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Robots to Invade Smithsonian During National Robotics Week

The Smithsonian's Museum of National History announced the addition of various robots to its collection that will be displayed 9 through 16 of April, which is National Robotics Week. Sandia National Laboratories donated the Miniature Autonomous Robotic Vehicle (MARV), its first minirobot that is only a cubic inch in size, as well as one of MARV’s successors, and a scout robot known as Dixie. Also included in the exhibit will be Robbie, an Autonomous Robotic Manipulator (ARM) from DARPA; the 100 robotic items in the museum’s collection also include R2-D2 and C-3PO from the Star Wars movies, as well as a 450-year-old mechanical robot. The exhibit will be in the Lemelson Center’s Spark!Lab, barring a government shutdown. (International Business Times)(Computerworld)

Security Certificates Found to be Issued to Unqualified Names

A recent study of SSL certificates finds that tens of thousands of the legitimate certificates have been issued to unqualified parties. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation certificate authorities are issuing certificates to “localhost" or "Exchange," a practice that could make some man-in-the-middle attacks much easier for attackers. “Everything would look normal: your browser would use HTTPS, it would show the lock icon that indicates HTTPS is working properly, it would show that a real CA validated the HTTPS certificate, and it would raise no security warnings,” writes the EFF’s Chris Palmer. “And yet, you would be giving your password and your email contents to the attacker.” These findings are important, say security experts, in continuing to revamp how the CA infrastructure functions. Among other remedies, the EFF suggests that existing unqualified certificates should be revoked by CAs and that IP addresses not be used for issuing certificates. (SlashDot)(Kaspersky Labs’ ThreatPost)(Electronic Frontier Foundation)

US Data Breach Could Start Spear Phishing Expeditions

A massive data breach at a US-based online marketing firm exposed customer names and e-mail addresses to hackers, prompting security experts to surmise the information could be used in targeted phishing attempts known as spear phishing. The breach involved the Epsilon unit of Alliance Data Systems Corp., which sends more than 40 billion permission-based e-mails to individuals who register at a company’s website or provide their e-mail addresses when shopping. The company has only slowly disclosed information about the unauthorized access that occurred 30 March, but those companies affected are promptly notifying customers. The list of 50 companies involved reads like a Who’s Who and includes seven of the Fortune 10: Target, Marriott International, Citigroup, Walgreen, Hilton Hotels, US Bancorp, Best Buy, Capital One, RitzCarlton Rewards, JPMorgan Chase, Kroger, and Capital One, to name a few. Security experts say this could prove to be one of, if not the, biggest data breach in US history. Although only names and e-mail addresses were obtained, security experts say customers are now vulnerable to spear phishing attempts. “Being able to send a targeted phishing message to a bank customer and personally address them by name will certainly result in a much higher ‘hit rate’ than a typical ‘blind’ spamming campaign would yield. So having access to this information will just help phishing attacks achieve a higher success rate,” noted SecurityWeek’s Mike Lennon.
(Reuters, 5 April 2011)(Reuters, 4 April 2011)(The Christian Science Monitor)(SecurityWeek)

Texas Instruments to Acquire National Semiconductor

Texas Instruments announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement to acquire analog semiconductor company National Semiconductor in a US$6.5 billion, all-cash transaction. The company, which makes low-power chips, is reportedly touting its global sales force, said to be larger than any other chipmaker, as beneficial to National’s future. Rich Templeton, TI’s chief executive officer, claims TI can increase revenue for National “at more than twice the industry rate, a feat National hasn’t pulled off in years,” according to Bloomberg. National Semiconductor’s products are primarily used for industrial machinery, while TI’s specialty is mobile devices. Bloomberg reports that the purchase “will be funded with a combination of existing cash balances and debt.” The deal is expected to be finalized in roughly six to nine months. (SlashDot)(Computerworld)(Bloomberg)(Texas Instruments)

Robotic US Troops in Afghanistan

The US Marine Corps says there are now more than 2,000 robots being used in Afghanistan, which means 1 in 50 troops is a machine. Robots working on the ground are deployed for tasks including bomb disposal, working checkpoints, and scouting operations with humans. There are also some airborne robots or drones on duty, including the nearly autonomous X-47B. The drone can purportedly take off and land independently as well as find an assigned target without human intervention. The US Naval Air Systems Command recently announced it wants to demonstrate that a “persistent” system of drones carrying both surveillance and weaponry could be deployed "in the 2018 timeframe," according to The Register. (SlashDot)(CNN)(The Register)(Wired)(National Defense)

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