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Posted by Alexander Mordvintsev, Software Engineer, Christopher Olah, Software Engineering Intern and Mike Tyka, Software Engineer

Artificial Neural Networks have spurred remarkable recent progress in image classification and speech recognition. But even though these are very useful tools based on well-known mathematical methods, we actually understand surprisingly little of why certain models work and others don’t. So let’s take a look at some simple techniques for peeking inside these networks.
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By David Willman

Two serious technical flaws have been identified in the ground-launched anti-missile interceptors that the United States would rely on to defend against a nuclear attack by North Korea.

Pentagon officials were informed of the problems as recently as last summer but decided to postpone corrective action. They told federal auditors that acting immediately to fix the defects would interfere with the production of new interceptors and slow a planned expansion of the nation’s homeland missile defense system, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

As a result, all 33 interceptors now deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County and Ft. Greely, Alaska, have one of the defects. Ten of those interceptors — plus eight being prepared for delivery this year — have both.

Summing up the effect on missile-defense readiness, the GAO report said that “the fielded interceptors are susceptible to experiencing … failure modes,” resulting in “an interceptor fleet that may not work as intended.”

The flaws could disrupt sensitive on-board systems that are supposed to steer the interceptors into enemy missiles in space.

The GAO report, an annual assessment of missile defense programs prepared for congressional committees, describes the problems in terse, technical terms. Defense specialists interviewed by The Times provided more detail.

The interceptors form the heart of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, GMD for short. Four of the massive, three-stage rockets are stationed at Vandenberg and 29 at Ft. Greely.

They would rise out of underground silos in response to an attack. Atop each interceptor is a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle,” designed to separate from its boost rocket in space, fly independently at a speed of 4 miles per second and crash into an enemy warhead — a feat that has been likened to hitting one bullet with another.

The GMD system was deployed in 2004 as part of the nation’s response to Sept. 11, 2001, and a heightened fear of attack by terrorist groups or rogue states. It has cost taxpayers more than $40 billion so far and has been plagued by technical deficiencies.

One of the newly disclosed shortcomings centers on wiring harnesses embedded within the kill vehicles’ dense labyrinth of electronics.

A supplier used an unsuitable soldering material to assemble harnesses in at least 10 interceptors deployed in 2009 and 2010 and still part of the fleet.

The same material was used in the eight interceptors that will be placed in silos this year, according to GAO analyst Cristina Chaplain, lead author of the report.

The soldering material is vulnerable to corrosion in the interceptors’ underground silos, some of which have had damp conditions and mold. Corrosion “could have far-reaching effects” because the “defective wiring harnesses” supply power and data to the kill vehicle’s on-board guidance system, said the GAO report, which is dated May 6.

When Boeing Co., prime contractor for the GMD system, informed government officials of the problem last summer, they did not insist upon repair or replacement of the defective harnesses, according to the report.

Instead, Missile Defense Agency officials “assessed the likelihood for the component’s degradation in the operational environment as low and decided to accept the component as is,” the report said.

The decision minimized delays in producing new interceptors, “but increased the risk for future reliability failures,” the report said.

Chaplain told The Times that based on her staff’s discussions with the Missile Defense Agency, officials there have “no timeline” for repairing the wiring harnesses.

The agency encountered a similar problem with wiring harnesses years earlier, and the supplier was instructed not to use the deficient soldering material. But “the corrective actions were not passed along to other suppliers,” according to the GAO report.

L. David Montague, co-chairman of a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed operations of the Missile Defense Agency, said officials should promptly set a schedule for fixing the harnesses.

“The older they are with that kind of a flawed soldering, the more likely they are to fail,” Montague, a former president of missile systems for Lockheed Corp., said in an interview.

The second newly disclosed defect involves a component called a divert thruster, a small motor intended to help maneuver the kill vehicles in flight. Each kill vehicle has four of them.

The GAO report refers to “performance issues” with the thrusters. It offers few details, and GAO auditors declined to elaborate, citing a fear of revealing classified information. They did say that the problem is different from an earlier concern that the thruster’s heavy vibrations could throw off the kill vehicle’s guidance system.

The report and interviews with defense specialists make clear that problems with the divert thruster have bedeviled the interceptor fleet for years. To address deficiencies in the original version, Pentagon contractors created a redesigned “alternate divert thruster.”

The government planned to install the new version in many of the currently deployed interceptors over the next few years and to retrofit newly manufactured interceptors, according to the GAO report and interviews with its authors.

That plan was scrapped after the alternate thruster, in November 2013, failed a crucial ground test to determine whether it could withstand the stresses of flight, the report said. To stay on track for expanding the fleet, senior Pentagon officials decided to keep building interceptors with the original, deficient thruster.

The GAO report faulted the Missile Defense Agency, an arm of the Pentagon, for “omitting steps in the design process” of the alternate thruster in the rush to deploy more interceptors. The skipped steps would have involved a lengthier, more rigorous vetting of the new design, defense specialists said. The report said the omission contributed to the 2013 test failure.

All 33 interceptors now deployed have the original, defective thruster. The eight interceptors to be added to the fleet this year will contain the same component, GAO officials told The Times.

The missile agency currently “does not plan to fix” those thrusters, despite their “known performance issues,” said the GAO report.

Contractors are continuing to work on the alternate thruster, hoping to correct whatever caused the ground-test failure. The first test flight using the alternate thruster is scheduled for late this year.

The GAO had recommended that the Pentagon postpone integrating the eight new interceptors into the fleet until after that test. Defense Department officials rebuffed the recommendation, the report said.

In a response included in the report, Assistant Secretary of Defense Katharina G. McFarland wrote that delaying deployment of the new interceptors “would unacceptably increase the risk” that the Pentagon would fall short of its goal of expanding the GMD system from 33 interceptors to 44 by the end of 2017.

Asked for comment on the report, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, Richard Lehner, said in a statement that officials “have in place a comprehensive, disciplined program to improve and enhance” the GMD system “regarding the issues noted by the GAO.”

“We will continue to work closely with our industry partners to ensure quality standards are not only met, but exceeded,” the statement said.

Boeing declined to comment.

The GMD system is designed to repel a “limited” missile attack by a non-superpower adversary, such as North Korea. The nation’s defense against a massive nuclear assault by Russia or China still relies on “mutually assured destruction,” the Cold War notion that neither country would strike first for fear of a devastating counterattack.

GMD’s roots go back to the Clinton administration, when concern began to mount over the international spread of missile technology and nuclear development programs. In 2002, President Bush ordered “an initial set of missile defense capabilities” to be put in place within two years to protect the U.S.

To accelerate deployment, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld exempted the missile agency from the Pentagon’s standard procurement rules and testing standards.

Engineers trace the system’s difficulties to the breakneck pace at which components were produced and fielded. In precisely scripted flight tests above the Pacific, interceptors have failed to hit mock-enemy warheads about half the time.

As a result, the missile agency projects that four or five interceptors would have to be fired at any single enemy warhead, according to current and former government officials. Under this scenario, a volley of 10 enemy missiles could exhaust the entire U.S. inventory of interceptors.

The Obama administration, after resisting calls for a larger system, pledged two years ago to increase the number of interceptors to 44. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have pushed for further expansion. The House this month passed a bill authorizing $30 million to plan and design a site for interceptors on the East Coast. The White House called the move “premature.”

