Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

Killing instead of saving?

Sunday, June 4th, 2017
Security threat: A TSA official removing a laptop from a bag at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City. — REUTERS

Security threat: A TSA official removing a laptop from a bag at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City. — REUTERS

THE laptop ban is coming. Can anyone doubt it?

Already, US President Donald Trump’s administration has imposed a laptop ban on flights arriving in the United States from 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern countries. Not only must laptops be checked in, so must any computing device larger than a mobile phone. Next, Washington is expected to broaden the ban to include flights from Europe.

Although the US Department of Homeland Security refuses to specify why the ban is necessary – it’s classified intel, you know – intelligence sources have told The New York Times and others that Islamic State terrorists now have explosives that can be hidden inside laptop batteries, and that can’t be detected by the X-ray machines deployed by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at passenger security checkpoints.

Apparently, the US government’s view – though, again, no one is saying – is that it’s more difficult for terrorists to set off a laptop bomb in the cargo hold than in the cabin, where they can manually detonate it. Plus, the theory goes, a laptop bomb in the cargo hold would need to be rigged with a timer, which could be more easily detected by scanners.

Even putting aside the most obvious flaw in this logic – that checked bags are scanned randomly rather than comprehensively – the ban has so many problems, and raises so many questions, that it is hard to know where to start.

Why does Homeland Security assume that laptop bombs will only be smuggled onto international flights, not domestic American ones? Why can’t it just insist that people go through airport security with their laptops turned on, so that TSA agents can see that they are computers, not bombs?

But there is one question that looms above all the others, or at least it should: Will a laptop ban actually increase the odds of an airplane exploding – not because of terrorism but because of the lithium- ion batteries that power modern computers?

Although this can’t be said with 100% certainly, the answer appears to be: yes.

Lithium-ion batteries are not benign devices; that’s well known among computer engineers and aviation experts. The liquid inside the batteries is flammable, and a short circuit can cause a fire. On rare occasion, the short circuit is the result of faulty design, as with a smartphone that was ultimately banned from flights and recalled by the company recently.

But sometimes it happens because a device is jostled or overheats. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there have been 160 “incidents” involving lithium-ion batteries in cargo holds since 1991.

In 2010 and again in 2011, cargo planes carrying pallets of the batteries caught fire and crashed. And last January, the FAA issued a warning about transporting batteries in the cargo hold, noting that “a lithium battery fire could lead to a catastrophic explosion”.

When a laptop in the passenger cabin spews smoke or bursts into flame – it’s happened some 19 times over the last five years, according to Christine Negroni, Forbes magazine’s aviation blogger – it is quickly noticed and extinguished. But a fire in the cargo hold won’t be noticed, and experts say that the heat from such a fire quickly grows too high to be extinguished by the fire containment equipment in the hold.

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The fuzzy logic of cyberspace

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

LAST week, the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia convened the 31st Asia-Pacific Roundtable (APR), which was attended by approximately 260 local and international policy-watchers of the region.

As it has for decades, the APR deliberated in comprehensive fashion a number of strategic issues confronting the security of the region.

One of those discussions centred around emerging tensions in cyberspace between the private sector, on the one hand, and governments, on the other; the former, with its prioritisation of privacy and trust to catalyse technological innovation in order to capture an ever-growing market share, and the latter, focused on preempting, preventing, and defending against threats to national security.

Anchored by a majority panel of private sector players, it was an unconventional session that captured participants’ attention (at least that of those who remained) for its currency and complexity. Participants stayed either because they actually understood the issues being discussed, or out of a desire to understand the fuzzy logic of cyberspace.

“Cyber” has become one of those buzzwords that people “get”, yet don’t really get. We understand how pervasive the cyber domain has become, given how much of our lives is spent on it, yet we do not fully comprehend the networks, systems, infrastructure, and above all, trust that underpin it.

We transact in cyberspace, yet we do not always grasp how the security of our data lies first and foremost with us. We realise how vulnerable we are in cyberspace, given how much of ourselves we divulge in it, yet we overlook just how much of our identity can be pieced together with enough motivation.

We entrust our data to the companies that store and transfer them, yet we are caught unawares when governments exploit vulnerabilities to mine that data for national security purposes.

Cyberspace and cyber security, therefore, are ethereal notions that we have come to accept in our lexicon, but have not yet begun to assume responsibility for or assign accountability to.

