AAAI Symposium on Open Government Knowledge, 4-6 Nov 2010, Arlington VA

November 2nd, 2011

If you are in the DC area this weekend and are interested in using Semantic Web technologies, you should come to the AAAI 2011 Fall Symposium on Open Government Knowledge: AI Opportunities and Challenges. It runs from Friday to Sunday midday at the he Westin Arlington Gateway in Arlington, Virginia.

Join us to meet the thought governmental and business leaders in US open government data activities, and discuss the challenges. The symposium features Friday (Nov 4) as governmental day with speakers on Data.gov, openEi.org, open gov data activities in NIH/NCI and NASA and Saturday (Nov 5) as R&D day with speakers from industry, including Google and Microsoft, as well international researchers.

This symposium will explore how AI technologies such as the Semantic Web, information extraction, statistical analysis and machine learning, can be used to make the valuable knowledge embedded in open government data more explicit, accessible and reusable.

See the OGK website for complete details.

Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference

February 7th, 2011

UMBC, SAIC, the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Tech Council of Maryland, and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development have joined to hold the Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference on October 21-22, 2001. The event is designed to increase cyber awareness as a career choice in Maryland, improve the appreciation for cyber oriented curriculum in college and high schools, and convey cyber defense as a sport to increase interest in careers involving cyber security.

The competition will be divided into high school, collegiate and professional divisions. Qualifying rounds take place over the Internet between April and August 2011 using SAIC's Cyber Network Exercise System (CyberNEXS), a scalable training, exercise and certification system.  The top eight teams in each division will meet at the MDC3 event in October for the final round followed by an award ceremony at UMBC. MDC3 participants will also be able to learn from and network with other cybersecurity professionals, researchers, and scholars at the conference, which will include presentations, a career fair and a vendor exhibition.

For more information see this press release and the SAIC MDC3 site.

NIST guidelines for smart grid cybersecurity, 2/15/11 UMBC

January 25th, 2011

The North American electric power system has been called the world’s largest interconnected machine and is a key part of our national infrastructure. The power grid is evolving to better exploit modern information technology and become more integrated with our cyber infrastructure. This presents unprecedented opportunities for enhanced management and efficiency but also introduces vulnerabilities for intrusions, cascading disruptions, malicious attacks, inappropriate manipulations and other threats. Similar issues are foreseen for other cyber-physical infrastructure systems including industrial control systems, transportation, water, natural gas and waste disposal.

A one-day Smart Grid Cyber Security Conference will be held at UMBC on February 15, hosted by the UMBC Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department and Maryland Clean Energy Technology Incubator. The conference will be a comprehensive presentation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology regarding an Inter-agency Report 7628 (NISTIR 7628) named Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security which is a critically important document for guiding government, regulatory organizations, industry and academia on Smart Grid cybersecurity. This regional outreach conference is valuable to any organization that is planning, integrating, executing or developing cyber technology for the Smart Grid.

The conference is free, but participants are asked to register in advance to help us organize for the correct number of participants.

A full copy of the 600 page report is available here.

JASON report on the Science of Cyber-Security

December 20th, 2010

The DoD-sponsored JASON study group was asked to consider the question of whether there is a ‘science’ to cyber-security or if it is fundamentally empirical. They released an 88-page report last month, Science of Cyber-Security with the following abstract:

“JASON was requested by the DoD to examine the theory and practice of cyber-security, and evaluate whether there are underlying fundamental principles that would make it possible to adopt a more scientific approach, identify what is needed in creating a science of cyber-security, and recommend specific ways in which scientific methods can be applied. Our study identified several sub-?elds of computer science that are specifically relevant and also provides some recommendations on further developing the science of cyber-security.”

The report discusses to general technical approaches to putting cyber-security on a scientific foundation. The first is based on the standard collection of frameworks and tools grounded in logic and mathematics such as cryptography, game theory, model checking and software verification. The second is grounding cyber-security on a model based on an analog to immunology in biological systems.

It concludes with some observations, recommendations and responses to nine questions that were included in their charge. One interesting observation is that cyber-security, unlike the physical sciences, involves adversaries, so its foundation will use many different tools and methods. A recommendation is that the government establish cyber-security research centers in universities and other research organizations with a “long time horizon and periodic reviews of accomplishments”.

