Spam Blocking Group Spamhaus Reports Major Cyberattack

AP – Spam-fighting organization Spamhaus says it’s being subjected to a massive cyberattack, apparently from groups angry at being blacklisted by the Geneva-based group.

One expert warned that the electronic onslaught was affecting others across the Internet.

Users could experience slower Internet or be subjected to unwanted emails.

Spamhaus carries a constantly-updated blacklist of service providers suspected of offering refuge for spammers.

In an interview, Spamhaus’ Vincent Hanna said his site had been hit by a crushing wave of denial-of-service attacks and that it was “a small miracle that we’re still online.”

Hanna said his group had been weathering such attacks since mid-March. The attacks work by flooding target servers with traffic.

Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies said the attack was so large that online bystanders had been hit as well.

Source: AP


Neurotrack to Detect Alzheimer’s Years Before Debilitating Symptoms Appear, Wins SXSW Health Prize

Being able to diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease years before debilitating symptoms appear is now a step closer to reality. Researchers behind Neurotrack, the technology startup that took the first health prize at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) startup accelerator in Austin, says their new technology can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease up to six years before symptoms appear with 100 percent accuracy.

“It’s a computer-based visual cognitive test that is able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease six years before symptoms appear,” Elli Kaplan, chief executive officer of the Richmond, Virginia-based startup, told AFP.

Around 5.4 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, Kaplan said, today most Alzheimer’s patients are diagnosed at late stage, which leaves them with limited treatment options.

“It’s the same thing as what happened with breast cancer before they had the mammogram,” Kaplan said, according to “They’re diagnosing at the equivalent of stage 4, when there’s already irreparable damage.”

Kaplan, who graduated from Harvard Business School and is a mother-of-two who lost two grandparents to Alzheimer’s disease, said Neurotrack was developed in collaboration with neuroscientists now at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The computer-based program comes in two versions: one using an infrared camera and the other using a simple computer mouse.  The program is connected to an eye-tracking device that monitors patients’ eye movements as they compare new and old images that appear briefly on a screen.

The program analyzes patients’ eye movements and time spent looking at familiar and new images and then generates a score. Kaplan said 100 percent of subjects who scored below 50 percent on the test have gone to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis within six years, while none of those who scored above 67 have developed Alzheimer’s.

“By monitoring the way a person moves their eyes, and watching how they view novel images versus familiar images, we’re able to detect perturbations that exist on the hippocampus,” Kaplan said, referring to the brain region responsible for memory.  Past research has shown that the hippocampus is also the first part of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s “Every human being has an instinctive preference for novelty and that’s one of the things that we are testing,” she said, according to AFP.

Kaplan said that the initial users of Neurotrack will be pharmaceutical companies to help them develop new drugs to prevent, or at least slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease. She added that down the line, Neurotrack would then be rolled out to doctor’s offices and research hospitals. She added that the technology could also be developed into a smartphone and tablet app that consumers can use at home.

“We’re actually working on this,” Kaplan explained to AFP. “We are not very far away from a technology that will work on your (mobile) phone or on your tablet.”

“In 10 years, our hope is that there will be a pill that you can take (to combat Alzheimer’s). You’d simply go in for an annual screening test-and if you get the news that you are on a trajectory for Alzheimer’s, you’d be able to do something about it,” she added.

Other health startups that competed at the SXSW accelerator include Docphin, a web-based platform for healthcare professionals to access and share medical research and Careport Health, which helps hospitals find appropriate after-care treatment for their patients.

Source: Counsel & Heal

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 Has Bug That Can Lead to System Freeze

Potential attackers can exploit the flaw by sending specifically crafted IPv6 packets to the targeted computers

Kaspersky Lab’s Internet Security 2013 product contains a bug that can be exploited remotely, especially on local networks, to completely freeze the OS on computers running the software.

The bug can be attacked by sending a specifically crafted IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) packet to computers running Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 and other Kaspersky products that have the firewall functionality, security researcher Marc Heuse said earlier this week in an advisory published on the Full Disclosure mailing list.

“A fragmented packet with multiple but one large extension header leads to a complete freeze of the operating system,” he said. “No log message or warning window is generated, nor is the system able to perform any task.”

IPv6 support is enabled by default for network interfaces in Windows Vista and later, as well as in many Linux distributions and in Mac OS. IPv6 adoption on the Internet is relatively low at the moment so the number of computers that are publicly accessible over IPv6 is not very high. However, most computers are accessible over IPv6 on local networks and have local IPv6 addresses assigned to them by default.

Heuse claims that he reported the bug to Kaspersky Lab on Jan. 21 and again on Feb. 14, but received no feedback from the company so he decided to disclose it publicly. In addition to the advisory he also published a proof-of-concept tool that can exploit the bug.

