Entries with tag university of cambridge.

Study: Closed US Bank Websites Abused

Websites that were once used by US banks for customer service have fallen into the hands of cybercriminals, spammers, and virus writers, according to a newly released study. The sites’ domains became available primarily when banks declined to renew them, or the institutions were purchased or closed, according to the study by Southern Methodist University and the University of Cambridge. An estimated 3,200 US banks have shut down in the last 10 years. Hackers are using the former sites of about 1,000 of them to exploiting their residual good reputation to distribute spam or malware, or skew search results. Hackers have even used some as fake online pharmacies or to promote porn sites. To prevent this abuse, the researchers say, banking regulators should police abandoned domains and require failed banks to place their domains in escrow accounts as part of the closure process. (BBC)(University of Cambridge)

Researchers Create Color-Tunable Photonic Fibers

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Exeter—with contributions from Ludwig Maximilians University and University of Cambridge researchers—have developed a biologically inspired photonic fiber that changes color as it is stretched. The fiber consists of multiple polymer layers placed around a glass core, which is later etched away. The layers’ thickness, which changes with stretching, determines the fiber’s color. The researchers based their approach on the Margaritaria nobilis (or bastard hogberry) plant, known for its iridescent blue color caused by its complex surface structure. The researchers used a rolling technique to make the fibers. They say this will make large-scale manufacturing practical. The technology may initially be used to create smart fabrics for use in sporting applications, such as fabrics that would change color in response to muscle tension in the athlete wearing the garment. It would also be used to sense when an object is being strained as a result of heat. (EurekAlert)(Harvard University)

Wrist Sensor Enables Hands-Free Device Control

Microsoft researchers developed a sensor worn on the wrist that lets users control devices with hand gestures. Digits is a prototype sensor built with off-the-shelf components that creates 3D models of a user’s hand movements in real-time. This data can control devices such as smartphones, TVs, and video games. The camera-based sensor detects infrared laser light  that measures the distances of fingers and thumb across the user’s hand and a ring of LEDs are used to light the hand and determine fingertip positions. Software interprets the data, determines the hand’s position and movements, and issues the commands programmed to correspond to those motions. Researchers from Microsoft’s University of Cambridge laboratory, Newcastle University, and the University of Crete developed the sensor. Eventually, they say, they want the device to be the size of a wristwatch so that it can be worn constantly. They published their work in Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. (BBC)(Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology)

Scientists Print Lasers Using Ink-Jet Technology

University of Cambridge researchers have developed a method for printing lasers using conventional ink-jet printers, which they say may enable simpler, more affordable laser-based devices. The process uses liquid crystals instead of ink to print tiny dots on a specially-coated surface. A polymer film aligns the molecules while the addition of a dye provides additional gain, which increases the light and energy in the laser. When the coating dries, the liquid crystals align, which enables each dot to become a laser. Manufacturers could use the approach to make devices such as museum displays that are encoded with information by the application of lasers. The researchers published their work in the journal Soft Matter. (BBC)(Soft Matter)

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