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Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Next Terrorist Weapon. . .Insects?

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intercepted the feared Khapra Beetle. This beetle is not native to the United States, it is extremely hard to kill and could potentially damage this country’s grain industry. The beetle larvae was caught at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in bags of rice. Unfortunately, this is not the first discovery pertaining to this insect.

So what would happen if such an insect escaped and began to flourish in America? “It’s going to disrupt our economy, because of the volume of grain and wheat exported by farmers,” Customs spokesman Brian Bell said. “Countries know they’re getting a clean product (from the U.S.).”

The beetle is 2 to 3 mm long, and can damage up to 70% of grain. “It can cause intestinal problems if eaten,” officials admitted.

These beetles can survive for a long time without any source of food or water, and can nestle in spices, packaged food and in stored grain. These tiny creatures can hide in the smallest cracks and crevices which makes them very hard to kill with chemicals.

So far from January 2011 to June 26th, there have been 100 khapra beetle interceptions throughtout the country. That is 15 times higher than the reports taken from 2007 to 2009!

The beetle has infested us before. Actually, in 1953 they discovered the khapra beetles in California. It cost millions of dollars and a 13 year fight to eliminate them as they spread from California to Arizona and infested farming storage bins, warehouses and mills.

So what stops a terrorist cell from switching tactics from nuclear to insect? If the goal is an economic hardship they could damage not only the U.S. but the entire world as we are still the leading exporter of grain.

Luckily we have hard working men and women watching our boards and customs, they intercepted 92,476 foreign plants, pathogens, invasive insects and foreign species last year! We seldom think of these hard-working Americans, but their jobs help keep us and our food safe.

But it only takes a few invasive insects to wreck havoc on us. . .

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in New Article, Science

 

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U.S. Earthquake Activity

Two rare earthquakes struck the US yesterday in areas that have not seen earthquakes in ages. Luckily no fatalities took place as the east coast’s building codes are not made to withstand earthquakes, they are geared more for hurricanes. Here is a list of all of the activity recorded on August 23, 2011.

MAG

LOCATION

      5.8   8 km ( 5 mi) SSW of Mineral, VA

3.7

  52 km ( 32 mi) SE of Port Graham, AK

3.9

  14 km ( 9 mi) SSW of Cokedale, CO

3.2

  30 km ( 19 mi) SW of Arctic Village, AK

3.2

  9 km ( 6 mi) WSW of Cokedale, CO

3.8

  5 km ( 3 mi) S of Cokedale, CO

3.0

  37 km ( 23 mi) NE of Rawhide, NV

3.2

  2 km ( 2 mi) WSW of Starkville, CO

3.5

  10 km ( 6 mi) WSW of Cokedale, CO

5.3

  11 km ( 7 mi) SW of Cokedale, CO

3.6

  45 km ( 28 mi) N of Settlement, British Virgin Islands

3.0

  13 km ( 8 mi) SW of Cokedale, CO

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in New Article, Science

 

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Is Anti-Virus Software Foolproof?

The term Anti-Virus is a well-known word from toddlers to seniors, and almost every computer around the globe has an anti-virus program installed in it. These programs locate themselves in the task bar and make us feel safe. Actually, it projects security so we can surf-the-web without a worry.

Most people believe that if they have an anti-virus program installed that they cannot be infected by a virus. But are the anti-virus programs really foolproof? The answer is no. So do we need these programs? That answer is yes. They are far from foolproof but they add much needed protection. Yes, even with the best anti-virus program on the market, you can still obtain a virus.

First, we must eliminate the use of “free” anti-virus programs up-front. These “freeware” programs do not give you the best protection. The term free does not include virus protection that you may receive for free from your cable company, financial institution or some other-like source. Some companies do provide these products for “free” because it is in their best interest to do so. By “free” we mean software that you are downloading from the web.

Anti-virus programs use a couple of strategies when looking for worms, viruses, malware, spyware and other malicious programs. The most common way is the dictionary approach, or signature-based method.

Every anti-virus program contains enormous volumes of virus signatures, and they categorize these based on the threat level they pose. Think of this as a library working with the Dewey-Decimal System.

A virus library works in a similar fashion. When you download a program, your anti-virus program analyzes the code and cross-references it with the known signatures in its library. If a piece of code matches the file, it is immediately flagged so appropriate action can be performed. The first action is to stop the virus from replicating itself. Depending on the threat level your anti-virus may repair the file, quarantine it, or delete it. Anti-virus software patrols the computer, just like librarians police the library.

Naturally, there are problems with this type of protection. The signature-based method is only as good as its library of defined code.

As many computer users find computer jargon confusing, lets look at a real life situation. There is an outbreak in Northern Africa with several fatalities. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is called. The CDC sends out field doctors to assess the threat level and collect samples. Those samples are sent to the lab in Atlanta. A team of technicians diagnoses the organism, they find out how it works, then figure out the solution to eliminate the virus and repair the damage it caused. Once this is done, the results are logged and sent off to help fight the virus.

The anti-virus software works the same way. A threat takes place, the threat is investigated, a solution is created and its findings are filed for future reference.

But there is a problem. In our real life scenario there were fatalities. There is also casualties in the virtual world. Someone needs to be infected in order for the virus library to work, just as a person needs to catch the flu in order for a vaccine to be made.

The next common method is called the Heuristic-based detection. This type of detection works on a program that is acting suspiciously which might indicate a potential threat.

If you were in a crowded airport in Miami, Florida and saw a man walking toward you wearing an overcoat and carrying a black briefcase, your mind would automatically indicate a possible threat as this person is acting suspiciously.

The anti-virus is doing the same thing. It is policing all the programs running in your computer and is looking for something that is trying to write itself to an executable (.exe) program. Once it tries to do this it can be contained and dealt with.

In some instances the anti-virus software may capture the virus and move it to a secure “virtual” environment and study what the virus does. Does it have malicious intentions, or is its behavior legitimate. Perhaps that person in the overcoat isn’t a suicide bomber, he might have a reason for dressing so warmly.

The developers of anti-virus software have to constantly update their systems in order to offer their customers a safe level of security. Their biggest problem is fighting these viruses as quickly as possible, and that is no easy feat!

Born is the term Zero Day, or Zero Hour. These terms were coined because a newly released virus or malware or any malicious program will cause havoc and there will be casualties before the new program is captured and categorized. There must be guinea pigs in order for the masses to survive these attacks. It is inevitable, at some point someone, somewhere, will contract the virus. Malicious software is being created every day with the sole job of bypassing your security system.

Zero day threats damage thousands of computers before they can be identified and categorized. Once its signature is filed the anti-virus developers have to create an update for its customers. This may take up to several days. In this time millions of computers are vulnerable to attack.

That is why you, the computer user, must always be alert for suspicious behavior. You have to be careful when downloading programs, opening emails and opening pop-ups. It is important to pay attention.

We all look both ways before crossing a busy intersection, so think twice and read the disclaimers before downloading a file. It really is the same thing, if you don’t look both ways before crossing the road, you may be potentially hurt or even killed. A virus computer virus can hurt you financially, personally and can even kill your computer.

Protect yourself as much as possible. Many anti-virus programs have a scheduled day and time they scan for new updates, this can also be done manually. You should run an update and quick scan of your computer every day before you access the internet. It may take ten minutes, but you have added another level of protection to your computer.

Again, this will not protect you 100%, but will help increase your odds of remaining safe. As more and more people purchase computers, there are more and more bad hackers being born every day. They have to become more creative than their competition and the anti-virus companies.

Behold the new era of viruses that can mutate themselves. These metamorphic viruses disguise themselves so they do not match any of the signatures in the library. Once in your computer they will mate with other files, just like human children, these offspring are slightly different from the parent, and so they can continue to avoid the pattern recognition of the anti-virus software.

Or how about viruses that enter your computer in thousands of harmless code. Once the pieces are in your computer they begin to find one another and assemble into several slightly different viruses with the same intent.

So now you know a bit more about how anti-virus programs and how viruses themselves work. Stay alert and always do a manual virus update before accessing the web. It does help.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Computer, Desktop, Laptop, New Article

 

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Long Way From Home

This image of the Earth and moon in a single frame, the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft, was recorded on Sept. 18, 1977, by Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft launched on July 20, 1975.

This photo was made from three images taken through color filters, then processed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Because the Earth is many times brighter than the moon, the moon was artificially brightened so that both bodies would show clearly in the prints.

Image Credit: NASA

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in NASA, Photo, Science, Voyager 1

 

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Are You Buying A Car Online? Read This FIRST!

