The Conversation

The difference between cybersecurity and cybercrime, and why it matters

A Texas woman in her 50s, let’s call her “Amy,” met a man online calling himself “Charlie.” Amy, who lived in Texas, was in a bad marriage. Charlie said he was a businessman and a Christian, and wooed her. “He was saying all the right things,” Amy later told the FBI. “He was interested in me. He was interested in getting to know me better. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real con...[Read More]

Looking into their computer-generated eyes: dating in virtual reality

Online dating has been around for more than 20 years, but for the most part, the goal has been to eventually meet your new paramour face to face. Virtual reality (VR) could change that. From Match.com, which launched in 1995, the idea of meeting and chatting with someone in a digital space has spread to Facebook, Second Life and apps like Tinder. With VR coming of age, we’re about to discover what...[Read More]

World War Three is being waged in cyberspace

My introduction to advanced communication technology (i.e. the Internet and World Wide Web) came in 1999. Having grown up in the two-channel universe of the 1960s and ‘70s, I was agog at the power it represented. The technology was nascent at that time — not many web pages yet existed — but I could still see the potential for good. Here was a technology that I felt could really save the world. I a...[Read More]

Wi-Fi can be KRACK-ed. Here’s what to do next

A security researcher has revealed serious flaws in the way that most contemporary Wi-Fi networks are secured. Discovered by Mathy Vanhoef from the University of Leuven, the vulnerability affects the protocol “Wi-Fi Protected Access 2”. Otherwise known as WPA2, this encrypts the connection between a computer or mobile phone and a Wi-Fi access point to keep your browsing safe. Because this security...[Read More]

How marketers use algorithms to (try to) read your mind

Have you ever you looked for a product online and then been recommended the exact thing you need to complement it? Or have you been thinking about a particular purchase, only to receive an email with that product on sale? All of this may give you a slightly spooky feeling, but what you’re really experiencing is the result of complex algorithms used to predict, and in some cases, even influence you...[Read More]

What NASA’s simulated missions tell us about the need for Martian law

Six people recently returned from an eight-month long isolation experiment to test human endurance for long-term space missions. Their “journey to Mars” involved being isolated below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii (Mauna Loa), and was designed to better understand the psychological impacts of manned missions. NASA, which aims to send expeditions to Mars by the 2030s, is...[Read More]

Can you be hacked by the world around you?

You’ve probably been told it’s dangerous to open unexpected attachment files in your email – just like you shouldn’t open suspicious packages in your mailbox. But have you been warned against scanning unknown QR codes or just taking a picture with your phone? New research suggests that cyberattackers could exploit cameras and sensors in phones and other devices. As someone who researches 3-D model...[Read More]

End of the road for traditional vehicles? Here are the facts

New sales of petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040 in the UK, which has since been joined by France. Sweden and Scotland will impose the ban by 2032, and Norway by 2025. Coupled with increasing concern over the carcinogenic effects of diesel emissions, the Volkswagen defeat device scandal, and the link between diesel particulates and Alzheimer’s, focus has turned again to electric cars. Th...[Read More]

Five vital things you can’t do properly when you’re on your phone

In a recent RAC survey, 26% of UK 1,700 motorists reported using a handheld mobile phone while driving, despite it being illegal. In response, road safety charity Brake, argued that society’s phone “addiction” can have very serious consequences. A quick online search throws up many articles suggesting that people are “glued” to their smartphones and therefore miss important and enriching experienc...[Read More]

Could we build a Blade Runner-style ‘replicant’?

The new Blade Runner sequel will return us to a world where sophisticated androids made with organic body parts can match the strength and emotions of their human creators. As someone who builds biologically inspired robots, I’m interested in whether our own technology will ever come close to matching the “replicants” of Blade Runner 2049. The reality is that we’re a very long way from building ro...[Read More]

Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect

The space race between the USA and Russia started with a beep from the Sputnik satellite 60 years ago (October 4, 1957) and ended with a handshake in space just 18 years later. The handshake was the start of many decades of international collaboration in space. But over the past decade there has been a huge change. The space environment is no longer the sole preserve of government agencies. Privat...[Read More]

Sixty years after Sputnik: taking stock and looking to the future

It’s been 60 years since the Soviet Union fired the first salvo of the space age. On October 4 1957 it launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, as its contribution to International Geophysical Year. It was the first of a series of superpower spectaculars, each bringing soft power – the term political scientists use to describe a state doing something benign which boosts their prestige. The U...[Read More]

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