Posted Apr. 11, 2017 at 6:27 a.m.

Tech wrap: No in-flight cell calls; nabbing spam mastermind; 3 astronauts return; new cancer institute

Published: 2017-04-11 06:27:09
Updated: 2017-04-11 06:27:09

Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and science news:

  • US regulators aim to keep the ban on in-flight phone calls
  • US says global spam scheme targeted after mastermind nabbed
  • NASA astronaut and 2 Russian cosmonauts return to Earth
  • Norton, UofL partner to form pediatric cancer institute

The details:

  • US regulators aim to keep the ban on in-flight phone calls

Federal regulators aim to maintain the ban on in-flight cellular calls.

The Federal Communications Commission is looking to kill an effort it started in 2013 to give airlines the option of installing on-board cellular equipment for calls and other services.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai appears to have enough votes to axe that plan, which he considers "ill-conceived." Pei says keeping the cellular ban "will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet."

Though telecom industry groups have supported lifting the ban, polls have shown that many passengers, particularly frequent fliers, oppose allowing cellphone calls by passengers.

The move wouldn't affect current rules that let passengers use their gadgets during flights, though with cellular connections turned off.

  • US says global spam scheme targeted after mastermind nabbed

U.S. authorities announced Monday they are working to dismantle a global computer network that sent hundreds of millions of spam emails worldwide each year. The Russian man alleged to be at the head of the scheme was arrested Friday in Spain.

The U.S. Justice Department said it was working to take down the sprawling Kelihos botnet, which at times was made up of more than 100,000 compromised computers that sent phony emails advertising counterfeit drugs and work-at-home scams, harvested users' logins and installed malware that intercepted their bank account passwords.

Controlling the vast network since 2010 was Pyotr Levashov, a 36-year-old described in U.S. court documents made public Monday as "one of the world's most notorious criminal spammers."

Levashov's arrest in Barcelona on Friday, following a joint U.S.-Spanish operation, set cybersecurity circles abuzz after his wife told Russia's RT broadcaster that he was being linked to America's 2016 election hacking. Justice Department officials said Monday there was no such connection but declined to elaborate. Details of a pending criminal case against Levashov in the United States remain sealed.

Authorities and cybercrime watchers say Levashov also went by the name Peter Severa, who had long been mentioned in relation to the Kelihos botnet. Court documents filed Monday paint Levashov as a longtime spam kingpin who has been indicted more than once stemming from his sending of unwanted emails to promote various scams. In 2009, he was charged in the U.S. with operating the "Storm" botnet that was Kelihos' predecessor, the documents say.

  • NASA astronaut and 2 Russian cosmonauts return to Earth

Three astronauts from the International Space Station have successfully landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan — two from Russia and one from the United States.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russia's Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko touched down at 5:20 p.m. local time Monday after spending 173 days in space.

NASA's Peggy Whitson, Russia's Oleg Novitsky and the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet will operate the orbiting space lab until another crew arrives this weekend.

The 57-year old Whitson was supposed to return to Earth in June but NASA announced last week that she would stay on the space station until September. Whitson has already spent more time in space than any other woman and just last week set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman, with eight.

  • Norton, UofL partner to form pediatric cancer institute

Norton Healthcare and the University of Louisville say they have partnered to form the Norton Children's Cancer Institute.

A joint statement on Monday said the program's goals are to offer new types of care for pediatric cancer patients, to increase access to clinical trials, to develop new research and to recruit more specialists.

Norton official Thomas D. Kmetz said the institute is expected to become a "beacon of hope" for children across the state.

The statement says Norton Healthcare and the University of Louisville will work together to staff the institute, and Norton will commit $1 million annually to UofL for pediatric oncology research and physician recruitment.

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