Business

  • 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.

  • NSF rapid response research grants to fund study of West Virginia chemical spill

    On 9 January 2014, crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a chemical primarily used to clean coal, leaked from a storage tank near Charleston, West Virginia, and bled into a river upstream of a water-treatment plant. As a result, about 15 percent of the state’s residents were advised not to drink the water. Better to understand the properties of the chemical that contaminated the drinking water, and the plumbing and water-treatment systems surrounding the area, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants to research teams at three universities. These grants also will provide STEM learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students on the research teams.

  • Attack on California power station heightens concerns about grid security

    Security experts are concerned that last year’s unsolved attack on an electrical-power substation in San Jose, California, is but a prologue to similar attacks which, if executed simultaneously and in a coordinated fashion against several such substations, could cripple the U.S. power grid. The transformers at the substation, vital for regional power distribution, were shot at by several gunmen and disabled for twenty-seven days. What is especially worrisome, security exert note, is that the attack appeared to have been carried out by people with some training, although the FBI said the agency does not think it was the act of terrorists.

  • Snowden’ leaks derailed important cybersecurity initiatives

    Edward Snowden’s leaks created such a climate of distrust around the NSA that many important cybersecurity initiatives died, stalled, or became non-starters. Security experts say that this is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and that the result of these stalled cybersecurity initiatives is that the United States is now more vulnerable to cyberattacks on its infrastructure, and government agencies and American corporations more exposed to sensitive information being compromised and stolen. U.S. officials have found it more difficult to respond to cyberattacks from Russia, China, and elsewhere. “All the things [the NSA] wanted to do are now radioactive, even though they were good ideas,” says James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS).

  • FDA says voluntary phasing out of antibiotics in livestock is working

    A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC) says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed eighteen animal drugs to remain on the market despite the agency’s discovery that the drugs posed a high risk of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food supply. The NRDC criticizes the FDA’s voluntary guidelines for antibiotic phase-out, but observers note that beginning in 2001, the FDA began reviewing thirty approved antibiotic-based feed additives, and that only a few – fewer than the eighteen claimed by NRDC – are still in use, and they, too, will soon be relabeled and not allowed for use in livestock.

  • Pace of acquisitions of cybersecurity startups quickens

    With the number and scope of cybersecurity breaches on the rise, cybersecurity startups offering innovative security solutions have become a sought-after target in the merger and acquisition market. These innovative companies are eagerly sought not only for their technologies, but also as an investment vehicle, with the average valuation acquiring companies willing to pay approaching ten times revenue. “To pay ten times on services in the normal world is crazy, in the security world it’s normal,” says an industry insider.

  • Total California water supplies at near-decade low

    Advisory from UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling finds California’s statewide averages of snow, surface water, and soil moisture near 10-year lows. The threat of multi-year period of unsustainable groundwater depletion imminent if drought continues. The data show particularly steep water losses between November 2011 and November 2013, the early phase of the current drought. The researchers estimate that the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins have already lost ten cubic kilometers of fresh water in each of the last two years — equivalent to virtually all of California’s urban and household water use each year.