A Microsoft initiative seeks to inspire women to work on technological projects related to artificial intelligence (AI). The young women spent a weekend in San Francisco and Seattle to solve creative problems through the power of artificial intelligence. The two events were part of an AI summer camp program organized by Microsoft.
This program started in 2018 in Athens. Since then, the technology company has expanded its reach with summits in London at the end of the same year and in New York in 2019. In the video, a compilation of the three events in the United States is shown.
“I was impressed not only by the willingness of these young women to spend a whole weekend to learn and adopt this opportunity but also for the quality of the projects,” said Didem Un Ates, one of the program organizers and director for AI within Microsoft. “It’s only two days, but what comes to mind always leaves us with our mouths open.”
Despite their age, the girls worked on projects with global impact that seek to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are considered the most complicated and highest priority for the world. As a result of these weekend projects, dozens of innovative products were presented.
The initiative of these young women can solve problems as diverse as ocean pollution, nutritional needs, mental health, acne, and climate change.
At the events in the United States, 129 girls attended who now want to pursue careers that help solve those problems. Now they see themselves as “Alice,” a pet created by the project team to represent the qualities that young women possess that lend themselves to changing the world through AI.
The organizers plan to expand the scope of these events. They aim to motivate young women from all over the world, so they can learn about the possibilities they have of pursuing careers in technology.
The current advances in artificial intelligence make it one of the technologies that will have the most substantial impact on the fourth industrial revolution. Companies that integrate it into their work processes will have a competitive advantage over those that have not yet decided to do so. Meanwhile, international organizations estimate that this will have a meaningful impact on the increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Latin America.
At the same time that this technology shows unquestionable progress, more people and organizations express concern about the use that could be given to these technologies. These concerns range from threats to computer security to worries about how they could affect jobs.
However, new concerns have recently emerged with this technology that has to do more about how it can be used to create fake news in the world.
Fake news made by Artificial Intelligence
There is growing concern about fake news spread virally and organically by people on social networks. The danger of misinformation now grows with the possibility that Artificial Intelligence automatically creates a false report.
This possibility made the OpenAI artificial intelligence research institute decide not to publish in its entirety a program that writes fake news.
The MIT Technology Review published in February the discovery of the researchers of this institute. They proved that a linguistic algorithm for general purposes could be trained with a large number of texts from the web. This IA algorithm allows you to do translations, answer questions, and do other useful tasks. However, they soon realized that this technology could also be used to create abusive content.
“We started to test it, and we quickly realized that it was possible to generate malicious content much easier.”
Jack Clark, Policy Director at OpenAI
The program can work just by putting a phrase like “Russia declares war on the United States after Trump accidentally …” and the language processing algorithm does the rest of the work.
For Clark, this program shows how AI can be used to generate compelling fake news, as well as publications for social networks or content generation. The OpenAI team is concerned that this tool can be used by those who deny reports on climate change or to generate scandals at election time.
In a short time, artificial intelligence will be able to produce fake news, offensive twits, or offensive comments that can be more convincing.
“It is very clear that if this technology matures – and I give it between one or two years – it can be used for misinformation and propaganda.”
Jack Clark, Policy Director at OpenAI
OpenAI tries to go one step further in these scenarios. The research team not only does research in this field but also plays an active role in the face of the potential risks of artificial intelligence. This organization participated in the creation of a report published in 2018 that indicates the dangers of this technology, including the risks for disinformation.
Concerns about how this technology can be used in the future caused OpenAI to publish only a simplified version of the algorithm.
Other AI dangers
On previous occasions, OpenAI has warned about the need to keep AI investigations secret because of their potential hazards. This position was sustained in a study published in 2018 together with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in addition to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
AI has the potential to improve industry processes and make the economy more productive. However, this technology also creates new opportunities for criminals or oppressive governments.
Among the risks that have been pointed out is the possibility of creating smarter scams for the theft of information and identity, malware that disperses as an epidemic, robots used to kill and the possibility of creating a panoptic that monitors the behavior of everyone.
