When the piece of malware given the name “Flame” was found last month, initial analysis indicated that it did not share code with Stuxnet and Duqu, two previously discovered programs also directed at Iran and other nations in the Middle East. However, researchers at the Kaspersky Lab have found that a chunk of early Stuxnet code called “resource 207” is also found in Flame, which indicates a connection between the authors of both programs.
An early version of Stuxnet from 2009 included the resource 207 module, which helped spread the virus to new machines via USB drives by exploiting a then-unknown security flaw in the Microsoft Windows operating system. The later incarnation of Stuxnet could accomplish the same task with different sections of code, and resource 207 was discarded. But when Kaspersky Lab researchers began studying an early module of Flame, they found its code bore a strong resemblance to Stuxnet’s resource 207. They believe that Flame was created first (which means it must date back to at least 2009), and its module lent a hand to the early stages of Stuxnet until the younger malware had been developed enough to stand on its own.
How does the Internet work? The question is much easier to mock than to answer, but this video from the World Science Festival manages to beautifully illustrate one of the essentials of Internet communication, explaining how information stored on a server in Los Angeles travels in packets to a computer screen in England.
[via Boing Boing]
If you’ve ever wondered where all the parts in your laptop came from, take a second to look at this map—or maybe a few minutes, because it is a dense, complicated web. Sourcemap, which has its origins in MIT Media Lab, is a new open source website for mapping global supply chains and carbon footprints. There are also Sourcemaps for Chicken of the Sea’s tuna and Nutella among others.
Although the site seems to have been conceived as a way of keeping track of modern corporations, some of the most intriguing maps are historical ones. Take this supply chain for Western Electric’s candlestick telephones from 1927 or this overview of international trade in 19th century London. The beauty of open source projects is that they can go off in unexpected and delightful directions.
At the pace of 30 videos a day, Next Media Animation is churning out “All the news that’s fit to animate.” The Taiwanese media company is (in)famous for hilarious and hilariously inappropriate news videos reenacting Tiger Woods’ car crash and TSA’s new full body scanners. It’s the day after the Super Bowl and their video featuring Eli Manning, God, and a “geriatric Lady Gaga Impersonator” (aka Madonna) has already been up for hours. How does it happen so fast? The answer is a huge team of animators but also one particular programming whiz. Eliza Strickland at IEEE Spectrum has a profile of Kevin Wang, the guy who makes it all possible:
Screenshot of Civilization IV, a later version
of the game that MIT’s computer played.
What’s the News: Many video gamers scoff at the idea of actually reading the instruction manual for a game. But a manual can not only teach you how to play a game, it can also give you the basics of language—that is, if you’re a machine-learning computer. Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have now designed a computer system that can learn the meaning of certain words by playing complex games like Civilization II and comparing on-screen information to the game’s instruction manual.
What’s the News: To much fanfare, Google has released a preview version of Google+, their long-anticipated move into the social-networking space dominated in the U.S. by Facebook, whose meteoric growth challenges Google’s dominance over the Web itself. The new service lets users send messages and pictures to each other, like Facebook, but puts more emphasis on grouping and communicating with different groups of people, as with email or in meatspace (i.e., the real world).
The two consensus early reactions (from the small group of people who have access) are that the service is mostly smooth and functional, a welcome change after Google’s social flops Buzz and Wave; and that it sure looks a heck of a lot like Facebook. Will that be enough to challenge Facebook, whose enormous base of users have uploaded much of their lives to one social network and may not want to invest time in another?
Diagram of the new DNA circuit
What’s the News: Researchers have built the most complex DNA-based computer yet, a circuit of 130 strands of DNA that can compute the square root of numbers up to 15. The system, reported today in Science, is made of biological logic gates, which do computations using DNA strands’ natural propensity to zip and unzip. This new method is easily adapted for different calculations and can be automated, meaning it could be used to build much larger circuits.
What’s the News: The foundation of modern electronics, silicon transistors are miniature on/off switches that regulate electric current. This week, Intel demonstrated a new transistor design that’s being hailed by Intel as one of the most radical developments in transistors since the advent of integrated circuits of the 1950s. By adding tiny, vertical fins to normally flat transistors, Intel’s new Tri-Gate transistor allows for faster, smaller, and lower-voltage computer chips. “We’ve been talking about these 3-D circuits for more than 10 years, but no one has had the confidence to move them into manufacturing,” chip-manufacturing specialist Dan Hutcheson told The Wall Street Journal. Read More
With Luis von Ahn’s reCAPTCHA, users help
correct distorted words in digitized books.
What’s the News: Nothing…yet! But word is that Luis von Ahn–the Carnegie Mellon professor behind the clever projects reCAPTCHA and ESP Game–is bringing his crowdsourcing know-how to bear on the problem of web translation. With Duolingo, a project his lab has been working on for the last year and a half, people learning new languages will serve as translators. How well will that work? It remains to be seen, but according to von Ahn, a private beta version should be launching in several weeks.
What’s the News: Just as the real-world economy is crawling out of a recession, the virtual economy based around online games like World of Warcraft is booming to the tune of $3 billion per year. This money is actually making a measurable economic impact in developing countries, providing up to 100,000 jobs in China and Vietnam. According to Tim Kelly, the Lead ICT Policy Specialist of infoDev, a technology development finance program of the World Bank and IFC, “This could significantly boost local economies and support further development of digital infrastructure in regions such as Africa and southeast Asia.”