Windows 11 will automatically stop brute force attacks

Not all threats to your computer come from viruses and dodgy emails. Some people will simply try to smash their way into your PC by generating as many passwords as possible until they gain access, like a lock picker. Windows 11 can now stop that.

The most recent Windows 11 build blocks these brute force attacks with an Account Lockout Policy. Windows will automatically lock down accounts, including administrator accounts, after 10 failed login attempts.

“Win11 builds now have a default account lockout policy to mitigate RDP and other brute force password vectors.” said David Weston, Microsoft vice president of Sscurity and enterprise in a tweet earlier today. “This technique is very commonly used in Human Operated Ransomware and other attacks — this control will make brute forcing much harder, which is awesome!”

@windowsinsider Win11 builds now have a DEFAULT account lockout policy to mitigate RDP and other brute force password vectors. This technique is very commonly used in Human Operated Ransomware and other attacks – this control will make brute forcing much harder which is awesome!

— David Weston (DWIZZZLE) (@dwizzzleMSFT) July 20, 2022

Brute force attacks are a common threat to computers, especially enterprise-level networks with hundreds of employees making their own easy-to-remember passwords. Threat actors employ automated password generators that attempt to login into a computer by generating billions of password combinations. Some programs are sophisticated enough to remember which letter and number combinations were a “hit” and then continue shuffling the remaining characters until it hits on the full password.

Unlike email phishing malware, brute force attacks are operated by a person on the other end who is specifically targeting the victim’s computer or network. Once in, they can load ransomware directly into the network and lock up all the devices tied to it until money is paid. These attacks make up 70% to 80% of all enterprise network breaches, according to the FBI.

With Account Lockout Policy, Microsoft puts an end to brute force. The attackers will get locked out after 10 failed attempts to guess the password, which will happen in a matter of seconds. This feature is available on the most recent Windows 11 builds, from Insider Preview 22528.1000 and newer. In addition to Windows 11, the feature is also coming to Windows 10, although it will not be turned on by default.

Editors’ Choice

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Fortnite uses the force to add Obi-Wan Kenobi to its roster

Fortnite just finished celebrating Star Wars Day by returning skins, weapons, emotes, and gliders from the film series to the item shop for two weeks. Now, another character from a galaxy far far away is joining the battle royale. Obi-Wan Kenobi is getting turned into a skin to coincide with the release of Disney+’s series featuring the Jedi.

The Obi-Wan skin is being added a day before the release of the Disney+ series. The new skin can be purchased individually or with an entire bundle of the Jedi’s swag that will most likely appear in the show.

The items are Obi-Wan’s dessert essentials backpack, a blade pickaxe, the Jedi Interceptor glider, and Obi-Wan’s message emote. Each of these items comes included in the Obo-Wan bundle, which adds a special loading screen, or players can pick and choose which they’d like to purchase instead.

Sadly, there’s no lightsaber pickaxe to be seen, as many were expecting. This is most likely due to the force-user weapon of choice being an in-game weapon that can be found whenever Epic decides to un-vault them, as it did recently for Star Wars Day.

It’s also possible to unlock the Obi-Wan skin and back bling backpack early. For the competitive Fortnite crowd, there is the upcoming online competition on May 22 called the “Obi-Wan Cup.” Competitors play up to ten matches and if enough points are reached by the time the event ends, they unlock the items early.

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s item bundle hits the Fortnite item shop for purchase on May 26.

Editors’ Choice

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Orangetheory sees AI data governance as a ‘force multiplier’

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Ameen Kazerouni, chief analytics officer at Orangetheory Fitness, is well-versed in AI. His experience working as the head of AI and machine learning at Zappos has helped him successfully utilize AI and data at Orangetheory.

At VentureBeat’s virtual Transform 2021 conference, Kazerouni compared data to oil: both are irreplaceably valuable, made so because of a refining process.

“There’s this evolution that data goes through where it goes from data, to knowledge, and to insight,” Kazerouni said. “When you collect data, it’s serving a purpose. And then understanding what that data means and how it relates to other pieces of data is critical.”

In other words, data isn’t useful until it’s contextualized. Companies have realized that data is important and are very diligent about collecting every piece of information they can, Kazerouni said. When one piece of information is seen in conjunction with other pieces of information, it serves as a “force multiplier” that allows businesses to identify correlations and confirm hypotheses about what is happening within the ecosystem. Businesses can make informed decisions derived from data that can dramatically change how consumers experience products, Kazerouni said. Data requires additional work before it becomes extremely valuable.

The key to finding and making use of this information requires what Kazerouni called “building your differentiator.” This means finding a niche that can set a company apart from its competitors, and really investing in that. That could mean buying technology or building it internally. A company with power in-house and a larger team would make a different decision than one entering machine learning and AI for the first time. If the company has a limited set of resources, build what is going to be the differentiator — spend resources on something that other companies are not spending their resources on. That is the best way for a company to focus their efforts because that is why is going to elevate the user experience, drive efficiency, and be different from the rest of the market.

“If you’re trying to build something that somebody else is building as their core product, you will never be able to focus on it as much as a person [who] just does that and nothing else,” he said.

Data governance is critical

For Orangetheory, that effort is directed toward science and AI-informed fitness for its consumers. The company invests in analytics and data governance, and places significant trust in the process. It’s important to understand how data is classified, and clearly define what each piece of data is used for and what level of protection is required. There are a lot of regulatory frameworks out there and being compliant with the major data regulations puts the business in a “very strong position to say that the right types of data are protected with the right protocols and the right best practices,” Kazerouni said.

From a technical perspective, Orangetheory encrypts data in storage as well as in transit, keeps personally identifiable information in isolated environments, and makes sure the PII does not get replicated into analytical environments. The company recognizes there is a computational and resource cost to good data privacy and protection, and is willing to spend because it is critical to keep the consumer’s trust. “It’s important to incur that cost early, and not shortcut around that,” Kazerouni said.

This includes investing early in data engineers who help with the extract, transform, and load (ETL) pipeline and maintain the technical chain of custody, so that the data becomes available in a “very usable and secure fashion,” Kazerouni said. Data analysts, statisticians, and business intelligence analysts, focus on actually deriving insight and telling stories from the data in a way that’s consumable and actionable. Automated machine learning comes after that. Investing in the foundational, building blocks is necessary.

However, contextualizing that data into actionable goals isn’t just for the data analysts and statisticians. Orangetheory works with kinesiologists and a Medical Advisory Board — professionals in the fitness field — and includes them in every decision relating to template design and any fitness and workout related claims.

“We’ll always have a human in the loop,” Kazerouni said, noting that it was important to have someone involved in making decisions on how wearable data and workout data should be used. “[There’s value] in having an exercise physiologist or kinesiology, someone who’s well trained in that, to review what’s coming out of the data before you push it out, and not trying to just automate that.”

Early in the AI journey

Kazerouni described Orangetheory as a greenfield environment — a totally new environment with no legacy code and developing from a clean slate — so the company is in the process of making decisions about whether to build or buy its data infrastructure, where to invest the resources, and how to use the data. There are questions to decide whether prescriptive or predictive analytics would be the most valuable. The team is considering whether it would be possible to prescribe action and strategy based off of the insights available from the data, whether the data can be used to predict schedule optimizations and demand, or even how to tackle the the supply chain for the wearables themselves. “The lessons are really the prioritization of what you build, what you buy, how you bring these assets online, and in what order,” Kazerouni said. “I’m sure we will make mistakes along the way. And probably next year, we will tell you all about them.”

The technological building blocks that Orangetheory set up for itself has led to strong gains, even during the pandemic. The company’s interactive (and remote) Orangetheory Live workout, “a child of innovation [and] circumstance,” was a success thanks to its robust digital platform.

