Boosting Computer Security In A Time Of Increased Danger

The danger of credit card fraud from hacking is fast becoming a very very common thing as hackers get more advanced and more and more transactions are conducted online.  The recent large scale attack on Target that exposed the information of over 70 million customers has brought this issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds.  The current fraud protection measures we have in place are clearly no longer enough, and the credit card companies are looking into chip-based EMV systems that will have an additional encrypted chip embedded in the card that would make duplicating them much, much more difficult.  The target for the switchover is in 2015, however, as card companies must gear up for the change.  It will cost money to switch to the new system, however the impact of fraud now is threatening to outweigh the cost of switching systems.  It’s just getting too crazy.

What else can you do to protect yourself from credit card and identity theft?  Well, ensure that you’re constantly monitoring your credit card bill.  Many companies will have fraud detection and alerts in place.  However, sometimes false charges can sneak by the filters.

Another thing to do is to ensure that your computer is free from spyware and malware.  Keysniffers and other viruses can easily steal your data and send it on to a criminal third party.  Using programs such as Spyhunter 4 and Norton 360 are excellent ways of protecting your computer and your online safety.

Never send your password or any similar info to a company if you get an email asking for it.  A company will NEVER ask you for your password.  These are phishing attempts and should be reported accordingly.  In addition, keep your guard up and use your best judgement.

Early Artificial Intelligence

As computers get more and more advanced, theories abound about the singularity – the point at which computers suddenly develop their own consciousness and break free from the limits of human programming.

Most recently the movie Her from Spike Jonze is a look at the singularity.  The Matrix was another film about that point in time.  While we still are quite a ways away from this happening, it’s fun to look back and see the basis of artificial intelligence and how the earliest ideas about it were formulated.  I found this article from Science to be rather informative, and I took a portion and quoted it below:

The idea of computers forming organizations raises some fundamental research questions. For example, as things are now, the organizations are specified by the programmers beforehand. Can the computers be taught to organize and reorganize themselves on their own to fit the problem at hand? Lesser has been thinking about how to do that, but finds it slow going. “You find that the question of ‘What is an organization?’ is very difficult to define,” he says. “Part of our work is to define a language in which you can talk about organizations symbolically.” Malone has also been thinking along these lines. He and several colleagues have begun to develop an analytic framework for evaluating the efficiency and flexibility of organizations, including such factors as production costs, coordination overhead, and the vulnerability of the system to isolated failures or to sudden changes in the environment.

Another research question: How can one machine reason about another’s knowledge, intentions, and beliefs? “In human communication, a lot of what I say depends on what I believe about your state of mind,” says MIT’s Randall Davis, who organized the AAAI panel. “For example, if I think you know about something, I won’t bother to explain it to you. If I think you don’t believe it, I may argue for it.” Exactly the same kind of considerations come up when machines have to communicate.

Michael Genesereth of Stanford University has been looking at some of these issues by mathematically modeling groups of computers, or “agents,” that interact according to rules based on game theory. “The thing that intrigues me,” he told the AAAI, “are the circumstances in which cooperation will emerge spontaneously from individual agents.

The simplest case is when the agents cannot communicate with each other, he explains. As long as the agents know about each other’s desires and intentions, they still end up cooperating simply because that is the way they can best achieve their individual goals. “What we’ve found is that rationality necessarily leads to cooperation,” he says.

On the other hand, says Genesereth, things begin to get very interesting indeed when the agents can communicate. Sometimes they cooperate. Sometimes they establish ad hoc organizations. But sometimes they try to manipulate each other. Sometimes they withhold information. And sometimes they lie. Genesereth hopes to do a lot more work in understanding why and when this happens.

Waldrop, M. Mitchell. “The intelligence of organizations.” Science 225 (1984): 1136+.

What do you think about the singularity?  When do you think the turning point will be?  Do you think humans will take it so far as to risk computer intelligence running away from us?  The result of this in Her was that the computers got exponentially smarter as they worked together, and in essence they “jumped dimensions” into an apparently alternate dimension that we humans cannot even conceive of right now.  And that was it.  They were gone.  An interesting turn, and one much less malicious than the ideas posed in the Matrix.