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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Point of Sale equipment targetted by hacking malware

A security firm has found that point of sale equipment around the world has been targetted by malware to skim off credit card numbers, a deeply embedded security attack.
"Custom-made malware that has been used over the past 2-3 months to infect hundreds POS systems," said the Seculert Blog: Dexter - Draining blood out of Point of Sales. "Some of the targeted POS systems include big-name retailers, hotels, restaurants and even private parking providers. The name Dexter comes from a string found in one of the malware related files and its Track 1 / Track 2 online parsing tool "
Over 30 percent of the targeted POS systems were using Windows Servers, which may acocunt for how this is happening.

By Nick Flaherty

Friday, November 30, 2012

Researcher Finds 23 SCADA Security Flaws in One Morning

This is the reason I bang on about security for embedded systems, particularly for the Internet of Things:

Researcher Aaron Portnoy found a remote code execution bug and a denial-of-service (DoS) flaw in Rockwell Automation SCADA products; three remote execution flaws and one DoS bug in Schneider Electric products; a DoS flaw in Indusoft SCADA products; eight DoS flaws in Realflex SCADA products; and three remote code execution bugs, two DoS, and three file vulnerabilities in Eaton products, a total of 23 from a simple scan. And if he can do it, so can hackers.
It also didn't take long - the first exploitable zero day bug took a mere 7 minutes to discover from the time the software was installed. For someone who has spent a lot of time auditing software used in the enterprise and consumer space, SCADA was absurdly simple in comparison he said.

By Nick Flaherty

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ten... technology FAILS • The Register

Ten... technology FAILS from The Register:

Nokia's N-Gage, Palm's Foleo, Motorola's Atrix, Apple's Newton MessagePad, HD DVD, Sony's Rolly, Sony's Mylo, Philips' CD-i, Commodore's CD-TV, IBM's PCJr, the Camputer's Lynx, Gizmondo, the Phantom, Atari's Jaguar, MySpace, Beenz - behind every iPad there are dozens and dozens of technology products that aspired to greatness but were successful only in their distinct lack of commercial success.
Some were simply beaten by better rivals, others were just released too early or too late, still more were just plain wrong. Not all were specific products - entire categories of goods and services have been hailed as the Next Big Thing only to disappear with nothing but a handful of miserable early adopters to show they were ever there.
Here, then, are some of our favourite tech fails - products, technologies, concepts and trends - from the past 30-odd years.

Great piece from the Register - how many do you remember? (Sadly, all of them for me!) 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Adding a '3D print' button to animation software

By Nick Flaherty

A group of graphics experts led by computer scientists at Harvard have created an add-on software tool that translates video game characters—or any other three-dimensional software animations—into fully articulated action figures, with the help of a 3D printer.
The project is described in detail in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Transactions on Graphics and will be presented at the ACMSIGGRAPH conference on August 7.
Besides its obvious consumer appeal, the tool constitutes a remarkable piece of code and an unusual conceptual exploration of the virtual and physical worlds.
"In animation you're not necessarily trying to model the physical world perfectly; the model only has to be good enough to convince your eye," said lead author Moritz Bächer, a graduate student in computer science at SEAS. "In a virtual world, you have all this freedom that you don't have in the physical world. You can make a character so anatomically skewed that it would never be able to stand up in real life, and you can make deformations that aren't physically possible. You could even have a head that isn't attached to its body, or legs that occasionally intersect each other instead of colliding."
Returning a virtual character to the physical world therefore turns the traditional animation process on its head, in a sort of reverse rendering, as the image that's on the screen must be adapted to accommodate real-world constraints.
Bächer and his coauthors demonstrated their new method using characters from Spore, an evolution-simulation video game. Spore allows players to create a vast range of creatures with numerous limbs, eyes, and body segments in almost any configuration, using a technique called procedural animation to quickly and automatically animate whatever body plan it receives.
As with most types of computer animation, the characters themselves are just "skins"—meshes of polygons—that are manipulated like marionettes by an invisible skeleton.
"As an animator, you can move the skeletons and create weight relationships with the surface points," says Bächer, "but the skeletons inside are non-physical with zero-dimensional joints; they're not useful to our fabrication process at all. In fact, the skeleton frequently protrudes outside the body entirely."
The team of computer graphics experts developed a software tool that achieves two things: it identifies the ideal locations for the action figure's joints, based on the character's virtual articulation behaviour, and then it optimizes the size and location of those joints for the physical world. For instance, a spindly arm might be too thin to hold a robust joint, and the joints in a curving spine might collide with each other if they are too close.
The software uses a series of optimization techniques to generate the best possible model, incorporating both hinges and ball-and-socket joints. It also builds some friction into these surfaces so that the printed figure will be able to hold its poses.
The tool also perfects the model's skin texture. Procedurally animated characters tend to have a very roughly defined, low-resolution skin to enable rendering in real time. Details and textures are typically added through a type of virtual optical illusion: manipulating the normals that determine how light reflects off the surface. In order to have these details show up in the 3D print, the software analyzes that map of normals and translates it into a realistic surface texture.
Then the 3D printer sets to work, and out comes a fully assembled, robust, articulated action figure.
3D print animation1
Before and after. (Image courtesy of Moritz Bächer.)

