In Deutschland wird derzeit diskutiert, ob der Staat genug in Infrastruktur und Bildung investiert. Wie die Statista-Grafik auf Basis einer Auswertung des Handelsblatts zeigt, ist das Volumen nicht abgerufener Fördergelder beträchtlich. So sind die Gelder der beiden Fonds, mit denen besonders finanzschwache Kommunen gefördert werden sollen, bis Ende letzten Jahres zu rund 44 Prozent bzw. 92 Prozent noch nicht abgerufen worden. Mit den beiden so genannten Kommunalinvestitionsförderungsfonds sollen unter anderem Krankenhäuser oder Straßen saniert werden.
Ähnlich ist die Lage beim Digitalfonds, wo nur ein Bruchteil des Gesamtvolumens geflossen sind. Der Fond besteht allerdings auch erst seit letztem Jahr. Mit dem Fonds sollen der Breitbandausbau und die Digitalisierung von Schulen gefördert werden. Mit dem Kita-Ausbaufonds sollen 100.000 zusätzliche Betreuungsplätze für Kinder im Alter von drei Jahren geschaffen werden. Das Investitionsprogramm wurde 2017 ins Leben gerufen und soll 2020 abgeschlossen sein. Derzeit sind jedoch erst 0,25 von 1,1 Milliarden Euro abgerufen worden. Auch die Gelder des Ausbauhilfefonds Hochwasser sind noch nicht komplett geflossen. Mit den Mitteln sollen die Schäden der Hochwasserkatastrophe des Jahres 2013 beseitigt werden. Betroffen sind 11 der 16 Bundesländer.
Dies wirft die Frage auf, ob der Investitionsstau in Deutschland tatsächlich mit mehr finanziellen Mitteln zu lösen ist. Eine Untersuchung des IW Köln (PDF-Download) aus dem Jahr 2017 weist auf einen wichtigen Grund für die unbefriedigende Situation hin: so bestünde im Bereich Infrastruktur in vielen Bundesländern ein Mangel an baufähigen Projekten. Das bedeutet, bei diesen Vorhaben besteht kein sofortiges Baurecht. Die Gelder würden dann vielfach an die Bundesländer fließen, die über Projekte verfügen, die baureif sind. Im Bereich Verkehrsinfrastruktur hätte hiervon vor allem Bayern profitiert. Der Mangel an baufähigen Projekten bestehe hauptsächlich aufgrund von Kapazitätsengpässen in Baubehörden, die durch Personalabbau zustande gekommen seien.
Die Digitalwirtschaft des Silicon Valley konnte ihre weltweite Vormachtstellung weiter ausbauen. Plattform-Unternehmen wie Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook oder Google, dessen Mutterkonzern Alphabet als vierter US-Konzern eine Börsenbewertung von mehr als einer Billion Dollar erreichte, dominieren die westliche Welt und treffen nur in Asien auf ebenbürtige Konkurrenten. Europa ist abgemeldet.
Shipping at only $149, Brave Heart is a fully open-source smartphone running Linux.
Pine64’s open source PinePhone runs Linux and is designed for developers and early-adopters.
Computer and developer-board maker Pine64 has started shipping the first edition of its much-anticipated – at least in the open-source community – PinePhone, after pre-orders sold out. Dubbed “Brave Heart”, the device is indeed designed only for the keener hobbyists.
Shipping at only $149.99, Brave Heart is a fully open-source smartphone running Linux, which the company claims was developed “with the community for the community”, which means with developers and early adopters, and for developers and early adopters; and in this case, preferably for those who have extensive Linux experience.
In a departure from Android and iOS, Pine’s new project provides a platform for customers to develop Linux-on-phone projects. It does not come with a pre-installed OS, but supports all major Linux phone projects such as Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS and Plasma Mobile.
Although buyers get to choose their OS, it will be up to them to upload the platform to the Pine Phone – meaning the device is not designed for the average Joe.
“The “BraveHeart” Edition PinePhone does not come with default OS build installed, user needs to install their own favorite build. Most of the OS builds are still in beta stage,” it notes: “Only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience and an interest in Linux-on-phone.”
The company has been selling single-board computers and notebook computers, initially to compete with Raspberry Pi, since 2016. The devices are designed for developers who are interested in free and open-source software (FOSS) to work on applications. “Regardless of if you want to sequence DNA, build a robot or kill space invaders, we’ve got you covered,” says Pine64 on its website.
Powered by the same signature quad-core ARM64 found in Pine’s A64 single-board computers, the new phone’s specs are promising. Brave Heart has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front one. There is also a headphone jack, a USB-C port and a Micro-SD slot.
Keeping in line with the company’s objectives, Pine64 also includes strong privacy settings in the new device. Under the removable back, for example, are six dip switches that let users kill the modem, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, microphone and cameras.
Pine64 has called the Brave Heart device a “milestone” for the company and the phone has certainly generated a lot of enthusiasm among developers. Although the early version of the Pine Phone is only shipping to the select few, the company says a consumer-ready version will be available from Spring 2020.
The manufacturer is also working on an open-source Linux tablet with a detachable keyboard, as well as on a smartwatch, so watch this space for more.
The “BraveHeart” Limited Edition PinePhones are aimed solely for developer and early adopter. More specifically, only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience and an interest in Linux-on-phone.
The “BraveHeart” Edition PinePhone does not come with default OS build installed, user needs to install their owns favorite build. Most of the OS builds are still in beta stage.
Estimate dispatch in mid January 2020
Dimensions: 160.5mm x 76.6mm x 9.2mm
Weight: 185 grams
Type: HD IPS capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 5.95 inches
Resolution: 1440×720 pixels, 18:9 ratio
OS: Various open source mainline Linux or BSD mobile OSes
Chipset: Allwinner A64
CPU: 64-bit Quad-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A-53
Internal Flash Memory: 16GB eMMC
System Memory: 2GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Expansion: micro SD Card support SDHC and SDXC, up to 2TB
Privacy Switches: LTE (include GPS), Wifi/BT, Mic, and Camera
Removable Li-Po 2750-3000 mAh battery
Charging: USB type-C, 15W – 5V 3A Quick Charge, follows USB PD specification
USB-A to USB-C charging cable
Warranty: 30 days
The “BraveHeart” Limited Edition PinePhones are aimed solely for developer and early adopter. More specifically, only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience and an interest in Linux-on-phone.
Due to Lithium-ion battery in PinePhone, the shipment of PinePhone orders will be handled differently from other Pine64 products, that’s the reason we didn’t allow to combined PinePhone order with other Pine64 products. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Small numbers (1-3) of stuck or dead pixels are a characteristic of LCD screens. These are normal and should not be considered a defect.
When fulfilling the purchase, please bear in mind that we are offering the PinePhone at this price as a community service to PINE64, Linux and BSD communities. If you think that a minor dissatisfaction, such as a dead pixel, will prompt you to file a PayPal dispute then please do not purchase the PinePhone. Thank you.