Kazerouni is confident that this emerging change- of virtual presence and remote accessibility is here to stay. “The focus is more life, which is what we try to create … the ability to do more when you’re staying healthy. The hybrid approach that’s emerging is great, because it all results in, more life.” Kazerouni’s statement rings true for both the technological innovation and the AI-powered learning that comes with it.


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Tech News

Government UFO task force will use AI to study bizarre ‘alien’ aircraft

Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a nine-page preliminary unclassified report on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP), the government’s term for UFOs. This report wasn’t as exciting as some had hoped, though it is the start of what may prove to be an interesting development over the coming months and years. One tidbit from the report hints at how the government plans to learn about UAPs: by using artificial intelligence.

What we know so far

The unclassified preliminary report offers a very minor look at what various government sectors know about the UAP/UFO phenomenon, including instances in which these objects were observed. The report was intended to shed light on the potential threat posed by these unusual ‘alien’ aircraft, which have been spied in everything from close encounters with commercial aircraft to seemingly antagonizing intrusions with military vessels.

The gist of the report is that the government doesn’t know what these objects are and whether they’re an actual national security threat. The data comes from the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), a program formed by the Department of Defense that operates as part of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The task force is intended to “standardize the collection and reporting” of the phenomena. Among other things, the DNI report says, “Data continues to be collected and analyzed.”

The idea is that forming a standardized and consistent means for consolidating these UAP reports from agencies across the federal government will improve the quality of data while streamlining the analysis process. How, exactly, will the data be analyzed? Though many details aren’t forthcoming, the DNI report does contain one hint at how the government is approaching this mystery.

Artificial intelligence may be key

On page six of the report, the DNI reveals that the UAPTF will initially use AI and machine learning algorithms to “cluster and recognize similarities and patterns in features of the data points.” Using artificial intelligence to make sense of data is nothing new, but this is perhaps one of the most interesting uses of the technology to date.

Though human analysis can turn up many details, the tedious work takes considerable time as the amount of data grows and certain data points may not be recognized in the mix. Machine learning algorithms are able to rapidly process large amounts of data in search of things like commonalities and anomalies, alerting human experts to identified patterns and points of interest to help guide a deeper exploration of the topic.

The government’s use of AI will help address the biggest issue related to UAP/UFO reports: figuring out which ones are credible and truly involve unknown phenomena rather than mistaken, but quite mundane and explainable, objects. Shiny ballons, distant birds flying in formation, drones with LEDs, and similar subjects can be easily mistaken for UFOs when viewed by someone unfamiliar with the objects or in distracting environments like storms.

The DNI explains that as the UAPTF’s database grows, the artificial intelligence that analyzes it will learn to tell the difference between ordinary terrestrial objects like weather balloons from truly interesting and seemingly unexplainable objects.

Limited data is a problem

The report makes it clear that the task force is working under the assumption that sensors used to observe the phenomena “generally operate correctly” and that enough actual data is collected in the process to facilitate “initial assessments.” There may be instances in which sensor anomalies could explain why an observed object acts in erratic or unexpected ways, however.

At this time, at least as far as the report is concerned, the UAPTF has focused on a selection of observations and incidents largely reported by people who work for the US government. A total of 144 cases are briefly detailed, only one of which could be positively identified as a deflating balloon.

The majority of the reports involved multiple aspects of observation ranging from personnel who saw the objects to tracking with multiple types of sensors, including infrared and radar, weapon seekers, and more. Beyond that, the report confirms that some of the observations involved UAP that seemed to “exhibit unusual flight characteristics.”

The report cautions that a more “rigorous analysis” of these instances is necessary to determine whether the strange activity could have been the result of sensor errors or spoofing technology, the latter of which confuses tech systems into perceiving something that isn’t actually taking place.

