Daily Archives: January 5, 2008

Boeing’s New 787 Dreamliner is a Nightmare Vulnerable to Hacker Attack


The design “allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane,” says the FAA document.

Wired | Jan 4, 2008

By Kim Zetter

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet may have a serious security vulnerability in its onboard computer networks that could allow passengers to access the plane’s control systems, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The computer network in the Dreamliner’s passenger compartment, designed to give passengers in-flight internet access, is connected to the plane’s control, navigation and communication systems, an FAA report reveals.

The revelation is causing concern in security circles because the physical connection of the networks makes the plane’s control systems vulnerable to hackers. A more secure design would physically separate the two computer networks. Boeing said it’s aware of the issue and has designed a solution it will test shortly.

“This is serious,” said Mark Loveless, a network security analyst with Autonomic Networks, a company in stealth mode, who presented a conference talk last year on Hacking the Friendly Skies (PowerPoint). “This isn’t a desktop computer. It’s controlling the systems that are keeping people from plunging to their deaths. So I hope they are really thinking about how to get this right.”

Currently in the final stages of production, the 787 Dreamliner is Boeing’s new mid-sized jet, which will seat between 210 and 330 passengers, depending on configuration.

Boeing says it has taken more than 800 advance orders for the new plane, which is due to enter service in November 2008. But the FAA is requiring Boeing to demonstrate that it has addressed the computer-network issue before the planes begin service.

According to the FAA document published in the Federal Register (mirrored at Cryptome.org), the vulnerability exists because the plane’s computer systems connect the passenger network with the flight-safety, control and navigation network. It also connects to the airline’s business and administrative-support network, which communicates maintenance issues to ground crews.

The design “allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane,” says the FAA document. “Because of this new passenger connectivity, the proposed data-network design and integration may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane.”

The information is published in a “special conditions” document that the FAA produces when it encounters new aircraft designs and technologies that aren’t addressed by existing regulations and standards.

An FAA spokesman said he would not be able to comment on the issue until next week.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said the wording of the FAA document is misleading, and that the plane’s networks don’t completely connect.

Gunter wouldn’t go into detail about how Boeing is tackling the issue but says it is employing a combination of solutions that involves some physical separation of the networks, known as “air gaps,” and software firewalls. Gunter also mentioned other technical solutions, which she said are proprietary and didn’t want to discuss in public.

“There are places where the networks are not touching, and there are places where they are,” she said.

Gunter added that although data can pass between the networks, “there are protections in place” to ensure that the passenger internet service doesn’t access the maintenance data or the navigation system “under any circumstance.”

She said the safeguards protect the critical networks from unauthorized access, but the company still needs to conduct lab and in-flight testing to ensure that they work. This will occur in March when the first Dreamliner is ready for a test flight.

Gunter said Boeing has been working on the issue with the FAA for a number of years already and was aware that the agency was planning to publish a “special conditions” document regarding the Dreamliner.

Gunter said the FAA and Boeing have already agreed on the tests that the plane manufacturer will have to do to demonstrate that it has addressed the FAA’s security concerns.

“It will all be done before the first airplane is delivered,” she said.

Loveless said he’s glad the FAA and Boeing are addressing the issue, but without knowing specifically what Boeing is doing, it is impossible to say whether the proposed solution will work as intended. Loveless said software firewalls offer some protection, but are not bulletproof, and he noted that the FAA has previously overlooked serious onboard-security issues.

“The fact that they are not sharing information about it is a concern,” he said. “I’d be happier if a credible auditing firm took a look at it.”

Special conditions are not unusual. The FAA publishes them whenever it encounters unusual issues regarding a plane’s design or performance in order to communicate on record that it expects the manufacturer to address the issue. It’s then up to the manufacturer to demonstrate to the FAA that it has solved the problem. Gunter said the FAA has issued eight special conditions on the Boeing 787, but that not all of them pertain to the plane’s computer systems.

Revolutionary new pollution-free car able to run on air

RawStory | Jan 4, 2008

BBC News is reporting that a French company has developed a pollution-free car which runs on compressed air. India’s Tata Motors has the car under production and it may be on sale in Europe and India by the end of the year.

