinese Firms of Meltdown Flaws Before the US Government ( 134

According to The Wall Street Journal, Intel initially told a handful of customers about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, including Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Lenovo, before the U.S. government. As a result, the Chinese government could have theoretically exploited the holes to intercept data before patches were available. Engadget reports: An Intel spokesman wouldn't detail who the company had informed, but said that the company couldn't notify everyone (including U.S. officials) in time because Meltdown and Spectre had been revealed early. Lenovo said the information was protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Alibaba has suggested that any accusations of sharing info with the Chinese government was "speculative and baseless," but this doesn't rule out officials intercepting details without Alibaba's knowledge. There's no immediate evidence to suggest that China has taken advantage of the flaws, but that's not the point -- it's that the U.S. government could have helped coordinate disclosures to ensure that enough companies had fixes in place.

Trump Team Considers Nationalizing America's 5G Network ( 383

JoeyRox writes: "Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation's mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios." This is based on a PowerPoint presentation Axios has in their possession. Two options are described -- a national 5G network funded and built by the Federal government, or a mix of 5G networks built by existing wireless providers. A source suggests the first option is preferred and essential to protect against competition from China and "bad actors". The presentation suggests that a government-built network would then be leased out to carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The PowerPoint presentation was produced by a senior National Security Council official, and argues that the move is necessary because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."

It also suggests America could export its secure 5G technology to protect its allies, and "Eventually this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior."

OnePlus Is Again Sending User Data To a Chinese Company Without User Consent ( 152

In October 2017, a researcher caught OnePlus silently collecting all sorts of data from its users. Now, a new report says that there's still a OnePlus app that can grab data from the phone and send it to servers in China without a user's knowledge or express consent. BGR reports: The French security researcher hiding behind the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter detailed OnePlus's data collection practices back in October, and he has now discovered a strange file in the OnePlus clipboard app. A Badword.txt file contains various keywords, including "Chairman, Vice President, Deputy Director, Associate Professor, Deputy Heads, General, Private Message, shipping, Address, email," and others. The file is then duplicated in a zip file called pattern alongside six other .txt files. All these files are apparently used in "in an obfuscated package which seems to be an #Android library from teddymobile." Now, TeddyMobile is a Chinese company that works with plenty of smartphone makers from China. The company seems to be able to recognize words and numbers in text messages. And OnePlus is apparently sending your phone's IMEI number to a TeddyMobile server, too. It looks like the TeddyMobile package might be able to grab all sorts of data from a phone. Even bank numbers are apparently recognized. OnePlus has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Breaking Up Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook Could Save Capitalism, NYU Professor Says ( 237

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report: If you want to get an idea of how quickly sentiment has shifted against U.S. tech giants, just listen to NYU professor Scott Galloway. [...] "After spending the majority of the last two years of my life really trying to understand them and the relationship of the ecosystem, I've become 100 percent convinced that it's time to break these companies up." It's an audacious claim from anyone, even more startling coming from someone who has been such a close and bullish observer of these tech giants. Yet for Galloway, it is clear that the four companies have simply become too big, and too powerful. "The premise of my book is that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are our new gods, our new source of love, our consumptive gods," he said. "And as a result of their ability to tap into these very basic instincts, they've aggregated more market cap than the majority of nation's GDP ... I think these entities are more powerful than any entity, with maybe the exception of China and the U.S."

[...] Galloway said he wasn't making his argument based on many of the current emotional outcries against the companies, though these are important to note. And he proceeded to list what he considers to be these giants' numerous sins. "There are reasons to be angry at them," he said. "They basically power fake news ... So the notion that our platforms have been weaponized by the intelligence unit of a foreign adversary was initially responded to by Facebook as crazy, that we were crazy for thinking that. Then we found out it was millions of people, and now we're finding out it was hundreds of millions of people who were exposed."


