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AMD/Cray Building The World’s Fastest Supercomputer

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Frontier plans to build the world's fastest supercomputer

For the last decade, many gadgets and machines have gotten either an upgrade or a whole new look. The reason behind every update is always to better the service one machine offers as compared to what it does before. These updates happen either on the physical form of the device, or the system of how it works. But more than just an addition of a better feature, there are times when machines and gadgets get a full modification. Such is the case on computers.

Historically started as a counting machine for small numbers, computers originated from the ancient counting tool, abacus, which were primarily used in China, Europe, and Russia.

Now, the world is on the race of creating an “exascale” computer, with Frontier as the US entrant against China, Japan, and France. The $600 million machines will be built by chip designer, AMD, and supercomputer manufacturer, Cray Technology, which will be released in 2021 in Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

With the help of Frontier, science and technology innovations in the country could be accelerated and at the same time maintain the high position of the US in computing and artificial intelligence. Frontier’s system will pattern from Cray’s Shasta architecture, and Slingshot interconnect. It will also feature high-performance AMD EPYC CPU and AMD Radeon Instinct GPU technology.

Frontier is the next generation of computing where its processing power is based on exaflops or quintillions of calculations per second. A quintillion is a big number being followed by 18 zeros: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. As announced by the Energy Department, Frontier is expected to perform 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, a level called 1.5 exaflops. This only means that Frontier’s calculation will be 50 times faster than today’s record-holder top 500 supercomputer – IBM-built Summit machine. It is also projected to surpass Aurora, Cray’s supercomputer running on one exaflop that is also expected to be built by 2021 at Argonne National Laboratory.

A general idea of how big Frontier will be, AMD says, Frontier will have a processing power of 160 combined supercomputers. It can also hold an enormous amount of date with a bandwidth that is 24 million times bigger than an average home internet connection. Physically, this exascale computer would need as much as 7,300 square feet of space or roughly two basketball courts combined with 90 miles of cabling.

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry says, “Frontier’s record-breaking performance will ensure our country’s ability to lead the world in science that improves the lives and economic prosperity of all Americans and the entire world.” He also added, ‘“Frontier will accelerate innovation in AI by giving American researchers world-class data and computing resources to ensure the next great inventions are made in the United States.”

Also, as a next generation AI, Frontier will offer abilities such as deep learning, machine learning and data analytics for programs that range from human health to manufacturing. However, it is still unguaranteed that the US will be the first to release an exascale computer since China, Japan and France expect their supercomputers to be finished by 2020, a year earlier than that for Frontier. With China dominating the top 500 supercomputers holding 227 positions, winning the race might be a long shot for the US. More than the pride it can give a country, what is also at stake with the success of exascale machines are the capability to perform research on fields of science such as nuclear physics, cosmology, drug discovery, artificial intelligence, and climate simulation.

For developers to consume the performance of Frontier seamlessly, an improved GPU programming tools optimized for performance, productivity and portability are being co-designed and developed by Cray and AMD. This entails Cray Programming Environment and AMD’s ROCm open commute platform integrating new capabilities to the Shasta software stack for Frontier.

“Today’s announcement represents the power of collaboration between private industry and public research institutions to deliver groundbreaking innovations that scientists can use to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Lisa Su, AMD president, and CEO.

According to Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, AMD-based supercomputer was probably chosen by the Department of Energy because it can extend its performance with a technology called Infinity Fabric.

Frontier will become part of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

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Cybersecurity

Indictment Against Hackers Involved In Anthem Data Breach Unsealed

Two men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Click To Tweet

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Twor men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015.
The indicted individuals are allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Photo: Tim Reckmann | a59.de | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Two men were indicted in the U.S. in connection with the data breach at the health insurance company, Anthem, that siphoned more than 78.8 million customer and employee records between 2014 and 2015.

The Justice Department recently unsealed an indictment against two people who prosecutors say are part of a sophisticated hacking network group, based in China that was behind not only in Anthem data breach, but also the attacks against three other US businesses.

While the Justice Department did not name the said Chinese hacking group victimized the three other businesses who they said, they said that these companies were “data-rich.” One was a technology business, one was in necessary materials, and the third was in communications. They said that all of these three companies store a substantial amount – and some confidential – of data on their servers and data networks.

The suspects are 32-year-old Wang Fujie with the Western name of “Dennis” and another one that until now remained unnamed. The Justice Department could not find the real name of the unnamed man but said that he goes by various online nicknames such as “Daniel Jack,” “Kim Young” and “Zhou Zhihong.”

The charges are one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in relation to computers and identity theft, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer.

According to the indictment documents, the hacker group where Dennis and the unnamed man belongs have carried out attacks using “sophisticated techniques” including spearphishing and malware from February 2014 and up until around January 2015.

They allegedly sent tailored spearphishing emails with links to malware and sent them to employees at the target companies. Once the targeted employee opened the email, the system would get affected by the malware that would later plant a backdoor Trojan that gives the hackers remote access via their command and control servers.

Wang is also accused of having set up the servers, hosted in California and Arizona that were used in the Anthem attacks.

The cyber attack suffered by the insurance company has had them cough up large amounts of money as settlement, making it the most significant data breach settlement ever. In 2017, the company agreed to pay $115 million to settle a class action suit over the breach.

The Anthem attack is also the most massive health insurance data breach, and the amount of data lost to the hackers dwarfed the biggest data breaches in the following years with 11 million breached at Premera and 10 million from Excellus.

The DOJ through a press release and Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski called the hacking event as “unprecedented.”

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today to outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history. These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII. The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting PII, and will aggressively prosecute perpetrators of hacking schemes like this, wherever they occur.”

Meanwhile, another set of indictments were released by the Justice Department against European hackers over the hacking of different private and public institutions in the United States. Ten individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday.

According to the officials who filed the charges, the malware, which enabled cybercriminals and hackers from Eastern Europe infiltrate computer systems remotely and siphon funds from victim’s bank accounts, targeted companies and institutions across all sectors of American life.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

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Cybersecurity

Winnti For Linux: Researchers Found Linux Variant Of Malware Used By Chinese Hackers In 2015

A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers. Click To Tweet

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A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers.
The discovered Linux malware bears significant similarities with its Windows counterpart. Photo: Christiaan Colen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Linux systems are cybersecurity kings, but on a historic first, tech researchers have found a variant of a widespread malware, a favorite of Chinese hackers, have been discovered in a Linux system.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity department. The researchers revealed that they found a Linux variant of the Winnti malware that works as a backdoor on infected hosts, granting attackers access to compromised systems. It was the malware used by Chinese hackers in the high-profile cybercrime against a Vietnamese game company in 2015.

Chronicle researchers said that they discovered the malware following the news that Bayer, one of the biggest pharma company in the world, had been hit by Chinese hackers, and the Winnti malware was discovered on its servers.

After the team scanned Bayer’s system using its VirusTotal platform, they found what appeared to be a Linux variant of the Winnti, dating back to 2015 when it was first used by Chinese hackers to attack a Vietnamese gaming company.

According to the Chronicle, the malware that they have discovered comes in two parts: a rootkit to disguise the malware in the infected host and the actual backdoor Trojan. Further analysis the discovered Linux variant of the Winnti malware bears a lot of similarities to the malware’s Windows version. Other connections with the Windows version also included the similar way in which the Linux variant handled outbound communications with its command-and-control (C&C) server — which was a mixture of multiple protocols (ICMP, HTTP, and custom TCP and UDP protocols).

“As with other versions of Winnti, the core component of the malware doesn’t natively provide the operators with distinct functionality. This component is primarily designed to handle communications and the deployment of modules directly from the command-and-control servers. During our analysis, we were unable to recover any active plugins. However, prior reporting suggests that the operators commonly deploy plugins for remote command execution, file exfiltration, and socks5 proxying on the infected host. We expect similar functionality to be leveraged via additional modules for Linux,” said the researchers in their comprehensive report.

Lastly, the Linux version, just like the Window’s version, also has the ability for Chinese hackers to initiate communication with the infected host without going through the C&C servers – distinct characteristics in Windows Winnti.

“This secondary communication channel may be used by operators when access to the hard-coded control servers is disrupted,” Chronicle researchers said in a report published last week.

While infecting Linux systems is something already done especially by American and Russian hackers, it is also extremely rare, as pointed out by the Chronicle.

