Leading the News
Petya Attack Rationale May Have Been Sabotage Rather Than Money.
CNBC (6/29) reports the Petya attack “may have been targeting something more than money, according to Ed Stroz, the former FBI head of computer crime.” CNBC says, “While no data was breached, the attack could have a material financial impact, the company said.” Stroz is quoted saying on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley,” “Even though there’s a financial component in terms of the payload looking from ransomware, the deeper analysis shows that may not have been the main purpose. … If you look at the geographic impact as to where it hit, and if they start to reverse-engineer some of the code and the functionality, it looks like the disruption payload was more significant than the ransomware payload.” CNBC adds, “Charles Carmakal, vice president at Mandiant Cyber Security, agreed that the attack’s objective may not have been purely financial, claiming it could be part of a bigger ploy to hinder all organizations based in Ukraine.” The Washington Post (6/29, Nakashima) quotes Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec: “It definitely wasn’t ransomware and wasn’t financially motivated. … The goal was to cause disruption in computer networks.” Hacker Matt Suiche “said in a blog post this week that the ransomware feint was probably a way to make people think ‘some mysterious hacker group’ was behind the attack rather than a nation state.” The Post adds, “Security researchers cautioned that it is too early to know for sure who is behind it. But some say that the targeting and distribution method of the malware point to Russia.”
Reuters (6/29, Polityuk, Auchard) reports, “The primary target of a crippling computer virus that spread from Ukraine across the world this week is highly likely to have been that country’s computer infrastructure, a top Ukrainian police official told Reuters on Thursday.” Reuters adds, “A growing consensus among security researchers, armed with technical evidence, suggests the main purpose of the attack was to install new malware on computers at government and commercial organizations in Ukraine. Rather than extortion, the goal may be to plant the seeds of future sabotage, experts said.”
Spelman Professor Working To Promote Data Science, Analytics Skills For Minority Students.
Diverse Education (6/29) reports Spelman College computer and information sciences professor Dr. Brandies Marshall is “on a mission” to increase minority students’ enrollment in data science and analytics (DSA) courses. According to a recent Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) report, “by 2021, job candidates who possess skills in data science and analytics — or DSA — will be more than twice as likely to be hired as those who don’t.”
DeVos To Postpone, Rewrite Student Loan Debt Relief Rules.
Politico (6/22, Stratford) reports that education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Wednesday that she plans to delay and rewrite “two signature Obama-era regulations aimed at making it easier for defrauded student borrowers to have their loans canceled and cutting off federal aid to low-performing career college programs.” Politico says this is the “Trump administration’s first significant action on higher education policy” and represents “a major victory for four-profit colleges, which were among the strongest opponents of both sets of rules.”
House Democrats Urge DeVos To Reconsider. Politico Morning Education (6/29) reports that five Democrats in the House of Representatives who are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the House Education and the Workforce Committee have written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on her to “reconsider her recent decision to delay and rewrite to key Obama-era higher education regulations.” The letter expresses the concern that weakening the rules could burden taxpayers and students.
Federal Judge Blocks Part Of Gainful Employment Rule.
Inside Higher Ed (6/29) reports that on Wednesday a federal district court judge issued an order “partially blocking enforcement of the gainful-employment rule for cosmetology schools that sued in February to halt the regulation.” The piece reports that ED defended the rules in court in March, “but earlier this month announced it would pursue a rewrite of the regulation along with the borrower-defense rule.” Wednesday’s order said the schools should be “given more flexibility in filing appeals of earnings data and that the department must give the schools more time to file appeals.”
Politico Morning Education (6/29) reports that US District Judge Rudolph Contreras “ordered the department to give for-profit cosmetology programs more flexibility to appeal the earnings data of their graduates, ruling that the Obama-era rule arbitrarily and capriciously restricted the appeals process for those schools.”
Analysis Explores Whether University Of Michigan’s Free Tuition Plan Will Help Students.
MLive (MI) (6/29) reports that under the Go Blue Guarantee, in-state students who meet income requirements will get free tuition at the University of Michigan beginning in January 2018. The piece notes that despite widespread praise for the program’s goal of helping low-income students attend college, there was some criticism and opposition. Some observers have dismissed the program as a marketing ploy, and have suggested that simply reducing the cost of college attendance would be a worthier goal.
