March Research Picks

Layered boost to cyber security

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a layered approach to protecting computer networks from unscrupulous intruders and malware. The first layer looks for possible semantic links between incoming connections that might form part of an attack. The second layer identifies the context of the incoming data requests. If the two layers together suggest there is illicit or illegal network traffic then the intruder can be blocked before any damage is done or any data compromised. The team’s initial tests suggest that this layered approach, combining semantics and context, detected more intrusions on a test system than other approaches and at the same time reduced the number of false positives.

Aleroud, A., Karabatis, G., Sharma, P. and He, P. (2014) ‘Context and semantics for detection of cyber attacks’, Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.63–92.

Know your cow

Livestock management is an unwieldy business particularly when it comes to cattle. Huge numbers of cattle must be registered and labeled for quality and disease control, food industry requirements and other purposes. The rapid identification of individual animals based on the unique shape and pattern of their iris would simplify many processes for the industry. As such, an international team has devised a computer algorithm that can focus on the unique characteristics of the bovine iris and recognize individual animals from this biometric. The work overcomes many of the problems facing the application of biometrics in animals, specifically that the bovine iris is rarely circular nor regular in shape and so pattern matching in the computer is much more difficult than with the neat circular human iris.

Lu, Y., He, X.F., Wen, Y. and Wang, P.S.P. (2014) ‘A new cow identification system based on iris analysis and recognition’, Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.18–32.

Terrorism is more than a gender issue

A link between gender and educational level and support for and the occurrence of international terrorism has been investigated by researchers at the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education – Economic Institute (CERGE-EI), in Praha, Czech Republic. The team used data from a 2007 PEW Research survey of attitudes towards terrorism. The team found a surprising and worrying conclusion when demographics were correlated with support and incidence. They found that women with tertiary education who justify suicide bombing and have an unfavorable opinion towards those countries that are potential targets of international terrorism have a significant impact on the occurrence of terrorist acts. This finding challenges the widespread view that the presence of educated women in troubled regions of the world alone is enough to suppress extremism and deter terrorism. The team suggests that in addition to continuing improved education, particularly for females, attempts must also be made to address the highly contentious issues that give rise to extremism in the first place.

Malecková, J. and Stanišic, D. (2014) ‘Gender, education and terrorism’, Int. J. Education Economics and Development, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.40–65.

Corn cobs clean up farm runoff

Agriculture and the food industry produces vast quantities of waste corn cobs, the inedible core of maize ears on which the edible corn kernels grow. A new use for this waste product might be found down on the farm, according to researchers at the University of Baghdad. They have demonstrated that this natural, porous material, comprising mainly woody lignocelluloses, can absorb toxic nitrogen-containing chemicals from animal waste, including ammonium ions. The team suggests that corn cobs might therefore be incorporated into an inexpensive and sustainable treatment for making farm runoff and waste water less hazardous to the environment.

Ismail, Z.Z. and Hameed, B.B. (2014) ‘Recycling of raw corn cob residues as an agricultural waste material for ammonium removal: kinetics, isotherms, and mechanisms’, Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.217–230.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.