The air car, also known as the Mini-CAT or City Cat, can be refueled in minutes from an air compressor at specially equipped gas stations and can go 200 km on a 1.5 euro fill-up — roughly 125 miles for $3. The top speed will be almost 70 mph and the cost of the vehicle as low as $7000.

The car features a fibreglass body and a revolutionary electrical system and is completely computer-controlled. It is powered by the expansion of compressed air, using no combustion at all, and the exhaust is entirely clean and cool enough for use in the internal air conditioning system.

Tata Motors is known for its interest in innovation and has been selling compressed gas buses since 2000. It is currently working on producing the world’s cheapest car, which will be almost 100% plastic and will sell in India for about $2500.

Tata is also expanding into the world market. It acquired Korea’s Daweoo in 2004 and is now the top bidder to purchase the originally British Jaguar and Land Rover lines from the United States’ troubled Ford Motor Company.

Scientists create machine that knows what you are thinking

The accurate interpretation of a person’s intentions could allow police to arrest criminals before they break the law, as seen in the film Minority Report.

Daily Mail | Jan 3, 2008


Scientists have developed a machine which is capable of reading our mind and revealing our most private thoughts.

American researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, found that, with the aid of a sophisticated scanner and computer programme, they were able to determine how the brain lights up when thinking about different subjects.

Using an advanced form of MRI scanner, they analysed how the brain reacted to ten drawings of tools and buildings.

They then used a computer programme to work out whether a person was thinking about a tool or a building.

The researchers’ analysis was found to be 97 per cent accurate but they went on to show that they could distinguish between two similar objects, such as two different tools, almost as successfully.

This is the first time the technique has been finetuned to distinguish between similar objects.

The brain scans also showed many different brain regions are involved in processing information even in the case of something as simple as a line drawing of a hammer.

Thinking about how a hammer is used activated the areas involved in movement, while thinking about the shape of a hammer and what it is used for lit up other regions.

Despite being limited to picking up the thoughts behind just ten pictures, the researchers are confident that they will soon be able to identify entire sentences.

One of the team, Dr Svetlana Shinkareva, said: “We hope to progress to identifying the thoughts associated not just with pictures but also with words and eventually sentences.”

The technique could also have medical applications by, for example, providing valuable insights into conditions such as autism.

Study leader Professor Marcel Just said: “People with autism perceive others in a distinctive way that has been difficult to characterise.

“This approach offers a way to discover that characterisation.”

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, also showed that different people think about the same thing in the same way.

“This part of the study establishes, as never before, that there is a commonality in how different people’s brains represent the same subject,” the study said.

“There has always been a philosophical conundrum as to whether one person’s perception of the colour blue is the same as another person’s.

“Now we see that there is a great deal of commonality across different people’s brain activity corresponding to familiar tools and dwellings.”

The device’s possibilities can, however, be extended and the team envisage a time when it will be used to conduct infallible lie detector tests, while the accurate interpretation of a person’s intentions could allow police to arrest criminals before they break the law, as seen in the film Minority Report.

Environmentally friendly light bulbs ‘can give you skin cancer’

Not so friendly: Energy-saving light bulbs create an environment damaging for many people with light sensitivities

Daily Mail | Jan 4, 2008


Energy-saving light bulbs can be bad for your skin, doctors are warning.

The fluorescent devices produce a more intense light and can aggravate a range of existing problems, especially in those with light-sensitive conditions.

Eco-bulbs are due to become compulsory in British homes within four years. But campaigners want the Government to allow an opt-out so people with health problems can still use old-style incandescent bulbs.

There have been growing concerns that low-energy light can trigger migraines, as well as dizziness, loss of focus and discomfort among those with epilepsy.

There have also been complaints from sufferers of lupus – an auto-immune disease causing many symptoms including pain.

The latest warning was issued by Spectrum – an alliance of charities working with people with lightsensitive conditions – and the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).

Critics complain low-energy lights are either “cold” or “green,” take up to a minute to warm up properly and because they are fluorescent, flicker.

Dr Colin Holden, president of the BAD, said: “It is important that patients with photosensitive skin eruptions are allowed to use lights that don’t exacerbate their condition. Photosensitive eruptions range from disabling eczema-like reactions, to light sensitivities that can lead to skin cancer.

“It is essential that such patients are able to protect themselves from specific wavelengths of light emitted by fluorescent bulbs, especially as they are often trapped indoors because they can’t venture out in natural sunlight.”

Andrew Langford, of the Skin Care Campaign, said: “Incandescent light bulbs are the only source of electric light for many thousands of people with light-sensitive conditions.

“Add to this the thousands whose conditions or treatments may secondarily cause them to be light-sensitive, and you have a large number potentially being isolated in the dark.

“The Government simply must allow incandescent light bulbs to be available to these people, their families, friends and employers, and at a fair price.”

Spectrum, which is running a campaign to raise awareness of the impact on health of switching to lowenergybulbs, says as many as 340,000 people could be affected.

Last week, the Migraine Action Association was inundated with calls from sufferers who linked attacks to exposure to the newstyle lighting.

Spectrum is urging the government to allow incandescent light bulbs to be supplied to people with health problems, which would enable protection of the environment without penalising those unable to live with fluorescent lighting.

One option could be to allow the purchase of environmentally friendly energy efficient incandescent bulbs which GE Consumerand Industrial is currently developing and hopes to market in 2010.

The Lighting Association says modern low-energy bulbs give a constant flicker-free light, although a small number of health problems have been reported by people using cheap poor-quality varieties.

The Energy Saving Trust, the Government’s body to promote energy efficiency, says we should buy only bulbs with the Energy Saving Recommended – ESR – logo.

. . .


Ban the Bulb? — “If all 4 billion incandescent sockets were filled with CFLs we’d have nearly 50,000 pounds of mercury spread around every single US household”

Army of ‘energy inspectors’ recruited to snoop around your home

Homeowners face punishment for carbon crimes

Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’? — A $30,000 Utility Bill

Alert over the march of the ‘grey goo’ in nanotechnology Frankenfoods


Daily Mail | Jan 5, 2008


A breed of Frankenfood is being introduced into human diet and cosmetics with potentially disastrous consequences, experts said last night.

Academics, consumer groups and Government officials are warning that the arrival of nanotechnology threatens dangerous changes to the body and the environment.

The particles it uses are so small – 80,000 times thinner than a human hair – that they can pass through membranes protecting the brain or babies in the womb.

Nano health supplements, such as antioxidants, are already on the market while the first of hundreds of new foods are expected to arrive in the next 12 months.

However, the products are being introdeduced without any regulation or independent assessment to ensure they are safe – mirroring the controversy over the launch of GM foods ten years ago.

Some critics have talked of the threat of the creation of a “grey goo” of tiny particles with hidden harmful properties.

Prince Charles has said it would be “surprising” if the technology did not “offer similar upsets” to thalidomide – the morning sickness drug that caused children to be born with deformed limbs.

Professor Vicki Stone, Professor of Toxicology at Napier University in Edinburgh, is concerned about unforeseen side effects.

“We know very little about the ability of nanoparticles to move around the body, to accumulate or to be excreted, or their potential to cause toxic effects in organs,” she said.

However, nanotech advocates have remarkable claims for the technology. For example, foods are in development that are said to stave off the aging process.

On a more trivial level, they suggest it would be possible to create a fizzy drink that changes flavour according to the number of times the can is shaken.

The consumer group Which? is about to launch a nanotech campaign arguing that consumers need to be consulted on the risks and benefits before it is too late.

The food and farming department Defra has published an independent report which admits there are serious gaps in safety data.

It warns: “There could be very significant implications for business and the wider community if potential risks are not identified and managed before any harm to the environment or human health may be done.”

The report – Characterising the Risks Posed by Engineered Nanoparticles – states there is a shortage of research money.

It says the resulting absence of basic information about the particles means “it will be difficult or impossible to develop any general understanding of nanoparticle toxicology”.

The report adds: “Transfer across biological barriers – e.g. to the brain or foetus – should be studied. Research into how long these tiny particles persist in the body is urgently needed.”

