Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Notes From All Over

Chinese Fingerprints Found in Google Attacks

An American computer security researcher has found what he says he believes is strong evidence of the digital fingerprints of Chinese authors in the software programs used in attacks against Google. The search engine giant announced last Tuesday that it had experienced a series of Internet break-ins it believed were of Chinese origin.

The company's executives did not, however, detail the evidence leading them to the conclusion that the Chinese government was behind the attacks, beyond stating that e-mail accounts of several Chinese human rights activists had been compromised. In the week since the announcement, several computer security companies have made claims supporting Google's suspicions, but the evidence has remained circumstantial.

Now, by analyzing the software used in the break-ins against Google and dozens of other companies, Joe Stewart, a malware specialist with SecureWorks, a computer security company based in Atlanta, said he determined the main program used in the attack contained a module based on an unusual algorithm from a Chinese technical paper that has been published exclusively on Chinese-language Web sites. The malware at the heart of Google attack is described by researchers as a "Trojan horse" that is intended to open a back door to a computer on the Internet. The program, called Hydraq by the computer security research community and intended to subvert computers that run different versions of the Windows operating system, was first noticed earlier this year.

Mr. Stewart describes himself as a "reverse engineer," one of a relatively small group of software engineers who disassemble malware codes in an effort to better understand the nature of the attacks that have been introduced by the computer underground, and now possibly by governments as well. "If you look at the code in a debugger you see patterns that jump out at you," he said. In this case he discovered software code that represented an unusual algorithm, or formula, intended for error-checking transmitted data.

He acknowledged that he could not completely rule out the possibility that the clue had been placed in the program intentionally by programmers from another government intent on framing the Chinese, but he said that was unlikely. "Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest explanation is probably the best one."

Ohio County Pays Man $1,500 For Bat Bite

An Ohio county has agreed to pay $1,500 to a man who was bitten by a rabid bat and turned to a little-known state law that allows for compensation. Commissioners in Delaware County, north of Columbus, voted Thursday to provide 61-year-old David Froehlich with the maximum reimbursement under the law, even though he put in his request for the money two days late.

The law allows a person hurt by a rabid animal to seek a county's help with the medical bills. But the request must be made within four months of the bite, and Froehlich just missed the window. A prosecutor who reviewed Froehlich's claim said he was surprised to learn of the law.

Froehlich's wife said her husband was bitten Aug. 22 and that insurance didn't cover the $5,000 hospital bill.

From: The Columbus Dispatch,

Man Cited For 'Rocking Out' To John Denver

Police responding to a complaint of loud noise have cited a Fond du Lac man for "rocking out" to the music of John Denver.

A police who responded to the man's apartment last week could hear Denver's music through the door. The officer pounded on the door but the man didn't answer. Finally the officer found out the man's name from a neighbor and called to him, bringing the man to the door.

When asked why he had the music so loud, the man said he was "rocking out." The Reporter newspaper in Fond du Lac reported that the 42-year-old was cited for unnecessary loud noise. The ticket could result in a fine of about $210.

The late Denver is known for such hits as "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

From: The Reporter,

Blooming 'Corpse Flower' Stinks Up Museum

A 7-foot tall flower is stinking up the Milwaukee Public Museum, and the plant attracted a crowd despite its scent.

Commonly known as a carrion flower or a "corpse flower," the plant started blooming at the museum over the weekend. The corpse flower has a smell that has been compared to baby diapers or rotting flesh, reported Milwaukee news station WISN.

Botanists said the corpse flower emits the smell of rotting meat to attract insects in the jungles of Sumatra. The deep-red flower also takes on the look of a piece of meat. While blooming, the flower warms up to complete -- in a bug's eye -- the illusion of a carcass.

The smell won't last long; botanists say the large leaf-like flower will soon drop form the plant and it will return to a dormant state for about four months.

Bernanke Asks GAO To Review Fed Role In AIG Rescue

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke took the unusual step today of asking Congress' investigative arm to conduct a "full review" of the Fed's role in bailing out insurance giant American International Group.

The Fed chief's move is aimed at defusing criticism of the government's $182 billion rescue. The bailout sparked public outrage and demands in Congress for more information, especially after it was revealed that millions in bonuses would go to employees in the AIG division most responsible for the company's need for a bailout.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has a probe under way that seeks to provide a fuller picture of the AIG bailout. Those lawmakers are especially interested in details involving billions in payments AIG made to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms that did business with the insurer. Some lawmakers want to know why those firms were fully paid and why concessions weren't demanded.

Walmart Slapper Found Guilty

A Gwinnett County judge found a 61-year-old man guilty Tuesday of slapping a toddler he didn't know in a Stone Mountain Walmart. The judge found Roger Stephens, 61, guilty of child cruelty in the second degree.

The judge sentenced Stephens to five years -- with six months of the sentence served in jail and another six months under electronic monitoring. Since Stephens has already been in jail for five months, he will be out of jail in one month.

The rest of his sentence will be probation and will include mental health evaluations and treatment. He also will not be allowed to have unsupervised visits with children under 12. Stephens no longer contested the charges of child cruelty which stemmed from an incident at a Stone Mountain Walmart in August.

Police said Stephens slapped a stranger's 2-year-old who was crying inside the store. According to witnesses, Stephens slapped the girl four or five times with an open hand after telling her mother, "If you don't shut her up, I will."

The child's parents were in the courtroom Tuesday and asked a judge for a stiff sentence for Stephens. The parents had asked for at least one year in prison. Stephens' attorney had asked for 6 months of probation. Stephens has been incarcerated since August.

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