In large part, this is because unlike the natural domains of air, land, sea and space, the infrastructure of cyberspace — from fibre-optic cables to servers that maintain “clouds” — is man-made and, therefore, shared and governed by multiple stakeholders.

The private sector builds, owns, and maintains much of the physical infrastructure, or hardware, of cyberspace. Large technological multinational companies (MNCs) also provide the software that make up the soft underbelly of this super structure — from desktop programmes to mobile applications.

The size, revenue and influence of some of these giant MNCs dwarf smaller nation-states and economies. They operate across jurisdictions but have to comply with local regulations.

This means that they serve not only individual clients, but also governments that may have very different — and occasionally, conflicting — interests in using or leveraging the same products and services offered.

Companies that profit off cyberspace understand that trust in open, distributed programmes, networks and systems is key to making it all work.

Individual end-users expect that the information they send on invisible networks will be routed to and received by intended recipients in whole, rather than in part.

Until recently, as exposed by the Snowden leaks, there was also a certain naiveté that the privacy of this information would not be deliberately or accidentally compromised by the technology companies transmitting this information through the different states they operate in.

To say that borders do not exist in cyberspace is misleading. Data servers, for one, are physically located within a country’s borders and protection of that data is subjected to laws governing that state.

Additionally, as with the Apple vs Federal Bureau of Investigation case last year, a nation’s laws on free speech and privacy may determine the extent to which technology companies can guarantee data encryption.

They may also inadvertently afford mass murderers, terrorists, gang-bangers, and paedophiles, to paraphrase former FBI director James Comey, the opportunity to exploit encryption in the name of free speech.

What can be hard-hittingly borderless, however, is the impact of a government’s interface with technological companies.

This was most recently demonstrated by the scale and spread of the ransomware WannaCry, which affected more than 10 nations as well as their critical national infrastructure, like the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

Although chiefly a criminal campaign despite rumoured links to a nation-state, WannaCry was drawn from — and its effects exacerbated by — a Microsoft vulnerability that had initially and allegedly been part of the United States’ National Security Agency’s offensive cyber arsenal.

This stockpiling by governments of what are called zero-day vulnerabilities, or programmatic flaws that are left undisclosed to be exploited to attack users, infrastructure, even countries, is shining new light on old frictions between technology companies and nation-states.

WannaCry showed that when giants collide in cyberspace, individuals end up paying in real life.

There are other important, strategic implications to be drawn from these unfolding developments, including how nation-states should behave with each other in cyberspace, what role the private sector should have in that debate, and whether a nuclear deterrence-like concept could work in cyberspace.


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We need technology but at what cost?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

THE recent WannaCry ransomware attack left the world in a frantic mode. The worldwide massive cyberattack on computers running Microsoft Windows operating system reportedly struck more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. Russia and the United Kingdom were said to be among the worst-hit.

Cybersecurity firm experts are warning that it can only get worse before it gets better because society has become more reliant on technology than ever before.

Ransomware is a malicious software that locks up victims’ data in electronic gadgets such as computers, tablets or smartphones and threatens to expose the data or delete it until a ransom is paid. It is basically a denial-of-access cyberattack that prevents us from accessing our data.

While there are many forms of ransomware out there, WannaCry is perhaps the most dangerous yet. System analysts traced the root of the ransomware to a Microsoft security patch released in March, so those who had updated their systems with the patch were more likely to be victims of WannaCry. However, it doesn’t stop there because many are still at risk and it’s only a matter of time for WannaCry to spread through the email chain.

Today, it seems that the world is no longer safe anywhere. Real world or virtual, we are just as vulnerable when it comes to safety. Technology has opened up an infinitude Catch-22 situation that we are unable to resolve. We need technology and we definitely cannot live without it but at what cost?

We are indeed held ransom by technology as we continue to become more dependent on it. With the Internet of Things (IoT), the reliance on technology can only increase in the future. We live and breathe technology every second of the day. Even when we sleep, technology in IoT dominates our time. IoT, the next stage of evolution in consumer products, is connectedness. It affects every item, from the toothbrush to the fridge, and the television to the camera that uses wireless protocols to connect.

Though we now think we are protected by fingerprint readers, these are also prone to cyberattacks. If you think your fingerprint is unique, think again. Masterprints, digitally altered fingerprints that work like a master key, have been discovered by researchers for New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. With these masterprints, one can unlock up to 40 per cent of smartphones.

Ransomware is not the only nasty bug on the list. We have experienced trojans, malwares, worms and more in various stages over the years, all created by hackers. As technology evolves, so do these bugs. While we think that these mostly target governments and corporations, think again because any one of us is just as susceptible to hackers. Depending on the intentions of hackers, some may not even want anything in return… just the satisfaction of creating disruption or chaos in people’s lives.

If you are infected by ransomware or malware, the first thing you should do is disconnect your computer from the Internet so it does not infect others. Most of these attacks rely on your connection to spread, so disconnect to end it before it goes viral. Report the crime to law enforcement or cybersecurity experts. Even if you pay the hackers, there’s no guarantee they will unlock or restore your access to your data.


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All Govt schools to have high-speed Internet by next year.

Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Service rewarded: Mahdzir (second from left) giving the Tokoh Guru Negeri Kelantan 2017 Award to Ghazali. — Bernama

Service rewarded: Mahdzir (second from left) giving the Tokoh Guru Negeri Kelantan 2017 Award to Ghazali. — Bernama

TANAH MERAH: All government schools will be equipped with high speed Internet service by next year, making digital learning for millions of students a reality in Malaysia.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said Internet facilities would be upgraded in 6,000-odd schools, bringing the total number of schools with relatively high speed Internet access to more than 10,000.

“High speed Internet access does not only improve teaching and learning in schools, but is also beneficial for teachers and other staff in discharging their duties,” he said after opening the Kelantan Teachers Day celebration at SMK Belimbing here yesterday.

He said the current speed varies from as low as 2Mbps in rural schools to 10Mbps in some urban schools.

Mahdzir also called on teachers to be technology savvy, as information and communication technology tools were the way forward in the education sector.

He urged parent-teacher associations and non-governmental organisations to play a more active role to help drive schools towards excellence.

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Public WiFi can be used to spread ransomware, say experts.

Friday, May 19th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: With ransomware on the rise, even public WiFi networks are no longer safe, according to ethical hackers C.F. Fong and Foe Chee Kang.

An ethical hacker is a person who hacks into a computer network in order to test or evaluate its security, rather than for malicious or criminal intent.

The two were speaking on The Couch, a live talk show by R.AGE, where they also demonstrated how easy it is to infect a computer with malware through a fake public WiFi account.

“If we set a WiFi account like this at an airport or hotel, we would have access to so many people’s information,” said Fong, the chief executive officer of cyber security firm LGMS.

Fong also gave the live audience tips on protecting themselves from cyber attacks.

He advised people to never use pirated software, to update their software regularly, and keep physical backups of their data.


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Online users urged to be cautious with email attachments

Friday, May 19th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Internet users should be wary on any suspicious link or attachment from email which can be associated with the latest Wannacry Ransomware attack.

Ransomware are a type of malware designed to extort money from victims by holding files or entire computers to ransom.

The ransomware typically demands payment to undo changes that the Trojan virus has made to the victim’s computer, which ranges from encrypting data stored on the victim’s disk to blocking normal access.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO) CyberSecurity Malaysia, Dr. Solahuddin Shamsuddin said most ransomware is spread hidden within Word documents, PDFs and other files normally sent via email.

“Prevention is the best option when dealing with this kind of cyber attack, which is why I urge all people and network system administrators to be more careful and take precaution.

“By updating to the latest windows update, backup any important files regularly, constantly update to the latest anti-virus update, and do not open any suspicious attachment or link sent through email,” said Dr Solahuddin to reporters after launching the Mosti Social Innovation (MSI) Explore Cyber Ops Sabah Edition, here at the Inventory of Science and Technology Center UMS, yesterday.

CyberSecurity has not issued any statement on social media, prohibiting the use of online banking and online purchases with regards to a viral statement sent through social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

He also said that all organisation system administrators to be more vigilant and continue the necessary actions to protect and secure their infrastructure computer network systems.

According to him, people should be more cautious even though there has not been any major incident related to the ransomware reported in the country.

Threat of cyber attacks can happen at any time and anywhere where with the power of today’s technology allows various forms of cyber attacks which users do not expect.

The impact can be huge with property damages, losses, interruption of operations, reputation and even can threaten national security, he said.

The latest cyber attacks have infected more than 150 countries including computer networks of Britain’s National Health Service, Russia’s interior ministry and international shipper FedEx.


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Youngest sextortion victim is 14

Friday, May 19th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The youngest victim of online sextortion in Malaysia is only 14 years old, said Head of the Consumer Protection and Complaints Bureau Department, Ratnawaty Talib.

She told participants of a seminar on empowering consumer rights yesterday that about 99 percent of sextortion victims were males between 25 and 45 years old.

She said a total of 300 complaints were received last year.

To avoid falling into such traps, Ratnawaty advised social media users to be vigilant and to abstain from accepting ‘friends requests’ from strangers through social media such as Facebook.

She said the amount extorted ranged from RM2,000 to RM5,000.

Ratnawaty said those extorting for money would threaten to upload the video(s) of the victim to YouTube if the money was not paid.

“Don’t panic. Lodge a complaint with MCMC which will report the matter to YouTube to take down the video.

If money has been paid, a police report needs to be lodged so that investigation can be started,” she said, adding that payment should not be made.

Meanwhile, computer users, particularly business entities, must take proactive steps for protection against virus attacks.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Network Security and Enforcement sector chief officer  Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin said they must update their virus software constantly for protection against any malware attacks.

“When it comes to virus, protection is always better,” he told reporters at the seminar to empower consumer rights held at the Sutera Harbour Resort near here, yesterday.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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More to fun lessons

Monday, May 15th, 2017
(From left) Glavinder, Chian and Koah talk about the app.

(From left) Glavinder, Chian and Koah talk about the app.

A mobile application enables students to learn subjects related to their syllabus beyond the classroom.

A MALAYSIAN technology start-up is giving new meaning to travel and study with a new mobile application, which allows a student or a whole class to learn subjects related to their school syllabus at points of interest outside classrooms.

The Education Travel App by BeED (Beyond Education) is being touted by its founders as Uber for both educators and learners.

“This is going to be the next Uber for schools. We are a school with no teachers or buildings,” said BeED academic director Michael Chian.

The app was developed by Chian along with co-founders Jimmy Koah and Glavinder Singh, who initially self-funded the project before receiving RM2.8mil from a local investor this year.

The app currently provides educational content in Malaysia, Indonesia,Thailand and Vietnam.

Via the app, a class excursion to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia can include activities and questions on geometry, trigonometry while at the KL Tower or literature at the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam.

Chian said an international school in Kuala Lumpur successfully conducted a trial run with the app with 400 students during a school excursion to Bali.

There the students were prompted by the app, he said, to measure the pH levels of the sea and nearby natural salt water pond and to answer a series of questions on why the acidity of the sea was so much higher.

Chian said the students could also see marine life thriving in the pond while the sea was polluted due to sewage flowing into it and this caused the high acidity.

The emphasis of the app, Chian said, is to provide experiential learning.

“Basically, our kids are already running around and playing with their handphones. Why not allow them to learn something useful in line with their school syllabus,” he said.

Teachers or parents, he said, can also monitor their activities and answers while students can reflect on what they learnt.

“A lot of people today don’t do journals and diaries. We are bringing it back through the app,” he said.

The app also allows students to post pictures, audio and videos to substantiate their answers to questions besides sharing their travel experiences over social media.

Although the app currently caters to secondary school students, Chian foresees it being expanded over time to include learning experiences for undergraduates and primary school pupils.

“You may one day be able to go to the Great Barrier Reef to learn about marine biology or Prague to learn about architecture,” he said.

Koay pointed out all information including activities and questions about a particular destination, is available on the app.

“All the learning experiences can also be downloaded into the app and teachers will be able to see the answers, make corrections or offer feedback,” he said.

Chian said schools and parents can sign-up for the app, which will have a world map with available locations and subjects.

“They can also choose if they want lower or upper secondary level learning and make a choice.”

Chian said the app will also provide an opportunity for teachers and individuals not only in Malaysia but around the world to contribute content or lessons from their home country.

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Robotics for Malaysian students

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017
Students at a pilot robotics workshop .

A robotic programme tailored to provide secondary school students basic designing, coding and sensor training in robotic development has been introduced recently Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) together with Petrosains, The Discovery Centre (Petrosains).

Open to students from schools surrounding the Pusat Internet 1Malaysia (PI1M) across the nation, the workshop is aimed at diversifying the role of the PI1M centres to be a creative learning platform for the communities

Digi’s chief corporate affairs officer, Eugene Teh said: “Together with Petrosains we are able to come up with a basic robotic programme with a hands-on approach that we hope will engage the students and create interest to get involved in engineering, science and technology

A pilot workshop was held end of last year at the PI1M in Semambu, Kuantan involving 18 Form Four students from three schools. The four-day workshop, which was divided into two sessions, saw the students designing, assembling and programming their own robots under the guidance of trainers who are experts in the robotic field.

“Through the pilot workshop, we have seen how these students with almost no experience or background in robotics successfully tackled a project that requires a multi-skill approach. Not only do they need to be involved in many technical related decision making but they also have to learn how to work as a team, to think critically as well as to manage their problem solving skills.

“We believe this programme will help to instill engineering skills, computer programming, innovation and creativity among these students, just like the way we envision the role of PI1M as a centre for knowledge learning,” Teh added.

Under this collaboration, Digi will be providing the training facilities in terms of space and workstations at the PI1M centres, while Petrosains will be contributing the robotics training programme, modules as well as trainers.

Chief executive officer of Petrosains, Tengku Nasariah Tengku Syed Ibrahim, said: “This partnership with Digi has seen us customising a holistic robotics programme that encompasses modules covering basic, intermediate as well as expert levels, with a focus towards building knowledge on assembling robotic parts, coding programming and proximity sensors for schoolchildren.

“Our open-source robotics programme differs from others as it is made affordable with the sharing of robotic development tools in an open-source environment at the PI1M centres.”

“We truly welcome and fully support this opportunity by Digi to work together in delivering educational development programme for the younger generation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) specifically in the field of robotics and coding in Malaysia.

“As the corporate social responsibility arm of Petronas in the pillar of education, programmes such as this in the PI1M centres is organised by Petrosains to spark and sustain interest in science amongst students in the hope of inspiring them to take up career paths in science related fields including in the high-engineering, technological field of robotics.

“In the near future, literacy in robotics and coding will become an important requirement in our lives and critical for the progress of mankind. We hope that this partnership will continue in the long run as this will support the Government’s efforts to develop human capital through an integrated education system which involves the support from different and varied corporate parties,” adds Tengku Nasariah.

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Online classes the way forward

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

WHEN you think of the standard college classroom, it’s likely that you imagine a large lecture hall with chairs or some form of room similar to this. The norm is that students come in at fixed times to classrooms on campus to attend lectures by professors.

And this has been the method of teaching higher education, going as far back as 428 BC in Ancient Greece, where the famous philosopher Plato founded the Platonic Academy, a primitive version of an institution of higher learning.

The University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco is likely the first institute of higher learning ever established. It was founded in the year 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. This institution followed the Islamic madrasa concept of educational institutions in which a teacher teaches students in a classroom setting much like today, minus the fancy gadgetry. The university still exists to this day, making it the oldest in existence according to Guinness World Records.

In short, many of the methods and tools of teaching and learning for higher education have not changed much since the days of Plato. The majority of us still attend physical classrooms on campus. However, now there are online classes fully accredited by universities that allow students to attend from the comfort of their bedroom or even access from their smartphone. Students are given the flexibility to manage their time easier by removing the need to go to a physical location away from where they live or their current location during the scheduled time of the class. For example, a student can save time by attending an online class via a computer after his physical attendance of an extra-curricular activity. This removes the need to rush around the campus to attend classes.

Online classes allow students to practise self-directed learning, allowing them to become more independent and responsible. Students learn to rely on their ability to find materials and study on their own — a great way to nurture proactivity, a useful trait in the workplace. Online classes also provide benefits such as the ability to easily record lessons and revisit them when necessary. It helps less tech-savvy students to adjust to a digital world by placing a reliance on technology rather than pen and paper. While the traditional methods and tools of teaching and learning will most likely never go out of style, we do have a generation that is being engulfed by an increasingly digitised world. This is a quickly evolving world that will likely require basic tech literacy in the same way the ability to read and write is necessary.

Online learning has also evolved past being a mere stepping stone to be accredited a college degree. In recent years, many companies have emerged to provide quality online classes at college level and even masterclasses. There is a potent increase in the number of industry experts who share their knowledge and experience in online classes such as the Khan Academy which has enlisted Pixar to provide a full syllabus for The Art of Storytelling. focuses on individual industry experts such as comedian Steve Martin, composer Hans Zimmer and music producer Joel Zimmerman. The best part? Most of these classes are available at a fraction of the cost of an actual college class and give a similar, if not better, education — all on your own time. Some services are even free. These services can be a great supplement for the college classes a student already attends to help him learn better.


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