'THE "K-INDEX" (K FOR KARDASHIAN) IN SCIENTIFIC GENOMIC MEASURE 

If, despite having absolutely nothing to show for in the field of science, you somehow manage to get a formula named after you, it probably means you’re doing something right. Or wrong, if you ask Neil Hall. In a recent (and somewhat amusing) piece in the online journal Genome Biology, Hall, a professor from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Genomic Research, presented what he called “the Kardashian index,” or “K-index.” Named after Kim Kardashian—a celebrity often described as “famous for being famous”—Hall defines the term as “a measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.”

Kardashian has 22.4 million followers on Twitter, owns the world’s most-liked Instagram photo, and even became one of Google’s most-searched celebrities in recent years. Hall observed that Kardashian’s incredible level of fame came even without her achieving “anything consequential” in relevant aspects of culture such as politics, the sciences, or the arts. Unfortunately, Hall is also seeing this trend in the scientific community. “I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community,” wrote Hall. “I think it is possible that there are individuals who are famous for being famous (or, to put it in science jargon, renowned for being renowned). We are all aware that certain people are seemingly invited as keynote speakers, not because of their contributions to the published literature but because of who they are.”  * READ MORE...

ALSO: Government requests for information climb Twitter reports 

Twitter on Thursday released a new transparency report showing a steady rise in government requests for information from the globally popular one-to-many messaging service. The number of requests for information from governments climbed 46 percent from the second half of last year to 2,058, according to Twitter. The report, the fifth from Twitter to date, was viewable online and showed what portion of those requests were granted. The San Francisco-based firm said it received requests for account information from a total of 54 countries, but that the bulk of the demands came from the United States. The US accounted for 1,257 of the requests for information, and Japan a distant second with 192 requests, according to Twitter. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Hackers can tap USB devices in new attacks, researcher warns 

USB devices such as keyboards, thumb-drives and mice can be used to hack into personal computers in a potential new class of attacks that evade all known security protections, a top computer researcher revealed on Thursday. Karsten Nohl, chief scientist with Berlin's SR Labs, noted that hackers could load malicious software onto tiny, low-cost computer chips that control functions of USB devices but which have no built-in shields against tampering with their code. "You cannot tell where the virus came from. It is almost like a magic trick," said Nohl, whose research firm is known for uncovering major flaws in mobile phone technology. The finding shows that bugs in software used to run tiny electronics components that are invisible to the average computer user can be extremely dangerous when hackers figure out how to exploit them. Security researchers have increasingly turned their attention to uncovering such flaws.

Nohl said his firm has performed attacks by writing malicious code onto USB control chips used in thumb drives and smartphones. Once the USB device is attached to a computer, the malicious software can log keystrokes, spy on communications and destroy data, he said. Computers do not detect the infections when tainted devices are inserted because anti-virus programs are only designed to scan for software written onto memory and do not scan the "firmware" that controls the functioning of those devices, he said. Nohl and Jakob Lell, a security researcher at SR Labs, will describe their attack method at next week's Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, in a presentation titled: "Bad USB - On Accessories that Turn Evil." * READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

The Kardashian Index: A scientific measure of unwarranted fame


KIM KARDASHIAN

MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2014 (GMA SC-TECH NEWS) By MIKAEL ANGELO FRANCISCO - If, despite having absolutely nothing to show for in the field of science, you somehow manage to get a formula named after you, it probably means you’re doing something right.

Or wrong, if you ask Neil Hall.

In a recent (and somewhat amusing) piece in the online journal Genome Biology, Hall, a professor from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Genomic Research, presented what he called “the Kardashian index,” or “K-index.” Named after Kim Kardashian—a celebrity often described as “famous for being famous”—Hall defines the term as “a measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.”

Kardashian has 22.4 million followers on Twitter, owns the world’s most-liked Instagram photo, and even became one of Google’s most-searched celebrities in recent years. Hall observed that Kardashian’s incredible level of fame came even without her achieving “anything consequential” in relevant aspects of culture such as politics, the sciences, or the arts.

Unfortunately, Hall is also seeing this trend in the scientific community.

“I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community,” wrote Hall. “I think it is possible that there are individuals who are famous for being famous (or, to put it in science jargon, renowned for being renowned). We are all aware that certain people are seemingly invited as keynote speakers, not because of their contributions to the published literature but because of who they are.”

* This inspired Hall to come up with his own method for comparing a scientist’s overall performance and total followers on Twitter against the volume of his or her published work for the academe. After conducting a “randomish selection” of 40 scientists who had been active on Twitter, Hall took note of the number of Twitter followers per scientist (“celebrity,” represented by F(a)), as well as each scientist's published citations (“scientific value,” represented by F(c)).

Keeping up with Kardashian? Not a good idea

After getting the K-index (the ratio between F(a) and F(c)) for each scientist, Hall found that a high K-index may mean that a scientist may have achieved fame via an increased level of engagement in social media, despite not accomplishing much in the way of published work. On the other hand, a low K-index suggests that a scientist is meeting what Hall refers to as “key metrics of scientific value” through peer-reviewed papers, but not getting the recognition that he or she deserves.

Essentially, Hall’s efforts (done in the name of having “a bit of fun,” he clarified) point out that some scientists seem to be reaping the benefits of high social media engagement, regardless of their actual contributions to the scientific community. By “shouting louder” than others, these social media-savvy scientists are instantly perceived as thought leaders and subject matter experts, without the need for published work to back up their reputations.

Interestingly, the results of Hall’s undertaking brought another strange revelation to light: most of science’s “Kardashians” are actually men.

“My introduction highlights the fact that women have a history of being ignored by the scientific community,” wrote Hall, who mentioned paleontologist Mary Anning, mathematician Ada Lovelace, and biophysicist Rosalind Franklin as examples of “overlooked heroes” of science. According to Hall, only one woman in his sample had an “inflated” Twitter following, and 11 had fewer followers than he had anticipated.

While Hall admits that his analysis may be “flawed and (lacking in) scientific rigor,” he also notes that a positive trend in scientific value’s relationship with celebrity does seem to exist.

“In an age dominated by the cult of celebrity we, as scientists, need to protect ourselves from mindlessly lauding shallow popularity and take an informed and critical view of the value we place on the opinion of our peers,” said Hall.

“If your K-index gets above 5, then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers.” — TJD, GMA

Government requests for information climb Twitter reports August 1, 2014 6:58am 13 18 0 34

SAN FRANCISCO - Twitter on Thursday released a new transparency report showing a steady rise in government requests for information from the globally popular one-to-many messaging service.

The number of requests for information from governments climbed 46 percent from the second half of last year to 2,058, according to Twitter.

The report, the fifth from Twitter to date, was viewable online and showed what portion of those requests were granted.

The San Francisco-based firm said it received requests for account information from a total of 54 countries, but that the bulk of the demands came from the United States.

The US accounted for 1,257 of the requests for information, and Japan a distant second with 192 requests, according to Twitter.

* Twitter lamented that, despite talks with the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it remained barred from providing insights regarding requests in the form of national security letters that must be kept secret due to the law.

"We are weighing our legal options to provide more transparency to our users," Twitter said in the report.

"National security requests aside, our new report shows a steady increase in global requests for account information, content removal, and copyright takedowns."

Twitter received 432 requests from governments for 'tweets' to be removed for reasons such as defamatory comments, and another 9,199 notices for posts to be taken down on copyright grounds. — Agence France-Presse

Hackers can tap USB devices in new attacks, researcher warns By JIM FINKLE, ReutersJuly 31, 2014 10:40pm 18 172 1 322


THE USB

BOSTON - USB devices such as keyboards, thumb-drives and mice can be used to hack into personal computers in a potential new class of attacks that evade all known security protections, a top computer researcher revealed on Thursday.

Karsten Nohl, chief scientist with Berlin's SR Labs, noted that hackers could load malicious software onto tiny, low-cost computer chips that control functions of USB devices but which have no built-in shields against tampering with their code.

"You cannot tell where the virus came from. It is almost like a magic trick," said Nohl, whose research firm is known for uncovering major flaws in mobile phone technology.

The finding shows that bugs in software used to run tiny electronics components that are invisible to the average computer user can be extremely dangerous when hackers figure out how to exploit them. Security researchers have increasingly turned their attention to uncovering such flaws.

Nohl said his firm has performed attacks by writing malicious code onto USB control chips used in thumb drives and smartphones. Once the USB device is attached to a computer, the malicious software can log keystrokes, spy on communications and destroy data, he said.

Computers do not detect the infections when tainted devices are inserted because anti-virus programs are only designed to scan for software written onto memory and do not scan the "firmware" that controls the functioning of those devices, he said.

Nohl and Jakob Lell, a security researcher at SR Labs, will describe their attack method at next week's Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, in a presentation titled: "Bad USB - On Accessories that Turn Evil."

* Thousands of security professionals gather at the annual conference to hear about the latest hacking techniques, including ones that threaten the security of business computers, consumer electronics and critical infrastructure.

Nohl said he would not be surprised if intelligence agencies, like the National Security Agency, have already figured out how to launch attacks using this technique.

Last year, he presented research at Black Hat on breakthrough methods for remotely attacking SIM cards on mobile phones. In December, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden demonstrated that the U.S. spy agency was using a similar technique for surveillance, which it called "Monkey Calendar."

An NSA spokeswoman declined to comment.

SR Labs tested the technique by infecting controller chips made by major Taiwanese manufacturer, Phison Electronics Corp, and placing them in USB memory drives and smartphones running Google Inc's Android operating system.

Alex Chiu, an attorney with Phison, told Reuters via email that Nohl had contacted the company about his research in May.

"Mr. Nohl did not offer detailed analysis together with work product to prove his finding," Chiu said. "Phison does not have ground to comment (on) his allegation."

Chiu said that "from Phison’s reasonable knowledge and belief, it is hardly possible to rewrite Phison’s controller firmware without accessing our confidential information."

Similar chips are made by Silicon Motion Technology Corp and Alcor Micro Corp. Nohl said his firm did not test devices with chips from those manufacturers.

Google did not respond to requests for comment. Officials with Silicon Motion and Alcor Micro could not immediately be reached.

Nohl believed hackers would have a "high chance" of corrupting other kinds of controller chips besides those made by Phison, because their manufacturers are not required to secure software. He said those chips, once infected, could be used to infect mice, keyboards and other devices that connect via USB.

"The sky is the limit. You can do anything at all," he said.

In his tests, Nohl said he was able to gain remote access to a computer by having the USB instruct the computer to download a malicious program with instructions that the PC believed were coming from a keyboard. He was also able to change what are known as DNS network settings on a computer, essentially instructing the machine to route Internet traffic through malicious servers.

Once a computer is infected, it could be programmed to infect all USB devices that are subsequently attached to it, which would then corrupt machines that they contact.

"Now all of your USB devices are infected. It becomes self-propagating and extremely persistent," Nohl said. "You can never remove it."

Christof Paar, a professor of electrical engineering at Germany's University of Bochum who reviewed the findings, said he believed the new research would prompt others to take a closer look at USB technology, and potentially lead to the discovery of more bugs. He urged manufacturers to improve protection of their chips to thwart attacks.

"The manufacturer should make it much harder to change the software that runs on a USB stick," Paar said. — Reuters


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE