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Riding the AI wave

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the term “artificial intelligence?” I am reminded of the famous 1999 movie Matrix in which the dialogue “Never send a human to do a machine’s job” became popular. The movie, Wachowski brothers’ cyberpunk action classic, was set in a grim future where intelligent machines had enslaved mankind, keeping them subdued with a simulated reality called the Matrix. Dark-suited, sunglasses-sporting ‘agents’ — powerful, sentient AI programmes — patrolled the Matrix, led by Hugo Weaving’s snarling villainous Agent Smith. They suppressed human rebellion by dodging bullets and punching through concrete. But in reality, artificial intelligence already plays an active role in our everyday lives.

By now, most of us are aware of phone assistants such as Siri or Google Now, that is artificial intelligence. You may have also identified AI when playing chess against a virtual opponent, or when playing more sophisticated motion-tracking games with the Kinect. But did you know that artificial intelligence is also present in Google translate and spam blockers?

Artificial Intelligence or AI is the science of using computers to do things that traditionally require the human mind. It is a technology that will accelerate the digital transformation of industry, and will prove essential to the success of our digital economy in an increasingly connected world.

For AI to deliver on its promise, however, it will require predictability and trust. These two are interrelated. Predictable treatment of the complex issues AI will throw up, such as accountability and permitted data uses, will encourage investment and use. Similarly, progress requires consumers to trust the technology, the fairness of how they are affected by it, and how their data is used; predictable and transparent treatment facilitates this trust.

Opportunities

Better understanding of AI is necessary for students to make a career of it. Studying it opens up a world of opportunities.

At a basic level, you will better understand the systems and tools that you interact with on a daily basis. And if you stick with the subject and study more, you can help create cutting-edge AI applications, like the Google Self Driving Car, or IBM’s Watson — the possibilities are endless.

Studying AI now can prepare you for a job as a software engineer researching neural networks, human-machine interfaces, and quantum artificial intelligence. Or, you could work as a software engineer in the industry working for companies like Amazon for shopping list recommendation engines and Facebook for analysing and processing big data.

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Article Credit: The Hindu

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Is Talent Crunch a Spoiler for India’s AI Industry?

Aiming for market disruption with your artificial intelligence (AI) solution? Spoiler alert! There is less than just a handful 10,000 number of specialized talent in AI in the entire world. Baffled? The war for AI talent, henceforth, would be ruthless enough to easily dwarf the challenge for spotting good software engineers. As it happens, you know that machine thinking has begun to usurp human thinking. Despite India’s global dominance in offering cheap engineering talent at scale, young AI companies in India are looking for alternate ways to suck in what’s available.

A mid-year 2017 survey by recruitment platform Belong. co tries to read between the lines and throws up some startling numbers. Particularly for data scientists wherein the essence of AI skills lies – ranked 0.8 on Belong’s talent supply index. This, as per Belong, indicates of only 800 data scientists available for 1,000 data scientist opportunities, which means significant mismatch in demand and supply of AI talent in the country. The other two figures that drives home the point of talent crunch includes just four per cent tech talent with expertise in deep learning and neural networks system and “less than two per cent having a PhD degree in AI-related technologies,” says Belong. And to develop great AI products, that’s how premium talent and expertise should be – both quite scarce in India.

Another Way Out

Globally, all good AI talent goes to the big four — Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebookthat include inbound hiring, hiring from colleges, poaching it from each other and rest of the big tech companies, and acqui-hiring young companies. For e.g., Google acquired Bengaluru-based AI start-up Halli Labs in July this year and Hyderabad-based TupleJump was acquired by Apple last year. Other big and small tech companies are left to pick from people who have basic understanding in deep learning with requisite math skills and then groom them over few months through training and development.

Ratan Tata-backed AI-based personal assistant app Niki.ai looked everywhere to get hold of some good AI talent but nothing worked.

“Indians have very good software skills but not many of us are exposed to industry applications around machine learning (ML). So I realized that we will have to look for in-house talent development by hiring out-of college kids and grooming them,” says Sachin Jaiswal, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Niki.ai. Jaiswal along with three other co-founders (his batch mates from IIT Kharagpur) had also hired three interns from the US, UK and China. Out of its 42 headcount, 34 are engineers working on its AI platform.

