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One of the Twitter feeds MiniDuke-infected machines use to locate a command-and-control server.

Kaspersky Lab

Unidentified attackers have infected government agencies and organizations in 23 countries with highly advanced malware that uses low-level code to stay hidden and Twitter and Google to ensure it always has a way to receive updates.

MiniDuke, as researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Hungary-based CrySyS Lab have dubbed the threat, bears the hallmark of viruses first encountered in the mid-1990s, when shadowy groups such as 29A engineered innovative pieces of malware for fun and then documented them in an E-Zine by the same name. Because MiniDuke is written in assembly language, most of its computer files are tiny. Its use of multiple levels of encryption and clever coding tricks makes the malware hard to detect and reverse engineer. It also employs a method known as steganography, in which updates received from control servers are stashed inside image files.

In another testament to the skill of the attackers, MiniDuke has taken hold of government agencies, think tanks, a US-based healthcare provider, and other high-profile organizations using the first known exploit to pierce the security sandbox in Adobe Systems' Reader application. Adding intrigue to this, the MiniDuke exploit code contained references to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and also alluded to 666, the Mark of the Beast discussed in a verse from the Book of Revelation.

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Pope Benedict XVI is back in Rome following his week-long-travels to Mexico and Cuba. In reviewing almost 4,000 images that documented his historic travels to the two countries, I decided to concentrate on Cuba, a country that because of travel restrictions, still remains a bit of a mystery to most of us. The first image, though, shows the Pope traveling to Cristo Rey sanctuary in Mexico to lead the holy mass celebration. The Pope urged the faithful to seek a humble and pure heart and trust in God in the face of evil. While in Cuba, in the heart of Revolution Square, with the towering images of guerrilla heroes staring back at him, the Pope called for "authentic freedom" in one of the world's most authoritarian states. Benedict's visit comes 14 years after the historic first papal trip to Cuba by Pope John Paul II, a visit that yielded an era of greater religious expression. – Paula Nelson (50 photos total)
Pope Benedict XVI looks from the helicopter at the Cristo Rey sanctuary as arrives to lead the holy mass celebration at the Parque del Bicentenario in Silao, March 25, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI sought to boost the Catholic faith in the face of violence and other challenges on his first visit to Mexico, receiving eager support from vast crowds of Mexicans. (Osservatore Romano/AFP/Getty Images)

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Syrians by the thousands are fleeing the violence in their home country and seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Turkey this week is said to be considering a buffer zone in Syria to secure its own national security as well as aid fleeing civilians. Turkey is already sheltering some 17,000 of those who have fled. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the yearlong conflict in Syria. A cease-fire agreement accepted by Syria Tuesday that was drawn up by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan was met with skepticism, and fighting continued between rebels and President Bashar Assad’s soldiers. -- Lloyd Young (32 photos total)
Syrian refugees are seen through a barbed wire as they arrive at border between Syria and Turkey, near Reyhanli, Hatay province, on March 27. Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on dissent, which monitors say has seen more than 9,100 people killed since March 2011, triggered an influx of refugees on the Turkish border as officials say the current number exceeds 17,000. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

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Is the recent political thaw in Myanmar genuine? Democratic elections are coming to the long-reclusive southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly Burma. A long military dictatorship has nominally ended, and the regime has signed peace treaties with several ethnic separatist insurgencies. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's long house arrest is over, and she is campaigning for a seat in Parliament in the upcoming April 1 vote. Western investment is beginning to mass, which may ultimately be the reason the country is finally opening its doors. Other speculation on the thaw points to the incompetent emergency response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left as many as 140,000 dead and sowed deep dissatisfaction with the government. Whatever the reasons for the unprecedented opening, the isolated and impoverished Burmese people are eager to reconnect with and catch their more developed neighbors in ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations. While it's impossible to represent every corner of any nation, collected here are images from the last couple of months in Myanmar, a nation of 55 million. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)
A child waits for the arrival of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Pyar Pon in the Irrawaddy Delta region on February 17, 2012. She wears thanaka on her face, a paste made from wood bark popularly used as both a beauty cosmetic and protection from the sun. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)

