‘Lie-ins good for health’

A lie-in on weekends is good for health, says a study which has found that the extra hours in bed can help people recover from sleep they have missed out on during the week.

In the study on volunteers, researchers have found that a lie-in boosts one’s health and wellbeing and provides an antidote to the effects of sleep deprivation.

But, significantly, the study has also showed that even 10 hours in bed might not just be enough to recharge the batteries for those who regularly burn the candle at both ends, the ‘Daily Express’ reported.

Inadequate sleep is known to impair people’s ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and keep emotions in check. When people lose sleep, concentration drops and they suffer memory lapses.

Dr. David Dinges, who led a team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in America, said: “The additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after chronic partial sleep loss has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioural alertness.

“The bottom line is adequate recovery is important for coping with the effects of chronic sleep restriction on the brain.”

In fact, the researchers conducted the sleep deprivation experiment on 159 healthy adults.

After spending 10 hours in bed for two nights, 142 guinea pigs were restricted to four hours for five nights running. They were then allowed random doses of recovery sleep for one night. The other 17 volunteers spent 10 hours in bed on all nights.

At 8 AM each day participants were asked to complete a 30-minute assessment. Over the course of the five days, the test performance of the sleep-deprived volunteers was consistently worse than that of well-rested control group.

Even after being allowed 10 hours in bed on one occasion, sleep-restricted participants still had worse scores than the control group for attention lapses, poor reaction times and fatigue, the study found.

Dr. Dinges explained: “Lifestyles that involve chronic sleep restriction during the working week and during days off may result in continuing build-up of sleep pressure and in an increased likelihood of loss of alertness and raised errors.”

Source: The Hindu

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GSM Phone Hack FAQ: What You Should Know

A researcher at the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas demonstrated that he could impersonate a GSM cell tower and intercept mobile phone calls using only $1500 worth of equipment. The cost-effective solution brings mobile phone snooping to the masses, and raises some concerns for mobile phone security.

How does the GSM snooping work?

Chris Paget was able to patch together an IMSI (International Mobile Identity Subscriber) catcher device for about $1500. The IMSI catcher can be configured to impersonate a tower from a specific carrier. To GSM-based cell phones in the immediate area–the spoofed cell tower appears to be the strongest signal, so the devices connect to it, enabling the fake tower to intercept outbound calls from the cell phone.

What happens to the calls?

Calls are intercepted, but can be routed to the intended recipient so the attacker can listen in on, and/or record the conversation. To the real carrier, the cell phone appears to no longer be connected to the network, so inbound calls go directly to voicemail. Paget did clarify, though, that it’s possible for an attacker to impersonate the intercepted device to the wireless network, enabling inbound calls to be intercepted as well.

But, aren’t my calls encrypted?

Generally speaking, yes. However, the hacked IMSI catcher can simply turn the encryption off. According to Paget, the GSM standard specifies that users should be warned when encryption is disabled, but that is not the case for most cell phones. Paget explained “Even though the GSM spec requires it, this is a deliberate choice on the cell phone makers.”

What wireless provider networks are affected?

Good news for Sprint and Verizon customers–those networks use CDMA technology rather than GSM, so cell phones on the Sprint or Verizon networks would not connect to a spoofed GSM tower. However, AT&T and T-Mobile–as well as most major carriers outside of the United States–rely on GSM.

Does 3G protect me from this hack?

This IMSI catcher hack will not work on 3G, but Paget explained that the 3G network could be knocked offline with a noise generator and an amplifier–equipment that Paget acquired for less than $1000. With the 3G network out of the way, most cell phones will revert to 2G to find a viable signal to connect to.

Should I be worried that my mobile phone calls are being tapped?

Yes and no. The hack demonstration at Def Con proves it can be done, but it doesn’t mean that it’s in widespread use. $1500 is a relatively low investment, but it’s still enough to be out of range of most casual hackers that just want to experiment.

Now that the information is out there, though, hackers with the financial resources to put the IMSI catcher together could start intercepting calls. But, as noted earlier–if you are a Sprint or Verizon customer you don’t need to worry.

If you are on a GSM network like AT&T and T-Mobile, though, it is possible that an attacker could intercept and record your calls. The range of the IMSI catcher is relatively small, so the odds of your phone connecting to a random IMSI catcher are almost negligible, and it would only be an issue as long as you stayed in close proximity to the IMSI catcher.

However, if a user is specifically targeted, the rogue GSM tower could be an effective means of intercepting calls. The IMSI catcher could be used by corporate spies to target specific high profile individuals in a company to gain corporate secrets or other sensitive information.

Source: PC World

Google on hiring spree in China

Search giant Google Inc, that saw many top engineers and executives leaving the company after its recent standoff with the Chinese government, has gone on a hiring spree in China. Google intends to hire more people to bolster its existing team, the China Daily reported Saturday.

The recruitment plan comes after the government renewed Google’s Internet Content Provider licence earlier this month. Analysts said the move is the first step by the search engine to regain market confidence in the country.
Google lost ground in the Chinese search engine market to Baidu and other players after the recent problems with the government remained deadlocked. “Google wants to win the confidence of its advertising agents and partners by indicating a bigger presence in China,” said Cao Junbo, an analyst with research company iResearch.

