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April 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM
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Malware on half a million Apple computers

MOSCOW, April 5 (UPI) -- More than half a million Apple computers have been infected with malware, potentially allowing them to be hijacked, a Russian anti-virus firm says.

More than half the infected computers, which could be taken over and used in a "botnet," are based in the United States, the company Dr. Web said.

The malware, known as the Flashback Trojan, masquerades as a Flash Player update, but once downloaded it deactivates some of the computer's security software.

Once installed the Trojan sends a message to the intruder's control server with a unique ID to identify the infected machine.

"By introducing the code criminals are potentially able to control the machine," Dr. Web executive Boris Sharov told the BBC.

"The largest amounts of bots -- based on the IP addresses we identified -- are in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, so it appears to have targeted English-speaking people," Sharov said.

In response, Apple released a security update Wednesday that users can trigger by clicking on the software update icon in the computer's system preferences panel.

Titanic wreck to receive U.N. protection

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 (UPI) -- The United Nations says it will put the wreck of the Titanic under cultural protection of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Unesco says more than 700 divers have visited the wreck site 13,000 feet under water off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, and putting it under protection will prevent unscientific or unethical exploration, the BBC reported Thursday.

The Titanic was "anchored in the memory of humanity" and it was important to protect the site where 1,500 people lost their lives, Unesco Director General Irina Bokova said.

"There are thousands of other shipwrecks that need safeguarding as well," she said. "We do not tolerate the plundering of cultural sites on land, and the same should be true for our sunken heritage."

The Titanic will fall under the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage once it passes the 100th anniversary of its sinking April 15, as the convention only protects vessels that sank more than a century ago.

Satellite reveals views of Texas tornadoes

GREENBELT, Md., April 5 (UPI) -- Images from a NASA satellite show tornadoes that hit Dallas Tuesday were spawned by giant thunderstorms more than 8 miles high, the space agency said.

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite provided a look at the thunderstorms in three dimensions, giving scientists data on the heights of the thunderclouds and the rainfall rates coming from them, the agency said in releasing the images Thursday.

The satellite's precipitation radar gathered data above northeast Texas on the intensity and vertical distribution of rainfall.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center received 18 reports of tornadoes occurring Tuesday, with some of the initiating storm dropping softball-sized hail as they passed to the south of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Satellite tracking showed the line of tornado-spawning thunderstorms extending from Arkansas through central Texas, with heavy rain falling along the line at more than 2 inches per hour.

Drones will seek pirates at sea

ARLINGTON, Va., April 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy says it will begin tests of airborne pilotless drones equipped with sensors that could distinguish small pirate boats at sea from other vessels.

Airborne tests of the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker will take place this summer, the Office of Naval Research reported Thursday.

Placed on a robotic helicopter called Fire Scout and carrying advanced automatic target recognition software, the sensor will allow the helicopter to autonomously identify small boats on the ter, reducing the workload of sailors operating it from control stations aboard Navy ships, researchers said.

"Sailors who control robotic systems can become overloaded with data, often sifting through hours of streaming video searching for a single ship," said Ken Heeke, program officer in ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department.

"The automatic target recognition software gives Fire Scout the ability to distinguish target boats in congested coastal waters using LADAR, and it sends that information to human operators, who can then analyze those vessels in a 3-D picture."

The target software compares the 3-D imagery to vessel templates or schematics stored in the system's memory, researchers said.

"The 3-D data gives you a leg up on target identification," said Dean Cook, a researcher at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division said. "Infrared and visible cameras produce 2-D pictures, and objects in them can be difficult to automatically identify."

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