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In the name of Allah, the Merciful to all, the Compassionate

This isn’t well-known, so you should probably share this with your friends, family… Really anyone who has used PayPal in connection with a website providing online content. On July 1st, 2015, Paypal will update its TOS agreement… to take away any and all intellectual rights to any content you provide online. If you use Paypal or accept PayPal, they will attempt to take ownership of any online content you add to your business or website. Read this easily-overlooked section of the new PayPal TOS:
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Source: firstlook.org

When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn’t be able to unlock evidence on criminals’ digital devices. What they didn’t say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

We’re publishing in full, for the first time, manuals explaining the prominent commercial implant software “Remote Control System,” manufactured by the Italian company Hacking Team. Despite FBI director James Comey’s dire warnings about the impact of widespread data scrambling — “criminals and terrorists would like nothing more,” he declared — Hacking Team explicitly promises on its website that its software can “defeat encryption.”

The manuals describe Hacking Team’s software for government technicians and analysts, showing how it can activate cameras, exfiltrate emails, record Skype calls, log typing, and collect passwords on targeted devices. They also catalog a range of pre-bottled techniques for infecting those devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, streaming video, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. With a few clicks of a mouse, even a lightly trained technician can build a software agent that can infect and monitor a device, then upload captured data at unobtrusive times using a stealthy network of proxy servers, all without leaving a trace. That, at least, is what Hacking Team’s manuals claim as the company tries to distinguish its offerings in the global marketplace for government hacking software.

Hacking Team’s efforts include a visible push into the U.S. Though Remote Control System is sold around the world — suspected clients include small governments in dozens of countries, from Ethiopia to Kazakhstan to Saudi Arabia to Mexico to Oman — the company keeps one of its three listed worldwide offices in Annapolis, Maryland, on the edge of the federal intelligence and law-enforcement cluster around the nation’s capital; has sent representatives to American homeland security trade shows and conferences, where it has led training seminars like “Cyber Intelligence Solutions to Data Encryption” for police; and has even taken an investment from a firm headed by America’s former ambassador to Italy. The United States is also, according to two separate research teams, far and away Hacking Team’s top nexus for servers, hosting upwards of 100 such systems, roughly a fifth of all its servers globally.

 

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Source: Midphase

In the first part of a two-part article, Kelly Kirkham explores the concept of outrage marketing as recently brought to the fore by Urban Outfitters…

Urban Outfitters reminded us last week that not all press is good press. The release of their highly controversial blood and bullet hole sweatshirt made national headline news. Although there was only one sweater available, that one sweater reminded us all about the dark side of outrage marketing.

For newbie marketers, outrage marketing is a marketing exercise that’s carried out with the aim of generating brand awareness through the use of controversy.

This isn’t the first time that Urban Outfitters has used outrage marketing to fire up customers. Other offensive marketing stunts include shot glasses that were designed to look like pill bottles, t-shirts that seemingly advocated eating disorders, as well as blue striped jumpers designed with a gold star that too-closely resembled a Star of David.

Urban Outfitters has perfected the ‘art of upsetting’, after learning that upset often leads to publicity.

Of course, they’re not the only company who seem to work hard at making people angry with controversial advertising. Outrage marketing has caused many heads to shake over the last twenty years.

So much so that it’s worth asking whether these offensive and outrageous marketing methods really work. Or do companies ultimately regret their hasty pleas for attention?

We looked back at some of the most controversial outrage marketing attempts to see if, in the long run, outrage marketing actually helps or hurts a business.

In 2009, the animal rights organization PETA posted a billboard displaying a large woman in a bikini with the words, “Save the Whales – Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian”. This offensive display was not seen as friendly banter or a light joke and was promptly taken down. PETA single handedly offended every driver on the freeway with their use of outrage marketing.

You might believe that the universal panning of this campaign would make it a marketing flop for PETA. However, the campaign got the organisation priceless coverage in publications like the Huffington Post.

In 2012, Adidas released the JS Roundhouse Mids, a hip $350 sneaker completed by shackles that attached to the shoe wearer’s ankle. Yes, I actually said the word ‘shackles’. The response from the public was instant and angry. Media sources across the globe simultaneously shook their head. Adidas announced that they were in no way promoting slavery and quickly pulled the product. Jesse Jackson was quoted after the ordeal saying, “The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation […] is offensive, appalling and insensitive.”

