Business | Homeland Security Newswire

  • With hacking of U.S. utilities, Russia could move from cyberespionage toward cyberwar

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • 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.

  • Congress 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.”

  • An 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.

  • Fitness app Polar revealed military personnel’s sensitive location data

    The Flow fitness app produced by the Finnish sports activity tracking firm Polar has been found to reveal users’ sensitive location data, according to an investigation by several news organizations. The investigation found that it is possible to use Polar’s Flow app to track down the home addresses of military and intelligence personnel.

  • Novartis drops antibacterial and antiviral development program

    Antibiotic development efforts were dealt a blow Wednesday when drug maker Novartis AG announced its decision to drop its antibacterial and antiviral research programs. The decision means Novartis will no longer be working on several antimicrobial projects currently in development. The decision means that another large pharmaceutical company is getting out of antibiotic development at a time when new antibiotics are desperately needed. AstraZeneca Plc sold its antibiotics unit to Pfizer Inc. in 2016. The last new class of antibiotics was discovered and developed more than thirty years ago.

  • Soligenix receives European, Canadian patents for its ricin toxin vaccine (RiVax) formulation

    Soligenix, Inc., a late-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has received notice of allowance for European and Canadian patent applications further extending protection around ThermoVax  including coverage of the company’s ricin toxin vaccine, RiVax. RiVax potentially would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile and dispensed in the event of a terrorist attack.

  • Private prison companies are influencing immigration policy

    Groundbreaking study finds increased support for punitive immigration legislation in districts with privately owned or managed ICE detention facilities. Researchers explain that in recent years, as overall crime rates have dropped nationwide, more and more private prison companies have turned to a new money-making scheme: Partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to detain immigrants in facilities across the country. The researchers also ask: As the scope of private imprisonment grows, is the industry’s influence on politics growing as well?

  • China cracks Top 20 in Global Innovation Index

    China broke into the world’s Top 20 most-innovative economies as Switzerland retained its No. 1 spot in the Global Innovation Index (GII) ranking published annually by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Rounding out the GII 2018 Top 10, from highest ranking to lowest: the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Singapore, United States, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland.

  • SAFETY Act at 15: 1,000 qualified antiterrorism technologies approved

    For fifteen years now, the S&T Office of SAFETY Act Implementation (OSAI,) under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act, has been approving anti-terrorism technologies for liability protections. It has so far approved more than 1,000 Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technologies.

  • Your smartphone may be spying on you

    Some popular apps on your phone may be secretly taking screenshots of your activity and sending them to third parties, according to a new study. The researchers said this is particularly disturbing because these screenshots—and videos of your activity on the screen—could include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other important personal information.

  • Delivering hate: Amazon's platforms are used to spread white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia

    Amazon has been called the “everything store,” but today it is much more than just a store, with publishing, streaming, and web services businesses. Its reach and influence are unparalleled. A new report examined Amazon’s various platforms and services and found that “for growing racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic movements, the breadth of Amazon’s business combined with its weak and inadequately enforced policies provides a number of channels through which hate groups can generate revenue, propagate their ideas, and grow their movements.”

  • The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” that artificial intelligence could unleash

    Russian disinformation has become a growing problem for Western countries. European nations are finally taking action, which is an important first step, but Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova write “to get ahead of the problem, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect.” Bigger data, better algorithms, and custom hardware promise to democratize the creation of fake print, audio, and video stories. “Deep fakes and the democratization of disinformation will prove challenging for governments and civil society to counter effectively,” Meserole and Alina Polyakova warn.