Business

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • Study: Disparities seen in immigrant application results

    Immigrants to the United States with job offers often apply for work authorization. But immigrants from Latin America are less likely to have those requests granted than are immigrants from other regions. A new study shows that over a recent period of more than three years, the U.S. federal government approved about 91 percent of labor certification applications from Asian immigrants and 90 percent from Canadian immigrants, but just 67 percent of applications from Latin American immigrants. The study controls for variations in the offered salaries and job titles; characteristics of the firms making the offers; and the visa histories of the immigrants in question.

  • 2014: The year of security breach awareness

    2014 will be seen as the “Year of the Breach,” or at the least, the “Year of Raised Awareness of Breaches,” according to observers of IT security trends over the course of the year. The legal repercussions for hackers are small, and usually non-existent, but the cost in damage to the victims of hacking can be huge. A survey by the Ponemon Institute revealed that in 2014, the average cost of a cyberattack was $20.8 million for a company in the financial services sector, and $8.6 million for a retail store — costs which ultimately affect the public at large.

  • U.S. seen losing its share of world’s highly skilled migrants

    The United States has always been known as a nation of immigrants and a top destination for scientists and other highly skilled professionals. That ability to attract the world’s most educated and innovative people to its shores has often been credited with powering the U.S. economy. Strikingly, a new study of worldwide migration patterns suggests the United States is losing its reputation as a mecca for professionals as its global share of the most highly educated migrants declines. The result raises the question of whether the country can remain competitive in attracting top talent in an increasingly globalized economy.

  • Miami Beach pushing beachfront development -- collecting storm-water fees to fight sea-level rise

    City planners and real estate developers in Miami Beach are fight the threat of climate change by continuing to encourage the development of new beachfront properties, including hotels and residential condos. Revenue from real estate taxes and fees will fund a $300 million storm-water project. Florida has no income tax, and much of South Florida’s public infrastructure projects are supported by property taxes. By 2020, Miami Beach will have built eighty new storm pumps which will collect and remove up to 14,000 gallons of seawater per minute back into Biscayne Bay.