Over a third of UK’s critical infrastructure organisations left open to cyber attacks

39% of the organisations that make up the UK’s national critical infrastructure – including police forces, fire services, healthcare organisations and energy suppliers – have not completed the government’s basic cybersecurity standards, leaving them potentially open to attacks.

The revelation, which was the result of a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by cybersecurity provider Corero Network Security to 338 critical infrastructure organisations. Of the 163 that complied with the request, 63 admitted to failing to complete the UK government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security programme.

Given the potential for damage – and even in some cases, loss of life – that comes with an cyber attack on a police force, hospital or fire service, this raises serious concerns about how prepared the UK’s critical infrastructure is for an attack.

“Cyber attacks against national infrastructure have the potential to inflict significant, real-life disruption and prevent access to critical services that are vital to the functioning of our economy and society,” said Sean Newman, director of product management, Corero. “These findings suggest that many such organisations are not as cyber resilient as they should be, in the face of growing and sophisticated cyber threats.”

A summary of the 10-step guide. Image courtesy of GCHQ. Featured image courtesy of Tim Peake

The UK government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security programme was developed by GCHQ to provide a simple and clear guide for organisations to follow to ensure they are adequately protecting themselves from cyber attacks.

Originally published in 2012, it is used by two thirds of the FTSE350 – the country’s 350 largest companies – and was re-issued in 2015 alongside an additional document for businesses.

Covering technology and employee management, it includes steps such as user education and awareness, controls for removable media and the establishment of network security.

Many organisations will already follow some of these steps, but others remain under-followed, leaving critical infrastructure exposed.

Healthcare organisations, particularly NHS trusts, are at significant risk, despite already suffering a devastating attack earlier in the year

There have, of course, already been successful attacks on critical infrastructure, with the WannaCry attack crippling NHS systems earlier this year.

However, this does not seem to have resulted in dramatic improvements in security efforts, as 42% of the NHS trusts who responded to the FOI requests had not completed the programme.

As a result, it is likely that we will see more attacks on critical infrastructure providers in the future, potentially putting people and the UK economy at risk.

Scientists, software developers and artists have begun using VR to visualise genes and predict disease

A group of scientists, software developers and artists have taken to using virtual reality (VR) technology to visualise complex interactions between genes and their regulatory elements.

The team, which comprises of members from Oxford University, Universita’ di Napoli and Goldsmiths, University of London, have been using VR to visualise simulations of a composite of data from genome sequencing, data on the interactions of DNA and microscopy data.

When all this data is combined the team are provided with an interactive, 3D image that shows where different regions of the genome sit relative to others, and how they interact with each other.

“Being able to visualise such data is important because the human brain is very good at pattern recognition – we tend to think visually,” said Stephen Taylor, head of the Computational Biology Research Group at Oxford’s MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM).

“It began at a conference back in 2014 when we saw a demonstration by researchers from Goldsmiths who had used software called CSynth to model proteins in three dimensions. We began working with them, feeding in seemingly incomprehensible information derived from our studies of the human alpha globin gene cluster and we were amazed that what we saw on the screen was an instantly recognisable model.”

The team believe that being able to visualise the interactions between genes and their regulatory elements will allow them to understand the basis of human genetic diseases, and are currently applying their techniques to study genetic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Our ultimate aim in this area is to correct the faulty gene or its regulatory elements and be able to re-introduce the corrected cells into a patient’s bone marrow: to perfect this we have to fully understand how genes and their regulatory elements interact with one another” said Professor Doug Higgs, a principal researcher at the WIMM.

“Having virtual reality tools like this will enable researchers to efficiently combine their data to gain a much broader understanding of how the organisation of the genome affects gene expression, and how mutations and variants affect such interactions.”

There are around 37 trillion cells in the average adult human body, and each cell contains two meters of DNA tightly packed into its nucleus.

While the technology to sequence genomes is well established, it has been shown that the manner in which DNA is folded within each cell affects how genes are expressed.

“There are more than three billion base pairs in the human genome, and a change in just one of these can cause a problem. As a model we’ve been looking at the human alpha globin gene cluster to understand how variants in genes and their regulatory elements may cause human genetic disease,” said Prof Jim Hughes, associate professor of Genome Biology at Oxford University.

Using CRISPR, UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”