Day: June 16, 2011

VISUAL ARTIST ILLUMINATES WI-FI SIGNALS

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By Nic Halverson


Mar. 15, 2011 — Buildings, parking garages and store fronts all map our perception of a city’s blue print and visually define a metropolitan identity. Crisscrossing a city’s I-beams, bricks and mortar, however, is a lattice of Wi-Fi networks that, while crucial to our day-to-day life, are invisible to the naked eye. That is, until now

Entitled “Immaterials: Light Painting Wi-Fi,” Timo collaborated with Jorn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen to construct a 13-foot-high light rod fixed with 80 lights that detect Wi-Fi signals and light up according to the strength of the signal. ( See a gallery of images here.)

The artists used the common light painting technique of long-exposure times to capture the images, while strolling the streets of Oslo, light rod in hand. The artists’ slow gait allowed the camera to capture the light rod as it measured the wireless signals, thus bringing the networks to life in a fence-like series of glowing bars. As signals fluctuate, the bars rise and fall.

During the project, the group learned that the size and shape of pre-existing landmarks, such as buildings, influence how Wi-Fi signals traverse the urban landscape. Also detected were the vast Wi-Fi umbrellas often emanating from the networks of coffee shops and university buildings, virtually extending the boundaries of these structures without physically affecting the landscape.
Enmeshing the way private and public property co-exist in the virtual sphere, this intriguing project challenges our awareness of urban topography and reminds us that we are constantly surrounded by cyber scaffolding, and its anything but immaterial.
All photos courtesy Timo Arnall

Dark corners of the net

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Teenager at a computer, Photo Science Library

Hackers are secretive, but they are also social. Many spend their spare time in chat rooms and forums discussing their latest targets, techniques and conquests. Eavesdropping on those conversations offers a fascinating insight into their motives.

Say hacker to someone and they are likely to trot out the usual aged clichés – geek, loner, bedroom-bound teenager.

Philosopher is unlikely to feature high on the list. But it seems the modern-day hacker spends a lot of time contemplating the meaning of life.

graphic showing a cyber mafia

  • The Researcher: hunts for vulnerabilities in computer systems
  • The Dealer: Rents botnets and takes out valuable information such as personal data
  • The Farmer: Maintains the botnets
  • Crime lord: Makes money from stolen data

“Each has a philosophy and they want to discuss it,” says Noa Bar Yosef.

She ought to know. Her job with security firm Imperva involves hanging around in hacker forums trying to work out what motivates them.

It is a murky, idiosyncratic world where Ms Yosef admits she spends far too much time.

In one group she visits, members discuss the best reading matter for would-be thinkers.

“Start with Kierkegaard, then Nietzsche and after you’ve read Nietzsche, Sartre is the most logical choice”.

Another poses a question about the practicalities of hacker life: “what kit would you take with you if you were on the run?”MORE

LulzSec Call-In Line Taking Hacking Requests

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LulzSec

With almost 150,000 Twitter followers, hacker group LulzSec certainly has a higher profile than it did a few weeks ago—so much so that it is now taking requests.

The group has opened a call-in line, where it will field suggestions for hacking targets. Don’t like a particular company? Leave a message with LulzSec and the group might hack into its database and post damaging information on the Web.

“Now accepting calls from true lulz fans—let’s all laugh together at butthurt gamers. 614-LULZSEC, accepting as many as we can, let’s roll,” the group tweeted yesterday.

LulzSec said it had 5,000 missed calls and 2,500 voicemails yesterday, a day it dubbed #TitanicTakeoverTuesday. The group’s Tuesday targets included Escapist Magazine, Eve Online, Minecraft, League of Legends, and eight call-in requests. Today, it claims to have taken out the login server for Heroes of Newerth.

On its blog, security firm Sophos asked readers if they were amused or disgusted by LulzSec’s hacks, and the results thus far are split. About 40 percent (or 597 votes) of people said the group is funny and is making a serious point about security, while 43 percent (or 652 votes) said no, they’re not amusing and hacking into companies or launching DDoS attack are no laughing matter. Another 17 percent (or 259 votes) found LulzSec amusing, but did not approve of what the group was doing.

As Sophos has noted before, LulzSec does not “appear to be motivated purely for the group’s own entertainment.” LulzSec apparently agrees. When it hacked into the Senate.gov database, the group said it was a “small, just-for-kicks release” of internal data.

Other recent targets include Bethesda Softworks and a porn siteSonyNintendo, and FBI affiliates.

The authorities have not yet spoken publicly about LulzSec, though they are likely investigating. As Sophos also pointed out after the Senate hack, such activity could result in five to 20 years in prison under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if convicted.

Update: LulzSec is now reporting that it is forwarding its call-in number to the customer support lines of various businesses, including magnets.com and World of Warcraft. “Our number literally has anywhere between 5-20 people ringing it every single second. We can forward it anywhere in the world. Suggestions?” the group tweeted.

