Google Introduces Project Fi Wireless Service

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Google on Wednesday unveiled its new wireless service, Project Fi, which features a $20 per month fee for talk and text, and $10 per gig of data.

The program is unique not only for its straightforward pricing plan, but for its use of existing mobile networks in the United States.

Google has teamed with Sprint and T-Mobile to switch mobile users between the two networks—and free, open wi-fi hotspots—depending on what provides the best coverage.

“We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location, whether it’s WiFi or one of our two partner LTE networks,“ a blog post on Google’s website said.

Project Fi also allows users to use the service through whichever device they wish, including mobile phone, tablet or computer.

The service is $20 per month for talk, text, WiFi tethering and international coverage in more than 120 countries. Data is $10 per gig and should a user not use all the data they pay for, Google will provide a prorated refund.

So far the service is only available for Nexus 6 phones. Potential customers can request an invitation for the service at

G-TechNote™: iOS Bug Sends iPhones into Endless Crash Cycle When Exposed to Rogue Wi-Fi

There’s a bug in Apple’s iOS 8 that allows nearby attackers to send apps—and in some cases the iPhone or iPad they run on—into an endless reboot cycle that temporarily renders the devices useless, according to researchers who demonstrated the attack Tuesday.

The exploit uses a standard Wi-Fi network that generates a specially designed secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate to exploit the bug, according to the researchers, who work for Israel-based Skycure. The encrypted communication causes whatever apps happen to be connected to the booby-trapped Wi-Fi network to crash. The vulnerability was introduced in version 8 of the Apple mobile operating system.

After sustained connections to the malicious signal, the OS itself will crash, in some cases in a way that causes the devices it runs on to spiral into a repeatable reboot cycle. Making the attack particularly vexing, even if users know the endless crashes are generated by the Wi-Fi network they’re connected to, they can’t disconnect because the repeated restarts make it impossible to access the device’s user settings, as demonstrated in the following video:

The Skycure researchers said the exploit can be combined with one they uncovered two years ago that forces iPhones to automatically connect to rogue Wi-Fi networks. The combination allows attackers to form a “NO iOS Zone” that after luring all iOS devices to join the Wi-Fi network, sends them into an endless crash cycle. Targets hit by the attack would have few options to stop the attack as long as they’re within range of the Wi-Fi access point. Skycure documented the vulnerability in a blog post published Tuesday and demonstrated it the same day at the RSA security conference in San Francisco.

The post says that Skycure has already privately reported the vulnerability to Apple. Until there’s a patch, iPhone and iPad users should make sure they’re using iOS 8.3, since it appears to have mitigated some of the effects of the bug. Users should also keep Wi-Fi on their device turned off except when it’s needed. Users can also install apps that give them control over which SSIDs an iPhone or iPad will and will not connect to.

Skycure is withholding technical details about the specific conditions that cause Wi-Fi networks to carry out the crash attack to prevent miscreants from repeating them. There’s no indication the attacks are being carried out in the wild right now.

Earth Day: Disease Spread Among Species Is Predictable

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On Earth Day, a study of disease dynamics in a California grassland has revealed fundamental principles underlying the spread of pathogens, or disease-causing microbes, among species.

The results, announced today in the journal Nature, have implications for the maintenance of biodiversity and for addressing practical problems related to plant disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studied the phenomenon of “pathogen spillover” in grassland species on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

They found that the amount of disease present on each species could be predicted by the abundance of its close relatives in the grassland. When there were many individuals of the same or similar species living close together, pathogens spread more quickly.

Perhaps unexpectedly, that in turn promotes biodiversity by creating openings for less common species that are not attacked by these same pathogens.

Link between community structure and individual disease vulnerability

The findings reveal a tight link between the structure of a plant community and the vulnerability of individual species to disease.

“These scientists demonstrate that the relatedness of species in communities is an important predictor of disease prevalence,“ said Alan Tessier, acting director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

The researchers were able to predict which plant species introduced into the grassland would be most strongly affected by naturally-occurring diseases.

