Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dutch Company Powers Streetlights With Living Plants

from In Hembrug, Netherlands, a crowd stood in a park and looked up into the evening sky, waiting for lights to shine. This month more than 300 LED lights were illuminated by the Dutch company Plant-e in a new energy project called “Starry Sky.” Although the bulbs were ordinary, the electricity running through them derived from a new process that harnesses the power of living plants.

“Starry Sky” and a similar project an hour’s drive away, near Plant-e’s Wageningen headquarters, are the two first commercial installations of the company’s emerging technology. Both power lighting, but the company also sells Wi-Fi hot spots, mobile chargers, and rooftop electricity modules, all fueled by the byproducts of living plants.

Plant-e’s co-founder and CEO, Marjolein Helder, believes that this technology could be revolutionary. Using plants to generate electricity brings a new clean energy option to the table, but even more exciting, the company plans to expand the technology to existing wetlands and rice paddies where electricity can be generated on a larger scale. This could give power to some of the world’s poorest places.

Friday, November 21, 2014

#Solutions: 'Let's Encrypt' Aims to Boost Internet Security

from Companies are becoming increasingly concerned about security. In this vein, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has partnered with Akamai, Cisco, IdenTrust and Mozilla to create a new service called Let's Encrypt. Together, the companies are known as the Internet Security Research Group.

The group's goal is to make encryption easier and make unencrypted web traffic a thing of the past.

The service is aimed at creators of new websites. They can sign up their domain for the encryption with a simple click. The process will launch in the second half of 2015 and the Internet Security Research Group will not make any profit. The type of encryption being used is called TLS and is the successor to SSL encryption.

"It's clear at this point that encrypting is something all of us should be doing. Then why don't we use TLS everywhere?" said Josh Ash, director of the Internet Security Research Group in a statement. 

"Every browser in every device supports it. Every server in every data center supports it. Why don't we just flip the switch?"

The new service comes at a time when government spying and Internet hacking is increasingly becoming a concern.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yellow Dots of Mystery: Is Your Printer Spying on You?

from Imagine that every time you print a document, it automatically includes a secret code that could be used to identify the printer -- and, potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from a spy movie, right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn't fictional. Most color laser printers and color copiers are designed to print invisible tracking codes across every single printed page of their output. These codes reveal which machine produced a document and, in some cases, when the document was printed or copied.

The video below describes three different ways to see the tracking dots your printer produces: with a blue light, with a microscope, or with a scanner. If you don't have the necessary equipment for a particular step, go on to the next one.

Click Here For A List of Printers Which Do and Do Not Display Tracking Dots

Click Here For An Academic Paper On The Subject 

h/t: Ben Johnson -

Monday, November 17, 2014

PLA has set up Chinese version of ‘PRISM’ monitoring in Hong Kong

from The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has established a large-scale signals and information monitoring facility in Hong Kong similar to the U.S. PRISM monitoring program, according to the Canada-based Kanwa Information Center.

In a report obtained by CNA, Kanwa, which publishes a monthly magazine on Asian defense issues, said that intelligence experts have made the findings after observing the facility from the top of Tai Mo Shan (pictured), the highest mountain in Hong Kong with a altitude of 950 meters. The facility was reportedly constructed in 2011.

Satellite photos show that with a diameter of 15.63 meters, the facility is far larger than the aerial fairings of Hong Kong's weather radar and aviation radar, which Kanwa said allows it to intercept and record signals from telephones, cellphones, Wi-Fi networks and radios.

It looks similar to other data mining facilities established in Kashgar in the restive western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and along the contested border with India, Kanwa said. It is likely manned by the PLA's Unit 61398, the alleged source of China's major cyber attacks, the center said.

"It's the Chinese version of the U.S. PRISM program," mainly targeted at democracy activists' communications with foreign diplomats in the former British colony, Kanwa said. Political figures may also be the targets of the monitoring facility, it added.


Friday, November 14, 2014

US Govt. Uses Fake Cell Towers, Flown on Airplanes, to Harvest Phone Data

from Proving yet again that the US government can show a surprising soupçon of tenacity when it comes to gross invasion of privacy while occasionally catching a terrorist, a new report claims that, since 2007, the US Marshals Service has been criss-crossing the country with small airplanes equipped with fake cell towers. These small aircraft (fixed-wing Cessnas) intercept communications between your mobile phone and the carrier’s legitimate cell tower, allowing the US Marshals to find and triangulate the exact location of a target. Obviously, the primary target of the system is criminals — but the report says a lot of “innocent Americans” are also being tagged by the program.

News of this US Marshals program comes from the Wall Street Journal. According to “people familiar with the operations,” the US Marshals Service has been flying fake cell towers out of “at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population.” The program has reportedly been in operation since 2007. There’s no word on how many suspects/fugitives were actually caught using this system, but with a reported accuracy of 10 feet (3 meters) — enough to pick out a specific room in a building — it’s probably quite effective.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Historic! Europe's Philae Probe Lands on Comet 317M Miles Away

Historic! Europe's #Philae Probe Lands on Comet 317 Million Miles Awayfrom After a suspense-packed, seven-hour descent, the European Space Agency's Philae lander made an unprecedented touchdown on the surface of a comet Wednesday — marking the high point of a $1.3 billion, 10-year mission. Cheers erupted as the confirming signals were received at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, at 11:03 a.m. ET. The signals took 28 minutes to travel at the speed of light over the 317 million miles (510 million kilometers) between Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Earth. "It is sitting on the surface," reported Stefan Ulamec, Philae lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center. "Philae is talking to us — we are on the comet!"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Private Space Says: Don't Overreact to Recent Mishaps

Private Space Says: Don't Overreact to Recent Mishapsfrom Two high-profile mishaps involving private spacecraft last week have sparked new debate about whether the government should increase its oversight and regulation of a fledgling industry tackling complicated, risky ventures. But commercial space advocates say Congress and the administration shouldn't view the unrelated accidents — one involving a rocket launch to the International Space Station, the other a space tourism vehicle — as an invitation to clamp down on a sector that needs as much nurturing as it does supervision.