Lab-Made Genes Appear in Rivers/Shock Handcuffs Revealed in Patent Filing/Iran Hit with New ‘Wiper’ Bug

Lab-Made Genes Appear in Rivers

Francie Diep, TechNewsDaily Staff Writer
December 18 2012 03:22 PM ET
Stock photo of a petri dish
From lab to river? A new study suggests lab-made antibiotic resistance genes may have made their way into the environment.
CREDIT: attem | Shutterstock.comView full size image

A new study has found evidence that antibiotic-resistant genes have escaped biology labs into the environment. A team of Chinese scientists found the man-made genes in all six Chinese rivers they tested, Chemical & Engineering News reported.

Their study is the first evidence that lab-made packages of genes, called genetic constructs, have entered the environment, Justin Donato, a biochemist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, told Chemical & Engineering News. More studies are needed to confirm that the genetic constructs the Chinese scientists found actually came from the rivers they sampled, Donato added. Another way the research team could have found constructs in their river water is if constructs they stored in another part of their lab, for other experiments, accidentally contaminated their river samples after researchers brought the samples indoors.

The Chinese study’s results mean that a common research technique may contribute to antibiotic resistance in human illnesses, the study authors wrote in a paper they published Dec. 6 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The overuse of antibiotics in hospitals and on farms is already known to create “superbugs” through a kind of accelerated arms race between bacteria and drugs. This is a new way germs may gain super resistance, the Chinese researchers suggest — by sucking up bits of drug-resistant genes that have escaped from labs.

It’s unclear whether the risk for this kind of superbug creation is the same in the U.S. as it is in China. In the U.S., scientists who use antibiotic resistance genes in their research blast their lab waste with high heat to kill off any bacteria with the drug-resistant DNA, Chemical & Engineering News reported. Sometimes they incinerate their waste.

Why do so many labs work with antibiotic resistance genes? For many genetic engineering labs, such genes are quality-control tools. They’re generally not the focus of studies, and nobody wants to put them in genetically modified crops or other genetically modified products. In fact, most scientists who make genetically modified crops now avoid using drug-resistant genes in their research to prevent such genes from getting out into the world, Chemical & Engineering News reported.

Other types of labs continue to use them, however, because they form a cheap and powerful research tool, the chemists’ magazine reported.

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

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Shock Handcuffs Revealed in Patent Filing

Jeremy Hsu, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
December 18 2012 08:00 AM ET
Future Prison Technologies
The alternative design for a handcuff capable of applying electric shocks.
CREDIT: Scottsdale Inventions, LLC | U.S. Patent OfficeView full size image

Ordinary handcuffs just won’t do if you’re Batman trying to restrain a supervillain such as Bane or Killer Croc. Such villains only exist in the comic book world of superheroes, but that has not stopped a California inventor from filing a patent on handcuffs that can either shock or sedate uncooperative prisoners.

The patent filing idea goes far beyond a crude punishment device, according toPatentbolt. The handcuff is envisioned as just one part of a broader prisoner-monitoring system that could intelligently provide electric shocks if a prisoner wandered outside a restricted area — or even inject the prisoner with a sedative or paralytic.

Such cuffs could also monitor the electrical activity of a prisoner’s heart and avoid applying a shock if the reading was in the danger zone. The same system might even summon medical help for the prisoner if it detects health issues based on the medical monitoring.

The U.S. Patent Application 20120298119 was filed by Scottsdale Inventions, LLC of Paradise Valley, Arizona on Oct. 29, 2010. There’s no word yet on its chances of getting approval from the U.S. Patent Office, let alone whether it would ever become an actual product.

But the idea of remotely monitoring and punishing prisoners may represent a harbinger of future prison surveillance systems anyway. After all, South Korea’s robot prison guards have already arrived.


Source: Patentbolt via Gizmag & DVICE

Iran Hit with New ‘Wiper’ Bug

by Ben Weitzenkorn, Staff Writer, Security, TechNewsDaily
December 18 2012 05:45 PM ET
The national flag of Iran.View full size image

This past Sunday (Dec. 16), the Iranian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) alerted computer users to a new form of “targeted data-wiping malware.”

“Primitive analysis revealed that this malware wipes files on different drives in various, predefined times,” the advisory states. “Despite its simplicity in design, the malware is efficient and can wipe disk partitions and user-profile directories without being recognized by antivirus software.”

The statement went on to say that despite its destructiveness, the bug does not appear to be widespread.

SophosLabs said the malware, which erases files’ contents in D:, E:, F:, G:, H: and I: drives, only on some, pre determined days, is “one of the most rudimentary malware samples seen in years” and that it’s unclear why Iran’s CERT characterized the malware as “targeted.”

Comparing this to other state-sponsored cyber attacks, Sophos said, would be like equating a child’s crayon-scrawled name with Homer’s “Odyssey”: they’re not even in the same realm.

But that doesn’t mean it should be underestimated. According to Sophos, the malware creates a registry file, so even if a machine is totally rebooted, the malware will remain.

“There’s no connection to any of the previous wiper-like attacks we’ve seen,” Russia-based Kaspersky Labs wrote on its blog.

Over the past two years, Iran has been hit with a number of serious malware attacks including the StuxnetDuqu and Flameviruses, which significantly set back the country’s nuclear research project. At least one of those attacks was carried out by or with the help of the U.S. and Israeli governments.

The origin of this newest piece of malware is still unknown

Follow Ben on Twitter @benkwx   

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One comment on “Lab-Made Genes Appear in Rivers/Shock Handcuffs Revealed in Patent Filing/Iran Hit with New ‘Wiper’ Bug
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