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Liquid Piston to become beating heart of Air Force flying orb

A hybrid approach to flying machines could quicken development of Urban Air Mobility.

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There’s been a lot of development activity around flying vehicles recently, but the Air Force wants a shortcut to an unmanned electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept for urban transport. The secret sauce? Pairing emerging electric vehicle technology with an innovative rotary internal combustion engine to keep batteries charged and extend flight times.

Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a major focus of technology development among transportation firms, with ambitious projects to put test vehicles in the sky over major urban centers in the U.S. and Europe within the next few years. UAM combines state of the art propulsion and battery technologies with advances in robotics, machine vision, and AI. The result could be a fundamental rethinking of how we navigate in and around cities.

The problem is that electric vehicle technology, while offering advantages like noise reduction, have severe power density limitations compared to combustion engines. It’s a classic development conundrum for aeronautical engineers, one that involves weighing imperfect tradeoffs: Gasoline engines are inefficient, diesel engines are big and heavy, and electric power/batteries weigh a lot compared to the energy they produce. These features present significant limitations to range, payload, and efficiency. Nowhere are those limitations more apparent than in UAV, which require close attention be paid to the weight/power tradeoff.

But what about a hybrid approach?

That’s the strategy the Air Force seems to be landing on with a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract awarded to LiquidPiston, Inc., a developer of an advanced rotary internal combustion engine called the X-Engine. Paired with a generator, the X-Engine can be configured to charge the eVTOL vehicle’s battery and keep it charged during flight, significantly extending the range of an electric propulsion system. Alternatively, it can be configured in parallel with an electric drive, using the engine directly to produce thrust or lift.

The new contract is in support of the Air Force’s Agility Prime program, which seeks to leverage commercial electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and other transformative vertical flight vehicles for government missions in a way that accelerates the emerging commercial market.

“Our work with the Air Force demonstrates the versatility and utility of our X-Engine across the Department of Defense including our ongoing work with the US Army,” said Alec Shkolnik, CEO and co-founder of LiquidPiston, referencing an Army contract we covered last year. “Today’s solutions for power and energy are held back by a lack of technological innovation … The X-Engine solves these challenges, and with this contract, we look forward to showcasing the value a hybrid-electric configuration can bring to unmanned flight.”

A rotary engine is the ideal platform for just such a hybrid approach. The X-Engine is 10x smaller and lighter than traditional diesel engines and increases efficiency by 30%. It has only two primary moving parts, a shaft and rotor, which limits size and vibration.

We’ve covered LiquidPiston before, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds on the technology. For instance, the company emphasizes that its rotary engines are not Wankel engines, which until now has been the only commercialized rotary engine design. Wankel engines employ a roughly triangular rotor that is spun during a combustion cycle and forms a seal with the outer case at each of the three points of the triangular rotor. As the rotor spins, those seals are subjected to forces that cause them to wear. LiquidPiston’s engine, on the other hand, uses an oval rotor that moves within a triangular housing. The required seals are mounted on the stationary housing and are lubricated directly, increasing wear life and durability.

We’ll keep any eye on the Air Force’s efforts as part of our ongoing coverage of Urban Air Mobility.

But what about a hybrid approach?

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/liquid-piston-to-become-beating-heart-of-air-force-flying-car/

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National Australia Bank keeping staff connected with Google Pixel rollout

More than 2,000 Google Pixel devices were issued to NAB’s customer contact teams to enable them to support customers remotely.

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When National Australia Bank (NAB) recently revised its device strategy to look at new ways it could support the mobility of its employees and reduce the time and cost of support legacy devices across multiple platforms, the big bank partnered with Google to issue more than 2,000 Pixel devices to its customer contact teams.

Each device, managed with Android enterprise, was rolled out by Vodafone using “zero-touch” enrolment to set up the devices and configure each one with the necessary applications.

“With zero-touch enrolment, each Pixel setup was 20 minutes faster than our previous device enrolments, saving our IT team and colleagues over 500 hours during the initiative. With our communication and collaboration apps available right out of the box, our teams could get to work right away to help customers,” NAB Mobility manager Simon Thoday said.

Another consideration of the rollout was how customer data was going to remain secure, with Thoday pointing out that using Android Enterprise provided the solution to that question.

“Pixel security updates from Google provide a reliable cadence of ongoing protection as threats evolve, and the work profile hits the right balance between security and privacy for our teams,” Thoday said.

“Our contact centre teams use Pixel devices that are fully managed, which allows us to provide the necessary security controls, and wipe and re-enroll them when transferred to a new employee,” he said.

“Branch managers use Pixels with the work profile, separating work and personal applications. This gives employees the ability to use the device in a personal capacity while our IT team manages and ensures data security over the work profile.”

Additionally, with managed Google Play, NAB can assign the apps that are necessary on its managed devices.

“Providing our teams the flexibility to assign apps to the right teams is a major time saver and ensures everyone has the resources they need,” Thoday said.

“Branch managers can look up customer service records or answer a ping more quickly from their Pixel, instead of returning back to their desk and logging back on to their desktop computer. Android Enterprise has been a catalyst in a more mobile and responsive environment for our various teams.”

Earlier this month, the red and black bank completed its transition to TPG to deliver fixed and mobile network services across the bank.

The transition follows a deal struck between the two companies in September for the newly merged telecommunications giant to deliver fixed network services across NAB’s corporate offices, business banking centres, and branches, as well as providing mobile connectivity to the majority of the NAB workforce.

Vodafone delivered the solution to more than 80% of NAB’s mobile fleet across corporate offices and branches in metro and major regional areas. The company said Vodafone, alongside Google, would also be providing those who opt for a company phone with the Pixel 4a.

