2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
2021-01-22 11:58:33 UTC
2021-01-23 15:23:12 UTC --martyb
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Microsoft on Wednesday released another report detailing the activities and the methods of the threat actor behind the attack on IT management solutions firm SolarWinds, including their malware delivery methods, anti-forensic behavior, and operational security (OPSEC).
The attackers, which some believe to be sponsored by Russia, breached SolarWinds' systems in 2019 and used a piece of malware named Sundrop to insert a backdoor tracked as Sunburst into the company's Orion product. Sunburst was delivered to thousands of organizations, but a few hundred victims that presented an interest to the attackers received several other pieces of malware and many of their systems were compromised using hands-on-keyboard techniques.
In the case of these victims, the hackers used loaders named Teardrop and Raindrop to deliver Cobalt Strike payloads.
In its latest report on the SolarWinds attack, which it tracks as Solorigate, Microsoft explains how the attackers got from the Sunburst malware to the Cobalt Strike loaders, and how they kept the components separated as much as possible to avoid being detected.
"What we found from our hunting exercise across Microsoft 365 Defender data further confirms the high level of skill of the attackers and the painstaking planning of every detail to avoid discovery," Microsoft said.
[...] While many of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) leveraged by the attackers are already documented in the MITRE ATT&CK framework, Microsoft says it's working with MITRE to ensure that the new techniques observed in these attacks will also be added to the framework.
A stolen database containing the email addresses, names, and passwords of more than 77 million records of Nitro PDF service users was leaked [on January 20, 2021].
[...] The 14GB leaked database contains 77,159,696 records with users' email addresses, full names, bcrypt hashed passwords, titles, company names, IP addresses, and other system-related information.
The database has also been added to the Have I Been Pwned service which allows users to check if their info has also been compromised in this data breach and leaked on the Internet.
Nitro is an application that helps create, edit, and sign PDFs and digital documents, an app that Nitro Software claims to have over 10,000 business customers and roughly 1.8 million licensed users.
Nitro also provides a cloud service that customers can use to share documents with coworkers or any other organizations involved in the document creation process.
The massive Nitro PDF data breach BleepingComputer first reported last year also impacts many well-known organizations, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Chase, and Citibank.
[...] As malicious actors can use the leaked user details to launch more credible phishing attacks or for credential stuffing, affected Nitro PDF users are strongly advised to change their passwords to a strong, unique password.
Wikipedia info on Nitro PDF.
Two scientists from CNRS and Sorbonne University working at the Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation (Paris Observatory - PSL/CNRS) have just shown that the influence of Saturn's satellites can explain the tilt of the rotation axis of the gas giant. Their work, published on 18 January 2021 in the journal Nature Astronomy, also predicts that the tilt will increase even further over the next few billion years.
Rather like David versus Goliath, it appears that Saturn’s tilt may in fact be caused by its moons. This is the conclusion of recent work carried out by scientists from the CNRS, Sorbonne University and the University of Pisa, which shows that the current tilt of Saturn’s rotation axis is caused by the migration of its satellites, and especially by that of its largest moon, Titan.
Recent observations have shown that Titan and the other moons are gradually moving away from Saturn much faster than astronomers had previously estimated. By incorporating this increased migration rate into their calculations, the researchers concluded that this process affects the inclination of Saturn’s rotation axis: as its satellites move further away, the planet tilts more and more.
[...] The research team had already reached similar conclusions about the planet Jupiter, which is expected to undergo comparable tilting due to the migration of its four main moons and to resonance with the orbit of Uranus: over the next five billion years, the inclination of Jupiter’s axis could increase from 3° to more than 30°.