It warns that work assessing human toxicology is being hamstrung by “profound difficulties in accessing relevant funding for these longer term projects”.

Research by Which? found six out of ten people (61 per cent) have never heard of nanotechnology.

Sue Davies of Which? said: “The benefits that nanotechnologies can offer consumers are really exciting.

‘But before the market is flooded with products, it’s crucial the Government addresses the lack of scientific understanding about how some nanoparticles behave.”

The European Food Safety Authority last year held a conference on the future of food.

Dr Donald Bruce, an expert on food and ethics, told delegates that the arrival of nanotech foods has many similarities with GM products.

US corporations attempted to introduce GM before an effective safety regime could be established.

“One of the things to ask is do we need the benefits claimed by the producers?’ he said. ‘Also there is the underlying notion that we are tampering with nature.”

Environment minister Phil Woolas admitted there were gaps in knowledge, but denied the Government was failing to provide enough research cash.

Tiny particles that have generated great hopes and growing concerns

Nanotechnology involves using a substance in particles that are so small that the substance takes on new properties.

The name of the technology comes from the size of the particles – one nanometre in diameter – a millionth of a millimetre. Reduced to this size, materials can suddenly show very different and unexpected properties.

For example, an opaque substance such as copper becomes transparent, or an inert metal such as platinum becomes a catalyst and triggers chemical reactions.

Advocates argue that such particles can be organised to work together to deliver specific effects in a piece of equipment or in the human body.

They can be used to build miniature hard drives that have an immense memory, so allowing further miniaturisation and sophistication of products such as computers and mobile phones.

Washing machines have been developed that release silver nanoparticles that will kill bacteria in dirty washing.

Sun creams have been created so they become transparent rather than chalky white.

In medicine, it is claimed that nanotechnology will allow the creation of drugs that reach and treat a problem quickly.

Manufacturers are working on nanotech foods and supplements that are also designed to deliver specific health benefits.

Similarly, firms are working on developing anti-ageing foods, where nanotech particles associated with renewing the skin from the inside could be included in everyday products such as yoghurt, spreads or breakfast cereals.

The technology promises huge riches for firms which develop winning applications.

One of the first group of nanoparticles being utilised are fullerenes – tiny hollow carbon balls and tubes. They are very heat resistant, strong and conduct electricity.

The football-shaped C60 fullerene is being used in some anti-ageing products. The creams are said to reduce fine lines and firm the skin.

C60 has some antioxidant properties in that it kills the rogue chemicals which damage cells. However, a high dose can itself damage cells.

Some nano particles are known to mimic the harmful effects of asbestos on the lungs. Consequently, they have the potential to trigger lung cancer if inhaled.

Pakistani opposition: ‘Whole system is rigged’


Pakistani lawyers demonstrate against President Pervez Musharraf in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday. Pakistani elections will be delayed until Feb. 18 because of violence following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, authorities said Wednesday, ignoring threatened street protests by opposition parties.

USA TODAY | Jan 1, 2008

By Paul Wiseman and Zafar M. Sheikh

GUJAR KHAN, Pakistan — Pakistan’s opposition is convinced that President Pervez Musharraf plans to steal the upcoming election — or at least shield his party from the wrath of voters.

“The deck is loaded. The whole system is rigged,” says Husain Haqqani, former adviser to slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

A rigged election could send angry voters into the streets, undermine U.S. hopes for Pakistan’s transition to full-fledged democracy and destabilize a nuclear-armed country struggling to contain Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

“The stakes are very high,” says Sheila Fruman of the National Democratic Institute, a non-partisan, U.S. government-funded group that promotes democracy.

The latest reason for suspicion: The Election Commission on Wednesday postponed next week’s parliamentary elections to Feb. 18, saying ballots and polling stations were burned in the rioting that followed Bhutto’s killing Dec. 27. The new parliament will pick a prime minister to run the government with Musharraf.

Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, expecting a wave of sympathy votes, suspects the delay is designed to give Musharraf’s ruling party time to stage a comeback. “The Election Commission has shown its subservience to Pervez Musharraf,” says Latif Khosa, a Peoples Party senator who compiled a 143-page report alleging government efforts to rig the elections.

