An anonymous reader writes "German IT magazine Heise reports (original in German) that the Ministry of Education in Schwerin had a Conficker virus infection on 170 machines, that was dealt with by simply throwing them on the trash. Other German authorities have now decided that 'the approach taken is not up to the principle of efficiency and economy' and that the 187,300 Euro invested in this radical form of virus removal were inappropriate. The ministry had earlier estimated the cost of cleaning their desktops and servers by more conventional means to 130,000 Euro."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
chicksdaddy writes "To paraphrase a quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald: 'Rich countries aren't like everyone else. They have less malware.' That's the conclusion of a special Security Intelligence Report from Microsoft, anyway. The special supplement, released on Wednesday, investigated the links between rates of computer infections and a range of national characteristics including the relative wealth of a nation, observance of the rule of law and the rate of software piracy. The conclusion: cyber security (by Microsoft's definition: low rates of malware infection) correlated positively with many characteristics of wealthy nations – high Gross Income Per Capita, higher broadband penetration and investment in R&D and high rates of literacy. It correlated negatively with characteristics common in poorer nations – like demographic instability, political instability and lower levels of education.'"
Iranian state TV is claiming that the country has successfully sent a monkey into space and back, bringing Iran one step closer to its goal of a manned space flight. According to the report, the rocket named Pishgam, or Pioneer in Farsi, reached a height of 120km. From the article: "Iran has long said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace program, including plans for a new space center announced last year. In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms."
Last week, you asked questions of Eugene Kaspersky; below, find his answers on a range of topics, from the relationship of malware makers to malware hunters, to Kasperky Labs' relationship to the Putin government, as well as whitelisting vs. signature-based detection, Internet ID schemes, and the SCADA-specific operating system Kaspersky is working on. Spoiler: There are a lot of interesting facts here, as well as some teases.
derekmead writes "Billions worldwide still don't have access to proper sanitation, and those that do still require a ton of water and electricity to keep waste flowing. A French company is offering one solution: Use turd-eating worms to compost waste right at the source. Ecosphere Technologies has developed an outhouse that, rather than relying on chemicals like a port-a-john, relies on about a pound of red wiggler worms. A new installation in Quebec uses imported worms, placed inside of a mixture of dung and straw underneath to toilet, to devour feces delivered to them by a conveyor belt system. (When someone uses the toilet, pee filters through sand to wash away, while a pedal allows the user to transport their poo to the worm space.) The whole system uses no water or electricity, and a series of passive vents allegedly keeps the toilet smelling great. The company claims it can be used 10,000 times without servicing, which is far better than what a port-a-potty can boast, although with a current price tag of $40k for the worm system, port-a-potties are still a lot cheaper."
New submitter The name is Dave. Ja debuts on the front page with the most dismal news of our time: "This is truly 'Stuff That Matters'. Where would civilization be today without bacon? I don't mean to be alarmist but ... sound the alarms! This is big — it could lead to civil unrest." Yes, a bacon shortage. Hopefully what bacon there is will be more delicious after being fed with gummi worms.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed. In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn. Operators must be careful to follow detailed nutritional analyses for their animals to make sure they are getting a healthy mix of nutrients, animal nutritionists caution. But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can't. The candy and cookies are only a small part of a broad mix of alternative feed offerings for cattle. Many operators use distillers grains, a byproduct that comes from the manufacture of ethanol."
submeta writes "Researchers at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania have genetically engineered skeletal muscle cells to respond to light. The hope is that this 'bio-integrated' approach may lead to 'highly articulated, flexible robots.' The technique, known as optogenetics, has previously been used to stimulate neurons in worms to fire."