Research and Development
Cooperative Drone Project Aims To Get More Accurate Weather Forecasts.
The Tulsa (OK) World (6/27, Klein) reports on CLOUD-MAP, a cooperative, four-year research project between Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Nebraska and the University of Kentucky. OSU researcher and project director Dr. Jamey Jacob is trying to marry “technology to meteorology for more accurate weather forecasts.” He said, “My dream is that in two years we can hand over a drone to a meteorologist and they can operate it and get the data they need to be even more accurate.” Phillip Chilson, a professor in OU’s School of Meteorology & Atmospheric Radar Research Center, said, “With the drone technology, we’ll be able to be more precise. We will surgically be able to put sensors into the atmosphere.”
On its website, KTUL-TV Tulsa, OK (6/27, Partain) reports Jacob said, “It’s a four-year, $6 million national science foundation project to develop unmanned aircraft systems to improve measurements in meteorology in atmospheric physics.”
New York Launches First Publicly Funded Virtual/Alternative Reality Hub.
Engadget (6/27, Hardawar) reports New York City is launching a virtual/alternative reality hub at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. The hub, “backed by $6 million in funding from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, as well as NYC’s Economic Development Corporation,” will help “nurture companies and projects relying on the new technologies, in hopes of cementing” the city as a “place where AR/VR can thrive.” The Mayor’s office expects the hub to create 500 jobs within the next decade. There was “plenty of excitement” at Thursday’s launch event, “but there’s also still plenty of work left to do before the city’s vision becomes a reality,” as the city has yet to decide on a final location in Brooklyn.
Caltech Researchers Develop Ultra-Thin Camera Without Lens.
LiveScience (6/29) reports that Ali Hajimiri, professor of electrical engineering and medical engineering at California Institute of Technology, led a team that is working on “a tiny, paper-thin camera that has no lens,” reporting that the device “has the potential to switch its “aperture” among wide angle, fish eye and zoom instantaneously,” and is only a few microns thick. Hajimiri says it “could be embedded in a watch or in a pair of eyeglasses or in fabric.”
University Of Washington Scientists Writing Algorithms Aimed At Tracking Asteroids.
The Seattle Times (6/29) reports that scientists at the University of Washington are working on algorithms that will be used to track asteroids by a sky-scanning telescope currently under construction in Chile. Researchers at a total of six universities “are part of a massive new data project to catalog space itself, using the largest digital camera ever made.” The goal of the project is to spot asteroids on a collision course with Earth.
DOE Grant Funds Pittsburgh Nuclear Energy Research.
The Pittsburgh Business Times (6/29) reports the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Westinghouse are “part of a consortium on nuclear technology that is being helped by” a $1.3 million DOE grant. The grant will fund a study “to develop ‘radiation-hard, multifunctional, distributed fiber sensors and sensor-fueled components that can be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency,’ according to a news release Wednesday by the University of Pittsburgh.” The consortium also includes MIT’s Reactor Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Scientist Says Trump Budget Threatens Progress On Nuclear Fission.
Bloomberg News (6/29, Cao) reports that the biggest obstacle to creating fusion energy is funding, according to Ned Sauthoff, the physicist heading the US research unit aimed at unleashing the power of nuclear fission. He says that the US and its counterparts in the European Union, Russian, and China “are less than a decade away from a successful demo of the technology needed to build a reactor that generates a city’s worth of energy and emits zero carbon.” However, the Trump administration’s proposed budget has recommended “less than what half of what Sauthoff says he needs” to keep the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor collaboration on track.
NASA’s Kilopower Project To Test Fission For Power In Space.
SPACE (6/29, Klotz) reports on NASA’s Kilopower project, which is developing “small nuclear fission reactors” for use powering systems in space. Backed by the Game Changing Development program, testing is planned to start in September. NASA Glenn Research Center’s Lee Mason said the testing will be “the first time that we operate a fission reactor that could be used in space since [the] 1960s SNAP program.” The project’s test reactor is “about 6.5 feet tall, [and] is designed to produce up to 1 kilowatt of electric power.” Partnering on the project are NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Lab and the Y12 National Security Complex.
iPhone Engineer: No Screens In The Future.
