‘Welcome and important’: academics on decolonising education

Cyclists and pedestrians move along Trinity Street past St Johns College, part of the University of Cambridge

The debate sparked by a group of undergraduates at the University of Cambridge, on how and whether to “decolonise” British tertiary education by incorporating more black and minority ethnic voices, is spreading rapidly across universities and academic disciplines.

Paul Gilroy, professor of American and English literature at King’s College London, tweeted an image of Batman proclaiming “Decolonising the humanities isn’t just about Oxbridge”, and commented: “The caped crusader speaks for many of us.”

Malachi McIntosh, a Cambridge research fellow and expert on 20th and 21st century Caribbean literature, sees traditional curricula as damaging – and not just to literary understanding.

“Arguably, the narrowness of our curricula – at all levels of education – has fuelled the current political status quo, where a crude understanding of ‘us’ and ‘them’, built on a sepia-tinged nostalgia for a past that never was, is inspiring grand acts of national self-harm,” he says.

“In my eyes, the question is simple. Do we want to educate young people so that they understand the full range of experiences and perspectives that have contributed to world history? If our answer to that is yes, then we, at least in principle, support repeatedly reassessing who is read and studied and questioning what experiences and perspectives are left out. If our answer is no, then, in principle, we support limiting the exposure of the next and subsequent generations to the realities of the world they occupy.”

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of Oxford, is shocked at the venom of some of the media coverage of the debate, and links it to other recent attacks on academic freedom. “We are all in defensive mode, I think, as if whatever we say will be wrong, what with ‘Brexit lecturers’ and ‘leftie heads of colleges’ and ‘social apartheid’,” she says.

Smith, who three years ago led an initiative at her college, Hertford, to replace the portraits of long-dead men with newly commissioned photographs of female alumni, welcomes the debate on broadening the syllabus, including in her own discipline – Shakespeare studies is one area that the Cambridge students singled out as meriting a postcolonial approach.

“I think this is exciting and prioritises new ways of seeing the canon, as well as bringing in new writers,” she says. “Decolonising to me is about developing and employing the critical, historical and conceptual tools to see how ‘English’ literature – like other ‘English’ things like tea and St George – is deeply, richly, problematically interconnected with ongoing histories of travel, colonisation, empire and migration.”

Gurminder K Bhambra, professor of postcolonial and decolonial studies at the University of Sussex, is amused – almost – that it took a row at Cambridge to get the issue widely reported in the media. She has created a website, Global Social Theory – now being contributed to by academics, students and people interested in the subject from all over the world – precisely to provide a wider view.

“Some of us have been working in this area for many, many years,” Bhambra says. “However, the debate the students have started is welcome and important, if it helps more people to understand that this is not about narrowing, it is about broadening.”

source:-theguardian

Bug Bounty Hunters Say They Aren’t Welcome in India

Bug Bounty Hunters Say They Aren't Welcome in India

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Bug bounty hunters are hackers who warn companies about security flaws
  • They do this for both rewards, and recognition
  • They say Indian firms pay less, and don’t like talking of vulnerabilities

The recent Wannacry global ransomware attack, and closer to home, the Zomato user data breach, where millions of user logins were compromised, have forced all of us to be much more conscious of digital security. A key part of this ecosystem is the community of ethical hackers, also called bug bounty hunters, these are people who work with companies to patch security flaws. While big bounty program have been standards worldwide for several years, Indian companies like Zomato are only now following suit.

A bug bounty program is a vulnerability reward program instituted by corporates for ethical hackers. Hackers report bugs and vulnerabilities of websites or apps from corporates, who, in turn, recognise and compensate these hackers. Gadgets 360 spoke to a couple of ethical hackers told us that that they normally try and work with foreign companies, who are more open to paying bounties, and offer richer rewards to boot, when compared to their Indian counterparts.

