Monday, June 19, 2017

China Moves up List of Top 25 Innovative Economies

China has moved up the list of the world's top 25 innovative economies, rising three notches from 25 to 22, with strong performance in several indicators, according to the latest Global Innovation Index (GII) released last week.

In 2016, it was the first middle-income country to make the list. China's technological innovations have made headlines in recent months, from the launch of its first X-ray space telescope to observe black holes and development of the world's first quantum computing machine, to the debut of its home-grown C919 passenger jet and its successful sampling of combustible ice.


A Long March-4B rocket carrying X-ray space telescope to observe black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts blasts off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gobi Desert, June 15, 2017.

Jointly released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University, and INSEAD, the 2017 GII is in its 10th edition this year. The rankings are a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world.

A closer look into the general index shows that China moved up one spot to 16th in innovation quality, retaining its position for the fifth consecutive year as the top middle-income economy and edging closer to high-income economies.

The report showed that China tops in a number of sub-rankings, including domestic market scale, human resources, patents by origin, high-tech exports, and industrial designs by origin.

The world's second-largest economy was once seen as an imitator and the "world's factory," churning out mountains of low-quality goods, but it is becoming capable of producing innovative products and ideas.

China's qualified patents exceeded one million last year, becoming the third country after the United States and Japan to join the world's million patent club.

Meanwhile, the number of "unicorn" companies in China -- young, unlisted companies with a market value of over 1 billion U.S. dollars -- rose from 70 in 2015 to 131 in 2016, most of which are high-tech firms, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

More unicorn companies are expected to pop up in China thanks to the country's support for entrepreneurship and public innovation. One case in point is the bicycle-sharing industry, with two industrial giants, Ofo and Mobike, having received billions of dollars in investment and expanding steadily overseas.

Wu Wensheng, executive deputy head with Great Wall Strategic Consultants, a leading private think tank, attributed China's impressive innovation progress to the country's large talent pool, growing investment in research and development as well as government policy support.

Innovation is at the core of the country's 13th five-year plan, which aims for China to become an "innovative nation" by 2020, an international leader in innovation by 2030, and a world powerhouse of scientific and technological innovation by 2050.

Innovation hubs, incubators and demonstration zones have sprung up across the country, with a string of government preferential policies to nurture start-ups.

However, the utilization rate of innovation resources still remains rather low in China, according to the report released by the Research Center for Technological Innovation with Tsinghua University.

The government should continue to invest in R&D and improve the efficiency of the application of innovation technology and products to convert them into social and economic benefits and boost China's innovation capability in the next 30 years, the report added.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Experts, Microsoft push for global NGO to expose hackers

Global Cyber Attribution Consortium would probe major cyberattacks and publish the identities of their perpetrators.

TALLINN: As cyberattacks sow ever greater chaos worldwide, IT titan Microsoft and independent experts are pushing for a new global NGO tasked with the tricky job of unmasking the hackers behind them.

Dubbed the “Global Cyber Attribution Consortium”, according to a recent report by the Rand Corporation think-tank, the NGO would probe major cyberattacks and publish, when possible, the identities of their perpetrators, whether they be criminals, global hacker networks or states.

“This is something that we don’t have today: a trusted international organisation for cyber-attribution,” Paul Nicholas, director of Microsoft’s Global Security Strategy, told NATO’s Cycon cybersecurity conference in Tallinn last week.

With state and private companies having “skills and technologies scattered around the globe” Nicholas admits it becomes “really difficult when you have certain types of complex international offensives occurring.”

“The main actors look at each other and they sort of know who they think it was, but nobody wants to make an affirmation.”

Microsoft already floated the idea of an anti-hacking NGO in a June 2016 report that urged the adoption of international standards on cybersecurity.

The report by Rand commissioned by Microsoft called “Stateless Attribution – Toward international accountability in Cyberspace” analyses a string of major cyberattacks.

They include offensives on Ukraine’s electricity grid, the Stuxnet virus that ravaged an Iranian nuclear facility, the theft of tens of millions of confidential files from the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the notorious WannaCry ransomware virus.

“In the absence of credible institutional mechanisms to contain hazards in cyberspace, there are risks that an incident could threaten international peace and the global economy,” the report’s authors conclude.

They recommend the creation of an NGO bringing together independent experts and computer scientists that specifically excludes state actors, who could be bound by policy or politics to conceal their methods and sources.

Rand experts suggest funding for the consortium could come from international philanthropic organisations, institutions like the United Nations, or major computer or telecommunications firms.

Pinning down the identity of hackers in cyberspace can be next to impossible, according to experts who attended Cycon.

“There are ways to refurbish an attack in a way that 98 per cent of the digital traces point to someone else,” Sandro Gaycken, founder and director of the Digital Society Institute at ESMT Berlin, told AFP in Tallinn.

“There is a strong interest from criminals to look like nation-states, a strong interest from nation-states to look like criminals,” he said.

“It’s quite easy to make your attack look like it comes from North Korea.”

According to experts at Cycon, hackers need only include three lines of code in Cyrillic script in a virus in order to make investigators wrongly believe it came from Russian hackers.

Similarly, launching attacks during working hours in China raises suspicions about Chinese involvement.

Hackers can also cover their tracks by copying and pasting bits and pieces of well known Trojan viruses, something that points the finger at their original authors.