Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Viruses infect a wide range of plants and animals, and shows that they can even infect one another. If that seems surprising, no wonder: until a team of French researchers watched one virus invade another, hijacking its genetic machinery and making copies of its victim’s DNA, scientists didn’t even know this was possible.

The French team dubbed the virus’s virus Sputnik and called it a “virophage” to parallel “bacteriophage,” which is the name for a virus that infects bacteria. Sputnik is tiny, with only 18,000 genetic bases in its chromosome. Its victim, by contrast, is a large mamavirus that the scientists found in a Paris cooling tower, and contains about 1.2 million genetic bases. An infection by Sputnik sickens the mamavirus by interfering with its replication.

The discovery that even viruses can fall ill has reignited an old controversy—whether viruses are are actually alive or simply rogue bits of DNA that depend upon other organisms to reproduce. “There’s no doubt this is a living organism,” says Jean-Michel Claverie, a virologist at the the CNRS UPR laboratories in Marseilles, part of France’s basic-research agency. “The fact that it can get sick makes it more alive”.

And now that they know viruses can infect other viruses, the researchers say it could be possible to use virophages against the most harmful viruses, although they’re cautious about the idea. “It’s too early to say we could use Sputnik as a weapon against big viruses or to modify them,” says co-author Bernard La Scola, also at the University of the Mediterranean. “But phages are used to modify bacteria, so why not?”.

Source:  discovermagazine.com

Microsoft security is worthless

Microsoft security is worthless:

Microsoft security is worthless

Microsoft security is worthless

A assessment of Dennis Technology Labs , users antivirus software Microsoft might want to think about installing other malware protection .

Dennis Technology Labs, the independent testing laboratory software based in London , released a quarterly assessment of nine screening programs most popular in the market and found that virus Microsoft Security Essentials detected 39 percent of all malware tested .

The Microsoft program , available for free download to anyone with a validated copy of Windows rated well below the other programs evaluated , all of which drew 87 percent or higher. Kaspersky Internet Security 2014 ranked first , protection against 99 percent of the virus. Avast! Free Antivirus 8 was rated the best free program not only detects 2 percent of malware.

“We are fully committed to protecting our clients consumer and business against malware ,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement . ” Our strong comprehensive solutions provide the necessary protection against malicious code and attacks. Supporting our antimalware partners helps in building a strong and diverse ecosystem to combat malware .”

Microsoft has a history of poor performance on tests of Dennis Technology Labs . A test from the beginning of this year found that it has lost 41 percent of all malware.  Microsoft has defended the performance of the product , saying it is not intended to be the only line of defense a user .

“We’ve had an epiphany a few years ago , back in 2011 when we realized that we had a higher calling and that was to protect all customers of Microsoft , ” Holly Stewart , senior manager of the Center Malware Protection Microsoft , told PC Pro . ” But you can not do that with a monoculture and you can not do that with an ecosystem of malware that is not attractive solid and diverse. ”

Stewart explained that instead of concentrating resources on your computer to have Microsoft ‘s own software will be able to identify all the latest viruses , which would focus on the search for new threats and send that information to other companies producing anti software virus .

This strategy makes sense if the ultimate goal is to keep users safe from malware Windows , but has the potential to leave some people believing that they have robust antivirus protection when you only have what Microsoft calls a ” baseline” from which users are encouraged to add additional virus protection .

Virus kills cancer

Genetically engineered virus kills cancer:

Genetically engineered virus kills cancer

Genetically engineered virus kills cancer

A genetically-engineered virus tested in 30 terminally-ill liver cancer patients significantly prolonged their lives, killing tumours and inhibiting the growth of new ones, scientists reported on Sunday. Sixteen patients given a high dose of the therapy survived for 14.1 months on average, compared to 6.7 months for the 14 who got the low dose. “For the first time in medical history we have shown that a genetically-engineered virus can improve survival of cancer patients,” study co-author David Kirn told AFP. The four-week trial with the vaccine Pexa-Vec or JX-594, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, may hold promise for the treatment of advanced solid tumours. “Despite advances in cancer treatment over the past 30 years with chemotherapy and biologics, the majority of solid tumours remain incurable once they are metastatic (have spread to other organs),” the authors wrote. There was a need for the development of “more potent active immunotherapies”, they noted. Pexa-Vec “is designed to multiply in and subsequently destroy cancer cells, while at the same time making the patients’ own immune defence system attack cancer cells also,” said Kirn from California-based biotherapy company Jennerex. “The results demonstrated that Pexa-Vec treatment at both doses resulted in a reduction of tumour size and decreased blood flow to tumours,” said a Jennerex statement. “The data further demonstrates that Pexa-Vec treatment induced an immune response against the tumour.” Pexa-Vec has been engineered from the vaccinia virus, which has been used as a vaccine for decades, including in the eradication of smallpox. The trial showed Pexa-Vec to be well tolerated both at high and low doses, with flu-like symptoms lasting a day or two in all patients and severe nausea and vomiting in one. The authors said a larger trial has to confirm the results. A follow-up phase with about 120 patients is already underway. Pexa-Vec is also being tested in other types of cancer tumours.

