Friday, 30 November 2012


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8 Cool Green Homes That Float
The Daily Green.

1. Morphosis Architects Floating House

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Photo credit: Morphosis Architects

It seems floating houses are getting more attention these days, moving from the whimsical and conceptual to more practical considerations. Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, which has been working to rebuild hurricane-torn New Orleans through innovative green design, has teamed up with Morphosis Architects to unveil a home that floats when flooded.

Morphosis founder Thom Mayne is a winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. About this latest project, he told NPR, "We rethought the idea of a house in terms of the potential conditions of the flooding that took place in Katrina."

So if floodwaters rise, the house floats, gliding up 12-foot guideposts. It easily breaks away from electric lines and plumbing, and has batteries to power up appliances and devices inside for up to three days. It is also made with green materials.

Will this concept work on a big scale? It's too early to say, but it's certainly thinking outside of the box.

2. Schwimmhaus

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Photo credit: Confused-Direction

The stylish Schwimmhaus, designed by German architects Confused-Direction, is ideal for those looking for a compact, environmentally friendly floating home. Built using reclaimed wood from an old farmhouse and other sustainable building materials, the green roof adds to the eco-friendly appeal. The simple-yet-sleek interior design offers all the conveniences you could want and is thoroughly modern and unique. The Schwimmhaus was designed to float around or to stay docked permanently.

3. Dubai Houseboat

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Photo credit: X-Architects

As with many architectural designs coming out of Dubai, this houseboat is stunning. The 220-square meter home was cleverly designed by Dubai-based architectural firm X-Architects. Set on two catamaran beams, this two-story structure is encased in glass windows, allowing sunlight to flood the interior. It'll take the average person more than a few bank loans to get their hands on the swish fittings and up-market features of this chic and spacious floating home, even if it's just to rent for a week!

4. Arctic Houseboat

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Photo credit: Covey Island Boatworks

The term "really cool" takes on new meaning with this amazing houseboat, developed specifically for the Arctic winter. Inspired by the Inuit practice of turning their hunting boats upside down for winter shelter, the builders of this unique structure - Covey Island Boatworks - took the idea to a new level by creating a prefabricated, highly insulated home that can endure harsh climates. Equipped with solar, wind and marine power systems, this self-contained unit can be placed virtually anywhere. The interior is cosy and compact and contains all the modern conveniences.

5. Floating Solar House

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Environmentally conscious, UK-based Kingsley Architects have reinvented caravan holidays with these unique and eco-friendly solar-powered houseboats. Apparently, the ingenious design enables the structure to be totally self-sufficient for up to a year at a time. It can also be docked at a floating home community to utilize their power, fresh water and sewage treatment facilities. Similar in design to a campervan, this 75-square meter houseboat has an open kitchen and living area space, with enclosed sleeping areas in the back.

6. Summer Houseboat

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This completely unique design, by Russian architect Vladimir Plotkin, was created for the 2008 Archstoyanie Summer Festival in Russia, where the theme was Noah's Ark. A rather odd-looking structure, the giant disc-like living space is suspended above a floating platform and is accessed via ladders. The interior is very compact, but by no means claustrophobic. The lattice walls ensure constant ventilation and the large portholes provide ample natural light.

7. Cosmic Muffin Plane Boat

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Photo credit:

This extraordinary home certainly gets tongues wagging. Once owned by Howard Hughes, the 1930's Boeing 307 Stratoliner was converted into a houseboat, and is now a famous tourist attraction in Fort Lauderdale [USA]. Surprisingly roomy inside, it houses a small sleeping area and bathroom at the rear of the aircraft, while the main hull is dedicated to living space that features a large bar area and even a PC workstation.

8. Kerala Houseboat

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Photo credit:

This beautiful houseboat is an ideal holiday home for those wishing to explore Southern India without having to change hotels on a regular basis. This two-bedroom, three-bathroom luxury houseboat is fully air conditioned and even has a Jacuzzi on-board. All the crew are English-speaking and there is a chef aboard to whip up amazing gourmet meals. What a wonderful way of seeing the rural area of Kerala!

Top image: Schwimmhaus (left) and Kerala Houseboat (right)

[Source: The Daily Green. Edited. Top image added.]


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10 Surprisingly Believable Bits of Malarkey
By Julia Layton,
How Stuff Works, 28 November 2012.

Malarkey comes in many forms. There's the laughable malarkey, like "this electronic belt can make you lose weight;" there's the easily questionable malarkey, like "tanning beds are safer than sunlight;" and then there is the malarkey that seems so reasonable, so highly probable, many of us just don't question it. This malarkey is believed so widely, it might as well be true.

And yet, it's not.

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Tanning beds are easily questionable malarkey: It's not hard to wonder whether they may be more
dangerous than sunlight. Photo: Nicholas Eveleigh/The Image Bank/Getty Images.

Some of the myths are harmless; some pose potential dangers. A few may be inconvenient to remove from the common-knowledge database, which could explain why they're still around, turning so many of us into inadvertent purveyors of hogwash.

Let us now slightly impede the hogwash cycle. Here, 10 bits of malarkey that have a tendency to slip through the "hey, wait a minute" filter. The first one is known by many to be false, but resistance to the revelation is still strong, and understandably so.

10. Diamonds Are Rare

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If tucked-away diamonds suddenly flooded the market, this precious gem would seem a lot less
precious. Photo: Joseph Clark/Digital Vision/Getty Images.

Beloved? Sparkly? A cultural symbol of forever love? Certainly. Hardest natural substance known to man with the possible exception of lonsdaleite [source: Griggs]? Yep. Rare gem? Not in the least.

Diamonds are in such great supply that the only way to keep their prices high and maintain the illusion of rarity (and thus extraordinary value) is for the diamond industry to hold back the vast majority of its gems [source: Webb]. Were any significant number of those tucked-away diamonds released into the market, prices would drop, the illusion would be revealed, and everyone and his mother could afford to own a princess-cut rock.

The same would happen if any significant number of treasured "family diamonds" were put up for sale - thus De Beers' brilliant "Diamonds are Forever" campaign, which convinced women everywhere to never, ever part with their gems [source: Epstein].

Next, the water we drink...

9. Bottled Water Is Safer Than Tap

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Is bottled water the freshest, safest drink around? Photo: STUDIO BOX/Photographer's
Choice/Getty Images.

Think that bottled water you're gulping is better for you than the free stuff out of the tap? You're not alone in your misconception.

Might it taste better to you? Sure. It may have fewer minerals in it, more minerals in it, or different minerals in it than your tap water, which affects the taste. Do you prefer to drink water that's had the fluoride removed? Fair enough - though your children's teeth might not thank you for it later [source: Kids Health]. Are you of the opinion that mineral water has health benefits that regular water does not? More power to ya.

Safety, however, is a different matter.

Municipal water sources are highly regulated for safety, with mandatory contaminant checks in happening hundreds of times per month; bottled sources are evaluated more like four times per month. And those evaluations, along with safety standards and levels (and definitions) of purity, are regulated mostly (and in some states entirely) by the bottled-water industry itself, meaning it's often voluntary.


Next, making a slippery issue worse...

8. Oily Skin Needs Drying Agents

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A scrubbed and dried-out face produces less oil, right? Photo: Brand New Images/Digital
Vision/Getty Images.

In acne-prone teens (heck, in acne-prone adults), the drive to dry the heck out of the whole darned thing is a strong one. Rubbing alcohol may enter the cleansing routine. Moisturizer may be omitted. Hourly facial scrubs may seem like a really good idea.

All understandable, and all counterproductive. When you over-dry and irritate oily skin, and then make matters worse by depriving it of moisture, the oil-producing sebum glands think they're not doing enough, and they step up oil production to help achieve balance [source: Total Beauty].

Drying routines, then, only end up increasing oiliness. For acne, a cleanser containing salicylic acid is ideal; for oily skin in general, go with an oil-free moisturizer; and carry blotting papers to mop up extra oil instead of scrubbing when you see some shine [source: Lamont-Djite].

7. Bulls Are an Aggressive Breed

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Pit bulls may have bites more likely to send you to the hospital, but they're not the most vicious
breed on the block. Photo: Driendl Group/Photodisc/Getty Images.