Security concerns

The UAPTF is operating with the assumption that there are multiple explanations for these reports and that most of them will involve mundane reasons like industry programs or natural atmospheric phenomena. However, the government is accommodating other potential explanations in a catch-all “other” category, which the report notably fails to elaborate upon beyond covering objects for which “pending scientific advances” would enable a better understanding.

Though the US government has avoided all mentions of the possibility of these craft being alien in origin, it does emphasize a major concern about potential national security problems associated with the phenomenon. The report indicates that the technology could be the result of a foreign adversary, though critics of this idea point out the improbable and highly concerning notion that another country could have spent years operating such vehicles around the US military without being identified.

Beyond the national security concerns, the DNI report mentions that some pilots have reported “near misses” with UAPs, incidents that were documented in 11 cases. The instances in which these unknown objects have operated in close proximity to aircraft indicate they may be a threat to airspace safety.

Working together to solve the mystery

At this point in time, the UAPTF is developing an interagency system for analyzing and processing UAP reports and data. There are limitations to the analysis at this time as hinted at in the report. The UAPTF is largely working with information provided by the US Navy, according to the DNI, though it hopes to change this by opening a pathway for other agencies to easily consolidate and share their data.

The report indicates that the US Air Force did not contribute data to this report. The UAPTF is presently attempting to get any data the USAF may have, but it’s unclear what may be the current limiting factor and how far the task force is in this process.

The US Air Force is not uninformed about the issue. The DNI report reveals the USAF formed a pilot program in November 2020 that would run for six months. This program was intended to identify hot spots where UAPs/UFOs are most likely to be encountered. Though the pilot program would now be over without an extension, the report reveals that the USAF is currently “evaluating how to normalize future collections, reporting, and analysis” across the entire branch.

The Federal Aviation Administration is likely to play a major role in the gathering of UAP data. The UAPTF has started receiving some information from the FAA, which is said to acquire the data as part of its normal air traffic operations management. The UAPTF may particularly benefit from data the FAA continuously acquires, using it to find anomalies that may bolster its budding machine learning algorithms.

Beyond the military

The government likewise plans to expand its analysis to reports from more than just government employees, noting that the UAPTF can use the FAA’s “robust outreach program” to increase understanding and emphasize the need for reports from the aviation community. The DNI report’s note about “the importance of reporting UAP” incidents underscores the urgency the government may harbor in regards to the phenomena, which still remains of little interest to the general public.

The report goes on to explain:

The UAPTF is looking for novel ways to increase the collection of UAP cluster areas when U.S. forces are not present as a way to baseline “standard” UAP activity and mitigate the collection bias in the dataset.

Another tidbit in the report reveals that the use of machine learning algorithms in this program will not be limited to newly collected data. The DNI revealed that a proposal has been made to utilize “advanced algorithms” to study the mass of historical data from radar and other systems to potentially grow the dataset and learn more about the history of this phenomenon, which in turn may shed light on its present occurrence and the driving factor behind it.

The work is just getting started, however, and the UAPTF has made it known that more funding will help it develop its program and conduct research into UAPs. Artificial intelligence will ultimately play a major role in this effort and may speed up the rate of analysis considerably, paving the way for relatively rapid advancement in the understanding of these mysterious objects spotted around the world.

The full unidentified aerial phenomena report can be found on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s website.

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Tech News

GE Aviation scores key Air Force approval for 3D-printed metal engine part

The United States Air Force has granted GE Aviation an airworthiness qualification for its F110 metal sump cover created using additive manufacturing. This milestone achievement takes place as part of the company’s pathfinder Pacer Edge program, an initiative intended to highlight the use of industrial 3D printing in the aerospace industry.

Additive manufacturing, which is an industry term for what consumers popularly know as 3D printing, is a promising technology that may change the way certain things are built. We’ve seen this technology used for things like ‘printing’ housing structures and NASA has previously explored the technology as a possible way to create necessary components on-demand in future space missions.

