Keeping zombie botnets out of your home network – USA TODAY

October 25th, 2016

USA TODAY’s Elizabeth Weise tells how to protect home devices from hackers and says to be wary of refrigerators, stoves and other connected products that don’t have password protection.

SAN FRANCISCO — Your router, home WiFi, refrigerator and webcams could be part of an international army of zombie attackers — without you even knowing it.

That bad news is that’s not the plot of a B-grade Halloween movie: It’s the current state of security in the Internet of Things, and experts say there’s only so much consumers can do to protect themselves.

The danger was exposed Friday when an attack on Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, shut down a significant portion of the Internet.


Hacked home devices caused massive Internet outage

Dyn was hit with a large-scale distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which its servers were flooded with millions of fake requests for information, knocking them offline. The attack was launched by what’s known as a “botnet” that used millions of enslaved devices to send those messages. It was the first major attack using Internet-connected devices, but won’t be the last, say experts.

Connecting anything and everything to the Internet so it can be app-controlled is all the rage right now. But the security on most of those devices is abysmal, say experts. That’s a problem as there are an estimated 6.4 billion Internet connected devices in use worldwide today, according to Gartner .

First, protect the routers

The most crucial thing for home users is to reset the factory password that came with their regular or WiFi router, and turn off the option that allows the router to be managed over the Internet.

This isn’t optional, said Gunter Ollmann, chief security officer of Vectra Networks.

“A newly installed WiFi home router is likely to be compromised within a handful of weeks if the default passwords are not changed — or within a few hours if you live in a more densely populated metropolitan area,” he said.

If your home router or WiFi router is more than five years old, get a new one, suggests Wendi Whitmore, global lead for IBM Security Services.

For WiFi, users should not only change the factor-set password but also make sure that they’ve enabled a strong form of Wi-Fi encryption If you choose a good one — for example the often standard WPA2 — “you should be fine,” said Ken Munro, a partner at security company Pen Test Partners.

Bluetooth wireless devices are actually relatively secure only because they can only interact with other devices over a very short range.

For the rest, we’re on our own

Password protection will keep most botnets out, but many Internet of Things, or IoT, devices don’t make it possible to add or change them.

When asked to come up with a list of vulnerable products, Ollman flat out said it was impossible. “For starters the list would include pretty much every internet connected consumer device by default,” he said.

One of the most common devices used in last week’s attack were close-circuit TV webcams, which typically are shipped with default passwords and which generally must be connected to the Internet to perform their function.

Chinese electronics firm Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, whose webcams were a big part of the botnet, has since announced a recall of the circuit boards and components that go into its webcams, according to the BBC.

For those who need webcams to secure their home or business, Simon Puleo, who does security research for Micro Focus, suggests using major brands such as Nest or NetGear, because they “invest more in quality assurance and security because they have a large reputation at stake.”

As for security problems with connected cars, while these have gotten a lot of press over the past few years the danger really is still largely theoretical.

“There have been a number of proof-of-concept attacks on car systems, but so far no significant attack has occurred. In reality, there are simply so many other devices out there for attackers to go after, there’s no great need to attack something as complex as a car’s systems,” said Geoff Webb, vice president or strategy at Micro Focus.

When in doubt, turn it off

As for thermostats, baby monitors, home alarm systems, pool heater, door cameras, and even a smart phone-connected pet feeding systems, the good news is that many use cloud connectivity, so they’re not so much of a threat. Again, higher-quality (and it must be said price-tag) items from major companies like Google are likely to be on the cloud and have good security.

The bad news is that it’s not always simple for the user to know how secure they are before buying, and often even after that. Professor Shiu-Kai Chin, with Syracuse University’s master of science in cybersecurity program, says consumers should think seriously about why they’d want to connect something to the Internet.

“Today’s ‘Wow! might turn into tomorrow’s ‘OMG!’  In systems engineering we always ask ourselves if something is essential versus ‘nice to have.’  Added features usually come with added vulnerabilities and risks,” he said.

That’s the advice of the researchers who successfully hacked into a Samsung refrigerator last year at DefCon, a large computer security conference in Las Vegas. Samsung later patched the security hole, but many connected appliances remain unsecure.

Without a lot of technical expertise, sometimes the best advice is to simply not use the built-in connectivity, though Munro of Pen Test Partners acknowledges that at that point “you might as well just buy a non-IoT fridge.”

In the end, it may be up to regulators to insist that IoT device makers take security seriously, as companies don’t seem to be up to the task, said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne.

“The market economic incentives are out of alignment, which is why regulation is needed,” he said.

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How A Zombie Outbreak Might Actually Happen — and How to Protect Yourself – Big Think

October 25th, 2016

If any of our fictional monsters are going to kill us, it’s zombies. Why? Because the vast majority of zombie scenarios have two things in common — a pandemic, and the extinction of humanity. And both of those scenarios are scientifically plausible.

