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April 10, 2007

How much is that credit card number in the window?



That's the gist of a recent report by Symantec Corp. about the going rates identity thieves pay for stolen information.

Here's David Hayes's March 20, 2007 Kansas City Star article about the findings.

    A dollar goes long way in swiping private data

    Identity thieves have matured from isolated hackers to organized criminal groups

    Your identity: $14.

    Your credit-card number: $1.

    A good credit record: priceless.

    Identity thieves are selling us out for the price of a song, according to a report issued Monday by Symantec Corp., a maker of computer security software.

    Stolen credit-card numbers are being sold online for as little as $1, Symantec researchers found in a six-month study.

    Complete identities — a U.S. bank account number, credit-card number, date of birth and government-issued identification number — sell for $14 to $18, the security firm said.

    The study outlined a shady online world where criminals use an underground online economy to sell stolen confidential information.

    The online criminal world has matured from a playground for hackers to organized criminal groups “relying much more on deception and trickery,” said Dave Cole, an Internet security expert for Symantec.

    Most of the stolen information — 86 percent — was for credit cards and other information issued by U.S. banks.

    The stolen information was found on computer servers that were known locations where hackers, con artists and organized crime groups sold and even leased stolen private information.

    In the last six months of 2006, Symantec researchers “observed” 4,943 credit-card numbers being traded.

    Those thefts and others result in millions of dollars of losses each month.

    Researchers found that identity thieves generally pick up their stolen data in one of two ways — physical theft of laptop computers or storage devices, or online theft by Trojan viruslike programs and e-mail phishing scams.

    Such scams increasingly rely on programs that log keystokes on a victim’s computer, Cole said. For instance, he said, online greeting cards — especially those sent anonymously — sometimes mask Trojan viruses that download to a computer and relay financial information to information brokers.

    Symantec found that the threat to consumers was growing. Computer threats overall increased 12 percent from the first half of 2006.

    The study found that more than 6 million computers worldwide have been taken over by hackers. That number rose 29 percent from the first six months of 2006.

    “As cyber-criminals become increasingly malicious, they continue to evolve their attack methods to become more complex and sophisticated in order to prevent detection,” Arthur Wong, a senior vice president for Symantec, said.

    Among other trends spotted by researchers: a significant increase in the “pump-and-dump spam,” in which con artists buy stock, generally in little-known companies and send e-mail with fraudulent information predicting that the stock will increase in value. When the price jumps, the scammers dump their shares.

    About 30 percent of all e-mail spam related to the financial services industry was part of a pump-and-dump scheme, Symantec researchers said.

    Next up? Watch out, “World of Warcraft” players and “Second Life” denizens.

    As more virtual goods related to those games are sold for cash, Symantec projects an increase in online scams designed to steal the identities of those gamers.


    So... what do I do?

    • Don’t click on links in e-mail messages

    • Don’t download attachments — even ones from friends — if they look “even a little wrong”

    • Do turn on the automatic update functions for all popular software programs, such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox

    • Do use anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall programs, and keep them updated


Here's a link to the full Symantec Internet Security Threat Report.

April 10, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Coolest Toothbrush


Designed by Thomas Keeley.


[via Digiton]

April 10, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: A vaccine for depression?


Recent work by Dr. Chris Lowry and colleagues at Bristol University (UK) suggests that a faulty immune system may lead to depression.

In that case, it might be possible to create a protective vaccine.

Let's start with a nicely-written article appearing in the latest (April 7, 2007) issue of The Economist; the piece follows.

    Bacteria and depression

    Bad is good — An unexpected explanation for the rise of depression

    Bacteria cause disease. The idea that they might also prevent disease is counterintuitive. Yet that is the hypothesis Chris Lowry, of Bristol University, and his colleagues are putting forward in Neuroscience. They think a particular sort of bacterium might alleviate clinical depression.

    The chance observation that Dr Lowry followed up to arrive at this conclusion was made by Mary O'Brien, an oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Dr O'Brien was trying out an experimental treatment for lung cancer that involved inoculating patients with Mycobacterium vaccae. This is a harmless relative of the bugs that cause tuberculosis and leprosy that had, in this case, been rendered even more harmless by killing it. When Dr O'Brien gave the inoculation, she observed not only fewer symptoms of the cancer, but also an improvement in her patients' emotional health, vitality and general cognitive function.

    To find out what was going on, Dr Lowry turned to mice. His hypothesis was that the immune response to M. vaccae induces the brain to produce serotonin. This molecule is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger between nerve cells) and one symptom of depression is low levels of it.

    Dr Lowry and his team injected their mice with M. vaccae and examined them to find out what was going on. First, they looked for a rise in the level of cytokines, which are molecules produced by the immune system that trigger responses in the brain. As expected, cytokine levels rose. They then looked directly in their animals' brains for the effect of those cytokines.

    Cytokines actually act on sensory nerves that run to the brain from organs such as the heart and the lungs. That action stimulates a brain structure called the dorsal raphe nucleus. It was this nucleus that Dr Lowry focused on. He found a group of cells within it that connect directly to the limbic system, the brain's emotion-generating area. These cells release serotonin into the limbic system in response to sensory-nerve stimulation.

    The consequence of that release is stress-free mice. Dr Lowry was able to measure their stress by dropping them into a tiny swimming pool. Previous research has shown that unstressed mice enjoy swimming, while stressed ones do not. His mice swam around enthusiastically.

    This result is intriguing for two reasons. First, it offers the possibility of treating clinical depression with what is, in effect, a vaccination. Indeed, M. vaccae is considered a bit of a wonder-bug in this context. Besides cancer, and now depression, it is being looked at as a way of treating Crohn's disease (an inflammation of the gut) and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Second, it opens a new line of inquiry into why depression is becoming more common. Two other conditions that have increased in frequency recently are asthma and allergies, both of which are caused by the immune system attacking cells of the body it is supposed to protect. One explanation for the rise of these two conditions is the hygiene hypothesis. This suggests a lack of childhood exposure to harmless bugs is leading to improperly primed immune systems, which then go on to look for trouble where none exists.

    In the case of depression, a similar explanation may pertain. If an ultra-hygienic environment is not stimulating the interaction between immune system and brain, some people may react badly to the consequent lack of serotonin. No one suggests this is the whole explanation for depression, but it may turn out to be part of it.


Okay, then, you'll all warmed up now, right?

Here's the abstract of the paper, which appears in the latest issue of Neuroscience.

    Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior

    Peripheral immune activation can have profound physiological and behavioral effects including induction of fever and sickness behavior. One mechanism through which immune activation or immunomodulation may affect physiology and behavior is via actions on brainstem neuromodulatory systems, such as serotonergic systems. We have found that peripheral immune activation with antigens derived from the nonpathogenic, saprophytic bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, activated a specific subset of serotonergic neurons in the interfascicular part of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRI) of mice, as measured by quantification of c-Fos expression following intratracheal (12 h) or s.c. (6 h) administration of heat-killed, ultrasonically disrupted M. vaccae, or heat-killed, intact M. vaccae, respectively. These effects were apparent after immune activation by M. vaccae or its components but not by ovalbumin, which induces a qualitatively different immune response. The effects of immune activation were associated with increases in serotonin metabolism within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, consistent with an effect of immune activation on mesolimbocortical serotonergic systems. The effects of M. vaccae administration on serotonergic systems were temporally associated with reductions in immobility in the forced swim test, consistent with the hypothesis that the stimulation of mesolimbocortical serotonergic systems by peripheral immune activation alters stress-related emotional behavior. These findings suggest that the immune-responsive subpopulation of serotonergic neurons in the DRI is likely to play an important role in the neural mechanisms underlying regulation of the physiological and pathophysiological responses to both acute and chronic immune activation, including regulation of mood during health and disease states. Together with previous studies, these findings also raise the possibility that immune stimulation activates a functionally and anatomically distinct subset of serotonergic neurons, different from the subset of serotonergic neurons activated by anxiogenic stimuli or uncontrollable stressors. Consequently, selective activation of specific subsets of serotonergic neurons may have distinct behavioral outcomes.

April 10, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lazy Mary Daybed


Designed by Monica Graffeo.

£637.50 ($1,252; €937).

April 10, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to care for patent leather


Teri Agins, fashion reporter for the Wall Street Journal, addressed the subject in her "Ask Teri" feature in the April 5, 2007 Wall Street Journal.