All new technology has always generated new concerns
These scenarios add to the concerns that already exist about the jobs that can be eliminated by this technology. The paths that you take in the future will depend on us moving forward to the most catastrophic scenarios.
For Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, concerns about new technologies have been a constant over the past 200 years. At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held at the end of August 2019 in Shanghai, the founder of e-commerce Alibaba mentioned that “In every technological revolution, people start to worry. In the last 200 years, we have worried that new technology will take our jobs.”
In the past, Jack Ma was a defender of the 996 working day in China, which promotes working 12 hours every six weeks in technology companies. However, at the conference in Shanghai, where Elon Musk was also present, Ma said that in the future these workdays will not be necessary and that people will be able to work less and less. “I believe that in the future people will be able to work three days a week, four hours a day.”
“I think that thanks to artificial intelligence, people will have more time to enjoy being human beings.”
Elon Musk’s statements that warn about how it could threaten humanity itself are well known in the community of innovators. Elon Musk believes that Artificial Intelligence can make humans relegated to the role of domestic cats. With this in mind, the South African entrepreneur and innovator founded the Neuralink startup, which aims to investigate how human beings could connect our brains to computers. So far, this is an idea that has produced good science fiction stories – such as the Star Trek or San Junípero Borgs of Black Mirror – but no technology that can be mass-commercialized.
The brain-machine interfaces have some years in research. BrainGate is one of the research groups that have made the most progress on this topic. This team from Brown University has developed and tested medical devices to restore communication, mobility, and independence of people who have suffered neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy or coma.
These technologies represent a qualitative leap in human-machine communication. However, they still carry high risks, such as the danger of infection due to the operation necessary to install the device. With this in mind, Musk has decided since 2017 to support the investigation of less invasive methods through Neuralink, although he had not disclosed the company’s objectives until this year.
Elon Musk recently presented his new project.
PayPal founder Elon Musk is not the only one who has been interested in the development of so-called brain-machine interfaces. The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg has also invested in the research of this technology to make it interpret neuronal activity and translate it into words in real-time.
Other companies have worked on the development of this technology for ethical purposes, such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky. The advances are significant and have begun to change people’s lives: In recent years, patients with cerebral palsy have received implants that have allowed them to move the computer pointer or control robotic arms.
New rights for our brains
These are very recent technologies, but specialists anticipate the ethical problems that may arise. Where do we establish how far we are ourselves, and when does the activity of a machine begin? These concerns have led to talk about the “jurisprudence of the mind.”
“I am very concerned about the marketing of brain data in the consumer market,”
Marcello Ienca, a neuroethical researcher at ETH Zurich
Ienca recently confessed to Vox its concerns about these technologies, such as the use that could be given to our brain data. “I don’t talk about a distant technological future. There is already neurotechnology for the consumer, with people who trade with their brains data for private technology services.”
Among the commercial uses that exist today, Ienca has mentioned neurogaming, where you control the movements of a video game with the activity of your brain instead of traditional control. There are also wearable devices that monitor sleep activities. “I am tempted to call it neurocapitalism,” says Ienca.
The new rights for the brain
Ienca proposes new human rights to anticipate the use that this technology may have and thus protect people’s privacy. The essential objective of this rights it’s to protect people from any abuse or mishandling of their data.
The right of cognitive freedom
You must have the right to freely decide when you want to use a specific neurotechnology or when to refuse to use it.
Ienca offers two current scenarios in which people may feel pressured to use neurotechnology. In China, the government tests caps that scan brain activity to identify depression, anxiety, anger, or fatigue. In this case, if an employer wishes to monitor your attention capacity with this technology, this could represent a violation of this principle even if they tell you that it is optional, due to the social pressure to use it.
The right to mental privacy
You must have the right to isolate your brain data or to share it publicly.
Ienca anticipates the possibility that this technology can be used for interregotaries or research. In a world where authorities can get into your mind without your consent, the principles against self-incrimination or keeping silent are meaningless.
The right to mental integrity
You must have the right not to be physically or mentally damaged by neurotechnology.
Ienca anticipates the possibility of using computer-brain interfaces that have a “writing” mode and that allows – in theory – to control our mind or do brainwashing, such as religious authorities who want to influence the faithful, or regimes politicians who persecute dissidents.
