Malware hides behind 1% of the world’s websites

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

According to the results of a research published by Dasient, a firm specializing in the struggle against viruses and malware on our computers, the number of websites currently present on the Web and used to spread malware or spy software amounts to over a million, that is, approximately 1% of all websites of the world.

If 1% looks like a reassuring figure to you, just try to think that sometimes, it might take just a few minutes to visit 100 pages, and that during those few minutes we might have visited one dangerous page, and our computer might therefore be at risk, as well as the data that it hosts.

Furthermore, this figure is also rapidly growing (over 250% if compared to previous year statistics), and has been obtained by scanning millions of potentially dangerous websites.

Most attacks of this kind take place when visiting websites that, unbeknownst to us, try to download in the background some code that, once it installs itself, can be used to give access to our personal data to prying eyes, or might use our computer to carry out a large scale attack towards other sites, in order to bring them down or to extract sensitive information.

Other sites and malware use leaks in java coding to gain access to our computers. Most pirate websites, according to this research, seem to be hosted in China, according to the .cn suffix which marks the relative majority of those without a .com suffix.

To defend ourselves from such attacks, Dasient recommends following simple but strict guidelines, for example by not accepting to open popups with advertising contents, which too often conceal a threat much more annoying than a mere commercial.

Helicopters can protect themselves from missiles, thanks to laser

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A research project from University of Michigan, in cooperation with the US Army and with its research branch, the ever present DARPA, is developing a system which could be used on helicopters, to protect them from missiles shot from the ground or from the air.

This anti missile defense system is not an active one, as it does not hit incoming missiles, but rather a passive one, which would jam their pointing heat-searching sensors, rendering them unable to trace their target and strike.

This result is achieved thanks to a laser system which, as soon as it detects a missile within its range, would shoot against it not a bomb, but a flood of mid-intensity infrared rays on a wide range of frequencies. Since infrared light is not visible, the missile sensors would recognize it as heat instead of light, and thanks to this the sensor would lose touch with its actual target.

These laser beams can defend the helicopter on which they are mounted up to a distance of just below 3 kilometers. The advantage with this defense is that it is made up of simple off-the-shelf optical fiber parts, normally used in telephone industry, and that it consists of a few pieces in order to minimize the effect of vibrations caused by the chopper.

In fact, other similar systems are made up of several little pieces, and the shaking they go through when mounted on an helicopter would create problems of stability and, consequently, of precision. In short, a limited cost and a simple design are keys to security on board of helicopters in war zones.

A second generation prototype of the model designed in Michigan will soon be manufactured via Omni Sciences, a spinoff company connected to the University.

A laser backpack for 3D mapping

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

During military operations in urban warfare environments, soldiers may often have to find themselves breaking into a closed environment such as a home or a building, and they know too well that a deadly threat might be hiding behind any closed door. Therefore, the opportunity to have information about characteristics of the environment may literally save their lives.

Thanks to a research project on which scientists from Berkeley University are working, this information might come in a three-dimension format, thanks to a backpack which can obtain a quick mapping of the environment around it within just a few seconds.

The backpack is in fact equipped with an array of laser scanning devices, which can provide a quick scan of the surrounding environment.

Along with laser systems, it also features a wide range of video equipment and inertial measurement devices. By joining together the information received by the different elements which make up the scanner, it creates a three dimension model of the area around it, thanks to a particular type of fusion algorithms, which calibrate precisely the information received by cameras and sensors.

The result of this project, funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, might be used by military personnel to plan their actions at best, especially in environments which might conceal a serious threat. Currently, Berkeley scientists have tested the laser backpack to obtain a precise map of two floors of a building inside the university complex.

In the future, this backpack could be teamed up with a hardware system which can display the environment in question in a 3D fashion, to view it before entering. Along with the military, this backpack could also provide a valuable support to firefighters and rescuers, for engineering applications and much more.

Solar Eagle, five years in the sky without landing

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Lately, it looks as if all producers of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are busy with a contest at breaking flight endurance records, making test runs on aircraft capable of flying for weeks in a row without touching the ground, thanks to the solar power harnessed during the day and that keeps them flying also during the dark hours of night.

In this direction goes also the latest project just presented by DARPA, in cooperation with Boeing, which could overcome, and by far, any record that has been set lately. In fact, the US Department of Defense agency has contracted the aerospace giant to develop an unmanned aircraft, powered by solar energy, capable of flying continuously for up to five years at a time!

The possible applications of Solar Eagle, as the project was christened, are naturally in the telecommunication and aerial observation fields, to be used for surveillance missions both civilian and military, or for scientific reasons by using the proper devices and systems for video and image gathering and transmission.

Thanks to its extremely long flight endurance, Solar Eagle might, in the near future, revolutionize the systems currently used for telecommunications, operating at a fraction of the cost of geostationary satellites which are now the backbone of telephone and telecommunications networks.

The project should be operational as of 2014, with aerial vehicles capable of flying at altitudes around 20000 meters. For the moment, the first endurance milestone is to make it float in the air for one month with no interruption, once that milestone is passed, the hardest part will be a continuous improvement of its features in order to enable it to fly with no interruption for years.

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