Pandemics, or global disease outbreaks, don’t need zombies to be terrifying: they’re the third most likely cause of an extinction event according to the Global Catastrophic Risk Report (GCRR), as we’ve told you before. “Between the Spanish Flu, the Black Death, and the Great Plague of Justinian, over 25% of the world’s population was killed by disease,” according to the GCRR. Pandemics have such high death counts because they emerge from viruses we haven’t built up an immunity to — namely, ones that come from animals. “Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses,” reports the World Health Organization (WHO).

A zombie pandemic would be quite a bit worse. Partly because zombies could be created the same way, like in the film 28 Later. But also because the result of a zombie pandemic isn’t infection: it’s consumption. Remember: the goal of almost every single zombie is to eat humans, be it their flesh, organs, or braaaaaaaaains.

walking dead zombie

Credit: The Walking Dead / AMC

That cannibalistic bent complicates our usual protocol for handling pandemics. The three major steps to handling a normal pandemic are prediction, modeling and treatment, reports Popular Science. The usual protocol is for scientists to “track and collect zoonotic [infectious animal] pathogens in 20 hot-spot countries in order to create a database of the most dangerous.” Once they’ve identified a potential threat, they use “various data, including insect populations, human demographics, and airline routes, to map outbreaks. Health agencies use the maps to plan a response,” which can be rapid vaccination or quarantine, depending on the spread and speed of the disease.

If the pathogen causes people to eat each other, it breaks down that entire protocol: rapid vaccination and quarantine are necessary almost immediately because the disease spreads more quickly, giving scientists less time to accurately model and track the disease — much less create a vaccine.

How quickly would a zombie pandemic spread? There are 6 different possibilities, according to João V. Tomotani from the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil. He crunched all sorts of numbers for Geek Studies, from the number of humans in a given area and the minimal number of zombies needed to infect them, to the amount of time needed to train the humans in survival skills and the time needed to develop and distribute a vaccine. Those are a lot of variables to handle, and he punched them all into a simple turn-based game to create each model. He found that “in no scenario zombies stayed inactive for long, being either reanimated, destroyed or cured very quickly.” Meaning, a zombie pandemic will always spread relatively quickly — as long as there are living people to contaminate. Or, as Tomotani bleakly summarizes, “all humans have a chance of becoming a zombie.”

Here’s our best-case scenario:

Credit: Geek Studies

In this scenario, 20% of the population were trained after the first infection, and that took 500 turns. After 2,000 turns, 30% of the population had a vaccine. From there, everything goes slowly downhill and humans go extinct at 20,000 turns. “After the zombies “invaded” the human colony, the infection began to spread quickly,” Tomotani explains. “Once the population was trained and armed, the rate of infection got slower and the rate of zombie destruction got higher. Once the population was equipped with vaccines, the number of susceptible humans slowly rose for a while. Humanity’s demise was that the zombie infestation had already gotten out of control, with way too many zombies.”

Again, that’s our best-case scenario. Here’s our worst:

Credit: Geek Studies

This is what happens when it takes too long to arm a population, as Tomotani writes: “Once the population was trained and armed, the number of zombies was already overwhelming and there was nothing to be done. Humans became extinct after close to 1,000 turns and more than 7,500 zombies were left at the end.”

That, my friends, is the end of humanity.

But don’t worry! There are ways to survive a zombie apocalypse. The best way is to get ahead of the outbreak and move somewhere with a small enough population where you can avoid it. You’ll also need to be near fresh water and in a temperate enough climate to grow your own food, since supermarkets and Seamless will most likely be down. YouTuber Matthew Patrick (MatPat) looked at pandemic models, global population trends, and agricultural calendars to figure out the best place to go: a tiny little town near Ontario, Canada.

[embedded content]

Credit: The Game Theorists/YouTube

MatPat won’t tell us the second most popular place to go, but looking at the data it’s safe to assume it’s also in Canada as it would have to be in the same latitude and climate. Plus, MatPat is a stickler for using real science to solve fictitious problems; he even figured out the best weapon to use against zombies. I trust him.

If you don’t feel like traveling to Canada, or your passport gets eaten by the walking dead, don’t worry: some states are surprisingly well-prepared to ride out a zombie apocalypse. You just need to get to them before the outbreak starts:

Credit: Estately

Estately is more light-hearted in their approach than either Tomotani or MatPat. They use different data points (largely drawn from Facebook interests) and are not at all rigorous in their modeling. They don’t even specify the speed or kind of zombie outbreak they’re accounting for. Still, their chart does have similar useful factors for surviving a zombie apocalypse. The biggest indicator of human success from Tomotani’s models, remember, is quicky training and arming the surviving human population. Military personnel and veterans are the two most important factors in Estately’s rankings, and they are most likely to train and arm a human population for their survival.