Bloomberg News (6/29, Chafkin) interviews Tony Fadell, the former Silicon Valley engineer “famous for creating Apple Inc.’s original iPod and iPhone prototypes,” who believes 10 years after the release of the first iPhone that the future of smartphones will move away from screens toward connected devices that enable face-to-face communication facilitated by smart technology. Fadell says the Amazon Echo is a good example of the move toward home assistants and also discusses the tech scene in France and Paris, where he currently lives with his wife, as well as autonomous vehicles and “fake news.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Bipartisan Energy Bill Introduced By Murkowski, Cantwell.
The Hill (6/29, Cama) reports “leading senators overseeing energy policy” have “introduced a new version of their broad energy reform bill.” The bill from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell “has few changes from a bill the upper chamber passed last year.” The legislation “has a wide variety of provisions, centered on energy efficiency, infrastructure and cybersecurity, as well as federal land management and sportsmen’s access.” The bill was “fast-tracked” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “late Wednesday by putting it on the floor calendar.”
The Washington Examiner (6/29, Siciliano) reports “the bill already has received the attention of the Trump administration as it marks Energy Week ahead of the July 4 holiday.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry yesterday “told an audience at an Energy Week conference” that “he talked to Murkowski Thursday and will be reviewing the legislation over the weekend to assess how it achieves the administration’s energy goals.” Perry stated, “I talked to Chairman Murkowski today about her legislation. I am really looking forward, in fact over the weekend, really taking a look at it. She sent a copy over.” Perry “said the administration will work with the committee and the energy industry ‘to try to create a piece of legislation that will further unleash this extraordinary energy world that America finds itself in at this particular time.’” E&E Daily (6/29, Subscription Publication) reports an earlier version of the “bill died in December, after months of formal conference talks with the House ended when conferees in that chamber said they had run out of time.”
Veto Expected On Maine Solar Bill Heading To LePage’s Desk.
The AP (6/29) reports “a solar compromise bill” will head to the desk of Maine Gov. Paul LePage “for an expected veto” tomorrow. On Wednesday, “the Maine House and Senate passed the amended bill…with the more than two-thirds support needed to override a veto.” Maine utility regulators earlier this year “released solar billing rules…that drew criticism from solar proponents and skeptics such as LePage.” He “supports a market-based credit system for solar energy and is a critic of the state’s current program that lets solar customers receive fixed bill credits for generated energy.” The AP adds that “the amended bill would reduce billing credits through 2019 and call for new solar rules.”
Louisiana To Make Good On Solar Tax Credits.
The AP (6/29, Deslatte) reports, “Louisiana will spend up to $15 million to clear a backlog of tax credits for homeowners who paid thousands to add solar panels to their property” but then saw “the state abruptly end the tax breaks they expected to offset much of the cost.” Residents argued it was “unfair to change the rules in 2015 and stall tax credits already in the pipeline as a budget-cutting maneuver, after people installed solar panels expecting to recoup a significant portion of the cost.” Legislators “overwhelmingly agreed in their recently ended legislative session to pay up to $5 million annually for three years for verified tax credits claimed for solar systems purchased and installed through 2015.” The lawmakers “said it was an expense Louisiana should cover despite tight state finances.”
Study: California Transitional Kindergarten Improves School Readiness In Math, Reading.
EdSource (6/28, Hopkinson) reports a study released Wednesday by the American Institutes for Research found California students “who attended transitional kindergarten were more engaged in the learning process and better prepared for math and reading when they entered kindergarten than children who did not.” Heather Quick, principal researcher of the study, explained transitional kindergarten provides an advantage of three to six months of learning in literacy and mathematics for students as they enter kindergarten, “which is quite notable, especially given that a large majority of the students attended preschool.” Additionally, the study says California’s transitional kindergarten program “benefits all students, but shows particular advantages for low-income students and English learners.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Systems Worldwide Struggle To Recover From Ransomware Cyberattack.
• NBA To Hold Second Annual Hackathon.
• University Of Texas At Arlington Launches New Gas-To-Liquid Lab.
• Despite Press Features For Tesla’s New Battery Factory, Chinese Battery Output Will Blow Away Gigafactory.
• Volkswagen Uses Nvidia GPUs To Run Deep Learning Algorithms For Traffic Flow Optimization.
• House Committee Sends Legislation To Revive Yucca Mountain To Full House.
• GM Pledges $850,000 To Support Women In STEM Fields.