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US Government Mulls Idea of Separate, Secured Internet Domain

Former and current US officials are advocating the creation of a “.secure” network for critical infrastructure that would be isolated from the public Internet. Michael Hayden, CIA director under President George W. Bush, and Gen. Keith Alexander, the US Cyber Command chief, as well as various lawmakers have said that having a heavily-defended domain requiring credentials for access would help keep the federal infrastructure better protected from hackers. “This doesn’t have to be complicated or even mandatory,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, said in an address before the Senate in November 2010. “The most important value of a dot-secure domain is that, like dot-gov and dot-mil, now we can satisfy consent under the Fourth Amendment search requirements for the government’s defenses to do their work within that domain, their work of screening for attack signals, botnets and viruses.” (Popular Science)(NextGov)

MIT Spin-Off to Commercialize Direct-Diode Laser

A young company spun off from MIT’s Lincoln Lab says it is ready to commercialize a direct-diode laser system that it claims is brighter, more powerful, and significantly more compact than its peers. TeraDiode bases its technology on semiconductor laser technology, which means the power is supplied by electricity and not chemicals. An optical system is also used by the direct-diode laser for wavelength beam combining, which concentrates several beams of light into a single, more powerful beam. The company has said the technology could be used for industrial cutting and welding, but journalists are keen to point out its potential “for blowing stuff up,” as CNN noted. The company has stated that it is working on compact laser weaponry as a long-term project and is focused on implementing the technology to thwart anti-aircraft missiles. (Popular Science)(CNET)(TeraDiode)

IBM Could Put Watson to Work in Sales

In its move to smarter computing, IBM might use its breakthrough Watson technology internally to help better equip its salespeople to sell its hardware, software, and services. The question-answering supercomputer, which has been put to work answering Jeopardy! questions and in health care thus far, could prove useful  in sales and customer support. IBM says it plans to feed an array of unstructured data -- customer information, market information, and pricing – to Watson that will support its sales efforts. IBM executives have said this project is key because it will demonstrate the company’s confidence in its own technology. (SlashDot)(ExtremeTech)(EWeek)(IBM – Watson)

NIST Experiments Promise Quantum Computing Advances

Scientists from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated a technique for steadily calming the vibrations of an object that could have applications in quantum computing. They took a microscopic aluminum drum made of roughly 1 trillion atoms embedded in a superconducting circuit, and then used the pressure of microwave radiation to gradually slow the drum’s motion. In this series of experiments, researchers used sideband cooling on the drum – essentially a mechanical oscillator -- so that it reached a quantum ground state, the lowest energy level possible. The tiny drum could serve as temporary memory in a quantum computer. It could also help in the exploration of other quantum phenomenon as well as to transfer quantum information between microwave and optical components. The research results appear in the journal Nature. (PhysOrg.com)(NIST)(“Sideband cooling of micromechanical motion to the quantum ground state,” Nature.)

US Targets Foreign Website Owners for Extradition on Piracy Charges

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which takes action against overseas websites it believes are breaking US copyrights, is now seeking the extradition of website owners to the US on copyright violation charges, even if they  aren’t violating their own nation’s copyright laws. The agency’s assistant deputy director, Erik Barnett, has stated that neither location nor a direct contact to the US is needed. If the offending website’s address ends in .com or .net, domain names in which global Internet traffic is routed through a Virginia-based company, then those sites determined to be pirating US media can be prosecuted for copyright violation in the US – even if the site is not breaking laws in the nation where it is based. Operation In Our Sites, the agency’s project to prevent online trade in counterfeit goods, has seized 125 websites to date. Various international civil rights and Internet groups have said the US is overreaching. Currently, the US is seeking the extradition of a UK university student who operated a site containing links to pirated content. (The Guardian)(The Telegraph)(The US Department of Homeland Security)

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