Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Srinivasa Ramanujan Partition Formula Proved For All Prime Numbers

Yup, someone's done it. It's finally been proved. Excerpt:

Ramanujan noticed that whole numbers can be broken into sums of smaller numbers, called partitions. The number 4, for example, contains five partitions: 4, 3+1, 2+2, 1+1+2, and 1+1+1+1.

He further realised that curious patterns - called congruences - occurred for some numbers in that the number of partitions was divisible by 5, 7, and 11. For example, the number of partitions for any number ending in 4 or 9 is divisible by 5.

"But in some sense, no one understood why you could divide the partitions of 4 or 9 into five equal groups," says George Andrews, a mathematician at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, US. That changed in the 1940s, when physicist Freeman Dyson discovered a rule, called a "rank", explaining the congruences for 5 and 7. That set off a concerted search for a rule that covered 11 as well - a solution called the "crank" that Andrews and colleague Frank Garvan of the University of Florida, US, helped deduce in the 1980s.

Quite cool indeed. This is possibly also a major step forward for modern encryption, as most of the algorithms use prime numbers for generating keys. For more information on Srinivasa Ramanujan check out this site.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Greek Prison Guards Issued With Guns Dating From 1911

Greek Prison

A ridiculous situation. Excerpt:

Greek prison guards are to go on strike to demand a replacement of their antiquated American-made guns.

The weapons were used by the US Cavalry in 1911 and safety experts have advised that they should not be fired.

Prison staff are now concerned about security as inmates have become wise to the faulty arsenal and escape attempts are on the increase.

Officers are calling for new weapons and more staff to deal with the country's growing prison population.

Prison officers guarding Greece's prison perimeters complain that the guns no longer scare inmates, who have become more daring believing they will not be fired at.

If this were a movie it would be funny. Not so funny if you're a guard yourself...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

High Tech Bank Robbery Foiled


The BBC reports that the biggest robbery attempt to date has been foiled and someone has been arrested in Israel. Excerpt:

Police in London say they have foiled one of the biggest robbery attempts seen in Britain.

The plan was to steal £220m (($423m) from the London offices of the Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui.

Computer experts are believed to have tried to transfer the money electronically after hacking into the bank's systems.

A man has been arrested by police in Israel after the plot was uncovered by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

Unit members worked closely with Israeli police.

The investigation was started last October after it was discovered that computer hackers had gained access to Sumitomo Mitsui bank's computer system in London.

They managed to infiltrate the system with keylogging software that would have enabled them to track every button pressed on computer keyboards.

Tsk tsk. Looks like someone's been opening emails they shouldn't have...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Know your Enemy: Tracking Botnets


A cool paper on about the current state of botnets. Excerpt:

Honeypots are a well known technique for discovering the tools, tactics, and motives of attackers. In this paper we look at a special kind of threat: the individuals and organizations who run botnets. A botnet is a network of compromised machines that can be remotely controlled by an attacker. Due to their immense size (tens of thousands of systems can be linked together), they pose a severe threat to the community. With the help of honeynets we can observe the people who run botnets - a task that is difficult using other techniques. Due to the wealth of data logged, it is possible to reconstruct the actions of attackers, the tools they use, and study them in detail. In this paper we take a closer look at botnets, common attack techniques, and the individuals involved.

We start with an introduction to botnets and how they work, with examples of their uses. We then briefly analyze the three most common bot variants used. Next we discuss a technique to observe botnets, allowing us to monitor the botnet and observe all commands issued by the attacker. We present common behavior we captured, as well as statistics on the quantitative information learned through monitoring more than one hundred botnets during the last few months. We conclude with an overview of lessons learned and point out further research topics in the area of botnet-tracking, including a tool called mwcollect2 that focuses on collecting malware in an automated fashion.

These days, home PCs are a desirable target for attackers. Most of these systems run Microsoft Windows and often are not properly patched or secured behind a firewall, leaving them vulnerable to attack. In addition to these direct attacks, indirect attacks against programs the victim uses are steadily increasing. Examples of these indirect attacks include malicious HTML-files that exploit vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer or attacks using malware in Peer-to-Peer networks. Especially machines with broadband connection that are always on are a valuable target for attackers. As broadband connections increase, so to do the number of potential victims of attacks. Crackers benefit from this situation and use it for their own advantage. With automated techniques they scan specific network ranges of the Internet searching for vulnerable systems with known weaknesses. Attackers often target Class B networks (/16 in CIDR notation) or smaller net-ranges. Once these attackers have compromised a machine, they install a so called IRC bot - also called zombie or drone - on it. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a form of real-time communication over the Internet. It is mainly designed for group (one-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication. More information about IRC can be found on Wikipedia.

We have identified many different versions of IRC-based bots (in the following we use the term bot) with varying degrees of sophistication and implemented commands, but all have something in common. The bot joins a specific IRC channel on an IRC server and waits there for further commands. This allows an attacker to remotely control this bot and use it for fun and also for profit. Attackers even go a step further and bring different bots together. Such a structure, consisting of many compromised machines which can be managed from an IRC channel, is called a botnet. IRC is not the best solution since the communication between bots and their controllers is rather bloated, a simpler communication protocol would suffice. But IRC offers several advantages: IRC Servers are freely available and are easy to set up, and many attackers have years of IRC communication experience.

A very nice summary of how botnets work (and don't work so well sometimes).

P1mp Your iPod

Open iPod

Someone has written a guide on how to connect an external hard disk to your iPod. Excerpt:

What is this about?
Ultimately, I’d like to get a regular 3.5″ hard drive working with the iPod and explore what capacities it can make use of. The fact that it would be a huge unit will simply be a novelty.

Why do this?
This project came about after I dropped my 40 GB 3rd generation iPod and killed the hard drive in it. I decided to open up the iPod and see what I could do with it. I could do so without fear of breaking it, since I’d already broken the most expensive part in it.

Wow. Cool hack. Now you can walk around with 300 gigs of music in your pocket ;-)

Old Portable Phones Worth Big Bucks

Old Mobile Phone

If you have an old portable phone collecting dust, don't throw it away, as they're now fetching big bucks:

Yuppies are getting their revenge with the "brick" mobile phones of the 80s becoming collectable investments.

These huge fledgling mobiles may be impractical but a wave of nostalgia for those bygone days of red braces is helping values rocket.

Until recently, the earliest models were treated as useless relics, but well-preserved phones now fetch £100 or more and experts predict prices will soar much higher. Olly Tagg, 34, of Colsterworth in Lincolnshire, is an avid collector. Married to teacher Gudrun, 35, with daughters Inga, eight, and Orla, five, he runs a phone recycling company, CMR and online store Retrofone.

He explains: "A few years ago, you would be laughed at for owning an ancient mobile as it was considered nothing more than worthless junk.

"However, now that the mobile phone has become established as a key tool in our modern lives, their unique place in history is being re-assessed. Of course, the old bricks also look pretty cool."

The grand-daddy mobile is the Motorola Dynatec 8000x launched in 1983. It looked more like a doorstep than a brick and boasted a one-hour talk time, all for £1,200 new.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The InfoSpace Con

InfoSpace boss

The Seattle Times has an interesting story on the rise and fall of InfoSpace, and how they were able to con people out of billions:

Five years ago this week, at the height of the dot-com stock frenzy, a young Bellevue company called InfoSpace was worth more than Boeing.

Wall Street analysts hailed the startup, which promised to bring the Internet to everyone's cellphone, as "a new Microsoft," and its charismatic leader, Naveen Jain, as a visionary.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen had hundreds of millions invested. Small investors such as Bev Hess, a real-estate agent in Phillips, Neb., poured their retirement savings into what appeared to be a sure bet.

At its peak, InfoSpace was the Northwest's biggest Internet business, worth more than $31 billion. Jain, a man obsessed with being more successful than Bill Gates, was himself worth $8 billion. He bought a palatial waterfront home in Medina down the street from his idol and another nearby on Mercer Island, along with two yachts and a piece of the Seattle SuperSonics.

Amazing how someone thinks they can get away with something like this.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Pimp My Shoes

Cool Adidas Shoe

It seems that Adidas are about to release a wicked set of shoes. These things have chip and electric motor inside of them to adapt the shoe to:

  • The terrain you're running on
  • Your weight
  • Your running style

It seems that the chip reads all of this data 1000 times a second and then adjusts your shoe for optimum results. This is REALLY cool (and probably outrageously expensive). I wonder how long it'll take before someone ports NetBSD to this ;-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Virgin Radio first to offer 3G broadcast

GSM Listening to Virgin Radio

Virgin Radio is about to be the first radio station to offer services over 3G phones:

UK broadcaster Virgin Radio says it will become the first station in the world to offer radio via 3G mobiles.

The radio station, in partnership with technology firm Sydus, will broadcast on selected 2G and high-speed 3G networks.

Later this year listeners will be able to download software from the Virgin website which enables the service.

While this is undoubtedly very cool, it is also bloody expensive at the time of writing. I for one can't wait till someone introduces a flat fee 3G subscription so I can listen to non commercial internet radio stations (like Bassdrive) everywhere I go.

Services like these are what will make GSMs iPod killers in the future.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Student Arrested For Writing Story

Zombie Head

A student at some high school in Winchester (US), has been arrested for writing a story about zombies shooting up his school. Apperantly, according to the police, writing a story like this constitutes planning a terrorist act. Excerpt:

A George Rogers Clark High School junior arrested Tuesday for making terrorist threats told LEX 18 News Thursday that the "writings" that got him arrested are being taken out of context.

Winchester police say William Poole, 18, was taken into custody Tuesday morning. Investigators say they discovered materials at Poole's home that outline possible acts of violence aimed at students, teachers, and police.

Poole told LEX 18 that the whole incident is a big misunderstanding. He claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.

"My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."

Even so, police say the nature of the story makes it a felony. "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky," said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill.

Poole disputes that he was threatening anyone.

"It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention (George Rogers Clark High School), didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing,"
said Poole. "Half the people at high school know me. They know I'm not that stupid, that crazy."

On Thursday, a judge raised Poole's bond from one to five thousand dollars after prosecutors requested it, citing the seriousness of the charge.

Poole is being held at the Clark County Detention Center.

Yet another story about how FUD gets its ugly pudgy little hands on sanity and reason. Its sad, just plain sad.....

Asterisk PBX HOWTO

Asterisk Logo

Just came across an Asterisk HOWTO. Excerpt:

What would it mean to you to have your own full-featured PBX system at your home or small office? What would it mean to you if you could build an entire PBX system (minus the phones) on hardware you probably have laying around, AND that it can probably also save you money on your phone bill? Sounds too hard to believe doesn't it, but using old hardware and some open source software, you really can build a commercial quality phone system that would normally cost thousands of dollars.

Asterisk for n00bs. Too bad we don't have a decent VOIP Service where I live yet :-(.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Spyware Gets More Bloated By The Day


Now those sons of bitches are just going too far:

The last few days, reports had come back to me at my workplace that someone, somewhere was downloading gigabytes of data onto their PCs. In fact, not just one person - lots of them. Somewhat bemused, I began to investigate and promptly turned up nothing - no network scans picked up anything untoward, no digging through the proxy log revealed anything and all we could do was assume a pirate-film king had started up his own little enterprise on our servers.

The truth is actually far worse.

A little cross-security guy networking later, and it turns out that halfway across the globe, one Eric L Howes was puzzling over a machine slowly dying a death whilst sifting through some ads served by Imagine his surprise when he discovered he was 65MB of space down on his PC.

65Mb of Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 was downloaded and installed without asking permission, or even indicating that such a download was underway.

And that's in addition to the wonderful deluge of malware and served adverts that came with it.

65 MB ?!? .NET? At least in the good old days virusses were efficient. This just shows laziness and stupidity on the part of the programmer, like no ones going to notice a 65MB install.....

Something has to be done about this. Something fast. These people must suffer for what they do. Heck, they should be punished just for using that piece of garbage Microsoft calls .NET. I propose whippings on public squares. Who's with me?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Fossett Did It!

Global Flyer

After some trouble US adventurer Steve Fossett has achieved the first solo, non-stop flight around the globe.

Despite a fuel shortage, the 60-year-old pilot landed the Virgin GlobalFlyer plane at Salina airport in Kansas at 1948 GMT.

The millionaire had considered aborting the trip and landing in Hawaii, but he decided to press on because of favourable tail winds.

Mr Fossett said he was "really starting to perk up" as he neared the end.

On this day the last of the great aviation records has been bronken. Well done Mr Fossett (and team behind him), Well done indeed!