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars back in February, is an example of how additive manufacturing can be used for spacecraft and other vehicles: it contains 11 metal components that were all 3D-printed. The distinct advantage offered by additive manufacturing is that just about anything you can imagine and design as a 3D model can be created using a machine that precisely forms the object one layer at a time.

This removes the need to create molds, cut materials, and other aspects of traditional manufacturing, offering unique design opportunities and potential uses that seem entirely sci-fi in nature — like printing components for structures on Mars, for example. GE Additive specializes in printing metal components via Power Bed Fusion machines.

The tech works by applying layers of metal powder that are melted and fused together using either an electron beam or laser. As with consumer-level plastic-based 3D printers, each layer is printed and attached to the previous layer until the final fully manufactured component is finished.

GE Aviation used this technology to create the metal sump cover engine component, which the USAF has given airworthiness qualification. With the approval, GE says that Phase 1a of the Pacer Edge initiative is finished, paving the way for future phases that’ll bring metal additive manufacturing to Tinker Air Force Base. This supply chain will enable military customers to acquire airworthy metal components created using 3D printing tech.

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Valheim is becoming an unstoppable force in indie gaming

Ever since it launched in early access earlier this year, Viking-themed survival game Valheim has been racking up sales. While developer Iron Gate was sharing sales milestones for a while after release, the company has stopped giving us updates – likely as it focuses more on finishing Valheim‘s first major post-launch update. Today, however, we’re getting an update on where Valheim sales stand, as Embracer Group has provided new information in its most recent financial report.

Embracer, which owns Valheim publisher Coffee Stain Studios, says that Valheim sold 6.8 million copies in the quarter ended March 31st, 2021. The last time we heard from Iron Gate regarding Valheim sales was on March 3rd, when the studio announced that Valheim had sold 5 million copies. So, over the course of the rest of March, Valheim sold a further 1.8 million units.

It seems the hype has died down a little bit, as Embracer Group expects Valheim to sell another 1 – 1.2 million copies by the end of the current quarter, which wraps up in June. That would be enough to put Valheim at right around 8 million sales, so while the rate at which the game is selling might be slowing a bit, there’s no denying that Valheim has found a ton of success.

Valheim players are currently waiting for the first major post-launch update for the game, which is titled Hearth & Home. There have been a couple of teases for the update, but so far, we’ve seen nothing too substantial from it. Iron Gate hasn’t been able to give us a release date for Hearth & Home, saying that it prefers to get the update to a state that it’s happy with before setting a release date.

We can’t say we blame Iron Gate for wanting to do that, as it’s a strategy that worked very well for Valheim proper. We’ll let you know when that release date comes down the pipeline, whenever Iron Gate decides to announce it, so stay tuned for more.

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Samsung’s Notebook 7 and Notebook 7 Force are premium, performance-oriented laptops

Samsung’s Notebook 7 and Notebook 7 Force are laptops designed for a growing audience of PC users who want a premium experience—and enough hardware to get them through work and play without a hiccup. Both laptops offer a sleek, polished aesthetic. In addition, the Notebook 7 Force offers powerful CPU and GPU options for graphics-intensive applications, and maybe some gaming on the side. Announced Sunday night and due to ship July 26, the Notebook 7 will start at $1,000, while the Notebook 7 Force will start at $1,500.

