• Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters on the rise

    from 1980 to 2017, the United States has sustained 218 weather and climate disasters in which overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2017). The total cost of these 218 events exceeds $1.2 trillion. This total does not yet include the costs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Between 1 January and 6 October 2017, there have been fifteen weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. The 1980–2016 annual average pf weather events with losses exceeding $1 billion each is 5.5 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2012–2016) is 10.6 events (CPI-adjusted).

  • Hackers can guess your phone PIN using its sensor data

    Instruments in smart phones such as the accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensors represent a potential security vulnerability, according to researchers. Using a combination of information gathered from six different sensors found in smart phones and state-of-the-art machine learning and deep learning algorithms, the researchers succeeded in unlocking Android smart phones with a 99.5 per cent accuracy within only three tries, when tackling a phone that had one of the 50 most common PIN numbers

  • Alaskan microgrids offer energy resilience, independence

    The electrical grid in the contiguous United States is a behemoth of interconnected systems. If one section fails or is sabotaged, millions of citizens could be without power. Remote villages in Alaska provide an example of how safeguards could build resilience into a larger electrical grid. These communities rely on microgrids — small, local power stations that operate autonomously.

  • New technique could help coal plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions

    Carbon capture could help the nation’s coal plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet economic challenges are part of the reason the technology isn’t widely used today. That could change if power plants could turn captured carbon into a usable product.

  • Kaspersky Lab appeals DHS debarment

    Kaspersky Lab yesterday announced that it is seeking an appeal in federal court of U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision on Binding Operational Directive 17-01 banning the use of the company’s products in federal agencies. The company cites reputational and revenue impact of a Binding Operational Directive based on media reports, rumor, and unsubstantiated allegations.

  • “Cyberbiosecurity” and the protection of the life sciences

    Biology and biotechnology have entered a digital age, but security policies around such activities have not kept pace. New research outlines how the evolving nature of biotechnology should sound alarm bells for new ways to keep life sciences assets safe. This could be from accidental cyber-physical breaches, or more nefarious threats.

  • Geologists report new findings about Kansas, Oklahoma earthquakes

    In the more than three decades between 1977 and 2012, only 15 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater were recorded in the entire state of Kansas. Since 2012 more than 100 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater have been recorded in only two counties in the state, Sumner and Harper. These include the largest earthquake ever monitored in Kansas in November 2014, a magnitude 4.9 event near the Sumner County town of Milan. The frequency of earthquakes has continued to increase. Between May 2015 and July 2017, sensors detected more than 2,400 earthquakes in Sumner County alone, ranging in magnitude from 0.4 to 3.6. As concern rises about earthquakes induced by human activity like oil exploration, geologists report a new understanding about recent earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

  • “Watershed attack:” Hackers deploy new ICS attack framework, disrupting critical infrastructure

    Hackers working for a nation-state recently invaded the safety system of a critical infrastructure facility in what cyber experts call “a watershed attack” that halted plant operations. Cybersecurity firm FireEye disclosed the incident on Thursday, saying it targeted Triconex industrial safety technology from Schneider Electric SE. Schneider confirmed that the incident had occurred and that it had issued a security alert to users of Triconex, which cyber experts said is widely used in the energy industry, including at nuclear facilities, and oil and gas plants. FireEye and Schneider declined to identify the victim, industry or location of the attack.

  • The border fence looms over these Texans. Should the government pay them?

    Long before President Donald Trump promised to build a wall, Homeland Security used its powers of eminent domain to seize hundreds of acres of land in south Texas to construct a border fence. Under the law, if the government takes or damages your property, it’s supposed to pay to make you whole again. In Texas, the agency has paid $18 million to landholders over the last decade. But scores of Texas landowners who have lived in the shadow of the border fence for years were never compensated for any damage to their property values.

  • DNA has gone digital – what could possibly go wrong?

    Biology is becoming increasingly digitized. Researchers like us use computers to analyze DNA, operate lab equipment and store genetic information. But new capabilities also mean new risks – and biologists remain largely unaware of the potential vulnerabilities that come with digitizing biotechnology. In 2010, a nuclear plant in Iran experienced mysterious equipment failures which paralyzed Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Months later, a security firm was called in to troubleshoot an apparently unrelated problem, and found a malicious computer virus called Stuxnet, which was telling uranium-enrichment centrifuges to vibrate. Stuxnet demonstrated that cybersecurity breaches can cause physical damages. What if those damages had biological consequences? Could bioterrorists target government laboratories studying infectious diseases? What about pharmaceutical companies producing lifesaving drugs? As life scientists become more reliant on digital workflows, the chances are likely rising. The emerging field of cyberbiosecurity explores the whole new category of risks that come with the increased use of computers in the life sciences.

  • Lawmakers request additional documents from DHS re: Kaspersky investigation

    U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter Tuesday to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting documents and information related to the DHS directive to all government agencies to identify and remove Kaspersky Lab software from their computer systems.

  • Israeli walk-and-fly Rooster robot aids disaster relief

    RoboTiCan’s Rooster robot can help reach injured victims of natural disasters where it is not safe to send a human rescue worker. Rooster got its name from the fowl’s preference for walking but being able to fly when necessary, Ofir Bustan, RoboTiCan’s COO, said. “Most of the time it walks, but when it runs into an obstacle, it can hover and fly.” That makes Rooster different from most other search-and-rescue robots, which can either walk or fly but not both – meaning they can get stuck or are too high above the ground to search effectively for survivors.

  • Germany considering requiring home, car alarm systems to be equipped with back doors

    The German government will next week discuss sweeping new surveillance powers aimed to improve public safety. The proposal to be discussed would require operators of car and house alarm systems to help police and security services in their efforts to spy on potential terrorists or criminals.

  • U.K. government agencies told to remove Kaspersky software from their systems

    In another example of a Western government taking decisive action to limit the ability of Russian government hackers to steal sensitive information, The U.K. cyber security agency on Friday has advised U.K. government agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab’s products from their systems.

  • The Gene Drive Files: Who is in charge of bioengineering research?

    Synthetic biology, also called “gene drives” or “bioengineering” – a field that uses technologies to modify or create organisms or biological components – can be used to benefit mankind, but may also be used by terrorists and nation-states to develop design pathogens which could be unleased to kill tens of millions of people. Critics of gene drives are alarmed by the fact that the U.S. military has been the main funder of synthetic biology research in the United States. Given the possible security vulnerabilities related to gene drives developments, a new report by the National Academies of Sciences proposes a framework to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern associated with the field. “While biotechnology is being pursued primarily for beneficial and legitimate purposes, there are potential uses that are detrimental to humans, other species, and ecosystems,” says one of the report’s authors. A nonprofit monitoring synthetic biology research releases new documents ahead of a key UN scientific conference on bioengineering.