Business

  • U.S. farming sector increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks

    America’s farms and agricultural giants are not exempt from cyberattacks, according to officials who spoke at Thursday’s farm-outlook forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The farming sector is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks as farmers and agribusinesses rely more on data, with satellite-guided tractors and algorithm-driven planting services expanding across the U.S. Farm Belt. For industrial farmers, data breaches and manipulation are especially worrisome, considering that many rely on new farm-management services that collect information on soil content and past crop yields to generate planting recommendations.

  • Listeria pathogen is prevalent, persistent in retail delis: Study

    Research shows that standard cleaning procedures in retail delis may not eradicate Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in people with vulnerable immune systems. A study found that 6.8 percent of samples taken in fifteen delis before daily operation had begun tested positive for L. monocytogenes. In a second sampling phase, 9.5 percent of samples taken in thirty delis during operation over six months tested positive for the bacteria. In twelve delis, the same subtypes of the bacteria cropped up in several of the monthly samplings, which could mean that L. monocytogenes can persist in growth niches over time.

  • Funding water projects in times of financial uncertainty

    Currently, water projects in California are partly funded with municipal bonds, some of which must be approved by voters. A new analysis produced by Stanford University’s Water in the West Program provides a blueprint for overhauling the way California funds water infrastructure and innovation projects. The analysis recommends small per-usage fee — known as a public goods charge (PGC) — as appropriate way to pay for proper management of resources.

  • First known Arabic cyber-espionage group attacking thousands globally: Kaspersky Lab

    The Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team the other day announced the discovery of Desert Falcons, a cyber-espionage group targeting multiple high profile organizations and individuals from Middle Eastern countries. Kaspersky Lab said its experts consider this actor to be the first known Arabic group of cyber mercenaries to develop and run full-scale cyber-espionage operations. In total Kaspersky Lab experts were able to find signs of more than 3,000 victims in 50+ countries, with more than one million files stolen.

  • Calls for improving safety of oil-carrying trains grow in wake of this week’s accidents

    Oil trains transporting crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Canada to refineries in the Northeast have suffered several derailments in the past few years. The U.S.Department of Transportation(DOT) has since urged rail companies to adopt new train cars which could better survive derailments, and to retrofit current cars by 2017. Still, railway safety advocates say companies need to do more to ensure the safety of their tracks and cars. Two separate oil train accidents this week support their concerns.

  • New gear technology makes wave energy more attractive

    Wave energy has been held back in part because of the cost of electricity generation. The amount of steel and concrete needed in order to produce each MWh has simply been too great to make it into a profitable business. In addition, the power of waves presents a problem with reliability, and because waves vary greatly in height and timing, it is difficult to create a conversion system that functions across the full wave spectrum. Swedish researchers have developed a new wave energy system which generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost, when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.

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  • FAA proposes rules for integrating drones into U.S. airspace

    In an effort to integrate UAVs, or drones, into U.S. airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to allow small commercial drones weighing up to fifty-five pounds to fly within sight of their remote pilots during daylight hours, according to the agency’s proposal for governing commercial drone flights. The drones must remain below 500 feet in the air and not exceed 100 mph.Industry advocates warned that drone research could move overseas if the U.S. government fails to quickly accept the widespread use of commercial drones.

  • Obama signs cybersecurity executive order, promotes information-sharing hubs

    President Barack Obama, at last week’s White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, reiterated the need for more companies to collaborate with each other as well as with the federal government to develop cybersecurity solutions that protect consumer privacy while keeping hackers out of network systems.One strategy Obama encouraged in his speech was the creation of information-sharing groups, called hubs, built around vertical industry sectors.

  • Grants competition to improve security, privacy of online identity verification systems

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching a competition for a fourth round of grants to pilot online identity verification systems that help improve the privacy, security, and convenience of online transactions. The pilot grants support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), a White House initiative launched in 2011. NSTIC’s goal is to improve trust online through the creation of a vibrant “Identity Ecosystem,” in which individuals and organizations are able to better trust one another because they follow agreed-upon standards and processes for secure, privacy-enhancing and interoperable identity solutions online.

  • Blocking cash transfers to Somalia may help, rather than hinder, terrorism: Experts

    In an effort to curb the flow of cash to terror networks in Somalia, U.S. treasury officials have pressured banks to cut off money transfers to the country. The move follows growing concerns among U.S. law-enforcement agencies about Somali émigrés with extremist Islamic views supporting Somali-based terror group al-Shabaab. Officials of several humanitarian groups worry that the move may backfire, as some Somalis who can no longer rely on cash transfers from the United States may soon join al-Shabaab or other criminal groups to make ends meet.

  • Improving security monitoring of energy industry networked control systems

    There are a number of useful products on the market for monitoring enterprise networks for possible security events, but they tend to be imperfect fits for the unusual requirements of control system networks. A network monitoring solution that is tailored to the needs of control systems would reduce security blind spots. The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is seeking collaborators on an effort to help energy companies improve the security of the networked technologies they rely upon to control the generation, transmission and distribution of power.

  • CEO responsibilities for data breach

    The job of a chief executive officer (CEO) is becoming more difficult every year. Today, in addition to being strategic visionaries and leaders, most CEOs must deal with complex legal issues surrounding their organizations. More often they are being held personally responsible for mistakes made by their organizations. Security breaches are one of the fastest growing legal issues facing many C-level executives. All C-level executives need to be prepared to handle a potential security crisis with the help of IT, legal, and PR (public relation) teams.Taking rapid countermeasures and openly communicating about breaches are key factors in effectively managing expectations of a company’s shareholders and customers.

  • Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years

    Study warns of unprecedented risk of drought in twenty-first century. Today, eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma. The current drought directly affects more than sixty-four million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions. A new study predicts that during the second half of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.

  • Closing the high seas to fishing would benefit fish stocks without hurting industry

    The world’s high seas should be closed to fishing, argues a new study. The world’s oceans are separated into exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the high seas. EEZs are the coastal areas that are within 200 nautical miles of maritime countries that maintain the rights to the resources in these waters. Less than 1 percent of the global landings come from fish caught only in the high seas. The bulk of the world’s fisheries actually come from fish stocks that straddle both areas.

  • Spotting, neutralizing hackers when they are already inside your systems

    Since the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, the traditional model of cybersecurity has been to build systems and software which could keep hackers out of computers. As hackers continue to tap into complex security systems, however, some cybersecurity experts are advising companies to focus on tricking or neutralizing hackers once they have infiltrated networks, rather than spending money only on trying to keep them out.