These are hypothetical scenarios, although Ienca points out the possibility has been demonstrated in the proof of concept studies.
The right to psychological continuity
You must have the right to protect yourself from alterations that affect your sense of identity and that you did not authorize.
A company gave an epileptic woman a device that made her feel part of a radical symbiosis. However, the company went bankrupt and forced the woman to take off the transplant, which made the woman think that “she had lost herself.
For Ienca, this example shows that psychological continuity can be disturbed not only with the use of this technology but also with the removal of the devices.
In 1996, the now infamous Eric Steven Raymond wrote “How to become a hacker,” a document that for many years would be a reference for those who started in the world of coding.
Raymond explained that he began writing the text after receiving many similar questions on how to become a skilled programmer when working as an editor of Jargon File. When he realized that no one had written a document on the subject so far, he made his own.
Raymond did not seek to make a definitive guide, nor declare himself as an authority on the subject. He made it clear in a text update: “If you don’t like what you read, make your own text.”
Since then, thousands of people have taken the floor and written their own tutorial on how to get into programming to become a software developer.
This is one more.
People in the world want to learn to program
In the world, there is a constant interest in learning to program, if we review the Google Trends metrics.
This interest is nothing surprising if we consider that software development is one of the most requested and highest-paid professions today. Also, projections indicate that the trend will continue until 2060.
This time is enough to learn to code, find a job and retire.
An extra incentive for people of all ages is the fact that companies do not care so much about the university degree of the workers they hire, but their abilities to perform the tasks for which they were hired.
So, you want to learn to program, how does it feel not knowing where to start?
For noobs, the options to start programming today are quite broad. The offer of careers, workshops, and online resources for people to learn the essential topics has increased along with the demand.
Many of the teaching materials that exist today to learn to code have removed much of the barriers of yesteryear. If you do not know English, if you do not have a Mac or a PC with Linux or if list all the necessary steps to do an action (aka the algorithms) it is not your thing, many of these options make more accessible the way for you to avoid excuses.
So, put your hands on the code.
Go from step A to step D, without skipping everyone else.
Programmers think differently, at least when they program. When faced with a problem, they stop to understand it and then think about the necessary steps to solve it. In computer science, this type of thinking is known as algorithmic reasoning.
For some people, algorithmic reasoning is straightforward; For others, no. The latter can train you with mobile and web applications that allow you to enter programming from the pseudocode, a way of expressing algorithms without having to learn a strict syntax.
With this mission, MIT offers Scratch, which can be used from its website. The goal of Scratch is to be a tool to teach children to program, but it is also a good option for adults without any notion of programming.
Kidlo Coding is another alternative to teach programming with pseudocode and games. This application introduces basic concepts such as sequential execution, loops, and functions. Kidlo is available for mobile devices from the Play Store.
Choose a language to talk to computers.
If you already understand how algorithms work and are familiar with the basics of computer science, you can start learning a programming language, but which one?
Python has the advantage of having an interpreter that allows you to write your first program instantly and allows you to go step by step while learning the syntax of this language. Online, Python Principles offers an environment like W3Schools to study while playing with the code.
Improve your coding technique
An honestly common feeling after learning your first programming language is that after that, you still don’t know anything. Do not worry. This is a normal feeling because it is true. But now that you know the syntax of a programming language, you can improve your skills by testing your problem-solving ability.
At this point, HackerRank is one of the best places to practice. In addition to having a wide range of problems for developers of different levels, it offers exercises for you to practice before a job interview.
For the smartphone or other mobile devices, Mimo allows you to practice with simple exercises, an option to practice in downtime or while moving.
Test your knowledge
Once you have internalized one (or several) programming languages, an excellent way to test yourself is to take that knowledge to practical situations.
Bootcamps are a good starting point for the novice programmer. These spaces offer you personalized advice while you familiarize yourself with the most common tools in the information technology sector, in addition to contacting companies.
Internships are another option to familiarize yourself with the work environment. Many of the companies where you can do your internship complement the practice with theoretical courses of professional update.