Fazit: Herbert Diess, der von BMW zu Volkswagen kam, hielt eine Sturmrede, die helfen soll den Nokia-Moment zu vermeiden. Er hat erkannt, dass die größte Gefahr für die deutsche Volkswirtschaft in einer stolzen Vergangenheit und den saftigen Gewinnen der Gegenwart liegt.
Gerade an der Spitze der altehrwürdigen Unternehmungen werden jetzt keine Manager gebraucht, sondern Revolutionäre. Die großen Familienunternehmer des Landes, die Familien von Siemens, Henkel, Haniel, von Holtzbrinck, Merck, Quandt und Albrecht, die Schaefflers, die Porsches und die Wackers sollten ihre Denkroutinen durchbrechen, bevor die ihnen anvertrauten Unternehmungen von der Moderne geflutet werden.
Peter Sloterdijk hat in „Die schrecklichen Kinder der Neuzeit“ präzise beschrieben, was die Selbstgewissen und Schläfrigen erwartet:
„Vergangenheit und Gegenwart bilden die Inkubationszeit eines Ungeheuers,
das unter einem trügerisch harmlosen Namen am Horizont auftaucht: das Neue.“
Morgen stellt Microsoft den Support für Windows 7 ein.
Das Betriebssystem ist derzeit laut NetMarkeShare mit einem Desktop-Marktanteil von 26,6 Prozent die Nummer zwei hinter Windows 10. Das heißt, dass ab Dienstag weltweit Dutzende Millionen Menschen keine Updates mehr für ihr Betriebssystem bekommen. Damit wird die 2010 erschienene Windows-Version für Anwender zum Sicherheitsrisiko.
Das gilt vor allem für Privatpersonen. Unternehmen und Behörden erhalten gegen Bezahlung drei weitere Jahre Support. Wer dennoch weiter auf Windows 7 benutzt, sollte sich der Gefahren bewusst sein. Dazu das Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik: “Da öffentlich bekannte Schwachstellen nicht mehr geschlossen werden, birgt die weitere Nutzung von Windows 7 hohe Risiken für die IT-Sicherheit”.
Researchers have managed to quantum teleport information between two computer chips for the first time
Scientists at the University of Bristol and the Technical University of Denmark have achieved quantum teleportation between two computer chips for the first time. The team managed to send information from one chip to another instantly without them being physically or electronically connected, in a feat that opens the door for quantum computers and quantum internet.
This kind of teleportation is made possible by a phenomenon called quantum entanglement, where two particles become so entwined with each other that they can “communicate” over long distances. Changing the properties of one particle will cause the other to instantly change too, no matter how much space separates the two of them. In essence, information is being teleported between them.
Hypothetically, there’s no limit to the distance over which quantum teleportation can operate – and that raises some strange implications that puzzled even Einstein himself. Our current understanding of physics says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and yet, with quantum teleportation, information appears to break that speed limit. Einstein dubbed it “spooky action at a distance.”
Harnessing this phenomenon could clearly be beneficial, and the new study helps bring that closer to reality. The team generated pairs of entangled photons on the chips, and then made a quantum measurement of one. This observation changes the state of the photon, and those changes are then instantly applied to the partner photon in the other chip.
“We were able to demonstrate a high-quality entanglement link across two chips in the lab, where photons on either chip share a single quantum state,” says Dan Llewellyn, co-author of the study. “Each chip was then fully programmed to perform a range of demonstrations which utilize the entanglement. The flagship demonstration was a two-chip teleportation experiment, whereby the individual quantum state of a particle is transmitted across the two chips after a quantum measurement is performed. This measurement utilizes the strange behavior of quantum physics, which simultaneously collapses the entanglement link and transfers the particle state to another particle already on the receiver chip.”
The team reported a teleportation success rate of 91 percent, and managed to perform some other functions that will be important for quantum computing. That includes entanglement swapping (where states can be passed between particles that have never directly interacted via a mediator), and entangling as many as four photons together.
Information has been teleported over much longer distances before – first across a room, then 25 km (15.5 mi), then 100 km (62 mi), and eventually over 1,200 km (746 mi) via satellite. It’s also been done between different parts of a single computer chip before, but teleporting between two different chips is a major breakthrough for quantum computing.
Top 10 Breaches and Leaky Server Screw Ups of 2019
From massive credential spills on the Dark Web and hacked data to card-skimming and rich profiles exposed by way of cloud misconfigurations, 2019 was a notable year for data breaches. Big names like Capital One, Macy’s and Sprint were impacted, as was the entire country of Ecuador and supply-chain companies like the American Medical Collection Agency. Here are our Top 10 data leak moments of the year.
Collections 1-4 Spill Millions of Credentials on the Dark Web
The year started out with a bang when a huge trove of data – containing 773 million unique email addresses and passwords – was discovered on a popular underground hacking forum. The credential spill was dubbed “Collection #1” and totaled 87 GB of data, with records culled from breaches that occurred as far back as 2010, including the well-known compromise of Yahoo. It was one of the largest jackpots ever seen when it comes to account-compromise efforts. Collections 2-4 soon followed, and ultimately more than 840 million account records from 38 companies appeared for sale on the Dark Web in February.
AMCA Supply-Chain Breach Impacts 20.1 Million
A hack of the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), a third-party bill collection vendor, impacted 20.1 million patientsover the summer, exposing personally identifiable information such as names, addresses and dates of birth, and also payment data. Three clinical laboratories offering blood tests and the like that relied on AMCA to process a portion of their consumer billing were hit: 12 million patients from Quest Diagnostics, another 7.7 million patients from LabCorp and 400,000 victims from OPKO Health.
Capital One: Another Year, Another Major FinServ Breach
In July, a massive breach of Capital One customer data hit more than 100 million people in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada. Thanks to a cloud misconfiguration, a hacker was able to access credit applications, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers in one of the biggest data breaches to ever hit a financial services company — putting it in the same league in terms of size as the Equifax incident of 2017. The FBI arrested a suspect in the case: A former engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Paige Thompson, after she boasted about the data theft on GitHub. Researchers said that Capital One victims are going to be phished for years to come – long after their 12 months’ of credit monitoring is done.
Facebook ‘s Year of Breach Problems
Facebook had a bad year for breaches, including the December emergence of a hacked database containing the names, phone numbers and Facebook user IDs of 267 million platform users. The data may have been stolen from Facebook’s developer API before the company restricted API access to phone numbers and other data in 2018. And in September, an open server was discovered leakinghundreds of millions of Facebook user phone numbers. In April, researchers found two separate datasets, held by two app developers (Cultura Colectiva and At the Pool). The actual data source for the records (like account names and personal data) in these databases was Facebook.
Deep Profiles for the Entire Population of Ecuador Are Exposed
In September it came to light that the entire population of Ecuador (as well as Julian Assange) had been impacted by an open database with rich, detailed life information collected from public-sector sources by a marketing analytics company. The trove of data offered any attacker the ability to cross-reference and combine the data into a highly personal, richly detailed view of a person’s life. The records, for 20 million individuals, were gleaned from Ecuadorian government registries, an automotive association called Aeade, and the Ecuadorian national bank. Ecuador has about 16.5 million citizens in total (some of the entries were for deceased persons).
