Sunday 27 February 2011

London Stock Exchange hit by malware

The London Stock Exchange website exposed some visitors to drive-by malware attacks today. Merely viewing the homepage at (without clicking on anything) caused my Windows computer to be compromised by malware. This malware was apparently delivered through third-party advertisements which appeared on the site.

The malware was a classic spoof antivirus program which used a software vulnerability to download and install native executable code. The spoof program appeared in the system tray and prevented other processes such as Task Manager being run, falsely claiming that they were infected with a virus. The malware then tried to extort payment to fix the artificial problem it had created. It also replaced the wallpaper image with the following message:

Google's Safe Browsing diagnostic page for also confirmed the presence of suspicious content on the LSE website today:

Of the 281 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 65 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2011-02-27, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2011-02-27.

Malicious software includes 2 scripting exploit(s), 2 trojan(s), 1 exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 5 new process(es) on the target machine.

Accordingly, the site ended up being blocked by the Chrome and Firefox web browsers, which both make use of Google's malware blocklist.

LSE have now disabled the affected adverts from appearing on their site, thus preventing malware reaching its visitors. For clarity, the LSE website itself was not compromised. Because the malware was distributed via an advertising network, many other sites may also have been affected.

Unanimis, which hosted adverts used on the LSE website, subsequently issued the following statement:

Malware was detected on the Unanimis network which affected some advertisements on our network. Other than the banner advertisements in question, the malware does not impact or affect any other parts of a website. The affected advertisements have been removed and all sites continue to operate normally. For clarity the LSE website was not impacted by this Malware, not did it propagate malware.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Discovery docking with the International Space Station

The Internation Space Station passed overhead at 18:36 this evening, with the space shuttle Discovery closing in and preparing to dock. Having never seen the ISS before, I thought I'd try and get some photos of it.

Each of the following photos is an unprocessed 100% sized crop from a relatively cheap Canon 500D digital SLR camera which produces 15 megapixel JPEG images.

Jupiter. Automatic camera settings aren't particularly suitable for taking photos of a very tiny bright dot in the middle of a vast expanse of darkness, so manual settings are the best way to go. To get a rough idea of which settings to use, I pointed my camera to the West, where the planet Jupiter was happy to lend a hand. This helped me focus the lens and work out what exposure settings to use. I decided to go with ISO 1600 sensitivity and set the lens aperture to f/8.

ISS appears. The ISS quickly appeared over the horizon, but was not particularly bright yet (possibly due to low altitude atmospheric polution?). I was hand-holding a 500mm lens with a 1.4x extender and had to slow my exposure time to 1/320 for this shot.

1/500. It seemed to be getting a little bit closer now, and certainly at a higher angle in the sky. I stepped the exposure up to 1/500 sec for this one.

1/1000. Getting brighter all the time, I pushed the shutter speed up to 1/1000. This made it easier to take handheld photos, although it was surprisingly difficult to locate the object through the viewfinder! The ISS moves quite fast and the effective focal length of 1120mm gives a narrow field of view.

Backflip. The small dot to the left of the ISS is the space shuttle Discovery coming to the end of its 'backflip' around the station (thanks to @adam_horn for confirming that!). The individual solar panels on the space station are now starting to become apparent.

Discovery! It may only be a few pixels in size, but the Discovery is slightly more recognisable in this shot. Those with a good imagination will surely agree that it's shaped like a space shuttle :)

They're not great photos, but I found the results nonetheless surprising, particularly as all I could see without the camera was a bright white dot moving up through the sky. The individual solar panels were not visible to the naked eye, and I had no idea that Discovery was even there until I looked at the JPEGs that came off the camera. I'm not a space geek, but I still found this pretty cool.