Tech Council of MD CyberMaryland Forum, Wed AM 12/08/2010

December 3rd, 2010

The Tech Council of Maryland is the state’s largest technology trade association and has more than 500 members. It is sponsoring a series of meetings on cyber security:

“Understanding that the conversation about cyber security needs to continue among all stakeholders, the Tech Council of Maryland is moving its CyberMaryland Forum throughout the state. The Forum is open to anyone with an interest in the cyber security industry.”

The next CyberMaryland Form meeting will be held this coming Wednesday morning at UMBC:

“The next meeting of the CyberMaryland Forum will be held on Wednesday December 8, 2010 from 8:30 to 11:30 am at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Our content will cover the latest developments in the state’s initiative to be the “Epicenter for Information Security and Innovation”, the development of the UMBC/Northrop Grumman Cyber Incubator program to help grow fledgling cyber security companies and other hot topics in the cyber security industry. To learn more about the CyberMaryland Forum, contact Mark Glazer at 240-243-4045 or mglazer@techcouncilmd.com.

The Tech council encourages UMBC faculty, staff and students to participate and is waiving the registration fee for the UMBC community. The meeting will be held in the main conference room at UMBC’s South Campus Technology Center at 1450 South Rolling Road.

FTC proposes a do not track privacy mechanism

December 1st, 2010

Today the FTC released a preliminary staff report that proposes a “do not track” mechanism allowing consumers to opt out of data collection on online searching and browsing activities. The FTC report says that industry self-regulation efforts on privacy have been “too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection.”

“To reduce the burden on consumers and ensure basic privacy protections, the report first recommends that “companies should adopt a ‘privacy by design’ approach by building privacy protections into their everyday business practices.” Such protections include reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy. … Second, the report states, consumers should be presented with choice about collection and sharing of their data at the time and in the context in which they are making decisions – not after having to read long, complicated disclosures that they often cannot find. … One method of simplified choice the FTC staff recommends is a “Do Not Track” mechanism governing the collection of information about consumer’s Internet activity to deliver targeted advertisements and for other purposes. Consumers and industry both support increased transparency and choice for this largely invisible practice. The Commission recommends a simple, easy to use choice mechanism for consumers to opt out of the collection of information about their Internet behavior for targeted ads. The most practical method would probably involve the placement of a persistent setting, similar to a cookie, on the consumer’s browser signaling the consumer’s choices about being tracked and receiving targeted ads.”

The full text of the 120-page report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change — a proposed framework ofr businesses and policymakers is available online.

Tim Berners-Lee on protecting the Web in the December Scientific American

November 19th, 2010

Sir Tim Berners-Lee discusses the principles underlying the Web and the need to protect them in an article from the December issue of Scientific American, Long Live the Web.

“The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.”

Near the end of the long feature article, he mentions the Semantic Web’s linked data as one of the major new technologies the Web will give birth to, provided the principles are upheld.

“A great example of future promise, which leverages the strengths of all the principles, is linked data. Today’s Web is quite effective at helping people publish and discover documents, but our computer programs cannot read or manipulate the actual data within those documents. As this problem is solved, the Web will become much more useful, because data about nearly every aspect of our lives are being created at an astonishing rate. Locked within all these data is knowledge about how to cure diseases, foster business value and govern our world more effectively.”

One of the benefits of linked data is that it makes data integration and fusion much easier. The benefit comes with a potential risk, which Berners-Lee acknowledges.

“Linked data raise certain issues that we will have to confront. For example, new data-integration capabilities could pose privacy challenges that are hardly addressed by today’s privacy laws. We should examine legal, cultural and technical options that will preserve privacy without stifling beneficial data-sharing capabilities.”

The risk is not unique to linked data, and new research is underway, in our lab and elsewhere, on how to also use Semantic Web technology to protect privacy.

Security of Industrial Control Systems: How is it Different from IT Cyber Security

November 19th, 2010

The Maryland Clean Energy Technology Incubator is holding a special conference on Security of Industrial Control Systems: How is it Different from IT Cyber Security? on Tuesday 14 December 2010. The conference will be held in the main conference room at the bwtech@UMBC research and technology park’s south campus facility.

The one-day conference will discuss issues and solutions to deal with cyber threats to our industrial control systems used in operating our critical infrastructure: electric grid, water distribution, transportation system, and chemical process industry. Speakers will include leaders in the fields of industrial control systems and IT cybersecurity from Applied Control Solutions, UMBC, NIST, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, MITRE, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Fortinet.

The meeting will end with a discussion of the formation of new group from academia, industry, and government with the objective of creating the skills, products and services needed to effectively deal with cyber threats to our the industrial control systems.

