Sunday, January 26, 2014

CYBER WARS: The New Cold War - United States Federal Court System Hit With Cyber Attack; German Government Warns That Over 16 Million Online Accounts Compromised; Connected TVs, Fridge Help Launch Global Cyber Attack; Nearly Half Of South Koreans Have Their Bank Details Stolen (Including The President); GMail and Google+ Goes Down Across The World; China Blames Massive Internet Outage On Hacking Attack; And Hacking Expert Says He Cracked ObamaCare Website In Just 4 Minutes!

January 26, 2014 - TECHNOLOGY - Last year, Leon Panetta, the former Defense Secretary of the United States, issued a wake up call to Americas about the growing threat of cyber war. 

Panetta stated that  this online infiltration could cripple the U.S. economy with computerized “worms” and “malware” that can infect computer networks via the Internet or insider sabotage.  “It is the kind of capability that can basically take down a power grid, take down a water system, take down a transportation system, take down a financial system,” he said. “We are now in a world in which countries are developing the capability to engage in the kind of attacks that can virtually paralyze a country.” 

Here are a few of the recent stories about this developing threat to the global order.

German Government Warns That  Over 16 Million Online Accounts Compromised.

A list of 16 million email addresses and passwords has fallen into the hands of botnet operators, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) said Tuesday.  It remained unclear though to what these login credentials provide access. They could be logins for mail accounts, Facebook accounts, Amazon accounts or other online services, said BSI Spokesman Tim Griese.  About half of the addresses are from the German .de domain, Griese said, adding that there are also French and .com addresses on the list.  Law enforcement agencies found the list of email addresses and passwords while analyzing several botnets. Only the list of email addresses was shared with the BSI, Griese said. 

Users were invited to check their email address against the list by sending their address to the BSI using a website made specially for this purpose. Email addresses that are on the list will then receive an email with a code from the BSI.  The BSI couldn’t simply email all the addresses on the list because under German law it is not allowed to send emails to people who did not ask to receive one, Griese said. An email from the BSI about compromised accounts might also be regarded as spam and deleted immediately, he said.  By creating an online tool the BSI circumvents this problem, Griese said, adding that this will hopefully also lead to more awareness of online security. 

While the BSI said this was likely a case of large scale identity theft, Griese declined to discuss what the stolen login credentials were or could have been used for while the investigation continues. “We can’t tell more about the background,” Griese said, adding that for the same reason he couldn’t disclose which botnets were involved.  Identity theft however is one of the biggest risks when using the Internet, the BSI said in a news release. Criminals steal identities to act on the behalf of Internet users by sending emails in their place, or shop at the expense of others or do harm to them in other ways, the BSI said.  Users whose account might have been compromised should check their computer for malware, the BSI Said. Because it is unclear at the moment what the stolen login credentials unlock, compromised users should also change all their passwords, Griese said. - PC World.

Connected TVs, Fridge Help Launch Global Cyber Attack.
A smart refrigerator on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas

It's bad enough that we have to fear identity thieves who are trying to scam us with malicious messages sent from PCs.  We now must worry about being targeted by our household appliances, as well.  An Internet-security firm has discovered what they are calling a global cyberattack launched from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, televisions and at least one "smart" refrigerator.  It's being called possibly the first proven cyberattack to originate from connected appliances -- the so-called "Internet of Things."  Proofpoint said the attack occurred between December 23 and January 6, and featured waves of malicious e-mail targeting businesses and individuals worldwide. In a post on the Proofpoint site, the company said the scam involved more than 750,000 e-mails from more than 100,000 appliances that had been commandeered by "thingbots," or robotic programs that can be remotely installed on digital devices.

It was not immediately clear Friday which victims were targeted and whether the scammers were successful in collecting any personal information.  "Bot-nets are already a major security concern and the emergence of thingbots may make the situation much worse," said David Knight, general manager of Proofpoint's Information Security division. "Many of these devices are poorly protected at best and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur. [We] may find distributed attacks increasing as more and more of these devices come online and attackers find additional ways to exploit them."  Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of devices fitted with Internet connectivity, from eyewear to toothbrushes to refrigerators and beyond. Earlier this week, Google paid $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, a company that makes smart home thermostats. 

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts there will be more than 30 billion connected devices in the world by 2020.  Proofpoint's findings suggest that just as personal computers can be unknowingly compromised and used to launch large-scale cyberattacks, so can any smart household appliance. And poorly protected "smart" devices may be easier to infect and control than PCs, laptops or tablets.  A sophisticated hack was not needed to compromise the appliances in this attack. Instead, the use of default passwords left the devices completely exposed on public networks, according to Proofpoint.  The company also noted that connected appliances typically aren't protected by anti-spam or anti-virus software, nor are they routinely monitored for security breaches. - CNN.

Nearly Half Of South Koreans Have Their Bank Details Stolen (Including The President).
President Park Geun-hye (centre) is said to be one of the millions of victims of the scam. The data thief
was reportedly working for the Korea Credit Bureau.  The data security breach
affected around 15million cardholders.

The theft of personal information from more than 100million South Korean credit cards and accounts, reportedly including those of President Park Geun-hye and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, has ignited a storm of anger and litigation against credit firms.  Worried Koreans on Tuesday packed into branches of one of the banks hit by the theft to ensure their money was safe, while lawyers said 130 people joined a class action suit against their credit card providers in what is expected to be the first of multiple litigations.  ‘Of course I'm angry. Anyone might know when I pay my credit card bills, let alone my phone number and where I live. I might as well keep all my money in my closet,’ said one card user, Lee Young-hye, outside a bank branch.  