Kaspersky Lab acknowledged the existence of the issue for Kaspersky Internet Security 2013. “After receiving feedback from the researcher, Kaspersky Lab quickly fixed the error,” the company said Thursday via email. “A private patch is currently available on demand and an autopatch will soon be released to fix the problem automatically on every computer protected by Kaspersky Internet Security 2013.”

Although the issue is valid, there was no threat of malicious activity affecting the computers of any users who experienced the rare problem, the company said. “Actions have been taken to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future,” it said.

The company could not immediately confirm whether any other of its products are affected as well.

Source: Network World

Health Providers Can’t Find, Keep IT Staff

Many hospitals don’t expect any immediate ROI on their investments in electronic health systems

Under pressure from federal regulators to implement electronic health systems, health care providers are struggling to find and keep a technology staff in what is the fastest growing IT sector in the U.S.

A Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS) survey of 298 senior IT executives at health care firms found that 21% fear they won’t be able to find the tech staff needed to complete an e-health system, including a massive, new medical coding system to be deployed on new mobile technologies.

The results were announced at the HIMSS 2013 conference held here this week.

It was the second year in a row that respondents to an HIMSS survey listed staffing as the biggest barrier to implementing systems that meet new U.S. health care technology requirements.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents indicated that healthcare reform is the number one business issue for them.

Other major barriers to implementing e-health systems were a lack of adequate financial support (15%), the inability of vendors to deliver needed products (13%), and difficulty in end-user acceptance (7%).

The survey found that 51% of respondents plan to increase IT staff in the next year, mostly personnel that can build clinical applications, such as computer physician order entry systems and electronic health records (EHR) systems. Staffers are also needed to build clinical applications (34%) and network and architecture support (21%).

Eighteen percent of respondents said clinical informatics expertise is their biggest need, and another 18% cited IT security knowledge.

Rounding out the top 10 were the need for staff for system integration tasks (14%), process/workflow, PC/server support and clinical transformation (each cited by 12% of respondents), and database administration, help desk and user training (each with 10%).

“We lost a fair amount of our IT staff because of the expertise they have,” said Milisa Rizer, chief medical officer for Ohio State University. “Our leadership has been really great at looking at incentive packages because they’ve become such a valuable commodity to us.”

Along with money, one of the most popular incentives for IT staff to stay on is workplace flexibility, or letting people work from home whenever possible. Rizer said an survey of Ohio State IT employees found that they’re happier than IT staff prohibited from working at home.

Employees are more likely to stay on the job when there are opportunities to move into managerial and project-focused positions, Rizer said.

Mike Rozmus, CIO of Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg, Va., said his organization has been reaching out to local universities to recruit young talent.

Rozmus has also shifted his processes for training physicians, nurses and other staff from classroom and computer training to more hands on assistance.

“We’ve learned a lot over the last five years about how to deploy technology initiatives. We’ve found that you can’t just give them technology and expect them to be successful,” Rozmus said. “We know we have to provide at-the-elbow support so that the frustration level of the clinicians is taken out at the early stages. We’re really investing more in that than ever before.”

Many HIMSS survey respondents don’t expect a return on investments made to deploy EHRs that will allow them to aggregate patient data and streamline workflow.

For example, EHRs in the largest hospital systems can cost more than $10 million dollars to implement and 30% of respondents expect the ROI to be less than $2 million. Twenty-three percent expect a $2 million to $3 million return, 16% see a return of between $4 and $5 million, 3% expect an ROI of $6 million to $7 million. Only 7% of respondents expect a return of $10 million or more.

By contrast, the level of investment made for stage one of meaningful use ranged from under $250,000 for 14% of those surveyed to $10 million to $19 million for 6% of respondents. The greatest number of IT executives – 17% — said their companies have to spend $1 million to $2 million to achieve stage one of meaningful use while 11% expect to spend $3 million to $4 million.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has to date dispensed more than $7.7B in reimbursement payments to more than 307,000 healthcare professionals and 4,000 hospitals deploying EHRs under government guidelines.

The federal government requires that healthcare facilities eventually achieve three stages of meaningful use of EHRs over the next five years.

To date, Stages 1 and 2 of the meaningful use criteria have been defined by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC), meaning health care providers can be certified for compliance.

The total cost for the EMR incentive program is expected to hit $22.5 billion over the next decade, according to the latest estimate of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Physicians and other qualified healthcare workers can receive up to $44,000 apiece in incentive payments while hospitals are eligible for base payments of $2 million a year.

Over the past few years, the focus for spending on health care IT has also shifted from deploying EHRs to implementing the World Health organization’s ICD-10 classification system.

