This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the Science and tech current affairs of the Computer and Information technology section. This post covers current affairs from Dec. 2021 to 15th March 2022. In the 2nd part, we will cover the rest of the current affairs of July 2021 to 31st April 2022.
Science and Tech Current Affairs 2021-22
Computer and Information technology
List of Contents
- Hermetic Wipe malware attack
- Side Channel Attacks(SCA) and security chip
- “PARAM Ganga” – Petascale Supercomputer
- Blockchain Gaming
- Non-Fungible Token (NFT)
- 5G Technology
- Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)
- GIS-based automated water connection
- India-ITU Joint Cyberdrill 2021
- Satellite Communications (SATCOM)
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Hermetic Wipe malware attack
News: Ukraine has found that hundreds of its computers have been attacked by a data-wiper malware named Hermetic Wiper.
Moreover, Ukraine’s largest commercial bank was also hit by a DDoS or distributed denial-of-service attack.
About Hermetic Wiper: Hermetic Wiper is a data-wiper malware that was detected on hundreds of computers in Ukraine.
This malware when downloaded can erase all the data on a device it targets in a manner that renders the data irretrievable.
The malware is also capable of attacking data recovery tools on a system and the rebooting system of a hard drive, making it difficult for the device to reboot into its operating system, essentially making it inoperable.
About DDoS or distributed denial-of-service attack: A DDoS attack essentially floods a website with countless frivolous requests for information, eventually leading it to paralyze or crash. It uses bots to send these queries that bombard the site, leaving it inaccessible to legitimate users.
Such attacks, in a conflict situation, can damage critical digital infrastructure, disable government communication and the information ecosystem in a country.
Side Channel Attacks(SCA) and security chip
News: Indian researchers have built a low-energy security chip that is designed to prevent Side-channel attacks (SCAs) on IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
About Side-Channel Attacks (SCA): SCA is a security exploit that aims to gather informatio
n from the indirect effects of the functioning of the system hardware rather than attacking a programme or software directly.
They basically aim to extract sensitive information like cryptographic keys, proprietary machine learning models and parameters by measuring things like timing information, power consumption and electromagnetic leaks of a system.
For example, it can be used on a smartwatch to extract ECG and heart rate signals that one wants to keep secret.
About the security chip: Researchers have developed a low-energy security chip that is designed to prevent Side-channel attacks (SCAs) on IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
The chip uses near-threshold computing, a computing method where the data is split into separate, unique and random components. The chip then conducts operations separately on each component in a random order before aggregating the results for a final result.
Due to this method, the information leak from the device through power-consumption measurements are random and would reveal nothing but gibberish in an SCA.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this chip?
Advantages: It is smaller than the size of a thumbnail and uses much less power than traditional security measures against SCAs. It has also been built to be easily incorporated into smartwatches, tablets, and a variety of other devices.
Disadvantages: This method is energy and computation power-intensive, while also requiring more system memory to store information.
“PARAM Ganga” – Petascale Supercomputer
News: A Supercomputer named ‘PARAM Ganga’ has been established at IIT Roorkee under National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).
About PARAM Ganga: PARAM Ganga is a supercomputer designed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing(C-DAC) under Phase 2 of the National Supercomputing Mission(NSM).
It has a supercomputing capacity of 1.66 Petaflops (1 petaflop equals a quadrillion or 1015 operations per second).
This supercomputer will accelerate the research and development activities with a focus on providing computational power to the user community of IIT Roorkee and neighbouring academic institutions.
News: The vast scope and potential of blockchain technology have attracted the gaming industry over the past few years. In India too, gaming industries are exploring this option.
About Blockchain Gaming: Blockchain Gaming are online video games that are developed by integrating blockchain technology into them.
It includes elements that use cryptography-based blockchain technologies like Cryptocurrency or Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).
These elements are used by players to buy, sell, or trade with other players, with the game publisher taking a fee from each transaction as a form of monetization.
Example of Blockchain Game: In 2017, Dapper Labs’ had developed the first-ever blockchain game called Crypto Kitties. In the game, people can virtually experience the joy of adopting and breeding a cat (CryptoKittie) without taking up the responsibility of bringing one home. Each CryptoKittie is a Non-Fungible Token (“NFT”).
Elements of Blockchain Gaming
- NFTs represent in-game virtual assets that can be owned by players, such as maps, armor or land. These NFTs act as asset tags, identifying ownership of the in-game assets, and are stored on the blockchain.
- Being on the blockchain allows the player to have a secure record of ownership of the in-game assets, and also gives the assets the ability to outlive the game itself.
- It also creates transparency, since ownership records can independently be verified by any third party as well.
- In doing so, it makes in-game assets marketable and creates a decentralized market, where they can be bought and sold by people.
Non-Fungible Token (NFT)
News: Social media posts have alleged that non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea was hacked, compromising assets worth $200 million.
About NFT: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital items stored on a blockchain, the same network that runs cryptocurrencies. NFTs are not the digital art but instead certificates of authenticity, and mostly used in the blockchain of ethereum, the second-biggest cryptocurrency.
Note: A fungible asset is something that can be readily interchanged like money. With money, you can swap a £10 note for two £5 notes, and it will have the same value.