1.) Melaine Saillenfest, Giacomo Lari, Gwenaël Boué. The large obliquity of Saturn explained by the fast migration of Titan, Nature Astronomy (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01284-x)
2.) Melaine Saillenfest, Giacomo Lari, Ariane Courtot. The future large obliquity of Jupiter [open], Astronomy & Astrophysics (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202038432)
Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth's ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization (Ceballos et al., 2015; IPBES, 2019; Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020; WWF, 2020). While suggested solutions abound (Díaz et al., 2019), the current scale of their implementation does not match the relentless progression of biodiversity loss (Cumming et al., 2006) and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise (Rees, 2020). Time delays between ecological deterioration and socio-economic penalties, as with climate disruption for example (IPCC, 2014), impede recognition of the magnitude of the challenge and timely counteraction needed. In addition, disciplinary specialization and insularity encourage unfamiliarity with the complex adaptive systems (Levin, 1999) in which problems and their potential solutions are embedded (Selby, 2006; Brand and Karvonen, 2007). Widespread ignorance of human behavior (Van Bavel et al., 2020) and the incremental nature of socio-political processes that plan and implement solutions further delay effective action (Shanley and López, 2009; King, 2016).
We summarize the state of the natural world in stark form here to help clarify the gravity of the human predicament. We also outline likely future trends in biodiversity decline (Díaz et al., 2019), climate disruption (Ripple et al., 2020), and human consumption and population growth to demonstrate the near certainty that these problems will worsen over the coming decades, with negative impacts for centuries to come. Finally, we discuss the ineffectiveness of current and planned actions that are attempting to address the ominous erosion of Earth's life-support system. Ours is not a call to surrender—we aim to provide leaders with a realistic "cold shower" of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future.
Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Paul R. Ehrlich, Andrew Beattie. et al. Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future, Frontiers in Conservation Science [OPEN] (DOI: 10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419)
[2021-01-23 14:37:05 UTC: UPDATE]
Although SpaceX pressed ahead with fueling of the Falcon 9 booster on Saturday morning, the company scrubbed the launch attempt of the Transporter-1 mission a few minutes before the window opened due to weather. Conditions at Cape Canaveral violated the electrical field rule for a safe launch. The company now plans to try to launch again on Sunday morning, with the launch window opening at 10am ET (15:00 UTC).
As early as Saturday morning, SpaceX will launch the first dedicated mission of a rideshare program it announced in late 2019. As part of this plan, the company sought to bundle dozens of small satellites together for regular launches on its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
[...] SpaceX said it will launch 133 commercial and government spacecraft, as well as 10 of its own Starlink satellites. SpaceX had to obtain permission to deploy these Starlink satellites into a polar orbit.
With this launch of 143 total satellites, SpaceX will surpass the previous record holder for most satellites launched in a single mission, set by an Indian launch vehicle in 2017. In February of that year, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully delivered 104 satellites into a handful of different Sun-synchronous orbits.
[...] "This is the result of SpaceX dramatically cutting the cost of access to launch," Mike Safyan, vice president of launch at Planet, said in June. "It's significant. They cut the price so much we could not believe what we were looking at."
[...] Weather is a moderate concern for Saturday's launch attempt, which is scheduled for 9:40am ET (14:40 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. According to forecasters, there is a 40 percent chance of weather violations due to thick clouds and cumulus clouds. Weather in the recovery area for the booster looks good.
The launch will be live-streamed on YouTube starting approximately 15 minutes before scheduled launch time.
Google is threatening to pull its search engine from an entire country — Australia — if a proposed law goes into effect that would force Google to pay news publishers for their content.
"If this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Google Australia and New Zealand VP Mel Silva told Australia's Senate Economics Legislation Committee today.
"We have had to conclude after looking at the legislation in detail we do not see a way, with the financial and operational risks, that we could continue to offer a service in Australia," she added, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The company, which has been lobbying against Australia's plan for months, claims the country is trying to make it pay to show links and snippets to news stories in Google Search, not just for news articles featured in places like Google News, saying it "would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy" and that it's "not compatible with how search engines work."
Vulnerabilities found in multiple video conferencing mobile applications allowed attackers to listen to users' surroundings without permission before the person on the other end picked up the calls.
The logic bugs were found by Google Project Zero security researcher Natalie Silvanovich in the Signal, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, JioChat, and Mocha messaging apps and are now all fixed.
However, before being patched, they made it possible to force targeted devices to transmit audio to the attackers' devices without the need of gaining code execution.
"I investigated the signalling state machines of seven video conferencing applications and found five vulnerabilities that could allow a caller device to force a callee device to transmit audio or video data," Silvanovich explained.
