Business

  • If you seek to “switch off” encryption, you may as well switch off the whole Internet

    By Bill Buchanan

    Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that the U.K. government will look at “switching off” some forms of encryption in order to make society safer from terror attacks. This might make a grand statement but it is impossible to implement and extremely technologically naïve. Encryption is a core part of the Internet; its use is increasing every day — Google’s services, including search and e-mail, use encrypted streams, as do Facebook and Twitter and many other widely used sites. Encryption makes it almost impossible for eavesdroppers to read the contents of the traffic. It is the foundation upon which all e-commerce is based. The technical case for switching off encryption is thus simply a non-starter. In fact we are moving in the opposite direction, replacing the old, open Internet with one that incorporates security by design. If you wish to switch off encryption, it will unpick the stitching that holds the Internet together.

  • Louisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.

  • Speeding up Ebola drug production

    Researchers at the University of California, Davis, will explore ways to speed production of the Ebola drug Zmapp with a $200,000 rapid-response grant from the National Science Foundation. Zmapp is a cocktail of antibodies produced in and extracted from whole tobacco plants. The UC Davis team, including plant scientists, molecular biologists and chemical engineers, will attempt to produce the antibodies from plant cells grown in bioreactors instead of in whole plants.

  • Universities adding cybersecurity programs to their curricula to meet growing demand

    The cyberattacks of recent years have not only increased the demand for employees who understand the field of information assurance and cybersecurity, they have also created a demand in cybersecurity education. Universities across the country are adding cybersecurity concentrations to their curricula to train students who will later help secure network systems.

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  • China’s water stress to worsen with transfer initiatives

    New research paints a grim picture for the future of China’s water supply, as its booming economy continues to heap pressure on its natural resources. The study determined that water stress is only partially mitigated by China’s current two-pronged approach: physical water transfers to water-depleted regions, including the major South-North water transfer projects, or the “virtual” water embodied in traded products between regions and countries.

  • Businesses welcome TRIA extension, but small insurers worry about reimbursements

    Last week, the property insurance, real estate, and financial services industries applauded Congress for passing the recent version of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law. TRIA has already been extended twice and the most recent version of the bill will, beginning in 2016, raise the federal coverage backstop from $100 million to $200 million by 2020 with an increase of $20 million per year. S&P welcomed the passing of TRIA through both houses of Congress, but cautioned that the bill could hurt small insurers. The company is concerned that small insurers may not see any TRIA reimbursements with the doubling of the federal coverage backstop to $200 million.

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  • Scientists try to find cause of early January Texas quakes

    A scientific team is adding twenty-two seismographs to an area in northern Texas after thirteen small earthquakes rattled the region on 1 January and on throughout the week. Despite the ongoing concern and the search for the cause of the tremors, the research team reassured residents that those worried about lots of little events leading to a bigger one can probably rest easy. “There are no large active faults in Texas, just smaller-type faults,” said geophysicist John Bellini. “Because of that, it’s not likely that Texas would have a large earthquake.

  • When the camera lies: our surveillance society needs a dose of integrity to be reliable

    By Joshua Gans and Steve Mann

    Being watched is part of life today. Our governments and industry leaders hide their cameras inside domes of wine-dark opacity so we can’t see which way the camera is looking, or even if there is a camera in the dome at all. They’re shrouded in secrecy. But who is watching them and ensuring the data they collect as evidence against us is reliable? Surveillance evidence is increasingly being used in legal proceedings, but the surveillants – law enforcement, shop-keepers with a camera in their shops, people with smartphones, etc. — have control over their recordings, and if these are the only ones, the one-sided curation of the evidence undermines their integrity. There is thus a need to resolve the lack of integrity in our surveillance society. There are many paths to doing this, all of which lead to other options and issues that need to be considered. But unless we start establishing principles on these matters, we will be perpetuating a lack of integrity regarding surveillance technologies and their uses.

  • Cybercrime imposing growing costs on global economy

    A new report has found that the cost of cybercrime to the global community and infrastructure is not only incredibly high, but steadily rising as well. The study concluded that up to $575 billion a year — larger than some countries’ economies — is lost due to these incidents. The emergence of the largely unregulated, and unprotected, Internet of Things will make matters only worse.

  • Medical devices, not only medical records, are vulnerable to hackers

    Health organizations have spent millions of dollars to protect hospital computer systems and software from malware, but hospitals today are increasingly equipped with many medical devices linked to Wi-Fi, making the devices a portal to hospital room operations. Infusion pumps deliver measured doses of nutrients or medications such as insulin or other hormones, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and pain relievers into a patient’s body. Although it has yet to happen, it is quite possible for a hacker to infiltrate an active infusion pump on a hospital’s Wi-Fi and change the dosage. Hackers can also use the pump’s network access to inject malware in the hospital’s network systems, giving them entry to patients’ medical records. The records can then be sold to identity thieves.

  • DHS releases the wrong FOIA-requested documents, exposing infrastructure vulnerabilities

    On 3 July 2014, DHS, responding to a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) request on Operation Aurora, a malware attack on Google, instead released more than 800 pages of documents related to the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratoryto show the cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. power and water systems, including electrical generators and water pumps. The research project found that once these infrastructure systems are infiltrated, a cyberattack can remotely control key circuit breakers, thereby throwing a machine’s rotating parts out of synchronization and causing parts of the system to break down.

  • Agroterrorism is a major threat to America: Experts

    The economic effects of a successful attack on the U.S. food supply would be devastating, as agriculture accounts for roughly 13 percent of the country’s gross annual domestic product. An introduction of deadly pathogens into U.S. livestock, poultry, or crops would not only result in a disease outbreak, but would disrupt the global food industry and drive up food prices. Agroterrorism is not limited to the intentional introduction of harmful pathogens into U.S. farms and livestock. Terrorists can also cyberattack industrial agriculture systems responsible for operating feeding machines, maintaining milk temperatures, and processing foods.

  • HarperCollins: Israel yok!

    HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has just published the glossy Collins Middle East Atlas, which, the publisher says, was designed for use in Middle Eastern schools. The publisher describes the book as “an ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers,” which “enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps.” There was only one problem: Israel was omitted from the map of the Middle East: A map of the area shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean, with Gaza and the West Bank both labeled, but Israel does not appear. “Way to go Collins!” wrote one reviewer. “While we’re at it, let’s delete Sweden from the map of Europe, Venezuela from the map of South America, and Russia entirely. In fact, let’s all design our own maps of the world and leave out all the countries we don’t particularly care for.” Retreating in the face of a wave scathing criticism, HarperCollins said it would withdraw the book from the market and pulp it.

  • Bolstering cybersecurity by taking a step back in time to analog security systems

    Richard Danzig, the vice chairman for the RAND Corporation and a former secretary of the navy, is saying it is timeto take a step back in time and incorporate analog security systems into cyber infrastructure. “Merge your system with something that is analog, physical, or human so that if the system is subverted digitally it has a second barrier to go through,” he said. “If I really care about something then I want something that is not just a digital input but a human or secondary consideration,” he says.

  • FBI, DHS study threats against news organizations covering “The Interview” incident

    Last week, the FBI and DHS issued a joint intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the country urging them to remain vigilant, citing a series of threats against movie theaters that show “The Interview” and news organizations that continue to cover the incident between Sony Entertainmentand Guardians of Peace, the hacking group allegedly backed by North Korea. A Tennessee man has since emerged saying he issued the threat against the news organizations and that he was just “messing around,” but the FBI is trying to determine whether the threat to news organizations was indeed a hoax.