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IBM makes quantum leap

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IBM recently announced its initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems. The “IBM Q” quantum systems and services will then be delivered to users via the IBM Cloud platform.

IBM has announced an initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems. “IBM Q” quantum systems and services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform. While technologies that currently run on classical computers, such as Watson, can help find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data, quantum computers will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be seen because the data doesn’t exist and the possibilities that you need to explore to get to the answer are too enormous to ever be processed by classical computers.

IBM also announced:

  • The release of a new API (Application Program Interface) for the IBM Quantum Experience that enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between its existing five quantum bit (qubit) cloud-based quantum computer and classical computers, without needing a deep background in quantum physics.
  • The release of an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In the first half of 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK (Software Development Kit) on the IBM Quantum Experience for users to build simple quantum applications and software programs.

 

The IBM Quantum Experience enables anyone to connect to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud, to run algorithms and experiments, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

“IBM has invested over decades to growing the field of quantum computing and we are committed to expanding access to quantum systems and their powerful capabilities for the science and business communities,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director for IBM Research. “Following Watson and blockchain, we believe that quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platform, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.”

IBM intends to build IBM Q systems to expand the application domain of quantum computing. A key metric will be the power of a quantum computer expressed by the “Quantum Volume”, which includes the number of qubits, quality of quantum operations, qubit connectivity and parallelism. As a first step to increase Quantum Volume, IBM aims at constructing commercial IBM Q systems with ~50 qubits in the next few years to demonstrate capabilities beyond today’s classical systems, and plans to collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speedup of the systems.

IBM Q systems will be designed to tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical computing systems to handle. One of the first and most promising applications for quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry. Even for simple molecules like caffeine, the number of quantum states in the molecule can be astoundingly large – so large that all the conventional computing memory and processing power scientists could ever build could not handle the problem.

IBM’s scientists have developed techniques to efficiently explore the simulation of chemistry problems on quantum processors (https://arxiv.org/abs/1701.08213 and https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.02058) and experimental demonstrations of various molecules are in progress. In the future, the goal will be to scale to even more complex molecules and try to predict chemical properties with higher precision than possible with classical computers.

Future applications of quantum computing may include:

  • Drug and Materials Discovery: Untangling the complexity of molecular and chemical interactions leading to the discovery of new medicines and materials;
  • Supply Chain & Logistics: Finding the optimal path across global systems of systems for ultra-efficient logistics and supply chains, such as optimising fleet operations for deliveries during the holiday season;
  • Financial Services: Finding new ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors to make better investments;
  • Artificial Intelligence: Making facets of artificial intelligence such as machine learning much more powerful when data sets can be too big such as searching images or video; or
  • Cloud Security: Making cloud computing more secure by using the laws of quantum physics to enhance private data safety.

“Classical computers are extraordinarily powerful and will continue to advance and underpin everything we do in business and society. But there are many problems that will never be penetrated by a classical computer. To create knowledge from much greater depths of complexity, we need a quantum computer,” said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems. “We envision IBM Q systems working in concert with our portfolio of classical high-performance systems to address problems that are currently unsolvable, but hold tremendous untapped value.”

IBM’s roadmap to scale to practical quantum computers is based on a holistic approach to advancing all parts of the system. IBM will leverage its deep expertise in superconducting qubits, complex high performance system integration, and scalable nanofabrication processes from the semiconductor industry to help advance the quantum mechanical capabilities. Also, the developed software tools and environment will leverage IBM’s world-class mathematicians, computer scientists, and software and system engineers.

“As Richard Feynman said in 1981, ‘…if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.’ This breakthrough technology has the potential to achieve transformational advancements in basic science, materials development, environmental and energy research, which are central to the missions of the Department of Energy (DOE),” said Steve Binkley, deputy director of science, US Department of Energy. “The DOE National Labs have always been at the forefront of new innovation, and we look forward to working with IBM to explore applications of their new quantum systems.”

Growing the IBM Q Ecosystem

IBM believes that collaborating and engaging with developers, programmers and university partners will be essential to the development and evolution of IBM’s quantum computing systems. Since its launch less than a year ago, about 40,000 users have run over 275,000 experiments on the IBM Quantum Experience. It has become an enablement tool for scientists in over 100 countries and, to date, 15 third-party research papers have been posted to arXiv with five published in leading journals based on experiments run on the Quantum Experience.

IBM has worked with academic institutions, such as MIT, the  Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, and École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

to leverage the IBM Quantum Experience as an educational tool for students. In collaboration with the European Physical Society, IBM Research – Zurich recently hosted students for a full-day workshop to learn how to experiment with qubits using the IBM Quantum Experience. 

“Unlocking the usefulness of quantum computing will require hands-on experience with real quantum computers,” said Isaac Chuang, professor of physics and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “For the Fall 2016 semester of the MITx Quantum Information Science II course, we featured IBM’s Quantum Experience as part of the online curriculum for over 1,800 participants from around the world. They were able to run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor and test out for themselves quantum computing principles and theories they were learning.”

In addition to working with developers and universities, IBM has been engaging with industrial partners to explore the potential applications of quantum computers. Any organisation interested in collaborating to explore quantum applications can apply for membership to the IBM Research Frontiers Institute, a consortium that develops and shares a portfolio of ground-breaking computing technologies and evaluates their business implications. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase.

“We heavily invest in R&D and have a strong interest in how emerging technologies such as quantum computing will impact the future of manufacturing,” said Nobu Koshiba, President of JSR, a leading chemical and materials company in Japan. “Our pipelines of innovations range from synthetic rubbers for tires to semiconductor and display materials, along with products in the life sciences, energy and environmental sectors. By having exposure to how quantum computing can provide new computational capability to accelerate materials discovery, we believe this technology could have a lasting impact on our industry and specifically our ability to provide faster solutions to our customers.”

For more information on IBM’s universal quantum computing efforts, visit www.ibm.com/ibmq. For more information on IBM Systems, visit www.ibm.com/systems.

IBM is making the specs for its new Quantum API available on GitHub (https://github.com/IBM/qiskit-api-py) and providing simple scripts (https://github.com/IBM/qiskit-sdk-py) to demonstrate how the API functions.

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Lenovo unveils world’s smallest desktop PC

ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is powered by 8th generation Intel processors and SSD storage, catering to flexible working

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Lenovo has introduced the world’s smallest desktop PC, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano, to the South African Market. It says it is designed to support diverse workplaces with the power of a full-size desktop and the space-saving convenience of a laptop.

“The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is further proof of Lenovo’s commitment to helping small businesses drive efficiency in their operations,” says Thibault Dousson, General Manager at Lenovo South Africa. “In South Africa, SMEs make up a third of the country’s GDP and play an integral part in boosting the economy and creating jobs. Lack of capital, investment, resources or support are among the major challenges faced by our country’s entrepreneurs. 

“Lenovo wants to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses through giving them better access to critical tools and services, such as our financial services offering and leasing option. The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is ideal for small business owners as it is reliable and powerful yet compact and easily transportable.”

Delivering powerful performance in an ultra-portable size, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is the most compact commercial desktop series in the world. Compact models are one-third the size of the ground-breaking ThinkCentre Tiny, at just 0.35L in volume.

With fully functional USB Type-C Gen2 and USB 3.1 Gen2 ports located on the front and back of the device, multiple displays, docks and other hardware options can further boost productivity. The ability to be powered using just one cable to a USB Type-C monitor makes the M90n-1 Nano ideal for a clutter-free workspace, whether it be placed behind a screen or under a desk.

The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is MIL-810G SPEC tested – built to withstand extreme conditions including shocks, drops, dust and humidity. The desktop’s HW TPM 2.0 chip encrypts data to keep sensitive data secure, while its Kensington lock slot enables users to physically secure the device to an immovable object, protecting it from theft.

With its Modern Standby feature, users can receive emails, VoIP calls and instant messages while remaining in standby mode. When ready to commence work, the M90n-1 Nano resumes full functionality in under one second.

These features make the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano an easy fit across all office environments, or wherever space is limited, and staff are mobile. The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano also reduces energy consumption by as much as 30 percent annually over the ThinkCentre Tiny. 

Powered by the 8th generation Intel processors and backed by SSD (solid state drive) storage, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano offers diverse connectivity and multi-user options to keep users connected.

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Hackers target hotels

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Kaspersky’s research of the RevengeHotels campaign aimed at the hospitality sector, has confirmed over 20 hotels in Latin America, Europe and Asia have fallen victim to targeted malware attacks. Even more hotels are potentially affected across the globe. Travelers’ credit card data, which is stored in a hotel administration system, including those received from online travel agencies (OTAs), is at risk of being stolen and sold to criminals worldwide.

RevengeHotels is a campaign that includes different groups using traditional Remote Access Trojans (RATs) to infect businesses in the hospitality sector. The campaign has been active since 2015 but has gone on to increase its presence in 2019. At least two groups, RevengeHotels and ProCC, were identified to be part of the campaign, however more cybercriminal groups are potentially involved.

The main attack vector in this campaign is emails with crafted malicious Word, Excel or PDF documents attached. Some of them exploit CVE-2017-0199, loading it using VBS and PowerShell scripts and then installing customised versions of various RATs and other custom malware, such as ProCC, on the victim’s machine that could later execute commands and set up remote access to the infected systems.

Each spear-phishing email was crafted with special attention to detail and usually impersonating real people from legitimate organisations making a fake booking request for a large group of people. It is worth noting that even careful users could be tricked to open and download attachments from such emails as they include an abundance of details (for instance, copies of legal documents and reasons for booking at the hotel) and looked convincing. The only detail that would reveal the attacker would be a typosquatting domain of the organisation.

phishing email sent to a hotel impersonating a booking request from an attorney’s office

Once infected, the computer could be accessed remotely not just by the cybercriminal group itself — evidence collected by Kaspersky researchers shows that remote access to hospitality desks and the data they contain is sold on criminal forums on a subscription basis. Malware collected data from hospitality desk clipboards, printer spoolers and captured screenshots (this function was triggered using specific words in English or Portuguese). Because hotel personnel often copied clients’ credit card data from OTA’s in order to charge them, that data could also be compromised.

Kaspersky telemetry confirmed targets in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. However, based on data extracted from Bit.ly, a popular link shortening service used by the attackers to spread malicious links, Kaspersky researchers assume that users from many other countries have at least accessed the malicious link – suggesting that the number of countries with potential victims could be higher.

“As users grow wary of how protected their data truly is, cybercriminals turn to small businesses, which are often not very well protected from cyberattacks and possess a concentration of personal data. Hoteliers and other small businesses dealing with customer data need to be more cautious and apply professional security solutions to avoid data leaks that could potentially not only affect customers, but also damage hotel reputations as well,” comments Dmitry Bestuzhev, Head of Global Research and Analysis Team, LatAm.

To stay safe, travelers are recommended to:

  • Use a virtual payment card for reservations made via OTAs, as these cards normally expire after a single charge
  • When paying for a reservation or checking out at hotel desks, use a virtual wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, or a secondary credit card with a limited amount of debit available

Hotel owners and management are also advised to follow these steps to secure customer data:

  • Conduct risk assessments of the existing network and implement regulations regarding how customers data is handled
  • Use a reliable security solution with web protection and application control functionality, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. Web protection helps to block access to phishing and malicious websites while application control (in white list mode) allows to make sure that no application except the white listed ones can run on hospitality desk computers.
  • Introduce staff security awareness training to teach employees how to spot spear-phishing attempts and show the importance of remaining vigilant when working with incoming emails.

Read the full report, RevengeHotels: cybercrime targeting hotel desks worldwide, on Securelist.

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