Social networking or leaked secrets? TIME has made its choice, naming baby-faced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg its 2010 person of the year rather than WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In gracing the cover of the venerable weekly news magazine, he joins a list that includes such historical figures as Joseph Stalin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He is one of the youngest recipients of the award. Charles Lindbergh, in 1927, was the youngest person ever to receive the recognition; he was 25. [Portfolio]
Given Facebook’s growing ubiquity in our lives, Zuckerberg could have been chosen any of the last several years. (Comedian John Hodgman needled TIME on Twitter to this effect, writing “Time Magazine just named its Person of The Year 2007.”) But in 2010 Zuckerberg couldn’t escape the zeitgeist, whether making news for fiddling with his social network’s privacy settings—again—or being the subject of an uncomfortable portrayal in the hit film The Social Network.
Runners-up for “Person of the Year” were the Tea Party movement, an upstart political group; Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan; Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, a website that publishes classified documents; and the Chilean miners, a group of 33 men who were trapped in a mine for more than two months. [BusinessWeek]
Today WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, wanted in connection with sex-related charges in Sweden, turned himself in to the police in London. And while Assange’s personal troubles escalate, so does the online war over WikiLeaks.
Last week came the cyber attack against WikiLeaks.org, which hacker “Jester” claimed to have organized.
On his blog, Jester describes himself as a”hacktivist for good” and someone who is “obstructing the lines of communication for terrorists, sympathizers, fixers, facilitators, oppressive regimes and other general bad guys.” [Los Angeles Times]
That disrupted the site’s operation and left WikiLeaks scrambling. But this week the tide of hacking has turned: Hackers operating under the names Operation Payback or Anonymous are targeting sites that have withdrawn support from WikiLeaks during the current controversy.
Noa Bar Yossef, senior security strategist for Imperva, commented via e-mail to say, “Operation Payback’s goal is not hacking for profit. In the classical external hacker case we see hackers grab information from wherever they can and monetize on it. In this case though, the hackers’ goal is to cripple a service, disrupt services, protest their cause and cause humiliation. In fact, what we see here is a very focused attack – knocking the servers offline due to so-called ‘hacker injustice’.” [PC World]
While a certain bacterium that can thrive in arsenic has dominated the science press this week, the big story in the world at large is on the ongoing WikiLeaks saga. The release of an enormous trove of confidential documents from the U.S. State Department has provoked plenty of fall-out: there’s governmental embarrassment and anger, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now wanted in Sweden on alleged sex crimes. But we’re most interested in how the never-ending story touches several science and tech stories, some of which have unraveled here on 80beats.
Get That DNA
One embarrassing revelation of the leaked diplomatic cables was that American diplomats were supposed to be part spy; they were asked to try to gather genetic material from foreign governmental officials. Once the cables leaked, the State Department couldn’t exactly deny that this happened, but it now says that these suggestions came from intelligence agencies. And relax—the requests were voluntary.
A senior department official said the requests for DNA, iris scans and other biometric data on foreign government and U.N. diplomats came from American “intelligence community managers.” The official said American diplomats were free to ignore the requests and that virtually all do. [Washington Post]
China Source of Google Hack
Early in 2010 we reported on the large cyber-attack against Google. Though rumors swirled, the Chinese government denied its involvement; the country and the search engine giant went through months of tension before arriving at a truce in the summer. According to WikiLeaks, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were directly connected to the hack.
China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. [The New York Times]
Between murders and leaked documents, there’s disarray and intrigue all around Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.
Yesterday, two prominent nuclear scientists in Iran were attacked in car bombings.
According to [Iranian new service] Fars, scientists Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi were parking their cars in separate locations near the university campus about 7:45 a.m. local time when they were attacked.Witnesses said each car was approached by a group of men on motorcycles, who attached explosives to the vehicles and detonated them seconds later, the news agency reported. Shahriari was killed instantly. Abbasi was wounded. Both men were with their wives, who were also wounded. [Washington Post]
Unsurprisingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly pointed the finger of blame at the West and Israel. Both of the targeted scientists are reportedly connected to the Iranian nuclear program, which the government maintains is for the purpose of energy, but the United States and other nations oppose out of fear of an Iranian bomb.
Abbasi-Davani, whose handful of publications on neutron physics are mainly in Iranian journals, is a key figure in Iran’s nuclear programme. He is reported to be a scientist at the country’s defence ministry, and a member of Iran’s revolutionary guards since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He was also named as being among “Persons involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities” in the 2007 UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which imposed sanctions on Iran over its refusal to stop enrichment of uranium. [Nature]