China Is Quickly Switching From Pirating To Streaming ( 79

hackingbear shares a report from CNN: Not so long ago, China was an oasis for pirated music and videos. CDs and DVDs were easily copied and sold for cheap at roadside markets. If you had a computer and an internet connection, top selling albums and Hollywood movies were widely available for free online. That's changing fast as new technologies such as the convenient WeChat payment and a long-running crackdown on pirated content mean members of the country's growing, smartphone-wielding middle class are increasingly willing to pay to stream videos and music online. "When you have to spend two-to-three hours digging up pirated content, users are willing to pay a [small] amount of money to get non-pirated content," said Karen Chan, an analyst with research firm Jefferies. Across major Chinese video platforms, the monthly fee is about 20 yuan ($3); streaming music is even cheaper, ranging from 8 to 15 yuan ($1-$2) per month. Compare that with a basic monthly Netflix subscription in the U.S. at $8, or a Spotify one at $10. The rapid spread of digital payment platforms like Tencent's WeChat Pay and Alibaba-affiliated Alipay has also played a role, according to Xue Yu, an analyst with research firm IDC. The platforms created a market of young Chinese consumers comfortable with buying goods and services for a few yuan online, Xue said.

Plastic Pollution Is Killing Coral Reefs, 4-Year Study Finds ( 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries -- Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar -- are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," researchers report in the journal Science. Study leader Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral. In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral. Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world's coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.

Researchers Warn of Physics-Based Attacks On Sensors ( 85

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Billions of sensors that are already deployed lack protections against attacks that manipulate the physical properties of devices to cause sensors and embedded devices to malfunction, researchers working in the U.S. and China have warned. In an article in Communications of the ACM, researchers Kevin Fu of the University of Michigan and Wenyuan Xu of Zhejiang University warn that analog signals such as sound or electromagnetic waves can be used as part of "transduction attacks" to spoof data by exploiting the physics of sensors. Researchers say a "return to classic engineering approaches" is needed to cope with physics-based attacks on sensors and other embedded devices, including a focus on system-wide (versus component-specific) testing and the use of new manufacturing techniques to thwart certain types of transduction attacks.

"This is about uncovering the physics of cyber security and how some of the physical properties of systems have been abstracted to the point that we don't have a good way to describe the security of the system," Dr Fu told The Security Ledger in a conversation last week. That is particularly true of sensor driven systems, like those that will populate the Internet of Things. Cyberattacks typically target vulnerabilities in software such as buffer overflows or cross-site scripting. But transduction attacks target the physics of the hardware that underlies that software, including the circuit boards that discrete components are deployed on, or the materials that make up the components themselves. Although the attacks target vulnerabilities in the hardware, the consequences often arise as software systems, such as the improper functioning or denial of service to a sensor or actuator, the researchers said. Hardware and software have what might be considered a "social contract" that analog information captured by sensors will be rendered faithfully as it is transformed into binary data that software can interpret and act on it. But materials used to create sensors can be influenced by other phenomenon -- such as sound waves. Through the targeted use of such signals, the behavior of the sensor can be interfered with and even manipulated. "The problem starts with the mechanics or physics of the material and bubbles up into the operating system," Fu told The Security Ledger.


Two Twin Long-Tailed Macaque Monkeys Are the First Primates Cloned Using the Dolly Method ( 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The twin long-tailed macaque monkeys are the first primates cloned using the same method that created the world's most famous sheep in 1996 -- a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. The twins' genetic blueprints were swiped from fetal cells of another monkey. Researchers then popped the DNA into egg cells that they had also cleared of their DNA-containing nuclei. With a dash of compounds that spur embryo development, the reprogrammed cells developed into healthy baby monkeys in surrogate mother monkeys. The two were born about seven weeks ago in China and are developing normally so far, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Cell. Though the overall SCNT method is the same as what was used for Dolly, researchers struggled for years to tweak it to work in primates. The procedure is delicate and required a lot of optimization -- not to mention DNA-swaps.

The researchers behind the cute clones, led by Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, first tried using DNA from adult monkey cells. They created 192 embryos this way, implanting 181 of them into 42 surrogates, leading to 22 pregnant monkeys. But this resulted in the live birth of only two monkeys, both of which died within hours. Next, the researchers tried using DNA from fetal tissue. They created 109 embryos, implanted 79 of them into 21 surrogates, leading to pregnancy in six of them. Two female monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, resulted. The researchers attribute their success to new cell-imaging methods, tweaking the right mix of reprogramming compounds, and lots of practice.