Google had in January said it would provide unfiltered results on its search site and later redirect traffic from the mainland to its Hong Kong site. The move did not go down well with its advertisers and many of them decided to reduce their advertising in the search engine.

Subsequently, Google’s share of the domestic search market declined to 24.2 percent in the second quarter, from 30.9 per cent earlier, the report said.

Source: Hindustan Times

Calcium pills appear to raise heart attack risk: study

People who regularly take calcium supplements to keep their bones healthy may also be raising their risk for a heart attack, a new study suggests.

Some recent research has suggested that calcium supplements might increase rates of heart attack and cardiovascular events in healthy older women.

So a team of researchers from Britain and the U.S., led by Dr. Ian Reid, professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, analyzed the results of 11 randomized, controlled trials of calcium supplements (without co-administered vitamin D).

The studies involved 12,000 patients, with about half given calcium supplements and the other half placebo pills. They were then tracked for an average of four years.

They found that calcium supplements were associated with about a 30 per cent increased risk of heart attack. They also found smaller, non-significant, increases in the risk of stroke and death.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, were consistent across the studies regardless of the age, gender or type of supplement.

The authors estimate that for every 1,000 people taking calcium supplements for five years, there will be:

14 extra heart attacks
10 more strokes
13 more deaths

Previous studies have found no increased cardiovascular risks with higher dietary calcium intake, suggesting that the risks are restricted to supplements.

It’s not clear why calcium supplements would increase the risk for heart attacks, but it’s possible that the supplements lead to increased calcium in the blood, which may damage blood vessels. It’s also possible calcium supplements accelerate the formation of deposits in the arteries that could lead to a heart attack.

The increase in heart attack risk from calcium supplements may be modest, but considering the widespread use of calcium supplements — which are often taken by seniors on the advice of their physicians — even a small increase in rates of heart attacks translates into huge effect, warn the authors.

An accompanying editorial by Prof. John Cleland and colleagues suggests the need to reassess the role of calcium supplements in osteoporosis management, especially since the there is only modest evidence that calcium supplements affect bone density and lower fracture risk.

Source: CTV News

The Facebook Data Torrent Debacle: Q&A

Security concerns over Facebook have been raised yet again after a security consultant collected the names and profile URLs for 171 million Facebook accounts from publicly available information. The consultant, Ron Bowes, then uploaded the data as a torrent file allowing anyone with a computer connection to download the data.

Simon Davies a representative of the U.K.-based privacy watchdog Privacy International accused Facebook of negligence over the data mining technique, according to the BBC. Facebook, however, told the British news service that Bowes actions haven’t exposed anything new since all the information Bowes collected was already public.

So what are the security risks? Should you be concerned? Let’s take a look.

What data was collected?

Ron Bowes, a security consultant and blogger at Skull Security, used a piece of computer script to scan Facebook profiles listed in Facebook’s public profile directory. Using the script Bowes collected the names and profile URLs for every publicly searchable Facebook profile. All together, Bowes said he was able to collect names and Web addresses for 171 million Facebook users. That’s a little more than a third Facebook’s 500 million users.

What did he do with the data?

Bowes compiled this list of text into a file and made it available online as a downloadable torrent.

How many people have downloaded the torrent?

The Pirate Bay lists 2923 seeds and 9473 leechers for the torrent file at the time of this writing. Seeds are people who have downloaded the entire file and are uploading to others. Leechers are actively downloading the file.

Is this a big deal?

That depends on who you ask. Facebook points out that some of the data Bowes collected was already available through search engines like Google and Bing. The entire data set is also available to any user signed into Facebook. So the data was already publicly available, and nobody’s private Facebook data has been compromised. Nevertheless, this is the first time that 171 million Facebook profile names have been collected into one set of files that can be easily analyzed and searched by anyone.

What could a malicious hacker use the data for?

As Bowes pointed out in a blog post, someone could use this data as a starting point to find other publicly available user data on Facebook. After all, you have to wonder how many of these 171 million Facebook users have publicly exposed e-mail addresses, phone numbers and other information on their profiles?

It has been proven time and again that the more a bad guy knows about you the greater your security risk is. Collecting personal data allowed a French hacker to steal confidential corporate documents at Twitter. Researchers were alarmed when Netflix wanted to release anonymous user data including age, gender and ZIP code for the Netflix Prize 2. Security researchers said the data dump by Netflix was irresponsible since it is possible to narrow down a person’s identity just by knowing their age and ZIP code. The contest was eventually canceled. One Carnegie-Mellon study also found a flaw in the social security numbering system that could allow a sophisticated hacker using data mining techniques to uncover up to 47 social security numbers a minute.

How do I know if my name was caught in the data dump?

From your Facebook profile dashboard click on ‘Account’ in the upper right hand side of your dashboard. Select ‘Privacy Settings,’ and then on the next page under ‘Basic Directory Information’ click on ‘View Settings.’ You should see a page similar to the image above. If the first listing called “Search for me on Facebook” is set to “Everyone.” Then chances are, your name and profile URL are in the torrent file.