If these options do not convince you, develop your projects and publish the code on GitHub. If your project is impressive, the GitHub community will be happy to help you cleaning the source code and optimize it, while creating a reputation in the programmer community.
And if at any time you get stuck, remember that in StackOverflow you will find one of the most active communities of programmers who will be happy to help you in any part of your code that is causing you a headache, but they already solved it before you asked. You already know what they say:
A good programmer is one who knows how to copy StackOverflow code.
Large technology companies require software shared freely on the web to solve technical problems every day. However, Latin America has very marginal participation in this sector. Only 2.6% of the contributors who run an open-source project are Latin American, while only 2.5% of the contributions to Apache come from this region.
Open source contributors do not yet reflect the wide audience of users of these technologies.
The first Open Source Software Contributors Summit will seek to encourage the participation of Latin American technology professionals in open source projects and promote the advantages of being a contributor to change this situation.
Guadalajara, one of the cities that has boosted the digital economy in Mexico, will host the event where 500 developers from the region are expected to participate on September 14 and 15.
During the two days of the Summit, there will be six conferences and more than 30 workshops for programmers to make contributions to the projects. The presentations will be in both English and Spanish languages.
The Open Source boom in the digital economy
Currently, 78% of companies take advantage of Open Source Software and even promote it. Only Google has 2K open source projects that are used by other people and companies. For example, Airbnb and Dropbox used the Artificial Intelligence software developed by Google TensorFlow to analyze written text and catalog photos. The Android operating system is based on GNU-Linux and has an open-source version.
The popularity of open-source in business has not served to gain investor confidence. Few ventures capitalists have seen the potential of companies that have Open Source as a central part of their business model. They have described Red Hat company, acquired by IBM for $32 B, as a unique case. However, the premise that equates to open source software as non-commercial software acquires more counterexamples. Companies like Mulesoft, MongoDB, and Elastic have reached valuations above four billion dollars.
Technology analysts increasingly accept open-source companies have unique strengths. By publishing the code of their products, companies allow the developer community to participate in the improvement of their product and save on the cost of development. Currently, 55% of companies believe that open source software is more secure, and this figure is expected to reach 61% in the coming years.
Contribute to Open Source to boost your professional development
Experts point to open technologies such as Kubernetes, Apache Beam, Apache Spark, Gnome, Drupal or node.js as some of the most influential today. Engaging in open source projects allows developers to increase their technical skills and professional prestige. The developers also meet new colleagues around the world that enable them to discover growth opportunities.
The organizers of the Summit estimate that the majority of the attendees will be professionals, students, and academics in technology areas. Researchers and technological entrepreneurs interested in knowing and taking advantage of development and open source communities will also participate.
In the coming years, entrepreneurs and developers in Latin America who have the knowledge and ability to implement open technologies will see their growth opportunities expanded. Some of these technologies could quintuple their growth in the region by 2025, according to a study by Esticast Market Research.
The CCOS includes four content tracks offered by projects of the Linux Foundation and the Apache Software Foundation, one of the most influential organizations in the free software community, to become more familiar with these technologies.
Participate with paid per diem
With the objective that more people contribute to the development of open-source, CCOS organizers will offer per diem scholarships for those interested in participating and living outside Guadalajara. Fill out an online application to apply for one of the grants.
“Companies are leaving money on the table by insufficiently serving a developing market with great potential.”
Google Research about Open Source community
For more information on the agenda and registration to attend CCOSS, check the website.
As part of International Women’s Day 2019, Google organized the annual Women Techmakers event, which seeks to recognize the role of women in technology.
This year, Actions for Google sponsored the event to give technical workshops. In these code labs, the participants could learn the fundamental concepts to develop Actions for Google Assistant so that hundreds of new actions were created in these classes.
Actions for Google Assistant allows users to interact with their smart devices with voice commands to get recipes, listen to news or answer frequently asked questions.
July 25, 2019. Thursday. Afternoon. The largest fixed broadband Internet service provider in Mexico, Telmex, presented a massive failure. Users of his partner company, Telcel, also reported problems in the service.
