Tag Archives: NASA

Strongest Solar Storm Since 2003, Flights Rerouted

The strongest solar storm since 2003 started last Monday – a wave of charged particles from an intense solar flare eruption is now raising alerts about airline flights and satellite operations. The solar flares did not make a direct hit on the Earth, but several flights were rerouted last week and scientists are not sure if there will be more to come.

“The chance for re-intensification is still possible because this active spot on the sun that created the initial havoc could go off again.”

Harlan Spence

The storm began when a powerful solar flare erupted on the sun Monday, blasting a stream of charged particles toward our planet. This electromagnetic burst — called a coronal mass ejection, or CME — started hitting Earth somewhere around 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Experts at the center says that solar radiation levels were at their highest point since the Halloween storms of 2003.

Earlier estimates ranked the storm as the strongest since 2005 in terms of solar radiation, but Terry Onsager, a physicist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, said that when the wave of charged particles arrived, “that took it from below the 2005 event to above the 2005 event,” msnbc.com reports.

Bill Murtagh, the center’s program coordinator, said that the outburst was forcing airlines to change routes for some of their scheduled flights. “Most of the major airlines flying polar [routes], or even some non-polar, high-altitude routes, have taken action to mitigate the effect of this storm,” he says.

Airline Alert

Delta Air Lines reported that it altered routes for “a handful” of flights, and that the changes added about 15 minutes to travel times.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black told Reuters that solar activity “can impact your ability to communicate … so basically, the polar routes are being flown further south than normal.”

United Airlines says one flight was diverted on Monday, while American Airlines says it has seen no operational impact from the storm so far but was monitoring the situation.

As powerful as it is, the storm should have no effect on daily life for most people, msnbc.com writes.

No Direct Hit

When a coronal mass ejection hits Earth, it can trigger potentially harmful geomagnetic storms as the charged particles shower down the planet’s magnetic field lines.

This can amp up normal displays of Earth’s auroras (also known as the northern and southern lights), but a strong CME aimed directly at Earth can also cause disruptions to satellites in orbit, as well as power grids and communications infrastructures on the ground.

Monday’s solar flare set off an extremely fast-moving CME, but the ejected cloud of plasma and charged particles was not directly aimed at Earth and hit the planet at an angle instead.

This glancing blow would likely lessen any impacts on Earth,

Earth’s magnetic field served as a shield, and pretty much shielded the radiation so that it doesn’t penetrate that deep,” Yihua Zheng, a lead researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says.

“It’s like a car collision: head-on or off to the side. A CME is like that too. For this one, if it was a direct hit, Earth would receive a much stronger impact. This one was on an angle — toward higher latitudes and a little off the ecliptic — otherwise it would be a much stronger impact.”

Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory and the STEREO spacecraft, observed the massive sun storm.

Data from these spacecraft were combined to help scientists create models to calculate when and where the CME was going to hit Earth.

“A CME is kind of like a space hurricane,” Zheng says. “You have to predict how it will form and evolve. From the models, we can see which spacecraft will be in its path, and what will be impacted.”

At the Space Weather Center, scientists reported that the CME began interacting with Earth’s magnetic field at 9:31 a.m. ET. “We predicted it would arrive at 9:18 a.m., and in reality, it arrived at 9:31 a.m., so ours has a 13-minute error,” Zheng adds. “Usually for this kind of model, the average error is seven hours, so this is the best case.”

Subside or Intensify?

At NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center they say the level of solar radiation should gradually subside — unless the sun unleashes another big coronal mass ejection. “The expectation is that it will weaken and that it will decay over the next couple of days,” NOAA representatives told msnbc.com.

The University of New Hampshire’s astrophysicist Harlan Spence says “the chance for re-intensification is still possible because this active spot on the sun that created the initial havoc could go off again.”

The solar flare associated with this week’s storm was estimated to be an M9-class eruption, which placed it teetering on the edge of being an X-class flare, the most powerful type of solar storm. M-class sun storms are powerful but midrange, while C-class flares are weaker.

The flare erupted from sunspot 1402, a region near the meridian of the sun that has been active for a while now, according to NASA.

The powerful solar storm could be signaling that the sun is waking up after an extended period of relative dormancy.

The sun’s activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle.

The star is currently in the midst of Solar Cycle 24, and activity is expected to continue ramping up toward the solar maximum in 2013.