1.2B Rich Profiles Exposed By Data Brokers
In a similar incident to the Ecuador debacle, an open Elasticsearch server emerged in December that exposed the rich profiles of more than 1.2 billion people. The database consisted of scraped information from social media sources like Facebook and LinkedIn, combined with names, personal and work email addresses, phone numbers, Twitter and Github URLs and other data. Taken together, the profiles provide a 360-degree view of individuals, including their employment and education histories. All of the information was unprotected, with no login needed to access it. The data was linked to People Data Labs (PDL) and OxyData.io
Security Specialist Imperva Smarts from Cloud Misconfiguration
In an ironic turn of events, cybersecurity company Imperva allowed hackers to steal and use an administrative Amazon Web Services (AWS) API key in one of Imperva’s production AWS accounts, thanks to a cloud misconfiguration. Hackers used Imperva’s Cloud Web Application Firewall (WAF) product to access a database snapshot containing emails, hashed and salted passwords, and some customers’ API keys and TLS keys. Because the database was accessed as a snapshot, the hackers made off with only old Incapsula records that go up to Sept. 15, 2017. However, the theft of API keys and SSL would allow an attacker to break companies’ encryption and access corporate applications directly.
Sprint Contractor Lays Open Phone Bills for 260K Subscribers
A cloud misconfig was also behind hundreds of thousands of mobile phone bills for AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile subscribersbeing exposed to the open internet in December, thanks to the oversight of a contractor working with Sprint. More than 261,300 documents were stored – mainly cell phone bills from Sprint customers who switched from other carriers. Cell phone bills are a treasure trove of data, and include names, addresses and phone numbers along with spending histories and in many cases, call and text message records.
Magecart Siphons Off Millions of Payment Card Details
Magecart, the digital card-skimming collective encompassing several different affiliates all using the same modus operandi, is now so ubiquitous that its infrastructure is flooding the internet, researchers said earlier this year. Magecart attacks, which involve inserting virtual credit-card skimmers into e-commerce check-out pages, affected a range of companies throughout 2019; these included bedding retailers MyPillow and Amerisleep, the subscription website for the Forbes print magazine, at least 80 reputable brands in the motorsports industry and luxury apparel segments, popular skin care brand First Aid Beauty, Macy’s and streaming video and podcast content company Rooster Teeth.
Equifax Settlement Rankles Consumers
Equifax made notable news this year when it agreed to pay as much as $700 million to settle federal and state investigations on the heels of its infamous 2017 breach, which exposed the data of almost 150 million customers. That includes $300 million to cover free credit monitoring services for impacted consumers, $175 million to 48 states in the U.S, and $100 million in civil penalties. Some consumers are furious over what they view as an unfair settlement though, with 200,000 of them signing a petition against the deal. The petition argues that very little of that cash will trickle down to those who actually suffered because of the breach.
Coinfloor’s CEO Explains Decision to Delist All Crypto but Bitcoin
London-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinfloor will delist all cryptocurrencies but Bitcoin (BTC) to focus on Bitcoin only services in January.
The United Kingdom’s oldest crypto exchange will delist all cryptos including the second-biggest altcoin Ether (ETH) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in conjunction with the 11th anniversary of Bitcoin’s launch on Jan. 3, 2020, Coinfloor said in a blog post on Dec. 17.
Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that is proven so far, Coinfloor CEO says
Obi Nwosu, CEO and founder of Coinfloor, said that Coinfloor’s move comes in line with the company’s vision to focus on cryptocurrencies that are “proven” so far.
In an interview with Cointelegraph on Dec. 17, Nwosu argued that Bitcoin is the “only game in town,” because the major cryptocurrency is doing great with its mission to provide a new form of store of value, or digital gold.
According to the executive, Ethereum technology has not been proven to date because it has yet to overcome major changes including the network’s transition to Ethereum 2.0, which is also expected to take place in January 2020. In the interview, Nwosu said that he believes that the single fact that Ethereum core developers are working on Ethereum 2.0 to replace Ethereum 1.0 shows that Ethereum is not proven. Nwosu said:
“Purely objectively speaking, if the developers are working on a replacement to Ethereum, they don’t believe that it currently solves the problem it is meant to solve.”
In contrast, Bitcoin is “already solving the problem today” despite the continuing efforts by developers to improve the major cryptocurrency, according to Nwosu:
“People are looking at improving Bitcoin, but to be clear, the view is right now Bitcoin is already a good solution to the problem. Everything else is cream on top of the coffee. It is already solving the problem today.”
Coinfloor may bring Ether back as soon as it becomes proven
As soon as Coinfloor becomes a Bitcoin-only exchange in January, its customers will not be able to deposit, purchase or sell Ether on the platform. However, Ether custody and withdrawals will still be supported after the date at an increased “administrative fee,” according to an official announcement.
As Coinfloor is about to delist Ether after listing it in January 2019, the exchange might consider relisting the altcoin as soon as the cryptocurrency becomes “proven” in future, Nwosu noted.
In the interview, the Coinfloor CEO also suggested that Coinfloor is the first crypto exchange to become crypto monogamous because they realized that Bitcoin is “way ahead of everyone else.” Nwosu added that he anticipates more exchanges following their decision in the near future.
3D printing has proven itself useful in so many industries that it’s no longer necessary to show off, but some people just can’t help themselves. Case in point: this millimeter-tall rendition of Michelangelo’s famous “David” printed with copper using a newly developed technique.
It was created using Exaddon’s “CERES” 3D printer, which lays down a stream of ionized liquid copper at a rate of as little as femtoliters per second, forming a rigid structure with features as small as a micrometer across. The Tiny David took about 12 hours to print, though something a little simpler in structure could probably be done much quicker.
As it is, the level of detail is pretty amazing. Although, obviously, you can’t recreate every nuance of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, even small textures like the hair and muscle tone are reproduced quite well. No finishing buff or support struts required.
Of course, we can create much smaller structures at the nanometer level with advanced lithography techniques, but that’s a complex, sensitive process that must be engineered carefully by experts. This printer can take an arbitrary 3D model and spit it out in a few hours, and at room temperature.
But the researchers do point out that there is some work involved.
“It is more than just a copy and downsized model of Michelangelo’s David,” said Exaddon’s Giorgio Ercolano in a company blog post. “Our deep understanding of the printing process has led to a new way of processing the 3D computer model of the statue and then converting it into machine code. This object has been sliced from an open-source CAD file and afterwards was sent directly to the printer. This slicing method enables an entirely new way to print designs with the CERES additive micromanufacturing system.”
Much smaller than that doesn’t work, though — Micro-David starts looking like he’s made of Play-Doh snakes. That’s fine, they’ll get there eventually.
The team published the details of their newly refined technique (it was pioneered a few years ago but is much better now) in the journal Micromachines.
The old dream of an internet run in the public interest has long dissipated under pressure from huge corporations seeking to profit from what has become a worldwide information utility.
But one corner of the web seemed to maintain its character as a preserve for public service — the .org domain, which since its creation has been reserved for nonprofit organizations and has become something of a badge of honor of noncommercial activity.