Manish Bhattacharya, an ethical hacker born and raised in Bihar, said he paid off his educational loan through bug bounty programs from Facebook, GitHub, Shopify, and others. Some years ago, he had reported two clickjacking issues for Facebook – where a real link gets replaced by a malicious one, which could serve ads, or even malware. For this, he was paid $5,000 (over Rs. 3.22 lakhs today) by Facebook.

Anand Prakash has his own cyber-security startup, called AppSecure India, based out of Bengaluru. He is on Facebook’s ‘White Hat Bug Bounty Program’, which recognises and rewards security researchers who report vulnerabilities in Facebook’s services. In 2016, he has also found a bug in Uber that could let any hacker take multiple rides without paying for them. Uber gave him $5,000 in return.

anand prakash hacker ethical hacker

Anand Prakash runs his own security firm, AppSecure India

For Bhattacharya, bug bounty hunting has been, well, bountiful. He now works for a security firm in the United States. Prakash is on the list of Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 (2017) and runs his security audit firm.

The ethics of bug bounties
Many companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are openhanded to bug bounty hunters. Bugcrowd maintains a list of websites that have a rewards program. But it’s important to remember that there are a bunch of rules that define what is ethical hacking.

“The difference [between ethical hacking and unethical hacking] lies primarily in the intent. and access rights,” says Amit Sethi, Chief Information Officer, AXIS Bank. “One is authorised and the other is unauthorised. Technology-wise there’s no difference per se.”

Bhattacharya and Prakash also agree with the corporate ethical code.

“If I have permission from the company to test their website or they have a bug bounty program then only I’ll go for bug hunting,” says Bhattacharya. “I’ll never test any government/ bank website without their written permission.”

“Hackers exploiting bugs and leaking user data is unethical. Recent Zomato hack was a perfect example of an unethical hack,” adds Prakash. “The hacker should not have forced the company to run a bounty program by leaking their data.”

manish bhattacharya hacker ethical hacker

Manish Bhattacharya works for a security firm in the US

The argument could be made that the hacker pushed the company to improve its security and institute a program that will only help users – but in the process, the data of millions of users was up for sale, as Prakash points out.

Indian companies don’t like to talk about vulnerabilities
As the hackers we spoke to mentioned, Indian companies aren’t typically welcoming of their efforts. Uber told Gadgets 360 that it has paid more than $860,000 – approximately Rs. 5.5 crore – in the last year to security researchers around the world. Of this, there were six researchers from India in Uber’s top 50 list. India topped Facebook’s bug bounty list last year, but things are very different when you look at Indian companies.

Global players award Indian hackers consistently, says Sandeep Sharma, a research analyst for IDC. “But, when it comes to Indian corporates, the picture isn’t as rosy,” Sharma explains. “Indian enterprises still have a long way to go as far as proactive security implementations are concerned.”

Why haven’t Indian corporates been encouraging when it comes to bug bounty programs? Startups we approached refused to be a part of this story. According to reports, Snapdeal, Ola, and Swiggy all have private bug-bounty programs, but none of these companies wanted to talk about why bug bounty hunters don’t get due credit in India.

Swiggy CTO and co-founder Rahul Jaimani instead pointed out that the company encourages bug bounties, as long as it’s done in an ethical manner, and ties up with credible third-party bug bounty platforms on an invite only basis. He added that Swiggy supports ethical hacking, as long as the researchers comply with Swiggy’s ethical and responsible disclosure norms. He also added that the terms and conditions of the website and app mention that unethical techniques used against the system are liable under the cyber security law, as per the IPC and Information Technology Act.

We asked Zomato the same question too, but the company wasn’t available for comment. Zomato had a bug bounty program on HackerOne for a while and after the recent Zomato hack, its CEO Deepinder Goyal tweeted, “Had never offered money as part of the program. That’s what’s going to change now.”

zomto culture 1495085835107 zomato

After the company was hacked, Zomato now offers money as part of its bug bounty program

This attitude is a problem as far as most bug bounty hunters are concerned – apart from money, recognition is a big driver as it helps to build a career in ethical hacking, explains Bhattacharya.

