Business

  • CybersecurityDraft guide to help energy companies reduce cyber risk

    DHS reported that 5 percent of the cybersecurity incidents its Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team responded to in fiscal year 2014 were tied to weak authentication. Four percent were tied to abuse of access authority. The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is requesting comments on a draft guide to help energy companies better control who has access to their networked resources, including buildings, equipment, information technology, and industrial control systems.

  • Nuclear energyInteractive tool roots discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence

    Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than speculation. Over the last two years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has developed the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Cost Calculator, an online interface that provides a nuanced look at the economic costs of nuclear power. The calculator provides a simple gateway into the physics-laden universe of nuclear economics. A user can slide more than sixty moving scales to tweak inputs like uranium price or reactor construction time, and then watch the expected price shift.

  • Coastal resilienceU.S. coastal flood risk on the rise ten years after Hurricane Katrina

    A decade after Hurricane Katrina caused $41 billion in property and casualty insurance losses, the most expensive catastrophe ever experienced by the global insurance industry, rising sea levels are driving up expected economic and insurance losses from hurricane-driven storm surge in coastal cities across the United States. Rising sea levels contributing to increased risk of severe economic damage from flood following a hurricane – and Miami, New York, and Tampa now face greater risk than New Orleans.

  • AnthraxPfenex awarded contract valued at up to $143.5 million to develop anthrax vaccine

    San Diego, California-based Pfenex Inc. the other day announced it has signed a five year, cost plus fixed fee contract valued at up to $143.5 million with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the advanced development of Px563L, a mutant recombinant protective antigen anthrax vaccine. The company says the U.S. government is looking to have a stockpile of seventy-five million doses.

  • Foreign investor visaEB-5 foreign investor visa program susceptible to fraud, misuse: GAO

    The United States has launched dozens of investigations into fraudulent practices in a program, called EB-5, which grants Green Cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in selected U.S. ventures. A GAO report notes that the program is vulnerable to fraud, because many of the applicants care less about the success of the venture in which they invest and more about getting the Green Card, and can easily afford to lose $500,000 in order to get the card.

  • Unmanned maritime systemsU.S. Navy champions unmanned systems over, on, and under the sea

    The presence of unmanned systems in the maritime military domain is growing, and the U.S. Navy has decided to make several organizational, and conceptual, changes in order to deal with unmanned systems in a more holistic fashion. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier has been named the Navy’s first director of unmanned weapon systems, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in April that he would appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, “so that all aspects of unmanned — in all domains — over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land — will be coordinated and championed.”

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  • Chemical plants safetySodium cyanide stored at explosion site pollutes city’s water

    The Chinese government says that 114 people, most of them firefighters, have been killed and ninety-five still missing after first responders were sent to the Tianjin chemical plant to fight large fires which broke out after a powerful explosion at the plant last Wednesday. Chinese officials say they found 700 tons of sodium cyanide at two locations at the site. Chinese public health officials said on Monday that the health risks of last week’s explosion are spreading, reporting that alarming levels of sodium cyanide have been found at wastewater monitoring stations in and around the city of Tianjin.

  • Emergency communicationDHS S&T licenses innovative communication technology to commercial partners

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced that it has licensed the Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) to two commercial partners. RIC-M, used by local, state, and federal responders, is a low-cost, external, stand-alone, interface device that connects radio frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles and other RF equipment — regardless of brand — over the Internet or Private Internet Protocol (IP) network.

  • AgroterrorismAgroterrorism a serious risk to Americans, U.S. economy: Experts

    The word “terrorism” is typically associated with bomb and bullets, but security experts say that there are other types of terrorism which may bring death and disruption, chief among them is agroterrorism. Agroterrorism is the use of animal or plant pathogens to disrupt a nation’s food supply, or use the food supply to spread deadly disease.In 2004, Tommy Thompson, then secretary of Health and Human Services, said that, “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”

  • CybersecurityNew analysis method discovers eleven security flaws in popular Internet browsers

    Georgia Tech researchers developed a new cyber security analysis method which discovered eleven previously unknown Internet browser security flaws, and were honored with the Internet Defense Prize, an award offered by Facebook in partnership with USENIX, at the 24th USENIX Security Symposium. Their research explores vulnerabilities in C++ programs (such as Chrome and Firefox) which result from “bad casting” or “type confusion.” Bad casting enables an attacker to corrupt the memory in a browser so that it follows a malicious logic instead of proper instructions.

  • PreparednessWorries about megaquake benefit preparedness, retrofitting businesses in Pacific Northwest

    The sale of emergency preparedness kits has been booming in the Northwest of the United States, as more press stories have highlighted the growing confidence of scientists that the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a megaquake. Stores that sell a few preparedness kits a month, and which typically cater to survivalists, see a dramatic increase in business, as do businesses which retrofit houses to make them more quake-resilient.

  • SurveillanceBill requiring Internet companies to report “terrorist activity” opposed by digital rights groups

    A coalition of digital rights groups and trade associations last week released a joint letter opposing a proposal in the Senate to require U.S. tech firms to police the speech of their users and to report any signs of apparent “terrorist activity” to law enforcement. The letter says that this sweeping mandate covers an undefined category of activities and communications and would likely lead to significant over-reporting by communication service providers. The letter urged senators to remove the “terrorist activity” reporting requirements from the Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 1705).

  • PrivacyWindows 10 is not really free: you are paying for it with your privacy

    By David Glance

    Windows 10, it seems, is proving a hit with both the public and the technology press after its release last week. After two days, it had been installed on sixty-seven million PCs. For those concerned about privacy, it is the very fact that the upgrade is free that has them concerned that Microsoft has adopted a new, “freemium” model for making money from its operating system. Microsoft is employing a unique “advertising ID” that is assigned to a user when Windows 10 is installed. This is used to target personalized ads at the user. There are steps users can take to mitigate the worst of the privacy issues with Windows 10, and these are highly recommended. Microsoft should have allowed users to pay a regular fee for the product in exchange for a guarantee of the levels of privacy its users deserve.

  • ImmigrationU.K. needs more “constructive” thinking on migrant welfare benefits

    As the British political debate continues on whether the British government should try to impose a four-year ban on EU migrant citizens claiming in-work benefits, a new Oxford University study argues that rather than pursuing treaty change, more constructive thinking could ease the financial burden on British taxpayers. The study author says one solution could be to set up an EU fund for helping local authorities most affected by immigration. He also highlights the relatively lax access to NHS services that EU citizens enjoy in Britain compared with other EU member states.

  • ImmigrationDHS asks judge to cancel contempt hearing over immigration executive order

    When President Barack Obama last year issued his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, applicants covered by the order received a three-year work permit, or EADs (Employment Authorization Documents). On 16 February 2015, Brownsville, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen temporarily blocked Obama’s immigration action. After the temporary injunction was in place, the federal government mistakenly issued the approximately 2,500 three-year permits. On Friday, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson asked Judge Hanen not to find him and other Obama administration officials in contempt, telling the judge that DHS had recovered all but 22 of the 2,500 offending permits. Johnson also advised the judge that DHS had corrected federal computer databases to invalidate those permits not turned over by their owners.