The biggest breach of personal privacy ever in South Korea has further highlighted the vulnerability of credit card information after tens of millions of U.S. cardholders' details were stolen from retailer Target Corp during the holiday shopping season.  South Koreans on average have more than four credit cards, something that has contributed to one of the highest levels of personal debt relative to the size of the economy in the developed world.  The data security breach affected around 15million cardholders, according to official estimates, by far the largest in a series of such scams against financial firms in South Korea going back to 2011.

Some previous attacks involved hackers believed to originate from North Korea, but this one seems to have been an inside job.  Financial regulators said a contractor with the Korea Credit Bureau, a private firm that manages the credit information of millions of Koreans for financial services providers, simply loaded details of 105.8million accounts held by KB Kookmin Card Co Ltd, Lotte Card Co Ltd and NH Nonghyup Card onto a portable hard drive.  The technician was allegedly working on forgery-proofing credit cards when he committed the theft in February, June and December last year, according to regulator Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), citing the prosecutor's office leading the investigation. - Daily Mail.

GMail and Google+ Go Down Across The World.
Yahoo Inc, which runs a rival internet service, posted a screenshot of the Gmail error page on Twitter.

Google Inc is investigating an outage on Friday night that took down Gmail for about 18 minutes, the internet email service used by hundreds of millions of people across the globe.  The trouble started at 12.30am IST on Saturday.  Gmail service appeared to resume for some users shortly after the outage occurred.

It was unclear what triggered the outage, which affected users in at least India, Britain and the United States.  Yahoo Inc, which runs a rival internet service, posted a screenshot of the Gmail error page on Twitter.  "We're investigating reports of an issue with Gmail. We will provide more information shortly," the company said on its "App Status" dashboard online, which tracks the state of various Google services.  Users attempting to sign on saw a "temporary error" message and a brief note: "We're sorry, but your Gmail account is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest trying again in a few minutes."  The internet search giant's Google+ social network, as well as its Youtube video service, appeared sluggish as well. Google did not respond to requests for comment. - Times of India.

U.S. Federal Court System Hit With Cyber Attack.
The incident affected and most federal court sites. | AP Photo

Unidentified hackers took aim at the federal court system Friday, blocking access to its public website while preventing lawyers and litigants from filing legal documents online.  The incident affected, the federal court’s public hub, as well as most if not all federal court sites — not to mention the federal court system’s electronic filing system and its access page, PACER, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said Friday. 

The aide described the incident only as a denial-of-service attack, and that the court system, which manages its own cybersecurity, is still investigating the exact nature of the incident and who’s responsible.  Earlier Friday, a federal court clerk from Arkansas indicated in an email obtained by POLITICO that it appeared to be a “new national cyberattack on the judiciary,” but he did not provide any additional information about the type of attack or who might be behind it.  The Justice Department, for its part, did not comment for this story. The Department of Homeland Security, which plays a key role monitoring federal networks and disseminating information about cyber threats, could not be reached for comment.  - Politico.

Hacking Expert Says He Cracked ObamaCare Website In Just 4 Minutes.
FILE - This Nov. 29, 2013 file photo shows part of the website in Washington,
on Nov. 29, 2013. Photo by: Jon Elswick

The man who appeared before Congress last week to explain the security pitfalls of took to Fox News on Sunday to explain just how easy it is to penetrate the website.  Hacking expert David Kennedy told Fox’s Chris Wallace that he determined he could gain access to 70,000 personal records of Obamacare enrollees via within about 4 minutes — and it required nothing more than a standard browser, the Daily Caller reported.  

“And 70,000 was just one of the numbers that I was able to go up to and I stopped after that,” he said. “You know, I’m sure it’s hundreds of thousands, if not more, and it was done within about a 4 minute timeframe. So, it’s just wide open.”“You can literally just open up your browser, go to this, and extract all this information without actually having to hack the website itself,” he said.Mr. Kennedy testified before Congress Thursday that was “100 percent” insecure, Washington Free Beacon reported.“What we learned was that they had rushed through what we call the software development life cycle where they actually build the application,” he said on Fox.“So when you do that, security doesn’t really get integrated into it. And what happened with the rocky launch in October is they slapped a bunch of servers in trying to fix the website just to keep it up and running so that people could actually go and use it. The problem is they still didn’t imbed any security into it.”“It’s not just myself that’s saying this website is insecure, it’s also seven other independent security researchers that also looked at the research I’ve done and came to the exact same conclusion,” he said. - Washington Times.

Russia Accused Of Hacking Hundreds Of Western, Asian Companies.
A U.S. cybersecurity firm says it has gathered evidence that the Russian government spied on hundreds of American, European and Asian companies, the first time Moscow has been linked to cyber attacks for alleged economic - rather than political - gains.  According to the firm, CrowdStrike, the victims of the previously unreported cyber espionage campaign include energy and technology firms, some of which have lost valuable intellectual property.  CrowdStrike declined to go into detail about those losses or to name any victims, citing confidentiality agreements related to its investigation. 

Officials with the Russian Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment early on Wednesday in Moscow.  "These attacks appear to have been motivated by the Russian government's interest in helping its industry maintain competitiveness in key areas of national importance," Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, told Reuters on Tuesday evening.  While cybersecurity researchers have in the past said that China's government was behind cyber espionage campaigns against various corporations dating back as far as 2005, Alperovitch said this is the first time the Russian government has been linked to cyber intrusions on companies.  He said that CrowdStrike has been following the activities of this Russian group, which it dubbed "Energetic Bear," for two years. The firm believes the Russian government is behind the campaign because of technical indicators, as well as analysis of the targets chosen and the data stolen.  "We are very confident about this," Alperovitch said.

