• The Brandeis program: Harnessing technology to ensure online privacy

    In a seminal 1890 article in the Harvard Law Review, Louis Brandeis developed the concept of the “right to privacy.” DARPA the other day announced the Brandeis program – a project aiming to research and develop tools for online privacy, one of the most vexing problems facing the connected world as devices and data proliferate beyond a capacity to be managed responsibly.

  • Crude-oil train accidents endanger 1.5 million Pennsylvania residents

    About 1.5 million people living in Pennsylvania are in danger if a crude-oil train derails and catches fire, according to an analysis which looked at populations living or working within a half-mile on each side of rail lines where trains haul more than one million gallons of Bakken crude oil at a time. A half-mile is the federal evacuation zone recommended when a crude oil tank car catches fire. Within that evacuation zone are 327 K-12 schools, thirty-seven hospitals, and sixty-one nursing homes in Pennsylvania.

  • Biometric security could do away with passwords

    With hackers and cyber thieves running rampant online, efforts to create stronger online identity protection are leading major tech firms to invest in biometric security methods. Analysts predict that 15 percent of mobile devices will be accessed with biometrics in 2015, and the number will grow to 50 percent by 2020.

  • Lockheed Martin recognized for supporting young girls’ STEM education

    Over the next eight years there will be more jobs available in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) than any other occupation. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recently presented Lockheed Martin with its first “Invaluable” award for championing education programs that inspire the next generation of women engineers and technologists. Since 2010, Lockheed Martin has given more than $45 million to programs that promote STEM education.

  • Derailments, ruptures of new crude-oil tank cars raise safety concerns

    Following a series of crude-oil train derailments in 2013 and early 2014, the Transportation Department proposed new rules for tank cars carrying crude. The rules suggest three main options for tank cars: railroads would use the improved CPC-1232 tank cars, develop stronger cars, or retrofit existing cars. Critics of the rail industry’s growing volume of crude-oil shipments note that four recent oil train derailments relied on CPC-1232 cars, therefore improvements to crude by rail shipments must extend beyond new tank cars.

  • Hackers exploit 1990s-era weak-encryption mandate

    Researchers have an old-new computer security vulnerability — the Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys (FREAK), which affects SSL/TLS protocols used to encrypt data as it is transmitted over the Internet. The FREAK vulnerability goes back to an early 1990s U.S. restriction which limited software sold abroad to a maximum 512-bit code encryption. The mandate was set to allow U.S. federal intelligence agencies easily to spy on foreign software users.

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  • Cyber researchers need to predict, not merely respond to, cyberattacks: U.S. intelligence

    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence wants cybersecurity researchers to predict cyberattacks rather than just respond to them, according to the agency’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program. Current cyber defense methods such as signature-based detection “haven’t adequately enabled cybersecurity practitioners to get ahead of these threats,” said Robert Rahmer, who leads IARPA’s Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment (CAUSE) program. “So this has led to an industry that’s really invested heavily in analyzing the effects or symptoms of cyberattacks instead of analyzing [and] mitigating the cause.”

  • Aviation industry under-prepared to deal with cyber risk: Expert

    The aviation industry is behind the curve in terms of its response and readiness to the insidious threat posed by cyber criminality whether from criminals, terrorists, nation states, or hackers, according to Peter Armstrong, head of Cyber Strategy for Willis Group Holdings, the global risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker. Armstrong explained that the aviation industry’s under-preparedness is noteworthy in a sector that abhors uncertainty and works tirelessly to eradicate it.

  • Agriculture groups say bill would disrupt farming operations, decrease food production

    The Legal Workforce Act(LWAH.R. 1147), introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee, could disrupt farming operations if it passes Congress. LWA requires employers in the United States, within three years, to use E-Verifyto verify whether employees are legally allowed to work in the country. Ag industry groups say that passing LWA without some sort of immigration reform for agricultural workers could lead to a $30 billion to $60 billion decrease in food production. The ag industry also notes that each of the two million hired farm employees supports two to three fulltime American jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail, and other sectors.

  • North Korea’s cyber warriors target Western critical infrastructure

    North Korea has a team of roughly 3,000 cyber soldiers dedicated to launching attacks at Western interests in the private and government sector, according to Kim Heung-gwang, a former professor at North Korea’s Hamhung University of Computer Technology, a key military training facility. Heung-gwang, urging Western governments to do more to counter North Korean hacking, said the country’s hackers are targeting Western nuclear power plants, transportation networks, and electrical utilities.

  • U.S. cracks down on “birth tourism”

    Each year, thousands of wealthy couples, mostly from China, the Middle East, Africa, and South Korea partake in what authorities have coined “birth tourism,” in which pregnant women pay to visit the United States and give birth, thereby making their child or children U.S. citizens. In most cases, the parents would also gain permanent U.S. resident status. Roughly 40,000 babies are born each year to women visiting the United States for the sole purpose of giving birth.

  • Philadelphia terror charges highlight mall kiosks security issues

    The arrest last week of Abror Habibov on terrorism finance charges has brought new scrutiny to the oversight and security of mall kiosk businesses. Habibov ran a series of largely unlicensed mall kiosks along the East Coast, where his employees sold kitchen wares and repaired cell phones. He was arrested after being caught organizing support with two other individuals for ISIS operations in Syria. Security analysts say that the qualities which make these small businesses attractive to their owners — low overhead, short-term leases, and low site maintenance — may also serve as an ideal cover for employing members of terrorist groups.

  • Distributed future: Local electricity could meet half of U.K. power needs by 2050

    Research conducted by nine leading U.K. universities has found that up to 50 percent of electricity demand in the United Kingdom could be met by distributed and low carbon sources by 2050. The research assesses the technological feasibility of a move from the current traditional business models of the Big Six energy providers to a model where greater ownership is met by the civic energy sector. It also goes further by questioning what types of governance, ownership and control a distributed future would need.

  • Government’s authority to protect consumer privacy questioned

    A case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuitin Philadelphia could determine what authority the federal government has in protecting consumer privacy on the Internet. Hotel giant Wyndham Worldwide Corp. argued in court that the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) unlawfully tried to enforce cybersecurity standards when the agency brought a case against Wyndham after hackers allegedly stole data from hundreds of thousands of customer accounts in a series of attacks between April 2008 and January 2010.

  • Funding extended for simulated nuclear reactor project

    Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling, and simulation (M&S) technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property. CASL is a U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Innovation Hub established in 2010 to develop advanced M&S capabilities that serve as a virtual version of existing, operating nuclear reactors. As announced by DOE in January, the hub would receive up to $121.5 million over five years, subject to congressional appropriations.