United States

The US Drops Out of the Top 10 In Innovation Ranking ( 364

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. South Korea and Sweden retained their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings. The index scores countries using seven criteria, including research and development spending and concentration of high-tech public companies. The U.S. fell to 11th place from ninth mainly because of an eight-spot slump in the post-secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force. Value-added manufacturing also declined. Improvement in the productivity score couldn't make up for the lost ground.

South Korea remained the global-innovation gold medalist for the fifth consecutive year. China moved up two spots to 19th, buoyed by its high proportion of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force and increasing number of patents by innovators such as Huawei Technologies Co. Japan, one of three Asian nations in the top 10, rose one slot to No. 6. France moved up to ninth from 11th, joining five other European economies in the top tier. Israel rounded out this group and was the only country to beat South Korea in the R&D category. South Africa and Iran moved back into the top 50; the last time both were included was 2014. Turkey was one of the biggest gainers, jumping four spots to 33rd because of improvements in tertiary efficiency, productivity and two other categories. The biggest losers were New Zealand and Ukraine, which each dropped four places. The productivity measure influenced New Zealand's shift, while Ukraine was hurt by a lower tertiary-efficiency ranking.


Ecuador is Fighting Crime Using Chinese Surveillance Technology ( 35

Ecuador has introduced a security system using monitoring technology from China, including facial recognition, as it tries to bring down its crime rate and improve emergency management, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. From a report: A network of cameras has been installed across the South American nation's 24 provinces -- keeping watch on its population of 16.4 million people -- using a system known as the ECU911 Integrated Security Service, Xinhua reported. Used by the country's police, armed forces and fire brigade, it went into operation in November 2016 and has an emergency response and monitoring system.

Trump Administration Approves Tariffs of 30 Percent On Imported Solar Panels ( 445

The Trump administration just approved tariffs of 30% on imported solar panels. Axios explains why it matters: "Most of the American solar industry has opposed tariffs on panels, saying they would raise prices and hurt the sector. A small group of solar panel manufacturers argued -- successfully -- that an influx of cheap imports, largely from China or Chinese-owned companies, was hurting domestic manufacturing. It's also part of President Trump's broader trade agenda against China." From the report: The tariffs would last for four years and decline in increments of 5% from 30%: 25%, 20% and finally 15% in the fourth year. The tariffs are lower than the 35% the U.S. International Trade Commission had initially recommended last year, per Bloomberg. This is actually the third, and broadest, set of tariffs the U.S. government has issued on solar imports in recent years. The Obama administration issued two earlier rounds of tariffs on a narrower set of imports. Monday's action also imposed import tariffs on washing machines, a much lower profile issue than solar energy.

China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials ( 159

U.S. scientists helped devise the Crispr biotechnology tool. First to test it in humans are Chinese doctors (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative link). WSJ reports: In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool. U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven't been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn't the case for Dr. Wu and others in China. In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. [...] There is little doubt China was first out of the block testing Crispr on humans. Nine trials in China are listed in a U.S. National Library of Medicine database. The Wall Street Journal found at least two other hospital trials, including one beginning in 2015 -- a year earlier than previously reported. Journal reporting found at least 86 Chinese patients have had their genes edited.

China's Smartphone Maker OnePlus Says Up To 40,000 Customers Were Affected by Credit Card Security Breach ( 8

sqorbit writes: OnePlus, a manufacturer of an inexpensive smartphone meant to compete with the iPhone, states that data from 40,000 customers credit card information was stolen while purchasing phones from its website. Even as the company has just confirmed the breach, it says the the script stealing information had been running since November. It is not clear whether this was a remote attack or the attack happened from within the company. Credit purchases on the OnePlus site have been suspended and will remain that way while an investigation takes place. [...] Earlier this week, OnePlus had temporarily shut down credit card payments on its website following reports that customers' payment details were stolen after they bought goods through its online store. The company says it's disabling credit card payments "as a precaution," but will still be accepting purchases through PayPal. The investigation began after a poll posted by users on OnePlus' forums found that many customers had experienced the same problem.

Slashdot Top Deals