Today's news

  • CybersecurityU.S. military bases vulnerable to cyberattacks on their power, utility systems

    U.S. military bases are at risk for cyberattacks against the bases’ power grid and other utility systems, according to a new report on defense infrastructure from the Government Accounting Office. The 72-page GAO document concludes military bases “may be vulnerable to cyber incidents that could degrade operations and negatively impact missions.”

  • CybersecurityShoring up Tor

    By Larry Hardesty

    With 2.5 million daily users, the Tor network is the world’s most popular system for protecting Internet users’ anonymity. For more than a decade, people living under repressive regimes have used Tor to conceal their Web-browsing habits from electronic surveillance, and Web sites hosting content that’s been deemed subversive have used it to hide the locations of their servers. Researchers have now demonstrated a vulnerability in Tor’s design, mounting successful attacks against popular anonymity network — and show how to prevent them.

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  • ChlorineNew guidance on estimating area affected by a chlorine release issued

    Arlington, Virginia-based Chlorine Institute (CI) has issued a new version of Pamphlet 74 - Guidance On Estimating the Area Affected By A Chlorine Release. The new version, Edition 6, dated June 2015, reflects CI’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Security Analysis Center and incorporates information obtained from the DHS “Jack Rabbit I” chlorine release field tests.  

  • FloodsDifferent lessons from past floods

    More and more frequent extreme weather events lead to new projects on risk management and spatial planning. Past experiences represent an added value and suggest the importance of greater involvement of local communities. Luckily, past mistakes can sometimes be useful for present or especially future decisions. This can apply to spatial planning and management in response to natural disasters and extreme weather events.

  • Flood insuranceCommunity-based flood insurance offers benefits, faces challenges

    Community-based flood insurance — a single insurance policy that in theory would cover an entire community — may create new opportunities to reduce flood losses and enhance the likelihood of communities paying more attention to flood risk mitigation, says a new National Academies report. This option for providing flood insurance, however, would not provide the sole solution for all of the nation’s flood insurance challenges.

  • ResilienceMore extreme heat coming to the Southeast

    The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report release the other day by the Risky Business Project. The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected. The dramatic increase in the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will have a deleterious effect on people’s health, agricultural yields.

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  • BiolabsCDC to review oversight of bioterror labs as concerns grow over lax supervision

    Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, has ordered a review of how the agency oversees and implements safety and security measures in bioterror laboratories across the country. Documents obtained through FOIA request show that dozens of labs handling the most dangerous bioterror pathogens have time and again failed to comply with key safety and security measures, but CDC inspectors allowed these labs to operate for years before offering to put them on a “performance improvement” plan. Even when inspectors identified significant violations of safety or security practices in work with “Tier 1” select agents – the deadliest of bioterror weapons — the agency only “strongly recommend[ed]” the labs stop work with the pathogens, but without mandating it.

  • CybersecurityIsrael bolsters cyber defenses to cope with an escalating number of cyberattacks

    In 2013, Israel’s grid was cyberattacked, on average, a few hundred times per hour. Last year the average hourly attacks on Israel’s grid was 20,000.The number of detected cyberattacks on Israel reached two million a day during the war with Hamas last summer. The Israeli government decided there was a need to reorganize and improve the cyberdefense systems protecting Israel’s critical infrastructure.

  • CybersecurityCellphones can steal data from isolated “air-gapped” computers

    Air-gapped computers are isolated — separated both logically and physically from public networks — ostensibly so that they cannot be hacked over the Internet or within company networks. Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center have discovered that virtually any cellphone infected with a malicious code can use GSM phone frequencies to steal critical information from infected “air-gapped” computers.

  • Radiation risksNNSA repatriates radiological material from Mexico

    Several U.S. government agencies and the United Mexican States have successfully completed the repatriation of three irradiators containing U.S.-origin radioactive sources from Mexico. For thirty years, these irradiators played an important role in the eradication of a devastating livestock parasite, the screwworm. The three irradiators contain more than 50,000 curies of cesium-137, a high-activity radioisotope that could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDD).

  • Urban resilienceStrengthening urban infrastructure to withstand extreme weather-related events

    A multi-disciplinary team of about fifty researchers from fifteen universities and other institutions will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years. In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the social, ecological, and technical systems to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies.

