Category: Technology

fake news
December 5th, 2016 by SWS Magazine

What ad policy changes will Google and Facebook make to eliminate or reduce the number of fake news sites in search results and news feeds?

 

Did you know that some critics partially blame fake news across Google and Facebook for the outcome of the presidential election? Mark Zuckerberg isn’t convinced that fake news had anything to do with Donald Trump’s victory, but some of Facebook’s employees believe it did.

 

Regardless of what anyone thinks, Facebook and Google have taken steps towards addressing the problem of fake news. Google will soon implement policy changes barring sites from displaying fake news from using their ads from the Google Display Network. This is how they plan to cut off the potential revenues from these sites.

 

Google issued this statement:

We’ve been working on an update to our publisher policies and will start prohibiting Google ads from being placed on misrepresentative content, just as we disallow misrepresentation in our ads policies. Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.

 

Facebook also updated the Facebook Audience Network’s terms so illegal or deceptive content is prohibited from using their ads system.

 

Apparently, a lot of the fake news that was circulated throughout the election propagated from Macedonia, using Google Display Network to monetize their sites. Supposedly, this will no longer be a problem.

 

Google and Facebook are known as the two largest ad platforms, but there are other alternatives. Additionally, it isn’t certain that the measures these platforms have taken will be sufficient in handling the underlying issue. The policy changes don’t exactly address the problem of fake news cropping up in the news feed, nor do they address the problem of Google search rankings.

 

It’s highly probable that the fake news ordeal will slow down or stop since the election is over, or at least for now. Automation can flag wildly deceptive content, but without human intervention, it’s essentially impossible to totally eliminate fake news.

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nuclear-hack
November 30th, 2016 by SWS Magazine

A nightmare scenario unfolded a couple of years ago when a cyberattack targeted a nuclear power facility.  The circumstances and details about the attack have been shrouded in mystery as Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has chosen not to disclose such information.  What is known is that the power plant in question has been by a cyberattack within the last three years.  Processes were disrupted but the plant was not shut down.  But make no mistake, the threat was very real and is a serious problem, according to the Director Amano and the IAEA.

 

Cyber threats to nuclear power plants and facilities were never on the radar of most cyber security experts, let alone the general public.  This event and the precedence it sets brings about a whole new headache for security experts, both public and federal.  The disruption or destruction of one of these facilities can have devastating consequences.  Halting energy production can cripple entire cities and regions of a country.  While, causing a catastrophic failure would surely end in fatalities, irradiation of the environment and loss of a critical power source.

 

As more and more countries replace coal plants with nuclear power plants, the number of potential targets for these kinds of attacks is growing.  The UK has seven active power plants and the United States has sixty plants in thirty states helping to power their countries.  Imagine the ramifications should a single one of those plants suffer a massive disruption or meltdown.  The literal fallout will be devastating.

 

This kind of attack was made possible by a type of malware developed to weaken and then hijack industrial controls.  The use and distribution of this type of malware has recently seen a spike in recent years.  Besides this specific incident, no other nuclear power plants have reported any disruption to operations due to a cyberattack, however that does not mean that nuclear facilities do not receive their fair share of cyber threats.  In 2014, Korean power plant operators had to re-evaluate their system security and counter measures after a hack resulted in the theft of “non-critical data” from their network.  In mid-2015, a German nuclear power plant operator noticed that their systems kept on getting infected by viruses.

 

Thankfully, there has been no major or irreparable damage caused by these attacks.  The disruption in operation was small enough to be handled or had very little effect on performance.  However, it is hard to shrug the notion that this type of cyberattack is just in its infancy. Now that hackers and criminals know that breaching nuclear facilities is possible, they will undoubtedly improve and refine their tactics to increase their odds of success.  Needless to say, we have not seen the last of these attacks.  The hard part is that we as civilians are almost powerless in the face of it all.  The public must rely on the hard work and vigilance of a trained few to ensure the safety of our energy sources and, equally so, our lives.


This article was contributed by David Share from Amazing Support.

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laser-engraving
September 23rd, 2016 by SWS Magazine

Engraving adds something special to a product or gift that almost nothing else can accomplish; a personal touch. It’s not the same as laser marking, although the two are similar. Laser marking or etching must be done using a machine while engraving can be done with hand tools or machines.
Laser beams are tiny and focused. They superheat a point on a substrate removing a part of the surface to create a permanent engraving. Early laser engravers were dangerous to the operator and needed specific safety barriers to offer protection. Today’s machines have become so advanced that it is nearly impossible to direct the beam anywhere else than where the operator intends it to go, making today’s machines both versatile and safe to use.

 

Industry developments

Laser engraving is used in many industries. The simplest use is to etch a company name or logo onto consumer products or creating a watermark to appear on documents. As their use gained popularity, design changes began to be made to make laser engravers more proficient and easier to handle. A laser engraver is a complex device using a dynamic auto focusing system similar to those used in cameras to allow the machine to calculate the exact depth needed on a particular substrate and allow the machine to engrave it precisely as intended.