[...] "The majority of calling state machines I investigated had logic vulnerabilities that allowed audio or video content to be transmitted from the callee to the caller without the callee’s consent," Silvanovich added.
Google parent company Alphabet said Thursday that it's shutting down Loon, a project aimed at beaming down internet connectivity from balloons floating in the stratosphere.
The project was born out of X, Alphabet's self-described moonshot factory for experimental projects, which has also developed the company's driverless car and delivery drone services. Alphabet, however, deemed Loon's business model unsustainable and said it couldn't get costs low enough to continue operation.
"The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped," Astro Teller, who leads X, said in a blog post. "So we've made the difficult decision to close down Loon."
Loon, which debuted in 2013, was spun out of the X division three years ago. The project was meant to serve rural parts of the world that don't have robust broadband infrastructure, serving as flying cellular towers.
Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, the year's globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record.
"The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend," said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. "Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken."
[...] A separate, independent analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2020 was the second-warmest year in their record, behind 2016. NOAA scientists use much of the same raw temperature data in their analysis, but have a different baseline period (1901-2000) and methodology. Unlike NASA, NOAA also does not infer temperatures in polar regions lacking observations, which accounts for much of the difference between NASA and NOAA records.
Like all scientific data, these temperature findings contain a small amount of uncertainty – in this case, mainly due to changes in weather station locations and temperature measurement methods over time. The GISS temperature analysis (GISTEMP) is accurate to within 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit with a 95 percent confidence level for the most recent period.
[...] In the long term, parts of the globe are also warming faster than others. Earth's warming trends are most pronounced in the Arctic, which the GISTEMP analysis shows is warming more than three times as fast as the rest of the globe over the past 30 years, according to Schmidt. The loss of Arctic sea ice – whose annual minimum area is declining by about 13 percent per decade – makes the region less reflective, meaning more sunlight is absorbed by the oceans and temperatures rise further still. This phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, is driving further sea ice loss, ice sheet melt and sea level rise, more intense Arctic fire seasons, and permafrost melt.
[...] NASA's full surface temperature data set – and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation – are available at:
The report acknowledged the effects of the fires in Australia and of the ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation).
The idea of creating meat by cultivating animal cells rather than from the animal itself is an attractive proposition. Regarded as having a lower environmental impact than raising livestock, cultivated or lab-grown meat also avoids the ethical concerns that many people have about eating meat.
However, cultivating meat isn't like growing mushrooms. Meat is essentially muscle organs, which are a complex assembly of various tissues that have been exercised through the animal's lifetime to produce the right texture, consistency, and taste. In addition, it's not just a matter of what cells are present in the meat, but the ratio and distribution as well. This is why anyone who has eaten a well-marbled beef steak with a high fat content and then a very lean bison steak will certainly be able to tell the difference.
While some food engineers have been able to create cultured meat that resembles minced beef, minute steaks, and chicken nuggets, a greater level of control is needed to give cultured meat the full taste and feel of conventional meat. To put it another way, there needs to be much more control over producing the meat to required specifications.
[...] The method is derived from one that was originally developed to grow tissues for human transplants and involves producing sheets of cells in a nutrient medium, which are then concentrated in paper-thin layers on growth plates. These sheets are then peeled off and stacked or folded together, bonding to one another before the cells die.
As a result, the sheets can not only be stacked up as much as desired to create slabs of meat, but the percentage of fat and degree of marbling can be made to order in much the same way as the fat content of milk is controlled. In addition, the sheets can be cultivated in days and assembled in hours.
Alireza Shahin-Shamsabadi, P. Ravi Selvaganapathy. Engineering Murine Adipocytes and Skeletal Muscle Cells in Meat-like Constructs Using Self-Assembled Layer-by-Layer Biofabrication: A Platform for Development of Cultivated Meat, Cells Tissues Organs (DOI: 10.1159/000511764)
It takes a lot to make a wooden table. Grow a tree, cut it down, transport it, mill it ... you get the point. It's a decades-long process. Luis Fernando Velásquez-García suggests a simpler solution: "If you want a table, then you should just grow a table."
