Feds Probe Hack of First Lady, Biden, Celebs
Today in international tech news: U.S. authorities investigate the apparent Russia-based hack on numerous U.S. public figures and celebrities; South Korea goes mining for tech-related ore in South America; China's revolutionary social media platform might be nothing more than a robot hangout; and Japan will test a Web-based emergency warning system.
03/13/13 9:29 AM PT
Police in Los Angeles have teamed with the FBI to investigate Russian hackers suspected of stealing and posting sensitive information about Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, law enforcement officials and Hollywood celebrities.
The material in question was posted on a website using .su as a suffix -- reportedly a tip-off that the perpetrators have a Russian connection (.su is shorthand for Soviet Union).
FBI Director Robert Mueller and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck are among those whose information is believed to have been hacked. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton, Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump are among the celebrities whose data is believed to have been compromised.
The information included social security numbers, credit reports, addresses and banking details.
It is not clear how much of the information is accurate. For instance, ABC phoned one of the numbers purported to belong to Joe Biden; it connected to a business in Delaware.
In Columbia, South Korea Goes Exploring for Samsung, LG
South Korea's state-run Korean Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources is heading up the first geological study of rare metals in Columbia.
The expedition is seeking to secure supplies for Samsung and LG, a pair of South Korean tech heavyweights.
The coveted material is coltan, an ore that contains the chemical element tantalum, a key component in phones, DVD players and other electronics that help fuel South Korea's enormous tech market.
South American possessed some 40 percent of the world's tantalum.
South Korean-led expeditions have thus far struck out finding spots for coltan mines, but they are optimistic enough to head back to Columbia in April.
Since 2009, tantalum output has been spotty in Australia and East Africa. The effects, however, have been mitigated by rising production from the Brazilian Amazon, which is now the world's No. 1 source of tantalum.
China's Social Media: Populated by Robots?
A study by researchers at Hong Kong University suggests that China's top social media platform, Twitter-like Sina Weibo, is overrun by "zombie accounts" and inactive users.
The study, which took a random sample of 30,000 users, found that 57 percent of users had no posts in their timeline, suggesting they are either entirely inactive or have "zombie accounts" created by marketing firms to manipulate follower numbers.
What's more, over a one-week period, researchers found that nearly 87 percent of users had zero original posts, and that only 0.5 percent posted more than 20 messages.
Some optimists have claimed that Sina Weibo is changing debate in China, allowing oppressed discussions to emerge organically online. This study, however, casts doubt on that notion: While the service might have a half-billion registered users, only about 30 million of them are liable to author a unique post in a given week.
Another finding: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, which together account for 9 percent of China's population, are nonetheless responsible for more than 25 percent of Weibo activity.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Japan Take Disaster Warning to Web
Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency plans to test a disaster warning system this summer using social networking services.
The decision is reportedly inspired by disruptions to telephone services following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.