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Top Stories for the Week of December 23, 2014

  • Episode 379
  • December 23, 2014
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Tuesday December 23, 2014


Hackers have compromized a German steel mill.

A blast furnace at a German steel mill suffered "massive damage" following a cyber attack on the plant's network.

A blast furnace at a German steel mill suffered "massive damage" following a cyber attack on the plant's network.

Details of the incident emerged in the annual report of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

In its report, BSI said the attackers were very skilled and used both targeted emails and social engineering techniques to infiltrate the plant. In particular, said BSI, the attackers used a "spear phishing" campaign aimed at particular individuals in the company to trick people into opening messages that sought and grabbed login names and passwords.

The phishing helped the hackers extract information they used to gain access to the plant's office network and then its production systems.

The BSI report said that once inside the steel mill's network, the "technical capabilities" of the attackers became evident, as they showed familiarity with both conventional IT security systems and the specialised software used to oversee and administer the plant.

The attack caused parts of the plant to fail and meant a blast furnace could not be shut down normally.

The unscheduled shutdown of the furnace is what caused the damage.

BSI did not name the company operating the plant nor when the attack took place. In addition, it said it did not know who was behind the attack nor what motivated it.


A nuclear power plant in South Korea is facing threats from hackers calling themselves the "anti-nuclear reactor group".

A nuclear power plant in South Korea is facing threats from hackers who have demonstrated that they have access to their network.

On Friday, designs and manuals of plant equipment owned by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co were put online by an unknown individual or group.

Using an account named "president of the anti-nuclear reactor group", the hacker posted blueprints of nuclear reactors on social media.

A threat was made that unless three reactors were closed by Christmas, people should "stay away" from them.

Korea Hydro said the leaked data did not undermine the safety of the reactors.

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co, the sole nuclear operator in Korea, is part of the state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp.

In a statement, the operator said it would conduct a series of large-scale drills at four nuclear power plant complexes yesterday and today.

Authorities said a probe into the hacking and leak of internal documents had been launched.


Imagine losing a majority of your followers on Instagram. That's what happened during what is being deemed the "Instagram Rapture".

In a quest to purge spammers from Instragram, millions of user accounts have been shut down.

Photo-sharing app Instagram has removed millions of accounts believed to be posting spam, angering many legitimate users.

People who lost a lot of followers criticised the action, dubbing it the "Instagram Rapture".

Like its parent company Facebook, Instagram routinely removes accounts to limit spam and prevent users buying followers to appear more popular.

Rapper Akon reportedly lost 56% of his followers in the cull.

The big losers were Justin Bieber (minus 3,538,228 followers), and an online marketing specialist called Wellington Campos, which lost 3,284,304 followers overnight.

One account, chiragchirag78, lost 99% of his followers - 3,660,460 - before he himself was deleted.

Instagram's own account on the site lost 18,880,211 followers overnight.


Spare parts are now being emailed to the International Space Station.

The International Space Station needed a wrench, so we emailed them one, which they then printed on a 3D printer.

Astronauts on the International Space Station have used their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in an email.

It is the first time hardware has been "emailed" to space.

Nasa was responding to a request by ISS commander Barry Wilmore for a ratcheting socket wrench.

Previously, if astronauts requested a specific item they could have waited months for it to be flown up on one of the regular supply flights.

Mike Chen, founder of Made In Space, the company behind the 3-D printer, said: "We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore (who goes by "Butch") mention over the radio that he needed one, so we designed one in CAD and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have."

If a 3D printer can churn out something as useful as a tool in space, what else is possible?

Spare parts, components, even equipment... and that's just the beginning.


A self-destructing smartphone has arrived for "spies".

Are you a super-spy looking for a great phone? The self-destructing Boeing Black, made in partnership with BlackBerry, may be for you.

Boeing and BlackBerry are working together to make an ultra-secure phone for US security staff, which will allow them to communicate securely and blow itself up... if it falls into the wrong hands, of course.

BlackBerry's CEO John Chen gave away some details of the project when presenting the company's earnings.

Many of the details of the project have been kept secret but Boeing provides some on its site.

The phone, called Boeing Black, has disk encryption, a cryptographic engine and modular hardware that allows it to be upgraded and changed in use.

It uses Android, rather than BlackBerry's own operating system — Google's software is said to be favoured by the US government because it is more secure. Boeing, which is better known for making planes and weapons, has begun offering the phone to potential customers.


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