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Tag: hacking

Are you protected?

by: Scarlett Huck

Have more questions? Want to learn more? Don’t miss our #AskTheExpert event with Cyber Security Strategist and Evangelist at Intel Corporation, Matthew Rosenquist! You can RSVP here.

2015 has certainly not been deprived of threats and successful hackings into cyberspace. With big business companies such as Home Depot, Target, Staples,  and Sony under fire, it is hard to believe that anyone is safe.

Why does this continue to be a growing concern? Who are behind these attacks? Survey says that more than half of reported incidents were staff-related. These breaches included, but were not limited to: “unauthorized access to data, breach of data protection regulations, and misuse or loss of confidential information”. When dealing with staff-related issues, there are certain precautions that can be taken. The first is to make sure employers are informed of the risks and of the data protection laws and the consequences of breaking them. It is also important to make sure employers are not tricked into divulging secure information via over-the-phone scams.

Attacks
But what about the other half of attacks that are not employee based? These are the attacks that tend to be more deliberate and malicious. For example, take the Impact Team. This is a group of hackers who are hacking for what they believe to be ‘good’. In a quote directly from the group they stated they plan to hack “[a]ny companies that make 100s of millions profiting off pain of others, secrets, and lies. Maybe corrupt politicians. If we do, it will be a long time, but it will be total.” The team is currently best known for their hack of the adultery-encouraging website Ashley Madison. The hackers demanded the site be taken down immediately or the personal information of Ashley Madison’s clients would be released in 30 days. When these terms were not met, a list of names and email addresses of the site’s users was released in order to expose them for their infidelity. Situations like this are becoming known as “hacktivism,” or the act of hacking for a politically or socially motivated purpose.

AttackDist
With attacks occurring every day, it is important to remember to protect yourself. The Department of Homeland Security offers many tips including using proper passwords and privacy settings, thinking before you post on social media and being cautious of what you download. It is also important to be cautious if you run a small business, which are commonly hacked due to lack of security. As far as big business is concerned, larger strides must be taken. Business Insider recommends the steps that must be taken to prevent future attacks, President Obama is currently requesting $14 billion in the 2016 budget proposal in order to tighten government cybersecurity and laws regarding cybersecurity and data protection are becoming stricter. Within the near future, there is hope for the decrease in cyber attacks.

Have more questions? Want to learn more? Don’t miss our #AskTheExpert event with Cyber Security Strategist and Evangelist at Intel Corporation, Matthew Rosenquist! You can RSVP here.

 

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Standing At The Mean

Sam Halperin  is currently a Programming Instructor at Thinkful. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Science in Software Engineering. He is working on a doctorate in Computer Science, and also blogs at www.samhalperin.com

Experimentation enabled by advances in low-cost consumer virtual reality hardware and software.

A few months ago, after a long hacking session with a genetic algorithm (an algorithm that evolves a solution from “chromosomes” over time),Pic1 Unity Game Engine (a 3D video game engine) and an Oculus Rift immersive display, I had what I think is a unique experience:   Creating a data set with the GA, writing a renderer that transformed the data into geometry, hues and color values, and piping the output to a head mounted display, I was able to don the goggles and somewhat literally walk around and stand at the mean of the data set and look around.  For me, this view into the data was a transformative personal experience, if not a scientifically valid approach to understanding data.

Weeks later a second experiment emerged, this time using sensor data attached to a stationary bicycle to drive the view-camera in a virtual environment.   This apparatus had been part of a somewhat Quixotic quest for a virtual reality based active gaming Sampost2experience.  Once implemented, it represented the faintest surface scratch into the vast requirements of art, engineering, sound, theatre and animation that actually make up a production game, but a uniquely satisfying experiment.

The most recent experiment in this set leveraged design training and demonstrated the architectural visualization pipeline from consumer-grade modeller (SketchUp) to virtual reality experience.  This product, like the other two, was also the “first 20%” of effort, (see The Pareto Principle), but uniquely satisfying. The video from the work has been retweeted many times and had over 1800 views since it has been up, and I have received numerous requests for collaboration on similar projects. (http://youtu.be/mJLK_t0bTYA)

Clearly there is a growing mass movement representing a desire for this type of virtual reality technology.  The defining factor in my experience thougsampic3h, as differs from virtual reality experimentation in the past, was that this work didn’t require access to a university
lab, defense contractor or space agency. This access is possible due to a sea change in VR technology driven by the release of the Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display.

Beginning with the release of the Oculus Rift, and followed closely by other projects, VR technology is beginning to permeate as a consumer level technology.  My bike-vr project is actually one of a few similar experiments documented in the various online communities surrounding the technology.  There is a growing community of VR hackers (perhaps a better term is maker) throughout the world, and the level of experimentation has grown exponentially.

My involvement in this work is only beginning, but I am tremendously optimistic that the technology itself represents a positive force for our ability to visualize problems, to communicate with each other, and to be present in environments that we wouldn’t normally be able to experience — across history, geography, scale and any other limits.

Question: What is the value of “being present” and experiencing virtual environments in this way?  What is the value of “standing at the mean”, and how does it differ from viewing a place, a time or a dataset on a traditional computer monitor?  What are the drawbacks?

Answer: The experience of presence with this type of display is so powerful that it can actually make the viewer nauseous, experiencing a sort of simulator sickness approaching seasickness.   At the same time, intelligently engineered virtual environments, built with this in mind can fool the brain in a more positive direction, producing joy, fright, sadness, even the perception of temperature changes.  This is not an experience that is common to interaction with a smartphone or tablet.

Current VR work of interest is quite vibrant and diverse, spanning topics such as “redirected walking” techniques for navigating large virtual environments by walking around small laboratories[1], the study of “oculesics”, where eye movements are tracked and communicated across networks to enhance communication[2], and the exploration of very large datasets using large laboratory installations ringed by huge arrays of displays[3].

See Also

  • [1] Suma, E. A., Bruder, G., Steinicke, F., Krum, D. M., & Bolas, M. (2012). A taxonomy for deploying redirection techniques in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, 43–46. doi:10.1109/VR.2012.6180877
  • [2] Steptoe, W., Wolff, R., Murgia, A., Guimaraes, E., Rae, J., Sharkey, P., … & Steed, A. (2008, November). Eye-tracking for avatar eye-gaze and interactional analysis in immersive collaborative virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 197-200). ACM.
  • [3] Petkov, K., Papadopoulos, C., & Kaufman, A. E. (2013). Visual exploration of the infinite canvas. Virtual Reality (VR), 2013 IEEE, 11–14. doi:10.1109/VR.2013.6549349

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