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US launch cyber-attacks against Islamic State

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WASHINGTON – The US military is conducting cyber-attacks on the Islamic State (IS) group, a general has confirmed, as the Pentagon looks to accelerate the fight against the jihadists.

A US-led coalition of warplanes has been striking IS targets in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, and officials have long stated the importance of using cyber techniques such as overloading IS networks to limit the group’s communications and ability to reach potential new recruits.

“We have now begun to use our exquisite cyber capabilities in this fight,” Baghdad-based Major General Peter Gersten told Pentagon reporters.

He did not elaborate, except to say the effort is “highly coordinated” and has been “very effective”.

In February, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and the US military’s top officer General Joe Dunford said the United States was determined to “accelerate” the anti-IS campaign, and indicated cyber warfare would play an increasingly important role in doing so.

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Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said: “We are dropping cyberbombs” on the IS group.

The New York Times said the US Cyber Command had placed “implants” in IS networks that let experts monitor the group’s behaviour.

It said the US hoped to ultimately imitate or alter commanders’ messages so they unwittingly direct fighters to areas likely to be hit by drone or plane strikes.

Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also admitted for the first time that the Australian Government had the ability to launch cyber-attacks, saying “an offensive cyber capability housed in the Australian Signals Directorate provides another option for Government to respond”.

It came as Mr Turnbull confirmed the Bureau of Meteorology had been hacked.

AFP

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Health

Sleeping in on weekends may help live longer

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Sleep deprivation has been found to have numerous negative effects on a person’s health. But the new study has shown that sleeping more on the weekend might help ease health problems associated with not getting enough during the week, and even reduce the risk of an early death.

The study, published in Journal of Sleep Research by scientists from Sweden and the United States, suggested that the negative effects of a few nights of short sleep could be counteracted by staying in bed over the weekend.

The from the Stress Research Institute (SRI) at Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute discovered that people below 65 years old who slept less than five hours on weekends had a higher risk of early death after examining medical and lifestyle data from more than 43,000 adults, following them for a period of 13 years.

For people who slept for less than five hours throughout the week but slept longer on the weekends for about nine hours, there was no increase in mortality risk. But, for people who consistently slept for less than five hours through the whole week, the mortality risk is higher.

Torbjorn Akerstedt, one of the authors of the research and a clinical neuroscience professor from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said that the findings were consistent with previous studies on the link between sleep duration and mortality.

However, those previous studies only focused on sleep during weekdays.

“The results imply that short sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep,” the researchers wrote in the study.

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