Other important takeaways from Estately’s graph include states with physically active populations and fewer obese people are more likely to arm themselves and fight for survival. Those factors far outweighed a state’s success than how many people had guns and liked shooting them (including activities like “laser tag” and “paintball”). However, states with high concentrations of people who play zombie video games had a tactical advantage as well because they understood the enemy. States like Massachusetts and Connecticut ranked so low not because they weren’t fit, but because few people watch The Walking Dead or play Resident Evil. TL; DR — put down the Halloween candy and stay the heck away from the East Coast.

Credit: Estately

And now you know how to survive the zombie apocalypse. Good luck! 

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Zombie Escape 5K set for Saturday – Poughkeepsie Journal

October 25th, 2016

It begins with finding the right outfit.

It’s generally older clothes, torn up to look especially filthy.

Then comes the makeup. The right combination of reds, blacks, toilet paper and glue creates a look fitting for the occasion.

Suddenly, 11-year-old Juneau Beaupre is a zombie. And his prey, this Saturday, will be runners.

Hundreds of runners, and many one-day zombies, will be at Williams Lake in Rosendale Saturday for the seventh annual UlsterCorps Zombie Escape.

Beaupre, for the third year in a row, will be among the undead volunteers scattered along the five-kilometer course whose goal will not be completing the race, but rather stopping the runners from crossing the finish line with all their “health flags” intact.

And, as is so often the tragic case in these zombie movies and shows, Beaupre’s top target each year is a loved one. His mother, Courtney Beaupre, runs the 5K.

“My son has gotten me in the past,” she said, “but I usually try to reserve my flags for the younger kids.”

Beth McLendon, director and one of the co-founders of UlsterCorps, compared the object of the race to flag football.

“The idea is if you choose to run, the runners wear side belts and the zombies try to take the flag,” she said. “If you cross with at least one, you get a Zombie Escape survivor wristband. It’s a really fun event and a wonderful way to start the Halloween season.”

In addition to the 5K, there’s a free one-kilometer kids run and a one-kilometer walk/hike.

Juneau and Courtney Beaupre watch videos each year to learn new ways of creating the zombie look. Recently, the pair discovered a way to create the appearance of skin that had been bitten, by putting glue on toilet paper and covering Juneau with the toilet paper.

“Any chance for him to dress up and try to scare people is pretty cool on his list of things to do,” the older Beaupre said.

The “zombies” are generally kids and adult supervisors, who are given breakfast and beverages prior to the race. After arriving, Courtney Beaupre assists her son with his makeup, which takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

“He gets frustrated if he doesn’t get it right,” she explained. “Therefore, I’ve become the zombie master of makeup.”

In fact, this year, the entire Beaupre family made use of those skills.

“Every year, we redo our family photo,” Courtney Beaupre said. “This year, Juneau asked if we could all be zombies so now we have pictures all around our house of the entire family as zombies!”

McLendon sees the event as a way to bring in volunteers for UlsterCorps, a seven-year-old nonprofit organization that she describes as a “volunteer hub.”

“We started it as a way to build community relations and raise funds for our volunteer network in the Hudson Valley,” said Stephen Gilman, an UlsterCorps adviser. “We think there’s no better motivation to coming here than wanting to come out and support volunteerism in the Hudson Valley. That’s what UlsterCorps is all about.”

With this event, the organization gains one-day volunteers who often come back for long-term volunteer work.

For Gilman, one of his favorite parts about the event are the interactions between the zombies and the runners.

“The runners’ reactions to the zombies are really hilarious to be a part of,” Gilman said. “The zombies have just as much fun as the runners. It adds a level of excitement and adrenaline.”

“It’s fun and the kids can get a little competitive,” Courtney Beaupre added. “They always have a good time.”

Zombie Escape

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Where: Williams Lake, Rosendale

What: Zombie-themed running event. 10 a.m. registration, 11 a.m. one-kilometer kids fun run (free), 11:30 a.m. five-kilometer zombie escape race, 11:45 one-kilometer walk/hike, 12:30 p.m. awards ceremony

Cost: $20 with free t-shirt if preregistered on, $25 without t-shirt on day of the race

More information: Visit

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Bankruptcy Bust: How Zombie Companies Are Killing the Oil Rally … – Wall Street Journal

October 24th, 2016



Timothy Puko and

John W. Miller

October 24, 2016

Their owners may be bankrupt, but the sprawling mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are still churning out coal. It is the same story in oil fields along the Gulf Coast and with shale-gas wells in the Rocky Mountains.

Energy investors have long hoped that falling prices would solve themselves by driving producers into bankruptcy and stanching the flood of excess supply. It turns out that while bankruptcy filings are up, they have barely impacted fossil-fuel markets.

About 70 U.S. oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and 2016. They now produce the equivalent of about 1 million barrels a day, about the same as before they declared bankruptcy, according to Wood Mackenzie. That represents about 5% of U.S. oil-and-gas output.

That resilience has kept energy inventories flush and prices capped. Oil shot to $50 a barrel this summer, but has had trouble making much progress beyond that mark. On Friday, oil futures in New York rose 0.4% to $50.85 a barrel.

The theory that bankruptcies would help balance the market “was misguided to begin with,” says Roy Martin, a research analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “And people are starting to come around to that now.”

This is exactly the way chapter 11 was meant to work. The process is designed to save companies that can be saved, and many energy companies are using it to lighten their heavy debt loads, adapt to lean times and keep producing.

Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc.


and Alpha Natural Resources Inc.


—three of the five largest U.S. coal miners—all filed for bankruptcy in the past 18 months. They accounted for about 36% of U.S. coal supply in the first half of 2015. This year, production declined only in line with the rest of the sector, and their share for the first six months was nearly unchanged at about 33%, according to IHS Global Energy. Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources recently emerged from bankruptcy.

“It is frustrating,” said Adam Wise, managing director at John Hancock Financial Services who helps oversee about $7 billion in energy-related debt and private-equity investments. “A lot of those companies just operate similarly to how they were prior to entering bankruptcy. It definitely doesn’t help.”

Oil hit historic lows this year and, while it has rebounded somewhat, at $50 a barrel it is just half of what it was three years ago. Oversupply continues to hamper the market and has forced analysts to retreat from earlier calls that oil would be at $60 or $70 by now.

Even accounting for recent drawdowns, oil producers and importers have added 18 million barrels to U.S. stockpiles this year, bringing the total to a near-record 469 million. There was enough coal on hand in the U.S. in July to fuel every coal-fired power plant in the country for more than 80 days, up from about 70 days’ worth in July 2015, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Without a reset button, there’s no need for prices to go anywhere,” said Colin Hamilton, head of commodity research at Macquarie Group Ltd.


“It is a long grind.”

Natural-gas prices have had a stronger rebound this year, but they, too, are still below the highs of 2013 and 2014. U.S. coal benchmarks have followed, with Central Appalachian coal up nearly 70% from a record low in the spring, but still down 15% from three years ago, according to S&P Global Platts.

The long-term decline in prices has led to the bankruptcies, but also to massive cost-cutting that helped producers keep mines and wells profitable.

Since 2012, Peabody Energy has laid off 1,650 employees and slashed annual capital spending to $111 million from $997 million. The upshot: three big mines in the Powder River Basin recorded a profit margin of $3.46 a ton in 2015, up from $3.45 a ton in 2011. Peabody’s operations in the region produce over 100 million tons a year, enough to power 16 million U.S. households, the miner says.


Midstates Petroleum Co. filed for bankruptcy April 30 and began drilling a new well the next day. The company stopped running some rigs ahead of bankruptcy, but kept one going after filing. Many companies kept honoring some contracts for rigs and well services, having planned drilling programs months in advance and still in need to produce revenue for paying off creditors.

Other companies that went through the bankruptcy process are now embarking on a quick return to stabilization or even growth. Halcón Resources Corp.


, SandRidge Energy,


Inc., Goodrich Petroleum Corp. and Penn Virginia Corp. recently emerged from bankruptcy after spending two to six months restructuring. Combined, they shed about $7 billion in debt.

Goodrich plans to grow production “pretty dramatically,” President Robert Turnham told The Wall Street Journal. The recent rebound in gas prices makes drilling in Louisiana more profitable, and the company is employing new techniques to save money. They include reordering its well-site process to cut fracking time by more than half, Mr. Turnham said.

Ultra Petroleum Corp. has yet to emerge from bankruptcy—it filed in April—and it is already planning to add another rig within months and triple its fleet to 10 in about two years. The company has been renegotiating rig contracts and using bankruptcy laws to force pipeline companies to renegotiate other contracts.

“We get to run the company, and we’re trying to do what the bankruptcy rules or law suggests, which is to maximize the value of the company run as a growing concern,” Chief Executive Michael Watford said in an earnings call on Aug. 11.

Bank lenders, reluctant to actually take ownership of assets that have been used as collateral by borrowers, have been friendly to troubled companies. During bankruptcy, Halcón, SandRidge, Goodrich and Penn Virginia raised a combined $1.3 billion in debt, largely reaffirmed credit lines from their banks.

Coal magnate Robert Murray in 2014 correctly predicted that his rivals would file for bankruptcy. He pushed his Murray Energy Corp. to take advantage of the opening with a two-year buying spree fueled by $4 billion in debt. By this summer, Mr. Murray was negotiating with lenders, customers and workers on a multipoint plan he needed to avoid his own company’s bankruptcy.

His miscalculation: that his rivals’ bankruptcies would force them to cut back. If they maintain production, “that pulls everyone into what I call the bankruptcy sewer,” Mr. Murray said. “These are zombie coal companies chasing the ghosts of past markets.”