hypnosec tipped us to reports that Demonoid is still down after a suffering a massive DDoS last week, and that the domain is now redirecting to a malware-ridden spam site. Notable for surviving a CRIA mandated shutdown, this may be lights out for the torrent tracker: "To begin, while Demonoid’s admin told us that he would eventually bring the site back online, he clearly has other things on his mind. A really important family event puts a torrent site nowhere near the top of his priorities. ... Demonoid has been experiencing staffing issues this year. As we mentioned in an earlier article, there were rumors that one or maybe more Demonoid staffers had been questioned by authorities about their involvement in the site."
astroengine writes "A microscopic worm used in experiments on the space station not only seems to enjoy living in a microgravity environment, it also appears to get a lifespan boost. This intriguing discovery was made by University of Nottingham scientists who have flown experiments carrying thousands of tiny Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to low-Earth orbit over the years. It turns out that this little worm has genes that resemble human genes and of particular interest are the ones that govern muscle aging. Seven C. elegans genes usually associated with muscle aging were suppressed when the worms were exposed to a microgravity environment. Also, it appears spaceflight suppresses the accumulation of toxic proteins that normally gets stored inside aging muscle. Could this have implications for understanding how human physiology adapts to space?"
wiredmikey writes "Iran disconnected computer systems at a number of its oil facilities in response to a cyber attack that hit multiple industry targets during the weekend. A source at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) reportedly told Reuters that a virus was detected inside the control systems of Kharg Island oil terminal, which handles the majority of Iran's crude oil exports. In addition, computer systems at Iran's Oil Ministry and its national oil company were hit. There has been no word on the details of the malware found, but computer systems controlling several of Iran's oil facilities were disconnected from the Internet as a precaution. Oil Ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar told Mehr News Agency on Monday that the attack had not caused significant damage and the worm had been detected before it could infect systems."
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the first of eight highly specialized Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM), each weighing nearly 1,000 tonnes, is being positioned at Royal Oak in west London where it will begin its slow journey east. It will carve out a new east-west underground link that will eventually run 73 miles from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Described as 'voracious worms nibbling their way under London,' the 150-meter long machines will operate 24 hours a day and move through the earth at a rate of about 100m per week, taking three years to build a network of tunnels beneath the city's streets. Behind a 6.2-meter cutter head is a hydraulic arm. Massive chunks of earth are fed via a narrow-gauge railway along the interior of the machine, which is itself on wheels, as the machines are monitored from a surface control room which tracks their positions using GPS. Hydraulic rams at the front keep them within millimeters of their designated routes. 'It's not so much a machine as a mobile factory,' says Roy Slocombe, adding that the machine is staffed by a 20-strong 'tunnel gang' and comes with its own kitchen and toilet. Meanwhile, critics complain that the project is a peculiarly British example of how not to get big infrastructure schemes off the ground, because almost 30 years will have elapsed from its political conception in 1989 to its current projected completion date of 2018."
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from The University of Nottingham have demonstrated how a species of flatworm overcomes the aging process to be potentially immortal. The discovery, published (abstract; full text PDF) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Medical Research Council and may shed light on the possibilities of alleviating aging and age-related characteristics in human cells." After finding the gene for telomerase synthesis in the worms, the researchers were able to observe that the worms "...dramatically increase the activity of this gene when they regenerate, allowing stem cells to maintain their telomeres as they divide to replace missing tissues."
An anonymous reader writes "Bitdefender reports that there exist viruses which, when they encounter other viruses, will merge and combine effects so that they create a new virus. 'A virus infects executable files; and a worm is an executable file. If the virus reaches a PC already compromised by a worm, the virus will infect the exe files on that PC — including the worm. When the worm spreads, it will carry the virus with it. Although this happens unintentionally, the combined features from both pieces of malware will inflict a lot more damage than the creators of either piece of malware intended. While most file infectors have inbuilt spreading mechanisms, just like Trojans and worms (spreading routines for RDP, USB, P2P, chat applications, or social networks), some cannot replicate or spread between computers. And it seems a great idea to “outsource” the transportation mechanism to a different piece of malware (i.e. by piggybacking a worm).'"
