Hacker gets 20 years

A holiday snap from DefCon

One of the world’s most notorious computer hackers was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to helping run a ring that stole tens of millions of payment card numbers.

Albert Gonzalez, a 28-year-old college dropout from Miami, had confessed to helping lead a global ring that stole more than 40 million payment card numbers by breaking into retailers including TJX Cos Inc, BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc and Barnes & Noble.

It was the harshest sentence ever handed out for a computer crime in an American court, said Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Altogether, Gonzalez and conspirators scattered across the globe caused some $200 million in damages to those businesses, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann.

He said it was not possible to quantify how much money was stolen from individuals. “They would quite literally go to ATMS and take out bundles of money from victims’ accounts,” Heymann told the court in Boston.

Under his plea agreement, Gonzalez had faced up to 25 years in prison, but asked the judge for leniency in sentencing, saying he had been addicted to computers since childhood, had abused alcohol and illegal drugs for years and suffered from symptoms of Asperger’s disorder, a form of autism…

Gonzalez, who buried $1 million cash in the backyard of his parents’ home, said that his crimes got out of control “because of my inability to stop my pursuit of curiosity and addiction…”

Throw away the fracking key!

Criminals whining for leniency because “their crimes got out of control” don’t impress. That only says he originally meant to steal at a measured pace.

There’s a much longer, more detailed account – if you find this crook interesting – over here.

Gmail to alert users to suspicious activity

Google has launched a new feature in Gmail that will alert users when the system detects suspicious activity that might indicate the account has been compromised.

Gmail already displays information at the bottom of the in-box showing the time of the last activity on the account and whether it’s still open in another location. But people often don’t think to check that information, Will Cathcart, a Gmail product manager, said in an interview.

So Google is taking the extra step of displaying a warning to users in the form of a big banner that says “warning your acct was accessed from…” and which specifies a geographic region where the account was accessed when unusual activity was detected.

“For example, if you always log in from the same country and all of a sudden there is a log in from halfway around the world” that is suspicious, Cathcart said. Or, if the system detects that one particular IP address is accessing numerous accounts and changing passwords for them, that would trigger warnings for affected accounts, he said.

After receiving the warning banner, users can click a “details” link to get more information, such as where the last access points were. Users can change their password from that window.

The Gmail blog has a bunch more info on the topic. Seems like a useful pointer.

Killer tracked down 38 years after he skips out on parole

Frank Dryman first escaped hanging, then he just escaped. He wasn’t found for four decades until he was discovered running a wedding chapel in Arizona, some 1,300 miles south of the Montana town where he killed a man who had offered him a ride in a blizzard.

Dryman, 78, was awaiting extradition proceedings Thursday for skipping out of Montana 38 years ago while on parole for the 1951 killing of Clarence Pellett, who had picked up Dryman as a 19-year-old drifter caught in the snow outside the northern Montana town of Shelby.

Dryman was arrested Tuesday after the victim’s grandson hired an investigator who tracked the fugitive to the Cactus Rose Wedding Chapel, the Arizona City notary and chapel business where he went by the name Victor Houston.

Dryman had blended into local society and even cultivated friendships with previous county sheriffs, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said.

“I think this sends a message to other fugitives that they are never off the radar screen,” said Montana Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Anez. “It’s imperative that individuals be held accountable for their actions…”

In 1969, after just 15 years in prison, he was paroled. The Montana Department of Corrections said that today, the soonest a person sentenced to life in prison could gain parole is 30 years.

Dryman disappeared three years later. No Montana offender had been missing longer…

Clem Pellett, a surgeon in Bellevue, Wash., pursued the case after first learning details last year while digging through old newspaper clippings in storage. He said the issue was never discussed in the family…

The private investigator hired by the grandson used scores of documents the family dug up from old parole records, the Montana Historical Society and Internet searches to trace Dryman to the wedding chapel…

The Montana Department of Corrections said that Dryman will be sent back to the state prison. He will face a parole revocation hearing within the next few months – and possible resumption of his life in prison sentence.

Overdue – would be putting it mildly – but correctly. So many cold cases can be resolved with just a bit of dedication and investigative smarts.

Some think math genius should accept $1 million prize… so they can have it.

Russian maths genius Grigory Perelman, who declined a prestigious international award four years ago, is under new pressure to accept a prize.

A US institute wants to give him $1m (£700,000) for solving one of the world’s most complex mathematical problems, the Poincare Conjecture.

But it is unclear whether Dr [Grigory] Perelman, a virtual recluse, will pick it up.

A children’s charity in St Petersburg, where he lives, has urged him to take the money and give it to charity.