Musharraf, the former army chief who seized power in a coup in 1999, went on national television Wednesday to reassure the Pakistani public that the delay was “inevitable” given the damage to the country’s electoral machinery.

“The next election will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful,” he said.

Musharraf also announced that Scotland Yard will help investigate Bhutto’s assassination, reversing his initial rejection of foreign help after he came under pressure to allow a U.N. probe.

But doubts have been piling up about:

•The Election Commission. Khosa’s report says the electoral watchdog — whose two commissioners signed an oath of loyalty to the Musharraf government — has ignored hundreds of complaints and pleas for changes. For instance, the report says, the commission did nothing to reinstate millions of voters stricken from the rolls until ordered to do so by the Pakistani Supreme Court.

The commission has refused to publish a list of polling stations — a step necessary to prevent the “ghost” polling stations that mysteriously produce unexpected votes, Fruman says. The commission outraged the opposition last month by banning former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, from running for office.

“The government was very keen to keep the Sharif brothers out of this election,” says Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.

•The courts. Musharraf purged independent judges when he declared a state of emergency Nov. 3. He didn’t reinstate them after ending emergency rule Dec. 15. That raises questions, Fruman says, because the courts “are the final appeal body for election complaints.”

•The caretaker government. The sitting government resigned in mid-November to give way to a government that is supposed to be neutral during the campaign. Khosa’s report found that several caretaker ministers had a conflict of interest: They — or their relatives — were running in the upcoming election.

•The media. During the six-week state of emergency, Musharraf ordered independent TV stations off the air. He let them broadcast only if they agreed not to air live campaign events, interview candidates on talk shows or criticize state institutions such as the army. “The press is in chains,” says human rights activist Hina Jilani.

•Local governments. Most of the complaints the Election Commission receive involve the meddling of local government officials, known as nazims, in the campaign. Elections in 2005 empowered nazims loyal to Musharraf and the ruling party. Two years ago, the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think tank, reported that Musharraf’s government “rigged local elections … to dominate forthcoming parliamentary elections.”

The nazims are “campaigning for their near and dear ones with all the paraphernalia at their disposal — police, vehicles, development projects,” Khosa says.

In this dusty town 35 miles southeast of the capital Islamabad, the son of a powerful nazim is running as the ruling party’s candidate against a Peoples Party incumbent. “The nazim is throwing up electricity poles and saying there will be power after the election,” complains Yamin Qureshi, campaign manager for the Peoples Party candidate. “People say, ‘We don’t have water. We don’t have roads.’ He says, ‘Done.’ ”

Last week, workers started widening the main thoroughfare and covering an ugly drainage ditch along the curb in what Qureshi sees as a campaign ploy.

“Of course, they’re lying,” counters Ishiaq Chaudhry, a ruling party supporter and friend of the nazim. The projects have nothing to with the election, he says; they were approved months earlier.

Fruman says the Election Commission could use the six-week reprieve to respond to complaints “to build confidence and show they are impartial,” she says. “This is their last chance.”

For related articles on the Bhutto assassination click here

Jobless youths put to work sterilizing malicious monkeys


Monkeys roam freely through New Delhi streets

AFP | Jan 4, 2008

NEW DELHI (AFP) — A northern Indian state says it will train unemployed youths to sterilise monkeys in a drive to check the population of simians blamed for large-scale crop destruction.

The youth will be trained to capture and sterilise thousands of monkeys in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, its government said in a statement.

The sterilisation drive would take place on a “war footing” to provide relief to farmers, some of whom have abandoned their land after the animals destroyed crops, the government said.

Last year, thousands of farmers gathered outside the state legislature demanding action.

There are more than 300,000 monkeys in the state, according to government figures. Rampaging monkeys have sparked concern in other Indian states too.

In October, the deputy mayor of Indian capital New Delhi died after falling from a balcony as he tried to chase monkeys away.

Wildlife experts say monkeys come into conflict with humans when their natural habitat in forests is destroyed.

India’s Hindus revere the animals as an incarnation of monkey god Hanuman.