 

The materials

Laser engraving machines can be used on a number of different types of materials. These include the following:

 

Natural products

Wood is the most common natural product used today for laser etching. It is naturally soft and can be easily engraved resulting in an attractive burnt surface that can be the perfect gift. Hardwoods are the best candidate for laser etching although softwoods can also provide a nice result if the user is careful not to set the wood ablaze.

Plastics are also excellent candidates for laser engraving. Acrylic plastic items can be easily engraved; however some plastic formulations will melt during the process creating an undesirable fuzzy image.

Metals were originally difficult to engrave well with early lasers but the process has become refined over the years and today nearly all metals can be engraved successfully. Anodized Aluminum can be an excellent metal for the laser engraving process.

Glass and stone are more difficult to engrave with a laser but good results can be produced if the machine is set up properly.
Laser marking has become a much cheaper alternative to engraving than more traditional methods. The highly focused laser beam provides a higher definition and can be done faster than ever before, and having the process controlled by a state-of-the-art computer program makes it comparatively easy to successfully engrave almost any item possible today.

minilase

Laser engravers have become cheaper, such as the Minilase available from Needham Coding

Today, laser engraving can add a personal touch that would have been almost impossible to achieve as recently as a half-century ago, and at a considerably lower cost and user effort. Today’s laser etching machines are safe and practical to use, making them the perfect choice for today’s resourceful engravers.

 


This article was contributed by Erryn from Needham Coding.

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ink
September 22nd, 2016 by SWS Magazine

Almost everything we consume today is marked or coded in one way or another, from best-before to lot dates to batch dates, etc. These unique markings tell us, or the supplier, information relating to product safety, consumer protection, traceability or to avoid counterfeiting. Manufacturers try to meet the various regulations which they are required to operate within by using marking and coding equipment in their factories and where needed within their supply chains.

 

Many different printing techniques are used from laser coding, thermal transfer or continuous inkjet technology. Each of these has its own unique advantages and sometimes challenges.

 

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) technology

One of the oldest inkjet technologies used today is CIJ. Its major advantage is the capability to print at high speeds without the ink nozzles clogging because the jet is continually being used. This allows volatile solvents to be added, like alcohols and ketones, to give the ink the capability of “biting” into the substrate and drying quickly.

 

food-grade-ink

 

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) technology

In TIJ, the printing cartridges contain small chambers that contain a heating element that is activated by a pulse of current. When the current passes through it, a rapid vaporization of the ink causes bubble to form which propels a droplet of ink onto the substrate. Because no special equipment is required, TIJ print heads are generally cheaper to produce than more specialized print heads used in other inkjet technologies.

 

Piezo Drop on Demand (DOD)

In piezo DOD printing, a permanent print head is used. A piezoelectric material is placed inside a chamber containing ink located behind each nozzle. When voltage is applied, the piezoelectric material changes shape to force an ink droplet from the nozzle. Piezoelectric inkjets allow a wider variety of inks to be used because no volatile component is needed and there’s no ink residue buildup. However, the print heads are more expensive to manufacture.

 

Laser Marking and coding

Laser technology uses a laser to etch or vaporize the top layer of the substrate to leave permanent text or graphics or other data directly onto many different substrates including paper, cartons, glass or plastic. No inks or fluids are involved, so laser etching systems are cost-effective and environmental friendly. Lasers remove material or coating from the product or packaging by permanently scribing the substrate without weakening the material.

 

Thermal Transfer (TTO)

TTO is a digital printing process which applies a melted wax-based coating in a ribbon onto paper or another substrate. The substrate then passes under a thermal print head and the coating melts and adheres permanently after it cools. TTO printouts are not as sharp as those from inkjet or color laser printers. However, this type of printer is often used because of its speed, water-fastness and high reliability because of the small number of moving parts.

 

Each of these different types of printing techniques has its own advantages and disadvantages. The overall purpose is to help manufacturers track and date their products and to adhere to the various product safety regulations that apply. Consumers today are rarely aware of these numerous manufacturers’ efforts but in reality they are generally much better off today because of the latest advances in marking and coding technology.


This article was contributed by Erryn from Needham Ink.

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govrat
September 18th, 2016 by SWS Magazine

GovRAT.  Its very name sounds nefarious.  Seemingly to have been specifically designed to infiltrate government and corporate systems, this malware has been causing headaches for months.  To make matters worse it has been upgraded as of late.  Like the very creature it was named after, version 2.0 is a nasty piece of coding ramping up its already potent ability to dig through computers and steal data.

 

GovRATs success is mainly due to its ability slip through a system antivirus protocols.  Like an adept thief in the night, GovRAT first steal digital certificates, then cloaks itself with them.  Now looking like a credible piece of data, the malware is then allowed through the antivirus wall, and voila!  Once in the system, GovRAT can wreak all sorts of havoc.  Data dumps, selective file downloads, remote command executions, and even unauthorised uploads of, what else, even more malware.  This is perhaps a company or a government agencies worst nightmare come to life; the unfettered access to their systems by a malicious entity.