Recorded Future analyses streaming Web data to predict the future

October 30th, 2010

Recorded Future is a Boston-based startup with backing from Google and In-Q-Tel uses sophisticated linguistic and statistical algorithms to extract time-related information from streams of Web data about entities and events. Their goal is to help their clients to understand how the relationships between entities and events of interest are changing over time and make predictions about the future.

Recorded Future system architecture

A recent Technology Review article, See the Future with a Search, describes it this way.

“Conventional search engines like Google use links to rank and connect different Web pages. Recorded Future’s software goes a level deeper by analyzing the content of pages to track the “invisible” connections between people, places, and events described online.
   ”That makes it possible for me to look for specific patterns, like product releases expected from Apple in the near future, or to identify when a company plans to invest or expand into India,” says Christopher Ahlberg, founder of the Boston-based firm.
   A search for information about drug company Merck, for example, generates a timeline showing not only recent news on earnings but also when various drug trials registered with the website clinicaltrials.gov will end in coming years. Another search revealed when various news outlets predict that Facebook will make its initial public offering.
   That is done using a constantly updated index of what Ahlberg calls “streaming data,” including news articles, filings with government regulators, Twitter updates, and transcripts from earnings calls or political and economic speeches. Recorded Future uses linguistic algorithms to identify specific types of events, such as product releases, mergers, or natural disasters, the date when those events will happen, and related entities such as people, companies, and countries. The tool can also track the sentiment of news coverage about companies, classifying it as either good or bad.”

Pricing for access to their online services and API starts at $149 a month, but there is a free Futures email alert service through which you can get the results of some standing queries on a daily or weekly basis. You can also explore the capabilities they offer through their page on the 2010 US Senate Races.

“Rather than attempt to predict how the the races will turn out, we have drawn from our database the momentum, best characterized as online buzz, and sentiment, both positive and negative, associated with the coverage of the 29 candidates in 14 interesting races. This dashboard is meant to give the view of a campaign strategist, as it measures how well a campaign has done in getting the media to speak about the candidate, and whether that coverage has been positive, in comparison to the opponent.”

Their blog reveals some insights on the technology they are using and much more about the business opportunities they see. Clearly the company is leveraging named entity recognition, event recognition and sentiment analysis. A short A White Paper on Temporal Analytics has some details on their overall approach.

Chinese Tianhe-1A is fastest supercomputer

October 28th, 2010

Tianhe-1AChina’s Tianhe-1A is being recognized as the world’s fastest supercomputer. It has 7168 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs and achieved a Linpack score of 2.507 petaflops, a 40% speedup over Oak Ridge National Lab’s Jaguar, the previous top machine. Today’s WSJ has an article,

“Supercomputers are massive machines that help tackle the toughest scientific problems, including simulating commercial products like new drugs as well as defense-related applications such as weapons design and breaking codes. The field has long been led by U.S. technology companies and national laboratories, which operate systems that have consistently topped lists of the fastest machines in the world.

But Nvidia says the new system in Tianjin—which is being formally announced Thursday at an event in China—was able to reach 2.5 petaflops. That is a measure of calculating speed ordinarily translated into a thousand trillion operations per second. It is more than 40% higher than the mark set last June by a system called Jaguar at Oak Ridge National Laboratory that previously stood at No. 1 on a twice-yearly ranking of the 500 fastest supercomputers.”

The NYT and HPCwire also have good overview articles. The HPC article points out that the Tianhe-1A has a relatively low Linpack efficiency compaed to the Jaguar.

“Although the Linpack performance is a stunning 2.5 petaflops, the system left a lot of potential FLOPS in the machine. Its peak performance is 4.7 petaflops, yielding a Linpack efficiency of just over 50 percent. To date, this is a rather typical Linpack yield for GPGPU-accelerated supers. Because the GPUs are stuck on the relatively slow PCIe bus, the overhead of sending calculations to the graphics processors chews up quite a few cycles on both the CPUs and GPUs. By contrast, the CPU-only Jaguar has a Linpack/peak efficiency of 75 percent. Even so, Tianhe-1A draws just 4 megawatts of power, while Jaguar uses nearly 7 megawatts and yields 30 percent less Linpack.

The (unofficial) “official” list of the fastest supercomputers is TOP500 which seems to be inaccessible at the moment, due no doubt to the heavy load caused by the news stories above. The TOP500 list is due for a refresh next month.