Ingrid Parker, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper, said the study adds an important new dimension to a longstanding concept in ecology known as the “rare species advantage.“

Diseases take greater toll on common species

“The rare species advantage is thought to be a major driver of biodiversity in natural ecosystems,“ Parker said. “Most pathogens are not host specialists—they can easily move from one species to another. Whether pathogens ‘spill over’ depends on how closely related other species nearby are.

“Our study shows that it’s the structure of the whole community around a species that affects its vulnerability to disease.“

Large-scale experiment with 44 plant species

In a large-scale experiment, the researchers introduced 44 plant species from outside California. (The plants were removed before they reproduced.)

The biologists found that species with few close relatives in the grassland escaped disease, while those closely related to many resident species always showed high levels of disease.

The researchers were able to make surprisingly accurate predictions of disease in introduced species based on their phylogenetic, or evolutionary, distance from local species.

“It was kind of shocking how well we were able to predict disease at a local scale,“ Parker said.

Modeling “PhyloSusceptibility”

To incorporate the phylogenetic distance between species into their predictions of disease dynamics, the researchers used a “PhyloSusceptibility model” developed by scientist Gregory Gilbert at UC Santa Cruz and two other paper co-authors, Roger Magarey and Karl Suiter of North Carolina State University, who work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The model is based on USDA’s global database of fungal pathogens and host plants, and can be used to predict the probability of two species sharing a pathogen.

“If a plant pathogen from Brazil suddenly shows up in southern California, you want to know what plants in California are most likely to be attacked,“ Gilbert said.

By showing that the PhyloSusceptibility model makes accurate predictions, the results suggest a range of potential applications.

The PhyloSusceptibility model could help avoid disease problems affecting proposed horticultural imports or reforestation projects.

It could also be used in agriculture to design intercropping or rotation systems to decrease crop disease.

Vulnerability of local species to “pathogen spillover”

Imported plants can bring new pathogens and pests into an area. The PhyloSusceptibility model could be used to assess the vulnerability of local species to pathogen spillover from such plant introductions, the scientists say.

While the PhyloSusceptibility model used in this study was based on data for fungal pathogens, Gilbert said the team has also created versions based on data for eight other groups of pests and pathogens, including insects, nematodes, bacteria and viruses.

In addition to Parker, Gilbert, Magarey and Suiter, the co-authors of the study include UC Santa Cruz researchers Megan Saunders, Megan Bontrager, Andrew Weitz and Rebecca Hendricks.

USDA also funded the work.

~~  NSF ~~

GSC Students Present at Undergraduate Research Day

Glenville, WV — The 12th annual Undergraduate Research Day was held in the West Virginia State Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, March 04, 2015.

Undergraduate Research Day is sponsored by the Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

Four GSC students, Samuel Canfield, Emily Ramezan, Jonathan Rhodes, and Randy Smith, were among the approximately one-hundred students from fifteen colleges and universities throughout West Virginia who were selected to present seventy-five undergraduate research projects to members of the state legislature and other visitors.

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Emily Ramezan, Samuel Canfield, Randy Smith, Jonathan Rhodes,
and Dr. Ross Conover at Undergraduate Research Day in Charleston

The event helps state lawmakers understand the importance of undergraduate research by talking directly with the students whom these programs impact.

Canfield presented his research on the behavioral variation of pocket gophers in different habitats.

Ramezan presented her research on the effect of temperature-induced coral bleaching on genes in sea anemones.

Rhodes’ research related to the assessment of carbon storage among different forest succession stages.

Finally, Smith’s research explored the regulation of cancer cell multiplication by a specific hydrocarbon receptor.

The research that these students presented was a combination of studies that were completed on campus and in other lab environments.

All four researchers were aided by an academic advisor at GSC.

For more information about these research projects and programs of study in the Department Science and Mathematics at Glenville State College, call 304.462.4126.

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