News Update :: Tuesday, December 12, 2006

News

Internet2 Demos ID Interoperability with NSF Grant System

The Internet2 consortium demonstrated for the first time the interoperability of its Shibboleth federated identity management software with the National Science Foundation’s FastLane online grant administration system. Officials said the event marks a milestone in enabling the higher ed community to use existing campus’ identities to access federal government resources online.

The demo allowed officials at the University of Washington, Penn State, and Stanford to use their campus-issued sign-on credentials, enabled through Shibboleth, to access FastLane services. It is also the first step in a plan to establish large-scale interoperation between the InCommon Federation, which serves higher ed, and the U.S. E-Authentication Identity Federation, which serves federal government agencies.

Kevin Morooney, Penn State’s vice provost for information technology, said, “creating online credentials for individual access to protected resources has traditionally resulted in a great deal of administrative overhead for campus IT departments…. Today’s demonstration highlights how we can make research and academic life easier…as well as enable institutions and the NSF to save on operating costs....”

Shibboleth leverages a university’s existing sign-on and directory system to authenticate users, and then passes only relevant identity information to the provider. The system removes the need for universities to set up multiple passwords and accounts for each online resource...

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CMU Researchers Ferret Out Fraud with Data Mining

Carnegie Mellon University researchers are using data mining techniques to uncover fraud among online auction participants. The method analyzes publicly available histories of transactions posted by online auction sites such as eBay and identifies suspicious online behaviors and links among users.

Perpetrators of online auction fraud have distinctive online characteristics and behaviors that can be identified by data mining, according to CMU computer science professor Christos Faloutsos, the project lead. He said the software developed by his research team – Network Detection via Propagation of Beliefs, or NetProbe – could prevent future fraud by identifying their accomplices, who can lurk on a site indefinitely.

In a test analysis of 1 million transactions between almost 66,000 eBay users, NetProbe correctly detected 10 previously identified perpetrators, as well as more than a dozen “probable” fraudsters and accomplices.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that uses a systematic approach to analyze and detect electronic auction frauds,” said Faloutsos. The researchers have also adapted the software to provide a trustworthiness score for individual user IDs. The score would complement user reputation scores that many auction sites already provide to help prevent fraud...

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Ohio U. Names Interim CIO Following Security Breach

Ohio University named an interim technology chief following a series of computer breaches. Shawn Ostermann, chair of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will start January 1 and fill the position during a search for a permanent replacement, the university said.

Ostermann will replace Bill Sams, who announced in July that he would step down. Earlier this year, the university discovered that computer breaches had exposed 173,000 files containing Social Security numbers, names, medical records, and home addresses. The school fired two other administrators over the electronic break-ins to four different computer systems.

Sams will continue to work for the university as an associate provost working on technology-related projects, the school said. Ostermann has been a member of the university’s faculty for 13 years and d'es not plan to seek the permanent position. The chief information officer leads a group that oversees computer, infrastructure and security policies and manages central e-mail, telephone, and computer networking...

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Three Higher Ed Librarians Win 2006 Honors

For the first time, librarians from the higher education community were included among the 25 winners of the 2006 Librarian Awards given by the New York Times. The academic librarians, nominated by college students, faculty, administrators, were:

Alyse Myers, senior vice president of the Times said the company was “delighted to extend the Librarian Awards to academic librarians, who serve their college communities with the same devotion as the public librarians whose work we have honored since 2001.” The Times will hold a ceremony and reception in honor of the winners on Dec. 13, at which each winner will be given $2,500...

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Kurzweil Debates Yale Prof on Computer Smarts

MIT staged a debate on the limits of intelligent machines between two luminaries in the field of computer science. Inventor Ray Kurzweil took on Yale computer science prof David Gelernter on questions involving the possibility of human-like intelligence, emotional intuition, and even consciousness in computers. The question, as moderator Rodney Brooks, director of MIT’s artificial intelligence lab, put it, was, “can we build super-intelligent machines, or are we limited to building super-intelligent zombies.”

Gelernter argued that building a conscious machine “out of software seems to be virtually impossible.” Software, by definition, can be peeled away and run on another computer platform, but “the mind cannot be ported to any other platform or even to an instance of the same platform,” he said.

Human mental states are privately circumscribed, hidden from analysis, unlike software codes, added Gelernter. As for spirituality, he said, “can we build a robot with a physical need for a non-physical thing? Maybe, but don’t count on it. And forget software.”

“That’s because we’re thinking of software as it is today,” Kurzweil replied. Not only is informational technology expanding exponentially, but research on the brain is yielding new information on brain chemistry and neural functions,” he said. A brain that shuffles chemicals is not that different than a computer that shuffles symbols, Kurzweil added.

After the debate, Brooks said neither party had won. “I disagreed with both of them,” he said...

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