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Purim, one of the most joyous holidays in the Jewish calendar was held a week ago, March 8 and 9, celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people in exile in Persia. The story is told in the Book of Esther, which is read as part of the holiday, remembering how a young Jewish girl became queen of Persia and risked the anger of her new husband to get him to prevent an attack on all Jews living in Persia, men, women, and children. The story, also called the Megillah, tells of the fall of the king’s feared adviser, who perishes out of his own malice, the bravery of a young woman, and the perseverance of the Jewish people. The festival is celebrated with gifts of food and drink, feasting, and games, especially dressing in costumes to remember how Esther was chosen as most beautiful in the kingdom. -- Lloyd Young (22 photos total)
An Ultra Orthodox Jewish boy stands dressed in a costume during celebrations for the holiday of Purim at the Belz Hasidic dynasty synagogue in Jerusalem on March 8. Purim is a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

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ON STRIKE ON STRIKE: An ill boy lay on a bench at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, where a health-care workers’ strike has brought operations almost to a halt. Public hospitals face a potentially devastating worker shortage after the government said Thursday it had fired 25,000 strikers. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

LOOKING BACK LOOKING BACK: A man looked for his photographs at a collection center Friday in Sendai, Japan, for items found after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. A year later, more than 250,000 photographs and personal belongings on display for owners to recover. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

COTTON TRADE COTTON TRADE: A trader checked containers of cotton in Kadi, India, Friday. India partially lifted a ban on cotton exports just days after imposing it, after opposition from the agriculture minister and officials in cotton-growing states, who argued the ban would hurt farmers. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

PURIM NAP PURIM NAP: An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man slept on a bench in a synagogue in Jerusalem during celebrations for Purim, a holiday marking the Jews’ salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as told in the Book of Esther. Many religious Jews drink openly during the holiday. (Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency)

ALLERGIC REACTIONS ALLERGIC REACTIONS: Vaishnavi Borde, age 9, received treatment at a hospital in Mumbai after having an allergic reaction to the colored powder traditionally thrown during the Holi festival. A teenage boy died and hundreds have been hospitalized in Mumbai; contaminated paint is suspected. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)

CARGO PLANE CRASH CARGO PLANE CRASH: A man stood next to the wreckage of a cargo aircraft that crashed in the village of Plan de Cedro, Honduras, Thursday. The pilot and co-pilot, the only people on board, were killed in the crash, according to the local media. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)

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As an Israeli and a resident of “ultra” secular Tel Aviv for most of my adult life, Purim -- the celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther...

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An Indian man dances amid a cloud of colored powder during Holi celebrations in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 8, 2012. Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, also heralds the coming of spring. Jerry Vonderhaar, left, comforts Charles Kellogg after severe weather hit the Eagle Point subdivision in Limestone County, Ala. on Friday, March 2, 2012. [...]

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DRYING OUT
DRYING OUT: Paul Lavers collected laundry from his backyard Thursday in Sydney after flash floods struck the area. Large tracts of the Australian state of New South Wales are under water. (Torsten Blackwood/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

PUCKER UP
PUCKER UP: Mary Robbins prepared a chow chow dog at the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, England, Thursday. (Ben Cawthra/London News Pictures/Zuma Press)

COLORFUL OUTLOOK
COLORFUL OUTLOOK: A man’s face and body were smeared with colored powder during Holi festivities in Mumbai Thursday. (Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press)


PAMPERED POLICE? Traffic police officers showed off neck-support pillows that were given to them by their commander during the National People’s Congress in Beijing Thursday. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

SEND-OFF
SEND-OFF: Soldiers carried torches during a farewell ceremony for former German President Christian Wulff at Bellevue Palace in Berlin Thursday. Mr. Wulff left office under a cloud of suspicion amid allegations concerning political favors. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

PRETTY AS A PICTURE
PRETTY AS A PICTURE: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sisters Simcha, left, and Miri dressed as dolls and stuck their heads in boxes during Purim festivities in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Thursday. (Ariel Schalit/Associated Press)

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