Russia’s underground cybercrime market

The Russian underground economy has democratized cybercrime:

Russian cybercrime

Russian cybercrime

If you want to buy a botnet, it’ll cost you somewhere in the region of $700. If you just want to hire someone else’s for an hour, though, it can cost as little as $2—that’s long enough to take down, say, a call center, if that’s what you were in the mood for. Maybe you’d like to spy on an ex—for $350 you can purchase a trojan that lets you see all their incoming and outgoing texts. Or maybe you’re just in the market for some good, old-fashioned spamming—it’ll only cost you $10 for a million e-mails. That’s the hourly minimum wage in the UK. This is the current state of Russia’s underground market in cybercrime—a vibrant community of ne’er-do-wells offering every conceivable kind of method for compromising computer security. It’s been profiled in security firm Trend Micro‘s report, Russian Underground 101, and its findings are as fascinating as they are alarming. It’s an insight into the workings of an entirely hidden economy, but also one that’s pretty scary. Some of these things are really, really cheap. Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro’s director of security research and communications, explains to Wired.co.uk that Russia’s cybercrime market is “very much a well-established market.” He says: “It’s very mature. It’s been in place for quite some time. There are people offering niche services, and every niche is catered for.” Russia is one of the major centers of cybercrime, alongside other nations like China and Brazil (“the spiritual home of banking malware”). Russian Underground 101 details the range of products on offer in this established market—Ferguson says that they can be for targeting anyone “from consumers to small businesses.” He points to ZeuS, a hugely popular trojan that’s been around for at least six years. It creates botnets that remotely store personal information gleaned from users’ machines, and has been discovered within the networks of large organizations like Bank of America, NASA, and Amazon. In 2011, the source code for ZeuS was released into the wild—now, Ferguson says, “it’s become a criminal open source project.” Versions of ZeuS sell for between $200 and $500. Cybercriminal techniques go in and out of fashion like everything else—in that sense, ZeuS is a bit unusual in its longevity. That’s in large part because viruses and trojans can be adapted to take advantage of things in the news to make their fake error messages or spam e-mails seem more legitimate. For example, fake sites, and fake ads for antivirus software, aren’t as popular as they once were because people are just more computer literate these days. Exploits which take advantage of gaps in browser security to install code hidden in the background of a webpage have also become less common as those holes are patched up—but programs which embed within Web browsers still pose a threat, as the recent hullabaloo over a weakness in Java demonstrates. Ferguson points to so-called “ransomware” as an example of a more recent trend, where the computer is locked down and the hard drive encrypted. All the user sees on the screen is that tells them that their local law enforcement authority (so, in the UK, often the Metropolitan Police) has detected something like child pornography or pirated software on their PC, and if they want to unlock it they’ll have to send money to a certain bank account. No payment, no getting your hard drive back. Amazingly, if you pay that “fine,” then you will actually get your information back, says Ferguson. “But you’ve labeled yourself as an easy mark, and there’s no telling if they haven’t left behind a backdoor which will let them come back and try again,” he says. Child pornography and pirated software have been in the news a lot over the past few years, for obvious reasons, and that kind of thing directly influences the thinking of hackers and programmers. Taking the time to adapt these tools to recent trends can be very lucrative. DNSChanger, a popular trojan from 2007 to 2011, would infect a machine and change its DNS settings. When the user went to a webpage with ads on it, that traffic would give affiliate revenue to the scammers. One prominent DNSChanger ring (Rove Digital) was busted in Estonia in 2011—the FBI had been tracking them for six years, and during that time it was estimated that they’d earned around $14 million from this little trick. It also meant that the FBI was left with some critical Web infrastructure on its hands—those infected machines (which included machines at major organizations) could only access the Web through those Rove Digital servers. Months were spent trying to get people to check their computers for infection and ensuring that when those Estonian servers were shut off, it didn’t take down, say, a bank. The most recent trends in cybercrime, though, are very much focused on mobile—particularly Android, Ferguson explains: “We’ve seen so far 175,000 malicious threats for Android, and we expect that to be a quarter of a million by next year. Those threats come from malicious apps—if you want to stay safe, stick to official channels like Google Play, don’t just download from any site. Similarly, there aren’t any malicious iOS apps in the wild, on the App Store, but that only applies to iPhones aren’t jailbroken—downloading from other places puts your phone at risk.” These threats aren’t going away, either. In fact, according to Ferguson, “prices are going down” across the Russian underground: “Let’s not pretend that these people aren’t taking advantage of technology just like normal businesses—improvements in technology are getting faster, and there are things like cloud services which they also use. The bad guys are using technologies to drive down costs in the same way businesses are.” Ferguson cites the recent case of someone claiming to have bought the personal information of 1.1 million Facebook users for only $5 (£3.19) as further evidence of the growing problem of online information leaking into the hands of these cybercrime communities. Hackers and other cybercriminals make it their job to analyze security measures and find ways around them, because that information is where the value lies. While hackers and other cyber criminals can save by buying in bulk, the cost to the individual (or the business) that falls victim to one of these techniques is potentially much higher.

