Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 19th, 2017

Ipsita Agarwal via Backchannel retells the story of how India’s underfunded space organization, ISRO, managed to send a rocket to Mars for less than it cost to make the movie “The Martian, ” starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney. “While NASA’s Mars probe, Maven, cost $651 million, the budget for this mission was $74 million, ” Agarwal writes. In what appears to be India’s version of “Hidden Figures” (a movie that also cost more to make than ISRO’s budget for the Mars rocket), the team of scientists behind the rocket launch consisted of Indian women, who not only managed to pull off the mission successfully but did so in only 18 months. Backchannel reports: A few months and several million kilometers later, the orbiter prepared to enter Mars’ gravity. This was a critical moment. If the orbiter entered Mars’ gravity at the wrong angle, off by so much as one degree, it would either crash onto the surface of Mars or fly right past it, lost in the emptiness of space. Back on Earth, its team of scientists and engineers waited for a signal from the orbiter. Mission designer Ritu Karidhal had worked 48 hours straight, fueled by anticipation. As a child, Minal Rohit had watched space missions on TV. Now, Minal waited for news on the orbiter she and her colleague, Moumita Dutta, had helped engineer. When the signal finally arrived, the mission control room broke into cheers. If you work in such a room, deputy operations director, Nandini Harinath, says, “you no longer need to watch a thriller movie to feel the thrill in life. You feel it in your day-to-day work.” This was not the only success of the mission. An image of the scientists celebrating in the mission control room went viral. Girls in India and beyond gained new heroes: the kind that wear sarees and tie flowers in their hair, and send rockets into space. User shas3 notes in a comment on Hacker News’ post: “If you are interested in Indian women scientists and engineers, there is a nice compilation (a bit tiresome to read, but worth it, IMO) of biographical essays called ‘Lilvati’s Daughters.'” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The 10th annual Pwn2Own hacking competition ended Friday in Vancouver. Some of the highlights: Ars Technica reports one team “compromised Microsoft’s heavily fortified Edge browser in a way that escapes a VMware Workstation virtual machine it runs in… by exploiting a heap overflow bug in Edge, a type confusion flaw in the Windows kernel and an uninitialized buffer vulnerability in VMware.” Digital Trends reports “Samuel Grob and Niklas Baumstark used a number of logic bugs to exploit the Safari browser and eventually take root control of the MacOS on a MacBook Pro, [and] impressed onlookers even more by adding a custom message to the Touch Bar which read: “pwned by niklasb and saelo.”Ubuntu 16.10 Linux was also successfully attacked by exploiting a flaw in the Linux 4.8 kernel, “triggered by a researcher who only had basic user access but was able to elevate privileges with the vulnerability to become the root administrative account user…” reports eWeek. “Chaitin Security Research Lab didn’t stop after successfully exploiting Ubuntu. It was also able to successfully demonstrate a chain of six bugs in Apple Safari, gaining root access on macOS.”Another attacker “leveraged two separate use-after-free bugs in Microsoft Edge and then escalated to SYSTEM using a buffer overflow in the Windows kernel.” None of the attendees registered to attempt an attack on the Apache Web Server on Ubuntu 16.10 Linux, according to eWeek, but the contest’s blog reports that “We saw a record 51 bugs come through the program. We paid contestants $833, 000 USD in addition to the dozen laptops we handed out to winners. And, we awarded a total of 196 Master of Pwn points.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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