For more from Chloe, follow her on Twitter @ChloeAlbanesius.

World Cup DDoS blackmailer sentenced to jail

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World Cup 2010

A court in Düsseldorf, Germany, has convicted a man who extorted money out of online gambling websites in the run-up to the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa.

The Frankfurt man, who has not been identified, successfully blackmailed three online betting sites (and attempted to extort money from three others) by threatening them with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks which could have blasted them off the internet.

According to German media reports, the blackmailer hired a botnet for $65 per day and told the betting firms that he would make their websites unavailable during July 2010 – the month of the World Cup – if they did not pay him 2,500 Euros ($3,700).

When three of the sites refused to pay any money, the man reduced the ransom to 1,000 Euros.

This isn’t the first time, by any means, that denial-of-service attacks have been used to blackmail online gambling websites in the run-up to a major sporting event. For instance, in 2006 a Russian gang who were said to haveextorted $4 million from British bookmakers were sentenced to jail.

As more and more firms rely on internet visitors for their revenue, so the potential impact that can be caused by a denial-of-service attack increases. It’s sadly no surprise, therefore, that some cybercriminals will see it as a way to make money.

The German authorities should be congratulated on their successful conclusion to this investigation. The man has now been sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison, and was ordered to pay up to 350,000 Euros ($504,000) in damages to the affected firms.

My guess is that he’s unlikely to be sending significant traffic to any websites anytime soon.

Social networks now used to abuse, monitor and control women

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Social networks now used to abuse, monitor and control women

Various forms of technology are being used by abusive partners to monitor and control women, particularly younger women, such as their mobile phone calls and texts being monitored and social media and technology being used to stalk and control them.

Women’s Aid today reported it received 3,575 disclosures of abuse via the National Freephone Helpline and there have been 48,000 visits to its website – a 52pc increase.

“Leaving a relationship does not always end abuse,” Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin explained.

“Almost a fifth of women continued to be abused, stalked and harassed by former partners. These women disclosed how they are bombarded with texts and calls often telling them, in explicit detail, how they will be attacked or even killed. Some women disclosed that their current or ex-boyfriends were stalking them on social networking sites.”

The Women’s Aid Helpline responded to 10,055 calls in 2010. There were 430 one-to-one support visits and 164 court accompaniments. There were 8,351 incidents of emotional abuse disclosed and 3,031 incidents of physical abuse.

The figures for 2010 indicate that 57pc of calls were by first-time users of the service.

Technology used as a form of emotional abuse

Forms of emotional abuse included women being stalked and constantly monitored both while in the relationship and after they leave; women being harassed continuously by phone, text messages and through social networks; women’s access to internet either curtailed or monitored; women threatened with weapons, threats by the abuser to kill the woman, the children or other family members; women threatened that their children will be abducted and taken overseas and women’s and children’s pets being intentionally harmed in front of them.

“There is a common misconception that violence and abuse only occurs in older and more established relationships, where women are married or living with, and/or have children with their abusive partner,” said Martin.

“Our experience and national and international research shows that young women are also at risk of violence and abuse from their boyfriends.

“In a national survey on domestic violence, almost 60pc of those who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships first experienced it when they were under the age of 25. More chilling data from resolved homicide cases show that of the 39 women aged between 18 and 25 years who were killed since 1996, 53pc were murdered by a boyfriend or former boyfriend.”

The figures reflect a recent statement from Keir Starmer, the DPP in the UK which said young women aged between 16 and 19 in the UK are at the highest risk of sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse, creating a “risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence.”

Martin said one in five Irish women who have ever been in a relationship experience physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse.

“In 2010, we responded to over 10,000 calls on our helpline. We heard from thousands of women living with abuse and fear. Fear of being choked or strangled, fear of the next beating or cutting remark that is designed to erode their confidence and put them down. Women being gagged to silence their screams. Women whose abusive partners repeatedly threaten to kill them, their children and themselves.

“Jeering the women and telling them not to bother telling anyone – that no one will believe them. All too often, these women feel completely isolated and alone, unaware that there is help available. We know that about one-third of women never tell anyone about the abuse they suffer. Instead, these women try to survive and protect themselves and their children on their own.”

John Kennedy

APPLE’S NEWLY PLANNED HEADQUARTERS IS PENTAGON-BIG

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Apple-office-building-500

Ask yourself, is it good that a company headquarters is roughly the size of the Pentagon? Or should that be a red flag? I jest. Somewhat. But that’s basically the size of Apple’s new building, proposed by CEO Steve Jobs, although a bit of a smaller footprint overall. Check out the graphic below from the Mercury News. In a presentation before the Cupertino City Council on June 7 (see here), Jobs said, “Apple’s growing like a weed.”

CURIOSITY.COM: 10 Surprising Ways Software Keeps Moving

He said they have almost 12,000 people in the area and were renting buildings at an ever greater radius from their campus. They have a plan that allows them to stay in Cupertino and “continue to pay taxes.” Apple bought some land formerly owned by Hewlett Packard, and have designed an unsual building.

