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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Feb. 19, 2013 at 6:38 PM   |   Comments

Chinese military blamed in U.S. hacks

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A report by a U.S. cybersecurity firm alleges a Chinese military unit is likely behind a cyberattack aimed at American infrastructure and corporations.

Security company Mandiant, based in Virginia, said China's Unit 61398 is responsible for stealing "hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations," including 115 in the U.S., since 2006, ABC News reported Tuesday.

"Once [Unit 61398] has established access [to a target network], they periodically revisit the victim's network over several months or years and steal broad categories of intellectual property, including technology blueprints, proprietary manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, partnership agreements, and emails and contact lists from victim organizations' leadership," Mandiant's report says.

Digital forensic evidence cited by Mandiant as tracking Unit 61398 to a 12-story office building in Shanghai that could employ hundreds of workers has been confirmed by American intelligence officials, The New York Times reported.

Mandiant's report comes after President Obama's State of the Union speech in which he said America must "face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attack."

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied any connection to cyberattacks and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Tuesday claims made in the Mandiant report were unsupported.


Climate change was risk to ancient life

PLYMOUTH, England, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Researchers in Britain say evidence from 180 million years ago confirms the likelihood of risks to modern marine life from global warming.

Higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels during the ancient Jurassic era caused drastic changes to marine communities, they said, and while the Jurassic seas eventually recovered from the effects of global warming, the marine ecosystems that returned were noticeably different from before.

"Our study of fossil marine ecosystems shows that if global warming is severe enough and lasts long enough it may cause the extinction of marine life, which irreversibly changes the composition of marine ecosystems," Richard Twitchett of the University of Plymouth said.

Twitchett and his colleagues undertook fieldwork along the North Yorkshire coast studying the different sedimentary rocks and the marine fossils they contained, which yielded information about the environmental conditions on the sea floor at the time the rocks were laid down.

The researchers said they discovered a "dead zone" recorded in the rock, which showed virtually no signs of life and contained no fossils. This was followed by evidence of a return to life, but with new species.

"Patterns of change suffered by these Jurassic ecosystems closely mirror the changes that happen when modern marine communities are exposed to declining levels of oxygen," Twitchett said.


Google warns of rising account break-ins

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Google is warning of an increase in sophisticated attempts to hijack legitimate user accounts and use them in email scams.

"Compared to five years ago, more scams [and] illegal, fraudulent, or spammy messages today come from someone you know," Google security engineer Mike Hearn said in a blog post.

"Although spam filters have become very powerful -- in Gmail, less than 1 percent of spam e-mails make it into an in-box -- these unwanted messages are much more likely to make it through if they come from someone you've been in contact with before.

"As a result, in 2010 spammers started changing their tactics -- and we saw a large increase in fraudulent mail sent from Google Accounts," he wrote.

Spammers are increasingly attempting to break into legitimate accounts and send mail to those accounts' contacts, CNET reported Tuesday.

"We've seen a single attacker using stolen passwords to attempt to break into a million different Google accounts every single day, for weeks at a time," Hearn wrote. "A different gang attempted sign-ins at a rate of more than 100 accounts per second."

Google has recommended users take advantage of the company's two-step verification and recovery options to secure accounts.


Computers can tag violent crime hot spots

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Powerful computers analyzing data on drugs, alcohol and crimes across a city could help direct police prevention efforts, University of Michigan scientists say.

Researchers from the university's medical school and their colleagues have reported using real police data from Boston to demonstrate the ability of computer models to zero in on violent areas.

Analyzed by computer, the data yielded a detailed map of violent crime "hot spots" from police reports, drug offenses, and alcohol availability at stores, bars and restaurants, as well as the education levels, employment and other attributes of the people who live there, a university release reported Tuesday.

Such a map could help a city's leaders and police focus resources on the areas -- down to streets and intersections -- where they can do the most good, the researchers said.

"This approach allows us to find predictors of violence that aren't just related to an individual's predisposition -- but rather, allow us to study people in places and a social environment," said study lead author Robert Lipton, a professor of emergency medicine at the U-M Medical School.

While the relationship between alcohol availability and violence has been studied for years, the researchers said, the new research adds several new factors: arrests for drug possession and dealing, and citizen calls to 911 about drug use, as well as the broader geographic factors surrounding each type of establishment where alcohol is sold.

"Why are two areas of a city, which seem to be the same across typical demographic factors, different in their level of violence? We need to become more nuanced in understanding these relationships," Lipton said.

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