Chinese Hackers Shift Attentions to Iraq

A Chinese hacking group thought to be allied with the Chinese government and that so far has targeted the US, has become increasingly focused on Iraq as tensions in the Middle East have risen, according to security firm CrowdStrike. The firm stated that the Deep Panda hacking group, which has collected information related to the US’s Southeast Asia policies, is now focused on the US’s Iraq and Middle East policy. China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report. CrowdStrike says Deep Panda is among the most sophisticated and difficult-to-penetrate hacking groups that it tracks. The security firm says Deep Panda has targeted the high-tech and financial services industries, think tanks, and government agencies since 2009, breaching email systems, directories, and files of victims. (Reuters)(Dark Reading)(CrowdStrike Blog)

YouTube Grades ISPs on their Video Services

Google’s YouTube now offers consumers the ability to see a grade for their ISP’s video-playback quality. A link that YouTube provides on its pages when a video experiences delays, asks, “Experiencing interruptions? Find out why.” Clicking on “find out why” takes users to the Google webpage at www.google.com/get/videoqualityreport, which displays a video-playback quality report card for their ISPs. Netflix recently offered similar messages when its video playback on Verizon systems slowed, saying “The Verizon network is crowded right now.” Verizon threatened legal action, and Netflix stopped the practice. All this appears to be the latest salvo in the US’s ongoing Net-neutrality debate. Net neutrality calls for ISPs to provide exactly the same level of service to all content, regardless of source, volume, or other factors. ISPs say they should be able to charge more for faster or higher-volume services that place more demand on their networks. Opponents say this would create a multitiered system in which only richer companies that can afford to pay ISPs will be able to offer better service. They say this would hinder competition and reduce the quality of service many people receive. A US judge recently ruled that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could not impose its existing Net neutrality rules because of the ways its policies were written. The FCC is considering new policies that would enable it to enforce some form of Net neutrality. (SlashDot)(Quartz)(re/Code)(Google)

Blue Shield of California Leaks Physician Data

Medical-insurance provider Blue Shield of California accidentally included Social Security numbers belonging to about 18,000 California physicians and other healthcare providers in monthly reports to the state’s Department of Managed Health Care submitted from February through April 2013. Blue Shield didn’t mark the information as confidential, so the state made it available under California’s public-records law. According to the Department of Managed Health Care, it responded to 10 public-records requests by making the reports available to insurance companies, their attorneys, and two members of the media. The agency is asking them to destroy the CDs containing the sensitive data in return for new CDs with the Social Security numbers deleted. The state notified Blue Shield, and they are working together to notify the affected healthcare providers, as well as offering a year of free credit monitoring. The Department of Managed Health Care agency says it is implementing new software and otherwise working to prevent such a problem from occurring again. (SlashDot)(IT World)

Ericsson Demonstrates 5G Wireless Technology

Ericsson has succeeded in demonstrating a prestandardization version of 5G wireless technology operating in the 15-GHz frequency band. The trial used a new radio interface and advanced multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology, which utilizes multiple transmitter and receiver antennas to increase bandwidth. Ericsson is also working on wider-bandwidth radios that can operate at higher frequencies with shorter transmission times and new base stations. The technology is not expected to be commercially available until 2020. However, Ericsson says proving the technology’s performance in a trial test is important for the technology to progress. The company conducted its tests at its lab in Kista, Sweden, witnessed by senior management from Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and South Korea’s SK Telecom, which have also been conducting 5G trials. Industry observers say higher-performance mobile technologies are needed to satisfy demand by customers and by approaches such as machine-to-machine technology. They add that mobile-equipment vendors like Ericsson want to demonstrate 5G’s potential to begin creating a demand. (PhysOrg)(Ericsson)