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Another consideration of the rollout was how customer data was going to remain secure, with Thoday pointing out that using Android Enterprise provided the solution to that question.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/national-australia-bank-keeping-staff-connected-with-google-pixel-roll-out/

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Crackonosh malware abuses Windows Safe mode to quietly mine for cryptocurrency

The malware is thought to have generated millions of dollars in just a few short years.

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Researchers have discovered a strain of cryptocurrency-mining malware that abuses Windows Safe mode during attacks.

The malware, dubbed Crackonosh by researchers at Avast, spreads through pirated and cracked software, often found through torrents, forums, and “warez” websites.

After finding reports on Reddit of Avast antivirus users querying the sudden loss of the antivirus software from their system files, the team conducted an investigation into the situation, realizing it was due to a malware infection.

Crackonosh has been in circulation since at least June 2018. Once a victim executes a file they believe to be a cracked version of legitimate software, the malware is also deployed.

The infection chain begins with the drop of an installer and a script that modifies the Windows registry to allow the main malware executable to run in Safe mode. The infected system is set to boot in Safe Mode on its next startup.

“While the Windows system is in safe mode antivirus software doesn’t work,” the researchers say. “This can enable the malicious Serviceinstaller.exe to easily disable and delete Windows Defender. It also uses WQL to query all antivirus software installed SELECT * FROM AntiVirusProduct.”

Crackonosh will scan for the existence of antivirus programs — including Avast, Kaspersky, McAfee’s scanner, Norton, and Bitdefender — and will attempt to disable or delete them. Log system files are then wiped to cover its tracks.

In addition, Crackonosh will attempt to stop Windows Update and will replace Windows Security with a fake green tick tray icon.

The final step of the journey is the deployment of XMRig, a cryptocurrency miner that leverages system power and resources to mine the Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency.

Overall, Avast says that Crackonosh has generated at least $2 million for its operators in Monero at today’s prices, with over 9000 XMR coins having been mined.

Approximately 1,000 devices are being hit each day and over 222,000 machines have been infected worldwide.

In total, 30 variants of the malware have been identified, with the latest version being released in November 2020.

“As long as people continue to download cracked software, attacks like these will continue and continue to be profitable for attackers,” Avast says. “The key take-away from this is that you really can’t get something for nothing and when you try to steal software, odds are someone is trying to steal from you.”

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Have a tip? Get in touch securely via WhatsApp | Signal at +447713 025 499, or over at Keybase: charlie0

Crackonosh has been in circulation since at least June 2018. Once a victim executes a file they believe to be a cracked version of legitimate software, the malware is also deployed.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/crackonosh-malware-abuses-windows-safe-mode-to-quietly-mine-for-cryptocurrency/

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South Australia splashes out on space, defence, and cybersecurity in 2021-22 Budget

The South Australian government believes tech-focused sectors such as defence, space, and cybersecurity will have a key role to play in the state’s future.

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In taking a forward-looking approach into what the future of South Australia will look like, the South Australian government has announced it will bolster investment in tech-focused sectors such as defence, space, and cybersecurity as it hands down the 2021-22 Budget [PDF].

“This Budget is our blueprint for a stronger South Australia, creating jobs, building what matters and delivering better services to further secure our growing global reputation as one of the safest and most attractive places in the world to live, work, and raise a family,” Treasurer Rob Lucas said on Tuesday.

Some of the specific funding announcements include AU$20.8 million to upgrade the existing buildings at Lot Fourteen to make way for the expansion of space, digital, hi-tech, and cyber companies, with a particular focus on companies involved in small satellite development.

Separately, AU$6.6 million will be contributed over five years to assist with the SASAT1 Space Services Mission, which will see a local manufacturer launch a small satellite in mid-2022 as well as deliver space-derived services to the state.

South Australia’s Defence and Space Landing Pad program has also received a boost, with the state government saying it will deliver AU$860,000 over three years for the program that is used to support international defence and space companies that bring new, sought-after capability to South Australia.

Local artificial intelligence and health technology companies are set to receive additional support through a AU$1.6 million allocation delivered over four years. Under this investment, AU$985,000 will be used for grants to support AI and health technology companies through matching co-funding for health application pilots, and $589,000 to deliver project support activities, including investment concierge services.

Meanwhile, AU$2.6 million will be earmarked to support small businesses developing digital and cyber security capabilities as well as other capabilities to enter the national market.

The Budget papers also indicated AU$21.1 million over three years will be dedicated towards the implementation of stages three and four of the South Australia Police Shield project, which involves linking South Australia Police’s data and records management system directly with other justice sector agencies. The state government touted the move will improve collaboration and data sharing capabilities.

In a bid to boost bushfire response, the 2021-22 Budget revealed that it will contribute AU$7.7 million over four years towards the ongoing management, support, and maintenance of automatic vehicle location systems (AVL) used by the emergency services sector. AVL provides real time location information of firefighting and other emergency response vehicles during incidents. AVL is expected to be installed in approximately 1,400 vehicles at a total cost of AU$12.7 million.

Additionally, the 2021-22 Budget indicated support for the state government’s commitment to improving digital services for citizens remains ongoing through its AU$120 million Digital Restart Fund, noting that AU$4.3 million in 2021-22 will be put towards the South Australian government’s online services portal, AU$5.5 million over two years for the expansion of the residential aged care enterprise system, AU$1.3 million over two years for the child and family services information systems, and AU$500,000 in 2021-22 for the Safeguarding smartphone app.

Related Coverage

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/south-australia-splashes-out-on-space-defence-and-cybersecurity-in-2021-22-budget/

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