“It’s a little like a spaceship landed,” Jobs told the council. Here’s what the building will have:

Apple-office-graphic-278x225

  • 4 stories high
  • 3.1 million square foot sphere of glass
  • energy-generating center
  • 150 acres of land
  • capable of holding 12,000
  • auditorium
  • employee gym
  • cafeteria that can hold 3,000 people
  • some aboveground but mostly underground parking
  • research facilities
  • move-in: 2015
  • 6,000 trees and apricot orchards
  • 80 percent of the land will be landscaped

Credit: Youtube Screen grab; Mercury News

EXTREME-SPORT FILMMAKING GETS MORE EPIC

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Aventure-bike

If a mountain biker executes a 360 tailwhip before landing a 30-foot drop-off into a desert canyon, but no one is around to witness it, did it even happen? Rather than ponder the metaphysics of their extreme sports, adrenaline junkies have been filming their stunts, leaving audiences jaw-dropped and totally stoked.

But for every shaky, hand-held fisheye-lense clip, there’s a thousand more clips that are just as amateurish. If you prefer your extreme sports movies to have a little more cinematic depth to them, then the epically narrated and beautifully filmed Life Cycles mountain biking movie just might be what your gnarly little heart craves.MORE

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BIKE LASER AIMS TO INCREASE CYCLIST VISIBILITY

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Blaze-556x450

Hopping on a bicycle saddle and peddling through the heart of the city is not for the faint of heart. Besides being safeguarded by minimal protection amidst aggressive traffic, their slower pace and low visibility often subject bikers to unfathomable road rage and projectiles hurled from angry motorists.

I’ve been grazed by enough tossed cups, bottle caps, and side-view mirrors to know that biker visibility is paramount to a more peaceful and safe coexistence between cyclists and motorists.

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Helping bridge this gap is BLAZE, a device invented by Emily Brooke, a final-year Product Design student at the University of Brighton. Her device alerts drivers to the presence of a bikers by projecting a laser image onto the road in front of the bicycle.MORE

 

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WOULD YOU LIKE SOME ELECTRONIC FRIES WITH THAT?

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Nutri-smart-556

It’s undeniable that our world is becoming increasingly digital, interactive and connected. Over the past few years some amazing progress has been made that allows us to bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital one. We can expect that one day everything we know in the physical world will have a parallel existence in cyberspace.

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Hannes Harms, a student at the Royal College of Art in London, has an idea for a way to do this when it for food. He wants to implant food items with edible radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. RFID tags are often used to catalogue and track various objects ranging from merchandise inventory to casino chips. They are made out of a small integrated circuit with an antenna and are generally not edible. However in 2007 Kodak developed a safe, ingestible RFID tag to be used in medical imaging. MORE

Artists Can Share Unreleased Tracks With Fans Via New Site

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Swift.fm is a newly relaunched social network/platform that focuses on unreleased music — it no longer needs to languish in oblivion. Swift.fmhas been live for 18 months and was, in the past, focused on Twitter, but emerged this week with more tools and tricks.

“There’s a huge opportunity around unreleased music,” says Edward Aten, founder and CEO, “The site provides daily, weekly communication with fans in the way bands do it best — through music.”

Swift.fm is something between a consumer and a back-end product. When artists join, they can connect the site to all of their social accounts — MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm — and upload tracks to share across all of those verticals. Still, it’s not just a back-end tool for blasting music out to one’s networks, it’s also a place for fans to check out bands.

Consumers can also create accounts, and, once they plug in their social networks, check out a stream composed of tracks shared by people in those networks. They can also follow musicians directly from the site and listen to artist streams via their pages. (The site says it’s DMCA compliant, but we can see how it could be used to upload and share tracks that belong to the users.)

 

 

 

 

If all this sounds a little familiar — i.e. like Soundcloud and some others — Aten says to take a closer look. “We are huge fans of Soundcloud, they are our number-one competitor,” says Aten. “But Soundcloud is more like a Flickr for music, and we are more of an Instagram. We’re totally focused on the social side of music distribution — getting music out to fans as quickly as possible.”

In essence, the site is most like “Hootsuite for bands” Bln.kr, except that Bln.kr is more of a back-end, distribution-focused tool than a social network. Still, with the current influx of such social networks — likely a reaction to the fall of Myspace — we imagine that it will still be difficult for Swift.fm to distinguish itself among the masses.

To kick off the relaunch, Swift.fm will be featuring unreleased tracks from a couple of heavy hitters in the hip-hop field — Questlove and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few.

Questlove started using the service last year, posting 30-second clips of what he was doing in the studio to the site.

Unfortunately, the site lacks a “buy” option at present (it’s streaming-only now), but soon bands will be able to sell music through iTunes, Amazon and eMusic.

Image courtesy of Flickr, hell*yeah