The failure only affected these two companies, but these two are the largest telecommunications companies in Mexico. Telmex has 9.7 million fixed broadband users, while Telcel operates 75.6 million mobile lines in Mexico. Both companies are subsidiaries of América Móvil, the corporate of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim.
The company reported to the media that the burning of grasslands in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and San Luis Potosí caused the massive failure, damaging the fiber optic cables. They added that the corresponding investigations would be done to find those responsible for the damage to telecommunications networks.
The total number of users who went offline has not been disclosed. The fault affected several states of the Mexican Republic, including Mexico City, State of Mexico, Nuevo León, Puebla and Jalisco, entities where more than 50% of the population of the country lives. Those who could complain about the failures of the social media service received an automated response. The company’s service lines were not available.
Are damage to telecommunications cables common?
Damage to telecommunications cables is quite common worldwide. Stephan Beckert of TeleGeography Research estimated in 2008 that on average, a submarine cable was damaged once every five days. The decentralized nature of the network intends that users do not notice these failures. As soon as a connection is interrupted, the system automatically searches for an alternative route for the link. Currently, there are more than 56 ships worldwide that are dedicated to repairing submarine cables damaged by stones or anchors. Most users do not notice when these cables are damaged because they are automatically redirected. However, sometimes the damage causes significant failures.
In Mexico, people are used to technology doesn’t work as it should. Mexicans often joke with the phrase “the system fell,” commonly said in self-service establishments when they could not process a card payment for any connection failure. The refrains origins are even older. In 1988, the Secretary of Government Manuel Bartlett (now director of the Federal Electricity Commission) appeared at the media to report that the system that was monitoring the presidential vote count “fell.” When this fail happened, the count showed the presidential candidate of the opposition party in the first place. However, the connection cuts are not exclusive to Mexico.
A massive failure of Internet services worldwide is a good argument for an apocalyptic science fiction story, but also an unlikely scenario. The decentralized feature of the telecommunications network that makes up the Internet allows devices to look for alternative ways to communicate when a connection fails. Despite this, massive Internet outages are always happening worldwide, some caused by authoritarian regimes, others for hilarious reasons.
Can an Internet blackout be provoked by sabotage?
From January 23 to February 4, 2008, the Internet service of the Middle East and India showed disruptions and slowdowns due to damage to the submarine communications cables of the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. The experts considered that it was an accident, although they never discovered the causes. This misinformation provoked some people to raise their eyebrows and begin to elucidate conspiracy theories about the incident, from suspected terrorist attacks to US military strategies to attack Iran.
An Internet blackout hit Syria in November 2012 while intense clashes were taking place between groups of Islamist rebels and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The antagonist groups blame each other for the incident. Two years later, Edward Snowden commented that the National Security Association was responsible for the massive drop in the service. According to Snowden, the NSA tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate the hardware of Syria’s largest service provider to learn about the population’s Internet usage patterns.
The fear of conscious sabotage against submarine cables is partly based. In December 2017, NATO expressed concern about a more significant presence of Russian submarines in the areas where these cables are placed. However, accidents also happen frequently.
Big fail in the Internet service
In 2011, a 75-year-old Georgian woman left three million inhabitants of Armenia without the Internet, in addition to affecting some users in Georgia and Azerbaijan after damaging the cable responsible for 90% of the country’s Internet connection. The woman damaged the cable while digging to find copper.
In Mexico, the Telmex service presented connection problems in 2018 that harmed the inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula, in addition to Puebla, Tabasco, and Veracruz. On that occasion, the company only declared that there were “massive failures” in its service, without specifying the causes. Some experts suggested that these problems could be due to the growth of infrastructure in the country, such as the construction of roads that damage the company’s fiber-optic.
The decentralized feature of the Internet protects itself from most eventualities, but it is not invulnerable. A small failure can cause a big connection problem, especially in regions with poorly developed infrastructure.
Governments can shut down the Internet
Sometimes, governments themselves are responsible for massive failures. The Access Now organization reported that the cuts to the Internet service increased in number, from 75 in 2016 to 196 in 2018, the majority caused by authoritarian regimes.