 

govrat

 

As was previously mentioned, GovRAT version 2.0 is a nasty piece of work.  It was upgraded and now has the ability to lurk (according to security firms that have studied its code and effects).  2.0 not only grants cybercriminals access to their victims systems but they can now lie in wait and monitor the network traffic of their system.  This may seem less dangerous or less profitable than stealing data and information, but it’s just the exact opposite.  Victims who have no idea that their systems have been compromised would just go about their day, doing their work as usual.  Unbeknownst to them there is another set of eyes looking at every email, chat, download, upload and interaction they have within their computer, silently recording and harvesting information as it comes.  Compare that with a user who notices that a file has been stolen, they will then flag the action, stop using the system and bring it in to their IT department to be fixed or destroyed.  Cybercriminals value the continuous transfer of data more than a single file or folder.

 

These types of cybercriminals deal in information and hawk their wares on the black market.  It is estimated that some 33,000 user accounts, which includes those from U.S. Government employees, have been successfully traded on the black market.  The accounts contain names, addresses, email addresses, login credentials and decrypted passwords.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that the attackers have been using the stolen information to spread GovRAT to other government branches, systems and computers using traditional phishing emails or automatic downloads, also known as drive-by downloads.  The truly scary part is that certain departments of the U.S. military and defense have been confirmed victims of GovRAT.

 

To this day the author of the GovRAT malware remains nameless and faceless.  No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the cyberattacks.  Indeed, very little is known about the origins of GovRAT itself.  It was as if it just appeared out of thin air like a terrible ghost that will be haunting the sleep of IT managers everywhere.  However, one thing is for certain.  Whoever designed GovRAT is had the long game in mind.  Analysis of its code and behavior indicates that it was developed to spy on systems for very long periods of time, likely spanning months and even years.

 


This article was contributed by David Share from Amazing Support.

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molecule
October 30th, 2009 by SWS Magazine

A fundamentally new way of manipulating matter and driving chemical reactions has been heralded as a chemistry breakthrough by many in the scientific community. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a novel way to use mechanical force to alter the direction of chemical reactions which yields results not previously obtainable using conventional conditions.

Normally during a chemical reaction, molecules need to overcome a barrier so that they can be transformed into useful products. This is usually accomplished by adding light, heat, pressure or some electrical potential to change the distribution of the reactants moving them into a new excited state.

By harnessing mechanical energy, the researchers say materials would more easily be able to repair themselves or at least indicate whether they’ve incurred any damage. Up until now, there was no way to direct usual chemical reactions in a specific direction. The researchers used ultrasound to force a reaction to go in two different pathways and by modifying the volume, they were able to change the reaction’s direction.

Ultrasound and some other mechanical techniques have previously been used to redirect reactions before but not in this type of application. There is some debate whether ultrasound works by making electrical changes in the molecules in to create actual mechanical stress, but the results indicate that however it works, there definitely are mechanical forces going on.

Future chemists may be thinking about using mechanical forces to activate a chemical reaction but this is the first time ultrasound has been shown to create the stress needed.

The demonstration proves that it is possible to use a mechanical force in such a way that it can redirect a chemical reaction to travel along a designated path. The scientists are hopeful that these results will open up an entirely new thread for chemists dealing with synthetic materials can explore.

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mechanical-horse
August 22nd, 2009 by SWS Magazine

Hippotherapy is a strategy designed to use the movements of a horse to treat patients with cerebral palsy and other neuromusculoskeletal disabilities. Patients are asked to ride a horse while under the direction of a licensed therapist. The movement of the horse drives the patient’s body, in particular the hips, in a way that is similar to human movements that naturally occur when they run. This rhythmic motion challenges the patient to try and anticipate and adapt to the movements of the horse in order to maintain their balance. The therapy is believed to help improve patients’ strength, flexibility, balance, muscle symmetry, posture and motor functions.

Use of hippotherapy was first described by Hippocrates in ancient Greece when he wrote a chapter on “natural exercise” and mentions horse riding. In 1952, Liz Hartel won a silver medal in equestrian sports at the Helsinki Olympics, explaining that horse riding had helped her recover from the effects of polio. Later, therapeutic riding centers opened throughout Europe in the 1960s and by the 1990s the practice had become so well-known that the American Hippotherapy Association was formed in the US.

Even though hippotherapy appears to help both children and adults with physical and mental disabilities, researchers say that getting patients to physically get onto a horse has been a major obstacle. Now, research scientists at Baylor University have constructed a mechanical horse for patients who are either afraid of riding a live horse or for those whom it might not be safe.

Baylor’s mechanical horse mimics the actions of a real horse by using a 3-D system with a saddle surface that moves in all directions in a cycling pattern. Engineering students at the school designed the device by studying the movements of an actual horse with video-motion photography. Additional research is planned by the research team to further study the biomechanics of hippotherapy with their new mechanical horse.

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