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Quantum Defense – The Race to Military Applications of Fundamental Science

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The first superpower to harnesses quantum science will achieve military super-powers, Defense One reports: unbreakable communication security, and quantum supercomputers much more powerful than today’s machines. As usual, the race is between the US and China.

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Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall said:

Much like autonomy, quantum sciences is an area that could yield fundamental changes in military capabilities.

A Billion-Fold Increase in Defense Computing Power

Military ComputingQuantum computers are “as different from regular computers as humans are from jellyfish.” While traditional computers encode information in classical bits that are in well-defined states – on or off, zero or one – quantum computers rely on quantum bits (qubits) that exhibit the ghostly superpositions typical of quantum physics – zero and one, on and off at the same time.

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First introduced in 1957 by theoretical physicist Hugh Everett, the Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics says that the weird and counter-intuitive quantum superpositions extend across parallel universes. A qubit in a quantum superposition of zero and one states exists in two parallel universes. Similarly, two qubits require four parallel universes, and so forth. Doing the math, it’s easy to see that a system of 1000 qubits spans a huge number of parallel universes.

Based on the MWI, an imprecise but suggestive analogy can be established between a quantum computer and many different computers in parallel universes, which collaborate to speed up a computation. For example, today’s encryption codes could be easily cracked by trying many (actually, a huge number of) possible solutions in parallel.

Recently, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the research arm of US intelligence, launched a research program to overcome the current practical limitations of quantum computing. In May, the US Department of Defense announced a $45 million award to develop the first U.S prototype of a scalable quantum network with memory and stated:

Quantum-physics-based computing could increase by a billion-fold computing capability critical to accelerating the building-blocks for game-changing capabilities in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Major technology companies including Google, Lockheed Martin, and IBM, are exploring quantum computing as well. Intel recently announced a collaboration with TNO and QuTech, the quantum institute of the Delft University of Technology, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Intel, persuaded that quantum computing is a strategic technology, will invest US$50 million.

If future quantum computers threaten the security of today’s encryption methods, another side of the quantum coin – quantum cryptography – can permit unbreakable encryption. In fact, quantum cryptography could offer complete security based on physics, invulnerable to computing power.

The US government wants to boost national security with quantum networks protected by the laws of fundamental physics, but China might get here first. In fact, China plans to complete the installation of the world’s longest quantum communication network stretching 2,000km (1,240miles) from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, International Business Times reports. Chinese scientists are also making advances toward quantum communication satellites that support Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Peter Ringel

    September 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    “Quantum-physics-based computing could increase by a billion-fold computing capability…”. If Quantum Computing becomes a viable possibility, then military applications will really become one of the least interesting consequences, especially when this technology is taken to its logical conclusions. There are some interesting books on the matter, such as On Computer Simulated Universes. We live in astonishing times.
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18339599-on-computer-simulated-universes

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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