That’s why many in the nonprofit world were startled by the announcement on Nov. 13 that the .org registry had been sold to a private equity firm, Ethos Capital. The seller was the Internet Society, a nonprofit that plays an important role in creating and maintaining internet engineering standards, but has been mostly the guardian of the .org domain. The price, as was revealed more than two weeks later, was a stunning $1.135 billion.
A private equity firm has an incentive to sell censorship as a service.
Mitch Stoltz, Electronic Frontier Foundation
In the original announcement, Internet Society Chief Executive Andrew Sullivan called the sale “an important and exciting development” and described Ethos as “a strong strategic partner that understands the intricacies of the domain industry.”
Others are not so sure. Ethos didn’t even exist until earlier this year, and currently appears to have only two employees, including Erik Brooks, its founder.
Brooks listed his investment principles for me as “intellectual honesty, humility and respect and believing that prosperity can be built together.” But a week after the sale announcement, it emerged that the financial backers of Ethos included several firms with more conventional investment approaches, including funds associated with the families of H. Ross Perot, Mitt Romney and the Johnsons, owners of Fidelity Investments.
Brooks says Ethos is committed to running the .org registry in accordance with principles followed by the Internet Society, but hasn’t made that commitment in writing.
At stake are internet addresses ending in “.org” used by some 10 million organizations. The .org designation, or domain, is one of the oldest on the internet, along with .com (for commercial businesses), .edu (educational institutions), .gov (government agencies) and a handful of others.
Not every dot-org meets the public service standard, since applicants aren’t screened. Websites for political fronts, such as the Koch network’s Americans for Prosperity, carry the .org label. So do sites for neo-Nazi hate groups.
But for the most part, organizations genuinely aimed at doing good tend to choose .org addresses. And, for that matter, so do Democratic and Republican party websites.
The domain holds a special place in the hearts of internet users; environmentalist and internet activist Jacob Malthouse calls .org a “digital Yosemite,” evoking the reverence naturalists such as John Muir felt for the real thing.
I’m very concerned about the sale of .org to a private company. If the Public Interest Registry ends up not being required to act in the public interest, it would be a travesty. We need an urgent explanation.#SaveDotOrg
During a recent online discussion on the sale, Jon Nevett, chief executive of the Public Interest Registry, or PIR, the Internet Society unit that manages .org and is the entity being sold to Ethos, called it “the crown jewel of the domain name system, full stop.”
The sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, could be derailed only by two entities. One is the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, the web’s Playa Vista-based governing body, which could rule on the transfer any day now. The other is Pennsylvania Orphans Court, which has jurisdiction because PIR is a nonprofit incorporated in that state.
In the meantime, the deal has drawn brickbats from several internet luminaries.
The parties involved in the sale have tried to tamp down the controversy, without notable success. On Nov. 29, Sullivan and Gonzalo Camarillo, the Internet Society chairman, held a conference call with users to defend the deal.
That was followed by a web discussion on Dec. 5 hosted by NTEN, an advocacy group for nonprofits, at which Sullivan was joined by Brooks and Nevett.
Brooks said he was committed to operating PIR in the dot-org community’s interest but was vague about the “mechanism” that would be established to do so. He said Ethos would not be making its financial data public, unlike the Internet Society, which issues an annual financial disclosure.
The dot-org community has two main concerns about the sale. One is that Ethos will jack up the registration fee for .org websites, which is currently about $10 per year and has been subject to a traditional limit on increases of 10% a year.
More important may be Ethos’ ability to facilitate more censorship of .org websites by allowing third parties more latitude to object to content on those sites and prompt their shutdown.
“The .org registry is a point of control on the internet,” says Mitch Stoltz, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has launched a campaign protesting the deal. “A private equity firm has an incentive to sell censorship as a service.”
Already, registrars of other domains have cut agreements with corporate players, such as the Motion Picture Assn. of America, giving them the authority to order shutdowns of sites they claim are infringing on copyrights without affording site owners the opportunity to appeal.
As founding chairman of#ICANN, I’m appalled… This is not what we were working for. ICANN races towards regulatory [and financial] capture: the great .ORG heisthttps://t.co/LvNYnsyEk4
Academic publishers such as Elsevier have won court rulings aimed at shutting down Sci-Hub, a web service that offers free access to copyrighted scientific research — but it’s up to registries to decide whether to comply with the court orders. And repressive governments such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia have worked through internet intermediaries to censor information on the web.
As the owner of the .org domain, Stoltz observes, Ethos could “enforce any limitations on nonprofits’ speech.” Since many nonprofit organizations “are engaged in speech that seeks to hold governments and industry to account, those powerful interests have every incentive to buy the cooperation of a well-placed intermediary, including an Ethos-owned PIR.”
Brooks said during the NTEN forum that Ethos would take steps to ensure that “.org is a domain that’s open and free and not curated or censored in any way, shape or form.” But he stopped short of agreeing to a legally binding undertaking.
Adding to misgivings about the sale is its chronology. Talks between Ethos and the Internet Society began only weeks after June 30, when ICANN removed price restrictions on the .org domain and made it easier for PIR to take down sites that were the subject of third-party complaints about content.
Brooks says the end of the price caps had nothing to do with the sale, which he would have pursued anyway. But the deal’s critics point out that nonprofits with .org addresses are a “captive audience” for the domain’s owner. Once an organization has begun operating as a dot-org, changing to a different domain would be horrifically costly. Followers would have to be notified of the internet name change, email addresses reconfigured, and so on.
That would give Ethos considerable latitude to raise prices, notwithstanding Brooks’ promise to limit increases to 10% a year.
Sullivan and Camarillo said in their conference call that they had not been planning to put PIR up for sale, but Ethos’ bid was so large “we couldn’t just say no without considering” it.
Since the announcement, Ethos and the Internet Society have been stingy with details of the deal and its goals. Only on Nov. 20 — a week after the sale was announced — did Sullivan reveal, in an email to insiders, that the financial backers of Ethos included Perot Holdings, which is the investment arm of the late Ross Perot’s family; FMR LLC, which owns Fidelity Investments and is privately controlled by the Johnson family of Boston; and Solamere Capital, which was co-founded by Tagg Romney, son of Mitt Romney (who was himself a Solamere partner until he joined the U.S. Senate this year).
One open question is what Ethos expects to gain from its purchase. Domain registries such as PIR are responsible chiefly for maintaining a database of registrations and collecting annual fees. That makes the job “pretty much a license to print money,” Stoltz says.
Will Ethos and its private financial backers be satisfied with running a demure internet registry in the public interest, as opposed to squeezing their $1.135-billion investment for every penny?
Brooks told me by email that he expects PIR to invest in “growth initiatives” to “provide Ethos with a good return on its investment.” Yet there doesn’t seem to be much scope for turbocharging demand for the .org domain, which largely sells itself. That means the opportunity for generating more revenue could hinge on raising the annual fee, unless the firm has other new ideas.
As for the Internet Society, its interest seemed to be stabilizing its finances by replacing the revenue from .org fees — which reached $44.4 million last year, about 85% of its total revenue — with income from a professionally managed $1.135-billion endowment. “Responsibly invested and managed,” Sullivan told listeners on the Nov. 29 conference call, the society could replicate its annual take from .org fees “in perpetuity.”
