Wits announces new AI research operation for Africa

Much has been made about technologies like artificial intelligence, and how South Africa needs to develop skills in this area as the country aims to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

One avenue where this is achieved is through education, and now Wits University has announced a new operation to conduct AI research aimed at the African market.

The new operation is being handled by Wits’ Molecular Sciences Institute (MIS) in partnership with the Cirrus Initiative.

“Wits is one of the leading institutions in machine learning and data science research in Africa, and that this collaboration will boost the University’s efforts as it envisions a step change in the research and application of AI in the region,” explains deputy vice-chancellor for research and postgraduate affairs, Zeblon Vilakazi. 

“To become competitive in this new wave of innovation fuelled by AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and with the substantial accumulation of resources and investments in new technologies in North America, Europe and Asia, require efforts in southern Africa on a magnitude far greater than any previous endeavour spanning academia and industry,” adds Vilakazi.

As for the finer details fo the operation, Cirrus notes that it will aim to create a collaborative university and industry platform supporting an ecosystem that fosters innovation and entrepreneurialism.

As the host university, Wits will lead the Cirrus Initiative’s cooperation efforts with other universities, institutes, centres of excellence and research groups in Africa.

“Combining Africa’s vibrant talent with the building of a globally competitive platform for leading scientific research and application will drive innovation and undoubtedly foster economic development in the region. In our pursuit of knowledge creation, it is also critical that Africans are the contributors, shapers and owners of the coming advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” concludes Vilakazi.

For now there has not been a definitive list of outcomes that the AI research platform has noted, but it is at least pleasing to see that some key players on the local tech space are looking to do their parts.

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Facebook, WhatsApp Will Have to Share Messages With U.K. Police

Social media platforms based in the U.S. including Facebook and WhatsApp will be forced to share users’ encrypted messages with British police under a new treaty between the two countries, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The accord, which is set to be signed by next month, will compel social media firms to share information to support investigations into individuals suspected of serious criminal offenses including terrorism and pedophilia, the person said.
Priti Patel, the U.K.’s home secretary, has previously warned that Facebook’s plan to enable users to send end-to-end encrypted messages would benefit criminals, and called on social media firms to develop “back doors” to give intelligence agencies access to their messaging platforms.
The U.K. and the U.S. have agreed not to investigate each other’s citizens as part of the deal, while the U.S. won’t be able to use information obtained from British firms in any cases carrying the death penalty.
Details of the accord were reported earlier by the Times.

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AMD's Upcoming Ryzen 9 3900 Listed With 12 Zen 2 Cores at 65W

Motherboard vendor Biostar has added support for the unannounced AMD Ryzen 9 3900 and AMD Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 processors for its X470NH motherboard, revealing some specs along the way. 

The Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 made their first appearance in an Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) listing back in July. Today, Biostar has shed some light on the processors' specifications. As with any third-generation Ryzen chips, the Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 utilize AMD's advanced Zen 2 microarchitecture and are built on TSMC's 7nm FinFET process node.

Specs

  SEP (USD)
Cores / Threads
TDP
Base Frequency 
Boost Frequency 
Total Cache
PCIe 4.0 Lanes (Processor / Chipset)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
$499 12 / 24 105W 3.8 GHz 4.6 GHz 70MB 24 / 16 
AMD Ryzen 9 3900* ? 12 / 24 65W 3.1 GHz 4.2 GHz - 4.3 GHz 70MB 24 / 16 
AMD Ryzen 9 Pro 3900* ? 12 / 24 65W 3.1 GHz 4.2 GHz - 4.3 GHz 70MB 24 / 16

*Specifications are not confirmed

The Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 look like they're essentially more power-efficient variants of the original AMD Ryzen 9 3900X. The "Pro" variant comes with enhanc

Matisse chips are expected to wield 12 cores, 24 threads and 70MB of total cache. However, the Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 will compete in the 65W TDP (thermal design power) category against the Intel Core i9-9900. Obviously, the lower TDP envelope will have repercussions on the processors' operating clock speeds.
As per Biostar's information, the Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900 sport a 3.1 GHz base clock, which is 700 MHz or 22.58% slower than the Ryzen 9 3900X. The motherboard manufacturer didn't list the processors' boost clocks. However, a well-known hardware leaker known on Twitter as TUM_APISAK seems to think that the boost clock for the Matisse parts can be 4.3 GHz. So we're looking at a 9.52% lower boost clock in a worst-case situation.

It's unknown when AMD will launch the Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 9 Pro 3900. The chipmaker is probably busy building up stock for the Ryzen 9 3950X, which has been pushed to November, and preparing the Ryzen Threadripper 3000-series release. On top of that, TSMC is reportedly in a bit of a pickle. The foundry's 7nm business has been booming lately, and high demand has increased the lead time from 2 months to 6 months. This could have an impact on AMD's CPU production.

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How to Enable Ransomware Protection in Windows 10

Windows Defender includes a security feature called "Ransomware Protection" that allows you to enable various protections against ransomware infections. This feature is disabled by default in Windows 10, but with ransomware running rampant, it is important to enable this feature in order to get the most protection you can for your computer.

If you are a regular reader of BleepingComputer, then you have heard about ransomware. For those not familiar with the term, ransomware is a computer malware infection that encrypts the data on your computer and then demands a ransom in bitcoins to decrypt them.

Ransomware Protection feature

Windows 10's includes a Ransomware Protection feature that is comprised of two components; Controlled Folder Access and Ransomware Data Recovery.

Controlled Folder Access will allow you to specify certain folders that you wish to monitor for and block changes to the files contained in them. This will block all programs, but the ones you allow, from making any modifications to the files within monitored folders, which will protect them from being encrypted by ransomware.

The other component is Ransomware Data Recovery, which will automatically sync your common data folders with your Microsoft OneDrive account in order to backup your files. Ransomware victims with this feature enabled can then use OneDrive to recover their files if they ever become encrypted by ransomware.

In Windows 10 version 1903, Windows Defender's Ransomware Protection is disabled by default. With this guide we will teach you how to enable it so that it can protect your computer against ransomware attacks.

Unfortunately, if you have a third-party antivirus software installed and Windows Defender's real-time protection is disabled, the Ransomware Protection features screen and the Controlled Folder Access feature won't be accessible.

How to enable Ransomware Protection in Windows 10

To enable the full Ransomware Protection capabilities of Windows 10, you should configure both Controlled Folder Access and login to Microsoft OneDrive in order to backup your files.

To do this, just follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Start menu.
  2. Type Windows Security and select the search result when it appears. You can also access Windows Security by going to the Settings app and navigating to Update & Security -> Windows Security.

Security app

 

After opening Windows Security, click on Virus & Threat Protection option.

 

Security app

 

Scroll down and locate Ransomware Protection and click on the Manage ransomware protection option.

 

Ransomware

Scroll down and locate Ransomware Protection and click on the Manage ransomware protection option.

 

Ransomware

 

On the next page, you will find a brief description of Controlled folder access and a toggle to enable it.

 

Enable ransomware

 

To enable Ransomware Protection. turn on Controlled Folder Access and login to OneDrive so that both features are enabled as seen below.

 

Ransomware protection enabled

 

You can now configure Controlled Folder Access and choose any folder you want to monitor and block from malicious programs.


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South African court rules bulk interception of communications unlawful

Earlier on 16 September 2019, the South Gauteng High Court ruled that some key parts of South Africa's Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Related Information Act 70 of 2002 (RICA) are illegal. The judgement is the result of a court battle that has been going on for several years between amaBhungane's Sam Sole who discovered that his  communications were intercepted by South Africa's State Security Agency without his knowledge.

Over the years, as a result of the court battle, it was also revealed that South African authorities were indiscriminately conducting mass surveillance on the country's citizens by tapping undersea fibre cables, among many other forms of communications they were spying and collecting data on.

"From the analysis set out above, the conclusion that in several respects RICA is
deficient in meeting the threshold required by section 36 of the Constitution to justify the subtraction of the rights in section 14, 16(1) and 34 and 35(5) of the Constitution. Less restrictive means than those in force are feasible and ought to be enacted. The practice of bulk interception of international communications is unlawful for want of a law authorising it to take place," reads part of the judgement by Judge Roland Sutherland at the South Gauteng High Court.

RICA judgement orders. 

You still have to 'RICA' your SIM card

However, it is important to note that the judgement only covers sections of RICA that have to do with bulk and indiscriminate interception of communications and not the sections that relate to the registration of SIM cards as stated in other sections of RICA.

The registration of SIM cards and other sections of RICA not ruled on by Judge Sutherland remain lawful.

To further understand what this historic judgement means for South Africans in general I caught up quickly with Professor Jane Duncan of the University of Johannesburg. Professor Duncan is an activist who regularly champions media freedom matters and is the former director of the Freedom of Expression Institute in Johannesburg.

Big win for privacy in South Africa

iAfrikan: What did the judge specifically rule on as far as RICA is concerned?

Professor Jane Duncan: He ruled that it was unconstitutional for people not to be informed that their communication had been intercepted after the fact, and required these people to be informed within 90 days of the expiration of a warrant, unless there are compelling grounds not to.

He also ruled that there need to be special procedures for surveillance of journalists and lawyers, the procedures for the processing of personal data that has been intercepted are inadequate, and the mass surveillance activities of the State Security Agency are unlawful.

He also found that the appointment of the Rica judge lacked independence.

Does this also mean South Africans don't have to register their SIM cards anymore?

SIM card registration specifically was not ruled on, so it will remain a requirement of Rica for the time being.

Is the ruling or is it expected that the state will appeal it?

I’m almost certain that it will be appealed by the state, right the way up to the Constitutional Court. It’s their good right to do so. I doubt if they’ll reach a different outcome though.

What are the next steps, if any, to reverse the implementation of RICA?

The Department of Justice has to lead the revision of Rica and Parliament needs to pass an amended law. The judge suspended his findings of unlawfulness and unconstitutionality for a period of 2 years to allow this process to take place, but has set down some interim procedures.

Does the ruling exclude the intelligence agencies from spying as they wish?

No, absolutely not, the interception of peoples communications if there are reasonable grounds to suspect criminality, will continue.

It’s a massively significant judgement as it increases accountability in terms of state spying using communication networks, and puts South Africa at the forefront of reform efforts on these issues.

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