Business

  • Information assurance specialist licenses ORNL malware detection technology

    Washington, D.C.-based R&K Cyber Solutions LLC (R&K) has licensed Hyperion, a cybersecurity technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly recognize malicious software even if the specific program has not been previously identified as a threat. By computing and analyzing program behaviors associated with harmful intent, Hyperion technology can look inside an executable program to determine the software’s behavior without using its source code or running the program.

  • Improving chemistry teaching throughout North America

    The Dow Chemical Company and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) are partnering to invigorate chemistry education and support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in the nation’s schools. Dow and AACT will work together to convene a series of teacher summits and create more than 750 lesson plans, multimedia resources, demonstrations, and other high-quality chemistry teaching materials for use in K–12 classrooms. The work will be supported by a $1 million contribution from Dow to the AACT spread over a four year period.

  • Kathryn Bigelow and the bogus link between ivory and terrorism

    It is often said that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as true. This has certainly been the case for the link between terrorism and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. As with any illegal activity, it is very difficult to obtain reliable data on the size of the ivory trade, but it is clear that the allegations linking ivory to terrorist groups are exceedingly weak. Those who keep asserting, for example, that Somali terror group al-Shabaab trades in ivory clearly have something to gain from pushing the link between ivory and terrorism beyond the available evidence. However, it is also clear that in the long run it is not only their own credibility that is at risk but that of a whole conservation movement. Conservationists have focused large on messages of doom and gloom that often sound as if holding humanity for ransom if the environmental crisis is not addressed. If we are serious about keeping the public’s trust, we must ensure that we are driven by evidence, not the hype, lest we become the boy who cried wolf.

  • A computer program would track food, ingredients in packaged food, imported into U.S.

    Scientists at University of Minnesota’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense(NCFPD) are developing a computer program called CRISTAL, which could allow the government and private sector to map the supply chain of every product imported into the United States, from mobile phones to car seats to the ingredients in packaged foods. The USDA already monitors some aspects of the nation’s food safety, but DHS is particularly interested in CRISTAL because of increasing terror threats to the nation’s food supply.

  • Challenges for sustainability as many renewable resources max out

    The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped to solve shortages — corn for oil, soy for beef — may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that “renewable” is not synonymous with “unlimited.” The researchers examined renewable resources, such as corn, rice, wheat, or soy, which represent around 45 percent of the global calorie intake. They also reviewed fish, meat, milk, and eggs. The annual growth rate of eighteen of these renewable resources — for example, increase in meat production or fish catch — peaked around 2006.

  • Insurers thankful for reauthorization of TRIA

    President Barack Obama signed in a six year renewal of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) last Tuesday, and workers comp insurers sighed in relief after thirteen days of uncertainty following the expiration of the previous bill at the end of 2014. The insurance marketplace has adopted a “wait and see” approach to TRIA’s expiration, convinced that the negative backlash against Congress for allowing TRIA to expire would have been too great for lawmakers not to renew the law. The industry now goes back to business as usual.

  • If you seek to “switch off” encryption, you may as well switch off the whole Internet

    Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that the U.K. government will look at “switching off” some forms of encryption in order to make society safer from terror attacks. This might make a grand statement but it is impossible to implement and extremely technologically naïve. Encryption is a core part of the Internet; its use is increasing every day — Google’s services, including search and e-mail, use encrypted streams, as do Facebook and Twitter and many other widely used sites. Encryption makes it almost impossible for eavesdroppers to read the contents of the traffic. It is the foundation upon which all e-commerce is based. The technical case for switching off encryption is thus simply a non-starter. In fact we are moving in the opposite direction, replacing the old, open Internet with one that incorporates security by design. If you wish to switch off encryption, it will unpick the stitching that holds the Internet together.

  • Louisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.

  • Speeding up Ebola drug production

    Researchers at the University of California, Davis, will explore ways to speed production of the Ebola drug Zmapp with a $200,000 rapid-response grant from the National Science Foundation. Zmapp is a cocktail of antibodies produced in and extracted from whole tobacco plants. The UC Davis team, including plant scientists, molecular biologists and chemical engineers, will attempt to produce the antibodies from plant cells grown in bioreactors instead of in whole plants.

  • Universities adding cybersecurity programs to their curricula to meet growing demand

    The cyberattacks of recent years have not only increased the demand for employees who understand the field of information assurance and cybersecurity, they have also created a demand in cybersecurity education. Universities across the country are adding cybersecurity concentrations to their curricula to train students who will later help secure network systems.

  • 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.