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Enlarge / An overview of a browser-based exploit that abuses cloud services.

Vasant Tendulkar et al.

Scientists have devised a browser-based exploit that allows them to carry out large-scale computations on cloud-based services for free, a hack they warn could be used to wage powerful online attacks cheaply and anonymously.

The method, described in a research paper scheduled to be presented at next month's Computer Security Applications Conference, uses the Puffin mobile browser to push computationally intensive jobs onto a cloud-based service that was never intended for such purposes. Normally, Puffin and other so-called cloud-based browsers are used only to accelerate the loading of Web pages on mobile devices by rendering JavaScript, images, and text from disparate sources on a server and only then delivering it to the smartphone or tablet. That's more efficient than relying on mobile devices with limited computing power to render such content themselves.

Now, computer scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon have demonstrated a way to abuse such services. By creating a customized browser that mimics Puffin, they were able to trick the cloud-based servers it relies on to count words, search for text strings, and carry out other tasks the service was never designed for—free and semi-anonymously. Out of ethical considerations, they limited both the scope and workload imposed on the cloud resources, but they warned less-scrupulous attackers could use similar techniques to perform powerful denial-of-service attacks and password cracks.

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At the suggestion of her 8-year-old daughter, who was watching a weather show on TV, Camille Seaman took to the Great Plains, photographing supercell storms - the type that begets tornadoes.

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snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia sees few business IT situations that could make good use of full cloud storage services, outside of startups. 'As IT continues in a zigzag path of figuring out what to do with this "cloud" stuff, it seems that some companies are getting ahead of themselves. In particular, the concept of outsourcing storage to a cloud provider puzzles me. I can see some benefits in other cloud services (though I still find the trust aspect difficult to reconcile), but full-on cloud storage offerings don't make sense outside of some rare circumstances.'"


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A nighttime view of Western Europe taken by the Earth-orbiting International Space Station crew shows the ISS’s robotic arm and solar arrays in the foreground. Belgium and the Netherlands can be seen at bottom center, the North Sea at left center, and Scandinavia at right center. ISS crew member Don Petit fleshes out the reality of life in space by sharing physical details–including the smells, sounds and mind-boggling views on his Letters to Earth blog. Mr. Petit shares his privileged viewpoint in a recent entry:

“From orbit, the more you know about our planet, the more you can see. You see all the geological features described in textbooks. You see fault zones, moraines, basins, ranges, impact craters, dikes, sills, braided channels, the strike and dip of layered rocks, folding, meanders, oxbow lakes, slumps, slides, mud flows, deltas, alluvial fans, glaciers, karst topography, cirques, tectonicplates, rifts zones, cinder cones, crater lakes, fossil sea shores, lava flows, volcanic plumes, fissures, eruptions, dry lakes, inverted topography, latteric soils, and many more.

You see clouds of every description and combination: nimbus, cumulus, stratus, nimbo-cumulus, nimbo-stratus, cirrus, thunderheads, and typhoons, sometimes with clockwise rotation, sometimes with counter-clockwise. You notice patterns: Clouds over cold oceans look different than clouds over warm oceans. Sometimes the continents are all cloud-covered, so you have no recognizable land-mass to help you gauge where you are. If you see a crisscross of jet contrails glistening in the sun above the clouds, you know you are over the United States.”

You can keep up with the current six-member expedition crew on board the ISS by following the ISS blog on NASA.gov, or by following @NASA_Astronauts on Twitter.

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GTAC 2011: Lightning Talks I

6th Annual Google Test Automation Conference 2011 (GTAC 2011) "Cloudy With A Chance Of Tests" Computer History Museum Mountain View, CA USA October 26-27, 2011 Lightning Talks I: A series of 5-minute technical talks about cloud testing. More information about talks and speakers here: www.gtac.biz Testing Cloud Failover Roussi Roussev, VMware Behind Salesforce Cloud: Test Automation Cloud and Yoda Chris Chen, Salesforce ABFT in the Cloud Timothy Crooks, CygNet ScriptCover: Javascript Coverage Analysis Tool Ekaterina Kamenskaya, Google Cloud Sourcing - Realistic Performance, Load and Stress Testing Sai Chintala, AppLabs
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The largest and most intense storm on Saturn observed by NASA’s Voyager or Cassini spacecraft has been captured in false color image from Cassini’s cameras (below). The storm, currently still active, encircles the giant planet, encompassing an area eight times the surface area of earth. The colors highlight clouds at different altitudes. Clouds that appear blue here are the highest, those that are yellow and bright are clouds at high altitudes, those shown green are intermediate clouds. Red and brown colors are clouds at low altitude, and the deep blue color is a thin haze with no clouds below. The base of the clouds, where lightning is generated, is probably in the water cloud layer of Saturn’s atmosphere. The image is a mosaic of 84 images taken with a narrow angle camera, over a period of about five hours, covering 33 miles per pixel.

This true-color picture (below), captured on Feb. 25, 2011, was taken about three months after the storm began. Already the clouds had formed a tail that encircled the planet. The storm’s tail, which appears as slightly blue clouds south and west (left) of the storm head, can be seen encountering the storm head in this view. Cassini’s wide angle camera looked toward the sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane for this image. Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging Team Leader, bubbles over in her Captain’s Log on July 6th, 2011:

“One might think that after years in orbit around Saturn, we are now accustomed to great big happenings and fantastic spectacles. But far from it. It is the shock of the unexpected, the intense mind-grabbing, eye-popping, soul-stirring thrill of seeing the unseen that gets us every time. And, as all of you well know, that is what this glorious, history-making exploration of Saturn and its magnificent realm is all about.”

Scientists do not know why Saturn stores energy for decades and releases it all at once. For example, Jupiter and Earth have numerous storms going on at all times. The Cassini imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany, with the imaging operations center based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. For more information and photography from Cassini, click here. All photography courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

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In the Mixteca, one of the most impoverished regions in Mexico, migration to the United States has arrived like a storm. In a place so insular that pre-columbian languages like Mixteco, Trique, and Asmuzgos are still spoken more widely than Spanish, and where cars, electricity and indoor plumbing are recent introductions, if they exist at all, northern migration has emptied communities and transformed the lives of those left behind. Some villages have lost as much as 80% of their population to the north and have become little more than ghost towns, home to just a handful of old men, women and the left-behind children of migrants.

In San Miguel Cuevas -- or Nuyuco, Face of the Mountain, in Mixteco -- just 500 people out of 3000 remain. Its streets are largely empty, its fields stand deserted, its century-old way of life lies in shambles as families dissolve to the north, rending the social fabric of this traditional agrarian society. Old women raise grandchildren left behind by their mothers, teenage girls do the work of absent fathers, and old men sit alone, abandoned by their children. "I only think about dying," one 70 year old said, "my only worry is how my funeral will be."

Photographer Matt Black first photographed the mixteca in 2000. He has since made 12 trips to the region, and plans more. To contribute to the project, visit his Kickstarter project site. -- Lane Turner (32 photos total)


Fog settles on the deserted streets of San Miguel Cuevas, a Mixtec village in the highlands of Oaxaca. Over 80% of its population has emigrated to the United States, leaving it little more than a ghost town. (Matt Black)

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