GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / December 8, 2005 0
Eavesdropping on Keyboards
Three University of California at Berkeley researchers presented a hacking exploit based on a 10-minute audio recording of a user typing English text on a keyboard. Combining machine learning and speech-recognition techniques, the researchers built a keystroke recognizer that deciphers the letters a user is typing based on the sound of the keys.

The device recovers as much as 96 percent of the typed characters and even can decipher random text, such as passwords.

In their experiments, researchers said the recognizer needed fewer that 20 attempts to crack 90 percent of five-character random passwords that use letters only. The device deciphered 80 percent of 10-character passwords in fewer than 75 attempts. -- Li Zhuang, Feng Zhou and J. D. Tygar; University of California, Berkeley; from a paper presented at the 12th Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Computer and Communications Security

Mini Nuke Power
Russia's Federal Nuclear Energy Agency will build a floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) designed to serve energy-starved coastal regions. The plant -- the first of its kind in the world -- will produce roughly 1/150 of the power produced by a standard Russian nuclear power plant.

The small nuclear power station will cost about $200,000 and provide power to Russian communities adjoining the Arctic Ocean that lack centralized energy supplies. FNPP's offer an independent source of energy, a feature that is attracting attention abroad. Indonesia, Malaysia and China have all shown interest in the project. -- MosNews

Next-Gen Hydrogen
A Canadian man's invention, the Hydrogen Generating Module (H2N-Gen), might just solve the world's greenhouse gas emission problems. The device -- about the size of a DVD player -- reduces fuel consumption by 10 percent to 40 percent and cuts pollutants by as much as 100 percent, according to the inventor.

The H2N-Gen contains a small reservoir of distilled water and other chemicals, such as potassium hydroxide. A current is run from the car battery through the liquid. This process of electrolysis creates hydrogen and oxygen gases, which are then fed into the engine's intake manifold, where they mix with the gasoline vapors.

The process helps a car engine burn gas more completely, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions, the inventor contends. -- Montreal Gazette

Sun Shines on Indonesia
Indonesia's Ministry of Research and Technology will implement a Java Desktop System (JDS) on Linux as a national standard desktop.

The desktop software will form a major component of the new Indonesia Goes Open Source (IGOS) program targeted toward eliminating Indonesia's digital divide, according to the ministry and Sun Microsystems.

The ministry said it will develop its own IGOS-branded software stack using JDS on Linux as the base platform. The agreement with Sun -- for an unspecified number of years -- has the goal of installing copies of the open source-based desktop across Indonesia, beginning with its government-affiliated offices, the ministry said.

Sun will provide marketing and support services to the IGOS project. -- Sun Microsystems

Malaysian Idol?
Malaysia's science minister plans to make the country's space program a truly interactive experience: Members of the public will choose the country's first astronaut from a list and vote by text message.

Having seen the enthusiasm with which people vote in TV talent competitions, the government said it will apply the principle to the country's space program. Once its 11,000 would-be astronauts have been whittled down to a handful of candidates, their details and updates on their progress will be posted on the Internet.

Citzens will make their choice by text message, and Malaysia's space bosses will factor the votes into their final decision. -- BBC News

Virtual Archaeology
Using satellite images from Google Maps and Google Earth, an Italian computer programmer stumbled upon the remains of an ancient Roman villa. The man was studying maps of the region around his town of Sorbolo, Italy, near Parma, when he noticed an oval, shaded form more than 500 meters long. It was the meander of an ancient river.

He said unusual rectangular shadows nearby caught his eye, and he analyzed the image further, concluding that the lines must represent a buried structure of human origin. Eventually he traced out what looked like the inner courtyards of a villa.

The man contacted archaeologists, including experts at the National Archaeological Museum of Parma, who confirmed the find. At first it was thought to be a Bronze Age village, but an inspection of the site turned up ceramic pieces indicating it was a villa built during the Roman Empire. --

To Surf, or Not to Surf
In its decade-long presence in India, Internet usage has evolved more in "depth" than in "spread" -- its impact and growth is being driven through increased usage by existing users rather than assimilation of newer ones, according to a study by JuxtConsult, which also found that:

  • 80 percent of urban Net users have been wired for more than three years.
  • Only 8 percent joined the bandwagon less than one year ago.
  • Around 17.5 million urban Indians are using the Internet with certain consistency.
  • Another 5.2 million use the Internet sparingly.
  • The upper limit of urban Internet users is currently around 23 million.
  • Penetration of Internet among urban Indians is around 9 percent.
  • Assuming marginal usage in rural areas, the national penetration level stands at a potential 2 percent.

    Bolder Behavior
    End-users in enterprise environments around the world are more likely to engage in riskier online behavior at work than home, according to Trend Micro. Of those who responded to the company's survey, 39 percent believed IT could prevent them from falling victim to threats like spyware and phishing, which prompted many of them to admit bolder online behavior. Of those admitting to engaging in such behavior, 63 percent acknowledge they are more comfortable clicking on suspicious links or visiting suspicious Web sites because IT has installed security software on their computers.

    Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot
    Jessica Mulholland Web Editor/Photographer

    Jessica Mulholland has been a writer and editor for more than 10 years. She was previously the editor of Emergency Management magazine, and she loves that she can incorporate her passion for photography into her work as a part of the Government Technology editorial team. Jessica can be reached at on Twitter and on Google+.

    Shane Peterson Associate Editor