Poachers Hack Into GPS Collars

poachers_gpsPolice in India are looking for a hacker that tried to hack into a GPS tracking collar worn by a Bengal tiger. The tiger is part of the ‘Satpura-Bori Tiger Reserve’ in Hoshangabad, India.

The reserve uses the GPS collars to track the location of the three-year-old male tiger (in addition to other tigers), as part of a project called ‘Panna-211.’ Experts say that this is the first time someone has ever tried to hack into a GPS collar worn by a tiger.

The GPS trackers were implemented in order to protect the rare cats from poachers, but the hacking incident cancels this out. Obviously, people can get close enough to the tigers to steal GPS collars or to hung the giant cats.

How Did It Happen?

Reserve officials say that one of the Bengal tigers wearing a GPS tracker was captured by a poacher. The poacher then used that GPS tracking collar to hack into the reserve’s computers, gaining access to the GPS location database. Once they hackers got into the system, they had access to the location data on each and every tiger in the reserve that was wearing a GPS tracker. Talk about easy poaching!

Researchers are still baffled as to how the poachers were able to gain access to the database. Only three of the reserve’s researchers had the passwords to access the location data. Regardless, hackers were able to break into an email account and obtain confidential log-in and password information.

Repercussions

Researchers are currently try to decide whether or not to file a complaint against those that are in charge of the research project. Additionally, researchers are investigating whether or not a security breach happened.

It’s possible that the case falls under the ‘Information Technology Act,’ Section 66 to be more specific, which punishes hackers with a prison sentence of three years, as well as in violation of the ‘Wildlife Protection Act’ of 1972 for attempted poaching.

What Is Being Done

If only they could find the hacker to hand out a punishment! Wildlife officials are scrutinizing every movement of the tigers because of this, as no one knows whether or not hackers are still obtaining the GPS location data.

And that’s all they can do, really: watch and wait. Hopefully, the poachers will try to act again, since this will give researchers the trigger needed to quickly find and arrest the culprits. Right now, researchers wait for information from IT experts that are in the process of reviewing data.

Until then, they wait – and hope that the hacker (or group of hackers) is eventually brought to justice.

 

Photo by Keith Roper via Flickr Creative Commons

Picture This: Bees With GPS Backpacks

bee_gps_trackingYou know all of the wonderful uses for GPS and tracking? Stuff like keeping your kids and elderly relatives safe; finding the nearest gas station when traveling; helping keep fleet costs to a minimum; ensuring your prized possessions aren’t stolen; and even simple directions to an unknown location?

Well, researchers at Oregon State University want to use GPS for something you probably didn’t even think was possible: tracking bumblebees. That’s right, bees.

To do this, they need to redesign the GPS tracking device altogether, making it miniscule enough to fit on bees’ backs. Not an easy feat (but kind of a cute image!).

On A Mission

Although there are already compact GPS trackers out there (used to track fish and birds), the scale required to get a tracker with GPS on a bee’s back is incredibly miniscule. That won’t stop OSU scientists, led by professor of entomology Sujaya Rao.

Rao stressed the importance of tracking the local bee population, pointing out that the worldwide bumblebee population is decreasing. If the bee were to become extinct, it would be disastrous. Bees are essential to the agriculture, and losing them would have more of an impact than most people think.

The Pesticide Problem

One of the reasons why the bee population is decreasing has to do with pesticides. A study published in the March 2012 issue of the journal ‘Science’ points to pesticides as being the main factor responsible for bee population reduction.

French researchers led one of the studies, hypothesizing that chemicals in pesticides confuse bee brains. This leads to confusion when trying to return to the hive, often resulting in death.

British researchers conducted the second study, which indicates that pesticides decrease the amount of food a bumblebee brings back to the hive, which means there isn’t enough for the production of new queen bees. Both scenarios mean a decrease in the bee population, and a big problem for us humans.

Development Is An Issue Too

Another reason why bee populations are declining is land development. Less flowers and plants exist thanks to overcrowding. In addition, the flowers and plants that do exist are more susceptible to things like viruses, fungi, mites, and other pathogens. What can be done? For starters, tracking bees with GPS helps.

First Steps

Before the bee can be tracked with GPS, a tracker that is small enough needs to be designed. That devices is currently in development, though it’s not ready to roll just yet.

Once it is ready to go, researchers will attach the trackers the bees’ backs and study the information gathered. The hope is to find out how to increase bee population and hold numbers steady, no matter what happens in the immediate bee environment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is footing the $500,000 project, which will take at least two years to begin (it takes this long to develop the tiny GPS trackers!). This is an exciting new venture, and the plight of every being rests on the backs of bees.

Shark Attack: GPS Helps Tag Great Whites

great_white_gps_trackingOne of the most mysterious animals in the deep blue sea is the great white shark. Sure, these sharks have been studied in captivity, but daily habits and patterns are largely a mystery. Can you blame scientists? Who wants to swim around with predators all day?! Maybe there’s a way to change that.

A Floating Laboratory

A team of Ocearch scientist are currently using GPS trackers to learn all they can about the great white shark. These scientists recently cruised the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to find their first subjects, drawing them close to the boat with chum in the form of herrings and tuna  – as well as a dummy that looks like a seal.

While armed with GPS tracking devices, this team of scientists has set sail in an old crabbing vessel – not exactly the safest way to travel when checking out great whites! What’s the best way to deal with a lured shark while standing in a crabbing vessel? Why, lift the shark up on a hydraulic lift, of course!

Scientific Methods

There’s just one problem with the hydraulic lift method. Captain Brett McBride has to jump into the water, and maneuver the sharks onto the lift. Gulp. Amazing, McBride has succeeded in this endeavor a few times.

Once the shark is lifted on deck, scientists cover the shark’s eyes with a wet towel to keep the animal calm. Water is then poured over a shark’s gills in order to ensure that each shark is breathing properly. While studying the sharks, scientist affix a GPS tracker to each great white. But, time is of the essence when it comes to this operation.

Tick-Tock Goes the Clock

Scientists have approximately 15 minutes to collect tissue, blood samples, perform an ultrasound, affix that GPS tracker under a shark’s fin, place an acoustic tag underneath a shark, add a third tracker to a shark’s tail, and release the shark back into the water. Phew! That’s a lot to accomplish in 15 minutes!

So far, the team has tagged more than 60 great white sharks since 2007. That’s around $10,000 worth of trackers with GPS and monitors. This team is looking to compile a shark migration map.

Lessons Learned So Far

Some incredible information has already been learned. For instance, one shark traveled from South Africa to Australia in 99 days, which is about 11,100 kilometers — the longest distance ever recorded for a great white.

Another interesting fact: male great whites spend all of their time hanging out by the shoreline, while females travel great distances. The reason is still unknown.

It is important to scientists to learn all they can about great whites. Without the GPS tracking device and GPS technology, keeping tabs on great whites wouldn’t be possible.

 

Photo by ZA Photos via Flickr Creative Commons