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Bulgaria’s Industry Adopted Artificial Intelligence Solutions

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Bulgaria has large numbers of artificial intelligence (AI) players across industry, research and startups relative to the size of its economy, finds the latest World Bank report called Europe 4.0: Addressing the Digital Dilemma, which was launched today. The country’s AI adoption compares to the one in Malta, Estonia and Cyprus, although countries in the EU14 dominate the artificial intelligence landscape.

The report explores Europe’s digital options for boosting competitiveness, inclusion, and convergence. Digital technologies are transforming economic opportunities, a trend being accelerated as businesses and workers respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The potential to raise productivity and to expand opportunities for firms that are small or in less developed locations is real. But it is not being fully realized, the report states. The evidence shows a tension in the region’s presence in the digital space and in building a vibrant digital economy that benefits more people. Those technologies where European firms are most competitive are those where the benefits are most concentrated in larger firms and existing production hubs; those technologies with the greatest potential for inclusion are those where European firms are less competitive.

“Europe is a global leader in a number of operational technology fields such as smart robotics and 3D printing. But it lags in the spheres of transactional technology, such as online retail and ride-sharing, and informational technology, such as cloud computing and social media. The Europe 4.0 report suggests Europe can pursue opportunities to use technology to do more as countries seek greater market inclusion, competitiveness, and convergence,” Gallina A. Vincelette, Director for the European Union Countries at the World Bank.

Despite its advantages in operational technology, however, Europe also faces challenges in this area, including the fact these technologies tend to foster geographic concentration. It can also make it more difficult for smaller firms to compete without access to high cost advanced technologies.

“Encouraging the use of digital platforms can foster job creation,” said Vincelette. “The report shows that nearly two-thirds of firms in Europe that implemented digital platforms in their businesses experienced an increase in employment growth over the past three years. These benefits have been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more reliance on technology and home-based work reducing operational costs and increasing competitiveness and market inclusion. In the context of the pandemic, digital connectivity has become an essential public good and prerequisite for business and operational continuity.”

According to Fabrizio Zarcone, World Bank’s Country Manager for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia “a young, energetic and indigenous private sector successfully competing internationally in areas such as machine-building and IT has emerged in Bulgaria before the pandemic. It demonstrated the potential of Bulgaria’s economy that has not yet been fully realized, therefore more streamlined efforts by policymakers are needed to strengthen the institutions and improve essential services delivery”.

While the report notes that transactional technologies have the biggest potential to boost market inclusion and geographic convergence in the region, only one in three small and medium enterprises in Europe use these platforms; few of those firms are globally competitive.

According to the report, Europe can make progress on its digital agenda by embracing new technologies in ways that can boost simultaneously economic competitiveness, market inclusion, and geographic convergence. Reforms and investments focusing on scaling markets, shaping the commercial use of data, and smoothing the adoption of technology will help Europe achieve their triple digital objectives without compromising its social values. Completing the digital single market and closing gaps in infrastructure, skills, and logistics can help scale markets, while addressing challenges posed by AI and boost the commercial use of data.

Finally, investments in frontier innovation, support to research and development, and capacity-building initiatives can help small firms and firms in lagging regions adopt technology more quickly.

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900 suspects detained with the help of Moscow Metro’s face recognition system

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Photo: Vladimir Gerdo / TASS

Since the beginning of September, about 900 suspects have been detained in Moscow with the help of face recognition, said the Head of Moscow Metro’s Security Service Andrei Kichigin in an interview with Lenta.ru. The arrested people were suspected of committing serious crimes, including those related to drug trafficking, theft, causing grievous bodily harm and other violations.

Mr. Kichigin underlined that the face recognition system does not include any personal data. “The face recognition system does not know neither names nor other personal data. Only wanted people are checked, if they are in the law enforcement services’ database. If a person is not in the base, there is nothing to compare to”– says Andrei Kichigin.

According to Moscow Metro, cameras also help to find lost child renor elderly people. Since September 2020, the facial recognition system has helped find 25 children and minors. Another way to use the technology is to evaluate the work of metro employees and remotely monitor the quality of the cleaning service: for example, the quality of cleaning in cars and at stations. The cameras will also help improve the work of the service for assessing the load of cars.

In general, all our actions are aimed at improving the passenger experience of using transport. This is the main goal of all the changes: the installation of CCTV cameras, face recognition and new digital services. We need to make sure we use efficient tools to ensure a safe and comfortable metro environment, – says Andrei Kichigin.

Finally, Mr. Kichigin noted that face recognition will enable the launch of the FacePay service, which will allow paying for travel by “face” at turnstiles and at cash desks. The system is being tested and will be available to passengers throughout the metro by the end of 2021. Andrey Kichigin notes that a similar identity verification system for purchases using Face ID has long been used by smartphone owners.

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Antivirus and Firewall “Security” Measures are OBSOLETE in 2021 – and it’s getting worse

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“Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean Someone Isn’t Trying to Hack You.”

Last year was “perhaps the most active year in memory” with regard to cyberattacks, according to Sunnyvale, California-based cybersecurity technology company CrowdStrike, a respected firm providing cyberattack response services, threat intelligence, and an annual Global Threat Report (paywall) on the state of web security. The world went through hell with Covid in 2020, but for web miscreants, the year was awesome as they preyed on our misery, pretending to offer information, and impersonating important global pandemic responders such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Malicious actors had a phishing field day in 2020 – which, naturally, works best when there an emotional connection. How many times have we heard of someone losing money to fraud after getting an email from a “friend in distress”?

Of course, it’s a good bet that CloudStrike’s 2022 report will list ’21 as the “most active year” since…well, the year before. Moore’s Law and all the fun math of exponentiality doesn’t only apply to things we enjoy such as Apple’s M1 processor, but also to the malware, cyberattacks, and security breaches that come with technological advances. Nearly every, if not every, electronic device that has an internet connection can be hacked; and can often be hacked when it’s either on or offline.

Many are switching to safe browsers such as Firefox Focus or Qustodio Free. Experts, however, are recommending adding even more layers of protection to your digital life by installing a safe browsing app that works with all the big browsers. Safe browsing apps – many of which are free to download – double-check that the site you’re visiting is legit, vet and scan apps and files in real-time, protect your Wi-Fi network, offer anti-phishing protection, and allow you to build a “blacklist” of sites you want blocked – keeping your kids safe from “adult content.” Using a safe browser app is proactive – stopping things before they happen, not catching them after the fact.

So-called “malicious actors” (simply put: bad guys) have and are stepping up their game. CloudStrike’s report noted that in 2020, there was a significant increase in extortion and blackmail techniques all nicely bundled into ransomware operations. The security firm warns that 2021 will likely see more of what it terms, “big game hunting” – e-criminals going after larger firms as the potential return is larger. Also of interest was a note on malicious actors forming alliances; working in tandem to level up and coordinate their attacks.

However, even if you don’t happen to be the CEO of a large corporation with data that would be worth ransoming, cybersecurity gurus are warning anyone with a computer to start realizing that “the good old days” of flying under the radar with half-baked security measures are gone for good – you might not even be the target but could end up being used by identity thieves to cause serious harm to a friend or acquaintance. You don’t need to be “someone” or even have valuable data to be targeted, and to think otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand how wild the web of the 2020s has become. Think back to the last time a friend of yours told a tale of their account being hacked. Weren’t you somewhat surprised as they aren’t famous or rich? – When was the last time you gave serious thought to the safety of your personal data? If your company hired a “white hat” to stress test your firm’s web security, how well do you think it would hold up? The question ‘Is this website safe?’ is getting harder to answer.

Too many downplay the risks of a data breach. “Why would anyone want my ‘boring’ info?” people ask. Well, there are serious reasons such as identity theft, fraud, or phishing attempts, but there’s also a lot of money to made in collecting information. Harvesting data is big business. They’ll take info on everything from the language you use, your screen resolution, operating system, time zone, active plugins, browser type…you name it. By breaking down you – and the millions of others like you – into data points that can be categorized, you are now a target for precision missile advertising strikes. Being tracked keystroke by keystroke as you shop, bank, email, and enjoy online entertainment isn’t just creepy; it’s potentially dangerous. Predators prey on the weak. Why allow yourself to be a target?

There are some scary stats out there: 300,000 new pieces of malware are reportedly created every day. Cybercrime is more profitable than the illegal drug trade! Over 60 percent of businesses that get hacked say they aren’t sure they’ll ever fully recover. Anti-virus software or firewalls are as effective as a sieve, etc. It’s human nature to overestimate one’s web knowledge. Sure, you don’t click on links that look fishy and, heck, you might have even ponied up for a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN, however, only conceals your location, data-in-transit, and IP address. VPNs are not the fortresses we think they are, however. Via browser fingerprinting (look that term up if you’ve never heard of it) a leak that shows your online identity is still a possibility. You need multiple layers of protection, and you need them now. To paraphrase a famous quote, “You Might Be Paranoid, but that Doesn’t Mean Someone Isn’t Trying to Hack You.”

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Moscow innovation ecosystem became prize-winner of Quality Innovation Award 2020

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The Moscow Innovation Ecosystem program dedicated to testing innovative solutions became a prize-winner of the international Quality Innovation Award Forum in the Public Sector Innovations category.

The program lets designers test their technologies at the city and business sites. Over 50 draft solutions were tested in the course of the program existence.

The program makes it possible for designers to test their technologies at the city and business sites before being released to the market, and for the authorities and potential contractors — to analyze the effectiveness of those technologies.

‘The project makes it possible to study Russian and international practices in the field of smart cities and state management, analyze impact of different technologies on the quality of life in the city. Piloting of projects helps evaluate the practical use of new solutions for citizens,’ remarked Eduard Lysenko, Minister of the Moscow Government, Head of the Moscow Department of Information Technologies.

Among those tested projects are a self-driving taxi, a hand exoskeleton, a spatial reasoning system for persons with sight disability, VR-technologies in education, an application for museum visitors that allows uploading information about exhibits to a smartphone.

‘The jury of the competition underlined the unique conditions that Moscow created for the authors of high-tech solutions. The prize-winner program gives designers a chance to test the viability of their solutions and get comprehensive feedback from the target audience. Last year, we got over 600 requests from entrepreneurs for testing various products,’ Natalya Sergunina, Deputy Mayor of Moscow said.

The framework of the program lets the dedicated specialists choose the most promising and urgent projects. Once the project is chosen, a testing site shall be determined.

‘Thanks to the Moscow innovation ecosystem, the capital of Russia is one of the most active cities in terms of innovations that undergo testing. Today, over 100 state and business sites participate in the program. Banks, retail chains, communication services providers, production enterprises, medical institutions, high schools, IT corporations and other companies are among them,’ added Alexey Fursin, Head of the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development.

While testing, the designers get the expert support, access to the infrastructure in order to test the solution practically with many potential users and recommendations for adapting the product for certain clients.

The Quality Innovation Award has been held since 2007 by Finnish Association for Quality in cooperation with partner companies from Russia, China, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and other countries. Over 400 innovations were submitted for awarding in 2020, 25 of them were prized.

The Moscow Agency of Innovations is the operator of the pilot innovation testing program. It unites representatives of the authorities and business society with technological companies so that they could jointly create, testing implement innovative solutions.

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