  • Coastal resilienceWashington, D.C. sinking fast, compounding threat of sea-level rise

    New research confirms that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking rapidly and projects that Washington, D.C., could drop by six or more inches by the end of this century — adding to the problems of sea-level rise. This falling land will exacerbate the flooding that the nation’s capital faces from rising ocean waters due to a warming climate and melting ice sheets — accelerating the threat to the region’s monuments, roads, wildlife refuges, and military installations. “It’s ironic that the nation’s capital — the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change — is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be in terms of this land subsidence,” says one researcher. “Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter?”

  • WaterIsrael shares its approach, solutions to drought with California

    Israel has developed expertise in coping with droughts, and a delegation from Israeli water companies recently visited California, meeting with state officials and corporations to propose solutions to the drought, now in its fourth year. It was the latest in a series of consultations and symposiums highlighting Israeli water expertise and its potential to help California.

  • SurveillanceNSA to destroy millions of American call records collected under controversial program

    The director of national intelligence said on Monday that the NSA would no longer examine call records collected by the NSA in its controversial bulk collection program before the June reauthorization of the Patriot Act which prohibits such collection. Bulk records are typically kept for five years, but the director said that although the records in the NSA database were collected lawfully, they would not be examined, and would soon be destroyed.

  • Iran dealThe Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “kicks the can down the road”: How to prepare for the day when the can finally lands

    The Institute for Science and International Security has published a series of briefs analyzing different aspects of the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. One brief deals with what the United States and the other world powers need to do now to prepare for what may happen in Iran in ten to fifteen years when many of the limits the agreement imposes on Iran’s nuclear activities will expire. The agreement does not prohibit Iran from building a large uranium enrichment capability and even a reprocessing, or a plutonium separation, capability. The agreement essentially delays the day when Iran reestablishes a nuclear weapons capability and possibly builds nuclear weapons, that is, the agreement essentially “kicks the can down the road.” Prudent planning requires careful efforts now to prepare for the day when the can lands.

  • Iran dealInspection regime in Iran informed by lessons from Iraq experience

    Many critics of the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program are especially concerned with the inspection regime negotiated in Geneva. The initial goal of the world powers was, in President Barack Obama’s words, an “Anywhere, anytime” inspections, but the deal finally reached saw the two sides agree to inspection procedures which fall short of that goal.

  • Earthquake-proofingSafer structures to withstand earthquakes, windstorms

    A new cyberinfrastructure effort funded by a $13.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help engineers build safer structures that can better withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes and windstorms. Researchers aim to build a software platform, data repository, and tools that will help the United States design more resilient buildings, levees, and other public infrastructure that could protect lives, property and communities.

  • Coastal resilienceSea level rise, storm surges increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities

    Scientists investigating the increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts when strong storm surge and high rainfall amounts occur together. While rising sea levels are the main driver for increasing flood risk, storm surges caused by weather patterns that favor high precipitation exacerbates flood potential.

  • Coastal resilienceMangroves help protect coasts against sea level rise

    Mangrove forests could play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise caused by climate change, according to new research. Taking New Zealand mangrove data as the basis of a new modelling system, the researchers were able to predict what will happen to different types of estuaries and river deltas when sea levels rise. They found areas without mangroves are likely to widen from erosion and more water will encroach inwards, whereas mangrove regions prevent this effect - which is likely due to soil building up around their mesh-like roots and acting to reduce energy from waves and tidal currents.

  • WildfiresDrought and climate change fuel high-elevation California fires

    Wildfires in California’s fabled Sierra Nevada mountain range are increasingly burning high-elevation forests, which historically have seldom burned, researchers report. The phenomenon — likely driven by climate change, forest-management practices and other factors — may influence the rate at which forests in this ecosystem are altered by the effects of climate change, the researchers suggest. It also may have implications for how forests are restored after fires.

  • ISISTurkey, U.S. to create “ISIS-free zone” along Syria-Turkey border

    In what should be regarded as a significant victory for Turkey’s approach to the conflict in Syria, Turkey and the United States have agreed on a plan create an “ISIS free” strip inside Syria along the Turkey-Syria border. The deal will see Turkey drawn more deeply into Syria’s civil war and increase the intensity of the U.S. air strikes against ISIS. American officials told the New York Times that the United States would work with Turkey and Syrian rebel fighters to clear a 25-mile-deep strip of land near the border, which would constitute an ISIS-free zone and a safe haven for Syrian refugees.

  • ISISMore evidence emerges of ISIS’s use of chemical weapons

    A joint investigation by two independent organizations has found that ISIS has begun to use weapons filled with chemicals against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS is notorious for its skill in creating and adapting weapons and experts are concerned with the group’s access to chemical agents and its experiments with and the use of these agents as weapons.