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Affetto is the wild-boy-head robot of your nightmares

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Affetto is a robot that can smile at you while it pierces your soul with its endless, dead state. Created by researchers at Osaka University, this crazy baby-head robot can mimic human emotions by scrunching up its nose, smiling and even closing its eyes and frowning. Put it all together and you get a nightmare from which there is no sane awakening!

“Android robot faces have persisted in being a black box problem: they have been implemented but have only been judged in vague and general terms,” study first author Hisashi Ishihara says. “Our precise findings will let us effectively control android facial movements to introduce more nuanced expressions, such as smiling and frowning.”

We last saw Affetto in action in 2011 when it was even more frightening than it is now. The researchers have at least added some skin and hair to this cyberdemon, allowing us the briefest moment of solace as we stare into Affetto’s dead eyes and hope it doesn’t gum us to death. Ain’t the future grand?

The goal, obviously, is to lull humans into a state of calm as the rest of Affetto’s body, spiked and bladed, can whir them to pieces. The researchers write:

A trio of researchers at Osaka University has now found a method for identifying and quantitatively evaluating facial movements on their android robot child head. Named Affetto, the android’s first-generation model was reported in a 2011 publication. The researchers have now found a system to make the second-generation Affetto more expressive. Their findings offer a path for androids to express greater ranges of emotion, and ultimately have deeper interaction with humans.

The researchers investigated 116 different facial points on Affetto to measure its three-dimensional movement. Facial points were underpinned by so-called deformation units. Each unit comprises a set of mechanisms that create a distinctive facial contortion, such as lowering or raising of part of a lip or eyelid. Measurements from these were then subjected to a mathematical model to quantify their surface motion patterns.

Pro tip: Just slap one of these on your Roomba and send it around the house. The kids will love it and the cat will probably die of a heart attack.

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Crypto-driven GPU crash makes Nvidia miss Q2 projections by $1.4 billion

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Nvidia doesn’t officially announce its second-quarter financial results until the end of the month, but the company is trying to soften the blow by announcing preliminary results today. And as with so many other tech companies in the last month, the results are mixed at best. With $6.7 billion in revenue, Nvidia managed to eke out year-over-year growth, but the results are still bad news because that number is down from a previously forecasted $8.1 billion, a miss of $1.4 billion.

Nvidia blamed this shortfall on weaker-than-expected demand for its gaming products, including its GeForce graphics processors. Nvidia pointed to “a reduction in channel partner sales,” meaning that partners like Evga, MSI, Asus, Zotac, Gigabyte, and others were selling fewer new GPUs than anticipated. This drop can be attributed partly to a crash in the value of mining-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum—fewer miners are buying these cards, and miners looking to unload their GPUs on the secondhand market are also giving gamers a cheaper source for graphics cards.

“As we expect the macroeconomic conditions affecting sell-through to continue, we took actions with our Gaming partners to adjust channel prices and inventory,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. That means we may see further price drops for existing GeForce GPUs, which have already been dropping in price throughout the year. Some cards still haven’t reverted to their originally advertised prices, but they’re getting closer all the time.

By contrast, AMD grew its quarterly gaming revenue from $1.3 billion last year to $1.7 billion this year, thanks partly to its semi-custom hardware powering consoles like the Xbox Series S and X and the PlayStation 5. Nvidia’s GPU tech powers the Nintendo Switch, but otherwise, Nvidia is more dependent on PC gaming for its revenue.

In better news for Nvidia, the small overall increase in revenue is driven almost exclusively by the company’s data center business, including GPU-accelerated AI and machine learning applications and GPU acceleration for cloud-hosted virtual machines. Nvidia’s data center revenue is projected to be up 61 percent from last year, from $2.37 billion to $3.81 billion.

Nvidia will supposedly launch its next-generation RTX 4000 series GPUs later this year. Based on the new Lovelace architecture, these GPUs may appeal to some gamers who originally sat out the RTX 3000 series due to shortages and inflated prices and are now avoiding the GPUs because they know a replacement is around the corner.

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Cyberattack on Albanian government suggests new Iranian aggression

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Enlarge / Tirane, Albania.