"With an animation, you always have to view it on a two-dimensional screen, but this allows you to just print it and take an actual look at it in 3D," says Bächer. "I think that’s helpful to the artists and animators, to see how it actually feels in reality and get some feedback. Right now, perhaps they can print a static scene, just a character in one stance, but they can’t see how it really moves. If you print one of these articulated figures, you can experiment with different stances and movements in a natural way, as with an artist’s mannequin."
Bächer's model does not allow deformations beyond the joints, so squishy, stretchable bodies are not yet captured in this process. But that type of printed character might be possible by incorporating other existing techniques.
"Perhaps in the future someone will invent a 3D printer that prints the body and the electronics in one piece," Bächer muses. "Then you could create the complete animated character at the push of a button and have it run around on your desk."
Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has filed a patent application and is working with the Pfister Lab to commercialize the new technology by licensing it to an existing company or by forming a start-up. Their near-term areas of interest include cloud-based services for creating highly customized, user-generated products, such as toys, and enhancing existing animation and 3D printer software with these capabilities.
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Black Hat hacker gains access to 4 million hotel rooms with Arduino microcontroller | ExtremeTech

Black Hat hacker gains access to 4 million hotel rooms with Arduino microcontroller | ExtremeTech:

Bad news: With less than $50 of off-the-shelf hardware and a little bit of programming, it’s possible for a hacker to gain instant, untraceable access to millions of key card-protected hotel rooms.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ultra-high-resolution 3D Printer Breaks Speed-Records at Vienna University of Technology

By Nick Flaherty 
A 285 µm racecar, printed at the Vienna University of Technology
A 285 µm racecar, printed at the Vienna University of Technology

The London Tower Bridge
The London Tower Bridge (credit: Klaus Cicha) The distance between the towers is 90µm 
Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have made a major breakthrough in speeding up 3D printing at micron resolutions, opening up completely new areas of application, such as in medicine.
The 3D printer uses a liquid resin, which is hardened at precisely the correct spots by a focused laser beam. The focal point of the laser beam is guided through the resin by movable mirrors and leaves behind a polymerized line of solid polymer, just a few hundred nanometers wide. This high resolution enables the creation of intricately structured sculptures as tiny as a grain of sand. “Until now, this technique used to be quite slow”, said Professor Jürgen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at the TU Vienna. “The printing speed used to be measured in millimeters per second – our device can do five meters in one second.” This was possible by combining several new ideas, from the laser control to the resin.
“It was crucial to improve the control mechanism of the mirrors”, said researcher Jan Torgersen. The mirrors are continuously in motion during the printing process. The acceleration and deceleration-periods have to be tuned very precisely to achieve high-resolution results at a record-breaking speed.
“The resin contains molecules, which are activated by the laser light. They induce a chain reaction in other components of the resin, so-called monomers, and turn them into a solid”, said Torgersen. These initiator molecules are only activated if they absorb two photons of the laser beam at once – and this only happens in the very center of the laser beam, where the intensity is highest. In contrast to conventional 3D-printing techniques, solid material can be created anywhere within the liquid resin rather than on top of the previously created layer only. Therefore, the working surface does not have to be specially prepared before the next layer can be produced, saving a lot of time. A team of chemists led by Professor Robert Liska at TU Vienna developed the suitable initiators for this special resin. 
Because of the dramatically increased speed, much larger objects can now be created in a given period of time. This makes two-photon-lithography an interesting technique for industry. At the TU Vienna, scientists are now developing bio-compatible resins for medical applications. They can be used to create scaffolds to which living cells can attach themselves facilitating the systematic creation of biological tissues. The 3D printer could also be used to create tailor made construction parts for biomedical technology or nanotechnology.

The video shows the 3d-printing process in real time. Due to the very fast guiding of the laser beam, 100 layers, consisting of approximately 200 single lines each, are produced in four minutes.

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Monday, January 09, 2012

NXP Launches Compact High-Precision MEMS Frequency Synthesizer - EETimes Europe

NXP Launches Compact High-Precision MEMS Frequency Synthesizer - EETimes Europe

NXP Semiconductors has developed a high-precision silicon MEMS-based frequency synthesizer that it sees competing directly with quartz crystal-based timing devices.

Using MEMS technology replaces a quartz crystal with a bare silicon die that is more than 20 times smaller than the smallest crystal available today and does not require any dedicated, quartz-like, ceramic or metal-can hermetic package. Instead, it can be merged with other ICs into a standardized, low-cost plastic package.

By Nick Flaherty