Write to Timothy Puko at and John W. Miller at

Corrections & Amplifications:
In the chart showing U.S. bankruptcies, oil production is measured in thousands of barrels of oil equivalent per day. An earlier version of the chart incorrectly showed production in millions of barrels of oil equivalent per day. (Oct. 24)

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Zombie rock and run helps raise awareness for domestic abuse victims –

October 24th, 2016

High school drama students covered in gory makeup were on hand to play zombies and go after runners on a one-mile course Saturday at Buffalo Springs Lake.

Coronado, Frendship, Roosevelt, Cooper and other high school students volunteered to be zombies in the first ever Zombie Rock and Run to help raise money for domestic abuse victims.

“Zombie runs are in bigger cities like Austin and Houston,” said Cris McElwee, board member at Women’s Protective Services.

McElwee said that WPS was looking for a more innovative, modern type fundraiser that would be beneficial for WPS victims. She said Penny Jones, Buffalo Springs Lake recreation supervisor, was interested in letting the Zombie Rock and Run and Buffalo Spring’s first Harvest Festival coincide with each other on Saturday.

Jason Henry, director of WPS, said the run is one of the ways WPS raises funds.

Each participant registered and paid $20 for the run, according to the WPS Zombie Rock and Run Facebook page. The run started a little after 5 p.m. with roughly 48 runners and 40 zombies.

He said 100 percent of all proceeds go to WPS victims.

Henry explained that in a zombie run participants get three flags (like flag football): “Winners have to have at least one flag left.”

He said whichever winner(s) makes it to the finish line will get a helicopter ride.

“The zombie run helps to raise awareness (of domestic violence),” Henry said. “It’s our mission to help eradicate family violence.”

He said one of the things he is proud of is that WPS is a non-profit organization and that 

all of the staff, food and housing for victims of domestic abuse is paid by grants.

Henry said major granters are the Department of Health and Human Services Commission and the Victims of Crime Act.

“Even though [WPS] is government granted, it’s not funded by taxpayer money,” Henry said.

He said domestic violence continues to be an on-going issue.

“We see over 4,000 cases a year,” Henry said, “which is about 14 percent of the state’s total domestic violence calls.”

He said this is a big deal, because that is roughly two percent of the state population.

The WPS in Lubbock serves 12 counties in the surrounding area, Henry said adding that

it is the third largest domestic violence shelter in Texas.

• 766-8742

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'The Walking Dead' creator on crafting a 'zombie movie that never ends' – CNNMoney

October 24th, 2016

Robert Kirkman & David Alpert talk ‘Walking Dead’ success

The Walking Dead” and its hoard of zombies trudges its way to a seventh season Sunday, and if it was up to Robert Kirkman, the undead would keep walking until the end of the time.

Kirkman, the executive producer of the AMC show — and the creator of the comic series it is based on — told CNN at New York Comic Con earlier this month that the series represents a dream of his.

“I’ve always loved zombie movies but I hated how they ended, and so I wanted to do the zombie movie that never ends,” he said. “I think watching people survive over a long period of time, finding food, making relationships, trying to maintain those relationships in the face of a zombie apocalypse would be something that would be fun to explore as a storyteller for many, many, many years.”

AMC would also love to have “The Walking Dead” last forever — after all, it is one of the most popular shows on television.

The series averaged 13.2 million viewers last season, a number that jumps to 18 million average viewers when you take into account those who watched within three days of the broadcast, according to AMC. Either way, massive numbers for a scripted cable series.

“Walking Dead” has been the #1 show on television among the advertiser beloved 18 to 49 year old demographic the last four years, which has led the network to be big customers of the zombie business, adding “Talking Dead,” the series’ post-show talk show, and a spinoff, “Fear The Walking Dead.”

“I’d only ever wanted to do a cool comic book, and to see it expand and grow into all these great things has been very exciting,” Kirkman said.

This season has a lot more buzz around it than in past years thanks to some new blood. A new character, Negan — an evil, bat-wielding charmer played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan — was introduced in the season six finale in a particularly memorable way: bashing an unknown character’s brains in. Negan will undoubtedly play a larger role this season.

Robert Kirkman says ‘Walking Dead’ season 7 is ‘insane’

Related: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7 sneak peek could have hints about Negan’s victim

Kirkman said that adding Negan to the show means this season will be “a much darker show, a little bit more violent show” and “extremely intense,” but also maybe even more fun.

“He’s completely psychotic and really dangerous and deadly and all those fun things, but he’s also extremely personable and charismatic and almost likable to a certain extent,” he said. “So while you don’t like the things that he’s doing, you do like watching him do them because he’s fun.”

The series was just renewed for an eighth season, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean that Kirkman hasn’t thought about a conclusion.

“I know how I want to end the story eventually, but I also know that it’s many, many years in the future, if not decades, if not centuries,” he said. “You have to be as a storyteller working towards something, or else you’ve got to kind of spin your wheels and it’s going to get less interesting. There’s a narrative drive there that is focusing us to the future, but it’s a long way off.”

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Internet of Things gets its zombie apocalypse, and this is just the beginning – Mashable

October 23rd, 2016

One of many visions of the smart home of the very near future, from British Gas.One of many visions of the smart home of the very near future, from British Gas.