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Filed under Technology

The Cyber War: Complete Coverage

The International Monetary Fund, IMF, is the latest high-profile organization to become a victim of network intrusion by hackers. According to several media reports, the IMF has suffered a substantial security breach, of which the full extent is not yet known. Over the last few months, cyber attacks have increased in both frequency and severity. The group of cyber activists, Anonymous, are currently involved in 9000 attacks on governments and corporations around the world. Check out the stunning details.

“You still have the power to stand up for good. Do NOT come between us and our freedom. You have been warned.”

The Anonymous

According to The New York Times, quoting an unnamed official, the IMF intrusion is a “very major” one, and has been going on for several months. The actual dimensions of the attack are still unknown. The IMF says that the Fund is “fully functional” and that the organization is investigating the incident. Sony, Citibank, Acer, Epsilon, RSA, NASA, Lockheed Martin – even Al-Qaeda and the FBI – everyone seems to get hacked these days!

The IMF declined to say who might be behind the intrusion, NYT reports.

A Bloomberg story, however, cited an unidentified security expert as saying that the attackers were believed to be connected to an unspecified foreign government and that e-mails and other documents had been taken.

Dealing with the global financial crises, international trade and other monetary matters, the IMF is privy to sensitive economic information regarding a number of countries data that could be extremely valuable to investors and of great interest to governments.

The organization has also been criticized for its policies and accused of being  responsible for crises.

The breach is the latest in a series of headline grabbing hacks that have involved the likes of computer security company RSA, several U.S. military contractors, search giant and Web-based e-mail purveyor Google, and Sony entertainment behemoth.

Shutting Down The World Bank

Cyberespionage and cyber warfare have been making headline news consistently for quite some time.

Bloomberg quotes a memo to IMF employees by the organization’s chief information officer, warning the staff to be vigilant:

“Last week we detected some suspicious file transfers, and the subsequent investigation established that a Fund desktop computer had been compromised and used to access some Fund systems. At this point, we have no reason to believe that any personal information was sought for fraud purposes.”

The memo also says that the IMF’s network connection to the World Bank (which is headquartered across the street from the Fund) have been shut down “as a precautionary measure.”

An earlier memo to employees has warned the IMF staff of phishing attacks, saying:

 “Staff is strongly requested NOT TO OPEN emails and video links without authenticating the source.”

Bloomberg writes that the recent network breach is not associated with the group Anonymous, which had earlier threatened an attack on the Fund in association with IMF activities involving the economically hobbled country of Greece.

On Saturday, law enforcement officials in Spain said they had arrested several members of Anonymous in connection with attacks on entertainment giant Sony, as well as on governments and financial institutions.

Hackers Go Wild

A wave of cyber attacks has left corporations and government organizations in a state of shock and confusion.

The Hacker News reports that they have received a message from the hacking group, Pakistan Cyber Army – PCA – claiming the group has hacked Acer Europe’s server and stolen sensitive information.

THN have posted a screenshot of the data reportedly collected, which included the personal information of 40,000 customers, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and the names of products they had purchased.

According to The Hacker News, the PCA plans to release more data within the next 24 hours, and will follow that up with a press release discussing its reasons for hacking Acer’s Europe division.

Acer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, CNET.com reports.

The Anonymous, which made headlines last year by hacking financial institutions and other sites in defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, recently made public more than 10,000 e-mails it stole from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the International Business Times, quote  a source who have viewed the documents, most of the files are passports and visas, relate to an “oil meeting.”

NATO Gets a Warning

The organization has also launched a new operation it’s calling Op NATO Black Fax/E-mail Bomb.

Users can surf to the OpNATO page and send a free prewritten fax to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in defense of Anonymous. The organization has posted a list of fax numbers to the page, and has asked supporters to send “as many [faxes] as you can” to those numbers.

“It has come to our attention that you have classified Anonymous a ‘potential threat to the security of [your] member states,’ and that you seek retaliation against us,” reads the letter to NATO, which is made up of the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., among other countries. Anonymous goes on to ask the member nations to “retaliate against us in any manner you choose.” However, even if some of its members are jailed, the letter reads, the nations will find “that Anonymous continues to live on.”

Anonymous’ letter ends with the following threat:

“Think carefully before you continue from here,” the letter reads. “You still have the power to stand up for good. Do NOT come between us and our freedom. You have been warned.”

