The little-known story of a nation-state cyberattack at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea; A link claimed between brain activity levels and the onset of Alzheimer's disease; An argument that safety standards need to be tightened for 5G wireless; Using dogs to detect malaria; and a virtual tour through a radio interferometry site
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- The Untold Story of the 2018 Olympics Cyberattack, the Most Deceptive Hack in History - During the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Olympic games in South Korea, a little-publicized cyberattack took the Olympic network domain controllers offline. The outage lasted for 12 hours, while the organization completely unplugged from the Internet, an anti-virus firm identified a signature for the offending malware, and the systems were brought back online. Once the systems were returned to service, technologists went to work identifying the source of the attack. Initial suspects included North Korea, and Russia - who's athletes were being penalized for a so-called doping scandal. After reverse engineering by Cisco engineers, the malware was dubbed Olympic Destroyer, and it bore superficial similarity to two earlier Russian cyberatacks, but had no clear code matches, and it also had superficial similarity to an earlier North Korean and Chinese attacks, but header file analysis and code stylistics seemed to rule out North Korea and China. Eventually, security researcher, Michael Matonis traced the transmission vector of the malware to a Word Macro that was created through Malicious Macro Generator and transmitted to recipients months in advance of the Olympic games. With this knowledge, he was able to create a signature for other malware that was created by the same hacker group, and trace it to a group who had targeted Ukrainian LGBT activist groups during 2017. Additional forensics enabled him to attribute the attack to the GRU hacker group in Russia, a finding that had been independently announced by US agencies (with an omission of supporting forensic evidence that made verification impossible). h/t Bruce Schneier
- Genetic Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Highly Active Brains - Existing research has found that the onset of Alzheimer's may be preceded by a period of increased activity and connectivity in the brains of patients, and then accompanied by a slow down in certain areas of the brain. It has also found this type of increase in people with the APOE4 allele. In a new study, Krishna Singh and colleagues were able to use a large sample sizes and modern imaging techniques to compare the brains of 183 age-matched individuals with and without the APEO4 allele. This research confirmed previous findings, that younger people with the APOE4 allele have increased brain activity in certain areas of the brain, and it extended previous studies by comparing the regions where the increase is observed with the regions where slowdowns are compared after the onset of Alzheimer's. It turns out that the two share considerable areas of overlap. Echoing a theme from a couple of yesterday's posts, Singh is quoted saying, "[We] require a model of how the brain works—and those are still in their infancy." h/t RealClear Science
- We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe - Responding to an article that was covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology micro-summaries for September 18, 2019, Joel M. Moskowitz argues that current Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) safety standards are inadequate. He says these were first set in the 1990s, and were based on 1980s era research, whereas newer research has found harmful biological effects from RFR exposure at levels too low to cause heating. He says that 240 scientists have signed the so-called the International EMF Scientist Appeal, calling for increased safety regulations. According to the petition, "Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans.". Related: 5G Is Coming: How Worried Should We Be about the Health Risks?
- Can dogs sniff out malaria? - In this TED talk, James Logan opens by discussing the worldwide death toll of one of the world's deadliest diseases, Malaria. Next he points out that some people can carry the disease without developing symptoms, which makes it very difficult to stop it from spreading. He says that it would be ideal to develop a sensor that could sense the changes in chemical excretions that come from the body when people are infected with diseases, and points out that the world's best sensors already exist, in animals. A surprising fact from the talk is that he ran an experiment which discovered that people who are infected with Malaria are more attractive to mosquitoes. Having made that discovery, he went on to train medical detection dogs to smell people's socks and identify the ones containing the scent that attracts the mosquitoes. The talk concludes with a real life demo of a dog smelling the malaria scent, and he reports that the dogs get it right 81% of the time. It was posted in May, 2019, and came across TED's RSS feed on October 21. One skeptical comment is that a dog could easily be trained to act in a way that misleads the audience. It would be cool if this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, but this is also a classical scam sort of demonstration.
- STEEM Radio Telescopes - The strange thing called interferometry - In this post, @svemirac gives a virutal tour of the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), a radio interferometry site that mathematically combines the inputs from 21 different antennas, all looking at the same object, into a single giant virtual antenna. To accomplish this, even the cable lengths between the antennas and the computer processors are precisely designed so that the signal delays are identical for all 21 antennas. In addition to a brief description, the post also contains images of the antennas, and the inside signal processing equipment. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been app,ied to this post for @svemirac.)
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