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Article Credit: Entrepreneur

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Apple ‘to buy Shazam for $400m’

Apple is close to buying the music recognition app Shazam for about $400m (£300m), media reports say.

Shazam, a UK company founded in 1999, allows people to use their smartphone or computer to identify and buy music through a snippet of sound.

Shazam, which says it has more than 100 million monthly users, makes most of its revenue from commissions paid on referrals to Apple’s iTunes Store.

Neither Apple nor Shazam have commented on the reports on the TechCrunch site.

If the deal is confirmed, Shazam will become the latest in a string of UK technology firms to be bought up by larger businesses.

  • Shazam – a billion dollar London success

The influential Music Business Worldwide site points out that the reported price is significantly lower than the $1bn valuation placed on Shazam during its last funding round in 2015.

By acquiring Shazam, Apple would basically cut out the middleman and save money on commissions.

It would also hurt the competition, since Shazam would no longer be referring people to rivals Spotify and Google Play Music.

The deal would also help the Apple Music service gain ground on Spotify, by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists.

At present, Spotify has 60 million users worldwide, while Apple Music has just 27 million.

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Article Credit: BBC

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WatchGuard uncovers surge in script-based attacks amid spike in overall malware volume

WatchGuard’s latest quarterly Internet Security Report, which explores the computer and network security threats affecting small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and distributed enterprises, has revealed substantial increases in scripting attacks and overall malware attempts against midsize companies throughout Q3 2017.

Scripting threats, includimg JavaScript and Visual Basic Script attacks, accounted for 68 percent of all malware during Q3, while total malware instances spiked by 81 percent this quarter over last, with more than 19 million variants blocked in Q3. The findings reinforce expectations of continued growth of new malware and various attack techniques in the coming months, further emphasising the importance of layered security and advanced threat prevention.

“Threat actors are constantly adjusting their techniques, always looking for new ways of exploiting vulnerabilities to steal valuable data,” said Corey Nachreiner, chief technology officer at WatchGuard Technologies. “This quarter, we found that script-based attacks – like the fake Python library packages discovered in September – appeared 20 times more than in Q2, while overall malware attacks shot through the roof. Staying vigilant regarding these developments is half the battle. Every business can better protect themselves and their stakeholders by employing multiple layers of protection, enabling advanced security services and monitoring network logs for traffic related to the top threats mentioned in this report.”

WatchGuard’s Internet Security Report examines the modern threat landscape and delivers key data, educational guidance and in-depth research to help readers understand the latest attack trends and update their defences. Other findings from the Q3 2017 report include:

  • Cross-site Scripting (XSS) attacks plague web browsers, spreading internationally. XSS attacks, which allow cyber criminals to inject malicious script into victims’ sites, continue to grow at a measured pace. Previous reports detailed XSS attacks against Spain alone, but in Q3, XSS attacks broadly affected every country.
  • Legacy antivirus (AV) only missed 24 percent of new malware. Over the past three quarters, signature-based AV has missed malware at increasing rates, peaking at almost 47 percent in Q2. But this quarter was a marked improvement with only 23.77 percent of new or zero day malware able to circumvent AV. While this data is encouraging, behavioral detection solutions are still the most effective way to block advance persistent threats.
  • Suspicious HTML iframes surface everywhere. Attackers are continuing to evolve how they leverage the HTML iframe tag to force unsuspecting victims to suspicious and often malicious sites. While potentially malicious iframes showed up everywhere, including the U.S. and Canada, their numbers jumped significantly in both the UK and Germany.
  • Authentication is still a big target. Though not as prevalent as in Q2, attacks targeting authentication and credentials such as Mimikatz, returned in a big way this quarter. Aside from Mimikatz, brute force web login attempts were also highly visible, proving that attackers are continuing to target the weakest link – credentials.

WatchGuard’s Internet Security Report is based on anonymised Firebox Feed data from nearly 30,000 active WatchGuard UTM appliances worldwide, which blocked more than 19 million malware variants and 1.6 million network attacks in Q3. The complete report includes defensive strategies for responding to the latest attack trends, based on analysis of the quarter’s top malware and network threats. The report also examines the growing trend of supply chain attacks by evaluating the most notable instances from Q3 – NetSarang, Ccleaner and fake Python packages.

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