Hacked emails slice spam fast

Spam spreads much faster and to more people when it is being propagated by hacked, or otherwise compromised, email accounts rather than legitimate accounts, according to research published in the International Journal of Security and Networks. The insight should help those modeling the dynamics of information diffusion as well as those hoping to track and trace spam with a view to slowing or blocking its propagation. Spam traditionally contained ads for fake or counterfeit products, but currently also contains disruptive rumors and information of a political nature.

Ghita Mezzour and Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, explain that spammers often use hacked accounts to spread spam. Spam sent from hacked accounts is often given more credence than anonymous spam or spam with an obviously scurrilous or scandalous source. This is by virtue of the spam coming from someone the recipient may know via the hacked account’s address book. In some cases, the recipients believe the spam content is correct and forward it to their friends who may, in turn, forward it to their friends. Large numbers of accounts are hacked (or hijacked) through malicious software (malware) or by guessing passwords with the purpose of using them as hosts for sending out vast numbers of spam messages. However, modeling the spread of this kind of information usually assumes that the source is a human deliberately sharing the information.

The team has found that modeling the behavior of hacked accounts results in spam diffusion dynamics different from what work on information diffusion has predicted. Hacked accounts tend to more aggressively send spam, partly because deliberately, individually propagated spam is done manually, whereas hacked spam is more commonly generated automatically by the malware that has infected the account in the first place. This aggressive behavior of hacked accounts causes spam to reach more people faster. The online equivalent of word-of-mouth is powerful when a message is repeatedly and forcibly sent to one’s inbox. Today’s social networking sites are plagued by malicious accounts that behave aggressively and differently from humans. Understanding and modeling the effect of the behavior of these accounts is important to reducing spam and attacks on social networking sites.

Mezzour, G. and Carley, K.M. (2014) ‘Spam diffusion in a social network initiated by hacked e-mail accounts’, Int. J. Security and Networks, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.144–153.

Educating on sickle cell risk

Members of the public in sub-Saharan Africa who are carriers of the hereditary disease sickle cell disease must be educated aggressively through public health campaigns to raise awareness of the risks of parenting offspring with the disease if their partner is also a carrier, according to research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics.

There are many physical and emotional public health components of sickle cell disease, explains William Ebomoyi of the Department of Health Studies College of Health Sciences, Chicago State University, Illinois, USA. Moreover, there ethical and legal considerations surrounding the screening of newborns for this potentially lethal disease.

Sickle-cell disease (SCD), also known as sickle-cell anemia (SCA) or drepanocytosis is an inherited condition in which a child of parents both of whom are carriers of the associated hemoglobin gene who inherits both copies will produce abnormal red blood cells that are rigid and often sickle-shaped. The disorder causes both acute and chronic health problems, such as repeated infections, severe attacks of pain and potentially stroke and death. Carriers of just one copy of this particular hemoglobin gene tend to have greater resistance to the lethal parasitic disease malaria compared to people without a copy of the gene. However, around 2 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is born with SCD. Moreover, incidence is rising across the globe as populations migrate.

In the age of genomics, however, Ebomoyi suggests that raising awareness of the risks of having children with SCD if both parents are carriers is important. “An aggressive health education of the public is required to maintain a shared responsibility for their courtship behaviour by alerting potential suitors of their heterozygous status,” he suggests. He adds that, “Major sickle cell education programmes need to be integrated into the curriculum of elementary, secondary and tertiary academic institutions.”

Ebomoyi, E.W. (2015) ‘Ethical, legal, social, and financial implications of neonatal screening for sickle cell anaemia in Sub-Sahara Africa in the age of genomic science’, Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.46–56.

End to End 5G for super, superfast mobile

A collaboration between NEC Electronics and several academic centres in China and Iran, is investigating how software-defined cellular networking might be used to give smart phone users the next generation of super-superfast broadband, 5G. They provide details in the International Journal of Communication Networks and Distributed Systems.

Currently, the fourth generation of mobile phone connection technology, 4G, in as far as it has been adopted provides broadband-type connectivity for enabled devices such as smart phones, tablet computers, laptops and other gadgets through two standards: the Mobile WiMAX standard (first used in South Korea in 2007), and the first-release Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard (in Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden since 2009). Peak speeds were set in the standards at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for mobile users and ten times that for static, domestic 5G users, 1 gigabit per second. 100 Mbits/s is three times faster than the earlier 3G system but users commonly do not see data transfer at such high rates, downloads are usually at best 10 Mbits/s.

As yet there is no single standard for 5G although various systems are being touted based on rebuilding the cellular networks to be super-efficient and exploiting different frequencies with their capacity for greater data rates. The hope is to be able to achieve download speeds of perhaps 10 Gbits/s.

Lei Jiang of NEC Laboratories in Beijing and colleagues are working with colleagues at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, Beijing Jiaotong University and the University of Kurdistan. They have assessed the latest developments aimed at 5G systems and have proposed their own novel end-to-end (E2E) software-defined cellular network (SDCN) architecture which they say offers flexibility, scalability, agility and efficiency. Moreover, it will be sustainable for providers as well as profitable.

They are currently building a demonstration system that will allow them to utilise several promising technologies in their architecture for 5G including cloud computing, network virtualisation, network functions virtualisation and dynamic service chaining. The approach, they suggest could overcome bandwidth shortage problems, improve quality of service so avoiding delays and data loss, as well as reducing the vast number of error-prone network nodes needed for such a system.

Lai, J., Jiang, L., Lei, M., Abdollahpouri, A. and Fang, W. (2015) ‘Software-defined cellular networking: a practical path towards 5G’, Int. J. Communication Networks and Distributed Systems, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.89–105.