September 11 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Microsoft On The Issues New Steps to Combat Disinformation
There is no question that disinformation is widespread. Research we supported from Professor Jacob Shapiro at Princeton, updated this month, cataloged 96 separate foreign influence campaigns targeting 30 countries between 2013 and 2019. These campaigns, carried out on social media, sought to defame notable people, persuade the public or polarize debates. While 26% of these campaigns targeted the U.S., other countries targeted include Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Yemen. Some 93% of these campaigns included the creation of original content, 86% amplified pre-existing content and 74% distorted objectively verifiable facts. Recent reports also show that disinformation has been distributed about the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to deaths and hospitalizations of people seeking supposed cures that are actually dangerous.

Wired Why Contact-Tracing Apps Haven’t Slowed Covid-19 in the US
As Covid-19 spread across the United States this spring, Jodie Pond, the health director in Teton County, Wyoming, looked forward to deploying a new weapon against the pandemic. Technologists were racing to create apps that would quickly and quietly identify people who had been close to others who were infected.

Health IT Analytics Artificial Intelligence May Help Develop COVID-19 Treatments, Tests
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, artificial intelligence tools have played a significant role in tracking, controlling, and predicting the spread of the virus. Now, researchers are leveraging artificial intelligence tools to develop more effective treatments and testing for coronavirus. A team from the University of Washington Bothell used deep learning to build a software tool that could help design vaccines.

22 WWLP TSA tests new screening techniques, technology during Labor Day weekend
The TSA says it screened more passengers this weekend than at any other point since the pandemic started, and at some airports passengers encountered new security technology that could potentially keep people safe from COVID-19. Last Thursday, almost one million people wound their way through TSA checkpoints at airports nationwide, and in some cities, those checkpoints looked a little different.


TechCrunch Microsoft launches a deepfake detector tool ahead of US election
Microsoft has added to the slowly growing pile of technologies aimed at spotting synthetic media (aka deepfakes) with the launch of a tool for analyzing videos and still photos to generate a manipulation score. The tool, called Video Authenticator, provides what Microsoft calls “a percentage chance, or confidence score” that the media has been artificially manipulated.

The Hill Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle
When Russian agents interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, government officials, election leaders, social media companies and the public were largely left struggling to respond. Four years later, as reports emerge of a new wave of interference from Russia and other nations in the 2020 elections, officials are hoping to combat the threat with far more knowledge and preparation than before.

The Washington Post Russian hackers who disrupted 2016 election targeting political parties again, Microsoft says
Microsoft said China’s effort to penetrate the Biden campaign and Iran’s effort against the Trump campaign were not successful. The same Russian operatives identified by Microsoft hacked and leaked Democratic emails to inject chaos into the 2016 presidential election.

Politico Voters on the Digital Divide
Amid the pandemic and ahead of the election, broadband access has become even more of a priority for Americans casting their ballots. A new Morning Consult and Internet Innovation Alliance poll of nearly 2,000 registered U.S. voters in September found that almost 80 percent consider broadband access “very important” for employees forced to work from home and students thrust into remote online learning; roughly 70 percent say it’s “very important” for small businesses relying on internet sales to keep their lights on and people in need of telehealth services. About nine in 10 responders said it’s problematic that rural parts of the country lack connectivity. Most also said they support Congress using federal funding to expand broadband infrastructure to reach those communities.


GCN DOD again chooses Microsoft for JEDI cloud
After a year of lawsuits, protests and scrutiny, the Defense Department has reaffirmed its decision to award the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft. Unsatisfied with the original decision to award the contract to Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, the runner-up in the JEDI sweepstakes, sued in the Court of Federal Claims charging that the procurement was improperly decided and possibly the subject of political influence from the White House.

The Verge Trump administration issues directive aimed at enhancing cybersecurity in space
Today, the Trump administration released its fifth Space Policy Directive, this one designed to come up with a list of best practices for the space industry on how to protect their spacecraft from cyber threats. The goal is to encourage the government and space industry to create their space vehicles with cybersecurity plans in place, incorporating tools like encryption software and other protections when designing, building, and operating their vehicles.

Nextgov House Lawmakers to Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Advance Agencies’ Use of Electric Vehicles
Bipartisan legislation set to be introduced in the House Tuesday would make it easier for federal agencies to charge their government-provided electric vehicles, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., confirmed to Nextgov. A companion measure to a bill previously passed in the Senate, the Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies or CHARGE Act to be put forth by Khanna and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, marks a deliberate move to further the government’s use and purchase of the eco-friendly automobiles.


Roll Call Schools unprepared for likely rash of cyberattacks, warn security experts
School districts reliant on online learning because of COVID-19 may soon find students and teachers locked out of computer networks for days or weeks because of cyberattacks that could set kids further back and endanger their privacy. Districts around the country are woefully unprepared to manage the heightened risks of online learning, say cybersecurity and education experts who predict a rise in ransomware attacks as millions of children begin a new school year in a pandemic.

Duluth News Tribune Rural voices begin standing up for infrastructure needs
Rachel Prevost was in the tail end of her senior year at Carroll College in Helena, Mont., when the coronavirus pandemic began. Prevost returned home to her family’s ranch outside Lambert, Mont., a tiny community not far from the North Dakota state line. Suddenly, things as simple as adding an attachment to an email or watching a video became major ordeals because of poor internet connections.

The Guardian One in four students unable to access online learning during lockdown – survey
Over a quarter (27%) of university students were unable to access online learning during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new research which suggests that disabled students and those from poorer backgrounds were worst affected. The survey, which was carried out in July by the National Union of Students (NUS), found that disruptions to studies arose from a lack of IT equipment and software, insufficient course materials, and poor internet connections.

The New York Times When Algorithms Give Real Students Imaginary Grades
Isabel Castañeda’s first words were in Spanish. She spends every summer with relatives in Mexico. She speaks Spanish with her family at home. When her school, Westminster High in Colorado, closed for the pandemic in March, her Spanish literature class had just finished analyzing an entire novel in translation, Albert Camus’s “The Plague. She got a 5 out of 5 on her Advanced Placement Spanish exam last year, following two straight years of A+ grades in Spanish class.


The Brookings Institution 

  • Blog on the future of telemedicine.
    The coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, has fundamentally transformed our lives and communities, contributing to economic declines, disruptions in schooling, and distressed hospital systems. However, the pandemic has generated some silver linings, including the widespread adoption of telehealth that has helped to mitigate the risk of community spread by reducing unnecessary hospital visits and ensuring real-time access to medical providers for millions of Americans. According to a report by McKinsey, in the aftermath of COVID-19 epidemic, medical providers have rapidly scaled their telehealth offerings and are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via remote access platforms than they did before. Some patients have even come to prefer virtual office visits as medical providers have been less resistant to the change and even more willing to administer remote care from an internet-enabled device. (TechTank – How to make telehealth more permanent after COVID-19, September 4, 2020)

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