Sullivan’s words point to what may really be roiling the dot-org community about the deal. That’s the transformation of what was one of the last vestiges of the web’s image as a public utility managed informally in the public interest, immune from commercial or government control, into just another asset to be monetized.
During the conference call and in other forums, Sullivan and Camarillo talked about the need to “diversify” the Internet Society’s revenue stream rather than relying for revenue on “one company in one industry,” which made them sound a bit like the CEO of a washing machine company pondering whether to branch out into refrigerators and cooktops.
Commerce has infiltrated virtually every corner of the web except, up to now, the nonprofit corner represented by dot-orgs. The implication of the .org sale is that no piece of the internet is, in fact, immune from the world of getting and spending — everything is for sale, the public interest be damned.
Jill Carson is co-founder of the Open Money Initiative, a non-profit research organization working to guarantee the right to a free and open financial system, and co-host of the What Grinds My Gears podcast. She also works as an advisor and consultant for startups including Algorand, Risk Labs, dYdX, CoinList, and Tezos.
Why hasn’t cryptocurrency gone mainstream?
“It doesn’t scale.”
“It’s hard to use.”
Or maybe it was never supposed to go mainstream.
This is not to say cryptocurrency is any less important, meaningful, or useful. Rather, I think perhaps we have been judging cryptocurrencies’ success (or lack thereof) according to a false metric. We would not judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.
By design, cryptocurrency does not solve mainstream problems.
Scale, speed, and cost are all examples of mainstream problems within finance, from main street to Wall Street. Credit card networks go down. Stock trades take days to clear. Wire transfers are expensive. In some situations, cryptocurrencies may offer marginal improvements on any of these issues, but more often blockchain-based systems will fail when compared to more conventional, centralized solutions.
This does not represent a design flaw. In fact, this is an intentional trade off.
Decentralized systems forsake scale, speed, and cost in favor of one key feature: censorship resistance. Cryptocurrency solves problems faced by the censored who, by definition, are not the mainstream.
In particular, cryptocurrency enables individuals and organizations to make censored transactions. Procuring drugs on the internet. That’s an example of a censored transaction. Buying US dollars in Argentina is another example. Paying a sex worker. Sending money to a friend in Iran. Making an online purchase as an unbanked individual. Selling cannabis as a dispensary. Getting money out of Venezuela. Supporting dissidents in Hong Kong. The primary utility of cryptocurrency lies in engaging in financial activity that is otherwise suppressed or prohibited.
This is the stated intent of cryptocurrency. Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, described cryptocurrency as a tool of freedom. He compared it to other peer to peer networks like Tor which are similarly resilient to censorship. If we look at the anecdotal evidence, we can see that this is indeed how bitcoin is being used from China to Palestine. Furthermore, what little quantitative data we have also suggests that cryptocurrency use is higher in countries with financial restrictions. These results line up with predictions around cryptocurrency adoption that have existed for years. It is time to face this potentially uncomfortable reality: cryptocurrency is most useful when breaking laws and social constructs.
I, for one, do not want to live in a world where cryptocurrency has found mainstream use.
There exists a long history of censorship resistant and privacy preserving technologies: Signal for messaging, Bittorrent for file-sharing, Tor for web browsing. Like bitcoin, these tools are not built for the mainstream. Most people would rather use faster, slicker, glossier centralized alternatives like Facebook Message, Dropbox, and Google Chrome. But for censored people and organizations, decentralized technologies have always provided an escape hatch. For as long as they have existed, these tools have brought with them a certain level of societal discomfort. This discomfort stems not from these platforms being lawless domains — regulations exist on the dark web as much as they do in any jurisdiction – but rather from the difficulty these platforms present in enforcing these government policies and social norms. These technologies render censored activities more difficult to stop.
Decentralized technologies can be used for good, for evil, and for everything in between. From Hammurabi’s Code through to the Patriot Act, the morality of laws has been a matter of debate for as long as they have existed. The laws of one jurisdiction are often deemed unethical and unacceptable by its citizens and those of other geographies. To say that cryptocurrency is used primarily to engage in illegal or socially unacceptable activities is not a normative statement. It is used by freedom fighters and terrorists, by journalists and dissidents, by scammers and black market dealers, by revolutionaries and government officials. It is used by civilians to break unjust laws and escape humanitarian crisis, and it is used by the policymakers who write those very same laws. And of course, the same statements can all be made regarding the original decentralized payment system: cash.
As an industry, we spend a lot of time considering how to drive mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency. I, for one, do not want to live in a world where cryptocurrency has found mainstream use. For if it has, that world is a very scary place indeed.
This is not to discourage or devalue any of the work that is being done to improve decentralized technologies. Many projects in the industry are working toward optimizing away shortcomings in the technology. Layer 2 protocols promise to speed things up. New consensus mechanisms and forms of sybil resistance expect to improve scalability and reduce infrastructure costs. A myriad of applications are building more user-friendly wallets, on-ramps, exchanges, and other tools. All of these developments are important but they may never result in mass adoption. Improvements in scalability, speed, cost, volatility, and user experience may, however, make the critical difference for those who are users, no matter how fringe: the young woman in Venezuela surviving on bitcoin or the Chinese businessman using Tether for cross-border trade.
To judge cryptocurrency based on mainstream adoption is to judge it on a metric it was never designed to achieve.
This post is part of CoinDesk’s 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world.
Die Organisation Transport & Environment (T&E) hat ein aktuelles CO2-Ranking herausgegeben. Es zeigt an, welche Unternehmen in der Europäischen Union die meisten Treibhausgase verursachen.
Unter den zehn größten Emittenten von CO2 in der EU stehen gleich acht deutsche Kohlekraftwerke – allen voran das von RWE betriebene Kraftwerk Neurath in Nordrhein-Westfalen. In 2018 verursachte es 32,1 Megatonnen CO2-Äquivalente, wie die Statista-Grafik zeigt. Lediglich der polnische Energiekonzern PGE verursachte noch mehr Emissionen. Ebenfalls im Negativ-Ranking stehen die Container-Reederei MSC aus der Schweiz, die unter anderem auch im Kreuzfahrtgeschäft aktiv ist, sowie die irische Billigfluggesellschaft Ryanair.
Transport & Environment ist die europäische Dachorganisation für ökologische Verkehrsclubs und NGOs. Sie setzt sich auf EU-Ebene für eine nachhaltige Verkehrs- und Umweltpolitik ein.
Vitalik Buterin has claimed that Ethereum will support 3,000 transactions per second after the upcoming Istanbul fork.
By Miko Matsumura
Will this unleash a new wave of Ethereum creativity? Might we expect a surge in traffic on the Ethereum network? Could its increase influence the price of ETH?
Ethereum is slow
The conventional wisdom is that Ethereum is too slow. But for what purpose is it too slow? It seems to be sufficiently fast for financial services. But the mistake people are making in saying “Ethereum is slow” is misunderstanding what a great thing, counterintuitively, it is to be slow. ETH works because users want to pay (in the form of “gas”) to perform computations.