Dr Perelman, 43, has cut himself off from the outside world for the past four years, living with his elderly mother in a tiny flat said by neighbours to be infested with cockroaches.

In an open letter on its website, the Warm Home charity called on Dr Perelman to give the cash equivalent of the US Clay Mathematics Institute’s $1m Millennium Prize to Russian charities.

It suggested that the mathematician had already made an ethical point by turning down the Fields Medal, the world’s highest prize in mathematics, in 2006….

The mathematician is reported to have said “I have all I want” when contacted by a reporter this week about the Clay Millennium Prize.

Whether my opinion gives people the creeps I could care less: I completely understand his point of view, and believe that he should be left alone if that is his wish.

Take 2 carrots and call me in the morning!

Ever since man first climbed down from the trees (or, depending upon your view, plucked that apple off that tree), eating has never been far from his mind (survival has a way of prioritizing everything). Given that sustenance equals life, food and health have culturally ridden shotgun throughout the ages. “Good men eat and drink so they can live,” noted Socrates. “Eat, drink, and be merry!” commanded Solomon. “You’re famished. I’ll make a plate!!” pleaded my mother.

And, most likely, yours.

In the days before medicine, food was medicine…or at least it was seen as such. A browned apple for an upset stomach, chicken soup for congestion, champagne for septicemia (Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Eudora Welty said her Mississippi father swore his use of the bubbly saved her ill mother’s life). It was sometimes hard to establish cause and effect (Garlic as an anti-vampiric? Hard to find test subjects), and yet generations of pantries held foods sworn to bind, purge, ameliorate, instigate, invigorate…in short, improve one’s well-being.

And then came modern allopathic-oriented science, which until recently tossed nutrition—and its potential effect on both maintaining health and calming illness—into the compost heap. The reasons were myriad. Politically, no one had ever been elected on an anti-cheeseburger platform, so administrative pressure to funnel government dollars toward nutritional research traditionally was nil. Similarly, big pharma was scarce with cash, because they can’t patent a food’s natural properties. And from a practical viewpoint, studying food with its thousands of chemicals and nutrients is incredibly complex. By comparison, targeting and studying a single drug for efficacy in a double-blind model was far more straightforward and lucrative to both researchers and industry…

That William Nelson can speak of such research deficiencies in the past tense is indicative of a huge shift toward nutritional research in just the past 10 years. The catalyst? We can’t seem to shut our mouths, and the stats from the Centers for Disease Control back that up. With the exception of Colorado dwellers, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population is now considered obese. Given obesity’s epidemiologically supported impact on cardiac, vascular, and cancer-related illness, researchers are now branching out to uncover the myriad ways food and its micro components enhance or disrupt life. The sheer numbers of nutritional studies bear out this interest. According to Pub Med, such published investigations more than doubled between the 1980s and 1990s, and leapt another 71 percent this decade. Part of the quantum leap in the last five years is the discovery that chronic inflammation is slowly being linked to diseases including cancer, and that foods—from cloves to walnuts—appear to contain anti-inflammatory properties.

This critical mass of information even has a name. Called the Food as Medicine movement, it’s a growing recognition on the part of many academic clinicians that to ignore the role of food and nutrition in health is to lose a valuable tool that can support (or perhaps even lessen or replace) many pharmaceuticals currently in use.

RTFA. Long and detailed, lots of useful suggestions – especially for those of you who haven’t aimed your brain in this direction, yet.

iPhone gains gaming market revenue share

Software market research firm Flurry Analytics has posted some interesting information about where Apple’s iPhone stands in regards to the gaming market at large. The report also includes details about how the iPhone is stacking up in the mobile market against its two major rivals, the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

In 2008, Apple’s iPhone OS accounted for only one percent of the overall gaming market, compared to 20 percent for other portable games, and 79 percent for console. 2009 saw a definite swing towards portable gaming overall, with Apple alone reaping about half of the benefit of that shift…

Zooming in on how the iPhone is doing relative to its two strongest competitors in portable gaming, the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable, we see an even more dramatic picture of tremendous growth. Where the iPhone accounted for only five percent of the revenue share of the three platforms in 2008, in 2009 it took 19 percent. That means that it surpassed the PSP, which fell from 20 percent to 11 percent market share year over year. The DS stayed strong at 70 percent in 2009, but that still represents a fall of 5 percentage points from 2008.

I don’t own an iPhone and seriously avoid gaming. I have a nice balance of free time, a life outdoors, time to spend wandering the cyberworld. Gaming could really screw that up for me.

But, it is an interesting article for a couple of reasons – including Etherington’s thoughts on Apple’s more frequent hardware refreshes being an advantage over time.