Short Science, November 23, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 November, 2014, 6:05am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 November, 2014, 6:05am

Hacked home webcam footage shown online

Hackers have accessed household webcams, baby monitors and CCTV cameras with footage appearing online on a website in Russia, Britain's privacy watchdog has warned. The Information Commissioner's Office said that hackers were taking advantage of devices without security protection and with weak passwords. Homes and businesses across the UK have been targeted, including a gym in Manchester, a house in Birmingham, and an office in Leicester. "The website, which is based in Russia, accesses the information by using the default login credentials, which are freely available online, for thousands of cameras," said Simon Rice, ICO group manager for technology. AFP


China fossils prompt rethink on mammals

Squirrel-size creatures that lived in the treetops of northern China with dinosaurs roaming below left a legacy in their fossils that may challenge textbooks on the origins of mammals. Indiana University of Pennsylvania paleontologist Bi Shundong said the discovery of six complete well-preserved skeletons identified as three new species of haramiyids pushes back further in time the first appearance of mammals - into the late Triassic period, or about 208 million years ago. The researcher, co-author of a Nature article about the discovery, said haramiyids were formerly known as "near mammals" but the full skeletons were found to have distinctively mammalian features such as a full set of teeth, a diaphragm and middle ear bones separate from the lower jaw. McClatchy Tribune


Location marker helps fight against malaria

British scientists have developed "genetic barcodes" to identify the geographic origin of malaria outbreaks which could help prevent and speed up the eradication of the disease. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at DNA outside the nucleus of a cell. By analysing DNA from more than 700 malaria parasites taken from patients in 14 countries in West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Oceania and South America they identified short DNA sequences which were distinct for specific locations. This enabled them to design the "barcode" which is highly accurate in predicting where a malaria parasite has come from. The research is published in Nature Communications. The Guardian