Archive for October, 2011

Hackers port trojan viruses from Linux to OS X

Posted October 31, 2011 By David Kolle

Security researchers at ESET and Sophos have discovered that hackers have gone out of their way to port an old Linux backdoor trojan to the Mac OS X platform, extending their reach of computers that they can use as part of their botnets.

Part of the original C source code for Tsunami, then known as Kaiten.
According to the researchers, the trojan, named Tsunami, connects to an IRC channel and awaits commands from hackers. Those commands include instructions to flood a server with requests, which combined with the efforts of other compromised computers results in a distributed denial-of-service attack.

It can also download files to the compromised machine, allowing it to update itself or install additional malware and has the ability to execute any command of the attacker’s choosing, essentially giving them complete control.

The C source code for the Linux variant has been available in the public for some time, making it easy for anyone to change the hardcoded IRC servers‘ infected bots to join or modify the code for multiple platforms.

However, the trojan has no method of spreading, meaning a separate vulnerability would have to be exposed to upload the malware covertly, or users would have to choose to let their Mac become part of a hacker’s botnet.

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Secrets of long life sought from 107 year old's DNA

Posted October 27, 2011 By David Kolle
Craig Venter in 2004

Craig Venter

107 year old George Eberhardt and scientists would love to know how he and other older people like him made it that far.So he’s going to hand over some of his DNA.

He’s one of 100 centenarians taking part in a project announced today that will examine some of the oldest citizens with one of the newest scientific tools: whole-genome sequencing, the deciphering of a person’s complete collection of DNA.

Scientists think DNA from very old healthy people could offer clues to how they lived so long. And that could one day lead to medicines to help the rest of us stay disease-free longer.

By the time you reach, say, 105, “it’s very hard to get there without some genetic advantages”, says Dr Thomas Perls, a geriatrics expert at Boston University.

Dr Perls is helping find centenarians for the Archon Genomics X Prize competition.

The X Prize Foundation, best known for a spaceflight competition, is offering $US10 million ($9.6 million) in prize money to researchers who decipher the complete DNA code from 100 people older than 100. The contest will be judged on accuracy, completeness and the speed and cost of sequencing.

The contest is a relaunch of an older competition with a new focus on centenarians, and it’s the second sequencing project involving the elderly to be announced this month.

Genome pioneer Craig Venter says the centenarian project is just a first step in revealing the genetic secrets of a long and healthy life.

“We need 10,000 genomes, not 100, to start to understand the link between genetics, disease and wellness,” said Venter, who is co-chairing the X Prize contest.

The 107-year-old Mr Eberhardt played and taught tennis until he was 94.

He said he’s participating in the X Prize project because he’s interested in science and technology. It’s not clear his genes will reveal much.

Nobody else in his extended family reached 100, and he thinks only a couple reached 90, he said in a telephone interview.

So why does he think he lived so long? He credits 70 years of marriage to his wife, Marie. She in turn cites his “intense interest in so many things” over a lifetime, from building radios as a child to pursuing a career in electronics research.

But scientists believe there’s more to it, and they want to use genome sequencing to investigate.

Dr Richard Cawthon of the University of Utah, who is seeking longevity genes by other means, says it may turn up genetic features that protect against multiple diseases or that slow the process of ageing in general.

Earlier this month, Scripps Health of San Diego announced a different genome project involving the elderly. The Scripps Wellderly Study will receive the complete genomes of 1000 people age 80 and older from a sequencing company.

A complete genome reveals not only genes but also other DNA that’s responsible for regulating genes. It’s “the full monty”, showing DNA elements that are key for illness and health, says Dr Eric Topol, who heads the Wellderly Study.

Participants in that study have an average age of 87 and range up to 108, and they’ve never had diabetes, heart disease or cancer, or any neurological disease.

“There’s been too much emphasis on disorders per se and not enough on the people who are exceptionally healthy,” to learn from their genomes, Dr Topol said. “Now we have the powerful tools to do that.”

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Air travel in 2075

Posted October 27, 2011 By David Kolle

What if  you could get off  your flight and not have to worry about long queues, luggage delays, taxis or long term car parking costs.

Future of flight

This dream could become a reality by the end of the century, according to a report on the future of flying by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineering.

Researchers unveiled a vision where future “aircraft carriers” carrying smaller units that float to the ground could drop passengers straight at the door.

And “scramjets” capable of flying at five times the speed of sound (6437km/h) would make a 5565km London New York trip possible in under an hour.

The stopover may also become a thing of the past thanks to “flying fuel stations” and in a bid to save power planes would fly in a V-shaped formation to use the airflow generated by leading aircraft.

Pilotless planes would also become a reality over the next 50 years, according to the report.

Back in July, Boeing unveiled a different vision of the future of air travel involving see-through cabins and holographic gaming displays.

Think those predictions are unrealistic? How about this idea by a New York architect: Rather than using planes or trains, travellers would float to their destinations on top of a giant inflatable cloud.

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Hidden features now in Apple's iOS 5

Posted October 27, 2011 By David Kolle

switched11

The new iOS5 update software is compatible with all iPhones and promises 200 new features, including 10 hidden gems detailed below.

  • Camera quick-draw

Double-click the Home button while the iPhone is locked and a camera icon will appear. Tap it to take a photo in seconds.

  • Focus lock

The built-in Camera app now lets users lock focus on a subject. You hold a finger on the subject until the focusing square flashes. Tap elsewhere to remove it.

  • Shutter button

The new software gives the iPhone two physical shutter buttons. Either volume button will do the job.

  • Flashing alerts

Whether a phone call or a Facebook update, your phone can alert you by flashing its rear LED, otherwise used as a camera flash.

  • Customised alerts

iPhone users can finally select different sounds for alerts such as text messages, tweets and reminders. New alert sounds are also in the iTunes Store for the first time.

  • Notifications

The Notifications drop-down menu can be customised in Settings. You can prioritise alerts, remove apps (like stock prices) and decide how they look on screen.

  • Shortcuts

Have a list of favourite phrases? You can enter them into the phone as shortcuts, triggered by just a few letters (“omw” for “on my way”).

  • Tap tap vibration

iOS 5 will let you customise the way your phone moves. Users must engage the option and tap on the screen to record a physical tune.

  • Message received

If you send an iMessage to a fellow user, you can tell whether they’ve received it, read it and when they are replying. A Send Read Receipts option is in Settings.

  • Knowledge of Relatives

If you’re using iCloud contacts and an iPhone 4s, you can name your relatives to Siri mother, father, etc and she will recall them.

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