These cases are more common in countries where there are only one or two internet service providers (ISPs) or when the government is the primary service provider. In this way, it is easier for governments to control the sites that are visited by citizens or even prevent full access to the Internet. However, these censorship measures have their weaknesses, as users can still access the banned pages with a VPN service.
There are multiple documented cases in more than 30 nations around the world in which the government cut or pressured to cut the Internet service. In Latin America, Venezuela is the most cited case. Opponents of Nicolás Maduro accuse the government of knocking down the Internet every time protests are organized against him.
In the early days of 2019, the Internet service failed before announcing the results of the elections and arresting members of the opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Some years ago massive cyberattacks were only part of sci-fi plots, but recently they became a real threat. The DDoS attacks boomed in 2016, causing the most prominent Internet service failure in history on October 21.
Responsible for these massive attacks was Mirai malware, developed by students Paras Jha, Josiah White, and Dalton Norman. The initial intention of these students was to attack Minecraft servers to boost their business of DDoS mitigation tools. This team discovered a way to take advantage of the low-security levels of most devices connected to the Internet of Things and shared it online.
The code of Jha, White and Norman exceeded the expectations of its creators when it was used to attack Dyn, a company of Domain Name Servers (DNS), causing problems in the Internet connection of North America and Europe. Wired described the attack as “the first thermonuclear bomb in the DDoS world.”
These attacks revealed how vulnerable the network could become without adequate security measures.
The economic cost of Internet blackouts
Massive failures in Internet services have raised concerns about the economic costs of Internet outages, regardless of whether they were caused by infrastructure failures, by the decision of the authorities or by cyberattacks.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that Egypt lost $ 90M when the government prevented access to the Internet for five days as a measure to avoid the rapid spread of Arab Spring protests. According to the agency’s calculations, if this measure had been extended for a year, the Gross Domestic Product of Egypt would have fallen between 1% and 4%.
The economic impact of the Internet has led the United Nations to issue a resolution to support “the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet.” The UNO condemned measures that disrupt Internet access.
The Brookings Institute estimated that the Internet shutdowns cost between July 2015 and June 2016 $ 2.4 billion worldwide. The report called The economic impact of disruptions to Internet connectivity calculated that one-day interruptions in the Internet connection cost countries with high connectivity 1.9% of their daily GDP. For countries with medium connectivity, service interruption costs 1% of their daily GDP.
DDoS attacks interfere with the online operations of companies, resulting in lost sales during the interruption period, in addition to customers. If the attack gains visibility, it can even damage the image of the brand and reduce its future revenue, according to a report published on February 2018 by The Council of Economic Advisers.
On average, a DDoS attack costs businesses $ 2.5M, according to a Neustar report. In the case of Dyn, 8 K domains stopped using their service after the attacks, meaning a 24% loss, according to BitSight data.
These figures highlight the importance for both companies and governments of protecting the infrastructure that allows the Internet to function properly and without interruptions: ensure that there are enough fiber optic cables deployed to mitigate the eventualities that may interrupt the connection of large areas, ensure that Internet service providers are independent companies from governments and take the necessary security measures to prevent infection of the devices and mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks.
Microverse is an online school for remote software developers. Students from around the world learn to program in pairs while receiving the support of mentors and reviewers. Microverse does not charge students anything until they get a remote job.
Students must have basic knowledge of a programming language and experience to solve algorithmic problems to be part of Microverse. However, students who do not have this knowledge can take a pre-course in Microverse to develop these skills.
Elizabeth Villalejos from Sonora, Mexico mentions that one of the advantages of Microverse is that it offers structured learning. Also, it highlights that anyone can be part of the course, regardless of whether they do not reside in the United States.
The digital transformation has made software development one of the careers with the highest demand today. While more and more professionals are required in this area, the supply of specialists has not grown at the same pace, so it becomes an attractive profession for many. The demand for software developers will grow 24% in the 2016-2026 period, a rate above the average of other occupations.
Ariel Camus founded Microverse in 2018. Since then, the company has received applications from 200 different countries, and current students from 40 different countries are enrolled.
