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Police Have Arrested a Suspect in a Massive ‘Internet of Things’ Attack

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At the end of last year, hackers took over hundreds of thousands of home routers using a variant of the infamous Internet of Things malware known as Mirai. Then they rented out that massive botnet so that anyone could use it to try to take down websites and servers with crippling distributed denial of service attacks, or DDoS.

That specific botnet is believed to be responsible for intermittent internet outages in the African country of Liberia, in the UK, in Germany, and for a large—but failed—cyberattack on the anti-spam organization Spamhaus.

Now police might have nabbed one of the hackers suspected to be behind that Mirai botnet and those cyberattacks. On Wednesday, UK police arrested an unnamed 29-year-old British man at an airport in London. That man, according to sources, might be a criminal hacker known as BestBuy.

"BestBuy is down."

The arrest is the first to be publicly linked to the long series of cyberattacks carried out with Mirai. Last year, Mirai, which was programmed to automatically spread and take over Internet of Things devices such as DVRs, surveillance cameras and later, routers, became notorious for taking down Reddit, Twitter and several other large websites in an attack against a US internet infrastructure provider in October.

In late November of last year, the German ISP provider Deutsche Telekom blamed a large outage on hackers trying to hijack its customers routers. BestBuy, a cybercriminal who sold hacking services on dark web markets such as The Real Deal, claimed responsibility.

"I would like to say sorry to [Deutsche Telekom] customers—it was not our intention," BestBuy, who claimed to be working with another hacker called Popopret, told Motherboard at the time.

Read more: The Looming Disaster of the Internet of (Hackable) Things

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced the arrest of the 29-year-old man on Thursday, who is suspected of the "computer sabotage" against Deutsche Telekom. The police said the operation was a joint effort between local police, British and Cypriot law enforcement agencies, and help from Europol and Eurojust.

The participation of Cyprus police is particularly relevant given that some of the DDoS attacks against a telecom provider in Liberia were conducted using Cypriot IP addresses, according to data collected by SpoofIT, an organization of internet vigilantes who's been investigating DDoS operators.

"BestBuy is down," Jack B., one of the pseudonymous researchers behind the initiative, who published the findings of his investigation into BestBuy on Thursday, told Motherboard.

The German federal police told Motherboard to refer all questions to the prosecutor's office in Cologne, which did not respond requests for comment or more details in time for publication. The British National Criminal Agency confirmed the arrest in a statement but also declined to provide more details.

Last year, after the source code for the Mirai malware was released publicly, BestBuy took advantage of a newly discovered vulnerability in a protocol used by some modems and routers, called TR-064, to hijack the vulnerable devices and enlist them in their massive Mirai botnet. Their attempts to build the botnet, and create a monopoly over easily hackable Internet of Things devices, caused internet and telephone services outages for one million Deutsche Telekom customers, as well as thousands of subscribers of the British telecom TalkTalk.

Both BestBuy and Popopret could not be reached for comment on Thursday, as their online chat accounts appeared to be offline. A source, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that the two had not been online since the beginning of February. (Motherboard's last contact with BestBuy was in late January.)

The two are also believed to be behind the malware for sale GovRAT. But some believe the two were actually one person. Last year, a different hacker claimed to have broken into BestBuy's private account on the The Real Deal market, showing Motherboard a screenshot to prove it. The hacker said the two aliases were controlled by the same person.

Whether the suspect is BestBuy or not, he is the first person to be publicly accused by law enforcement of launching cyberattacks using Mirai. In the last few months, however, authorities have arrested other hackers who launched similar DDoS attacks and sold DDoS services.

In October of last year, the FBI accused two teenagers of being part of the hacking group Lizard Squad. Then, in January of this year, authorities raided Paras Jha. Jha, 20, is suspected of being the hacker known as Anna-Senpai, the original author of Mirai, according to an investigation by the independent security reporter Brian Krebs. He has yet to be charged.

"Bestbuy/Popopret were an example of the competent [Mirai operators] that could actually achieve numbers capable of doing damage."

If the authorities really have gotten their hands on BestBuy, it "would be a great blow to some of the Mirai operations," according to Marshal Webb, chief technology officer at BackConnect and a researcher who's followed Mirai for months, told Motherboard in an online chat.