You should also check to see if external search engines like Google and Bing are indexing your profile. To do this go back to your main privacy settings page, and at the bottom click on the “Edit Settings” button next to “Public Search.” On the next page, if the “Enable public search” check box is ticked then search engines are indexing your profile. To stop this just uncheck the box and then click on “Back to Applications.”

My name is not in the public directory should I be concerned?

If you were not in the public directory Bowes says your name is not in the torrent file. However, you could be exposed to similar data mining techniques in the future. Bowes says that if any of your Facebook connections have made their friends lists public then your profile could easily be found through data mining your friends’ profiles.

What can I do to keep my information private?

The biggest concern isn’t so much about your name and profile URL being exposed. The greater concern, for you anyway, is the publicly available information contained on your profile page.

To protect yourself, you may want to reconsider your current privacy settings. To do that visit your Facebook profile’s Basic Directory Information page by following the steps listed above or just click here.

On the top right of the page you should see a button that says “Preview My Profile.” Clicking that button will show you all the information you make public on Facebook. Data you may want to consider hiding includes your hometown, birth date, age, phone number, current city and e-mail address.

So what do you say? Is Bowes’ data dump making your rethink your Facebook profile settings or are you not concerned?

Source: PC World

After heated debate, Catalonia bans bullfighting

BARCELONA, Spain — The independence-minded region of Catalonia became the first on the Spanish mainland to outlaw bullfighting Wednesday after impassioned debate.

Lawmakers in Catalonia’s regional assembly approved the ban after emotional speeches that mixed expressions of support for maintaining tradition with denunciations of bullfighting as institutionalized cruelty.

The vote culminated a public initiative to ditch bullfighting that began more than 1½ years ago and has drawn international media coverage. Backers of the ban erupted in cheers in the assembly chamber’s gallery.

But critics have assailed the campaign for a ban as a pretext for more nakedly political and nationalist ends. They suspect the true motive is a desire to poke a stick in the eye of the rest of Spain, an assertion of Catalan identity as different.

The assembly vote here in Barcelona, the regional capital, came during a mood of heightened anger among Catalonians clamoring for more autonomy, if not outright independence.

Earlier this month, Catalan nationalists put on one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in this sun-splashed part of northern Spain. The protest was fueled by outrage over a long-awaited ruling by Spain’s constitutional court that upheld most of Catalonia’s charter on greater self-rule but refused to recognize a legal basis for calling the region a “nation.”

Conservatives say that getting rid of bullfighting further undermines Spanish unity, calling it a gratuitous attack on one of the country’s most hallowed traditions.

Advocates of the ban reject suggestions that their views or actions are a byproduct of Catalan separatism. They see bullfighting not as a tradition steeped in romance but a barbaric practice steeped in blood.

When the anti-bullfighting organization Prou (Catalan for “Enough”) launched its petition drive to put the issue before lawmakers, its goal was to clear the legal hurdle of 50,000 signatures; it wound up collecting 180,000.

Nonetheless, the issue was a sensitive one for Catalonian politicians, who are facing an election later this year.

Before Wednesday’s vote, bullfighting fans and foes gathered outside the parliament building to press their case as lawmakers arrived to take their seats inside. One anti-bullfighting activist stripped himself naked, then poured a bucket of fake blood over himself to encourage legislators to “stop animal cruelty.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

Yahoo Japan chooses Google for search and ads

In a blow to Microsoft and its Bing search technology, Yahoo Japan Chief Executive Masahiro Inoue announced the move that would put Google in the driver’s seat for Japanese web searches.

Yahoo Japan currently conducts about 57% of all Web search queries compared to Google’s 38%. The combined total will put Google (GOOG) dangerously close to 100% of the search total.

But apparently Japan is cool with that. The deal was brokered ahead of time with Japan’s regulators and the two companies are confident it will go through regulators without issue. The regulators see that Yahoo still owning the portal gives them power to switch backend technologies at a later time.

Why not Bing?

Yahoo Japan is a joint venture between Yahoo! (30%) and Softbank,which carries a 40% share while various parties own the remaining 30%, so they aren’t beholden to their namesake’s deals.

According to the WSJ, Google Japanese language was just better than Bing’s.

“We had many discussions with Yahoo Inc. and in the end, they recognized that this was the right strategy for us in Japan,” said Mr. Inoue, who noted that Microsoft’s Bing was not “prepared” to handle some Japanese language services.

Google also has a larger advertising presence in Japan and would be able to better monetize the search results. Those won’t kick in until next year.

Yahoo (YHOO) originally used Google for its search engine from 2001-2004 before search was seen as a primary driver of ads and revenue. From 2004-2009 it used its own search engine to deliver results.

While Yahoo initially tried to go to Google for search usage and ads when Microsoft (MSFT) made strong buyout overtures last year, US regulatory intervention prevented such a deal. Yahoo then went to Microsoft and brokered a deal to use Bing in the US and Europe.

Yahoo Japan currently still uses Yahoo’s homegrown engine and was forced to find another solution when the Bing deal was reached and Yahoo decided to stop its own search effort.

Yahoo Japan rose 1.2% on the news, which included its quarterly earnings.

Source: CNN