Dhaka, Jul 10 (UNB) - A security firm says deepfaked audio is being used to steal millions of pounds, reports the BBC.
Symantec said it had seen three cases of seemingly deepfaked audio of different chief executives used to trick senior financial controllers into transferring cash.
Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to create convincing fake footage.
The AI system could be trained using the "huge amount" of audio the average chief executive would have innocently made available, Symantec said.
Corporate videos, earning calls, media appearances as well as conference keynotes and presentations would all be useful for fakers looking to build a model of someone's voice, chief technology officer Dr Hugh Thompson said.
"The model can probably be almost perfect," he said.
And they had used background noise to cleverly mask the least convincing syllables and words.
"Really," said Dr Thompson, "who would not fall for something like that?"
Dr Alexander Adam, a data scientist at AI specialist Faculty, said it would take a substantial investment of time and money to produce good audio fakes.
'Training the models costs thousands of pounds," he said.
"This is because you need a lot of compute power and the human ear is very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, so getting the model to sound truly realistic takes a lot of time."
Typically, he said, hours of good quality audio was needed to help capture the rhythms and intonation of a target's speech patterns.
Dhaka, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) - Amazon and Microsoft are battling it out over a $10 billion opportunity to build the U.S. military its first "war cloud" computing system. But Amazon's early hopes of a shock-and-awe victory may be slipping away.
Formally called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure plan, or JEDI, the military's computing project would store and process vast amounts of classified data, allowing the Pentagon to use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities. The Defense Department hopes to award the winner-take-all contract as soon as August. Oracle and IBM were eliminated at an earlier round of the contract competition.
But that's only if the project isn't derailed first. It faces a legal challenge by Oracle and growing congressional concerns about alleged Pentagon favoritism toward Amazon. Military officials hope to get started soon on what will be a decade-long business partnership they describe as vital to national security.
"This is not your grandfather's internet," said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a defense-oriented think tank. "You're talking about a cloud where you can go from the Pentagon literally to the soldier on the battlefield carrying classified information."
Amazon was considered an early favorite when the Pentagon began detailing its cloud needs in 2017, but its candidacy has been marred by an Oracle allegation that Amazon executives and the Pentagon have been overly cozy. Oracle has a final chance to make its case against Amazon — and the integrity of the government's bidding process — in a court hearing Wednesday.
"This is really the cloud sweepstakes, which is why there are such fierce lawsuits," said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.
Ives said an opportunity that was a "no brainer" for Amazon a year ago now seems just as likely to go to Microsoft, which has spent the past year burnishing its credentials to meet the government's security requirements.
For years, Amazon Web Services has been the industry leader in moving businesses and other institutions onto its cloud — a term used to describe banks of servers in remote data centers that can be accessed from almost anywhere. But Microsoft's Azure cloud platform has been steadily catching up, as have other providers such as Google, in both corporate and government settings.
With an acronym evoking Star Wars and a price tag of up to $10 billion over the next decade, JEDI has attracted more attention than most cloud deals. A cloud strategy document unveiled by the Defense Department last year calls for replacing the military's "disjointed and stove-piped information systems" with a commercial cloud service "that will empower the warfighter with data and is critical to maintaining our military's technological advantage."
In a court filing last month, Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo said further delays in the Oracle case will "hamper our critical efforts in AI" as the U.S. tries to maintain its advantage over adversaries who are "weaponizing their use of data." Shwedo said JEDI's computing capabilities could help the U.S. analyze data collected from surveillance aircraft, predict when equipment needs maintenance and speed up communications if fiber and satellite connections go down.
Amazon was considered an early front-runner for the project in part because of its existing high-security cloud contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. It beat out IBM for that deal in 2013.
Worried that the Pentagon's bid seemed tailor-made for Amazon, rivals Oracle and IBM lodged formal protests last year arguing against the decision to award it to a single vendor.
In an October blog post , IBM executive Sam Gordy wrote that a single-cloud approach went against industry trends and "would give bad actors just one target to focus on should they want to undermine the military's IT backbone."
The Government Accountability Office later dismissed those protests, but Oracle persisted by taking its case to the Court of Federal Claims, where it has pointed to emails and other documents that it says show conflicts of interest between Amazon and the government. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for Wednesday. The case has delayed the procurement process, though the Pentagon says it hopes to award the contract as early as Aug. 23.
Oracle's argument is centered on the activities of a Defense Department official who later went to work for Amazon. Amazon says Oracle has exaggerated that employee's role in the procurement using "tabloid sensationalism."
Some defense-contracting experts say the conflict allegations are troubling.
"No one seems to deny that these were actual conflicts and the players affirmatively attempted to conceal them," said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University. "That simply cannot be tolerated."
But Goure, whose think tank gets funding from Amazon but not from its cloud rivals Microsoft, Oracle or IBM, said the criticism is "coming from the also-rans." He says rivals like Oracle "missed the boat" in cloud technology and are trying to make up lost ground through legal maneuvers.
The Pentagon has repeatedly defended its bidding process, though the concerns have trickled into Congress and onto prime-time TV. Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted a segment last month to the cloud contract that questioned an Amazon executive's 2017 meeting with then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Carlson also aired concerns by Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who said "the allegations are incredible" and should be investigated.
A Wall Street Journal report on Sunday further detailed government emails about that meeting and another one between Mattis and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos later that year. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that there are so many questions that the Pentagon should "restart the whole process" and wait until its inspector general can thoroughly review for potential conflicts.
Amazon said in a statement Tuesday the meetings "had nothing to do with the JEDI procurement" and blamed "misinformed or disappointed competitors" for trying to imply otherwise.
Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith said while military leaders are expected to engage with industry, no one in the defense secretary's "front office" participated in drafting the contract requirements or soliciting bids.
Ives said it remains to be seen how much the conflict allegations will hurt Amazon or help Microsoft. Microsoft has largely stayed quiet during the dispute. In a statement, it focused on highlighting its 40-year partnership supplying the military with services such as email.
Nanjing, July 10 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A Chinese university signed an agreement with the team of the Blue Brain Project, an attempt by Swiss scientists to create synthetic brains, to conduct brain science research together.
Southeast University in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, and the European team will jointly build a database of cranial nerves accessible to global brain scientists for research of brain neurons and related medicine development, according to the deal they inked on Monday.
Sean Hill, member of the Blue Brain Project, said Southeast University, which is the first academic institute they have cooperated with in China, is well-equipped with the neuromorphic reconstruction technology they need.
Researchers of both sides will try to realize large-scale reconstruction of brain neurons through technologies like machine vision and virtual reality in a bid to explore brain and brain-like intelligence, said Peng Hanchuan, a researcher with the university.
Founded in 2005, the Blue Brain Project is a brain research initiative that aims to create a digital reconstruction of rodent and eventually human brains.
Tokyo, July 10 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe on Wednesday began its descent to an asteroid called Ryugu about 250 million km from earth where it will collect samples from an artificial crater that may contain water and organic substances, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
This will be the second time the probe has landed on the asteroid, with the latest landing aimed at collecting debris from a crater made in April by the probe when it fired a projectile at the Ryugu’s surface, the agency said.
Organic substances and water may be contained in the new samples to be collected by Hayabusa2, and along with a number of exploratory activities, JAXA's mission to Ryugu and the probe’s findings are hoped to possibly reveal clues about the solar system’s evolution and possibly the beginning of life itself.
According to JAXA, the probe began its descent at around 11:00 a.m. local time, from a position of 20 km above the asteroid’s surface, at a speed of 40 centimeters per second.
When the probe is five km above Ryugu’s surface on Wednesday night, its speed of descent will be slowed to 10 cm per second, said JAXA.
New York, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) — Uber passengers can now get a more spacious ride and a less talkative driver — if they're willing to shell out a few extra dollars.
The ride-hailing giant launched "comfort" rides in dozens of cities Tuesday. Riders are guaranteed 36 inches of legroom in "newer" cars — meaning those that are under five years old — and they can request a preferred air temperature. Riders can also use the app to tell drivers they don't want to chat, avoiding what some consider an awkward exchange.
Uber is responding to requests from business travelers and others who say they just want to work or rest quietly when they're on their way to the airport.
"It's a way to set up an expectation up front...it takes some guess work out of the process," said Aydin Ghajar, senior product manager at Uber.
In the early days of ride-hailing, when drivers for Uber and its main U.S. rival Lyft began picking up riders in their personal cars, riders were often chatty, asking the drivers lots of questions.
"It was so new and innovative that a lot of people were curious about other things they (drivers) did," said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. "Over the years, it's gotten more transactional."
Uber rolled out a "quiet mode" for Uber Black — its premium car service — in May, which left some drivers feeling like robots.
"Some drivers like it, they don't want to have to look at social cues," Campbell said. "Other drivers feel that it's a little dehumanizing...I do feel like in our society, everything is turning into an app, and we're losing the lost art of conversation."
Comfort rides cost 20% to 40% more for time and distance charges than standard Uber X rides.
The move could help Uber boost revenue, which could nudge the company closer to profitability.
"I think it would help maybe to boost those numbers up a little bit and maybe give some of the analysts on Wall Street something more to hang their hat on to remain bullish on the stock, based on the fact that the company still is not profitable," said Daniel Morgan, vice president of Synovus Trust Company.
Uber has yet to turn a profit and lost $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Executives have said it could take years to make money.
It's unknown whether the benefits offered by Uber Comfort will be enough to convince riders to cough up more cash. A five-year-old car is not really "newer," it's more "middle aged," said Morgan. And at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, the additional legroom wouldn't really be enough for Morgan — but it might be sufficient for people who are average height, he said.
"They might try it once and see if it's that much more of an improvement and worth it," Morgan said. "If they can't deliver it and it's not that much more comfortable, then it's like well, I'm not really going to pay up for it."
Uber declined to provide an average age for its drivers' cars, and said age requirements for vehicles vary by city.
Uber's smaller rival Lyft offers "Lyft Lux" rides, which are in high-end sedans or SUVs with leather seats and more legroom. Lux cars are driven by drivers with a 4.85-star rating or above, and cost more than a standard Lyft ride or the company's less-expensive Shared ride. But riders do not have the option of requesting a quiet, conversation-free ride.
Uber already has some premium products that cost more than the basic Uber X. For example, Uber Black includes high-end cars driven by professional drivers and offers a "quiet mode." Families or groups of six can choose Uber XL to get a van or SUV. Uber Select connects riders with highly rated drivers. On the other end of the spectrum, Uber Pool is the cheapest option, but riders have to share the car with passengers going to other destinations.
Uber says its Uber Black product will generally cost more than Uber Comfort, but specific pricing will vary by city.
Drivers who qualify for can make about 20% more on an Uber Comfort ride than Uber X ride, said Uber spokesman Steve Imm. But some drivers earned less during an Uber Comfort pilot, because their cars qualified for the pricier Uber Select or Uber XL options, and they couldn't easily opt out of the Uber Comfort option, Campbell said. Drivers will now be able to opt out of Uber Comfort using the app, Imm said.