• Protecting the U.S. electrical grid from cyberattack

    Across the United States, 3,200 separate organizations own and operate electrical infrastructure. The widely dispersed nature of the nation’s electrical grid and associated control systems has a number of advantages, but since the late 1990s, cost pressures have driven the integration of conventional information technologies into these independent industrial control systems, resulting in a grid which is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack, either through direct connection to the Internet or via direct interfaces to utility IT systems. DARPA is soliciting proposal for creating automated systems to restore power within seven days or less after a cyberattack on the grid.

  • Following indictments, China’s military reduces its commercial cybeespionage against American companies

    The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reduced its cyberespionage activity targeting American companies since five PLA officers were indicted by the Department of Justice in May 2014. “The indictments had an amazing effect in China, more than we could have hoped for,” said one expert. In April, Obama signed an executive order calling for impose economic sanctions on individuals and entities that take part in or benefit from illicit cyber-activities such as commercial espionage. “If the indictments had the effect of getting the PLA to scale down, then sanctions likely will have a wider effect on other Chinese state-sponsored groups,” says another expert.

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  • DHS S&T calls on non-traditional performers to offer solutions to tough threats

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced its first Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) aimed at non-traditional performers such as technology start-ups to offer solutions to some of the toughest threats facing DHS and the homeland security mission. Awarded through Other Transaction Solicitation HSHQDC-16-R-B0005, the first call for proposals is looking for solutions to improve situational awareness and security measures for protecting Internet of Things (IoT) domains.

  • Better FEMA options for increasing the affordability of flood insurance

    FEMA currently does not have the policy analysis capacity or necessary data to comprehensively analyze different options for making flood insurance more affordable. A new report identifies an approach for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to evaluate policy options for making premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) more affordable for those who have limited ability to pay.

  • FBI unable to break 109 encrypted messages Texas terror attack suspect sent ahead of attack

    FBI director James Comey told lawmakers this week that one of the suspects in the foiled terror attack in Garland, Texas, in May had exchanged 109 messages with sources in a “terrorist location” overseas ahead of the attack. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, however, have not been able to break into and read those messages because they were exchanged on devices equipped with end-to-end encryption software which, security services in the United States and Europe argue, make it impossible to monitor and track terrorists and criminals.

  • Tijuana airport’s bridge-connected terminals straddle U.S.-Mexico border

    The Tijuana airport is only the second airport in the world straddling an international border, with terminals on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Before the bridge opened, travelers had to drive a rental car or be driven in shuttle buses for about fifteen minutes to a crowded land crossing, where they often had to wait several hours to enter San Diego by car or on foot. On the new airport bridge, it takes passengers five minutes to walk to a U.S. border inspector.

  • It’s time to repeal the gun industry’s exceptional legal immunity

    Coming up with effective and realistic solutions to curb gun violence is not easy. Guns pose a tricky dilemma, because they can be used to do good or bad things. They can be used to commit heinous crimes, but they can be used to protect lives as well. The challenge for lawmakers is to come up with ways to reduce the risk of criminal misuse of guns while preserving and even promoting the likelihood of guns being used in beneficial ways. Ensuring that every firearm manufacturer and dealer operates as safely and responsibly as possible should be one piece of the puzzle. A key way to ensure that gun companies have the right incentives would be to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Enacted in 2005, this federal law gave gun sellers a special immunity from legal responsibilities, which is not enjoyed by any other industry. Gun manufacturers and dealers should not be subject to any extraordinary forms of liability that do not apply to other products. They should not be liable, for example, merely because a firearm is a weapon that is capable of being used to do harm. But if a gun manufacturer or dealer fails to take basic, reasonable precautions in distributing products, it should be held accountable under the law just as an irresponsible company in any other business would be. With the risks of firearms in the wrong hands becoming ever more apparent, Congress should reconsider its regrettable decision to give the gun industry special immunity from legal responsibility.

  • With Diablo Canyon’s future unclear, California’s nuclear age may come to an end

    California’s nuclear power age may be coming to an end, as the company which owns the last operating nuclear power plant in the state said it would seek to extend the aging plant’s operational license. The Diablo Canyon plant faces daunting safety, business, and environmental challenges. Thirty years ago it was seen as key to California’s energy future, but worries about earthquakes, concerns about the environment, and cost-attractive energy alternative make Diablo Canyon’s future bleak.

  • Unmanned Maritime Systems 2015 conference: “Reliability, Economy, Endurance”

    The theme of the Unmanned Maritime Systems 2015 conference, being held 7-9 December 2015 in Arlington, Virginia, is “Reliability, Economy, Endurance: Requirements for Next-Generation Unmanned Surface and Undersea Systems.” The organizers note that there is a growing demand for Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) as today’s geopolitical environment poses a number of unique security challenges in the maritime domain. Advances in power, robotics, computing, sensors, and navigation technologies drive a growing DoD demand for unmanned systems that can provide increased autonomy, persistent resilience, and functionality with decreased risk and expense, showing their value across multiple applications, including otherwise dull, dirty, or dangerous missions.

  • Good apps talking to bad Web sites behind your back

    In one of the first studies to analyze behind-the-scenes behaviors of good applications, researchers conducted a large-scale analysis of URLs embedded in 13,500 free android apps downloaded from Google Play. The apps tested were created by reputable developers and downloaded by many people, among them popular social media, shopping, news and entertainment apps. The researchers found that almost 9 percent of popular apps downloaded from Google Play interact with Web sites that could compromise users’ security and privacy; 15 percent talked to bad Web sites (with intentions that vary from harming devices, stealing confidential data or annoying users with spam); and 73 percent talked to low-reputation Web sites(those receiving a Web of Trust rating lower than 60/100).

  • New cybersecurity legislation would shield companies from public records laws

    A legislation which passed both houses of Congress, but has not yet signed into law by the president, aims to encourage companies and organizations to share with the U.S. government information about cyberattacks and cyberthreats they experience –but critics say there is a catch: the legislation would severely restrict what the public can learn about the program.

  • DHS’ RFP could do away with competition: PSC

    The Professional Services Council (PSC) is concerned that a proposed DHS research and development center could eliminate contractor competition. DHS issued an RFP on 14 September for a contract to operate the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, meant to be a replacement for the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI), which provides independent analysis of policy issues.

  • Tech companies: weakening encryption would only help the bad guys

    Leading technology companies — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Twitter, Facebook, and fifty-six other technology companies — have joined forces to campaign against weakening end-to-end encryption, insisting that any weakening of encryption would be “exploited by the bad guys.” Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook recently asserted that “any backdoor is a backdoor for everyone.”

  • Encryption firm tightens access following Paris attacks

    Encrypted communications specialist Silent Circle, after learning that ISIS was recommending two of the company’s products — the encrypted Blackphone handset and Silent Phone applications for private messaging — to the organization’s followers, is taking steps to make it more difficult for terrorists and their followers to use these products.

  • Telegram IM app recalibrates policies after Paris attacks

    Pavel Durov, the creator of the popular instant messaging app Telegram, has said that following the Paris terrorist attacks, his company has blocked dozens of accounts associated with the jihadist Islamic State group. As is the case with other technology companies, Telegram is trying to negotiate the balance between privacy and security: the same privacy-enhancing technology which keeps customers’ communication private, also helps terrorists communicate with each other and plot attacks safe from monitoring and surveillance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement.