New method to boost cyber security developed

WASHINGTON: Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a new method for producing truly random numbers – a breakthrough that could be used to encrypt data and improve cybersecurity.

Computer scientists at the University of Texas at Austin developed the method that can be used to make electronic voting more secure, conduct statistically significant polls and more accurately simulate complex systems such as Earth’s climate.

The method creates truly random numbers with less computational effort than other methods, which could facilitate significantly higher levels of security for everything from consumer credit card transactions to military communications.

The new method developed by Professor David Zuckerman and graduate student Eshan Chattopadhyay takes two weakly random sequences of numbers and turns them into one sequence of truly random numbers.

Weakly random sequences, such as air temperatures and stock market prices sampled over time, harbour predictable patterns. Truly random sequences have nothing predictable about them, like a coin toss.

Previous versions of randomness extractors were less practical because they either required that one of the two source sequences be truly random (which presents a chicken or the egg problem) or that both source sequences be close to truly random, researchers said.

This new method sidesteps both of those restrictions and allows the use of two sequences that are only weakly random.

An important application for random numbers is in generating keys for data encryption that are hard for hackers to crack, researchers said.

Data encryption is critical for making secure credit card purchases and bank transactions, keeping personal medical data private and shielding military communications from enemies, among many practical applications.

Zuckerman said that although there are already methods for producing high-quality random numbers, they are very computationally demanding. His method produces higher quality randomness with less effort.

“One common way that encryption is misused is by not using high-quality randomness. So in that sense, by making it easier to get high-quality randomness, our methods could improve security,” said Zuckerman.

Lok Sabha polls: Ad spends to rise 11.6%; total expenses by Rs 5K cr

NEW DELHI: Advertising expenditure is set to rise 11.6% this year, faster than last year’s 10%, because of the upcoming elections and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies trying to boost sales in small towns and rural areas amid intensifying competition.

This could see total ad spend rise to Rs 43,000 crore in 2014, up from Rs 38,000 crore last year. The outlook is better than last year’s numbers for most media sectors, especially print, according to estimates by WPP’s media agency conglomerate GroupM in its This Year Next Year 2014 , report.

“This year we are predicting a slightly higher growth than last year and the big difference is the elections,” said CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM, South Asia. “All the advertising that political parties have started putting out is 2.5% of 11.6%. So if we take elections out, which is a one-off event, the growth this year would then become 9%.”

Advertising expenditure on television may slow to 12%, partly because of the lack of finality on audience measurement.

“We see (TV) stabilising at 12-13%; last year it grew by 13.5%,” Srinivas said. “A lot of action is happening in the TV space, and despite policy changes, despite measurement-change issues, broadcasters continue to launch new channels with a lot of investment happening in the sports genre. So the sector will continue to grow.”

Print has been witnessing steady growth and is expected to expand this year by a much faster 8% compared with 4% in 2013 and 2% in 2012. “The story really is the vernaculars; the regional language press is doing extremely well,” Srinivas said. “FMCG companies have increased their focus on small-town India, in the rural areas, focusing on areas where they have to use as many media as are available and print is actually benefiting through that.”

Another sector benefiting from the FMCG push will be radio, which is expected to grow about 10%. “I think it’s a function of a lot of FMCG players spending a lot more money going to smaller towns and hence helping radio,” Srinivas said.

The rapid growth of the digital sector is expected to continue and the report predicts expansion of 35%. Cinema advertising is expected to grow by 12% and the out-ofhome sector by 9%. The report was put together by the trading analytics team based in Bangalore, Srinivas said. “Since we also buy media, we have a fair sense of how the year is panning out,” he said.

The report is bullish about advertising expenditure by sectors such as automobiles, retail and telecom, besides FMCG.

 

“The good monsoon of last year, rural incomes picking up, election year, and a lot of freebies flowing down to smaller towns are helping the FMCG sector,” Srinivas said. “Food and beverage is the one that will contribute to retail growth. If you club e-commerce under retail then it becomes even bigger.” The auto sector will see about 40 new launches in 2014, he said. The telecom sector will grow, in terms of handsets and services, with 3G and 4G, he said.

The report also reveals some of the top trends for the media sector in 2014. One of these is ‘askvertising’, or using questions to find out what kind of information a user wants to see. This enables the advertiser to micro-target audiences and play different ads in different parts of the country on the same channel at the same time. It has been tested by nearly 2,000 GroupM clients across 70-80 television channels.