[...] [Lead author and PhD in mechanical engineering student] Beckwith says she's always been fascinated by plants, and inspiration for this project struck when she recently spent time on a farm. She observed a number of inefficiencies inherent to agriculture — some can be managed, like fertilizer draining off fields, while others are completely out of the farmer's control, like weather and seasonality. Plus, only a fraction of the harvested plant is actually used for food or materials production.
"That got me thinking: Can we be more strategic about what we're getting out of our process? Can we get more yield for our inputs?" Beckwith says. "I wanted to find a more efficient way to use land and resources so that we could let more arable areas remain wild, or to remain lower production but allow for greater biodiversity." So, she brought plant production into the lab.
The researchers grew wood-like plant tissue indoors, without soil or sunlight. They started with a zinnia plant, extracting live cells from its leaves. The team cultured the cells in a liquid growth medium, allowing them to metabolize and proliferate. Next, they transferred the cells into a gel and "tuned" them, explains Velásquez-García. "Plant cells are similar to stem cells in the sense that they can become anything if they are induced to."
The researchers coaxed the cells to grow a rigid, wood-like structure using a mix of two plant hormones called auxin and cytokinin. By varying the levels of these hormones in the gel, they controlled the cells' production of lignin, an organic polymer that lends wood its firmness.
Ashley L. Beckwith, Jeffrey T. Borenstein, Luis F. Velásquez-García. Tunable plant-based materials via in vitro cell culture using a Zinnia elegans model [open], Journal of Cleaner Production (DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.125571)
While children are less susceptible to illness with the new coronavirus, they are nearly 60% more likely than adults over 60 to infect other family members when they are sick, a new study shows.
The findings show the need to conduct COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy studies in children, according to co-senior study author Yang Yang, an associate professor of biostatistics and member of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.
"We also need to take into account the potential high infectivity of children when we plan school reopenings and what prevention measures we need to take during active school sessions," Yang said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 27,000 households in Wuhan, China, that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Dec. 2, 2019, and April 18, 2020, a peak period of COVID-19 disease transmission in the city that was the first epicenter of the pandemic.
[...] The higher infectivity of children in this study may be due to close contact with parents and other relatives caring for them, according to the authors of the study.
[...] The study also found that infants younger than 1 were significantly more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than children between the ages of 2 and 5. This may be due to a combination of their still-developing immune systems and their close contact with adults.
"It's unlikely there will be a vaccine for infants against COVID-19 in the near future, so we need to protect their caregivers," said study co-author Ira Longini.
[...] The findings were published this week in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
No-brainer: kids... spread ALL communicable diseases!
Fang Li, Yuan-Yuan Li. Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and risk factors for susceptibility and infectivity in Wuhan: a retrospective observational study, The Lancet Infectious Diseases (DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30981-6)
The remains of the unnamed dinosaur were first discovered in 2012 in Neuquén Province of northwest Patagonia, but have still not been fully excavated.
[...] "Given the measurements of the new skeleton, it looks likely that this is a contender for one of the largest, if not the largest, sauropods that have ever been found," Paul Barrett, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the study, told Live Science.
[...] "The place of the finding is very hard to access, so the logistics is pretty complicated," lead study author Alejandro Otero, a paleontologist at La Plata Museum in Argentina, told Live Science. "But we expect to return there after the pandemic situation."
The remains themselves date to about 98 million years ago, meaning the creature lived during the Cretaceous period.
[...] Right now, the researchers can't say how large the new titanosaur was, given that the long limb bones used to make such estimates, such as the humerus and femur, have not yet been excavated. However, analyses of the bones that have been found — including 24 vertebrae of the tail and parts of the pelvic and pectoral girdle — show that it was most likely the largest of the titanosaurs.
[...] "It is a huge dinosaur, but we expect to find much more of the skeleton in future field trips, so we'll have the possibility to address with confidence how big it really was," Otero said.
Alejandro Otero, José L. Carballido, Leonardo Salgado et al. Report of a giant titanosaur sauropod from the Upper Cretaceous of Neuquén Province, Argentina, Cretaceous Research (DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2021.104754)
The core mass of the giant exoplanet WASP-107b is much lower than what was thought necessary to build up the immense gas envelope surrounding giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn, astronomers at Université de Montréal have found.
