Business

  • Chemical facilitiesChinese ownership of a methanol plant worries Louisiana parish residents

    Roughly 150 petrochemical companies and seventeen refineries operate in a zone between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area locals call “Cancer Alley” due to the health concerns that have arisen during the past few decades of industrialization. Residents of St. James Parish have voiced their opposition to a proposed methanol plant in the parish. The plant will be operated by Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a subsidiary of Chinese natural gas giant Shandong Yuhuang. Recently, Shandong Yuhuang, parent company of the proposed plant in St. James, has received bad press in China for reportedly neglecting environmental laws, including releasing toxic emissions in the city of Heze, which environmentalists have connected to rising cancer rates and contaminated water.

  • PrivacyIndividuals face privacy hurdles, pitfalls while navigating in the information age

    We leave a trail of data, both knowingly and unwittingly, with every swipe of a credit card, post on social media and query on a search engine. Researchers detail the privacy hurdles people face while navigating in the information age, and what should be done about privacy at a policy level. The researchers call for policies that seek to balance power between individuals and data holders.

  • CybersecurityPatriot Act’s reauthorization an obstacle for cyber information sharing bill

    Recent cyber hacking incidents have persuaded lawmakers to pass a cyber information sharing bill which will help protect U.S. private sector networks. Business groups and federal intelligence agencies insist that information exchange is critical to protecting the nation’s cyber infrastructure. One of the hurdles to passing such a bill is that by 1 June, Congress must reauthorize sections of the Patriot Act which are the basis for the NSA’s most controversial surveillance programs. Many lawmakers consider NSA reform to be essential before they can support the White House’s cybersecurity proposal, which would allow cyber information sharing between the public and private sector.

  • Terrorism & social mediaEuropean govts. urge U.S. tech companies to remove terrorist-related postings from sites

    The terror attacks in Paris have led French and German authorities to call on U.S. tech firms to help identify terrorist communications and remove hate speech from social media sites. The United Kingdom has also, for several months now, pressed Internet firms to be proactive in removing extremist content such as videos of sermons by radical Islamic preachers or recruitment material, from their sites. These recent requests for more cooperation between U.S. tech firms and European governments contrast with calls from many of the same governments who, following the Edward Snowden leaks, criticized U.S. tech firms for being too close to law enforcement agencies.

  • CybersecurityU.S.-U.K. cyber war games to test the two countries’ cyber resilience

    American and British security agencies have agreed to a new round of joint cyber “war games” to test each country’s cyber resilience. The move comes after a year of high profile cyberattacks against the U.S. private sector and after warnings from the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters that computer networks of British firms face daily attacks by hackers, criminal gangs, competitors, and foreign intelligence services.

  • Digital Security // By Todd Sexton8 Tips to prevent data breaches

    Securing electronic messages should be one of the top IT priorities for organizations in 2015. The process should not be overly complex or expensive, but it does require proper planning and regular revisions. While there is no such thing as a 100 percent breach-proof security system, the majority of attacks can easily be prevented by following the simple steps outlined in this article.

  • SurveillanceFormer head of MI6 calls for new surveillance pact between governments and ISPs

    The former head of British intelligence agency MI6, Sir John Sawers, has called for a new surveillance pact between Internet companies and U.S. and U.K. security services. Both groups could work together as they had in the past to prevent a repeat of terror events such as the recent Paris attacks, he said. American and British law enforcement and intelligence agencies are urging major Internet companies to provide backdoors or access to encrypted e-mails and other forms of Web communications. “I think one benefit of the last eighteen months’ debate [since Snowden’s leaks were made public] is that people now understand that is simply not possible [to keep the public secure without surveillance] and there has to be some form of ability to cover communications that are made through modern technology,” Sawers said.

  • CybersecurityMandatory cybersecurity regulations necessary to protect U.S. infrastructure: Experts

    Since last year’s cyberattacks made public the cyber vulnerabilities of major U.S. firms including Sony Entertainment, JPMorgan Chase, and Target, President Barack Obama has been on the offensive, proposing strict rules better to prosecute hackers and make U.S. firms responsible for protecting consumer information. Experts say, though, that private firms are unlikely, on their own, to make the necessary financial investment to protect against a critical infrastructure cyberattack. What is needed, these experts say, is a mandatory cybersecurity framework followed by all entities involved with critical infrastructure, strong protection of information regarding cyberattacks shared with DHS, and a sincere effort from the private sector to secure their own networks.