"There are only a handful of Mirai operators that actually have an idea of what they are doing," Webb added "Bestbuy/Popopret were an example of the competent ones that could actually achieve numbers capable of doing damage."

German police said the man could face six to ten years of prison.

Joseph Cox and Max Hoppenstedt contributed reporting for this story.

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"BestBuy is down."
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King for a Day

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“Arm chair generals study tactics; real generals study logistics” – attributed to General Norman Schwwarzkopf

Many of my old friends and colleagues are asking me a question these days:  “If you were NASA Administrator, what would you have the agency do?”  I know what they want to hear:  Moon, Mars, or Asteroid – what is the next destination for human spaceflight?  But that is not the answer I would give. Whatever ‘horizon goal’ is established, without significant organizational and cultural changes at NASA, the chance for success is in doubt.

To make NASA into the extraordinarily effective organization it once was and could be again will require significant work to transform it.  NASA is filled with extremely smart, highly motivated individuals who are the experts in their fields.  They can do amazing things.  Measured against any other organization – government or commercial – the NASA civil service and contractor work force is outstanding in terms of inherent capabilities and the desire to make their projects successful.

But success in NASA’s endeavors is hobbled by three structural and cultural problems:  (1) inter-center rivalry, (2) mind numbing bureaucracy, and (3) a paralyzing cultural requirement for perfection in all things.

These are the problems I would propose must be improved for any large scale program to be effective.  And frankly, resolving these issues exceeds the NASA Administrator’s authority.  Solutions will require not just concurrence from the President, but action by the Congress would be required.  And given that somebody somewhere would probably file a lawsuit regarding some of the directions, the Judicial branch would have to concur as well.  Rapid, coordinated concurrence from all three branches of government?  What are the odds of that?  So my title:  King for a Day.

So in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
“With our own feathers, not by others’ hands,
Are we now smitten.”    – Aeschylus, Choephoroe 59

Topic 1:  break down inter-center rivalry.  NASA was established in 1958 as a collection of 10 loosely federated fiefdoms and it has never broken out of that paradigm.  If you ask a typical NASA employee who they work for, the response will be their center, not the agency.  Can’t blame them; they are hired through a center, promotions and career advancements come through their center, the very culture of the organization enforces loyalty to a center.  Every center has its local politicians and politics centered on local interests, every center has its own history and area of expertise, and every employee is inculcated with the beliefs and norms.  Centers sometimes seem united only in their disdain for NASA Headquarters.  Not that anybody openly works to sabotage direction from Headquarters, they just bend the direction toward what their individual project and center would like to do.  Competition for scarce resources drives rivalries between centers.  In addition, there is a huge ‘not invented here’ problem everywhere.  Not just with any idea from an organization outside NASA but also with any idea from another center.  It makes the workforce ready to find fault, slow to see the advantages of any new thing not born from within their own organization.  Secretive, competitive, and ultimately destructive of the larger purpose, these behaviors have been worse in the past but are still present.  My solution:  make people move.  Many organizations both government and industry do this as a matter of course.  Move not just the senior leaders, but the journeyman workers.  Take the center name off the badges.  Develop a ‘Bureau of Personnel” to centralize promotions, bonuses, and career advancement.  No small tasks these.

“A system under which it takes three men to check what one is doing is not control; it is systematic strangulation.” – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

Topic 2:  mind numbing bureaucracy.  The organization has evolved, as all bureaucracies do, to the point where too many people can say ‘no’ to any action.  In the early days of NASA, this was not so.  It is good to have checks and balances and oversight, but the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of (electronic) paperwork, diffuse responsibility, and inaction.  The system now has watchers watching watchers watching doers – and always with criticism for the doer.  Corrective action will take serious attention from any leader.  Achieving the proper balance may well be impossible and the best we can hope for is to swing decision making back to the lowest level possible.  Gibbs Rule #13 applies here:  Never involve the Lawyers.

 “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” – Gaius Cornelius Tacitus

Topic 3:  the cultural imperative to make everything perfect.  This is a very sensitive topic for me.  I have personal been involved with decisions that were made with too little information, riding roughshod over the experts in the field.  But these days, after Columbia, the agency is paralyzed by requiring too much:  too much data, too many tests, too much analysis.  In the Apollo days, this was not so.  We – and I am a guilty party in this – have trained the work force to make everything perfect before any project can proceed.  In this business, nothing is ever perfect.  Space flight involves risk, it can never be completely eliminated.  But real space flight is actual flight, not studies and ground tests.  It is difficult to find the balance of having done enough to be reasonably sure of success and safety and to get on with a project and actually fly.  I hate the term ‘risk averse,’ but as much as it makes my teeth grate, the effect of wanting to make every detail perfect has the same outcome as cowardice: never flying.

