Business

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

  • Public safety networkPublic safety network failed to involve important constituencies in development phase

    A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority(FirstNet), an agency tasked with creating a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and emergency response officials. Currently, the nation’s 5.4 million first responders rely on commercial carriers to communicate and share critical information during emergencies. Analysts say that a failure to incorporate the public safety sector into the development phase of FirstNet set the new agency on a wrong path since its early days. The failure by FirstNet to involve its most important constituency — emergency responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and police officers – raises questions about the likely effectiveness of the network.

  • PrivacySocial media firms pledging to keep users anonymous still collect users’ information

    Social media firm Whisperprides itself on offering anonymity in a market where the biggest players are often considered too transparent. Its co-founder, Michael Heyward, a tech entrepreneur, describes the company as “the first completely anonymous social network,” an alternative to Facebookand Twitter. It now emerges that Whisper’s back-end systems that retain digital libraries of texts and photographs sent by users, and in some cases the location information of users.

  • China syndromeSale of NYC historic Waldorf Astoria hotel to Chinese firm worries U.S. security officials

    Citing an espionage risk, U.S. officials are expressing concern over the sale of the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City to a Chinese insurance company. The Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group purchased the property from Hilton Worldwide on 6 October for $1.95 billion. One clause in the sale contract, referring to “a major renovation,” has raised eye brows in Western security services. Specifically, they worry that renovations and modifications to the structure could accommodate Chinese eavesdropping and cyber espionage equipment.

  • EbolaU.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

  • Cyber insuranceSurge in cyberattacks drives growth in cybersecurity insurance

    More than 3,000 American businesses were hacked in 2013, many of them small and mid-size firms without cybersecurity insurance. That surge in cyberattacks has led to a growing cybersecurity industry, with firms offering products and solutions to secure network systems. Insurance companies are also claiming their stake in the booming industry. Today, roughly fifty U.S. companies offer cybersecurity insurance. American businesses will spend up to $2 billion on cyber-insurance premiums this year, a 67 percent increase from the $1.2 billion spent in 2013.

  • SimulationU.S., U.K. war-game failure of too-big-to-fail banks

    On Monday U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew, his British counterpart Chancellor George Osborne, along with the heads of both countries’ central banks, participated in a simulation to test the actions that would follow should a major transatlantic bank went under. The scenario allows U.S. and British authorities to “make sure we can handle an institution that was previously regarded as too big to fail,” according to Osborne. War games have long been used to build trust and co-operation among allies and adversaries.

  • Infrastructure protectionBay Area’s infrastructure more resilient, but a major tremor would paralyze region’s economy

    Twenty-five years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area suffered the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed sixty-three people, injured 3,700, destroyed 366 businesses and 11,000 homes, and caused $6 billion in property damage. Since then, bridges and roads have been rebuilt to withstand more powerful quakes, but seismic safety experts say more could be done to protect property and human life. A major earthquake is not likely completely to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge or other major infrastructure developments, but the Bay Area’s $535 billion a year economy will come to a halt for months and even years due to weakened critical infrastructure.

  • WaterSimulations reveal California’s resilience to extreme droughts

    The results from a series of several-year-old computer simulations reveal that the state of California may be more resilient to long-term drought conditions than previously believed. “The results were surprising,” said one of the scientists involved in the study. “California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective.”

  • CybersecurityU.S. should emulate allies in pushing for public-private cybersecurity collaboration

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month the formation of a national cyber defense authority to defend civilian networks under the leadership of the Israel National Cyber Bureau.The “U.S. government has a lot to learn from successful examples in allied nations. With more compromise and reform, there is plenty of reason for hope,” says a cybersecurity expert, adding that “a cybersecurity partnership between government, business, and individuals built on trust is possible, and would promote more resilient networks as well as creative thinking on cybersecurity.”

  • HazmatDebate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • Preparation businessDisaster preparation business booms

    Concerns about future manmade and natural disasters are driving the U.S. market for survival kits. Across the country, families are developing disaster plans, and some are even loading up on food and supplies to help them live through a biological attack, a catastrophic earthquake, or a pandemic flu. More and more businesses are targeting preppers, — people who actively prepare for a doomsday scenario.

  • Oil spillsReliance on BP, feeble regulations make U.S. partially culpable in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    A recent ruling by a federal judge that BP was “grossly negligent” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico placed the majority of blame on the multinational oil and gas company. Although not on trial in this case, the federal government was also culpable in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, according to a new paper. Based on reports from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the Chief Council’s Report and other government documents, the report’s authors determined that the government’s reliance on market-based accountability mechanisms and its failure to implement a regulatory process based on a mutually agreed upon set of robust standards and voluntary information disclosure led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

  • ContractorsBackground-checks company lays off 2,500 after losing government contracts

    USISof Falls Church, Virginia has laid off more than 2,500 employees after it lost contracts with the Office of Personnel Management(OPM) and DHS. Until recently, USIS performed many of the background checks for federal security clearances, but after the firm suffered a cyberattack in August, OPM decided not to renew two major contracts which expired on 30 September 2014.