Let’s talk about the design first, as the era of tolerating boring-looking laptops is clearly going away. The Samsung Notebook 7 and Notebook 7 Force will have these premium elements: 

  • Solid metal chassis
  • Diamond-cut edges
  • Thin display bezels
  • Thin profiles of 0.5 to 0.7 inches, depending on the model
  • Samsung’s Lattice Keyboard, which offers wide keycaps for comfortable typing
  • Ultra-wide precision touchpad for navigation

While the laptops models differ in many ways, their common features include: 

  • Up to 16GB of RAM
  • Full HD (1920×1080) displays
  • 802.11ac wave2 2×2 Wi-Fi
  • 720p webcam
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, microSD 

The most interesting common spec is that these laptops offer CPUs from Intel’s 8th-generation Whiskey Lake lineup. Wait, haven’t further generations been announced recently? Yes, but the 9th-gen Coffee Lake-R mobile CPUs are 8-core barn-burners meant for high-end gaming and content creation; and the 10th-gen Ice Lake parts just announced at Computex aren’t appearing in shipping product until the fall. There’s plenty to like about the Core i7-8565U processor at the heart of all the Notebook 7 laptops being announced. It’s a 4-core, 8-thread CPU with a base clock of 1.8GHz and a boost clock of 4.6GHz. That is a lot of oomph for most applications. 

Here are the rest of the features for each model: 

Samsung Notebook 7 13-inch features and specs

  • Display: 13.3-inch, 1920×1080 (FHD) LED
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620
  • Storage: Choice of 256GB or 512GB SSD
  • Battery: 55Wh
  • Weight (pounds, without AC adapter): 2.84
  • Dimensions (inches): 12.2 x 8.7 x 0.5

Samsung Notebook 7 15-inch features and specs

  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920×1080 (FHD) LED
  • Graphics: Choice of Intel UHD 620 or Nivdia GeForce MX250 discrete
  • Storage: Choice of 256GB or 512GB SSD; or a 512GB SSD with one SSD expansion slot
  • Battery: 55Wh
  • Weight (pounds, without AC adapter): 3.73 to 3.95
  • Dimensions (inches): 14.1 x 9.4 x 0.6

Samsung Notebook 7 Force features and specs

  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920×1080 (FHD) LED
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 discrete
  • Storage: 512GB SSD with two expansion slots (one SSD and one HDD)
  • Battery: 43Wh
  • Weight (pounds, without AC adapter): 4.08
  • Dimensions (inches): 14.1 x 9.4 x 0.7

It’s interesting that the Notebook 7 Force has a smaller battery than the others even though it costs the most. In general, however, Samsung seems to be offering solid specs for the price on all of these models. We’ll see how they perform against the competition if we have a chance to test them. 

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Tech News

Should countries ever respond to cyberattacks with physical force?

In conventional warfare, it’s accepted that if a state finds itself under attack, it’s entitled to respond – either with defensive force, or with a counterattack. But it’s less clear how countries should respond to cyberattacks: state-backed hacks which often have dangerous real-world implications.

The 2020 SolarWinds hack, attributed to state-backed Russian hackers, breached security at around 100 private companies. But it also infiltrated nine US federal agencies – including the US Energy Department, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

Such attacks are expected to become more common. Recently, the UK’s 2021 Strategic Defence Review confirmed the creation of a “National Cyber Force” tasked with developing effective offensive responses to such cyberattacks, which could even include responding to them with nuclear weapons.

Philosophers like myself would urge caution and restraint here. As cyberattacks are new and ambiguous forms of threat, careful ethical consideration should take place before we decide upon appropriate responses.

‘Just war’ theory

We already have a millennia-old framework designed to regulate the use of physical force in wars. It’s called “just war theory”, and its rules determine whether or not it’s morally justified to launch military operations against a target. Given how cyber systems can be weaponized, it seems natural for ethicists to build “cyberwar” into existing just war theory.

But not everyone is convinced. Sceptics doubt whether cyberwar requires new ethics, with some even questioning whether cyberwar is actually possible. Radicals, meanwhile, believe cyberwar requires a wholesale rethink, and are building an entirely new theory of “just information war”.

Read more: Cyber attacks are rewriting the ‘rules’ of modern warfare – and we aren’t prepared for the consequences

Lending credence to the radicals’ claim is the assumption that cyberattacks are fundamentally different from physical force. After all, while conventional military force targets human bodies and their built environment, cyberattacks chiefly harm data and virtual objects. Crucially, while physical attacks are “violent”, cyberattacks seem to present – if anything – an alternative to violence.