Victims include European energy companies, defense contractors, technology companies and government agencies, according to the CrowdStrike report.  Manufacturing and construction firms in the United States, Europe and Middle East as well as U.S. healthcare providers were also cited as targets.  Alperovitch, who is of Russian ethnic origin and now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, is an expert on cyber espionage who rose to prominence while working for McAfee Inc. While there he managed a team of researchers who produced a landmark January 2010 report that described how Chinese hackers had launched an unprecedented series of attacks known as "Operation Aurora" on Google Inc and dozens of other companies.  In 2012, he co-founded CrowdStrike, which collects intelligence about the activities of hacking groups around the world and sells software to thwart such attacks.  He told Reuters that the data his firm has obtained about Energetic Bear suggests that authorities in Moscow have decided to start using cyber espionage to promote Russia's national economic interests.  "They are copying the Chinese play book," he said. "Cyber espionage is very lucrative for economic benefit to a nation." - Huffington Post.

 China Blames Massive Internet Outage On Hacking Attack.
Tuesday’s Internet outage in China is dividing experts over what caused the networking error, with authorities calling it a hacking attack, and others blaming it on the country’s censorship systems.  The outage briefly crippled the Internet in China, with many local websites inaccessible to users. User traffic was mysteriously redirected to a U.S.-based IP address belonging to a company that has hosted software capable of circumventing China’s online censorship.  The networking error, which only lasted a few hours, affected at least two-thirds of China’s websites, according to Qihoo 360, a software security vendor in the country.  On Wednesday, local authorities said a preliminary investigation found that a hacking attack caused the outage. China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team is continuing to investigate the matter.

On the same day, China’s state-controlled Xinhua News Agency published a story quoting security experts whodemanded authorities do more to protect the nation’s Internet infrastructure.  Others experts, however, believe the error may have been caused by a glitch in China’s notorious censorship systems, also known as “The Great Firewall.”  China routinely blocks sites with content critical of the nation’s government, including Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times. Tuesday’s Internet outage, however, rerouted traffic to an IP address belonging to Dynamic Internet Technology, a U.S. company whose site is also blocked by authorities.  DIT could not be reached immediately for comment. But the company’s clients include The Epoch Times, a publication banned in China. It also hosts Freegate software that can help Chinese Internet users view sites blocked in the country. 

Some are speculating that hackers hijacked a root DNS (Domain Name System) server in China to reroute all user traffic, said, a group that monitors China’s Internet and opposes the nation’s censorship.  But in a Wednesday posting, dismissed such claims, noting that a public DNS server operated by Google had also been affected by the networking error. During the outage, users trying to access the Google DNS server from China were also rerouted to the IP address from Dynamic Internet Technology.  ”Some are suggesting Dynamic Internet Technology is behind the outage. However, hacking into a root DNS resolver is not enough to cause this outage,” the group said. “They have to hack into GFW (The Great Firewall).”  Instead, authorities may have tried to block DIT’s IP address, but accidentally ended up rerouting all the nation’s traffic to the address, the group added. - PC World.

FUK-U-SHIMA: "Panic Is On The Rise In British Columbia" - Canadians Buying Potassium Iodide In Bulk Over Fears Of Fukushima Radiation!

January 26, 2014 - CANADA - Health officials in the coastal Canadian province of British Columbia are cautioning residents not to try and qualm fears of radioactive contamination by ingesting mass quantities of potassium iodide.

Potassium iodide pills.(Reuters / Yuriko Nakao)

Journalist Dan Fumano of BC’s The Province newspaper wrote this week that potassium iodide pills have been flying off the shelves of area drug stores after reports published on the internet advised people that illnesses brought on by nuclear radiation can be remedied by taking regular doses of the inorganic compound.

The British Columbians buying those pills, Fumano wrote, are largely fearful that nuclear waste leaked into the Pacific Ocean three years ago by the destruction of the Fukushima power plant across the pond in Japan is washing up on their shores.

But while potassium iodide does indeed possess its fair share of positive qualities, experts say ingesting those pills is unnecessary and could cause lead to potentially dangerous overdoses.

Fumano wrote that potassium iodide sales in BC surged immediately after the Fukushima disaster, and have again in recent months started to climb. At least one pharmacist he spoke with said she’s been sending people out of the door of her drug store when they request the quasi-cure-all pills.

“There were other instances where rumors have been rampant and misinformed the public, but nothing to the degree that (Fukushima) has,” pharmacist Pam Magee told him.

According to Magee, customers have been coming into her store asking for potassium iodide doses that are hundreds of times over the recommended intake.

“I only know the litany of pathologies that can ensue with this kind of dosing,” she told Fumano. “I always warn people against it and they often go away mad and exasperated by my stupidity.”

Other experts in the field agree. The Health Physics Society says on their website that Kl — the scientific shorthand for potassium iodide — “has been erroneously represented as a ‘magic bullet’ of radiation protection.”

“KI, if taken properly, only protects against internal radiation from radioiodine taken into the body,” the website warns. “It will not protect against external radiation or internal radiation from radionuclides other than radioiodine,” and even then will only spare the human thyroid from any radiation-induced effects.

Immediately after the Fukushima disaster, Dr. Glenn Braunstein of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California told the Huffington Post that the amount of radiation from Japan that would ever end up across the ocean would likely be “less than the radiation one could get in flying from Los Angeles to New York.”

"I think I would describe it as subclinical panic," Braunstein added at the time. "I think there's a lot of concern out there because radiation -- you can't see it, you can't feel it, but everybody knows it has potentially disastrous results."

Three years later, that panic is again on the rise in British Columbia.

“If I lived next door to Fukushima, or somewhere in that area, I might well consider having KI, or potassium iodide, in my medicine chest. But not here,” BC health officer Dr. Perry Kendall added to The Province. “We wouldn’t recommend it, because it wouldn’t convey any benefit, and it might convey some risk.”

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, potassium iodide overdoses can cause shortness of breath, difficult swallowing, fever and joint pain, and could warrant immediate medical attention in some cases.

Meanwhile, British Columbians aren’t the only ones in the area concerned. The Department of Environmental Conservation in the adjacent state of Alaska announced on Thursday this week that officials there are not actively testing fish for nuclear radiation amidst similar fears, but that data from BC authorities and federal agencies say so far there isn’t anything to worry about. - RT.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Meteor Fireball Seen By Many Over Oklahoma And Texas!

January 26, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Did you see a flash across the Friday night sky?

File illustration.

NewsChannel 4 had reports of a meteor being seen from people in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Many folks are talking about seeing it in Texas and Arkansas.

Let us know if you saw anything and share you pictures or video.

Check out this video posted earlier this evening claiming to be of it:

WATCH:  Meteor fireball over Garland, Texas.


OMEN: Signs & Wonders At The Vatican - Two White Doves Released By Pope Francis As A "Gesture Of PEACE" Are Brutally ATTACKED By Vicious Seagull And Black Crow!

January 26, 2014 - VATICAN - Two white doves released by children standing alongside Pope Francis as a peace gesture today were attacked by other birds.

Crow fought the wings of a dove: While speaking at the window beforehand, Francis had appealed for peace
in Ukraine, where anti-government protesters have died.

As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter's Square, a seagull and a large black crow swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace.

One dove lost some feathers as it broke free from the gull. But the crow pecked repeatedly at the other dove. It was not clear what happened to the doves as they flew off.

 While speaking at the window beforehand, Francis had appealed for peace in Ukraine, after at least three people were killed during the latest clashes in the two-month crisis.

Go: Pope Francis is joined by two children who release doves during the Angelus Prayer in St. Peter's Square.

Police and demonstrators in Kiev fought again as protests against President Viktor Yanukovich's abrupt turn away from the European Union towards Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet overlord.

‘I am close to Ukraine in prayer, in particular to those who have lost their lives in recent days and to their families,’ Francis said in his weekly Angelus in St Peter's Square.

‘I hope that a constructive dialogue between the institutions and civil society can take place, that any resort to violence is avoided and that the spirit of peace and a search for the common good is in the hearts of all.’

Watch out: After the pope and the two children left the windows, a seagull and a big black crow quickly
swept down, attacking the doves, including one which had briefly perched on a windowsill.

The mass rallies against President Yanukovich's rule erupted last November after he pulled out of a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia.

They have since spiralled into protests against misrule and corruption among Ukraine's leaders and officials.

There have been violent clashes with police in Kiev city centre, resulting in the death of three protesters last week, two from gunshot wounds. - Daily Mail.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Major Deluge & Geological Upheaval - Large Parts Of Britain To Be Abandoned To The Sea FOREVER After Recent Floods That Lashed The Coast With The Largest Tidal Surge In 60 Years; Over 370 Acres Still Submerged!

January 26, 2014 - BRITAIN - Parts of East Anglia could be abandoned to the sea forever after being flooded eight weeks ago, the Environment Agency has said.

Floods in Somerset - People stop to look at a flooded road leading to village of Muchelney that has
been cut off by flood water in Somerset. 

Repairing or improving flood defences is so expensive that areas of countryside which are still
under water could be deserted, says Environment Agency

The largest tidal surge in 60 years hit the east coast on December 5 and 6 causing extensive flooding as water poured over the top of flood defences or broke through them.

Repairing or improving flood defences is so expensive that areas of countryside which are still under water could be abandoned if no one lives there.

Floods in Kent - Residents Ian Peacock and Caroline Hine leave the Little Venice Caravan Park in a boat after
the heavy rains brought back the floods in the area. Gareth Fuller/PA

Floods in Kent - A resident walks through the Little Venice Caravan Park in Yalding, Kent, as flood waters return
to the site after recent bad weather. Gareth Fuller/PA

Floods in Surrey - Flood water from the River Mole rises after recent heavy rain in Leatherhead, England.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

“We must prioritise repairs to flood defences that protect homes and communities and we are getting on with this,” said an Environment Agency spokeswoman.

“Coastal wildlife sites provide important flood defence functions as well as havens for wildlife. We are working with Natural England on how these wildlife sites will evolve in the future.”

Floods in Kent - A couple in a canoe travel across the flood water near Yalding
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Floods in Kent - A resident measures the level of flood water outside his home in Yalding.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Floods in Kent - Resident Jeff Hopcroft looks out from his flooded house on January 2, 2014 in Yalding, England.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

More than 370 acres of land are still submerged and areas close to Brancaster, Blakeney and Salthouse in north Norfolk, are among the places most likely to be left to the sea. The Agency is talking to landowners about which places can be left unprotected.

Floods in Somerset - Flooded fields can be seen near the village of Burrowbridge.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Floods in Somerset - A car drives through flood water on the A361, which has been closed to traffic
due to flooding, at Burrowbridge Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Floods in Kent - A car tackles flood waters near Headcorn, KentGareth Fuller/PA

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, told MPs on Thursday: “The question has to be do we reinstate those defences and then allow fresh water habitat to re-establish or do we allow inter-tidal habitat to establish? These are big questions.” - Independent.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Global Volcano Report For January 26, 2014 - Major Updates On Klyuchevskoy, Gorely, Etna, Nishino-shima, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Shiveluch, Fuego, Sinabung, Suwanose-jima, Dukono And Kilauea! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

January 26, 2014 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Klyuchevskoy (Kamchatka): A new eruptive phase appears to have started at the volcano. VAAC Tokyo reported continuous ash emission and an ash plume drifting north at estimated 16,000 ft (5 km) altitude.

Steam/ash plume from Klyuchevskoy volcano today (KVERT webcam)

Webcam images show a significant increase in steaming occurred today, which produced an impressive plume that likely contains ash. So far, KVERT has not commented on new activity and the aviation color code is still kept at green (but this is likely to change if activity continues or a new eruption is confirmed). The following video shows today's activity:

WATCH:  Klyuchevskoy volcano - January 26, 2014.

Gorely (Southern Kamchatka): KVERT had reduced the alert level of the volcano back to green on 23 Jan. Degassing and seismic activity had decreased significantly in December and remained at low levels since.

KVERT writes: "Activity of Gorely volcano decreased significantly on December, 2013. Volcanic tremor is not registering from December 12, 2013. A temperature of thermal anomaly decreased to minus from December 12-15, 2013. A thermal anomaly was not detecting over the volcano in January 2014. But weak seismic activity of Gorely volcano continues because it is the active volcano. Video data showed a weak or moderate gas-steam activity of the volcano."

Etna (Sicily, Italy): After a more vigorous phase yesterday, the effusion of the lava flow into the Valle del Bove and explosive (strombolian) activity at the New SE crater still continued this morning but have decreased in intensity.

WATCH:  Etna's lava flow into Valle del Bove.

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

Update: January 25 - 14:04
Strombolian activity at New SE crater ( by courtesy of INGV-OE Catania)

Last night the mild strombolian activity picked up to become intense. The lava flow from the fissure vent at the eastern base of the New SE crater is still alimented and descend towards Valle del Bove. After a steeply rising the volcanic tremor has dropped a bit but remains elevated. Direct observations are difficult due to bad weather.

Update Fri 24 Jan 09:44
Thermal webcam image of the lava flow ( by courtesy of INGV-OE Catania)

The activity continued throughout the night with a constant lava effusion from the fissure vent at the eastern base of the New SE crater and with mild strombolian activity at the summit vent. Seismic tremor continued to slowly but steadily increase.

Nishino-shima (Volcano Islands, Japan): The volcano continues to enlarge the island with lava flows, but seems to have increasingly explosive activity as well. Ash plumes to altitudes of 4,000 ft (1.2 km) were reported during the past days. These could have originated from more violent water-magma interaction (phreatomagmatic activity) or simply stronger strombolian explosions.

The former new island off Nishino-Shima seen on the 20th of January, 2014. (Japan Coast guard)

As recent imagery by the Japanese Coast guard shows, new lava flows continued to effuse at low rate and slowly increase the size of what started as a new island, now merged and surpassed in size the older Nishino-Shima island.

Map showing the evolution of the new island between the 21st of November (shortly after its birth),
26th of December (touching the main island) and the 20th of January, 2014

The 2 active vents of Niishima (the left one showing spattering of liquid lava) and an active flow

On the new land, 2 vents remain active, one of which was observed to produce mild strombolian explosions and spattering of liquid lava.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity has remained essentially unchanged. The lava dome produces intermittent weak to moderate explosions (with ash plumes up to 500-700 m height) and abundant avalanches at the active block lava flow fronts, especially on the eastern and southeastern side of the dome. Collapses at these fronts can produce small pyroclastic flows.

Pacaya (Guatemala): The lava flow emission from the southern fissure vent has gradually decreased or even stopped during the past days.

MODIS hot spot data (past 2 days) for Pacaya volcano - a significant reduction of the hot areas is visible
(ModVolc, Univ. Hawaii)

The seismic signal suggests ongoing deep-seated strombolian explosions inside the new crater at the summit of the Mackenney cone.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): More ash emissions and small to moderate explosions have occurred over the past days. An ash plume was reported at 24,000 ft (7.2 km) altitude yesterday evening.

Glow from the active lava dome of Shiveluch volcano yesterday evening.

The volcano, one of the world's most active, continues to effuse viscous lava that builds a new dome. At night, glow is visible from the vent on webcam images.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity at the volcano was characterized by weak to moderate strombolian explosions occurring at rates of 2-3 per hour. Abundant incandescent material is ejected and forms avalanches on the upper slopes.

Sometimes strong shock waves accompany the explosions and rattle windows and roofs of houses in the areas of Panimache, Morelia and others. Ash plumes rise to up to 700 m above the crater. The recent lava flow seems to have stopped.

Suwanose-jima (Tokara Islands, Japan): The remote volcano south of Kyushu remains very active, although seems to have calmed down a bit. The following video of the past 24 hours at the volcano shows phases near-continuous steam and ash emissions as well as some smaller discrete explosions. Ash plumes were reported to reach up to 4,000 ft (1.2 km) altitude.

WATCH:  Suwanose-jima volcanic activity - January 23-24, 2014.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): A tall steam and ash plume rises from the summit crater, reaching altitudes of up to estimated 4-5 km at times.

Steam / ash plume rising fro Sinabung this morning.

The volcano has not produced new (or at least no larger) pyroclastic flows. Whether this is due to a true decrease in effusion rate and a possible sign of an approaching end of the eruption is difficult to say.

Dukono (Halmahera): The volcano remains in a phase of elevated strombolian-vulcanian explosive activity. A new ash plume was spotted yesterday at estimated 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude extending 40 nautical miles to the east (VAAC Darwin).

Kilauea (Hawai'i): Lava levels are rising again in Kilauea's Overlook Crater - 10 m recovered from the 20 m drop in the last week, so far. Kilauea's summit stretched 1.5cm in the previous month then shrank 2cm over the past week! That's a lot of rock wiggling above the magma!

The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory has released incredible new video of the lava lake at Kilauea's summit. Eruptions of orange and red are seen within the lake from the Overlook Crater on the Big Island of Hawaii. The lava lake is about 160 feet below the crater rim and is expected to rise over the next few days.

WATCH: New video shows eruption at Kilauea's lava lake.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for January 26, 2014.

SOURCES: Volcano Discovery | HNN.

FIRE IN THE SKY: The Sound Of Cosmic Thunder - Earth-Impacting Asteroid Heard By Nuclear Detectors!

January 26, 2014 - SPACE - On the second day of 2014, a small asteroid blew up high in Earth's atmosphere. It was relatively harmless - the rock was only a couple of meters across, far too small to hit the ground or do any real damage - and it disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean anyway.

Artist impression of an asteroid burning up in Earth's atmosphere.
© Dieter Spannknebel/Getty images/NASA

What's cool is that now we know for sure this is the case: Infrasound detectors designed to listen for nuclear bomb detonations actually heard the explosion from the impact and were able to pinpoint the location of the event to a few hundred kilometers east off the coast of Venezuela.

NASA put together a nice informative video explaining it.

A quick background: The asteroid, 2014 AA, was first seen just a day before impact and was actually the first asteroid discovered in 2014. It was detected by the Mount Lemmon Survey asteroid search program and was quickly determined to have a short life ahead of it: It was due to impact the Earth in less than a day. This was only the second time an asteroid was discovered before it hit us; the first was 2008 TC3, which came in over Sudan and rained down small rocks over the desert (I have to add that years later I was able to hold a piece of that rock in my hand, and it was an eerie feeling).

Careful measurements of its orbit predicted an impact over the Atlantic, but the addition of the infrasound detectors nailed it. The principle there is actually pretty nifty. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization has what are essentially microphones installed in various locations around the world. When an explosion occurs, it creates very low-frequency sound waves in the atmosphere, and those can travel all the way around the globe. When an infrasound detector hears such an event, the timing is carefully recorded as well. By comparing the time the explosion was heard by detectors in different locations, the position of the explosion can be placed to pretty decent accuracy.*

The infrasound array determined the asteroid blew up over the Atlantic, which matched what the observatories on the ground predicted as well.

Besides 2014 AA and 2008 TC3, every impact we've ever seen (like the one over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013) was a surprise; the asteroid was not detected before impact. However, we're getting better at this, getting better sky coverage with more sensitive telescopes. If we continue to take this threat seriously - and we must - then discovering these small impactors before they hit could very well become the norm rather than the exception.

*This same timing technique was once used to determine the locations of gamma-ray bursts - vast, distant cosmic explosions - in the sky. A few years back I wrote a classroom activity that demonstrates this using lightning and thunder as an example; see Activity 2 in this workbook for more.

- Slate.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Source Of Galapagos Volcanism Is Not Where Scientists Thought?!

January 26, 2014 - GALAPAGOS ISLANDS - The volcanic plume that gave birth to the Galapagos Islands is not where scientists thought it was, a new study finds.

Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos and the most voluminous.
Credit: Douglas Toomey

Three-dimensional seismic images suggest the plume lies southeast of the chain's Fernandina Island, the spot where computer models place it. What's more, the plume is not being bent eastward by the migrating Nazca tectonic plate (atop which the Galapagos Islands sit), but appears to be moving northward.

The Galapagos Islands, the locale where Charles Darwin developed his famous theory of natural selection, lie about 575 miles (925 kilometers) west of Ecuador. Unlike other volcanic island chains, like Hawaii, the Galapagos have many volcanoes active at once.

"Having the plume relocated helped explain why [many of] the Galapagos volcanoes are active," said Douglas Toomey, a geologist at the University of Oregon and leader of the study, detailed online Jan. 19 in the journal Nature Geoscience. But it remains a puzzle why the plume isn't heading in the same direction as the Nazca plate. "We're still trying to figure that out," Toomey told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

 Volcanoes often occur along tectonic-plate boundaries, either at subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is moving under another, or at midocean ridges, where two plates are spreading apart.

But sometimes, volcanoes form far from the boundaries of plates. Hot plumes from the mantle, the thick layer just beneath Earth's crust, fueled by primordial heat from the planet's core, could send a plume of molten rock upward — like a Lava-lamp bubble — to create ocean islands.

Models suggest that as the tectonic plates move over the mantle, they should "blow" mantle plumes, similar to the way the wind blows smoke from a smokestack.  

 Galapagos gets 'CAT scan'

Toomey's team, including the aptly named Darwin Villagómez, created a kind of "CAT scan" of the Galapagos region by putting sensors on the Earth's surface and listening for distant earthquakes. By mapping the way the seismic waves from those quakes moved through the ground below the Galapagos, the model generated 3D pictures of the Earth's interior that show the plume's location and movement.

"It wasn't where we thought it would be," Toomey said. They expected the plume to be west of Fernandina Island, but instead, it was 155 miles (250 km) down and about 93 miles (150 km) southeast of Fernandina Island.

A cinder cone on the flanks of Isabela Island, with Blue-footed Boobies in foreground.
Credit: Douglas Toomey

 The plume should have been bending west to east, following the motion of the Nazca plate, according to the models. But instead, it was bending south to north toward a midocean ridge — perpendicular to the movement of the plate, Toomey said.

The location of the plume makes sense in light of the strange pattern of volcanism in the Galapagos. The area contains about a dozen active volcanoes, and the most active ones are those on Fernandina Island and the Cerro Azul and Sierra Negra volcanoes on Isabella Island, the largest landmass in the archipelago.

The direction in which the plume is moving poses more of a mystery, shaking up current notions of how the lithosphere, the rigid layer that consists of the crust and the top of the mantle, interacts with the asthenosphere, the "gooey" layer beneath it. The researchers believe that a deep flow in the asthenosphere may be carrying the plume toward the midocean ridge, rather than a shallow flow along the base of the lithosphere, as models suggest.

The 2005 eruption of the Galápagos volcano Sierra Negra partly filled the caldera with 160 million cubic
meters of evolved basalt. Sierra Negra lies close to the core of the mantle plume imaged by Mooney's team.
Credit: Douglas Toomey

Toomey expects that some scientists might find the results controversial. But Christopher Kincaid, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island who was not involved in the research, called it an excellent study.

The study offers "further evidence that plumes do not always behave in simple ways, particularly when they encounter complexities in flow […] in the shallow mantle beneath plates," Kincaid told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. - Live Science.

RATTLE & HUM: "It Was Very Loud,... Jarring,... It Shook The Whole Neighborhood,... " - Unexplained Loud Jolting Booms Shake Homes In Kentucky And Illinois, United States?!

January 26, 2014 - UNITED STATES - For the past two days in a row, people in the Local 6 area have reported hearing loud, jolting booms.

It's one of our most popular stories on facebook. The story we first posted Saturday night has more than 500 comments from people who say they have all heard and felt the same thing in counties across western Kentucky and southern Illinois. Public safety officials are trying to figure out what's causing the noise while people brace themselves for the next big boom.

Leon Cunningham has been living in Livingston County for more than 25 years and says he's familiar with the sights and sounds in his neighborhood. But, over the weekend, he heard something different. He said, "It was just... boom! I mean, you could hear it. It was loud." It was also jarring. "It just shook this whole neighborhood and shook all these houses. In here, stuff rattled on the shelves."

WATCH: Unexplained booms in Kentucky neighborhoods.

After all the trinkets settled, the rumors started. "Everybody was coming out in the neighborhood wondering what's going on. I've even had people say, 'Are we being invaded?'" One of many questions that there aren't any answers for yet. "We have no idea if there's going to be another one this evening, today, this afternoon, or what. We don't know how long this is going to continue or anything. Nobody does," said Cunningham.

It's a mystery making noise in communities and leaving people on pins and needles. Livingston County Emergency Management Director Brent Stringer said all of the rumors have been ruled out. The booms are not being caused by weather, seismic activity, rock quarries, gun shows, or explosives. Stringer said his office will continue chasing the booms until they figure out what they are. - WPSD.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong And Shallow 6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Greece - Several Reports Of Minor To Severe Damage To Buildings, Rockfalls And Landslides, Injuries And Evacuations, And Power Outages!

January 26, 2014 - GREECE - An earthquake measuring as high as magnitude 6.1 jarred parts of Greece Sunday afternoon, seismologists said.

USGS earthquake location.

The quake was centered in the town of Lixurion, on the Ionian island of Cephalonia, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Lixurion is a coastal resort area outside the island's main town of Argostoli.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity. said the tremor was felt as far away as Athens. The report said the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center pegged the quake's magnitude at 5.7.

According to the Earthquake Report, there have been several reports of damage and injuries:

Update 16:59 UTC: Nearly every building in Lixouri suffered at least minor damage. Many buildings, especially pubic buildings like schools, show severe damage like collapsed walls and roofs. Other places on Cephalonia, for example the airport, are also affected. Authorities are working to organize a save supply of  food and water for the earthquake victims. Most of them won’t return to their homes and stay outside during the coming night.

Update 16:48 UTC: Some people are treated in the hospital of Argostoli for minor injuries, mainly caused by falling objects / debris and broken glass.

Update 15:44 UTC: One house in Kounopetra collapsed, luckily without affecting people. An relatively large ash emission of the volcano Etna on Sicily (Italy) followed shortly after this quake was felt there. A connection of both events is possible.

Update 15:18 UTC: Also the neighbour island Zakynthos (south of Cephalonia) reports minor damage to buildings, mainly broken windows.

Update 15:04 UTC: The Greek Secretary of Interior is going to visit the earthquake area later today.
Newspapers report that Lixouri is the most affected area. Many houses there suffered damage in diverse extent. No injuries or collapsed houses so far, but the quake also caused rockfalls and minor landslides in parts of the island!

Update 14:53 UTC: Power supply is interrupted in Fiskardo, located in northern Cephalonia. More damage reports coming in from different parts of the Island, so far “only” bricks falling from walls, cracks and other limited damage, but it seems that several buildings are affected. In Lixouri a hospice and some homes were demolished.

Update 14:48 UTC: Damaged buildings are reported from Lixouri, located only 6 km from the epicenter. No details about the damage are available yet.

Update 14:37 UTC: First reports mentioning cracked roads and a chaotic situation on Cephalonia. Most people were frightened by the earthquake and ran to the streets. Fire brigade and police are checking for possible damaged buildings and injuries.

Update 14:33 UTC: So far, 2 aftershocks with M 4.1 and 4.2 were registered. More are expected to follow. People on Cephalonia should be prepared for it.

Residents of Kefalonia are scared. This event reminded them about the great earthquake of 1953 (M 7.2), where hundreds of people lost their lives.

Update 14:29 UTC: The magnitude was revised to 5.8. A shallow depth of only 17 km is given by greek authorities. Quakes with this magnitude and shallow depth happening in populated locations can cause heavy damage, esspecially to buildings with poor construction.

Update 14:21 UTC: People report the shaking also from distant countries, like Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Southern Italy.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Mediterranean Region and Vicinity.
The Mediterranean region is seismically active due to the northward convergence (4-10 mm/yr) of the African plate with respect to the Eurasian plate along a complex plate boundary. This convergence began approximately 50 Ma and was associated with the closure of the Tethys Sea. The modern day remnant of the Tethys Sea is the Mediterranean Sea. The highest rates of seismicity in the Mediterranean region are found along the Hellenic subduction zone of southern Greece, along the North Anatolian Fault Zone of western Turkey and the Calabrian subduction zone of southern Italy.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Local high rates of convergence at the Hellenic subduction zone (35mm/yr) are associated with back-arc spreading throughout Greece and western Turkey above the subducting Mediterranean oceanic crust. Crustal normal faulting throughout this region is a manifestation of extensional tectonics associated with the back-arc spreading. The region of the Marmara Sea is a transition zone between this extensional regime, to the west, and the strike-slip regime of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, to the east. The North Anatolian Fault accommodates much of the right-lateral horizontal motion (23-24 mm/yr) between the Anatolian micro-plate and Eurasian plate as the Anatolian micro-plate is being pushed westward to further accommodate closure of the Mediterranean basin caused by the collision of the African and Arabian plates in southeastern Turkey. Subduction of the Mediterranean Sea floor beneath the Tyrrhenian Sea at the Calabrian subduction zone causes a significant zone of seismicity around Sicily and southern Italy. Active volcanoes are located above intermediate depth earthquakes in the Cyclades of the Aegean Sea and in southern Italy.

In the Mediterranean region there is a written record, several centuries long, documenting pre-instrumental seismicity (pre-20th century). Earthquakes have historically caused widespread damage across central and southern Greece, Cyprus, Sicily, Crete, the Nile Delta, Northern Libya, the Atlas Mountains of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The 1903 M8.2 Kythera earthquake and the 1926 M7.8 Rhodes earthquakes are the largest instrumentally recorded Mediterranean earthquakes, both of which are associated with subduction zone tectonics. Between 1939 and 1999 a series of devastating M7+ strike-slip earthquakes propagated westward along the North Anatolian Fault Zone, beginning with the 1939 M7.8 Erzincan earthquake on the eastern end of the North Anatolian Fault system. The 1999 M7.6 Izmit earthquake, located on the westward end of the fault, struck one of Turkey's most densely populated and industrialized urban areas killing, more than 17,000 people. Although seismicity rates are comparatively low along the northern margin of the African continent, large destructive earthquakes have been recorded and reported from Morocco in the western Mediterranean, to the Dead Sea in the eastern Mediterranean. The 1980 M7.3 El Asnam earthquake was one of Africa's largest and most destructive earthquakes within the 20th century.

Large earthquakes throughout the Mediterranean region have also been known to produce significant and damaging tsunamis. One of the more prominent historical earthquakes within the region is the Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755, whose magnitude has been estimated from non-instrumental data to be about 8.0. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake is thought to have occurred within or near the Azores-Gibraltar transform fault, which defines the boundary between the African and Eurasian plates off the west coast of Morocco and Portugal. The earthquake is notable for both a large death toll of approximately 60,000 people and for generating a tsunami that swept up the Portuguese coast inundating coastal villages and Lisbon. An earthquake of approximately M8.0 near Sicily in 1693 generated a large tsunami wave that destroyed numerous towns along Sicily's east coast. The M7.2 December 28, 1908 Messina earthquake is the deadliest documented European earthquake. The combination of severe ground shaking and a local tsunami caused an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 fatalities. - USGS.

DELUGE & GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Days Of Heavy Rainfall Cause Floods And Landslides In Disaster-Ravaged Philippines - Over 100,000 Families Affected; ENTIRE VILLAGES Under Water; Mass Evacuations! [STUNNING PHOTOS]

January 26, 2014 - PHILIPPINES - The Philippines is battling against another tropical storm just two months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the country.

Days of heavy rain have caused floods and mudslides in the south of the Philippines. Here a resident stands on the roof of his home that is submerged in flood water.

More than 100,000 families have had to be evacuated from their homes. This family uses an inflatable tyre tube to escape.

The country is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, as well as frequent earthquakes. Now, entire villages are under water, and many houses have been swept away.

Roads have also been damaged by landslides, making it more difficult to get aid to those who need it.

These chicks were rescued by a resident after landslides hit a village in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Over 6,000 people were killed by Typhoon Haiyan and a number of people are still homeless. Residents here wade through a flooded road to reach higher ground to try to escape flood waters.

A boy uses a broom to paddle a piece of wood that he is using as a raft along a flooded road in Butuan City.

Those who have fled to higher ground are staying in government buildings. This boy's resting in the corridor of a school that has been turned into an evacuation centre.

These children are playing with spiders at an evacuation centre to keep themselves entertained. Some children have lost all of their belongings and toys. Emergency teams are working hard to reach the people needing food and clean water.

The United Nations (UN) says many of the temporary shelters used after Typhoon Haiyan aren't strong enough to cope with the extreme weather. This girl pulls her brother on a raft along a flooded part of road in Butuan City.

- BBC.