Short story shorter:

• Zap scuff marks with a gingerly swipe of nail polish remover

• To restore gloss, apply a special liquid silicone made for patent leather called Vernice

• Quick and dirty: Many people find a rubdown with Vaseline does the trick just as well

Here's the piece.

    Patent Leather

    Q: "I'm seeing a lot of patent leather in fashion lately. What is patent leather and how do you care for it?"

    A: "Patent leather" loosely refers to leather — as well as inexpensive vinyl fabrications — treated with a plasticized coating to impart a super glossy finish. The process, invented in the early 1800s, was once patented, hence the name. Traditionally, black patent meant the spiffiest, dress-up shoes: from oxfords worn by the military to little girl's pumps for Easter Sunday. Black patent garments, on the other hand, suggest racier fare, such as "Pretty Woman" stiletto boots.

    Last fall, the fashion industry began to take a shine to patent leather in a big way, using it on all styles of shoes, boots, belts, handbags, jackets and trench coats in shades such as red, purple, yellow, green — as well as in black. Patent leather "is selling with great success — which is part of the shine trend of metallics, sequins and other materials that reflect light," says Stephanie Solomon, women's fashion director at Bloomingdale's. In February, Bloomie's installed a "Shine Shop" in its Manhattan-Soho and San Francisco branch stores, showcasing patent leather items such as a Ted Rossi wrist cuff for $110 and a Burberry jacket for $695.

    Beyond spring dressing, patent leather has turned seasonless. "A woman in white patent shoes in the winter can look super cool," declares Julie Gilhart, fashion director at Barneys New York. She warns that when it comes to coats and jackets, "patent leather isn't a supple fabric that breathes and it's not that comfortable to wear against your body." Don't forget that vinyl versions tend to be stiffer and scratchier than leather; not ideal for shoes when you have to stand or walk in for a long time.

    Patent leather finishes start to lose their sheen after lots of wear. Zap scuff marks with a gingerly swipe of nail polish remover. To restore the gloss, apply a special liquid silicone made for patent leather called Vernice (retails for about $8 at www.urad.org). But many folks swear that a rubdown with petroleum jelly also does the trick.

April 10, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One-Handed Balancing Serving Tray


Nicely done.

From the website:

    One-Handed Balancing Serving Tray

    Winner of the prestigious German Design Plus award, presented to consumer goods that transcend the traditional form and function of common household items, this serving tray can be carried with one hand just beneath waist level without compromising stability, leaving your other hand free to open doors or greet guests.

    The handle locks into place at a 55° angle, ensuring a level carrying surface precisely balanced for drinks, hors d'oeuvres or a full bottle of wine, and the handle folds when not in use for ease of storage.

    The stainless steel frame can support up to 11 pounds and the non-slip, rubberized surface prevents glasses or plates from sliding.

    1-1/2"H x 16-1/4" Diam.

    2-3/4 lbs.




April 10, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google + flightstats.com = Real-time flight status reports via text message


Hilary Howard described this service in a brief item in the April 8, 2007 New York Times Travel section; the piece follows.

    Google Offers Flight Information by Text Message

    So you’re on the way to the airport, doing your pretravel mental inventory. Passport? Check. Ticket? Check. Quart-size zip-top clear plastic bags? Check. Confirmation of flight departure? Hmm. Forgot about that one. If you have a cell phone (check!), there’s no need to panic. Google has recently joined with the Web site flightstats.com to offer a free text-messaging service that distributes flight status reports and other airline information.

    Simply text Google by using the shortcode 466453, which spells Google on most phones, and enter the abbreviated airline (American Airlines is AA, for example) along with your flight number, and Google will respond promptly with an updated departure and arrival time, leaving a text message on your mobile device. You can also type in the airline itself for contact information. This service is available for flights departing or arriving in the United States and standard text messaging rates apply. Other travel and entertainment-related SMS options include driving directions, weather forecasts, translations and currency conversions. Visit www.google.com/sms/ for a list of options and directions.

April 10, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'To Think Like God' - by Arnold Hermann


Admit it — you've always harbored a suspicion that you might just be "The One."

First name: Neo.

Check it out.

For $24.32 (at Amazon) you can find out what it feels like to be big — really big.

April 10, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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