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The most common location of the cameras was the U.S., but many others were accessed from South Korea, China, Mexico, the UK, Italy, and France, among others. Some are from businesses, and some are from personal residences. Particularly alarming was the number of camera feeds of sleeping babies, which people often set up to protect them, but, being unaware of the risks, don't change the username or password from the default options that came with the cameras.
It's not the first time this kind of issue has come to light. In September 2013, the FTC cracked down on TRENDnet after its unsecured cameras were found to be accessible online. But the Russian site accesses cameras from several manufacturers, raising some new questions — why are strong passwords not required for these cameras? And, once this becomes mandatory, what can be done about the millions of unsecured cameras that remain live in peoples' homes?
Researchers at Palo Alto Networks discovered and dubbed the threat WireLurker because it spreads from infected OS X computers to iOS once the mobile device is connected to a Mac via USB. The malware analyzes the connected iOS device looking for a number of popular applications in China, namely the Meitu photo app, the Taobao online auction app, or the AliPay payment application. If any of those are found on the iOS device, WireLurker extracts its and replaces it with a Trojanized version of the same app repackaged with malware.
Patient zero is a Chinese third-party app store called Maiyadi known for hosting pirated apps for both platforms. To date, Palo Alto researchers said, 467 infected OS X apps have been found on Maiyadi and those apps have been downloaded more than 350,000 times as of Oct. 16 by more than 100,000 users.
Alex King is director of the Critical Materials Institute, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory. CMI is heavily involved in making rare earth minerals slightly less rare by means of supercomputer analysis; researchers there are approaching the ongoing crunch by looking both for substitute materials for things like gallium, indium, and tantalum, and easier ways of separating out the individual rare earths (a difficult process). One team there is working with "ligands – molecules that attach with a specific rare-earth – that allow metallurgists to extract elements with minimal contamination from surrounding minerals" to simplify the extraction process. We'll be talking with King soon; what questions would you like to see posed? (This 18-minute TED talk from King is worth watching first, as is this Q&A.)