Business

  • Israeli defense company launches cybersecurity solutions section

    In recent months the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has increased its cyberdefense-related activities. Esti Peshin, director of the company’s cyber section and a veteran of the IDF’s hush-hush sigint Unit 8200, says IAI is now developing solutions for clients in Israel and abroad. “We’re a start-up, but with the backing of a company that earns $3.5 billion a year,” she said. Ultimately, she implied, these defensive measures can be turned into offensive capabilities. “Intelligence is a subset of attack,” Peshin said. “This is, first of all, a national mission.”

  • Research on bacteria-invading virus to help the agriculture community

    Innovative work by two Florida State University scientists shows the structural and DNA breakdown of a bacteria-invading virus. This type of virus is called a bacteriophage, and the deconstruction of its DNA could be particularly useful for the agriculture community and seed companies. Important crop plants depend on biological nitrogen fixation by the bacteria which is preyed upon by this phage. Nitrogen fixation is the process by which abundant nitrogen gas in the atmosphere is converted to the scarce soil resources ammonia and nitrate.

  • Micro-windmills to recharge cell phones, used for home energy generation

    Researchers have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging, and home energy generation where large windmills are not preferred. The device is about 1.8 mm at its widest point. A single grain of rice could hold about ten of these tiny windmills. Hundreds of the windmills could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone.

  • Old-fashioned way to protect high-voltage substations

    There are about 45,000 substations in the United States, but far fewer high-voltage substations like the one attacked last April in Metcalf. California. Americans could see what the loss of just one important power substation can have when, in 2003, a failure in one such substation knocked out power to fifty million people in the United States and Canada for days. Illinois-based IDT says that since Biblical times, the method of thick-walled fortifications to halt manned and artillery attacks remains the best technology for protecting lives and important assets. The company says that its METALITH, a several-feet-thick prefabricated steel barrier structure filled with sand, would offer the best protection to vulnerable power substations. “While most of the electrical industry has been focused on the threat of cyber-terrorism, the San Jose [Metcalf is near San Jose] attack points to the need for physical protection of strategic power grid assets as well,” says Tom Carlton, IDT’s CEO.

  • FAA vetoes Valentine flower-delivery drone

    Detroit-area florist Flower Delivery Express wanted to use drones to deliver flowers to customers on Valentine Day. The FAA rejected the request, dryly noting that “A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.” The florist is not giving up yet, cryptically saying it is testing “other guarded secret methods” for flower delivery.

  • W.Va. spill leads lawmakers, industry to look at reforming toxic substances law

    The government was slow to respond to the 9 January 2014 massive chemical spill in West Virginia because the law governing such response, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), limits regulatory agencies’ authority to investigate such spills.Under TSCA, the EPA must first prove that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk to health or the environment before it can require the needed testing that would show a potential risk. One observer called this a Catch-22, telling a congressional panel that “This is like requiring a doctor to prove that a patient has cancer before being able to order a biopsy.”

  • U.S. takes action against tank car loaders for mislabeling hazardous cargo

    One of the charges against Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMAR), the rail carrier operating the train which exploded in the small city of Lac- Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013, was that it mislabeled the cargo, claiming it to be less hazardous than it was. The mislabeling and downgrading of the contents of the cars allowed to company to take less rigorous security measures to secure the cars without appearing to break the law. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving against other carriers who mislabel the contents of their cargo to avoid the cost of required security measures.

  • Unmanned aerial logistics system to bypass ground-based threats, challenges

    Rugged terrain and threats such as ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can make ground-based transportation to and from the front lines a dangerous challenge. Combat outposts require on average 100,000 pounds of material a week, and high elevation and impassable mountain roads often restrict access. Unmanned aerial logistics system would bypass ground-based threats and enable faster, more effective delivery of cargo and other essential services in hard-to-reach areas.

  • The “Mask": Kaspersky Lab discovers advanced global cyber-espionage operation

    Kaspersky Lab’s security researchers have announced the discovery of the Mask (aka Careto), an advanced Spanish-language speaking threat actor that has been involved in global cyber-espionage operations since at least 2007. What makes the Mask special is the complexity of the toolset used by the attackers. This includes a sophisticated malware, a rootkit, a bootkit, Mac OS X and Linux versions, and possibly versions for Android and iOS (iPad/iPhone). The primary targets are government institutions, diplomatic offices and embassies, energy, oil, and gas companies, research organizations and activists. Victims of this targeted attack have been found in thirty-one countries around the world.

  • Real-time livestock disease situational awareness

    Veterinarians are the U.A. first responders for animal health, acting as the primary line of defense against animal disease outbreaks and are essential to the protection of our animal industries and economy. Researchers at the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD Center) are working with veterinarians, federal and state animal health officials, and industry partners to improve real-time situational awareness of animal diseases.

  • Former FERC chair calls for mandatory security standards for high-voltage substations

    Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC), is leading a crusade to improve physical security around the nation’s electrical grid. Following a 16 April 2013 sniper attack on a San Jose, California substation he is urging Congress to give federal agencies the authority to demand improved security around electrical substations. “This isn’t about this substation or this organized attack,” Wellinghoff said of the California incident. “This is more about the larger issue of physical security of these high-voltage substations nationwide and the need to ensure that some defensive measures start to be put in place.”

  • Wal-Mart effect: Decline in crime rates slower where Wal-Mart builds

    Communities across the United States experienced an unprecedented decline in crime in the 1990s. For counties where Wal-Mart built stores, however, the decline was not nearly as dramatic. A new study examines crime rate in 3,109 U.S. counties in the 1990s, a time of dynamic growth and expansion for Wal-Mart and falling crime rates nationally. During that decade, Wal-Mart expanded in 767 of those counties. The researchers show that Wal-Mart tended to expand in counties with higher than average crime rates, and with numerous crime-related predicators, such as poverty, unemployment, immigration, population structure, and residential turnover. The researchers speculate that much of this relationship occurred because Wal-Mart finds better success building in communities that are less likely to protest the company’s arrival.

  • Security of dirty bomb materials in U.S. inadequate: experts

    There are more than 5,000 medical and research devices in the United States containing high-activity radiation sources, including 700 with category-1 sources. Category-1 radiation material could be used by terrorists in dirty bombs. The security measures developed by the industry were written with accident prevention in mind, not in order to thwart a deliberate, forcible effort by terrorists or criminals to gain control of the toxic material. In addition, radioactive materials were considered to be “self-protecting,” because it was assumed that the powerful radiation would deter anyone thinking of tampering with these devices. Terrorist bomb-makers, however, showed themselves to be more technologically-savvy than earlier thought, and, in any event, suicide bombers would not be deterred by the risk of radiation poisoning.

  • Lawmakers want mandatory security standards for national grid

    Lawmakers have urged the imposition of federal security standards on grid operator in order to protect the U.S. national electric grid from attack. The new push follows stories, first reported in the Wall Street Journal reported last Wednesday, about a 16 April 2013sniper attack which disabled seventeen transformer in a San Jose, California substation for twenty-seven days, causing about $16 million in damage. Federal cybersecurity standards for protecting the grid are in place and mandated, but rules for protecting physical sites such as transformers and substations are voluntary.

  • HHS to fund development of drug for bioterrorism, antimicrobial-resistant infections

    HHS says that a public-private is partnership will advance the development of Carbavance, a new option to treat bioterrorism threats and antibiotic-resistant infections. The two bioterrorism Carbavance will address are melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, and glanders. Both melioidosis and glanders can become resistant to existing antibiotics. Already, with existing antibiotic treatments, approximately 40 percent of people who become ill from these bacteria die from the illness, and up to 90 percent die if not treated.