gManZboy writes "Bill Gates fired off his famous Trustworthy Computing memo to Microsoft employees on Jan. 15, 2002, amid a series of high-profile attacks on Windows computers and browsers in the form of worms and viruses like Code Red and 'Anna Kournikova.' The onslaught forced Gates to declare a security emergency within Microsoft, and halt production while the company's 8,500 software engineers sifted through millions of lines of source code to identify and fix vulnerabilities. The hiatus cost Microsoft $100 million. Today, the stakes are much higher. 'TWC Next' will include a focus on cloud services such as Azure, the company says."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Shmoocon security conference later this month, Danny Quist plans to demo a new three-dimensional version of a tool he's created called Visualization of Executables for Reversing and Analysis, or VERA, that maps viruses' and worms' code into intuitively visible models. Quist, who teaches government and corporate students the art of reverse engineering at Los Alamos National Labs, says he hopes VERA will make the process of taking apart and understanding malware's functionality far easier. VERA observes malware running in a virtual sandbox and identifies the basic blocks of commands it executes. Then those chunks of instructions are color-coded by their function and linked by the order of the malware's operations, like a giant, 3D flow chart. Quist provides a sample video showing a model of a section of the Koobface worm."
New submitter davidshenba sends this quote from the BBC: "U.S. researchers have created silkworms that are genetically modified to spin much stronger silk (abstract). In weight-for-weight terms, spider silk is stronger than steel. ... Researchers have been trying to reproduce such silk for decades. But it is unfeasible to 'farm' spiders for the commercial production of their silk because the arachnids don't produce enough of it — coupled with their proclivity for eating each other. Silk worms, however, are easy to farm and produce vast amounts of silk — but the material is fragile. Researchers have tried for years to get the best of both worlds — super-strong silk in industrial quantities — by transplanting genes from spiders into worms. But the resulting genetically modified worms have not produced enough spider silk until now. GM worms produced by a team led by Professor Don Jarvis of Wyoming University seem to be producing a composite of worm and spider silk in large amounts — which the researchers say is just as tough as spider silk."
cylonlover writes "He can't fly just yet, but a team of scientists have made a big step towards creating a real-life Mighty Mouse. By tweaking a gene that normally inhibits muscle growth the researchers created a batch of super-strong mice and worms. The scientists acted on a genome regulator — known as NCOR1 — and were able to change the activity of certain genes. In simpler English, the scientists shut off the thyroid hormone that keeps most mammals from turning into the Incredible Hulk. The result was a strain of mice with muscles that were twice as strong as normal."
JoeRobe writes "Researchers at Harvard have developed a pneumatically-controlled rubber robot that combines undulation and quadrupedal 'crawling,' allowing it to maintain a low profile while moving. In a paper published in PNAS (abstract), they describe it as a 'soft robot, composed exclusively of soft materials (elastomeric polymers), which is inspired by animals (e.g., squid, starfish, worms) that do not have hard internal skeletons.' The robot is solely powered by relatively low pressure (10 psi), and controlled by 5 pneumatic actuators. The research was funded by DARPA." The paper is also available (not paywalled) from the researchers' project site (PDF), complete with more creepy images of the squidbot.
Pierre Bezukhov writes "The roundworm has about 20,000 protein-coding genes — nearly as many as humans, who have about 23,000. Furthermore, there is a lot of overlap between our genome and theirs, with many genes performing roughly the same functions in both species. Launching C. elegans roundworms to Mars would allow scientists to see just how dangerous the high radiation levels found in deep space — and on the Red Planet's surface — are to animal life. 'Worms allow us to detect changes in growth, development, reproduction and behavior in response to environmental conditions such as toxins or in response to deep space missions,' said Nathaniel Szewczyk of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. 'Given the high failure rate of Mars missions, use of worms allows us to safely and relatively cheaply test spacecraft systems prior to manned missions,' he adds."