As far as information garnered from experience, the media, friends and animal control goes, there can be little doubt that pit bulls - or more accurately, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, or some mix thereof - are one of the most aggressive breeds around. Maybe even vicious. And born that way.

The strange truth is, while reported dog bites back that up, science does not. In 2008, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied thousands of dogs representing 33 breeds for aggressive tendencies toward humans. Pit bulls (and Rottweilers) scored below Chihuahuas, Jack Russells, and, topping the aggression scale, dachshunds [source: Dobson].

Among the least aggressive were Labradors, greyhounds, and Bassett hounds.

What pit bulls do have in spades is prey instinct, which does increase the possibility of aggressive behaviour toward other animals. They were originally bred in the 1800s to take down bulls by the nose [source: Guthrie]. They also have incredible strength, extraordinary owner loyalty and more than their share of terrible owners, all of which can contribute to dog-bite attacks. Why, then, do reports show far more pit bull attacks than dachshund attacks? Probably because dachshund bites are less likely to require a trip to the ER [source: Guthrie].

Next, it really does seem possible, until...

6. Flu Shots Can Cause the Flu

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Flu vaccines won't actually give you the flu. Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images.

When (or if) you get a flu shot, the doctor, nurse or pharmacist probably offers a disclaimer that goes something like: After your shot, you may experience a low fever, aches or a runny nose for a few days.

So, it can cause the flu?

And anyone who knows just a little about how vaccines work knows that the flu virus is actually in the flu vaccine.

So, it can cause the flu?

Nope. The flu virus is injected into your body when you get a flu shot, but that virus is dead as a doornail [source: Today]. A dead virus can't infect anybody - however, it can still stimulate your immune system to learn how to fight it, so if you come into contact with the live version, your defenses are already in place, ready and able (in most healthy individuals) to destroy it before it can put you in bed for a week.

The nasal-spray form of the vaccine does contain a live, significantly weakened form of the virus - that kind is only used in healthy people, neither very young nor very old, whose immune systems are in top form. "Flulike symptoms" are more likely to develop with the nasal spray, but they fade once the immune system figures it out, and before it turns into the actual, awful flu [source: MedLine].

Next, a misperception that can lead to disaster.

5. Coffee Can Sober You Up

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A cup of coffee after drinking doesn't make it safe to drive. Photo: Shuji Kobayashi/

This one really should be true. Alcohol is a depressant; caffeine is a stimulant. They should cancel each other out.

But they don't. The only "drunk" trait coffee can counteract is the tired, foggy feeling. So drinking coffee when you're drunk just makes you a judgment-impaired, over-confident, dehydrated, uncoordinated and very awake drunk person [source: Discovery].

Which would probably be fine except that adding "very awake" into the equation can make a drunk person feel less drunk - thus making driving a car, operating a backhoe or chopping some vegetables seem like perfectly reasonable propositions.

The effects of alcohol fade as it's eliminated from your system, which happens at a rate of about one drink per hour, coffee or no coffee [sources: Freudenrich, Discovery].

Next, a happy one!

4. If It's High-Fat, It's Bad for You

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An avocado may be high in fat, but that doesn't mean it's unhealthy. Photo: Garry Wade/

We've been so well-conditioned to think we need to go low-fat to stay healthy, some of us have missed the memo: Some fats are good for us.

In the last decade or so, research has revealed that it's really the saturated and trans fats (and especially the latter) that contribute to such ailments as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes [source: Paturel]. The unsaturated fats are actually necessary components of a healthy diet.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in fatty fish like salmon and trout, in olive oil and in foods like nuts and avocado, have a range of health benefits. They can increase the body's ability to absorb vitamins; provide tons of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids; and can help lower cholesterol levels [source: Paturel].

The key, as always, is moderation. Most experts recommend between 50 and 80 grams of (healthy) fats per day, depending on a person's ideal weight and calorie intake [source: Cleveland Clinic]. One avocado, for reference, has about 30 grams.

Next up, it just seems so true!

3. People Have Different Learning Styles

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Students may have different subject preferences, but they don't necessarily have inherent
learning styles. Photo: Katy McDonnell/Digital Vision/Getty Images.