After completing the full-time program, Microverse graduates increase their income two to eight times more.
Microverse offers support for students from Colombia and Mexico who attend the program. You can register here.
Artificial Intelligence has offered in recent years techniques to improve business processes, perform tasks more efficiently, and analyze a large amount of data in a short time. However, these same techniques can also be used to threaten the privacy and security of users.
Beltramelli warned that “by their very nature of being wearable, these devices, however, provide a new pervasive attack surface threatening users’ privacy, among others.”
Thanks to the accelerometers that integrate these wearable devices, an application can know if you make a natural hand movement or if you are typing something on a tablet or computer. Beltramelli went further. After collecting enough data, he showed that the accelerometer data combined with machine learning techniques make it possible to guess the password of a mobile device. This task is even easier because most keyboards are standardized in shape and size.
Beltramelli was able to verify this because he had full access to the internal mechanisms of a smartwatch. A user who has not installed any third-party application and who has not granted permissions to the app could be safe. However, in September 2018, a team of researchers from the International Institute of Computer Science in California discovered that some application developers were using malicious techniques to collect user’s data without requiring permission. The figure was not trivial: more than 1,300 applications obtained accurate geolocation information and phone identifiers.
The researchers said in their talk “50 Ways to Leak Your Data” that “apps can evade the permission model and access protected data without the user’s consent, using both veiled or alternative channels. These channels occur when there is a way to access protected resources that are not audited by security mechanisms, leaving the resources unprotected.”
With this technique, applications such as Photo Identifier were able to send user geolocation information taking advantage of the permissions of another application.
In the same way, applications can take advantage of the accelerometer to collect data when using the speaker, as published by a team of security researchers (Abhishek Anand, Chen Wang, Jian Liu, Nitesh Saxena, Yingying Chen) earlier July 2019.
The researchers created an application as a proof-of-concept that mimics the behavior a malicious attacker would have. The app recorded the voice vibrations with the accelerometer and sent the information to a server controlled by the attacker.
In this way, an application can record the conversations that the user has with another person in an audio message or obtain information about their musical tastes. The researchers pointed out that data such as birthday or bank accounts may not be compromised by this method since these are not usually shared by voice messages because they are made up of digits.
However, this technique (called “Spearphone” by its developers) can identify a person’s gender with 90% accuracy, while recognizing the speaker with 80% accuracy.
“Apps can circumvent the permission model and gain access to protected data without user consent by using both covert and side channels,” the researchers wrote.
These channels occur when there is an alternative way to access the protected resource that is not audited by the security mechanism, thus leaving the resource unprotected.
Some mitigation techniques suggested by the researchers were to reduce the sampling rate or vary the maximum volume of a telephone so that the accelerometer readings are difficult.
You’re judged by your face
Another case that has raised concerns about its potential uses against the privacy and security of people is facial recognition. The concerns about its malicious use were rising in San Francisco, and the government was banned to use facial recognition technology in May 2019. Activists and developers questioned the need to use this technology for police purposes.
In the case of facial recognition, the problem does not lie in the danger that a criminal “hacks” your face and uses it to access bank accounts, but in the ways in which the State can use this technology to maintain control and discriminate to certain groups.
One of the problems reported is the lack of precision that this technology has to recognize faces that are not white. There is a margin of error of 0.8% in these devices when it comes to white men, while the margin of error increases to 34.7% for dark-skinned women.
The New York Times denounced that Chinese authorities used this technology to monitor people belonging to ethnic minorities, such as the Muslim population of the Xinjiang region, in what they described as an expression of racism. Several Chinese startups were involved in the development of these facial identification systems, such as Yitu, Megvii, SenseTime, and CloudWalk. Some of them, like Megvii, also develop technology for startups in the United States.
The case of China may sound like an extreme situation, but more and more studies are emerging that point out how many AI algorithms show a bias in interpreting the data, which is not a problem of the technology itself, but in how it is coded and trained.
Such situations have led to warning about the risks of Artificial Intelligence such as the case of Elon Musk who has described the AI as “more dangerous than nuclear weapons.”