If Ethereum is congested, it means that there are more people who want to pay to have Ethereum computations than there are the capacity to allow it.
To put it in another way, let’s say that you own an Apple Store and there is an ever-growing line of customers waiting to buy the newest iPhone. The more customers you have, the more the profit. If you are having trouble accepting the amount of money people want to give you in order to use your service, you are doing well. You wouldn’t complain in that situation.
The “world computer” isn’t a thing
So, it turns out that achieving consensus over computation is very expensive — and therefore, as slow as molasses. Istanbul will make Ethereum’s consensus a bit faster, but the term “world computer” seems hyperbolic, as it suggests there could be a singular device that handles the world’s computational needs. It doesn’t even get close at 3,000 transactions per second.Ethereum’s current state is more akin to a “Trust Machine” — to borrow the name of Alex Winter’s blockchain documentary — than a “world computer.”
DApps are also not a thing
What is a “decentralized application”? It’s a mixed metaphor that is prone to confusion. The word “app” is inseparable from the rise of smartphones and naturally the rise of the “App Store.” So, as soon as you say “DApp,” you are depicting a similar world of endless possibility and creativity. This flawed reasoning is compounded by talk in the original Ethereum white paper about the creation of a Turing complete “World Computer.” This suggests that there are an infinite number of applications that are able to run on Ethereum. But since running computations under consensus comes with a cost, it will always be greater than the cost of running computations without consensus — even if the cost of consensus is greatly reduced.
Vending machines are a thing
The cost of consensus is why it makes more sense to talk about what Nick Szabo calls “Vending Machines.” If a line of code is not handling value, then why not execute it in a faster, cheaper, more centralized environment? This reduces the practical applications of storing, transmitting, buying, selling, splitting, sharing or otherwise manipulating value. This means practical applications would naturally be pragmatic value-in, value-out smart contracts like decentralized exchanges, token swaps, nonfungible token vending, token-issuance (ICO or STO) contracts, and lending and arbitrary financial products (DeFi). If we had a “World Computer” (we don’t), it might make sense to talk about DApps, but until then, what we have are vending machines.
Lending machines are also a thing
Smart contracts relating to collateralizing and lending digital assets are getting a lot of attention these days. Concerning this, ETH in particular is well positioned, as it has a relatively large liquidity pool and a very high degree of programmability. DeFi means that there are vastly diverse sets of programmable digital financial products, but at the moment, the idea of a “Lending Machine” is one that is getting the most attention. In particular, lending seems attractive because current DeFi protocols are producing up to 10% interest rates. This could be seen as a “killer app” for crypto because traditional banks have been so close to 0% interest for so long — and it’s a compelling reason for new users to come to crypto. Currently, almost $700 million in value is locked in DeFi contracts. It remains to be seen whether such high rates will hold up as more and more money floods into the market seeking high returns.
Another obvious application is gambling apps. This is a variation on the “decentralized exchange,” but instead of exchanging a predictable amount of one token for another, users essentially exchange tokens for unpredictable returns. One of the advantages of smart contract-based gambling over other forms of online gambling is that scrutinizing the smart contracts can enable players to determine if the gambling machine is “provably fair,” unlike the centralized exchanges that are only demonstrably unfair.
The need for speed
If all we are building are vending machines, lending machines and slot machines, do we really need performance? Purveyors of “decentralized exchanges” insist that once they are fast enough, they will achieve the liquidity of “centralized exchanges.” But historically, liquidity has always moved toward high frequency trading venues — and trusted computing will always confer a performance edge versus trustless.
One of the great things about the increase in performance is simply to increase the capacity of existing apps, and to enable more similar apps to run on Ethereum. But the performance increase from Ethereum Istanbul seems unlikely to produce as-yet-unseen types of applications.
Miko Matsumura is a general partner with venture capital fund gumi Cryptos Capital. He is also a co-founder of Evercoin, a wallet and exchange. He has been working in Silicon Valley for 25 years on open-source software projects, starting with the introduction of the Java programming language, for which he was the chief evangelist.
But responses to freedom of information requests, published by the Sunday Times, showed the contract will also allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials”.
Amazon, which is worth $863bn and is run by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, can then create “new products, applications, cloud-based services and/or distributed software”, which the NHS would not benefit from financially. It can also share the information with third parties.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told the Sunday Times that the government was “highly irresponsible” and “in the pocket of big corporate interests”.
Eva Blum-Dumontet, a senior researcher at Privacy International, which obtained the contract, said the issue with the partnership was not about “data sharing” but about “transparency”. Several sections have been redacted by the Department of Health and Social Care to protect Amazon’s commercial interests.
An NHS spokesperson said: “No patient data is being provided to this company by the NHS, which takes data privacy extremely seriously and has put appropriate safeguards in place to ensure information is used correctly.”
Amazon told the Sunday Times the content it had access to was already on the NHS website. “Amazon does not build customer health profiles based on interactions with nhs.uk content or use such requests for marketing purposes,” it added.
Third parties, such as local authorities, can reuse information from the NHS website, but standard agreements only permit this to be used in the UK. The contract with Amazon states that the licence applies around the world.
A spokesperson for the company said: “General health-related content from the NHS website is now available to Alexa users via voice technology. The new option is particularly useful for those with accessibility needs who may not have been able to easily access nhs.uk content via a mobile device or computer in the past.”
Earlier this week, the company was singled out by tax transparency campaign group Fair Tax Mark as the worst of the big six US tech firms for avoiding tax by shifting revenue and profits through tax havens or low-tax countries.
It said Amazon paid just $3.4bn (£2.6bn) in tax on its global income so far this decade, despite gaining revenues of $960.5bn and profits of $26.8bn.
The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s NHS plan:
trading patient data
Donald Trump has made clear he wants a post-Brexit Britain to let US tech companies and big pharma access medical records
The NHS is a goldmine of patient data which the United States wants to be quarried by some of its biggest companies.
Britain’s health service is home to a unique medical dataset that covers the entire population from birth to death. Jeremy Corbyn’s NHS press conference revealed that the US wanted its companies to get unrestricted access to the UK’s medical records, thought to be worth £10bn a year. A number of tech companies – including Google – already mine small parts of the NHS store. Ministers have been treading carefully after an attempt to create a single patient database for commercial exploitation was scrapped in 2016 when it emerged there was no way for the public to work out who would have access to their medical records or how they were using them.
However, such caution might be thrown to the wind if Boris Johnson gets his way over Brexit – and patients’ privacy rights are traded away for US market access. This would be a damaging step, allowing US big tech and big pharma to collect sensitive, personal data on an unprecedented scale. Donald Trump’s officials have already made clear that this is what they are aiming for. In the leaked government records of talks between US and UK trade representatives White House officials state that “the free flow of data is a top priority” in a post-Brexit world. Trump’s team see Brexit as an opportunity “to avoid forcing companies to disclose algorithms”.
The US wants the UK to drop the EU’s 2018 data law, in which individuals must be told what is happening with their medical data, even if scrubbed of personal identifiers.