Pawel Toczynski | Getty Images

In mid-July, a cyberattack on the Albanian government knocked out state websites and public services for hours. With Russia’s war raging in Ukraine, the Kremlin might seem like the likeliest suspect. But research published on Thursday by the threat intelligence firm Mandiant attributes the attack to Iran. And while Tehran’s espionage operations and digital meddling have shown up all over the world, Mandiant researchers say that a disruptive attack from Iran on a NATO member is a noteworthy escalation.

The digital attacks targeting Albania on July 17 came ahead of the “World Summit of Free Iran,” a conference scheduled to convene in the town of Manëz in western Albania on July 23 and 24. The summit was affiliated with the Iranian opposition group Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (often abbreviated MEK, PMOI, or MKO). The conference was postponed the day before it was set to begin because of reported, unspecified “terrorist” threats.

Mandiant researchers say that attackers deployed ransomware from the Roadsweep family and may have also utilized a previously unknown backdoor, dubbed Chimneysweep, as well as a new strain of the Zeroclear wiper. Past use of similar malware, the timing of the attacks, other clues from the Roadsweep ransomware note, and activity from actors claiming responsibility for the attacks on Telegram all point to Iran, Mandiant says.

“This is an aggressive escalatory step that we have to recognize,” says John Hultquist, Mandiant’s vice president of intelligence. “Iranian espionage happens all the time all over the world. The difference here is this isn’t espionage. These are disruptive attacks, which affect the lives of everyday Albanians who live within the NATO alliance. And it was essentially a coercive attack to force the hand of the government.”

Iran has conducted aggressive hacking campaigns in the Middle East and particularly in Israel, and its state-backed hackers have penetrated and probed manufacturing, supply, and critical infrastructure organizations. In November 2021, the US and Australian governments warned that Iranian hackers were actively working to gain access to an array of networks related to transportation, health care, and public health entities, among others. “These Iranian government-sponsored APT actors can leverage this access for follow-on operations, such as data exfiltration or encryption, ransomware, and extortion,” the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency wrote at the time.

Tehran has limited how far its attacks have gone, though, largely keeping to data exfiltration and reconnaissance on the global stage. The country has, however, participated in influence operations, disinformation campaigns, and efforts to meddle in foreign elections, including targeting the US.

“We’ve become used to seeing Iran being aggressive in the Middle East where that activity just has never stopped, but outside of the Middle East they’ve been far more restrained,” Hultquist says. “I’m concerned that they may be more willing to leverage their capability outside of the region. And they clearly have no qualms about targeting NATO states, which suggests to me that whatever deterrents we believe exist between us and them may not exist at all.”

With Iran claiming that it now has the ability to produce nuclear warheads, and representatives from the country meeting with US officials in Vienna about a possible revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between the countries, any signal about Iran’s possible intentions and risk tolerance when it comes to dealing with NATO are significant.

This story originally appeared on wired.com.

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“Huge flaw” threatens US emergency alert system, DHS researcher warns

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Enlarge / Obstruction light with bokeh city background

The US Department of Homeland Security is warning of vulnerabilities in the nation’s emergency broadcast network that makes it possible for hackers to issue bogus warnings over radio and TV stations.

“We recently became aware of certain vulnerabilities in EAS encoder/decoder devices that, if not updated to most recent software versions, could allow an actor to issue EAS alerts over the host infrastructure (TV, radio, cable network),” the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned. “This exploit was successfully demonstrated by Ken Pyle, a security researcher at CYBIR.com, and may be presented as a proof of concept at the upcoming DEFCON 2022 conference in Las Vegas, August 11-14.”

Pyle told reporters at CNN and Bleeping Computer that the vulnerabilities reside in the Monroe Electronics R189 One-Net DASDEC EAS, an Emergency Alert System encoder and decoder. TV and radio stations use the equipment to transmit emergency alerts. The researcher told Bleeping Computer that “multiple vulnerabilities and issues (confirmed by other researchers) haven’t been patched for several years and snowballed into a huge flaw.”

“When asked what can be done after successful exploitation, Pyle said: ‘I can easily obtain access to the credentials, certs, devices, exploit the web server, send fake alerts via crafts message, have them valid / pre-empting signals at will. I can also lock legitimate users out when I do, neutralizing or disabling a response,’” Bleeping Computer added.

This isn’t the first time federal officials have warned of vulnerabilities in the emergency alert system.

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