About working of NFTs:
Traditional works of art such as paintings are valuable because they are one of a kind. But digital files can be easily and endlessly duplicated. With NFTs, artwork can be “tokenized” to create a digital certificate of ownership that can be bought and sold.
When a digital asset is tokenized as NFT, a unique code is generated and stored on the block chain network. This can be used to identify the creator as well as the future and past owners.
Applications of NFT:
- Anything digital – images, videos, music, online version of various articles – can be converted into an NFT and monetized.
- NFTs also enable digital content creators and owners of IP (intellectual property) to monetize their work or assets without a ‘middleman’ and earn a royalty every time the NFT is resold.
- Gives strength to the underlying idea of direct creator-to-audience platforms
News: The ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has underlined the importance of 5G, the technology mobile networks will ride on to provide services to millions of people.
About 5G technology: 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade so far in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. The 5G technology mainly works in 3 bands, (low, mid and high–frequency spectrum).
Read More – About 5G Technology
Important features of 5G technology
- 5G services will provide up to 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) of download speed. It is 100 times higher than the existing network speed. The upload time will also increase drastically.
- The energy efficiency of devices and stability of network connections will improve further with the 5G technology.
- 5G services work across the low, medium and high–frequency spectrums. This will avoid any network congestions.
- 5G services will have ultra-low latency (time taken by a network to respond). Latency for is predicted to be below 10 milliseconds, and in best cases around 1 millisecond.
- A government panel report expects the peak 5G data speeds are to be in the range of 2-20 Gbps.
Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)
News: According to the Secretary of the Department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT), Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is expected to be launched soon.
About ONDC: ONDC is a network aimed at promoting open networks developed on open-sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform.
It is an initiative of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Under this, all seller and buyer platforms will work through one open protocol and can connect through ONDC.
Even if one has to buy a product, ONDC will show all the options of various platforms for the product, and the consumer can choose what he or she wants.
Thus, the platform will help in creating new opportunities, curb digital monopolies and support micro, small and medium enterprises and small traders and help them get on online platforms.
Aim of ONDC: The Unified Payment Interface (UPI) has disrupted the digital payments’ domain. ONDC seeks to achieve something similar for e-commerce.
It aims to democratise digital commerce by moving it away from platform-centric models like Amazon and Flipkart to an open network.
This will enable more sellers to be digitally visible. The transactions will also be executed through an open network.
GIS-based automated water connection
News: The Union Defence Minister has launched a GIS-based automated water connection and online booking of community halls under e-Chhawani Portal.
About GIS-based automated water connection
The Geographical Information Systems (GIS) based automatic water supply system is the first of its kind in the country to automate the granting of the water connection to the residents of cantonments.
The system allows citizens to identify the location of water supply connections on cantonment maps. The system automatically determines the nearest water pipeline and checks the feasibility of providing a connection from the water pipeline.
The applicant can make instant payment of water connection charges after which the system automatically generates the water connection sanction letter.
About automated community hall booking
It is an online system that facilitates residents of cantonments to book community halls online without any physical application and intervention of cantonment officials.
India-ITU Joint Cyberdrill 2021
News: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has launched the India-ITU Joint Cyberdrill 2021.
About India-ITU Joint Cyberdrill 2021: The ITU aims to improve the cybersecurity readiness, protection and incident response capabilities of Member States by conducting CyberDrills at the national and regional levels.
India-ITU Cyberdrill is intended for Indian entities, especially critical network infrastructure operators.
At this drill, cyber-attacks, information security incidents and other disruptions will be simulated to test an organization’s cyber capabilities.
This drill will help spread awareness among various public sector departments and agencies of India so that their strategies can be validated for response mechanisms, prevention recovery, and business continuity.
Sydney Dialogue: It is an initiative of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. It is an annual summit of cyber and critical technologies to discuss the fallout of the digital domain on the law and order situation in the world.
Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI): It is released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It measures the commitment of countries to cybersecurity at a global level. India has secured the 10th rank in this index.
Satellite Communications (SATCOM)
News: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reprimanded Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet Services for pre-selling and booking the satellite-based internet services without having obtained the necessary licenses in the country.
In this context, let us read about satellite communication.
About Satellite Communications (SATCOM)
It refers to any communication link that involves the use of an artificial satellite in its propagation path.
The commercial launch of SATCOM services for the telecom industry is expected in India and companies such as Starlink, OneWeb, and others are preparing for this.
They have plans to send thousands of LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites into space to provide global coverage.
Benefits of Satellite Communication (SATCOM) for India
Can reach inaccessible areas: Around 20-25% of India’s population resides in places that can’t be easily covered by terrestrial telecom and lack mobile and internet access. These areas could easily be reached through Satcom.
Lesser Cost in reaching difficult terrain areas: The rollout of terrestrial telecom in difficult terrain can cost 15 times more than its rollout in more accessible areas. Moreover, such regions are often under-populated with low average revenue per user. Satcom could dramatically improve the backhaul for mobile service providers in these areas.
Increased reliability and quality: Only about 35% of mobile base stations are fiber-connected. Satellite connectivity works better than microwave technology and is more feasible than fiber in difficult terrain. Hence, Satcom could increase the reliability and quality of existing mobile networks.