Defending against Spectre and Meltdown attacks

In January the technology world was rattled by the discovery of Meltdown and Spectre, two major security vulnerabilities in the processors that can be found in virtually every computer on the planet. Perhaps the most alarming thing about these vulnerabilities is that they didn’t stem from normal software bugs or physical CPU problems. Instead, they arose from the architecture of the processors themselves — that is, the millions of transistors that work together to execute operations. “These attacks fundamentally changed our understanding of what’s trustworthy in a system, and force us to re-examine where we devote security resources,” says Ilia Lebedev, a PhD student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “They’ve shown that we need to be paying much more attention to the microarchitecture of systems.” Lebedev and his colleagues believe that they’ve made an important new breakthrough in this field, with an approach that makes it Continue reading Defending against Spectre and Meltdown attacks

Exploring the future of learning through virtual and augmented reality

At a recent on-campus symposium titled “VR, Sound and Cinema: Implications for Storytelling and Learning,” MIT Open Learning explored the future of storytelling and learning through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).   The event featured a panel of faculty and industry experts in VR/AR, cinema, and storytelling, showcasing the power of these tools and their potential impact on learning. Speakers included Sanjay Sarma, vice president for Open Learning; Fox Harrell, a professor of digital media and artificial intelligence at MIT; Academy Award-winning director Shekhar Kapur; Berklee College of Music Professor Susan Rogers; Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini; and Edgar Choueiri, a professor of applied physics at Princeton University. Harrell, who is currently working on a new VR/AR project with MIT Open Learning, studies new forms of computational narrative, gaming, social media, and related digital media based in computer science. His talk focused on answering the question: “How do virtual realities impact our learning and Continue reading Exploring the future of learning through virtual and augmented reality

Cryptographic protocol enables greater collaboration in drug discovery

MIT researchers have developed a cryptographic system that could help neural networks identify promising drug candidates in massive pharmacological datasets, while keeping the data private. Secure computation done at such a massive scale could enable broad pooling of sensitive pharmacological data for predictive drug discovery. Datasets of drug-target interactions (DTI), which show whether candidate compounds act on target proteins, are critical in helping researchers develop new medications. Models can be trained to crunch datasets of known DTIs and then, using that information, find novel drug candidates. In recent years, pharmaceutical firms, universities, and other entities have become open to pooling pharmacological data into larger databases that can greatly improve training of these models. Due to intellectual property matters and other privacy concerns, however, these datasets remain limited in scope. Cryptography methods to secure the data are so computationally intensive they don’t scale well to datasets beyond, say, tens of thousands Continue reading Cryptographic protocol enables greater collaboration in drug discovery

Explore the World’s Coolest Robots, All in One Place

New IEEE site features 200 robots from 19 countries with hundreds of photos, videos, and interactives to get people excited about robotics and STEM We’re launching today a new massive guide to all things robotic, with over 820 photos, 680 videos, and 40 interactives. It’s a fun site designed for robot enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. You should go check it out right now. Seriously, stop reading this and go to robots.ieee.org. ⏳ ⏳ ⏳ Hey you’re back! Found some cool robots? Clicked on any creepy ones? We really hope there was something that captured your interest. A major goal of the ROBOTS site—which is an expansion of our Robots App from a few years back—is being a resource for anyone interested in robotics, no matter if you’re a beginner or a robot legend.

How Political Campaigns Weaponize Social Media Bots

Analysis of computational propaganda in the 2016 U.S. presidential election reveals the reach of bots Illustration: Jude Buffum In the summer of 2017, a group of young political activists in the United Kingdom figured out how to use the popular dating app Tinder to attract new supporters. They understood how Tinder’s social networking platform worked, how its users tended to use the app, and how its algorithms distributed content, and so they built a bot to automate flirty exchanges with real people. Over time, those flirty conversations would turn to politics—and to the strengths of the U.K.’s Labour Party. To send its messages, the bot would take over a Tinder profile owned by a Labour-friendly user who’d agreed to the temporary repurposing of his or her account. Eventually, the bot sent somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 messages, targeting 18- to 25-year-olds in constituencies where the Labour candidates were running in tight Continue reading How Political Campaigns Weaponize Social Media Bots