In the worthy quest to help students be more successful, the education community is always looking for ways has to improve teaching methods. One of the more recent theories states that people have different, sense-based "learning styles" that dictate how well they absorb and comprehend new information.

The theory has struck a chord with educators and students alike. They see it every day. Some learn best when information is presented visually; others when the presentation is auditory or kinaesthetic [source: Riener]. And so lessons are geared toward satisfying each style of learning. The problem is, there's no actual evidence that these "learning styles" exist [source: Neighmond].

Research has never been able to back up that which seems so obvious in the classroom. Studies reveal that under controlled conditions, there is actually no difference in the way people respond to visual, auditory or kinaesthetic modes of teaching [source: Neighmond].

According to science, our brains all learn in pretty much the same way. What does differ between students is background knowledge, areas of greater or lesser ability and areas of more or less interest. All of these factors affect how well people learn [source: Riener].

Incorporating variety in lessons, then, and even sensory variety, is an excellent approach to increasing understanding across the board - but not because students have inherent, sense-based learning styles. Variety helps because students come with different knowledge bases, talents and interests - and because it can help keep them awake during math class [source: Riener].

Next, malarkey that can cost lives.

2. Heart Disease Mostly Affects Men

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Heart health is as much of an issue for women as it is for men. Photo: LWA/Photographer's
Choice/Getty Images.

It's no mystery why so many people think heart disease is a man's issue. In movies and TV, it's almost always the men who have heart attacks. In the news, heart-health stories are mostly geared toward men. And, until fairly recently, even science has focused on men's hearts, not women's.

But a lot of that is starting to change. Why? Because heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in women. It kills more women than all forms of cancer combined [source: Ricciotti].

This may be at least partly due to a lack of public knowledge on the topic: Women have different symptoms during a heart attack, and they may not recognize them because they're looking for the ones that men experience [source: Ricciotti].

Research is also starting to reveal that women's hearts may function differently from men's, a factor that could contribute to a woman's 50-percent greater chance of dying during heart surgery [source: Ricciotti].

And finally, a debunking that's going to be very, very difficult to believe if you have a kid.

1. Sugar Makes Kids Hyper

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Can candy really make kids hyper? Photo: Maximilian Stock Ltd./Photographer's
Choice/Getty Images.

It flies in the face of generations of experiential evidence, but the fact remains: Controlled scientific studies have never been unable to uncover any proof that sugar causes hyperactivity in children [source: Sachs].

In fact, sugar consumption is tied to the release of serotonin in the brain, a chemical that produces a calming effect [source: Sachs].

Some parents are simply going to reject the findings against what they have seen with their very own eyes. And who can blame them? Just drop by a candy-laden birthday party and watch the truth in action.

Science's response: Birthday parties are exciting, and excitement can make kids hyper. The candy has nothing to do with it [source: Rothman].

Admittedly, in this case the malarkey may be too "surprisingly believable" to dismiss, no matter what science says. And that may not be a bad thing. The fear of hyperactivity can encourage parents to limit kids' sugar intake, an excess of which is detrimental to their (and everyone else's) health.

So, who knows. Maybe a little malarkey is all right.

For more information on these and other bits of malarkey, check out the links below.

Author's Note:

In this article's first draft, entry 5 was not flu-related. Originally, that entry read "Tanning Beds are Safer than Sunlight," a topic I wanted to address due to the shocking amount of damage resulting from that particular misconception (fuelled, of course, by the tanning industry).

But I changed it to a brief mention in the introduction for consistency's sake, since (in my opinion) that malarkey is not "surprisingly believable" at all. But it seems a wasted opportunity to leave it at that, so how about a few stats for good measure?

People who use tanning beds regularly are 50 to 100 percent more likely to develop skin cancer than those who don't [source: Robb-Nicholson]. This includes melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers out there. Those who have ever used a tanning bed are up to 15 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and that goes up to 75 percent when the first use is before the age of 35 [source: Skin Cancer Foundation].

Young women are doing the majority of the indoor tanning, so they're most at risk. If you know any tan-happy teens-to-20-somethings, you may want to pass along the statistics, especially this one: Roughly 10 to 20 percent of melanoma patients are dead within five years [source: Skin Cancer Foundation].