Image: Benjamin Braun via youtube 
2016%2f06%2f29%2f8a%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymdezlza5.39c93By Adario Strange2016-10-23 01:27:26 UTC

Winter is here. The Internet of Things (IoT) winter, that is. 

All those digital routers, DVRs, “smart” kitchen appliances and IP-enabled cameras you assumed were innocuous as they worked away in the background of your life are rising up like zombies at the behest of the Night’s King of Game of Thrones

And like the fictional, aforementioned zombie army, it seems there’s little we can do to stop the next big distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, fueled by the malware dubbed Mirai — a word that appropriately means “the future” in Japanese.

But is this latest zombie-flavored hacking attack really “the future” for the Internet of Things?

The first look most of us got at the Mirai malware was back in September, when it was used to attack the site of security expert Brian Krebs. Generating 665 Gigabits of traffic per second, the incident became perhaps the biggest known DDoS attack since one noted by Akamai in June, which generated 363 Gigabits per second.

Following the attack in September, Krebs reported that a person going by the name of Anna-Senpai, which may refer to a Japanese erotic anime series, had released the malicious code into the wild on Oct. 1. 

The Nest smart thermostat, which connects to the internet.

The Nest smart thermostat, which connects to the internet.

Image: mashable

Adding to the sense of impending doom, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security posted a notice on Oct. 12 warning that users of Sierra Wireless products should reboot and reset the password on their router devices. 

Some predicted the release of the Mirai code would lead to an even bigger DDoS attack, and on Friday, those predictions came true. 

We’ve detailed exactly how it happened and how you can attempt to make sure your internet-connect devices aren’t part of the problem. But that’s just the beginning. 

In the past 24 hours, some experts have suggested rebooting and changing the passwords on all your internet-connected devices, but that advice presents two major issues. 

Firstly, most consumers don’t think of passwords beyond their smartphones, tablets, and email and bank accounts. In fact, most are likely unaware their IoT devices even have password options. Secondly, not all IoT devices have consumer-facing interfaces that allow a password change. 

“If you’re shipping enough devices that can be leveraged trivially to knock down Twitter? Yeah, there should be liability!”

Those factors mean that we’re likely to see more DDoS attacks in the coming weeks and months.

So is this essentially the end of the still emerging IoT market? In a landscape where every IoT access point is a potential vector to bring down web giants, will all those new devices be mothballed in favor of security? 


The biggest reason? It’s already too late. Just last year, Gartner predicted a massive 30 percent jump in IoT devices, resulting in about 6.4 billion in use worldwide. That figure is expected to hit 20.8 billion in about four years. The metaphorical robot butler has already left the factory, and people really, really like their robot butlers. 

“There are more internet-connected things out there that no one thought of any security for,” John Bambenek, threat systems manager for Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Mashable

He pointed to the number of devices that come with no apparent login. “You’re trusting these manufacturers to do this right. Like with [internet-connected] baby monitors, it’s not like I can open up the monitor and keyboard and patch it,” he explained.

Sometimes driven by design simplicity and other times by thoughtlessness, many IoT devices on the market today forego technical user control in favor of presenting a slick, easy to use product. 

The Amazon Echo, one of the most widely used 'internet of things' devices used in the U.S.

The Amazon Echo, one of the most widely used ‘internet of things’ devices used in the U.S.

Image: mashable

For example, Bambenek explained, “A treadmill that wants access to the internet so that you can track you workouts on a smartphone app — [the company] pays no attention to security, and leaves things wide open because some developer wants to have an easy backdoor to tweak things. Then, boom, it’s off to the market, and there’s no liability for the [manufacturer].”

But should some of the blame for this malicious leveraging of IoT fall on manufacturers? 

“If you’re shipping enough devices that can be leveraged trivially to knock down Twitter? Yeah, there should be liability!” Bambenek said. “In the physical world, if you made a lawn mower that if you start it, one time out of 10 it leveled a city block, we’d be bankrupting that company. We’d be arresting the executives.”

The hit television show Mr. Robot toyed with the idea of IoT chaos in a recent episode, and it appears that fact is quickly overtaking fiction. 

So with little hope of millions of IoT users suddenly becoming savvy hackers and securing their devices, it seems the only real hope of combating such massive DDoS attacks falls to the IoT industry itself. But, perhaps there’s yet another way. 

Regulation is one possibility, and we need to get started. “They’re going to pump out [insecure] devices until they’re forced to do something different and I don’t see any change until congress [intervenes],” Bambenek said. “If there isn’t, and we can’t stop these devices from being used in attacks, there’s going to be somebody who writes malware that just bricks all these devices so that they can’t be used at all on the internet. 

“In the absence of the rule of law, all you get left is tribal justice.”

[embedded content]

“Tribal justice” in a space that IDC estimates will reach $1.7 trillion in value by 2020 doesn’t seem sustainable, so it’s likely that legislative and industry protocols will begin to address security holes that threaten to hobble a burgeoning tech sector. 

However, in the absence of government-mandated rules, does that mean Friday’s DDoS-scuppered lawless internet is the new normal, at least for the time being? 

“In the short term, yes,” said Bambenek. “At least for the next few months until we manage to figure out a way to fix this.” 

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Zombie crawlers have the time of their — lives? – The Blade – Toledo Blade

October 23rd, 2016

Who said they only come out at night?

Undeterred by the late afternoon sun, zombies in pairs or in clutches of three and four straggled — some strode — along Adams Street on Saturday for the annual zombie crawl in the UpTown district.

“It’s just fun to get out, especially downtown,” said Jeff LaCourse, 47, of West Toledo, his face, shirt, and sport coat spattered in homemade blood.

“This is one of the best things for downtown,” said Mr. LaCourse, who was with his wife, Sylvia, 51, and friends William Johnson, 45, and Brenda Johnson, 50, also of West Toledo. “It makes me feel like a kid again.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Zombie crawl

“A few beers doesn’t hurt, either,” Mr. Johnson added.

The couples returned to the crawl for a second year. Mr. LaCourse looks forward to today’s season premiere of the AMC series, The Walking Dead.

Mrs. Johnson, who had a fake gaping forehead wound, said, “I love Halloween.” She was born Oct. 28. Her husband added, however, “I can’t get her to watch horror movies.”

Organizers projected that by 2 a.m. today, more than 15,000 beings — zombies and assorted confederates and hangers-on — will have passed through the Adams Street Zombie Crawl zone, from 11th to 21st streets, besting last year’s total by 5,000.

Best friends Charlene Miller, 62, and Arianna Banks, 49, of the Old West End were making their first crawl.

“We’ve wanted to do this,” Ms. Miller said, a bruise on her forehead, red splotches on a torn — or was it slashed? — white shirt. “It seemed exciting.”

They don’t seek entertainment that frightens. “This is as scary as I’m going to get,” Ms. Miller said. Ms. Banks, on the other hand, is a Halloween fan.

“I love dressing up. Can’t you tell?” said Ms. Banks, who sported facial bruises and a zebra-striped zip-up outfit.

The seventh annual zombie crawl was the first since approval in December by city council of an outdoor public drinking area along Adams. A state law approved earlier in 2015 allows cities to create zones where people may carry open containers of alcohol.

“It’s all make-believe, so it’s fun for me,” said Jeremy Garber, 41, of Point Place. Lacey Garber, 37, of Point Place, added: “And you can walk with your drinks now. That’s awesome.”

They bore some facial bruising — “just enough to pass,” Ms. Garber said. They came to the crawl with Casey Buck, 35, of Point Place, who wore a blood-stained NASA flight suit, a curly wig, safety glasses — he was portraying a 1970s-era astronaut — and a glistening facial injury.

“I always see regular zombies on The Walking Dead, and I wanted to do something different,” Mr. Buck said.

“You’re not even safe in space,” Mr. Garber said.

Proceeds from the crawl will benefit the Village on Adams “and our mission to keep Adams Street fun, creative, beautiful, safe & weird!” the UpTown-based group says on the Adams Street Zombie Crawl 2016 Facebook page.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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Iconic Zombies Take Over Mainstreet for Zombie Walk – Las Cruces Sun-News

October 23rd, 2016

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LAS CRUCES — What does Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, the Simpsons television family, and perhaps a few lost members of the band Motley Crue have in common? They all made an appearance as zombies in downtown Las Cruces for the annual Main Street Zombie Walk.

Families gathered around downtown Main Street and on the Main Street Plaza to watch a hoard of participants in zombie costumes take over downtown in a march.

In between posing for photos with spectators, Diane Mooney, in Hillary Clinton zombie costume stopped to say, “After thirty years of serving my country, I thought it would be good to make one more appearance out here among the people.”

Nathan Moore, dressed as zombie Donald trump added, “The bottom line is we all work together and it’s the political season so this is what we came up with for this year’s Zombie Walk.”

Lorenzo Rivas and Don Shinners, dressed respectively as zombie Gary Johnson and Marco Rubio attempted to speak as well, but zombie Trump and Zombie Clinton cut them off.

Pre-walk entertainment was provided on the main plaza stage, including the band Beaux Peepshow, and thriller dances from Alma de Arte.

A fully assembled ’80s zombie hair-metal band was present, but never took the stage. Perhaps because several of their instruments were broken. Mike and David Sutton, Cheyenne Paul, Danielle Lyman, and Nick Sanchez cited Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, as some of the inspiration for their ’80s hair-metal zombies. “I think our costumes are mostly on the Cinderella-inspired side,” David Sutton said, in reference to another legendary ’80s hair-metal ensemble.

In addition to zombie costumes and stage entertainment, the event included food and clothing vendors.

Michael Wieclaw brought his independent arts and screen-printing brand, Metal The Brand, from Albuquerque. The brand features Wieclaw’s art on stickers, shirts and more. Much of the art is New Mexico-related, depicting New Mexican food staples and stylized Zia symbols.

“I got going when I was asked to print 800 shirts for the cast and crew of the show Breaking Bad,” Wieclaw said. When a cast member wore the shirt in an image that showed up on Reddit, I became internet famous for two weeks and my webstore became unbelievably busy. It was serendipitous.”

HD2 Studio blocked off a square on the plaza with zombie caution tape, for zombie dance performances. Owner Yvette Edgar said, “We perform locally in and in surrounding areas. We also have competitive teams that compete in about four different states. Our most recent win in South Padre got us grand champions in hip-hop. This is fun for the kids, but it’s fun for the adults too. I’m dressed up.”

Many of the costumes at the event were family coordinated. Isciro Urbine and Connie Gutierrez brought their family in matching blood make-up and face paint. “Anything that has to do with zombies we can think of is what we do. This year is bigger than it was last year.” Urbine said. “It’s mostly fun for the kids,” Gutierrez added.

A full-sized red couch on wheels carried several zombie Simpsons television characters. Justin Armendariz said, “This is mostly co-workers and family. We had 10 characters last year, and we have 13 or 14 this year. We’ve got all the core Simpsons family here.” The ensemble was thorough, even incorporating Itchy and Scratchy, characters that the Simpsons watch on television on the Simpsons Show. “We wanted to add Mr. Burns this year, but we didn’t have anyone to fill the costume out.”

The march itself was filled with action. A zombie bride ate brains from a skeleton, a doctor pushed a patient with exposed intestines in a wheelchair, some children crawled the walk in costume, and many zombies tried to escape the chains of their captors as they walked, leaving many spectators smiling and laughing.

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Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

October 22nd, 2016

Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse?

October 22, 2016 12:00 AM

  • Zombie Todd-1

    Zombie Todd-1 For last year's "Zombie Preparedness" classes, REI instructor Todd McCormick dressed the part.


    For last year’s “Zombie Preparedness” classes, REI instructor Todd McCormick dressed the part.

  • Zombie Control Center

    Zombie Control Center REI "Zombie Preparedness" help attendees get ready for a zombie apocalypse.


    REI “Zombie Preparedness” help attendees get ready for a zombie apocalypse.

By Bob Batz Jr. / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Classes next week at both Pittsburgh-area REI stores put a macabre, if seasonal, spin on the old outdoors saw of “Be prepared.” 

Welcome to “Zombie Preparedness — Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.” 

“Imagine a Zombie outbreak has occurred wiping out a majority of the local population and other major cities throughout the globe,” thanks to “Zombie Disease,” so named “because those killed by the disease seem to be returning to life and prey upon the living.” So starts the description of the classes, being held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Settlers Ridge store and at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the SouthSide Works store.

“We are now facing a full-fledged attack,” continues the description. “Those of us left alive must now ask ourselves, ‘Where do we go from here? How will we survive and maintain the existence of the human race?’ ”

REI members and nonmembers alike are invited to take one of these free 1½-hour classes to “learn valuable survival techniques that could save your life. These same techniques could be invaluable in the event of any natural disaster in an urban environment.”

So, yeah, the zombie theme is a nod to Halloween and interest in the scary subject in the region that’s the proud home to George Romero’s “Living Dead” movies. REI outreach specialist Peter Greninger says the idea, which started several years ago and has included instructors made up like zombies, is meant to make the emergency preparedness classes “a little more fun and engaging.” 

Other stores in the national outdoors co-op have had fun with this motif, too. The REI blog presents an infographic on “13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak,” including a cast-iron skillet, which is not just a cooking tool but also a “blunt instrument with awesome zombie-stopping power” when applied, as depicted, to a zombie’s head. There’s a YouTube video, as well. 

Emily Matthews, who will be teaching the Settler’s Ridge class, says she’ll cover topics applicable in other scenarios, ranging from earthquakes to terrorist attacks. That includes everything from first aid to food and water. Attendees will get to solve problems such as what they can do with the gear they have on hand and how would they react to different scenarios. “We’re teaching the skills you would need to succeed in adverse circumstances.”

This year, REI Pittsburgh is following these classes with a new Zombie Run on Oct. 30 at Settler’s Cabin Park. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. that Sunday, up to 200 people can participate in the trail run, which will be populated by some people dressed as zombies. There’ll be a prize for best costume, as well as commemorative stainless steel pint cups for top men’s and women’s finishers in both 5- and 10-kilometer distances (choose your race at check-in that day). Cost, for members and nonmembers, is $15. REI would love to have some more zombie volunteers, who will try to grab flag-football-like ribbons runners will wear. 

Register for the classes and the run via the online events calendar by going to (search for events close to Pittsburgh). 

Bob Batz Jr.:, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.

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