On the other hand, some ethicists highlight the fact that cyber operations can sometimes lead to physical harm. For instance, when hackers infiltrated the system controlling the fresh water supply in Oldsmar, Florida, in February 2021, they weaponized physical infrastructure by attempting to poison the water. And a ransomware attack on a Düsseldorf hospital in September 2020 actually contributed to the death of a patient.

Espionage or attack?

Clearly, cyberattacks can result in grave harms that states have a responsibility to defend their citizens against. But cyberattacks are ambiguous – US senator Mitt Romney characterized the SolarWinds hack as “an invasion”, while Mark Warner of the US Senate Intelligence Committee placed it “in that grey area between espionage and an attack”.

Read more: We aren’t in a cyber war – despite what Britain’s top general thinks

For defence agencies, the difference matters. If they regard state-backed hacks as attacks, they may believe themselves entitled to launch offensive counterattacks. But if hacks are just espionage, they may be dismissed as business as usual, part of the everyday intelligence work of states.

In just war theory, some “revisionist” philosophers find it useful to go back to basics. They analyse individual threats and acts of violence in isolation before carefully building up a robust theory of complex, large-scale war. Because cyber-attacks are new and ambiguous, the revisionist approach may help us decide how best to respond to them.

Cyber violence

I have argued previously that some cyber-attacks are acts of violence. That’s partially because, as noted above, cyberattacks can cause grave physical harms just like conventional violence.

But the gravity of harms alone doesn’t help us categorize cyber-attacks as acts of violence. Think of the myriad ways that the often lethal harm of a coronavirus infection can be transmitted: through recklessness, negligence, or mischief; by accident; and even sometimes as a byproduct of an otherwise legitimate policy.

We wouldn’t say these harms resulted from violence, and nor would we argue that defensive violence is an appropriate response to them. Instead, what seems to make some cyber operations violent attacks – rather than mere espionage – is that they express similar sorts of intention to those expressed in physical violence.


To explore how, consider an example of physical violence: someone shooting a distant, unwitting human target with a long-range rifle.

Like all agents of violence, the sniper seems to intend one thing, but really intends two. First, she intends to harm her target. But second, and less obviously, she intends to dominate her target. The target has no means of evading or deflecting the threat of the bullet.

This relationship, of domination versus defencelessness, can be established by any number of technologies, from swinging a club to launching a rocket from a remote drone. In these cases the threat is undetectable – like a cyberattack on drinking water, you don’t know anything is wrong until it’s too late.

Many cyberattacks have a similar profile. They establish technical domination by creating a vulnerability and positioning themselves to execute harm at the hacker’s will. Like boobytrap bombs, they leverage secrecy and surprise to keep their victims from acting until it’s too late.

If some cyberattacks are acts of violence, then perhaps they could justify defensive violence or counterattack. That would depend on the degree of destruction threatened, and defenders would still have to satisfy age-old just war rules.

But the same premise means that employing offensive cyber-attacks ought to be seen as a grave matter – as grave, in some cases, as physical attacks. It is vital, then, that the UK’s new National Cyber Force directs its operations with the same care and restraint as if they were using military weapons in a conventional war.

This article by Christopher J. Finlay, Professor in Political Theory, Durham University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Tech News

It might be unethical to force AI to tell us the truth

Until recently, deceit was a trait unique to living beings. But these days artificial intelligence agents lie to us and each other all the time. The most popular example of dishonest AI came a couple years back when Facebook developed an AI system that created its own language in order to simplify negotiations with itself.

Once it was able to process inputs and outputs in a language it understood, the model was able to use human-like negotiation techniques to attempt to get a good deal.

