Prof says he'll grade students on a curve, so they organize a boycott of the exams and all get As

Johns Hopkins Computer Science prof Professor Peter Fröhlich grades his students on a curve: the highest score on the final gets an A and everyone else is graded accordingly. Read the rest

Teaching computers to pick a conversation out of a noisy room

Human beings have a weird, poorly-understood ability to pick a single conversation out of a noisy room, it's called the "cocktail party effect" and while its exact mechanism isn't totally understood, researchers do know that vision plays a role in it, and that being able to see the speaker helps you pick their words out of a crowd. Read the rest

Stealing data from airgapped computers by using power fluctuations as a covert channel

Ben Gurion university's Mordechai Guri is a master exfiltrator, a computer scientist who's devised a bewildering array of innovative techniques for getting data off of "airgapped" computers that have been fully disconnected from any kind of network. Read the rest

You can unscramble the hashes of humanity's 5 billion email addresses in ten milliseconds for $0.0069

Marketing companies frequently "anonymize" their dossiers on internet users using hashes of their email addresses -- rather than the email addresses themselves -- as identifiers in databases that are stored indefinitely, traded, sold, and leaked. Read the rest

UC Berkeley offers its Foundations of Data Science course for free online

Berkeley's "Foundations of Data Science" boasts the fastest-growing enrollment of any course in UC Berkeley history, and now it's free on the university's Edx distance-education platform. Read the rest

Machine learning projects for kids

Dale Lane's Machine Learning for Kids project uses extensions to the popular Scratch programming environment to teach the basics of machine learning to children. Read the rest

Law professors and computer scientists mull whether America's overbroad "hacking" laws ban tricking robots

Robot law pioneer Ryan Calo (previously) teamed up with U Washington computer science and law-school colleagues to write Is Tricking a Robot Hacking? -- a University of Washington School of Law Research Paper. Read the rest

Attacks that unmask anonymous blockchain transactions can be used against everyone who ever relied on the defective technique

In An Empirical Analysis of Traceability in the Monero Blockchain, a group of eminent computer scientists analyze a longstanding privacy defect in the Monero cryptocurrency, and reveal a new, subtle flaw, both of which can be used to potentially reveal the details of transactions and identify their parties. Read the rest

Invisible, targeted infrared light can fool facial recognition software into thinking anyone is anyone else

A group of Chinese computer scientists from academia and industry have published a paper documenting a tool for fooling facial recognition software by shining hat-brim-mounted infrared LEDs on the user's face, projecting CCTV-visible, human-eye-invisible shapes designed to fool the face recognition software. Read the rest

A proposal to stop 3D printers from making guns is a perfect parable of everything wrong with information security

Many people worry that 3D printers will usher in an epidemic of untraceable "ghost guns," particularly guns that might evade some notional future gun control regime that emerges out of the current movement to put sensible, minimal curbs on guns, particularly anti-personnel guns. Read the rest

Machine-learning-based image classifier can tell when the bus and bike-lanes are illegally obstructed

New York's cyclists and bus-riders are certain they're being slowed and endangered by an epidemic of illegal lane-obstructions from delivery vehicles, taxis and Ubers, but policymakers have refused to do anything about it, saying that the evidence is all anaecdotal. Read the rest

People are stashing irrevocable child porn links, dox, copyright infringement, and leaked state secrets in the blockchain

By design, data placed in the blockchain is visible to everyone in the world and can never be removed; everyone who mines bitcoin makes a copy of the blockchain, and so any illegal content stashed in the blockchain ends up on the computers of every miner. Read the rest

Machine learning has a reproducibility crisis

Machine learning is often characterized as much an "art" as a "science" and in at least one regard, that's true: its practitioners are prone to working under loosely controlled conditions, using training data that is being continuously tweaked with no versioning; modifying parameters during runs (because it takes too long to wait for the whole run before making changes); squashing bugs mid-run; these and other common practices mean that researchers often can't replicate their own results -- and virtually no one else can, either. Read the rest

Machine learning models keep getting spoofed by adversarial attacks and it's not clear if this can ever be fixed

Machine learning models use statistical analysis of historical data to predict future events: whether you are a good candidate for a loan, whether you will violate parole, or whether the thing in the road ahead is a stop sign or a moose. Read the rest

A mechanical, wooden Turing machine

Richard J. Ridel's all-wooden, mechanical Turing machine uses the smallest set of data elements capable of computing any calculation: 0, 1 and blank; it was inspired by Ridel's viewing of The Imitation Game. Read the rest

A crypto primer in the form of Ikea instructions

"Idea-instructions" bills itself as "An ongoing series of nonverbal algorithm assembly instructions", with a half-dozen illustrations of popular computer science concepts covered to date; the latest covers Public-Key Crypto, one of the most important and elusive concepts from modern crypto. Read the rest

Excellent explainer: how consensus algorithms (including Bitcoin/blockchain) work

The creation of "public ledgers" -- like blockchain, popularized by Bitcoin -- requires "consensus algorithms" that allow mutually untrusted, uncoordinated parties to agree on a world-readable, distributed list of things (domain names, transactions, title deeds, etc), something that cryptography makes possible in a variety of ways. Read the rest

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