There. I've said it. Thanks for listening.

Article Sources:
1. "19 Best Products for Oily Skin." Total Beauty. (Oct. 30, 2012)
2. Dobson, Roger. "Sausage dogs are the most aggressive dogs." The Telegraph UK. July 5, 2008. (Oct. 30, 2012)
3. Epstein, Edward J. "Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?" The Atlantic. Feb. 1982. (Oct. 30, 2012)
4. Freudenrich, Craig. "How Alcohol Works." HowStuffWorks. (Nov. 5, 2012)
5. Griggs, Jessica. "Diamond no longer nature's hardest material." New Scientist. Feb. 16, 2009. (Nov. 5, 2012)
6. Guthrie, Julian. "Despite reputation, trained pit bulls can be wonderful pets, experts say." SFGate/The San Francisco Chronicle. June 4, 2005. (Oct. 30, 2012)
7. "Influenza vaccine." Medline Plus. (Nov. 8, 2012)
8. Kunin, Audrey. "The Ugly - and Deadly - Side of Tanning." Dr. Oz. (Oct. 30, 2012)
9. Lamont-Djite, Tara. "Oily Skin Myths Solved!" Beautylish. June 21, 2012. (Oct. 30, 2012)
10. Layton, Julia. "How Bottled Water Works." HowStuffWorks. (Oct. 30, 2012)
11. "Myth: Can Drinking Coffee Help a Person Sober Up?" Discovery. (Nov. 4, 2012)
12. Neighmond, Patti. "Think You're An Auditory or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It's Unlikely." NPR. Oct. 29, 2011. (Oct. 31, 2012)
13. Oz, Mehmet. "'Safe' Tanning Beds? Think Again." Dr. Oz. (Oct. 30, 2012)
14. Paturel, Amy. "6 High-Fat Foods That Are Good For You." SELF. Aug. 10, 2011. (Nov. 4, 2012)
15. "Reducing Fat Intake." Cleveland Clinic. (Nov. 8, 2012)
16. Ricciotti, Hope. "Heart Disease – Differences Between Men and Women." Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre. (Nov. 4, 2012)
17. Riener, Cedar and Daniel Willingham. "The Myth of Learning Styles." Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. Sept/Oct 2010. (Oct. 31, 2012)
18. Robb-Nicholson, Celeste. "By the way, doctor: Is a tanning bed safer than sunlight?" Harvard Women's Health Watch. Harvard Health Publications. Sept. 2009. (Oct. 30, 2012)
19. Rothman, Josh. "Surprise: Sugar Doesn't Make Kids Hyper." Boston Globe. Nov. 2, 2011. (Oct. 30, 2012)
20. Sachs, Jessica Snyder. "Sugar: Does It Really Make Kids Hyper?" Parenting. (Oct. 30, 2012)
21. Webb, Merryn Somerset. "Diamonds: don't buy into the illusion." Money Week. March 1, 2010. (Oct. 30, 2012)
22. "Worried about the flu shot? Here are myths, debunked." TODAY Health. Nov. 7, 2012. (Nov. 8, 2012)

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[Post Source: How Stuff Works. Edited.]

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This is how computer technology can cripple a nation…

10 Reasons to Fear a 'Cyber Pearl Harbour'
By Jesse Emspak,
Tech News Daily, 28 November 2012.


An attack on a computer network shuts down a power plant, plunging New York City into darkness. A control tower at an airport is suddenly overwhelmed with false signals from non-existent airplanes.

Could a terrorist group or foreign country mount a cyber attack that causes this sort of crisis? Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta thinks so.

In October, Panetta warned a group of business executives about a "cyber Pearl Harbour" - a massive cyber attack upon the United States that would compromise critical pieces of infrastructure.

The term wasn't Panetta's invention. Experts have been using "cyber Pearl Harbour" ever since it became clear in the mid-1990s that such attacks were possible.

More recent events have erased all doubt. The Stuxnet worm of 2010 demonstrated that a piece of malware can do real harm to an industrial system, even one not connected to the Internet.

Stuxnet, which was likely created by the U.S. or Israel, altered the rate of spin of uranium centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear facility, spinning them faster until they broke. At the same time, it fed false information to the facility operators, reporting that everything was functioning normally.

