• 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.

  • Court recognizes first amendment right to anonymity even after speakers lose lawsuits

    Anonymous online speakers may be able to keep their identities secret even after they lose lawsuits brought against them, a federal appellate court ruled last week. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Signature Management Team, LLC v. John Doe is a victory for online speakers because it recognized that the First Amendment’s protections for anonymous speech do not end once a party suing the anonymous speaker prevails. The ruling, however, is not all good news for anonymous speech. The test announced by the court sets unmasking as the default rule post-judgment, placing the burden on the anonymous party to argue against unmasking.

  • Federal agencies complete second phase of Kaspersky product removal

    The U.S. federal government has completed the first two phases of a three-part plan to remove all Kaspersky Lab’s products from government computer systems. The U.S. intelligence community said that the Russian cybersecurity company’s anti-virus software was used to collect sensitive information from the systems on which it was installed, and deliver that information to Russia’s intelligence agencies.

  • Economic damage of carbon emissions costlier than earlier thought

    The data used to calculate the damage that an additional ton of carbon dioxide has on the global economy has long relied on outdated science. Recent updates modeled raise the calculations of those costs significantly and change the outlook on climate change from a positive for agriculture to a negative. When the most recent science is brought to bear, one of the major models used to calculate the social cost of carbon (SCC) moves the figure to $19.70, an increase of 129 percent.

  • An armed robber’s Supreme Court case could affect all Americans’ digital privacy for decades to come

    A man named Timothy Carpenter planned and participated in several armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio between 2010 and 2012. He was caught, convicted and sentenced to 116 years in federal prison. His appeal, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on 29 November, will shape the life of every American for years to come – no matter which way it’s decided. The FBI found Timothy Carpenter because one of his accomplices told them about him. I believe the FBI could have obtained a search warrant to track Carpenter, if agents had applied for one. Instead, federal agents got cellphone location data not just for Carpenter, but for fifteen other people, most of whom were not charged with any crime. One of them could be you, and you’d likely never know it. The more people rely on external devices whose basic functions record and transmit important data about their lives, the more critical it becomes for everyone to have real protection for their private data stored on and communicated by these devices.

  • Antivirus but not anti-spy

    The late senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin (he died in 1989) made a name for himself for his Golden Fleece Awards — awards given each year to the most wasteful U.S. government programs. Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), continuing in Proxmire’s tradition, has just released the third volume of his annual of his Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball. One of the U.S. federal government’s major fumbles has been the way it has dealt with Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. The U.S. intelligence community has long suspected that Kaspersky Lab was using its popular antivirus software – used not only by individuals and corporations, but also by U.S. government agencies – to collect sensitive information from the computer systems on which the software was installed, and deliver that information to the GRU and the FSB, the KGB’s successor agency.

  • Risk management strategies to help communities deal with earthquakes

    As much as humanity tries, the attempt to avoid natural disasters sometimes seems almost futile. Be it a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or wildfire, everyone, at some point, will likely be affected by the results of a natural disaster. But the task of the people in each instance of a disaster is to return to a sense of normalcy, to get back to living life as closely to how they had lived before the natural disaster occurred. To do that means dependency on the infrastructure of their community, where the resumption of interrupted electrical power or the water supply is crucial to the recovery efforts. How quickly communities are able to become operational is directly proportional to the strength of the infrastructure in that community and the efficiency of the risk management plan in place designed to deal with such disasters.

  • Inaction on climate change has “jeopardized human life”: Report

    A major new report into climate change shows that the human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and that the delayed response to climate change over the past twenty-five years has jeopardized human life and livelihoods. The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible – affecting the health of populations around the world today.

  • Uber admitted to covering up massive data breach

    Uber chief executive posted a message on the company’s blog, admitting that an October 2016 cyberattack allowed the hackers to collect personal information like names, driver license numbers, email addresses, phone numbers and more on 57 million Uber users and drivers around the world, including 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S. The company paid the ransom the hackers demanded; asked them to sign a nondisclosure agreement and keep quiet about the breach; and then dressed up the breach as a “bug bounty,” the practice of paying hackers to test the strength of software security.

  • Russia has been cyber-attacking “U.K. media, telecommunications, and energy sectors”: U.K. cybersecurity chief

    Ciaran Martin, CEO of the U.K. National Cyber Security Center (NCSC): “I can confirm that Russian interference, seen by the National Cyber Security Center, has included attacks on the U.K. media, telecommunications and energy sectors. That is clearly a cause for concern — Russia is seeking to undermine the international system.”

  • Restoring wireless communications to Puerto Rico and remote, disaster-struck areas

    According to a Federal Communications Commission status report issued last week following a survey of Hurricane Maria damage, nearly 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites remain out of service, with many counties operating at less than 25 percent of full service. Daniel Bliss, director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architectures (WISCA) at Arizona State University, offers insights about building a wireless infrastructure with the capacity to provide immediate, ongoing communications access during emergency situations.

  • Russia has been cyber-attacking “U.K. media, telecommunications, and energy sectors”: U.K. cybersecurity chief

    Ciaran Martin, CEO of the U.K. National Cyber Security Center (NCSC): “I can confirm that Russian interference, seen by the National Cyber Security Center, has included attacks on the U.K. media, telecommunications and energy sectors. That is clearly a cause for concern — Russia is seeking to undermine the international system.”

  • Extremist content and Russian disinformation online: Working with tech to find solutions

    “It’s been more than a year since my colleagues and I described in writing how the Russian disinformation system attacked our American democracy. We’ve all learned considerably more since then about the Kremlin’s campaigns, witnessed their move to France and Germany and now watch as the world worst regimes duplicate their methods. Yet our country remains stalled in observation, halted by deliberation and with each day more divided by manipulative forces coming from afar. The U.S. government, social media companies, and democracies around the world don’t have any more time to wait. In conclusion, civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

  • Improving sensor accuracy to prevent overload of the electrical grid

    Electrical physicists from Czech Technical University have provided additional evidence that new current sensors introduce errors when assessing current through iron conductors. It’s crucial to correct this flaw in the new sensors so that operators of the electrical grid can correctly respond to threats to the system. The researchers show how a difference in a conductor’s magnetic permeability, the degree of material’s magnetization response in a magnetic field, affects the precision of new sensors.