by Constantine von Hoffman

Scientists Create Telepathic Rats and ‘Robosparrows’

Feb 28, 20134 mins

This week's IT security news roundup has stories on rodents helping each other solve problems from thousands of miles away; cyber attacks that hurt the value of brands; China blaming the United States for hacking; and more.

I’m not sure the world really needed smarter rats that can communicate with each other across continents but it’s too late now. They’re here.

Scientists implanted electrode arrays in the regions of the rats’ brains involved in planning movements and the sense of touch. Signals from one rat’s brain then allowed the second rat to solve a problem it would otherwise have no clue how to solve.


The two rats were in separate cages with no way to communicate except the electrodes. The brain-to-brain transfer of information even worked when one of the rats was in a lab in North Carolina and the other was in Brazil.

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University, who led the study, told Wired: “We basically created a computational unit out of two brains.” This is only part of Nicolelis’s effort to let rats of the non-banker variety take over the world. Previously he and his team “gave rats the ability to detect normally invisible infrared light by wiring an infrared detector to a part of the brain that processes touch.”

I wonder if Mr. Nicolelis is aware that rats played a part in the original WMD: The black plague.

I, for one, welcome our new rat overlords.

Thankfully another recent breakthrough that led to the creation of a “robosparrow” means we can fight the oncoming onslaught of super rats by infiltrating their ranks. The robosparrow was created by scientists at Duke University (I’m sensing a trend here) who were able to insert miniaturized robotics into an empty sparrow carcass and operate it like a puppet.

The cost for this new super villain? A mere $1,500.

In case you were worrying, the living were ultimately able to triumph over the dead. As SlashDot noted: “The experiment stopped after the real sparrows tore off the robosparrow’s head. But there’s always a newer model on the assembly-line. Good luck sparrows.”

If I had known science was this much fun I would have gone to scientist school.

And now on to this week’s roundup of cyber security news:

Cyberattacks, data breaches scare off investors, study says

  • (CSO) – Data breaches and cyberattacks aren’t just a worry for consumers who’ve had personal information filched or paranoid information security pros. They can also scare away investors, according to a study on investor attitudes toward cybersecurity.

China blames US for most cyberattacks against military Websites

  • (Reuters) – Two major Chinese military websites, including that of the Defense Ministry, were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the United States, the ministry said on Thursday.

MiniDuke cyberespionage malware targets US, other countries

  • (CSO) — A cyberespionage operation that uses well-crafted PDF documents to trick recipients into opening the malicious files has targeted government entities and institutions in 23 countries, including the U.S., security vendors reported Wednesday.

Anonymous leaks ‘Bank of America secrets’ in spy revenge hack

  • (TheRegister) — Miscreants affiliated with hacking collective Anonymous have dumped online a huge cache of data supposedly lifted from insecure systems at a Bank of America contractor. The self-styled Anonymous Intelligence Agency (Par:AnoIA) leaked 320MB of emails and other information that suggests the banking giant is running an online intelligence gathering operation against hacktivists.

DHS cybersecurity boss wants agency to become the cyber-9-1-1 for critical infrastructure

  • (CSO) – Mark Weatherford, deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at DHS, wants to set up a cyber 9-1-1 system for critical infrastructure. Speaking at the RSA conference, Weatherford said, “Currently, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to who organizations should call should they suffer a breach, or find themselves under significant attack pressure. We want to make DHS the cyber-91-1. Currently, people don’t know why they should call, and we want to change that.”