So when folks ask me that question:  “If you were NASA Administrator, what would you have the agency do?”  I have a rueful look on my face and tell them any destination – or all three – are good; the tougher job is what we must do to ensure that we get there.

 

            “Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows, for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.”

  • Tennyson’s Ulysses



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Fasting Diet 'Regenerates Diabetic Pancreas'

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According to a new study published in the journal Cell, a certain type of fasting diet can trigger the pancreas to regenerate itself. Of course, the researchers advise people not to try this without medical advice. BBC reports: In the experiments, mice were put on a modified form of the "fasting-mimicking diet." It is like the human form of the diet when people spend five days on a low calorie, low protein, low carbohydrate but high unsaturated-fat diet. It resembles a vegan diet with nuts and soups, but with around 800 to 1,100 calories a day. Then they have 25 days eating what they want -- so overall it mimics periods of feast and famine. Previous research has suggested it can slow the pace of aging. But animal experiments showed the diet regenerated a special type of cell in the pancreas called a beta cell. These are the cells that detect sugar in the blood and release the hormone insulin if it gets too high. There were benefits in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the mouse experiments. Type 1 is caused by the immune system destroying beta cells and type 2 is largely caused by lifestyle and the body no longer responding to insulin. Further tests on tissue samples from people with type 1 diabetes produced similar effects.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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satadru
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This is really exciting. Elucidating the pathophysiology of the effects of fasting diets on T2DM has been a long standing goal... Hopefully somebody considers doing some binary search studies on the ideal fasting timing for this effect.

Also... 25 cheat days a month? Hell Yes.
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States most similar to the US overall

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“Normal America.” I’m not sure what that means anymore, but at some point it had a lot to do with demographics. Naturally, the “normal” that you look at or want bleeds into policy-making and the like. Jed Kolko for FiveThirtyEight looks into the states most similar to the country overall — the one from 1950 and from today.

But the places that look today most like 1950 America are not large metros but rather smaller metros and rural areas. Looking across all of America, including the rural areas, the regions that today look most demographically similar to 1950 America are the portion of eastern Ohio around the towns of Cambridge and Coshocton and the Cumberland Valley district in southeastern Kentucky.

The states most similar demographically to today’s America: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Virginia.

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meadowren
4 days ago
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I got a 56.

Vysoká pec Golem

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Atom in the Garden of Eden

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As the world entered the Atomic Age, humankind faced a new fear that permeated just about every aspect of daily life: the threat of nuclear war. And while the violent applications of atomic research had already been proven, governments and scientists hoped this powerful technology held promise for peaceful applications as well.

“It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers,” said President Eisenhower in a 1953 speech titled Atoms For Peace. “It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.”

American Atoms for Peace stamp (1955)

As part of the Atoms For Peace efforts, experts would be mobilized to apply atomic science to the fields of energy, medicine, and agriculture. One of the products of these initiatives were the atomic gardens of the 1950s and 60s—experiments that used radioactive material to genetically alter plants into what they hoped would be better, stronger breeds. And the legacies of these largely forgotten experiments are still around today in the form of fruits, vegetables, and grains that can be found in grocery stores and markets the world over.

Humans have been messing with plants to suit our needs for a long time, but 20th century technologies offered more radical approaches to selective breeding and genetic alteration. In 1927, geneticist Hermann Muller conducted a famous experiment in which he exposed fruit flies to X-rays. This ionizing radiation had the power to penetrate cells and alter genetic material. Some of Muller’s fruit flies had mutant genes and some of those mutations were heritable (they could passed down to future generations).

Around the same time, plant breeders began using X-rays in attempts to induce mutations that might be beneficial, hoping to create faster-growing plants, larger fruits, or new ornamental flowers. Over the years, though, enthusiasm for X-ray breeding died down and was replaced with new hopes for atomic technologies being researched during World War II.

