• Researchers join AI-enabled robots in “collaborative autonomy”

    A team of firefighters clears a building in a blazing inferno, searching rooms for people trapped inside or hotspots that must be extinguished. Except this isn’t your typical crew. Most apparent is the fact that the firefighters are not all human. They are working side-by-side with artificially intelligent (AI) robots who are searching the most dangerous rooms, and making life or death decisions. This scenario is potentially closer than you might think, but while AI-equipped robots might be technologically capable of rendering aid, sensing danger or providing protection for their flesh-and-blood counterparts, the only way they can be valuable to humans is if their operators are not burdened with the task of guiding them.

  • Deep Fakes: A looming crisis for national security, democracy and privacy?

    Events in the last few years, such as Russia’s broad disinformation campaign to undermine Western democracies, including the American democratic system, have offered a compelling demonstration of truth decay: how false claims — even preposterous ones — can be disseminated with unprecedented effectiveness today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquitous presence and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron write in Lawfare that the resulting harms are significant for individuals, businesses, and democracy – but that the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes. They urge us to get used to hearing that phrase. “It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.”

  • Analytical methods to help develop antidotes for cyanide, mustard gas

    Several Food and Drug Administration-approved antidotes are available for cyanide poisoning, but they have severe limitations. To develop effective antidotes for chemical agents, such as cyanide and mustard gas, scientists need analytical methods that track not only the level of exposure but also how the drug counteracts the effects of the chemical.

  • Real-time Captcha technique bolsters biometric authentication

    A new login authentication approach could improve the security of current biometric techniques that rely on video or images of users’ faces. Known as Real-Time Captcha, the technique uses a unique challenge that’s easy for humans — but difficult for attackers who may be using machine learning and image generation software to spoof legitimate users.

  • Energy-efficient encryption for the internet of things

    Most sensitive web transactions are protected by public-key cryptography, a type of encryption that lets computers share information securely without first agreeing on a secret encryption key. Public-key encryption protocols are complicated, and in computer networks, they’re executed by software. But that won’t work in the internet of things, an envisioned network that would connect many different sensors — embedded in vehicles, appliances, civil structures, manufacturing equipment, and even livestock tags — to online servers. Embedded sensors that need to maximize battery life can’t afford the energy and memory space that software execution of encryption protocols would require. Special-purpose chip reduces power consumption of public-key encryption by 99.75 percent, increases speed 500-fold.

  • Spotting IEDs from a safe distance

    Landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other homemade bombs struck 6,461 people worldwide in 2015, killing at least 1,672. Survivors are often left with devastating injuries. In a study published in BMJ Open, 70 percent of people hit by IEDS in Afghanistan required multiple amputations. These homemade bombs are often hidden—nestled in bushes, buried underground, or sometimes stuffed inside other objects. To keep soldiers away from these deadly weapons, researchers are developing technology that can spot explosive hazards precisely and from a safe distance.

  • A quantum leap for quantum communication

    Quantum communication, which ensures absolute data security, is one of the most advanced branches of the “second quantum revolution.” In quantum communication, the participating parties can detect any attempt at eavesdropping by resorting to the fundamental principle of quantum mechanics — a measurement affects the measured quantity. Thus, the mere existence of an eavesdropper can be detected by identifying the traces that his measurements of the communication channel leave behind. The major drawback of quantum communication today is the slow speed of data transfer, which is limited by the speed at which the parties can perform quantum measurements. Researchers have devised a method that overcomes this speed limit, and enables an increase in the rate of data transfer by more than 5 orders of magnitude.

  • Epigenetic technology to help in fight against WMD proliferation

    Intelligence officers in the field, in trying to determine the presence or use of WMDs, would benefit from being able to check the epigenetic markers of an individual who may have come into contact with WMDs, read a history of any time he has been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time. The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome.

  • Putting statistics into forensic firearms identification

    When a gun is fired, and the bullet blasts down the barrel, it encounters ridges and grooves that cause it to spin, increasing the accuracy of the shot. Those ridges dig into the soft metal of the bullet, leaving striations. At the same time that the bullet explodes forward, the cartridge case explodes backward with equal force against the mechanism that absorbs the recoil, called the breech face. This stamps an impression of the breech face into the soft metal at the base of the cartridge case, which is then ejected from the gun. Researchers have developed a statistical approach for ballistic comparisons that may enable numerical testimony – similar to a DNA expert expressing the strength of the evidence numerically when testifying about genetic evidence.

  • Keeping the lights on if the world turns to 100% clean, renewable energy

    Researchers propose three separate ways to avoid blackouts if the world transitions all its energy to electricity or direct heat and provides the energy with 100 percent wind, water, and sunlight. The solutions reduce energy requirements, health damage, and climate damage. “Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” says one researcher.

  • Novel solution to better secure voice over internet communication

    Researchers have developed a novel method to better protect Crypto Phones from eavesdropping and other forms of man-in-the-middle attacks. Crypto Phones consist of smartphone apps, mobile devices, personal computer or web-based Voice over Internet Protocol applications that use end-to-end encryption to ensure that only the user and the person they are communicating with can read what is sent. In order to secure what is being communicated, Crypto Phones require users to perform authentication tasks.

  • Improving military communications with digital phased-arrays at millimeter wave

    There is increasing interest in making broader use of the millimeter wave frequency band for communications on small mobile platforms where narrow antenna beams from small radiating apertures provide enhanced communication security. Today’s millimeter wave systems, however, are not user friendly and are designed to be platform specific, lacking interoperability and are thus reserved for only the most complex platforms. New program aims to create multi-beam, digital phased-array technology, operating at 18-50 GHz to enhance secure communications between military platforms.

  • A custom-fit app for community policing

    Apps allowing citizens to report crimes or incidents are now commonplace, but they generally fail to adapt local contexts, cultures and sensibilities. SecureU, a new app that addresses this shortcoming, is currently being tested in five European cities.

  • 2017 Critical Incident Exercise put first responder technologies to the test

    In the wee hours of 29 October 2017, more than 200 people participated in a critical incident exercise and technology assessment, conducted by DHS S&T and partner organizations. The exercise took place at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City, with most of the action occurring on parked trains and on track platforms, and other indoor spaces within the Terminal. Emergency medical technicians were dispatched to quickly convert ramps in front of several track platforms into triage stations. Outside, first responders set up an incident command post and an operations center to coordinate the simulated response.

  • Making network-connected systems less vulnerable

    The rise of network-connected systems that are becoming embedded seemingly everywhere–from industrial control systems to aircraft avionics–is opening up a host of rich technical capabilities in deployed systems. Even so, as the collective technology project underlying this massive deployment of connectivity unfolds, more consumer, industrial, and military players are turning to inexpensive, commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) devices with general-purpose designs applicable for a range of functionalities and deployment options. While less costly and more flexible, commodity components are inherently less secure than the single-purpose, custom devices they are replacing. DARPA says it trains its sights on the expansive attack surface of commodity off-the-shelf devices.