H5N1 Biosecurity Threat

Deadly bird flu studies to stay secret for now.  The Virus could escape or fall into the wrong hands and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak:

Avian_influenza_H5N1_virus_

Avian_influenza_H5N1_virus_

 Two studies showing how scientists mutated the H5N1 bird flu virus into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic will be published only after experts fully assess the risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.  Speaking after a high-level meeting of flu experts and U.S. security officials in Geneva, a WHO spokesman said an agreement had been reached in principle to keep details of the controversial work secret until deeper risk analyses have been carried out.  The WHO called the meeting to break a deadlock between scientists who have studied the mutations needed to make H5N1 bird flu transmit between mammals, and the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which wanted the work censored before it was published in scientific journals.  Biosecurity experts fear mutated forms of the virus that research teams in The Netherlands and the United States independently created could escape or fall into the wrong hands and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.  “There must be a much fuller discussion of risk and benefits of research in this area and risks of virus itself,” the WHO’s Gregory Hartl told reporters. HIGH FATALITY RATE.  The H5N1 virus, first detected in Hong Kong in 1997, is entrenched among poultry in many countries, mainly in Asia, but so far remains in a form that is hard for humans to catch.  It is known to have infected nearly 700 people worldwide since 2003, killing half of them, a far higher death rate than the H1N1 swine flu which caused a flu pandemic in 2009/2010.  Last year two teams of scientists – one led by Ron Fouchier at Erasmus Medical Center and another led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin – said they had found that just a handful of mutations would allow H5N1 to spread like ordinary flu between mammals, and remain as deadly as it is now.  In December, the NSABB asked two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of the research for fear it could be used by bioterrorists.  They said a potentially deadlier form of bird flu poses one of the gravest known threats to humans and justified the unprecedented call to censor the research.  The WHO voiced concern, and flu researchers from around the world declared a 60-day moratorium on January 20 on “any research involving highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses” that produce easily contagious forms. Fouchier, who took part in the two-day meeting at the WHO which ended on Friday, said the consensus of experts and officials there was “that in the interest of public health, the full paper should be published” at some future date.  “This was based on the high public health impact of this work and the need to share the details of the studies with a very big community in the interest of science, surveillance and public health on the whole,” he told reporters.  In its current form, people can contract H5N1 only through close contact with ducks, chickens, or other birds that carry it, and not from infected individuals.  But when H5N1 acquires mutations that allow it to live in the upper respiratory tract rather than the lower, the Dutch and U.S. researchers found a way to make it can travel via airborne droplets between infected ferrets, which are considered good models of how flu viruses behave in people.  Asked about the potential bioterrorism risks of his and the U.S. team’s work, Fouchier said “it was the view of the entire group” at the meeting that the risks that this particular virus or flu viruses in general could be used as bioterrorism agents “would be very, very slim.”

Global_H5N1inHuman

Global_H5N1inHuman