For every warm-blooded human who has ever taken an online poll or signed up for free web-based email, there are legions of computer-automated Internet robots, or “bots,” trying to do the same thing. A clever security system designed to stop these bot programs – which contribute to the Internet equivalent of computer-generated telemarketing calls – has now been cracked by a pair of computer scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh created the security system, known as Gimpy, to thwart the bot programs that relentlessly scour cyberspace for opportunities to register new email addresses, stuff ballots for online polls and direct unwitting participants in Internet chat rooms to advertisements. Bot-produced email accounts are hard to block or trace, making them ideal vehicles for sending spam to legitimate email users.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the use of fossil fuels for household cooking and heating may make more environmental sense for the estimated 2 billion rural poor in the world, according to a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley. Because they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuels have been largely dismissed as a viable alternative for the one-third of the world’s population who now use coal and local biomass – including wood, crop residues and dung – for cooking and heating, said Kirk R. Smith, professor and chair of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Efforts have been focused on equipping the rural poor with renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.