If there is a wild west of patient privacy, it is found in the US. More than 90% of US healthcare organisations admitted to data breaches between 2014 and 2016, leading to cases of medical fraud and insurance discrimination. Given the stakes, there must be concerns about how an arm of the department of health and social care sold data about millions of NHS patients, derived from GP practices, to US companies without anybody apparently informing patients. GP records contain sensitive information, such as details of a person’s mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits. It is also extremely worrying that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, thought it was right to sign a deal with Amazon that put no restraint on its ability to build profiles of patients who use its Alexa voice assistant to access NHS information.
This might be just the start. If Mr Trump got his way, UK patients would be unaware their data would be processed offshore by a Silicon Valley giant. They might also not know that big tech could use what it learned from that process to invent medical devices that could then be sold back to the NHS. Alan Winters, a leading economist, told the Times: “You could end up where the UK is unable to analyse its health data without paying a royalty to Silicon Valley to use an algorithm. Once the algorithm has been written and copyrighted by an American company, if the NHS tried to do the same in the UK it could be sued.”
The Conservative party manifesto says it “will invest in health data systems”. Whatever for – given the NHS may be forced into selling off its most valuable asset so that US corporations can profit from it at our expense? There may be an argument that in doing so this country might become a vital cog in US Inc. But this is a narrowing of the UK’s potential. Why not aim to build up our own expertise by training NHS researchers in the latest computational techniques so that they can invent new medical procedures that can save lives? After all, making artificial hips has become a multibillion-pound global business. But it was in the state-run NHS – not in the world of private US medicine – that total hip replacement was pioneered. Monopolies, state or private, can get complacent. The answer is not to turn the NHS into a haven for all the excesses of free enterprise in a trade deal with Mr Trump.
Erstmals erzielt eine ProSieben-Eigenproduktion online eine höhere Total Video Viewtime (TVV) als über das klassische lineare TV, teilte der Sender mit. In der TVV werden alle Sehminuten einer Sendung über alle Plattformen hinweg ausgewertet – im TV und Online. Bei „Late Night Berlin“ verteilt sich die TVV zu 59 Prozent auf die Digitalkanäle, 41 Prozent werden durch die TV-Ausstrahlung generiert.
Zeitgleich wächst “Late Night Berlin” bei seinen wöchentlichen linearen Ausstrahlungen und erzielt Rekordwerte. Im TV liegt die aktuelle Staffel der Late-Night-Show von ProSieben 2,7 Prozentpunkte über den Werten der Premieren-Staffel und bei durchschnittlich 11,5 Prozent in der Zielgruppe der 14- bis 49-Jährigen (Stand: 1. Dezember 2019). Besonders bei den jungen Zuschauern ist die Show mit Klaas Heufer-Umlauf beliebt: Im Schnitt verfolgen 22,2 Prozent der 14- bis 29-Jährigen jeden Montag “Late Night Berlin”. Die Ausgabe vom 25. November 2019 ereichte bei den jungen Männern (14-29 J.) sogar mit 45,8 Prozent Marktanteil.
ProSieben-Senderchef Daniel Rosemann: “‘Late Night Berlin’ schreibt ein großes Stück ProSieben-Geschichte und vermutlich sogar ein Stück Fernsehgeschichte. Erstmals wird der Content einer ProSieben-Eigenproduktion digital länger angesehen als im TV, gleichzeitig steigen die linearen Marktanteile der Show. Herzlichen Glückwunsch an Klaas Heufer-Umlauf und sein wunderbares Team.”
Systems that allow humans to control or communicate with technology using only the electrical signals in the brains or muscles are fast becoming mainstream. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a brain-computer interface? It can’t be what it sounds like, surely? Yep, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are precisely what they sound like — systems that connect up the human brain to external technology.
It all sounds a bit sci-fi. Brain-computer interfaces aren’t really something that people are using now, are they?
People are indeed using BCIs today — all around you. At their most simple, a brain-computer interface can be used as a neuroprosthesis — that is, a piece of hardware that can replace or augment nerves that aren’t working properly. The most commonly used neuroprostheses are cochlear implants, which help people with parts of their ear’s internal anatomy to hear. Neuroprostheses to help replace damaged optic nerve function are less common, but a number of companies are developing them, and we’re likely to see widespread uptake of such devices in the coming years.
So why are brain-computer interfaces described as mind-reading technology? That’s where this technology is heading. There are systems, currently being piloted, that can translate your brain activity — the electrical impulses — into signals that software can understand. That means your brain activity can be measured; real-life mind-reading. Or you can use your brain activity to control a remote device.
When we think, thoughts are transmitted within our brain and down into our body as a series of electrical impulses. Picking up such signals is nothing new: doctors already monitor the electrical activity in the brain using EEG (electroencephalography) and in the muscles using EMG (electromyography) as a way of detecting nerve problems. In medicine, EEG and EMG are used to find diseases and other nerve problems by looking for too much, too little or unexpected electrical activity in a patient’s nerves.
Now, however, researchers and companies are looking at whether those electrical impulses could be decoded to give an insight into a person’s thoughts.
Can BCIs read minds? Would they be able to tell what I’m thinking right now?
At present, no. BCIs can’t read your thoughts precisely enough to know what your thoughts are at any given moment. Currently, they’re more about picking up emotional states or which movements you intend to make. A BCI could pick up when someone is thinking ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but detecting more specific thoughts, like knowing you fancy a cheese sandwich right now or that your boss has been really annoying you, are beyond the scope of most brain-computer interfaces.
OK, so give me an example of how BCIs are used.
A lot of interest in BCIs is from medicine. BCIs could potentially offer a way for people with nerve damage to recover lost function. For example, in some spinal injuries, the electrical connection between the brain and the muscles in the limbs has been broken, leaving people unable to move their arms or legs. BCIs could potentially help in such injuries by either passing the electrical signals onto the muscles, bypassing the broken connection and allowing people to move again, or help patients use their thoughts to control robotics or prosthetic limbs that could make movements for them.
What about the military and BCIs?
Like many new technologies, BCIs have attracted interest from the military, and US military emerging technology agency DARPA is investing tens of millions of dollars in developing a brain-computer interface for use by soldiers.
More broadly, it’s easy to see the appeal of BCIs for the military: soldiers in the field could patch in teams back at HQ for extra intelligence, for example, and communicate with each other without making a sound. Equally, there are darker uses that the army could put BCIs too — like interrogation and espionage.
Facebook is already preparing for the way we interface with our devices to change. In the same way we’ve moved from keyboard to mouse to touchscreen and most recently to voice as a way of controlling technology around us, Facebook is betting that the next big interface will be our thoughts. Rather than type your next status update, you could think it; rather than touch a screen to toggle between windows, you could simply move your hands in the air.
The two approaches have their own different benefits and disadvantages. With invasive BCI systems, because electrode arrays are touching the brain, they can gather much more fine-grained and accurate signals. However, as you can imagine, they involve brain surgery and the brain isn’t always too happy about having electrode arrays attached to it — the brain reacts with a process called glial scarring, which in turn can make it harder for the array to pick up signals. Due to the risks involved, invasive systems are usually reserved for medical applications.