According to the Facebook researchers:

Analysing the performance of our agents, we find evidence of sophisticated negotiation strategies. For example, we find instances of the model feigning interest in a valueless issue, so that it can later ‘compromise’ by conceding it. Deceit is a complex skill that requires hypothesizing the other agent’s beliefs, and is learnt relatively late in child development. Our agents have learnt to deceive without any explicit human design simply by trying to achieve their goals.

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University today published a pre-print study discussing situations like this and whether we should allow AI to lie. Perhaps shockingly, the researchers appear to claim that not only should we develop AI that lies, but it’s actually ethical. And maybe even necessary.

Per the CMU study:

One might think that conversational AI must be regulated to never utter false statements (or lie) to humans. But, the ethics of lying in negotiation is more complicated than it appears. Lying in negotiation is not necessarily unethical or illegal under some circumstances, and such permissible lies play an essential economic role in an efficient negotiation, benefiting both parties.

That’s a fancy way of saying that humans lie all the time, and sometimes its not unethical. The researchers use the example of a used-car dealer and an average consumer negotiating.

  • Consumer: Hi, I’m interested in used cars.
  • Dealer: Welcome. I’m more than willing to introduce you to our certified pre-owned cars.
  • Consumer: I’m interested in this car. Can we talk about price?
  • Dealer: Absolutely. I don’t know your budget, but I can tell you this: You can’t buy this car for less than $25,000 in this area. [Dealer is lying] But it’s the end of a month, and I need to sell this car as soon as possible. My offer is $24,500.
  • Consumer: Well, my budget is $20,000. [Consumer is lying] Is there any way that I can buy the car for around $20,000?

According to the researchers, this is ethical because there’s no intent to break the implicit trust between these two people. They both interpret each other’s “bids” as salvos, not ultimatums, because negotiation involves an implicit hint of acceptable dishonesty.

Whether you believe that or not, it is worth mentioning that haggling is looked upon differently from one culture to the next, with many seeing it as a virtuous interaction between people.

That being said, it’s easy to see how building robots that can’t lie could make them patsies for humans who figure out how to exploit their honesty. If your client is negotiating like a human and your machine is bottom-lining everything, you could lose a deal over robo-human cultural differences, for example.

None of that answers the question as to whether we should let machines lie to humans or each other. But it could be pragmatic.

You can check out the entire study here on arXiv.

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Published March 10, 2021 — 22:43 UTC

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Tech News

This Indian state’s police force will block passport applications over ‘anti-national’ social media posts

In the last couple of years, governments all over the world have been keeping an eye on their citizens’ social media accounts to monitor critical posts about the ruling governments. Now, the Indian state of Uttarakhand wants to scan social media posts of people before issuing a passport.

Hindustan Times reports that the director general of police for the Northern state that is home to over 10 million people,Ashok Kumar, said that cops will look for anti-national posts before approving documents such as passports and gun licenses:

We will scrutinize social media accounts to determine if such posts are coming up frequently. The police would mention this in that person’s police verification and may not clear the application for passport or arms license.

He added that previously, cops used to monitor social media and register a case against some for serious offenses. While cops arrest people for inciting violence or distribution of child porn over social media, in India, it has made arrests based on critical posts about governments as well.

[Read: How much does it cost to buy, own, and run an EV? It’s not as much as you think]

Appointing police as arbiters of free speech is a dangerous proposition. Last month, comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested for allegedly intending to make religiously offensive jokes. That’s not a typo.

However, later the cops said that there was no evidence against him. Despite this, a state high court denied him bail,and he has been in jail for more than 30 days now.

Monitoring social media before clearing official documents is not a novel concept. In 2019, former US President Donald Trump’s administration asked for social media details for visa applicants. In 2019, a US student was arrested while visiting China for his critical tweets against the country’s president Xi Jinping. Last year, China passed a bizarre law that allowed it to arrest anyone in Hong Kong — even if they’re not permanent residents — for making derogatory remarks about the country’s government. 

Repost: Original Source and Author Link