This intriguing discovery by Ph.D. student Caroline Piaulet of UdeM's Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) suggests that gas-giant planets form a lot more easily than previously believed.
Piaulet is part of the groundbreaking research team of UdeM astrophysics professor Björn Benneke that in 2019 announced the first detection of water on an exoplanet located in its star's habitable zone.
Published today in the Astronomical Journal with colleagues in Canada, the U.S., Germany and Japan, the new analysis of WASP-107b's internal structure "has big implications," said Benneke.
"This work addresses the very foundations of how giant planets can form and grow," he said. "It provides concrete proof that massive accretion of a gas envelope can be triggered for cores that are much less massive than previously thought."
WASP-107b was first detected in 2017 around WASP-107, a star about 212 light years from Earth in the Virgo constellation. The planet is very close to its star -- over 16 times closer than the Earth is to the Sun. As big as Jupiter but 10 times lighter, WASP-107b is one of the least dense exoplanets known: a type that astrophysicists have dubbed "super-puff" or "cotton-candy" planets.
[...] "Exoplanets like WASP-107b that have no analogue in our Solar System allow us to better understand the mechanisms of planet formation in general and the resulting variety of exoplanets," [Piaulet] said. "It motivates us to study them in great detail."
Caroline Piaulet, Björn Benneke, et al. WASP-107b's Density Is Even Lower: A Case Study for the Physics of Planetary Gas Envelope Accretion and Orbital Migration - IOPscience, The Astronomical Journal (DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/abcd3c)
A breakthrough study from a team of neurologists at Stanford University claims to have discovered one way immune cells become dysfunctional as we age, leading to the inflammatory hyperdrive that plays a role in most age-related disease from cancer to cognitive decline. Preliminary study suggests this immune dysfunction can be reversed, pointing to compelling future anti-aging therapies.
[...] The specific focus of the new study, published in the journal Nature, was a hormone called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Levels of this particular hormone have previously been found to rise with aging. PGE2 is also known to promote inflammatory activity in immune cells.
[...] Katrin Andreasson, senior author on the new study, calls this age-induced inflammatory mechanism, "a double-whammy – a positive feedback loop."
[...] "Our study suggests that cognitive aging is not a static or irrevocable condition but can be reversed by reprogramming myeloid glucose metabolism to restore youthful immune functions," the researchers conclude in the new study.
Also at: Stanford.edu
Paras S. Minhas, Amira Latif-Hernandez, Melanie R. McReynolds, et al. Restoring metabolism of myeloid cells reverses cognitive decline in ageing, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03160-0)
The Raspberry Pi Foundation's first microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi Pico is now on sale at $4. Raspberry Pi is normally associated with single board microcomputers. This microcontroller uses the RP2040 dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ chip. The board has support for C, C++, and microPython.
We had three principal design goals for RP2040: high performance, particularly for integer workloads; flexible I/O, to allow us to talk to almost any external device; and of course, low cost, to eliminate barriers to entry. We ended up with an incredibly powerful little chip, cramming all this into a 7 × 7 mm QFN-56 package containing just two square millimetres of 40 nm silicon. RP2040 has:
- Dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ @ 133MHz
- 264KB (remember kilobytes?[*]) of on-chip RAM
- Support for up to 16MB of off-chip Flash memory via dedicated QSPI bus
- DMA controller
- Interpolator and integer divider peripherals
- 30 GPIO pins, 4 of which can be used as analogue inputs
- 2 × UARTs, 2 × SPI controllers, and 2 × I2C controllers
- 16 × PWM channels
- 1 × USB 1.1 controller and PHY, with host and device support
- 8 × Raspberry Pi Programmable I/O (PIO) state machines
- USB mass-storage boot mode with UF2 support, for drag-and-drop programming
And this isn't just a powerful chip: it's designed to help you bring every last drop of that power to bear. With six independent banks of RAM, and a fully connected switch at the heart of its bus fabric, you can easily arrange for the cores and DMA engines to run in parallel without contention.
[*] By comparison, the Apple II computer (introduced in June 1977) had: 4-48 KiB of RAM, a 6502 processor (running at 1 MHz), and an Introductory price of US$1,298 (equivalent to $5,476 in 2019).