Non-invasive systems, however, are more consumer friendly, as there’s no surgery required — such systems record electrical impulses coming from the skin either through sensor-equipped caps worn on the head or similar hardware worn on the wrist like bracelets. It’s likely to be that in-your-face (or on-your-head) nature of the hardware that holds back adoption: early adopters may be happy to sport large and obvious caps, but most consumers won’t be keen to wear an electrode-studded hat that reads their brain waves.
There are, however, efforts to build less intrusive non-invasive systems: DARPA, for example, is funding research into non-surgical BCIs and one day the necessary hardware could be small enough to be inhaled or injected.
Why are BCIs becoming a thing now?
Researchers have been interested in the potential of BCIs for decades, but the technology has come on at a far faster pace than many have predicted, thanks largely to better artificial intelligence and machine-learning software. As such systems have become more sophisticated, they’ve been able to better interpret the signals coming from the brain, separate the signals from the noise, and correlate the brain’s electrical impulses with actual thoughts.
Should I worry about people reading my thoughts without my permission? What about mind control?
On a practical level, most BCIs are only unidirectional — that is, they can read thoughts, but can’t put any ideas into users’ minds. That said, experimental work is already being undertaken around how people can communicate through BCIs: one recent project from the University of Washington allowed three people to collaborate on a Tetris-like game using BCIs.
The pace of technology development being what it is, bidirectional interfaces will be more common before too long. Especially if Elon Musk’s BCI outfit Neuralink has anything to do with it.
What is Neuralink?
Elon Musk galvanised interest in BCIs when he launched Neuralink. As you’d expect from anything run by Musk, there’s an eye-watering level of both ambition and secrecy. The company’s website and Twitter feed revealed very little about what it was planning, although Musk occasionally shared hints, suggesting it was working on brain implants in the form of ‘neural lace’, a mesh of electrodes that would sit on the surface of the brain. The first serious information on Neuralink’s technology came with a presentation earlier this year, showing off a new array that can be implanted into the brain’s cortex by surgical robots.
Like a lot of BCIs, Neuralink’s was framed initially as a way to help people with neurological disorders, but Musk is looking further out, claiming that Neuralink could be used to allow humans a direct interface with artificial intelligence, so that humans are not eventually outpaced by AI. It might be that the only way to stop ourselves becoming outclassed by machines is to link up with them — if we can’t beat them, Musk’s thinking goes, we may have to join them.
Canada-based cryptocurrency mining company Great North Data has submitted a bankruptcy filing, purportedly due to insolvency.
As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Dec. 4, Great North Data — which operated crypto mining facilities in Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay — filed bankruptcy documents in late November, listing CA$13.2 million ($10 million) in liabilities, while having only CA$4.6 ($3.5 million) million in assets.
Liabilities to the state
With that, Great North Data reportedly owes CA$313,718 ($238,080) to the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s Business Investment Corporation, which the company secured for building, land, machinery and equipment.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is reportedly an unsecured creditor for CA$281,675 ($213,868) and funded the company for CA$500,000 ($379,637) in 2015 in the form of an unconditionally repayable contribution.
At press time, the firm’s website is not functional and Cointelegraph has been unable to reach Great North Data on LinkedIn. The firm also has no phone number listed.
The industry has become increasingly challenging for miners, with other firms like the former Washington-based top-five crypto mining firm Giga Watt closing down in January, claiming that it was “insolvent and unable to pay its debts when due.”
In October, BCause Mining, a Bitcoin (BTC) mining operation in Virginia Beach in the United States, was ordered to liquidate its assets, shut down its operations and lay off its 27 full-time and four part-time workers, following bankruptcy documents filed earlier this year.
Meanwhile, mining firm Bitfarms is still expanding its operations despite complaints of the residents of the city of Sherbrooke, Quebec. Bitfarms reportedly manages five mining operations spread across the province to take advantage of cheap local hydropower, while residents living near the site are complaining about the allegedly intolerable sound and vibrations originating from the facility.
Russian mining and smelting giant Nornickel has commenced testing its digital platform for metals trading.
As Bloomberg reported on Dec. 5, Nornickel began trialing its platform for digital metal tokens in collaboration with physical commodities trading group Trafigura Group Ltd., metals finance and logistics firm Traxys SA and materials technology and recycling group Umicore SA. Specifically, the platform is designed to enable clients to purchase digital tokens backed by metals and then trade them for physical supplies.
Commenting on the product rollout, Nornickel CEO Vladimir Potanin said that the company is “imply packing existing business links into a new and modern form.” Nornickel purportedly intends to raise the share its metals sales conducted using tokens to 20% within the next several years.
Nornickel’s digital platform rollout seems to have progressed according to schedule. Vice-president of Nornickel Andrey Bugrov previously said that the company expected to bring the product to the market by the end of 2019, as well as begin trading the tokens.
New life of former Soviet factories
Large factories built in the Soviet era primarily in cold climate locations are slowly drawing the attention of industry enthusiasts. The largest data center in the former Soviet Union, BitRiver, opened about a year ago in the Siberian city of Bratsk. Now, most of its clients use the facility to mine Bitcoin (BTC).
The data center allows cryptocurrency miners to take advantage of cheap energy in what used to be the world’s largest aluminum smelter.
Last year, Deputy Governor of the Leningrad Region, Dmitry Yalo, announced the development of a new mining facility in the region, which was set to be built on the site of a former Soviet fertilizer laboratory.
Texas-based data center provider CyrusOne has reportedly fallen victim to an attack from REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware, business tech-focused publication ZDNet reported on Dec. 5.
One of the largest data centers in the United States, CyrusOne has reportedly been exposed to an attack by a variant of the REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware, which previously hit a number of service providers, local governments and businesses in the country.
The scope of the attack
In an email to Cointelegraph, CyrusOne confirmed:
“Six of our managed service customers, located primarily in our New York data center, have experienced availability issues due to a ransomware program encrypting certain devices in their network.”
The firm went on to assure viewers that law enforcement was working on the matter and that their “data center colocation services, including IX and IP Network Services, are not involved in this incident.”
Per the ransom note obtained by ZDNet, the attackers targeted CyrusOne’s network, with the sole objective of receiving a ransom. Those behind the attack claimed in the note that they consider the attack nothing more than a business transaction, aimed exclusively at profiting.
In the event the company does not cooperate with the attackers, it will purportedly lose the affected data as the cybercriminals claim to have the private key.
To pay or not to pay?
This spring, Riviera Beach, Florida, was hit by a hacker attack, in which the hackers allegedly encrypted government records, blocking access to critical information and leaving the city without an ability to accept utility payments other than in person or by regular mail. The city council eventually agreed to pay nearly $600,000 worth of Bitcoin (BTC) to regain access to data encrypted in the attack.
In late October, hackers compromised the website of the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, and demanded ransom in Bitcoin. The breach affected several customer-facing systems — hardware or software customers interact with directly, such as user interfaces and help desks. The city authorities refused to pay the ransom.
Meanwhile, a number of Finnish cities and organizations are rehearsing how to respond when a group of hackers demands the participants pay ransomware during a series of simulated cyberattacks.
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