  • CybersecurityInformation assurance specialist licenses ORNL malware detection technology

    Washington, D.C.-based R&K Cyber Solutions LLC (R&K) has licensed Hyperion, a cybersecurity technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly recognize malicious software even if the specific program has not been previously identified as a threat. By computing and analyzing program behaviors associated with harmful intent, Hyperion technology can look inside an executable program to determine the software’s behavior without using its source code or running the program.

  • STEM educationImproving chemistry teaching throughout North America

    The Dow Chemical Company and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) are partnering to invigorate chemistry education and support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in the nation’s schools. Dow and AACT will work together to convene a series of teacher summits and create more than 750 lesson plans, multimedia resources, demonstrations, and other high-quality chemistry teaching materials for use in K–12 classrooms. The work will be supported by a $1 million contribution from Dow to the AACT spread over a four year period.

  • African securityKathryn Bigelow and the bogus link between ivory and terrorism

    By Diogo Veríssimo

    It is often said that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as true. This has certainly been the case for the link between terrorism and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. As with any illegal activity, it is very difficult to obtain reliable data on the size of the ivory trade, but it is clear that the allegations linking ivory to terrorist groups are exceedingly weak. Those who keep asserting, for example, that Somali terror group al-Shabaab trades in ivory clearly have something to gain from pushing the link between ivory and terrorism beyond the available evidence. However, it is also clear that in the long run it is not only their own credibility that is at risk but that of a whole conservation movement. Conservationists have focused large on messages of doom and gloom that often sound as if holding humanity for ransom if the environmental crisis is not addressed. If we are serious about keeping the public’s trust, we must ensure that we are driven by evidence, not the hype, lest we become the boy who cried wolf.

  • Food safetyA computer program would track food, ingredients in packaged food, imported into U.S.

    Scientists at University of Minnesota’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense(NCFPD) are developing a computer program called CRISTAL, which could allow the government and private sector to map the supply chain of every product imported into the United States, from mobile phones to car seats to the ingredients in packaged foods. The USDA already monitors some aspects of the nation’s food safety, but DHS is particularly interested in CRISTAL because of increasing terror threats to the nation’s food supply.

  • ResourcesChallenges for sustainability as many renewable resources max out

    The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped to solve shortages — corn for oil, soy for beef — may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that “renewable” is not synonymous with “unlimited.” The researchers examined renewable resources, such as corn, rice, wheat, or soy, which represent around 45 percent of the global calorie intake. They also reviewed fish, meat, milk, and eggs. The annual growth rate of eighteen of these renewable resources — for example, increase in meat production or fish catch — peaked around 2006.

  • Terrorism insuranceInsurers thankful for reauthorization of TRIA

    President Barack Obama signed in a six year renewal of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) last Tuesday, and workers comp insurers sighed in relief after thirteen days of uncertainty following the expiration of the previous bill at the end of 2014. The insurance marketplace has adopted a “wait and see” approach to TRIA’s expiration, convinced that the negative backlash against Congress for allowing TRIA to expire would have been too great for lawmakers not to renew the law. The industry now goes back to business as usual.

  • EncryptionIf you seek to “switch off” encryption, you may as well switch off the whole Internet

    By Bill Buchanan

    Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that the U.K. government will look at “switching off” some forms of encryption in order to make society safer from terror attacks. This might make a grand statement but it is impossible to implement and extremely technologically naïve. Encryption is a core part of the Internet; its use is increasing every day — Google’s services, including search and e-mail, use encrypted streams, as do Facebook and Twitter and many other widely used sites. Encryption makes it almost impossible for eavesdroppers to read the contents of the traffic. It is the foundation upon which all e-commerce is based. The technical case for switching off encryption is thus simply a non-starter. In fact we are moving in the opposite direction, replacing the old, open Internet with one that incorporates security by design. If you wish to switch off encryption, it will unpick the stitching that holds the Internet together.