But there seems to be many busy hacking groups at the moment:

Earlier Sunday, a hacker known as “pr0f” posted the e-mails and passwords of more than a hundred United Arab Emirates government employees.

However, the hacker said the list was “historic” and that the e-mail passwords were not current.

Even British intelligence officials have gotten into the mix.

Hacking With Humor

According to a Daily Telegraph report yesterday, the British intelligence organization, MI6, hacked into an al-Qaeda online magazine recently and replaced a recipe on bomb-making with a recipes on making “The Best Cupcakes in America.”

The latest string of hacks started in earnest in April when hackers launched a sophisticated attack against Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. The hackers also breached Sony Online Entertainment.

After discovering the breach, Sony was forced to take the services down.

The company reported that the personal information of more than 100 million users had been exposed.

Sony reassured users at the time that credit card data was encrypted. It has also said no identity theft has been reported because of the breach.

So far, Sony hasn’t been able to pinpoint who overcame its defenses, but the company did find a file named “Anonymous” on its servers. The file contained part of the hacking organization’s slogan: “We are legion.”

The Anonymous says it is not responsible for the Sony attack. It did acknowledge, however, that some of its members might have acted independently to hack Sony.

Though Sony might have hoped it was out of the woods following the PlayStation Network breach, the company still faces attacks from hackers.

Yesterday, a hacking organization called LulzSec posted links on its Twitter account to data it had stolen from Sony’s internal networks, as well as from the networks of Sony Pictures, Sony Music Belgium, and Sony Music Netherlands.

“We recently broke into SonyPictures.com and compromised over 1 million users’ personal information, including passwords, e-mail addresses, home addresses, dates of birth, and all Sony opt-in data associated with their accounts,” LulzSec wrote on Pastebin, the site where it posted some data. “Among other things, we also compromised all admin details of Sony Pictures (including passwords) along with 75,000 ‘music codes’ and 3.5 million ‘music coupons.’ “

The group claimed the data was not encrypted and had been left for the taking. Sony confirmed the attack this evening, saying it had contacted the FBI in an effort to track down the individuals who posted the data.

LulzSec’s attack on Sony was the second major hack the organization engaged in over the past week. This past weekend, the group showed off its hacking ability by engaging in what it called a “fun battle” with the Public Broadcasting Service.

LulzSec also posted a fake news story on the PBS site, saying that musical artist Tupac was still alive, and reportedly published log-in data for the PBS workforce.

The hack was a response to an airing of a PBS “Frontline” episode called “WikiSecrets” that presented WikiLeaks in a somewhat unfavorable light.

The LulzSec hack followed a statement earlier this week from Google claiming it had “detected and disrupted” a phishing attack that attempted to give the hackers access to hundreds of Gmail accounts belonging to senior U.S. government officials.

Google said it believed the attacks originated from Jinan, China, but stopped short of blaming the Chinese government.

The US government has denied that state-run e-mail accounts were hacked, but it has launched an investigation into the possibility of officials’ Gmail accounts being targeted.

“Speaking on behalf of the US government, we’re looking into these reports and seeking to gather the facts,” Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement to CNET yesterday.

“We have no reason to believe that any official US government e-mail accounts were accessed.”

Now, that’s waving a red flag in front of a raging bull.

Complete Coverage

Thanks to The Hackers News – who has been reporting on most incidents lately – here’s the list of registered highlights between April and June 2011 :