“Clusters of Winnti-related activity have become a complex topic in threat intelligence circles, with activity vaguely attributed to different codenamed threat actors. The threat actors utilizing this toolset have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise in compromising Windows-based environments. An expansion into Linux tooling indicates iteration outside of their traditional comfort zone. This may indicate the OS requirements of their intended targets, but it may also be an attempt to take advantage of a security telemetry blindspot in many enterprises, as is with Penquin Turla and APT28’s Linux XAgent variant,” added Chronicle.

Meanwhile, malware have become one of the most common tools to attack computer systems, even those of public institutions. A few days ago, ten Europeans were indicted for the malware attacks that have victimized several businesses and government agencies in the U.S.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday last week.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The charged individuals are now facing conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

Officials reveal that the malware in the current court case has infected more than 41,000 computers by disguising as legitimate messages or invoice and was sent as spam emails. Once the email was opened, hackers will be able to record all keystrokes in the infected computer, sweeping data like baking information and wire money away from the victim’s account.

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Animals

Facial Recognition To Be Used In Panda Conservation

A group of researchers in China have develop an app to track pandas using facial recognition technology. Click To Tweet

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A group of researchers in China have develop an app to track pandas using facial recognition technology.
There are currently 67 panda nature reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last report. Photo: WWF Website

While facial recognition technology is widely frowned upon when used against humans, it could be an ally for conservators of giant pandas in China.

A group of researchers from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas have developed an app that could recognize individual pandas using facial recognition technology. The app will draw from more than 120,000 images and video clips of giant pandas to identify the animals that are living in the wild.

According to a census conducted last 2004 by the Chinese government, there are approximately 1,864 pandas live in the wild. That’s a 16.8% increase since the last survey released in 2003. The country has taken a proactive role in conservation efforts, announcing last year that it would build a 10,476-square-mile panda reserve called the Giant Panda National Park at the cost of at least 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion).

“The latest rise in the estimate is particularly encouraging, as the 2004 increase was in large part down to researchers using better techniques and surveying a wider area. The new figures show that the hard work of the Chinese government, local communities, nature reserve staff, and WWF is paying off,” wrote WWF.

Camera traps in China have captured images and video footage of giant pandas that are often difficult to see in the wild. The photographs and video are some of the most amazing photos ever of pandas and other species in their remote habitat, which were caught on film as part of long-term wildlife monitoring projects set up in panda nature reserves by the Chinese government and WWF.

Camera trap footage of a Giant Panda scenting a tree is marking his territory to attract female pandas. © Anzihe Nature Reserve

“These photos offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of giant pandas, as well as other animals, which are difficult to see in the wild,” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of WWF’s species program. “They demonstrate that by saving the iconic giant panda, we secure a vibrant future for other incredible wildlife, wild places, and people – it’s the best kind of win-win proposition.”

The development of the new facial recognition app will presumably help conservationist monitor their programs by keeping track of how many pandas are left. It will also provide significant insight regarding the breeding program that conservationist has been implementing to encourage an increase in the panda population.

“he app and database will help us gather more precise and well-rounded data on the population, distribution, ages, gender ratio, birth and deaths of wild pandas, who live in deep mountains and are hard to track,” Chen Peng, a researcher at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas, said.

This is not the first time that facial recognition technology has been used against animals. According to several reports, facial technology has been used in Italy as part of an app that can match photos of lost pets from those that are in shelters and to determine a cat apart from other feline species.

Nonetheless, the use of facial technology in China is a complicated issue. Many nations have been vocal in their accusations that the Chinese government and Xi Jinping is using the technology against people’s consent for the government to spy on its citizens.

Meanwhile, facial recognition technology is also something frowned upon in Western governments. Last week, San Francisco, one of the technology capitals of the world, has voted to ban the police and city agencies from using facial recognition technologies against their people. The groundbreaking vote aims to become a model in other city and states as San Francisco recognizes the harms that an unregulated technology can have over people’s privacy.

The science and tech community has not failed to become wary over facial recognition technology and has urged companies to stop selling their versions of the technology to law enforcement agencies. Recently, a study from the Georgetown Law School has revealed that police have been feeding images of celebrities and composite and computer-generated suspect sketches to the facial recognition system to generate possible matches.

While using the technology on animals does not necessarily have direct harms, many experts have argued that governments can use the camera set up for animal facial recognition systems against humans and could be exploited. Nevertheless, the possible use of facial recognition by conservators might be the hope of the giant panda population.

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