The Internet is a wonderful creation for so many reasons. But it also has its dark side. Kind of like the moon, we only see one side, the bright side. The dark side is hidden from us and that is what the internet is like.

The internet is a place where one can buy just about anything made. I sometimes pre-order my groceries online and they are ready for me when I arrive at the store. I book my airfare, hotels and make dinner reservations. Many of my other purchases are made online as well; like my books, computer supplies, pet supplies. The list goes on and on.

My purchases are made on secure websites and are conducted lawfully. Unfortunately, the internet is a breading ground for criminals and they place themselves into this huge marketplace and scam thousands of people every day.

In America a few days ago the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued an alert about a cyber scam that is aimed at people buying vehicles online.

Basically what these scoundrels are doing is creating an ad on a legitimate website and listing vehicles at great prices, generally just below the market value. As a buyer you write to the seller via email and the seller responds likewise. Here the scam starts to mimic millions of other scams: the seller responds with a long-winded story of their bad luck and need to sell the vehicle quickly, that is why the price is so good.

Now the seller requests the buyer to move the transaction to the website of another online company, this is for the buyer’s security. An offer is also made that offers the buyer a protection
plan in the name of a major Internet company (e.g., eBay). Through this new website the buyer receives an invoice with instructions to wire the funds to an account.

As more and more scammers hit this expanding cyber-crime market, they become more creative in an attempt to out beat other scammers. In a new twist, the criminals pose as a company representative in a live chat to answer questions. This forms a feeling of security which breaks down your vigilance.

Once the funds are wired, the buyer may be asked by the seller to fax a receipt to show that the transaction has taken place. And then the seller has the buyer send a fax receipt to the seller and the seller and buyer agree upon a time for the delivery of the vehicle.

So what is actually happening is a complete fraud that is designed to break down the buyers normal weariness. The original ad that was placed was phony, there never was a vehicle for sale. When the buyer was asked to move to another, more secure website for security, is either a phony copy of a well known website or actually a hijacked website. In other words, the buyer found the ad on Craig’s List. The buyer is asked to move to a site that resembles Ebay.

The site that looks like Ebay is actually created by the scammer so it is easier for them to conduct business with the buyer. Although the protection plan is just as fake as the vehicle for sale, what this does is break the buyer down again, this time building trust in the seller.
The fax transmission also builds a feeling of trust, but actually the fax is the sellers proof that the transaction was made and when the funds will be available. The meeting date will be made for a time after the funds are cleared.

They buyers will show up to the appointment on time, or early but will not find a seller. By the time the buyer realizes what happened the criminals and the buyers hard earned money are long gone.

The FBI has listed Red flags for consumers:

  • Cars are advertised at too-good-to-be true prices;
  • Sellers want to move transactions from the original website to another site;
  • Sellers claim that a buyer protection program offered by a major Internet company covers an auto transaction conducted outside that company’s website;
  • Sellers refuse to meet in person or allow potential buyers to inspect the car ahead of time;
  • Sellers who say they want to sell the car because they’re in the U.S. military about to be deployed, are moving, the car belonged to someone who recently died, or a similar story;
  • Sellers who ask for funds to be wired ahead of time.

The FBI reports the number of complaints from 2008 through 2010, IC3 has received nearly 14,000 complaints from consumers who have been victimized, or at least targeted, by these scams. Of the victims who actually lost money, the total dollar amount is staggering: nearly $44.5 million.

If you think you’ve been victimized by an online auto scam, file a complaint with IC3. Once complaints are received and analyzed, IC3 forwards them as appropriate to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Internet Scams, New Article

 

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My Hiatus

Sorry for the recent break I’ve taken. It is the time of year when I start thinking of the Holidays and begin preparing gifts. I have recently started working on making Christmas ornaments, small horse heads for the Christmas Tree. What really got me was the thought of making a box to put them in. Below are photos of the prototype, which is almost complete. Once done I will make two more, one for my aunt and one for my mom’s neighbor. When my dad passed away this past January, her neighbors helped my mom out so much that I wanted to make something special for them. Hence, the creation of the horse ornaments and box.

I will be making several other types of ornament/box combinations as the months progress.

Closed Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open cover with view of inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 ornaments taken out

 

There will be a total of six ornaments per box. They still need to be completed and have the gold string attached so they can hang from the tree branches.

 

 

 

 

 

Closeup of ornaments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Woodworking Project

 

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