Despite this, the marketing stunt gave Adidas the opportunity to talk about how ‘creative’ and ‘edgy’ they were in publications like USA Today and the Huffington Post.

One attempt at outrage marketing that certainly can’t be seen as a success is the case of LifeLock. In 2006, LifeLock CEO Todd Davis committed a marketing fail of massive proportions. Davis publicly displayed his social security number on billboards and commercials across the nation to prove that his company was guaranteed to protect your identity. Customers across the US were outraged when they learned that Todd Davis’s company wasn’t so fail proof. In fact, his identity was stolen 13 times because of his marketing stunt. What’s more, the Federal Trade Commission fined LifeLock $12 million dollars in 2010 for deceptive advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission is constantly on the lookout for ridiculous marketing claims or offensive material in hopes that they can pull the ad or product before it reaches the public.

So what does the hard evidence say? Can shock advertising lead to profits in the long term? Benetton could be used as part of the yes argument here. This fashion brand were one of the first companies to use shock advertising and their name became famous around the world. Since purposefully abandoning outrage campaigns, their sales figures have actually dropped.

Researcher Randesh Manchanda discovered that outrage marketing attempts tend to earn attention better than fear or information-based adverts. He also discovered that shock adverts tended to be remembered better. Psychologists have also found links between emotion in advertising and improved memory.

Other researchers Javed and Zeb have concluded that shock advertising can impact negatively on a brand’s image in the long term.

Returning to Urban Outfitters, the company have apologised for the shirt, saying…

“Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State.”

However, iit might actually be the case that their cutting-edge shock and awe campaign might not be as cutting edge as their marketing department potentially thought it would be. Some advertising industry experts are now suggesting that outrage marketing will soon go the way of the dodo.

There’s speculation that nudge advertising is the next big thing.

Keep your eye on the Midphase blog for the next in this two-part article and to find out more about creating a nudge campaign…

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Source: Electronic Products

Shoving an unneeded messenger app down the throat of your entire user base is a guaranteed way to upset people and leave them feeling disillusioned, asking questions like “why do I suddenly need this?” While there’s no indication that Facebook harbors malicious intent, the company is collecting enormous amounts of data about the users of its applications, states iOS forensics specialist and security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski. This should come as no surprise considering that most mobile apps run some sort of analytics on user behavior, although Facebook’s apps ─ according to Zdziarski – have more spyware type code in it than in products specifically intended for surveillance.
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Brian Krebs, “Lorem Ipsum: Of Good & Evil, Google & China“, Krebs on Security8/14/2014:

Imagine discovering a secret language spoken only online by a knowledgeable and learned few. Over a period of weeks, as you begin to tease out the meaning of this curious tongue and ponder its purpose, the language appears to shift in subtle but fantastic ways, remaking itself daily before your eyes. And just when you are poised to share your findings with the rest of the world, the entire thing vanishes.

 It all started a few months back when I received a note from Lance James, head of cyber intelligence at Deloitte. James pinged me to share something discovered by FireEye researcher Michael Shoukry and another researcher who wished to be identified only as “Kraeh3n.” They noticed a bizarre pattern in Google Translate: When one typed “lorem ipsum” into Google Translate, the default results (with the system auto-detecting Latin as the language) returned a single word: “China.”

Capitalizing the first letter of each word changed the output to “NATO” — the acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Reversing the words in both lower- and uppercase produced “The Internet” and “The Company” (the “Company” with a capital “C” has long been a code word for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency). Repeating and rearranging the word pair with a mix of capitalization generated even stranger results. For example, “lorem ipsum ipsum ipsum Lorem” generated the phrase “China is very very sexy.”

Variations on the “Lorem ipsum” text produced even more bizarre results.

Krebs reports a wild and wonderful theory about all this:

Kraeh3n said she’s convinced that the lorem ipsum phenomenon is not an accident or chance occurrence.

