Archive for September 2011

Pentagon Extends Program to Defend Cyber Networks

As hackers and hostile nations launch increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks against U.S. defense contractors, the Pentagon is extending a pilot program to help protect its prime suppliers.

That program could possibly serve as a model for other government agencies. It is being evaluated by the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a potential effort to extend similar protections to power plants, the electric grid and other critical infrastructure.

Efforts to better harden the networks of defense contractors come as Pentagon analysts investigate a growing number of cases involving the mishandling or removal of classified data from military and corporate systems. Intrusions into defense networks are now close to 30 percent of the Pentagon’s Cyber Crime Center’s workload, according to senior defense officials. And they say it continues to increase.

The Pentagon’s pilot program represents a key breakthrough in the Obama administration’s push to make critical networks more secure by sharing intelligence with the private sector and helping companies better protect their systems.

From the Associated Press via Yahoo News at: http://news.yahoo.com/pentagon-extends-program-defend-cyber-networks-072651256.html

Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle!

Online games are being used for research in ways that are really having a huge impact!

Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.

Photo by AFP
The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where — exceptionally in scientific publishing — both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.

Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.

Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.

But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D picture that “unfolds” the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.

From Yahoo News: http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/online-gamers-crack-aids-enzyme-puzzle-161920724.html;_ylc=X3oDMTNtczRvcjZnBF9TAzU2NzAwMTEyNQRhY3QDbWFpbF9jYgRjdANhBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi1VUwRwa2cDNWM1YWExY2UtNmQwNS0zYThiLTk1YzUtOTYwZmY3MDc5ZmRmBHNlYwNtaXRfc2hhcmUEc2xrA21haWwEdGVzdAM-

“Predictive” Policing

The police department in Santa Cruz, California, has begun an experiment that uses a mathematical algorithm to predict when and where certain crimes will be committed, and puts police on the scene before they happen.

So far police have arrested five people using this technique of “predictive policing” and the rates of certain categories of crimes in the city have dropped significantly, perhaps as a result. The program has correctly predicted 40 percent of the crimes it was designed to monitor.

Police departments have said that programs such as these, if proved to be reliable, could help them to deploy their resources more efficiently.
The program comes from the field of applied mathematics or operations research, and the algorithm was developed by a 29-year-old mathematician at Santa Clara University.

Other mathematical techniques have been developed to predict crimes, most famously Compstat, used in the mid-90s by the New York City Police Department to track serious crimes, like those depicted in the the Minority Report. The Santa Cruz program, which does not appear to have a name, concentrates of property crimes, such as car break-ins and burglaries.

The program was developed by George Mohler, an assistant professor of mathematics.

The algorithm he uses is based on computations used to predict aftershocks following a large earthquake.

From TPM Idea Lab: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/santa-cruz-cops-experiment-with-predictive-policing.php?ref=fpblg

“Anonymous” Hacktivist Group Unmasked

A total of 16 people with ties to the “hacktivist” group “Anonymous” were arrested by the FBI on Monday. Fourteen of them were charged in connection with an attack on PayPal, which was targeted by “Anonymous” because the website suspended the account of WikiLeaks after it released classified State Department cables.

An affidavit from an FBI special agent reveals how the bureau tracked down 21-year-old Arciszewski of Florida, who is accused of attacking the Tampa Bay Infraguard website. First, they got the IP address of the individual who attacked the website with the account “AntiSecTest” on June 21. Then they used info on the Twitter account voodooKobra which posted a “bitly” link to the vulnerability he allegedly created with the phrase “Infraguard Tampa has one hell of an exploit.”

Based on the twitter info associated with the Twitter account, they visited his website at kobrascorner.com and did a Google search for his “VoodoKobra” screenname. They turned up his Wikipedia user page, which listed his real name as Scott Arciszewski. They compared his drivers license photo to the avatar on his account on hackforums.net and on his Facebook profile.

From TalkingPointsMemo: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/07/fbi-arrests-college-students-cashiers-and-a-landscaper-for-anonymous-hacks.php

Pictures of the hackers themselves: http://media.talkingpointsmemo.com/slideshow/anonymous-mugshots-unmasked/1-213620