Steam Powered Spacecraft, Low Cost Smart Bombs, and Maduro Targets Opponents Using DNS
Teb’s Weekly Tech Digest
The University of Central Florida has unveiled a fantastic example of the old adage, “what’s old becomes new again,” with a new spacecraft that uses steam power. The idea is that asteroids have a lot of ice on them, which can be harvested and converted into steam then released to provide propulsion without having to haul the fuel all the way from Earth. In other space news, a submersible drone is being tested here on Earth with the long term goal of exploring one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa. The moon is a center of hope for people seeking alien life in our solar system since it’s covered in ice and water.
Facebook made the news in slightly contradictory ways this week. First, the Wall Street Journal reported on Facebook’s massive data purchasing strategy, giving them access to data you generated while using non-Facebook apps. On the other hand, they also announced their plans to release a tool to let you delete your Facebook history. It’s not entirely clear what exactly the tool will allow you to purge from Facebook’s databases, but it might be a sign that Facebook is actually starting to listen to consumers about privacy concerns.
The company that brought you the AK-47 is once again “democratizing” armaments, this time with a low cost smart bomb. The remote controlled drone flies at ~80 miles per hour and can carry up to 6.6 pounds of explosive. Because the world so desperately needs more cheap, flexible, remote controlled, flying explosives…
A couple of cool deep learning applications made the news. One of my favorites was DeepSqueak, a tool that helps researchers collect, categorize, and study the sounds that rats make in the lab. Researchers have long known that rat vocalizations are related the the rats feelings, stress levels, and other scientifically valuable information, but capturing and reviewing the audio data is a huge headache. DeepSqueak uses machine learning to automate some of the most painful parts of that research. In other deep learning news, Google says they’re using deep learning to optimize their use of wind power.
In Venezuela the Domain Name System (DNS) was hijacked as part of a phishing scheme. Internet users who thought they were going to a website associated with one of Maduro’s main opponents, Juan Guaido, we’re actually directed to a website controlled by Maduro’s government. Would be opposition activists then entered personal information such as their name, email address, and phone number into the phishing website. The attack is a reminder that DNS is still highly vulnerable. There were several similar DNS poisoning attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges last year.
In other security news, the U.S. Cyber Command temporarily shut down internet access from the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s well known troll factory. The operation to itself is not a significant blow to any of Russia’s cyber operations, but many are taking it as a sign that U.S. intelligence agencies intend on taking Russian propaganda and cyber warfare efforts more seriously. Some argue this will deter Russia from further action against the United States, others say it could be the start of a new arms race.
One last thing, in case you were confused by Donald Trump’s comments, Wired wants you to know that 6G is not a thing.