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New Algorithm Shakes Up Cryptography

CNRS (05/15/14)  Researchers at the CNRS Lorraine Laboratory of Research in Computer Science and its Applications and the University of Paris’ Computer Science Laboratory have uncovered a flaw in cryptography security. Their work discredits several cryptographic systems that until now were assumed to provide sufficient security safeguards. The team has solved one aspect of the discrete logarithm problem, considered to be one of the chief goals of algorithmic number theory, which serves as the foundation for the security of many of today’s cryptographic systems. The researchers have devised an algorithm that is able to solve increasingly large discrete logarithm problems, while its computing time increases at a far slower rate than with previous algorithms. As a result, computation is made considerably easier. However, the researchers note the work is still theoretical and needs to be refined before it is possible to provide a practical demonstration of the weakness of this variant of the discrete logarithm. Nonetheless, they say it is likely to impact cryptographic applications of smart cards, radio-frequency identification chips, and other security devices.

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Tech Leaders Lobby for Coding Classes in California Schools

The San Francisco Chronicle (05/06/14) Kristen V. Brown 

Educators and technology industry leaders on Wednesday are sending a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to improve computer science education in the state’s public schools. The letter notes that although California is “home to the computing revolution that transforms our lives and provides high-paying jobs,” 90 percent of K-12 schools do not teach computer science. “Besides the jobs, a basic understanding of this foundational field is relevant in every 21st century career,” the letter says. Although California has begun to take some steps to boost computer science education, it lags behind other states, such as Texas, which last month changed its education code to require all high schools to offer at least two computer-science courses. “We want to seriously push for bringing blended learning and coding curriculum into schools,” says Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who will deliver the letter to the governor’s office. “Everybody needs this. This is where jobs are now.” Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org, organized the letter campaign. “Computer science is a field that a very small minority actually participate in,” Partovi says. “California should be producing not only the top technology but the top technologists, and that is not happening.”

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Researchers Test Distributed Computing as Defense Against Cyberattacks on Power Grids

The Abstract (05/20/14) Matt Shipman 

The Smart Energy Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) project, which involves a team of researchers from across the United States, aims to use sophisticated tools to test various scenarios related to cybersecurity in power grids. Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are creating a distributed computing system that would disseminate monitoring and control functions across multiple virtual machines in a cloud computing network that overlays the grid. “The advantage here would be that if one element of the computing system gets compromised, the other virtual machines could step in to protect the system and coordinate their efforts to keep the grid functioning,” says NCSU professor Aranya Chakrabortty. Early testing indicates the distributed computing approach would make the grid more resilient against both physical attacks and cyberattacks. “The more we understand about our potential vulnerabilities, the better controllers we’ll be able to design to protect our infrastructure,” Chakrabortty says.

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Google’s ‘Quantum Computing Playground’ Lets You Fiddle With Quantum Algorithms

Gizmag (05/25/14) Dario Borghino 

Google has released a new Web-based integrated development environment (IDE) called Quantum Computing Playground that enables users to experiment with quantum algorithms. Using an ad-hoc scripting language called qScript, the IDE simulates a graphics processing unit-accelerated quantum computer on which users can write, compile, debug, and execute programs on a Chrome browser. The IDE can simulate quantum registers up to 22 quantum bits and visualize algorithm outputs as two- and three-dimensional graphs in which each bar represents a superposition of qubits. Running the same code sometimes results in different outputs, because most quantum algorithms are probabilistic and do not offer deterministic certainty. Users in practical settings would need to run the same algorithm multiple times to ensure a correct answer. Although practical quantum computers do not yet exist, Quantum Computing Playground will help computer scientists prepare for the future by familiarizing themselves with quantum algorithms.

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