This just needs a little PLC

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Critical infrastructure systems, such as power plants or transportation systems, are vulnerable because today's industrial processes are largely controlled by computers.

Small workhorse computers known as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) operate the machinery. PLCs in turn are controlled by industrial control systems (ICSs) that humans use.

Large-scale ICSs, often spanning geographically separated facilities, are called supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

Since both PLCs and SCADA systems use commonly distributed software, they are vulnerable to disruption and to hacking.

"It’s really not a challenge to find new vulnerabilities in SCADA systems, because it's designed without security in mind," said Sergey Gordeychik, chief technology officer at Positive Technologies, a London-based company that assesses IT vulnerabilities for industry.

Lack of attribution

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Credit: Cyber attack via Shutterstock

In one sense, the comparison to Pearl Harbour might be misleading, argued Jon Stanford, director of power and utilities security at the worldwide accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"The motives [of cyber attacks] aren't clear, and the perpetrators aren't visible," Stanford said.

The attack on Pearl Harbour had a specific objective: Cripple the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet. It was also clear that the Japanese navy carried out the attack. Such clarity is rare in cyberspace.

While the possibility of a massive cyber attack upon American infrastructure is a real concern, it's important to put it in perspective, experts say.

Robert Graham, chief executive officer of Atlanta consulting firm Errata Security, noted that hacking is a matter of both luck and skill.

"China could easily send tourists over to make fertilizer bombs to blow up substations and long-distance power lines, and create a much greater effect" than a hacker could, Graham said.

The question, Graham said, is always how likely a given line of attack is.

So what are some of the juiciest targets for cyber attackers? Here are 10.

1. Power plants

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Industrial control systems are vital to running power plants, especially nuclear power plants. Altering the information put out by monitoring systems could lead to a series of cascading failures that could cause a nuclear plant to shut down, or, in the worst cases, to suffer a fuel-core meltdown.

The great Northeastern blackout of Aug. 14, 2003, which cut off power to Detroit, Toronto and New York, was caused by overheated power lines sagging into trees near Cleveland, according to a join Canadian-U.S. official report.

Some security experts contend that a piece of Windows malware called the Blaster worm, which had spread rapidly through the Internet in the previous three days, may have played a role by hampering communications among dozens of different power companies.

It's still not clear whether Blaster did in fact worsen the blackout. What is clear is that malware can indeed disrupt the industrial control systems at power plants.

2. Air-traffic control systems

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At the Black Hat and DEFCON security conferences in Las Vegas this past July, security researchers Andrei Costin and Brad Haines separately showed how they could "spoof" an aircraft's signal to an air-traffic controller using off-the-shelf equipment.

The hacks were done on the ADS-B system, which replaces radar and uses GPS and unencrypted radio data links to locate a plane in flight.

But as Costin and Haines demonstrated, it's not hard to create radio transmissions from "ghost" flights that don't exist.

As for GPS, its weak signals are easy to jam. In 2009, Newark Liberty International Airport traced air-traffic-control disruptions to local truck drivers who used illegal GPS jammers so their boss couldn't tell where they were.

ADS-B is a core part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which is currently being deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration and scheduled to be fully in place by 2020.

3. Financial markets

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A stock-market plunge by itself won't cripple an economy, but it can certainly result in losses of millions of dollars or even do in a big financial firm.

In 1995, the 230-year-old British investment bank Barings was destroyed by a $1.3 billion loss in the Asian options markets by a single Singapore-based trader who falsified records to cover his tracks.

In 2010, a cascade of rapid-fire trades caused the "Flash Crash" that brought the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 1,000 points in minutes.

In August of this year, a "technology breakdown" at Knight Capital Group in Jersey City, New Jersey, caused rapid computerized-trading glitches, causing price disruptions in dozens of stocks. Some soared while others crashed.

None of these incidents was the result of a hack, but it's not hard to imagine a hacker causing a lot of mayhem by breaching the security of a trading system. All he would need to do would be to surreptitiously alter a trading algorithm.

4. Road-traffic controls

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Many road-traffic control systems are now computer-controlled, and some are even being networked.

In the classic 1969 crime caper "The Italian Job," British gold thieves fed malicious software into the city of Turin's road-traffic-control computer, causing traffic jams that allowed the robbers, driving tiny Mini Coopers, to escape police.

That was fiction. But if a piece of malware were to interfere with a road-traffic-control system's proper functioning - for example, the traffic lights of greater Los Angeles at rush hour - there could indeed be gridlock.

5. Sewage and drinking water systems

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For at least three months in early 2000, malicious commands were sent via radio transmission to sewage-treatment pump stations in southern Queensland, Australia. Raw sewage was pumped into parks, rivers, canals, a harbour and even the grounds of a local Hyatt Regency hotel.

The culprit was Vitek Boden, a man who had been denied a job by the local public water utility. He had likely helped install the radio-controlled PLCs on the pump stations when he worked for a private contractor.

In November 2011, a hacker who called himself "pr0f" posted images online of the SCADA system that managed water infrastructure in South Houston, Texas.

Pr0f had been angry over the security industry's dismissive reaction to an alleged cyber attack on an Illinois water facility, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Pr0f didn't do anything to the South Houston plant; he only wanted to point out that he could have, and that it was stupid to connect such systems to the Internet.

In the United States, water-delivery and wastewater-treatment systems are fairly decentralized, but that doesn't make them immune.

The attack in Australia came from a disgruntled employee, but it isn't hard to imagine a terrorist - or a kid out for laughs - trying the same thing in this country.

6. Food production

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Making food in the 21st century is a big, industrial process. That means temperatures and ingredients have to be precisely measured and sequenced in the correct order.

An altered control system could put food safety at risk by not cooking food thoroughly enough, or adding the wrong amount - or none at all - of a necessary preservative.

7. Pharmaceutical manufacturers

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The same kinds of concerns that affect food apply here, but even more so. A switch that doesn't respond the right way in a pharmaceutical plant could render huge amounts of any drug useless, or even dangerous.

In 1982, a still-unknown perpetrator killed seven people in the Chicago area by tainting bottles of Tylenol pain medication with cyanide before the bottles were sold. (The incident spurred the introduction of tamper-resistant seals on medicine bottles.)

Only eight bottles of tainted Tylenol were ever discovered. A malicious hacker could taint many more.

8. Petrochemical plants and distribution systems

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Oil and gas refineries - and the pipelines, ships and trucks that deliver their raw material and products - are huge systems. Refineries require hundreds of employees, and the machines they operate, to handle extremely flammable materials without making mistakes.

But the workers need accurate information to do so. Malicious software could provide false readings, open and close valves at the wrong times or damage industrial firmware - all with potentially lethal consequences.

"At the end of every control system is a physical thing," said Dale Peterson, founder and chief executive officer of Digital Bond, an IT security consulting company in Sunrise, Florida.

Peterson noted that fatal accidents demonstrate what can happen when something goes wrong, and that hackers who can make things go wrong are all the more dangerous.

"The BP Texas City refinery explosion," which killed 15 and injured 270 in 2005, said Peterson, "was due in part to a control system not displaying properly."

In this case, a broken gauge failed to alert workers that flammable gas was escaping. A hacker could easily replicate a broken gauge on an electronic system.

Aside from foreign countries, terrorist groups, or disgruntled employees, said Peterson, there's also the danger of a prank gone horribly wrong - some lone hacker doing it for the "lulz."

"It's sort of surprising that hasn't happened more often," Peterson said.

9. Mass transit systems

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It's unlikely a hacker could take control of the trains in a subway system such as that of New York City. But hackers could certainly cause chaos if they attacked the ticketing, signalling or rail-traffic-control systems.

At best, there would be delays and disruptions. At worst, there could be a fatal crash.

10. Building controls

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In large office or industrial buildings, computers monitor fire-alarm systems and operate the heating and lights. At Brown University in 2000, students got permission to rewire the lighting systems in a tall campus building in order to play a 10-story game of "Tetris."

It'd be even easier to hack into a computerized lighting system. A potential hack could be done for the "lulz" - Anonymous might want to make the lights spell a message, for example - or it could cause more serious disruptions if the manager was told the fire alarms were all going off.

[Source: Tech News Daily. Edited.]