  • Sony Online Entertainment announce that it has lost 12 700 customer credit cards as a result of an attack, and about 24,6 million accounts may have been breached. LINK
  • The Anonymous performs Operation Iran, attacking the governmental websites responsible for oppressing the freedom of speech, information or ideas. LINK
  • The information and review site on high-speed internet, DSLReport.com, gets hit with a blind SQL injection attack, resulting in a compromise of at least 9000 accounts. LINK
  • Hackers gain access to famous pop star Lady Gaga’s Twitter account and began posting spam messages. LINK
  • The social network site Buddie.me gets hacked, about 15 809 emails/passwords published on the net. LINK
  • Pakistan Cyber Army – PCA – hacks into the Indian railway’s email system and downloads all confidential material, including email addresses and matching passwords. LINK
  • A 26-year-old hacker is charged with 13 cases of felony after hacking into Facebook accounts, stealing photos of young women and posting them on porn sites. LINK
  • A Turkish hackers group hacks the website of Cyberhackers.org. LINK
  • Indian hackers/codebreakers breaks into the servers of Pakistan Air Force. LINK
  • An employee claiming illegitimate firing claims he was able to break into, and take down, a 200 megawatt wind turbine system owned by NextEra Energy Resources. LINK
  • Media reports of growing threat to Western governments and corporations as they are under attack from hackers based in China. LINK
  • The European Space Agency – ESA – gets hacked by someone called TinKode. LINK
  • The server’s of the world’s largest blog community WordPress.com gets hacked. LINK
  • Epsilon’s Customer Lists of major Brands gets compromised. LINK
  • Hackers manage to infiltrate one of the world’s top computer-security companies, RSA. The company has about 40 million users/customers. LINK
  • A Pakistani hacker called KhantastiC hacks into the website thehackersparadise.com and adds his own page. LINK
  • The official website of the President of Pakistan gets hacked. LINK
  • The database of Spanish Escuela Universitaria Diseno gets hacked and dumped on the file sharing site rapidshare.com. LINK
  • An Indian hacker called Lionaneesh hacks and exposes the aviation website Planespotters.net. LINK
  • A Turkish hacker called OldChildz hacks the web portal of several famous Israeli companies. LINK
  • The British Cambridge Networks gets hacked by the Pakistani hacker Shak. LINK
  • An Indian hacking crew claims to have broken into 253 different websites. LINK
  • The website of The Film and Publication Board – FPB – gets hacked by someone called Dr.KroOoz. LINK
  • An Indian hacker called Angel 4k4 4d0r4b13 hacks the Pakistani railway’s database. LINK
  • The Oak Ridge National Laboratory gets hacked. LINK
  • A hacker called The 077 breaks into 20 websites run by the Chinese government. LINK
  • The website of CEH – Centennial Media Training – gets hacked. LINK
  • 70 Indian websites gets hacked by Shadow008 who is a part of the Pakistani Cyber Army. LINK
  • All websites run by the Security Firm & News Company is breached by Indian hacker called I33t Haxors. LINK
  • Hackers break into The Hartford insurance company and install password-stealing software on several of the company’s windows servers. LINK
  • Computer producer ACER gets hacked by Pakistan Cyber Army. LINK
  • The British intelligence service MI6 hacks an Al-Qaeda website and replace a bomb making recipe with a cupcake recipe. LINK
  • The hacker group Lulzsec hacks the systems of Infragard Atlanta Members Alliance, a FBI affiliate and blows their cover. LINK
  • The Anonymous leaks more than 10 000 emails, stolen from the Iranian government. LINK
  • Chinese hackers cracks hundreds of US and Asian Gmail accounts. LINK
  • The website of PBS.org gets hit by a zero-day exploit. LINK
  • The official website of the upcoming movie Ra One – gets hacked and the defaced. LINK
  • The network of Television Company GMA-7 – including Twitter and Facebook – gets hacked by someone called D4RKB1T. LINK
  • A 14 year old hacker gets hired by Microsoft after doing phishing via Call of Duty Server. LINK
  • Hackers break into the servers of Lockheed Martin networks and US defense contractors. LINK
  • PC game company Comodo gets hacked, resellers private data exposed. LINK
  • The Anonymous takes down the website of US Chamber of Commerce after the Chamber approved the new Protect IP Act. LINK
  • More than 200 Indian official websites are reported hacked by someone called XtReMiSt. LINK
  • Another report on stealing and selling credit card information says the use of hacking techniques is increasing. LINK
  • Facebook prepares to launch a so-called Bug Bounty Program. LINK
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center gets hacked – again – by the hacker called TinKode. LINK
  • Another Facebook scam are reported. LINK
  • The website of famous football star Ronaldinho gets hacked by Osama bin Laden supporters. LINK
  • The Information Security and Ethical Hacing Training organization, Appin, gets hacked – once again. LINK
  • The hacker group Lulzsec hacks and release ATM information. LINK
  • Official report questions the security of US institutions like Department of Defense, Pentagon, NASA and NSA. LINK
  • Pakistan Cyber Army gets hacked by the Indian Cyber Army, Indishell. LINK
  • The website of Indian TV Channel V hacked by someone called MaDnI, a member of Pakistan Cyber Army. LINK
  • The Anonymous’ IRC networks – irc.anonops.net and irc.anonops.ru – gets hacked. LINK
  • India’s leading IT companies TCS – Tata Consu;tancy Services – and Tech Mahindra reports security breaches. LINK
  • The database of contestants in the popular TV show, X Factor, gets hacked and published on the net – available for download. LINK
  • Pakistani news site, Paktribune.com, is hacked and more than 800 emails/passwords stolen. LINK
  • Credit card Company, CCAvenue, hacked. LINK
  • Citibank reports theft of 200 000 credit card accounts. LINK
  • The International Monetary Fund confirms a major security breach. LINK