“Translate [is] designed to be able to evolve and to learn from crowd-sourced input to reflect adaptations in language use over time,” Kraeh3n said. “Someone out there learned to game that ability and use an obscure piece of text no one in their right mind would ever type in to create totally random alternate meanings that could, potentially, be used to transmit messages covertly.”

Meanwhile, Shoukry says he plans to continue his testing for new language patterns that may be hidden in Google Translate.

“The cleverness of hiding something in plain sight has been around for many years,” he said. “However, this is exceptionally brilliant because these templates are so widely used that people are desensitized to them, and because this text is so widely distributed that no one bothers to question why, how and where it might have come from.”

Google’s explanation makes more sense to me, though it’s not nearly as much fun:

Just before midnight, Aug. 16, Google Translate abruptly stopped translating the word “lorem” into anything but “lorem” from Latin to English. […] A spokesman for Google said the change was made to fix a bug with the Translate algorithm (aligning ‘lorem ipsum’ Latin boilerplate with unrelated English text) rather than a security vulnerability.

The comments on Brian’s post include some other amusing examples, like the fact that not all fragments of the Lorem ipsum passage have been fixed – here’s my own screenshot from this morning:

… and the fact that even the original fragments still work going from English to Latin(again a screenshot from a few minutes ago):

As other commenters explain, it’s pretty obvious why a statistical MT algorithm would do this kind of thing, given what an unsuspecting automated finder of apparently parallel text is likely to come up with in the way of Latin/English training material. At some point, Google will manage the harder job of purging all instances of Lorem ipsum text from its training data, and then this particular source of amusement will mostly be gone.

For those few who may not know what Lorem ipsum is, Wikipedia explains that

In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is a filler text commonly used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation. Replacing meaningful content that could be distracting with placeholder text may allow viewers to focus on graphic aspects such as font, typography, and page layout.

The lorem ipsum text is typically a scrambled section of De finibus bonorum et malorum, a 1st-century BC Latin text by Cicero, with words altered, added, and removed such that it is nonsensical, improper Latin.

A variation of the ordinary lorem ipsum text has been used in typesetting since the 1960s or earlier, when it was popularized by advertisements for Letraset transfer sheets. It was introduced to the Information Age in the mid-1980s by Aldus Corporation, which employed it in graphics and word processing templates for its desktop publishing program, PageMaker, for the Apple Macintosh.

The typical Lorem ipsum passage is a munged derivative of a part of I.10.32 of Cicero’s work, starting with the last five letters of the accusative form dolorem, and picking up and adding letters (as indicated below until I lost interest):

Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit,ametconsectetur, adipisci[ng] velitsed qu[d]ia[m] non num[my]quameius modtempora inciduntut labore et dolore magnaaliquam quaeratvoluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam  corporis suscipit120 laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur?  At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti121 atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit, quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus.

I have no idea why they didn’t just use an unmunged chunk of Cicero — but no doubt one of our erudite commentators can enlighten us.

 

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This Article was originally published on Distractify:

A busy NYC restaurant kept getting bad reviews for slow service, so they hired a firm to investigate. When they compared footage from 2004 to footage from 2014, they made some pretty startling discoveries. So shocking, in fact, that they ranted about it on Craigslist.
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This Article was written by J.M. Berger originally published on The Atlantic:

The advance of an army used to be marked by war drums. Now it’s marked by volleys of tweets.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni militant group that seized Iraq’s second-largest city last week and is now pledging to take Baghdad, has honed this new technique—most recently posting photos on Twitter of an alleged mass killing of Iraqi soldiers. But what’s often overlooked in press coverage is that ISIS doesn’t just have strong, organic support online. It also employs social-media strategies that inflate and control its message. Extremists of all stripes are increasingly using social media to recruitradicalize and raise funds, and ISIS is one of the most adept practitioners of this approach.
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