US Airlines’ Looser Rules Fail to Increase Travelers’ Wireless-Device Use

Although the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) eased its guidelines for device use on airlines, passenger use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops has increased only slightly, according to a recent study. The October 2013 FAA ruling lets passengers use their mobile devices, although not to make calls or send texts, during takeoff and landing. However, a study conducted over four months in 2014 by DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development found that only 35.9 percent of passengers used mobile devices at any point during the flight, compared to 35.3 percent before the FAA lifted the restriction. Chaddick Institute director Joseph Schwieterman said passengers may not be aware of the rule change or may not interested in using their mobile devices inflight but instead may just want to relax or sleep. The study, The Personal Tech Tidal Wave: The Rising Use of Electronic Devices on Intercity Buses, Planes & Trains is on the university’s website at http://bit.ly/transporttech2014. (SlashDot)(Network World)(The Detroit Free Press)(DePaul University)

Researchers Use Computer Models to Study Dark Matter

A team of researchers is using computer simulations to study the hypothetical particle that physicists call dark matter. Dark matter is a hypothesized form of matter particle that doesn’t reflect or emit electromagnetic radiation. Physicists have guessed at its existence based on their observation of gravitational effects on physical matter, such as stars and galaxies. Researchers from the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created detailed computer simulations exploring the density profiles of possible dark-matter voids in more detail than previous studies. The scientists could use the simulations to compare theory and prior simulations with observational data. The researchers published their findings in the journal Physical Review Letters. (American Physical Society)(Physical Review Letters)

NASA Computes Asteroid Paths

Asteroids continue to puzzle scientists, who say they may contain resources, such as water, that astronauts could use while traveling through deep space. They could also be destinations for astronauts. With this in mind, NASA is planning a mission to identify, capture and redirect an asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon in the 2020s, which would let astronauts visit and study it. The agency is studying possible asteroids for the project using its Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study system, which utilizes specialized algorithms to compute trajectories. The project has, after two years, identified more than 1,000 near-Earth asteroids that could be visited by robots or human space missions. Of course, some of these could potentially hit the Earth, so the system includes an automated monitoring system for impact detection. (NASA)(Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study)

New Material Acts as Graphene Substitute

A Korean research team has developed a new carbon-based material without the defects and difficulty associated with making graphene for use in semiconductors and other purposes. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) scientists synthesized carbon nanosheets similar to graphene by coating the substrate with a polymer solution and then heating it, a method shorter and simpler than that used to make graphene. The resulting material has all the characteristics of graphene. The new work, say the researchers, “offers deeper understanding on the growth mechanism of [a] carbon nanosheet and [a] much simpler manufacturing process.” Graphene is pure carbon in a one-atom-thick sheet. It is valued for use in various settings because it is strong for its weight and very efficiently conducts heat and electricity. The KIST scientists—who published their work in published in Nanoscale, a journal of the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry—expect to commercialize their process. (Science Daily)(Korea Institute of Science and Technology)

Researchers Discover Piezoelectric Material

University of Houston, Rice University, and University of Washington scientists have identified a new, ultrathin piezoelectric material that can be used in new ways. These substances—which generate electricity when bent, stretched, or subject to other mechanical forces—are considered important because they can be used in, for example, sensors, energy-harvesting systems, and loudspeakers. The scientists found that putting triangular holes pointing in the same direction in graphene nitride or any semiconducting material, gives them piezoelectric properties that they don’t otherwise have. Unlike other similar materials, the graphene nitride can be stacked in layers without losing its piezoelectric properties. The researchers published their work in the journal Nature Communications. (EurekAlert)(Nature Communications)

Chinese Company Completes 3D Printed Cement Building

A Chinese firm has used 3D printing to print 10 one-room buildings. Yingchuang New Materials made these as offices for a Shanghai industrial park. Yingchuang New Materials used giant 3D printers and recycled construction waste and cement to make the walls for the 650-square-foot buildings, which cost roughly $5,000 each, as offices for a Shanghai industrial park. The structures were assembled on-site. Yingchuang also made its factory and research center via 3D printing. Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering CEO Ma Yihe, who developed the printer used in the project, plans to build 100 recycling facilities across China to supply materials for similar projects. He is also working on a robotic printer able to assemble structures on site. (SlashDot)(Quartz)(Computerworld)

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