Business | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Truth decayFake news is not just bad news: It is bad for the bottom line, too

    Note to Mark Zuckerberg: Beware of misinformation. Research makes a case that misinformation is a business risk for social media platforms, and proposes informational methods to alleviate the phenomenon of “fake news.” The research also suggests that Facebook users who help expose falsehoods should be compensated.

  • CybersecuritySerious vulnerabilities discovered in WhatsApp, allowing fake attribution, message manipulation

    WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging application, has more than 1.5 billion users with more than one billion groups and 65 billion messages sent every day. With so much chatter, the potential for online scams, unfounded rumors, and fake news is huge. Cybersecurity firm Check Point Research says that it does not help if threat actors have an additional weapon in their arsenal to use the platform for their malicious intentions.

  • The Russia connectionMaryland lawmakers question Russian investment in election technology

    Two lawmakers, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking that he instruct the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.(CFIUS), which he chairs, to review a Russian oligarch’s financial stake in ByteGrid, a web hosting company which hosts much of Maryland’s election systems. “ByteGrid hosts Maryland’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, online ballot delivery system, and unofficial election night results website. Access to these systems could provide a foreign person with ties to a foreign government with information that could be used for intelligence or other purposes adverse to U.S. interests,” the two senators write.

  • WildfiresNew laser solution could slow spread of forest fires

    By Abigail Klein Leichman

    Aggressive wildfires are rampaging through many countries this summer, bringing death and destruction in their wake. In California alone, firefighters are scrambling to control 18 separate blazes. Texas, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, as well as Canada, Greece, India, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. are among other areas battling massive forest fires, a phenomenon experts expect will only increase due to climate change. Israeli company Fighting Treetop Fire is developing a system of removing combustible foliage with algorithm-controlled laser beams controlled via helicopter or truck.

  • Printable gunsBlocked from distributing plans for 3D-printed guns, "crypto-anarchist" is still in the DIY gun business

    By Matthew Choi

    Cody Wilson’s group Defense Distributed is known for attempting to upload the digital blueprints for 3D-printed guns. But he also helps customers make unregistered, unserialized conventional firearms, from Glocks to AR-15s.

  • SuperbugsNew FDA initiative to reduce overuse of antibiotics in animals met with skepticism

    Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Approximately 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that the agency will soon be implementing a 5-year blueprint to advance antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The FDA wants to further its efforts to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs and combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. Critics charge the new FDA’s initiative is too timid.

  • The Russia connectionFacebook IDs new fake influence campaign

    As the U.S. midterm election nears, the Kremlin is intensifying its disinformation and hacking campaign to help bring an outcome in the November election which would be favorable to Russia – as it did in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook on Tuesday announced it has identified a new ongoing political influence campaign and has removed more than thirty fake accounts and pages.

  • Truth decayMake tech companies liable for "harmful and misleading material" on their platforms

    In a withering report on its 18-month investigation into fake news and the use of data and “dark ads” in elections, the U.K. Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMC) says that Facebook’s egregious indifference to its corporate responsibility has led to a massive failure with far-reaching consequences. The DCMC charges that Facebook “obfuscated”, refused to investigate how its platform was abused by the Russian government until forced by pressure from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. In the most damning section of the report, DCMC offers evidence that Facebook’s indifference aided and abetted the incitement and persecution of the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar, causing large-scale death and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

  • Food securityClimate taxes on agriculture may lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself

    New research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, inclusive policies are necessary instead.

  • Cyberespionage & cyberwarWith hacking of U.S. utilities, Russia could move from cyberespionage toward cyberwar

    By Frank J. Cilluffo and Sharon L. Cardash

    Even before the revelation on 23 July that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer systems of U.S. electric utilities and could have caused blackouts, government agencies and electricity industry leaders were working to protect U.S. customers and society as a whole. These developments highlight an important distinction of conflict in cyberspace: between probing and attacking. The distinction between exploiting weaknesses to gather information – also known as “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” – and using those vulnerabilities to actually do damage is impossibly thin and depends on the intent of the people doing it. Intentions are notoriously difficult to figure out. In global cyberspace they may change depending on world events and international relations. The dangers – to the people of the United States and other countries both allied and opposed – underscore the importance of international agreement on what constitutes an act of war in cyberspace and the need for clear rules of engagement.

  • CybersecurityBetween you, me, and Google: Problems with Gmail's “Confidential Mode”

    By Gennie Gebhart and Cory Doctorow

    With Gmail’s new design rolled out to more and more users, many have had a chance to try out its new “Confidential Mode.” While many of its features sound promising, what “Confidential Mode” provides isn’t confidentiality. At best, the new mode might create expectations that it fails to meet around security and privacy in Gmail.

  • Grid securityRussians hacked into America’s electric grid. Here’s why securing it is hard.

    By Theodore J. Kury

    Hackers taking down the U.S. electricity grid may sound like a plot ripped from a Bruce Willis action movie, but the Department of Homeland Security has recently disclosed new details about the extent to which Russia has infiltrated “critical infrastructure” like American power plants, water facilities and gas pipelines. This hacking is similar to the 2015 and 2016 attacks on Ukraine’s grid. While DHS has raised the number of the Russian utility-hacking incidents it detected from dozens to hundreds, it still maintains that this infiltration has not risen beyond scouting mode. Clearly, there’s no time to waste in shoring up the grid’s security. Yet getting that done is not easy.

  • Guns vs. butter Military spending did not “crowd out” welfare investment in Middle East prior to Arab Spring

    New findings dispute “guns versus butter” narrative as a major factor behind the Arab Spring. Researchers caution against uncritically applying lessons from Western nations to interpret public policy decisions in the Middle East.

  • CybersecurityCongress must adopt stronger safeguards for wireless cybersecurity: Expert

    Thanks to the advent of cell phones, tablets and smart cars, Americans are increasingly reliant on wireless services and products. Yet despite digital technology advancements, security and privacy safeguards for consumers have not kept pace. One expert told lawmakers that Congress should take immediate action to address threats caused by cell-site simulators by “ensuring that, when Congress spends about a billion taxpayer dollars on wireless services and devices each year, it procures services and devices that implement cybersecurity best practices.”

  • Immigration & the economyAn immigrant workforce leads to innovation: Study

    New federal restrictions on the temporary H-1B visa, which allows high-skilled foreign workers to be employed by U.S. companies, have increased debate on the economic impacts of the program, but little is known about its effect on product innovation—until now. New research shows that hiring high-skilled workers from abroad may have a meaningful impact on the birth of new products and phasing out of older ones, with implications on both firm profits and consumer welfare.