Business

  • Experts call for a new organization to oversee grid’s cybersecurity

    In 2013, U.S. critical infrastructure companies reported about 260 cyberattacks on their facilities to the federal government. Of these attacks, 59 percent occurred in the energy sector. A new report proposes that energy companies should create an industry-led organization to deflect cyber threats to the electric grid. Modeled after the nuclear industry’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the proposed organization, to be called the Institute for Electric Grid Cybersecurity, would oversee all the energy industry players that could compromise the electric grid if they came under a cyberattack.

  • Operator set to close three Illinois nuclear power plants

    Abundant natural gas and growing reliance on solar and wind energy have been steadily eroding the profit margins of nuclear energy. Last year operators have shut down four nuclear plants in the United States last year. Exelon Corporation, which operates six nuclear plants in Illinois, has notified Illinois state regulators that legislative actions may be necessary to keep half of its Illinois nuclear plants from closing, since current market forces make it impossible to continue the operation of the plants profitably.

  • What use are apps when your web infrastructure is underwater?

    This winter has seen unprecedented high winds and flooding resulting in widespread and in some cases, long-lasting power outages in the United Kingdom, particularly in the west of England. Time and time again, companies have advised their customers to go online to check their Web sites for the latest information. Some organizations have even created apps specifically designed to assist flood victims; others have established Facebook self-help groups. There is a fundamental problem here: There are two primary ways in which we gain access to the Web, via a landline and using a mobile connection. Within our homes the landline connects to a wireless router and also, for a lot of homes, a cordless telephone, both of which need electrical power to work. So, when the lights go out, your router and cordless phones are useless. The result is that at times of crisis, the customers in most need are often the ones with no access.

  • NIST’s voluntary cybersecurity framework may be regarded as de facto mandatory

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) voluntary cybersecurity frameworkissued in February establishes best practices for companies that support critical infrastructure such as banking and energy. Experts now warn that recommendations included in the framework may be used by courts, regulators, and even consumers to hold institutions accountable for failures that could have been prevented if the cybersecurity framework had been fully implemented by the respective institution.

  • Employees exposed to radiation at nuclear waste disposal site

    Thirteen employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP),a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico, have been exposed to  radioactive radiation after a leak in one of WIPP’s underground tunnels. Energy Department officials say it is too soon to determine the scope of health risks the employees will deal with. The employees inhaled plutonium and americium, both of which can irradiate the body’s internal organs with subatomic particles for a lifetime.

  • DHS drops plans for national license-plate database

    DHS has recalled its solicitation for bids by private companies to help the department create a national license-plate database which would allow unlimited access to information obtained from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers (LPRs). DHS wanted to use the database to track fugitive undocumented immigrants and others sought by law enforcement, but the database, which could have contained more than one billion records, raised privacy concerns and questions about the safeguards which would be used to protect innocent citizens.

  • Operator of Hanford nuclear disposal site fires scientists who voice safety concerns

    The Hanford project in Washington State is the Department of Energy’s (DoE) largest nuclear cleanup project. DoE plans to transform fifty-six million gallons of radioactive sludge, currently stored in underground tanks, into solid glass. Scientists and engineers who work at Hanford have questioned the effectiveness of the required technology, and have voiced serious concerns about safety issues. Two of those who were the most persistent in voicing their concerns about safety have been fired, and a third one has left his job voluntarily.

  • CounterTack, developer of an end-point threat detection solution, closes out Series B funding at $15 million

    CounterTack, a developer of real-time endpoint threat detection solutions, has closed out its Series B financing round with an additional $3 million to complete a $15 million raised. With this extension, the Venture Capital unit of Siemens (SFS VC) joins CounterTack investors including Goldman Sachs, Fairhaven Capital, and a group of private financiers to fund an accelerated technology expansion and market delivery of CounterTack’s Sentinel platform.

  • CloudLock, a cloud security specialist, raises $16.5 million Series C round

    CloudLock, a cloud security specialist, has raised $16.5 million in a Series C funding round from new investor Bessemer Venture Partners, and participation of existing investors Cedar Fund and Ascent Venture Partners. The company says that 2013 saw continuing growth in adoption by cloud-bound organizations of the company’s people-centric security automation approach, with a pure SaaS content-aware and policy-based solution, by companies in different verticals, across multiple cloud platforms like Google Apps and Salesforce.

  • Protecting the grid from geomagnetic storms

    A geomagnetic storm disrupts the Earth’s magnetic field by producing geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) on the Earth’s surface, which can enter the power grid at transformer stations and move along power lines, disrupting normal operations. A geomagnetic storm would reach Earth between fourteen and ninety-six hours, leaving little time to safeguard critical infrastructure. U.S. regulators are drafting reliability standards and procedures to protect the U.S. power grid from such storms.

  • Countering counterfeit electronic components

    Used and non-authentic counterfeit electronic components are widespread throughout the defense supply chain; over the past two years alone, more than one million suspect parts have been associated with known supply chain compromises. In the military, a malfunction of a single part could lead to system failures that can put soldier lives and missions at risk. A new DARPA program seeks tool that authenticates electronic components at any step of the supply chain.

  • Cost of plutonium disposal facility skyrockets

    The Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, being built to help dispose of cold war-era weapon-grade plutonium, would cost up to $30 billion in addition to the $4 billion spent on construction so far. The staggering cost overruns have led many to call for a new, less expensive solution. Matthew Bunn, a former Clinton White House official who helped develop the plutonium disposal program, agrees that the cost of the MOX factory is excessive. “The things we’re trying to accomplish aren’t worth that amount of money,” he said.

  • Damage to coastal infrastructure from storm surges, floods may reach 9% of global GDP

    Damage to the world’s coastal infrastructure as a result of flooding, sea level rise, and coastline development is expected to cost as much as 9 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS).

  • Improving livestock diets to bolster food security, combat climate change

    Livestock production is responsible for 12 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from land use change and deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture, as well as methane released by the animals themselves, with a lesser amount coming from manure management and feed production. A new study shows that within the current systems, farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems — where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher quality feed — rather than in pure grass-based systems. This development, would lead to a 23 percent reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy.

  • Facebook-WhatsApp deal raises security concerns

    Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp made headlines for its sheer size — $4 billion in cash and $15 in Facebook stock, for a total of about $19 billion – but security experts are worried about the security aspects of the deal. Even security specialists advising WhatApp’s customers not to panic about the deal, use language which is not exactly reassuring. Serge Malenkovich of Kaspersky Labs says: “There are no new [emphasis in original] reasons to worry about messaging privacy. Honestly speaking, WhatsApp was never meant to be a true confidential messaging tool; there were even multiple breaches in the past, including some attacks, which make eavesdropping possible.”