The United States military began to research not only on how make atomic bombs, but what their effects might be after detonation. So-called “gamma gardens” in places like Brookhaven National Labs in New York aimed to discover the effects of chronic exposure to gamma rays on plants. Within a few years, they went from just analyzing the effects of radiation to researching whether gamma radiation could actually induce beneficial mutations.

Brookhaven gamma field via Paige Johnson

Some of these gamma gardens were huge (up to five acres or more) and were generally laid out as large circles with crops planted in concentric rings. Within the garden, species were separated into a series of pie-shaped wedges. In the center of the field, a pole containing a radioactive isotope (usually cobalt-60) would shower the field with gamma radiation for about 20 hours a day. When it was time for researchers to go in and see the results, they would remotely lower the source into an underground bunker made of concrete or lead, step inside the field’s high fence, and inspect the plants arrayed around the center. The plants closest to the source were usually dead or stunted or gnarled with tumors. The plants around the edges generally looked normal but would be evaluated by the scientists to see if they had any beneficial mutations.

Radioactive farm diagram via Paige Johnson

Mutations already occur naturally and randomly in every living cell, but these researchers were attempting to increase that rate of mutation. They viewed it as “speeding up” evolution and hoped to create crops that could withstand harsh growing conditions or be more resistant to disease. They thought their work might even end global hunger and turn the world into “a smiling Garden of Eden.”

Ad for CJ Speas atomic-energized seeds

By the late 1950s, Similar experiments were happening around the world, in Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica, and the Soviet Union, among other places. These efforts weren’t just limited to governments and research universities, either. Some experiments were done by curious citizens who could get radioactive sources from the government as part of the Atoms For Peace effort.

In the late 1950s, an oral surgeon in Tennessee became one of these atomic entrepreneurs. His name was CJ Speas, and he built a little bunker in his backyard where he started irradiating seeds. He would then sell them to home gardeners and to children looking for science fair projects. One of his biggest clients was an English woman named Muriel Howarth who had a passion for atomic technologies as well as gardening.

Muriel Howarth and her Atomic Gardening Society letterhead, membership list and experimental results form via Paige Johnson

Howarth formed an international Atomic Gardening Society, designed to engage everyday people in atomic experiments. She would ship members irradiated seeds and ask them to send back any data they could about the plants. Howarth also published an atomic magazine and hosted gatherings and film screenings on atomic topics — in 1950, she even staged a performance where actors pantomimed the structure of an atom. From a review in Time magazine: “Before a select audience of 250 rapt ladies and a dozen faintly bored gentlemen, some 13 bosomy atomic energy associates in flowing evening gowns gyrated gracefully about a stage in earnest imitation of atomic forces at work.”

Atomic-energized poppy seed package for experimentation via Paige Johnson

By the 1960s, public interest in atomic gardening began to fade. Members of the Atomic Gardening Society grew tired of seeing very few promising results from their seeds. It was extremely rare to get a beneficial mutation, and mutations were especially hard to detect by people with no scientific training.

Institute of Radiation Breeding in Japan

Still, radiation plant breeding didn’t completely disappear. Even today, Japan has an institute that utilizes a field very similar to the gamma gardens at Brookhaven. The International Atomic Energy Association and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also have a joint plant-breeding team still conducting radiation breeding research.

Because of radiation breeding experiments, there are over 2000 plant varieties that have been released into the global food system. These include a strain of wheat in Italy, varieties of rice throughout Asia, certain pears in Japan, and a breed of sunflower in the United States, just to name a few. The Rio Star grapefruit also came about because of radiation breeding experiments and now accounts for about 75% of the grapefruit grown in Texas.

But despite some successes, radiation plant breeding never managed to live up to its loftier goal of ending world hunger. And as environmentalist movements started in the 1960s and 70s, the public grew skeptical of all things nuclear.

Atomic Gardening For The Layman (cover)

Some historians believe that the Atoms for Peace movement was just a smokescreen anyway — a way to put a positive spin on nuclear research while continuing to build up the United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons. When Eisenhower took office in 1953, the U.S. had about 1,000 nuclear bombs. When he left in 1961, that number had climbed to around 18,000. The global march toward mutually assured destruction did, however, leave a legacy of world-changing, non-military innovations as well: nuclear power, the expanded field of nuclear medicine, and, of course, the especially delicious Rio Star grapefruit.

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