“Right now, India is full of startups, most of them don’t have – or they don’t want to spend – extra budget to hire a full-time security guy,” he says. “Most companies don’t trust an independent individual with their security; they prefer a security firm instead. Few startups like Ola, Paytm have bug bounty. But, their rewards don’t match the international standards, so bug hunters don’t spend time with these programs.”

Change remains slow
Axis Bank has an Innovation Lab that experiments with bug bounty. “It would be an incremental step in our efforts towards robust and secure software development and testing,” says Axis’ Sethi. In India, banking and financial service firms have been proactive about security solutions, adds AppSecure’s Prakash, who also told us that his security firm saw a sudden surge of fin-tech corporate customers, after WannaCry and the Zomato hacks.

However, both Bhattacharya and Prakash say that the industry has largely been slow to react, even after high profile attacks on their infrastructure.

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Tags: Bug Bounty, ethical hackers, security advisor, Cyber security, Malware, Ransomware, WannaCry, Zomato Hacked
[“Source-ndtv”]

Welcome To The Golden Age Of Gadgets, Thanks To China

Gadgets are entering a new golden age (Photo: Benjamin Joffe / HAX)

Gadgets are entering a new golden age (Photo: Benjamin Joffe / HAX)

Back in the pre-internet days, a friend of mine owned a key ring which beeped when he whistled. It was one of those small, affordable, quirky, fun or useful electronic devices that we call gadgets.

Fast forward to the present. Smartwatch pioneer Pebble was acquired by Fitbit earlier this month, whose stock is down 75% year-on-year, and had to dismiss most of its staff and discontinue its products. Many took it as a bad omen for gadgets.

Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times collected evidence: the drone startup 3D Robotics gave up making hardware, Makerbot fell short on its ‘3d print everything’ promise, many crowdfunded projects failed, like AR bike helmet Skully which went bankrupt.

The future sounded bleak. Gadgets makers would either be copied by some unscrupulous manufacturer in China or dominated by large companies. Some, like Mark Wilson at Fast Company, recommended not to buy smart gadgets for Christmas. But Ashley Carman at The Verge, which had announced the come-back of gadgets, wrote a response pronouncing gadgets very much alive, quoting Kickstarter-born VR headset Oculus (acquired by Facebook), sound systems maker Sonos, Snap’s Spectacles and a few more.

So what is it? Are gadgets both alive and dead at the same time?

As a partner at HAX, which invest in dozens of hardware startups for a living, ranging from consumer devices to robotics and health tech devices, I would say we’re entering a golden age for gadgets. Here’s why.

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The First Ice Age of Gadgets

First, there is no denying the situation The New York Times article pointed out. Companies need to keep innovating to survive. Apple would not be around if they had allowed the first iPhone to be the last. Where there was one category champion, like Fitbit, many competitors are cropping up, and Chinese companies are at the forefront.

Xiaomi single-handedly commoditized many product categories, from smartphones to $15 fitness bands, to action cameras for half the price of a GoPro. While those are mostly sold in China for now, the clock is ticking for Western incumbents; they will need to keep innovating to avoid extinction.

A Cambrian Explosion

The Economist called it in 2014 for software; it has now spread to hardware startups. Hundreds of them are getting started and funded worldwide. Why is this happening?

First, prototyping has become faster and cheaper, and crowdfunding can help promote, validate and finance early projects.

Second, manufacturing is now possible at a faster pace, lower cost and smaller scale, thanks to Shenzhen. This goes from getting same-day components, PCBs or 3D prints at the prototyping stage, to a super-efficient supply chain of enormous size. Every time we buy a smartphone we effectively invest in the local ecosystem, which trains factory workers and tooling experts, and finances better and better machines. Those advantages are a critical aspect to enable early stage startups and the “long tail” of niche products (pioneered by the Shanzhai movement) to get to market.

[“source-ndtv”]