The move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 calls for replacing about 15,000 codes with approximately 68,000 new ones. It comes at a time when care providers are already under the gun with regulatory and mobile initiatives.

Stephen Fanning, vice president of healthcare industry strategy for CRM and ERP vendor Infor, said an aging IT workforce at the same time the health care industry is under the gun to implement ICD-10 code standards by Oct. 2014.

“We’re concerned with … a 30% loss in productivity as you make the transition [to ICD-10] in addition to an aging workforce where some of those skilled laborers in coding are deciding to retire,” Fanning said.

Source: Network World

Galaxy Note II Vulnerability Lets Attackers (Briefly) Access Home Screen Apps

A security flaw discovered by Terence Eden on the Galaxy Note II with Android 4.1.2 may make that device less secure than you think when it’s locked by a code or other method.

He discovered that the homescreen can be accessed, albeit it just for a split second, by pressing the “Emergency Call” icon, then the ICE button and finally pressing the physical home key for several seconds.

While brief, it’s still enough time to click on any of your homescreen apps, which normally wouldn’t present a problem since access goes away when the home page disappears again. However, if one of your apps is a “direct dial” widget, for instance, a call can actually be placed by a hacker, and many other programs that perform an action at launch could also leave the device vulnerable.

We’ve confirmed the flaw on our own handsets and the individual who discovered it says that after reporting it five days ago, Samsung has yet to respond. We’ve reached out to the Korean company ourselves and will let you know about any further developments.

Source: Engadget

Toddler ‘Functionally Cured’ of HIV Infection, NIH-Supported Investigators Report

Discovery Provides Clues for Potentially Eliminating HIV Infection in Other Children

A two-year-old child born with HIV infection and treated with antiretroviral drugs beginning in the first days of life no longer has detectable levels of virus using conventional testing despite not taking HIV medication for 10 months, according to findings presented today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta.

This is the first well-documented case of an HIV-infected child who appears to have been functionally cured of HIV infection—that is, without detectable levels of virus and no signs of disease in the absence of antiretroviral therapy.

Further research is needed to understand whether the experience of the child can be replicated in clinical trials involving other HIV-exposed children, according to the investigators.

The case study was presented at the CROI meeting by Deborah Persaud, M.D., associate professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, and Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D., professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. These two pediatric HIV experts led the analysis of the case. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), both components of the National Institutes of Health, provided funding that supported the work of Drs. Persaud and Luzuriaga and other investigators involved in the analysis of the case.

“Despite the fact that research has given us the tools to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, many infants are unfortunately still born infected. With this case, it appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

In July 2010, the child was born prematurely in Mississippi at 35 weeks, to an HIV-infected mother who had received neither antiretroviral medication nor prenatal care.

Because of the high risk of exposure to HIV, the infant was started at 30 hours of age on liquid antiretroviral treatment consisting of a combination of three anti-HIV drugs: zidovudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine. The newborn’s HIV infection was confirmed through two blood samples obtained on the second day of life and analyzed through highly sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR tests conducted on separate occasions that indicate the presence of HIV in an exposed infant are considered to have confirmed the diagnosis of infection.

The baby was discharged from the hospital at 1 week of age and placed on liquid antiretroviral therapy consisting of combination zidovudine, lamivudine and co-formulated lopinavir-ritonavir. This drug combination is a standard regimen for treating HIV-infected infants in the United States.

Additional plasma viral load tests performed on blood from the baby over the first three weeks of life again indicated HIV infection. However, by Day 29, the infant’s viral load had fallen to less than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (copies/mL).

The baby remained on the prescribed antiretroviral treatment regimen until 18 months of age (January 2012), when treatment was discontinued for reasons that are unclear. However, when the child was again seen by medical professionals in the fall of 2012, blood samples revealed undetectable HIV levels (less than 20 copies/mL) and no HIV-specific antibodies. Using ultrasensitive viral RNA and DNA tests, the researchers found extremely low viral levels.

Today, the child continues to thrive without antiretroviral therapy and has no identifiable levels of HIV in the body using standard assays. The child is under the medical care of Hannah Gay, M.D., a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Researchers will continue to follow the case.

“This case suggests that providing antiretroviral therapy within the very first few days of life to infants infected with HIV through their mothers via pregnancy or delivery may prevent HIV from establishing a reservoir, or hiding place, in their bodies and, therefore, achieve a cure for those children,” said Dr. Persaud. 

NIAID and NICHD provided funding that supported the collaborating investigators involved in the analysis of the HIV-infected child through the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network’s (IMPAACT) cooperative agreement grant AI066832. Analysis was also performed by Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D., a lead investigator in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation in Bethesda, Md. The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) also contributed funding.

For more information about NIAID’s HIV/AIDS cure research, see the NIAID HIV/AIDS Web Portal.

Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases