Chinese astronauts in successful space docking test

Updated 18 June 2012

Chinese astronauts in successful space docking test

BEIJING: A Chinese spacecraft carried out a manned docking with an experimental space module on Monday, the latest milestone in China’s ambitious effort to build a space station.
The Shenzhou 9 and its three-person crew, which includes China’s first woman in space, linked with the Tiangong 1 module just after 0600 GMT, in images carried live on state television.
The crew are expected to enter the module in a few hours, the official Xinhua news agency said, the first time China has been able to transfer astronauts between two orbiting craft.


US infiltrates big ransomware gang: ‘We hacked the hackers’

Updated 27 January 2023

US infiltrates big ransomware gang: ‘We hacked the hackers’

  • Gang identified as Hive among the world’s top five ransomware networks and has heavily targeted health care
  • Hive, working with German and other partners, was estimated to have victimized some 1,300 companies globally

WASHINGTON: The FBI and international partners have at least temporarily disrupted the network of a prolific ransomware gang they infiltrated last year, saving victims including hospitals and school districts a potential $130 million in ransom payments, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other US officials announced Thursday.
“Simply put, using lawful means we hacked the hackers,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference.
Officials said the targeted syndicate, known as Hive, is among the world’s top five ransomware networks and has heavily targeted health care. The FBI quietly accessed its control panel in July and was able to obtain software keys it used with German and other partners to decrypt networks of some 1,300 victims globally, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
How the takedown will affect Hive’s long-term operations is unclear. Officials announced no arrests but said, to pursue prosecutions, they were building a map of the administrators who manage the software and the affiliates who infect targets and negotiate with victims.
“I think anyone involved with Hive should be concerned because this investigation is ongoing,” Wray said.
On Wednesday night, FBI agents seized computer servers in Los Angeles used to support the network. Two Hive dark web sites were seized: one used for leaking data of non-paying victims, the other for negotiating extortion payments.
“Cybercrime is a constantly evolving threat, but as I have said before, the Justice Department will spare no resource to bring to justice anyone anywhere that targets the United States with a ransomware attack,” Garland said.

 

He said the infiltration, led by the FBI’s Tampa office, allowed agents in one instance to disrupt a Hive attack against a Texas school district, stopping it from making a $5 million payment.
It’s a big win for the Justice Department. Ransomware is the world’s biggest cybercrime headache with everything from Britain’s postal service and Ireland’s national health network to Costa Rica’s government crippled by Russian-speaking syndicates that enjoy Kremlin protection.
The criminals lock up, or encrypt, victims’ networks, steal sensitive data and demand large sums. Their extortion has evolve to where data is pilfered before ransomware is activated, then effectively held hostage. Pay up in cryptocurrency or it is released publicly.
As an example of a Hive sting, Garland said it kept one Midwestern hospital in 2021 from accepting new patients at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The online takedown notice, alternating in English and Russian, mentions Europol and German law enforcement partners. The German news agency dpa quoted prosecutors in Stuttgart as saying cyber specialists in the southwestern town of Esslingen were decisive in penetrating Hive’s criminal IT infrastructure after a local company was victimized.
In a statement, Europol said companies in more than 80 countries, including oil multinationals, have been compromised by Hive and that law enforcement from 13 countries was in on the infiltration.
A US government advisory last year said Hive ransomware actors victimized over 1,300 companies worldwide from June 2021 through November 2022, netting about $100 million in payments. Criminals using Hive’s ransomware-as-a-service tools targeted a wide range of businesses and critical infrastructure, including government, manufacturing and especially health care.
Though the FBI offered decryption keys to some 1,300 victims globally, Wray said only about 20 percent reported potential issues to law enforcement.
“Here, fortunately, we were still able to identify and help many victims who didn’t report. But that is not always the case,” Wray said. “When victims report attacks to us, we can help them and others, too.”
Victims sometimes quietly pay ransoms without notifying authorities — even if they’ve quickly restored networks — because the data stolen from them could be extremely damaging to them if leaked online. Identity theft is among the risks.
John Hultquist, the head of threat intelligence at the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said the Hive disruption won’t cause a major drop in overall ransomware activity but is nonetheless “a blow to a dangerous group.”
“Unfortunately, the criminal marketplace at the heart of the ransomware problem ensures a Hive competitor will be standing by to offer a similar service in their absence, but they may think twice before allowing their ransomware to be used to target hospitals,” Hultquist said.
But analyst Brett Callow with the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft said the operation is apt to lessen ransomware crooks’ confidence in what has been a very high reward-low risk business. “The information collected may point to affiliates, launderers and others involved in the ransomware supply chain.”
Allan Liska, an analyst with Recorded Future, another cybersecurity outfit, predicted indictments, if not actual arrests, in the next few months.
There are few positive indicators in the global fight against ransomware, but here’s one: An analysis of cryptocurrency transactions by the firm Chainalysis found ransomware extortion payments were down last year. It tracked payments of at least $456.8 million, down from $765.6 million in 2021. While Chainalysis said the true totals are certainly much higher, payments were clearly down. That suggests more victims are refusing to pay.
The Biden administration got serious about ransomware at its highest levels two years ago after a series of high-profile attacks threatened critical infrastructure and global industry. In May 2021, for instance, hackers targeted the nation’s largest fuel pipeline, causing the operators to briefly shut it down and make a multimillion-dollar ransom payment, which the US government later largely recovered.
A global task force involving 37 nations began work this week. It is led by Australia, which has been particularly hard-hit by ransomware, including a major medical insurer and telecom. Conventional law enforcement measures such as arrests and prosecutions have done little to frustrate the criminals. Australia’s interior minister, Clare O’Neil, said in November that her government was going on the offense, using cyber-intelligence and police agents to ” find these people, hunt them down and debilitate them before they can attack our country.”
The FBI has obtained access to decryption keys before. It did so in the case of a major 2021 ransomware attack on Kaseya, a company whose software runs hundreds of websites. It took some heat, however, for waiting several weeks to help victims unlock afflicted networks.


Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, fires executives — US media

Updated 28 October 2022

Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, fires executives — US media

  • Musk's initial moves at Twitter's helm included firing chief executive Parag Agrawal
  • Musk had a court-imposed Friday deadline to complete the deal

SAN FRANCISCO: Elon Musk took control of Twitter and fired its top executives, US media reported late Thursday, hours before the deadline for the billionaire to seal his on-again, off-again deal to purchase the social media network.
Musk's initial moves at Twitter's helm included firing chief executive Parag Agrawal, who went to court to hold the Tesla chief to the terms of a takeover deal he had tried to escape, the Washington Post and CNBC reported citing unnamed sources.
Musk had a court-imposed Friday deadline to complete the Twitter deal he inked in April.


Robotic suit gives paralyzed children gift of walking

Updated 20 October 2022

Robotic suit gives paralyzed children gift of walking

  • David Zabala uses a wheelchair due to his neurological condition, which also left him deaf and reliant on sign language
  • The exoskeleton enabled children who use wheelchairs to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy

MEXICO CITY: Wearing a robotic exoskeleton designed specially for children, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy walked through a therapy room in Mexico City, smiling triumphantly at the once-unthinkable feat.
David Zabala uses a wheelchair due to his neurological condition, which also left him deaf and reliant on sign language.
But thanks to the Atlas 2030 exoskeleton, which won its creator a European Inventor Award this year, he was able to walk and stand in front of a mirror where he drew smiling faces with colored marker pens.
“He’s taking his first steps. That’s a joy for him,” said the boy’s mother, Guadalupe Cardoso, 41.
“At first it scared him and his hands were very tense, and now I see that he’s already holding the marker pen and starting to draw or (play with) the ball,” Cardoso added.
It makes the exhausting, near two-hour journey from their home in the south of Mexico City to the therapy center totally worth it, she said.
The exoskeleton was designed by Spanish professor Elena Garcia Armada to enable children who use wheelchairs to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy.
The mechanical joints of the battery-powered titanium suit adapt intelligently to the motion of each child, according to the European Patent Office, which presented Garcia with the European Inventor Award.
Giving paralyzed children the opportunity to walk “not only extends their life expectancy and enhances their physical well-being, but also improves their self-esteem,” it said.

Mexico is the third country, after Spain and France, where the Atlas 2030 has been used to treat children.
The suit helps “to achieve in record time rehabilitation goals” that would take months to achieve with conventional therapies, said Guadalupe Maldonado, director of Mexico’s Association for People with Cerebral Palsy.
The benefits include muscle strengthening, improvement of the digestive and respiratory systems and — above all — a major mood boost, Maldonado said.
The private organization, founded in 1970, has already seen positive results two weeks after acquiring its first exoskeleton, she said.
A second device, worth around $250,000, is due to arrive in Mexico City next month.
The association’s initial goal is to offer rehabilitation to about 200 children with cerebral palsy.
“We want to continue working and empowering, so that more children in the city and the country have access to this type of rehabilitation... that radically changes their lives,” Maldonado said.
The sessions also give joy to the therapists, who carefully fit the exoskeleton using its special corset, cuff and shoes and celebrate the children’s progress with smiles and applause.
“It motivates us a lot as therapists that we will be able to achieve many things in the future,” said Arturo Palafox, 28.
 


Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcases humanoid robot at event

Updated 01 October 2022

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcases humanoid robot at event

  • Musk says Optimus will be an “extremely capable robot,” unlike other humanoid robots that don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves

SAN FRANCISCO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcased his much-touted humanoid robot ‘Optimus’ at the electric vehicle maker’s “AI Day” event on Friday.
The billionaire has said a robot business will be worth more than its cars, hoping to expand beyond self-driving cars that have not yet become a reality despite his repeated promises.
A prototype of the robot walked on stage and waved to the seated audience. A video of the robot carrying a box, watering plants and moving metal bars in the automaker’s factory was shown.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said at the event being held at a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it.”
Musk said currently humanoid robots are “missing a brain,” saying they don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves, and they are also very expensive and made in low volume.
By contrast, he said, the Optimus will be an “extremely capable robot,” to be made in very high volume, probably, ultimately millions of units and is expected to cost much less than a car, at under $20,000.
Musk is also expected to discuss Tesla’s long-delayed self-driving technology. In May, Musk said that the world’s most valuable car maker would be “worth basically zero” without achieving full self-driving capability, and it faces growing regulatory probes, as well as technological hurdles.
“There will be lots of technical detail & cool hardware demos,” Musk wrote on Twitter late on Wednesday, adding the event was aimed at recruiting engineers.

Tesla’s live demonstration record is mixed. Launches typically draw cheers, but in 2019 when Musk had an employee hurl a steel ball at the armored window of a new electric pickup truck, the glass cracked.
The key test for the robot is whether it can handle unexpected situations.
Musk announced Tesla’s plan for humanoid robots at its AI day in August last year and delayed this year’s event from August to have its robot prototype working, with a plan to start production possibly next year.

Tesla teased the unveiling of the bot on social media with an image of metallic robotic hands making a heart shape. But building human-like, versatile hands that can manipulate different objects is extremely challenging, said Heni Ben Amor, a robotics professor at Arizona State University.
Initially, Optimus, an allusion to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers media franchise, would perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around Tesla factories or attaching a bolt to a car with a wrench, according to Musk.
“There’s so much about what people can do dexterously that’s very, very hard for robots. And that’s not going to change whether the robot is a robot arm or whether it’s in the shape of a humanoid,” Jonathan Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot firm, told Reuters.
Musk has said that in the future robots could be used in homes, making dinners, mowing the lawn and caring for the elderly, and even becoming a “buddy” for humans or a sex partner.
He is due at Friday’s event to give updates on Tesla’s much-delayed plan to launch self-driving cars, and on its high-speed computer, Dojo, which was unveiled last year and the company has said is integral to its development of self-driving technology.
Musk has said he expects Tesla will achieve full self-driving this year and mass produce a robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedal by 2024.
At an “Autonomy” event in 2019, Musk promised 1 million robotaxis by 2020 but has yet to deliver such a car. 


Apple says it will manufacture iPhone 14 in India

Updated 26 September 2022

Apple says it will manufacture iPhone 14 in India

  • Tech giant is moving some of its production away from China
  • Apple could make one out of four iPhones in India by 2025

NEW DELHI: Apple Inc said on Monday it will manufacture its latest iPhone 14 in India, as the tech giant moves some of its production away from China.

The company launched the flagship iPhone 14 at an event earlier this month, where it focused on safety upgrades rather than flashy new technical specifications, with the exception of a new adventure-focused watch.

"The new iPhone 14 lineup introduces groundbreaking new technologies and important safety capabilities. We're excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India," Apple said in a statement.

Analysts at J.P.Morgan expect Apple to move about 5% of iPhone 14 production from late 2022 to India, which is the world's second-biggest smartphone market after China.

Apple could make one out of four iPhones in India by 2025, JPM analysts said in a note last week.