Download The Hackers News Magazine here:

Issue June 2011 : Rar File | PDF file

Issue May 2011: RAR Format | PDF Format


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Filed under International Econnomic Politics, Laws and Regulations, Technology

Nuclear Holocaust: All We Need Is A Solar Storm (Or A Crazy Hacker)

The severity of the nuclear threath from collapsing reactors in Japan is perhaps bigger than than most of us can imagine. Just a few hours ago, Tokyo Electric Power Co informed of a reactor containment vessel that may have been breached at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, increasing Japan’s nuclear crisis and the risks of radioactive leaks. An emergency power cable is now being buildt to supply the reactors cooling system with more electricity. What do you think will happen if we at this moment should be hit by a massive solar storm, as predicted by NASA could happen at any time?

“If you get enough cold water inside you may stop the generation of steam and then life will get easier. Until then it is a bitch.”

Robert Kelley

Clouds of steam rose from the reactor buildings following a fire at Dai-Ichi’s No. 4 reactor this morning. Radiation levels at the No. 4 reactor hampered efforts to confirm whether the fire had been extinguished, a day after a similar blaze at the same structure, Bloomberg reports. And as long as there is steam coming out it will carry radioactive particles and gases with it.

“If you get enough cold water inside you may stop the generation of steam and then life will get easier. Until then it is a bitch,” says Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer based in Vienna.

Exposed to air, the fuel bundles could chemically react with moisture, catch fire and spread radiation into the atmosphere, according to physicist Edwin Lyman, with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Spent fuel is pretty hot and so it is stored under water to keep it cool,” Kelley says, who worked for 30 years at the U.S. Energy Department.

“If the water leaks or boils away, then the fuel is exposed,” then after burning, the uranium corrodes and releases cesium, contaminating the area, he explain.

A Tokyo Electric worker at the Fukushima nuclear plant is being treated for radiation exposure, the Japanese nuclear safety agency says.

Tokyo Electric says it hasn’t decided whether to bring workers back after the utility evacuated 750 of its 800 employees following yesterday morning’s blast.

The nuclear maintaince company,Tepco,  is now building a power cable to supply electricity to the plant’s cooling systems, according to spokesman Daisuke Hirose.

The systems were knocked out by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported earlier today that if the plan succeeds, the company may be able to stabilize its reactors.

Hirose says there is no timetable for completion.

This video is just in; it seems like a new fire has erupted at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant:


Based on this information, it seems pretty clear that the only thing that keeps a global nuclear horror scenario from happening is a a stable supply of electricity.

And that fact should also be a cause of great consern.

A Black(Out) Swan

A national electrical grid is at the moment one of the most vunerable infrastrutures there is.

With the worlds first cyber weapon – Stuxnet – released online (at least partly) and available to everyone, any idiot of a hacker with medium computer skills are able to cut the power in large areas for an unknown amount of time.

Most nuclear plants have diesel generators that can provide electricity for a limited time – but still; limited.

However, there’s an even more scary possibillity.

According to NASA and several other scientist, is the activity of the Sun building up power to release one of its most powerful solare flare eruptions in more than 100 years.

Some says the effect of a solar storm like this will have the power of 100 million H-bombs, and NASA have been warning for the last two years that this might knock out communication satelites and; electrical grids.

The scientist are not sure when this megastorm will hit the earth, but they’re sure that it will, potentially leaving us without electricity for many months.

It can happen in the next five minutes – it can happen five years from now.

Thousands of  nuclear power plants all over the world could be facing a simultaniously meltdown.

I really don’t like the way this is going…


Solar Activity Over the Last 12 Months

Go to the ECOLOGY section to get the latest data on solar activity, using the solar widget from Wolfram Research.


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Filed under International Econnomic Politics