August 28 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Microsoft Stories Quiet collective: The unseen experts behind Microsoft’s coronavirus response
Early on a Saturday morning in January, Juan Lavista-Ferres, who leads Microsoft’s AI for Good research lab, penned an urgent email to his team. Although there were fewer than 2,000 cases worldwide of a yet-unnamed disease with little data available, he warned that something serious was coming. “The reported cases follow a very scary exponential curve,” he wrote. “In this type of virus outbreak we typically expect this type of curve, but the rate shows that the virus is spreading very fast. If the data is accurate and the outbreak is not stopped soon, it can reach 70,000 cases in late February, and potentially millions after that.” Just over a month later, after multiple positive cases of what is now known as COVID-19 were confirmed in Washington state, and the first death in the U.S. from the disease occurred at the Life Care Center nursing facility in a Seattle suburb, Microsoft became one of the first major U.S. employers to insist all but those deemed essential employees, or around 2% of the workforce, stay home to stay safe.

Rapid City Journal FBI investigating South Dakota COVID-19 patient data breach
South Dakotans whose COVID-19 status and other personal information was collected by state agencies may be subject to a data breach that is under federal investigation. The Department of Public Safety sent out letters dated Aug. 17 to people who may have been affected by the June 19 information breach that targeted the DPS Fusion Center database used to share COVID-19 patient names and addresses to local law enforcement. DPS received the data from the Department of Health.

Bloomberg How Hackers Bled 118 Bitcoins Out of Covid Researchers in U.S.
The negotiator entered the chatroom four days after the attack. Hackers had locked down several servers used by the epidemiology and biostatistics department at the University of California at San Francisco, and wanted a $3 million ransom to give them the keys. On Friday, June 5, at 6:50 p.m., they directed a UCSF negotiator to a webpage on the dark web—meaning beyond the realm of Google—that listed a dozen or so sets of apparent victims and demands.


Axios Klobuchar, Microsoft’s Smith warn of election interference
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Microsoft President Brad Smith warned of ongoing election interference through technology on Thursday at an Axios virtual event on the Future of Employability. “It was four years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that our eyes were first opened to nation-state cyberattacks on candidates and campaigns … Here we are again four years later … We have stronger defenses … but the threats are becoming more sophisticated,” Smith said.


Nextgov Senators Push FCC to Increase Funding for Rural Health Care Program
More than a dozen Senate Democrats pressed the Federal Communications Commission Friday to increase funding for and improve operations for the Rural Health Care Program. The RHC—maintained by the Federal Communications Commission—provides funding to eligible health care providers for telecommunications and broadband services related to health care, including telehealth services.

Department of Energy White House Office of Technology Policy, National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Announce Over $1 Billion in Awards for Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Information Science Research Institutes
Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced over $1 billion in awards for the establishment of 12 new artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS) research institutes nationwide.

Associated Press Military’s top cyber official defends more aggressive stance
The U.S. military’s top cyber official is defending the government’s shift toward a more aggressive strategy in cyberspace, saying the mission has evolved over the last decade from “a reactive and defensive posture” to keep pace with sophisticated threats. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, says in a piece being published Tuesday by the magazine Foreign Affairs that the military’s cyber fighters are increasingly prepared to engage in combat with online adversaries rather than wait to repair networks after they’ve been penetrated.

CyberScoop FBI, CISA warn of ‘voice phishing’ campaigns
The FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Thursday warned the private sector of a “voice phishing” campaign in which cybercriminals call up corporate employees to get them to hand over login credentials. In a campaign that began in mid-July, unidentified attackers used stolen credentials to scour corporate databases for personal information they could monetize and use in other attacks, the FBI and CISA alert said.

Nextgov Senators Push FCC to Increase Funding for Rural Health Care Program
More than a dozen Senate Democrats pressed the Federal Communications Commission Friday to increase funding for and improve operations for the Rural Health Care Program. The RHC—maintained by the Federal Communications Commission—provides funding to eligible health care providers for telecommunications and broadband services related to health care, including telehealth services.

Axios Open Technology Fund sues administration for $20M in missing funds
The Open Technology Fund (OTF) is suing the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) over roughly $20 million in congressionally appropriated funds it says the government is refusing to provide, Axios has learned. There’s bipartisan uproar from Congress over the funding that OTF says is being withheld.


SD Times Microsoft reveals new cybersecurity issues in a remote world
Microsoft has released new data to show how the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation of cybersecurity. According to the data, 58% of respondents report that they have increased their security budgets due to COVID-19, 82% plan on adding more security staff, and 81% feel pressure to lower security costs.

Vice This Guy is Suing the Patent Office for Deciding an AI Can’t Invent Things
A computer scientist who created an artificial intelligence system capable of generating original inventions is suing the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) over its decision earlier this year to reject two patent applications which list the algorithmic system, known as DABUS, as the inventor.

Washington Post Zoom went down for hours, disrupting schools and businesses
Zoom outages disrupted meetings and classes around the country Monday, highlighting Americans’ growing reliance on video software to keep things running during the pandemic. After roughly four hours, the company confirmed it had resolved an issue that kept some users from being able to join Zoom meetings and webinars.

CNBC Microsoft warns court that Apple blocking Epic will hurt games business
Microsoft has stepped into the brewing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s policies with regard to its ubiquitous App Store. In a declaration filed on Sunday, a senior Microsoft engineer said that allowing Apple to block Epic Games’ developer account would deal a significant blow to game makers including Microsoft by making them unable to use Epic’s Unreal Engine.

The Verge Microsoft’s new Transcribe in Word feature is designed for students, reporters, and more
Microsoft is adding an audio transcription feature into Word for the web today. Transcribe in Word will appear in the online version of Word for Microsoft 365 subscribers, providing an easy way to automatically transcribe audio. Microsoft is supporting existing audio files, or even the ability to record conversations directly within Word for the web and have them automatically transcribed.

Microsoft AI Blog for Business and Tech New Humans and AI series features people who are innovating to create a better world
Behind each technological innovation, there is a person with a dream that they are determined to bring to fruition. Microsoft is excited to launch a new community and series that tells the stories of incredible heroes from all walks of life who are innovating to help solve some of society’s biggest challenges. Their stories shine a light on discovering what is possible when big hearts, inspirational ideas and innovative technologies converge.


The Brookings Institution 

  • In a world of autonomous vehicles, much of the nation’s policing that is devoted to enforcing traffic safety laws, and the sometimes fatal altercations that result, would not exist. Policymakers should be motivated by this benefit, among many others, to expedite adoption of these vehicles. The United States has more than 800,000 state and local law enforcement officers. A large fraction of their work during a given year is spent pulling over some 20 million motorists who appear to be breaking a traffic law, controlling the flow of traffic following many of the 6 million accidents, and filling out endless forms. In addition, more than one officer per week is killed in a highway accident, accounting for nearly one-third of all police officer deaths in the line of duty. Autonomous vehicles could virtually eliminate the need to use police resources to enforce traffic safety laws and more officers could concentrate on reducing the most serious criminal activity. The reason is that autonomous vehicles obey the speed limit, do not drive erratically, reach a valid final destination, and prevent their occupants from jeopardizing highway safety even if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (TechTank – Autonomous vehicles could improve policing, public safety, and much more, August 25, 2020)

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