All technology carries its risks, and these are true since the first tools of humanity were created. Fire and wedge are a hazard used without caution. Outlawing new technologies is an unrealistic exit. A more promising way is to notice in advance the problems they generate and find innovative solutions to solve them.
The average speed of broadband continues to grow around the world, said the report Worldwide Broadband Speed League 2019. However, in Latin America, the situation is not very encouraging, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
Cable.co.uk designed and compiled the research to measure the speed of connection in the world, gathered by M-Lab, an open source project where civil society, organizations, educational institutions, and private sector companies contribute.
Two hundred seventy-six million speed tests were taken to measure the speed by country in 207 countries around the world. This sample was 60% larger than the one made last year for the same study.
Why do some countries have better Internet than others?
Different factors influence the variation of connection speed in each country, according to the report.
For example, the economy of Taiwan – the country with the best connection in the world this year – depends too much on digital infrastructure, while the extension of this Asian island occupies a relatively small size.
This economic need, coupled with the fact that it is relatively easy to deliver a high-speed connection in a small area, has allowed Taiwan to develop an infrastructure that enables it to provide an average download speed of 82.02 Mbps, with which a 5GB movie can be downloaded in just eight minutes.
Taiwan improved thirteen positions compared to last year when its average speed was 28.09 Mbps. The increase in connection speed was due to the massive migration of ADSL to fiber optic.
In other countries, the cost of extending a high-speed digital infrastructure exceeds the economic benefit they can obtain. This situation was the case of Chad, whose economy is mainly agricultural and has a vast territory. Investing in improving connectivity would exceed its Gross Domestic Product.
The speed increases worldwide
After measuring the connection speed of 207 countries over 12 months, Cable.co.uk concluded that the speed of the Internet had improved worldwide.
From 2016 to 2017, the average speed was 7.40 Mbps. The connection speed increased 23.35% the following year, and this year it grew 20.65% concerning the previous year again, reaching an average download speed of 11.03 Mbps.
However, the study points out that the countries that contributed most to the increase in the world average broadband speed were the developed nations that already have high-speed technology and broad coverage, but improved it in the last year. On the other hand, the countries that were half of the bottom of the ranking had little development in recent years.
The countries in the top 100 of the ranking improved their average speed by 25.63%, while half of the bottom only enhanced by 23.76%, promoting the increase of a digital divide.
Latin American countries, far from a prominent development
In the global ranking of Internet connection, no Latin American country managed to sneak into the top 50.
The Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory, has the best connection in the region, with a download speed of 16.12 Mbps. Venezuela is at the bottom, with an average speed of 1.37 Mbps.
Most of the countries in the region are in the middle of the world ranking, avoiding the last 40 places, but also without having a representative in the first 40 places.
As for the leading Latin American economies, both Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile fell in this year’s study. Mexico went from place 85 to 98, although its average download speed improved slightly from 5.69 Mbps to 6.02 Mbps. Colombia lost 17 seats to be placed in position 131, with an average speed of 3.48 Mbps.
The cases of Chile and Argentina were the most dramatic. These southern cone nations lost 32 and 33 positions respectively, and the average download speed worsened in both cases. Chile was ranked 124th with a connection speed of 3.89 Mbps, while Argentina fell to 149th with a broadband speed of 2.83 Mbps.
On the other hand, Brazil advanced 22 places in the study, going from 2.58 Mbps to 4.84 Mbps, which places it in 111th place worldwide.
Improve connectivity in Latin America, an unfulfilled promise
Improving Internet connectivity in the region has been one of the commitments of Latin American governments that has become difficult to fulfill.
Juan Ketterer, head of the Connectivity, Market and Finance division of the Inter-American Development Bank, believes that Latin America’s coverage is limited, expensive and of poor quality due, in part, to the lack of a legal framework that gives certainty to the companies and the lack of clarity in the distribution of the radio spectrum.
The IADB analyst suggests modernizing the regulatory frameworks of the region, making more significant public investment in strategic areas such as international connections and financing infrastructure investments with public-private partnerships.
If the connectivity of the region cannot be improved, the gap between Latin America and the developed countries threatens to expand more and more.