• Genoa bridge collapse: the mafia’s role

    Investigations into the collapse of the 51-year old Morandi Bridge in Genoa will look at different possible causes, including wear and tear, heavy traffic, structural flaws and other problems. As the usual political inferno between parties and private firms rages on, the phantom threat of mafia involvement in Italian construction has resurfaced. The region of Liguria sadly scores quite high in the assessments of mafia infiltration. In the area, Calabrian mafia clans of the ‘ndrangheta – Italy’s most powerful mafia today – have heavily invested in the construction sector, in public tenders and in the exploitation of the port of Genoa and the roads to France and to the rest of the Italian north, for the purposes of illegal trafficking.

  • Lawmaker demands answers about Russian cyberattacks on electric utilities

    In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2016 and 2017, hackers backed by the Russian government successfully penetrated the U.S. electric grid through hundreds of power companies and third-party vendors. Russian hackers gained access to control rooms, putting them in a position to disrupt U.S. power flow.

  • Dark shadow on computer security

    Researchers have uncovered Foreshadow, a new variant of the hardware vulnerability Meltdown announced earlier in the year, that can be exploited to bypass Intel Processors’ secure regions to access memory and data. The vulnerability affects Intel’s Software Guard Extension (SGX) technology, a new feature in modern Intel CPUs which allows computers to protect users’ data in a secure ‘fortress’ even if the entire system falls under an attacker’s control.

  • Environmentally friendly farming can increase productivity

    A major new study, measuring a global shift towards more sustainable agricultural systems that provide environmental improvements at the same time as increases in food production, shows that the sustainable intensification of agriculture, a term that was once considered paradoxical, delivers considerable benefits to both farmers and the environment.

  • New first-responder safety, efficiency systems on the way

    Two homeland security technologies will be developed jointly by American and Israeli companies to increase the safety and efficiency of first-responders — law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services —  after getting funding from the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation. The technologies will build advanced technologies for victim location and radio communication.

  • Intel processor vulnerability could expose millions of PCs at risk

    A newly discovered processor vulnerability could potentially put secure information at risk in any Intel-based PC manufactured since 2008. It could affect users who rely on a digital lockbox feature known as Intel Software Guard Extensions, or SGX, as well as those who utilize common cloud-based services, a new report says.

  • Wildfires are inevitable – increasing home losses, fatalities and costs are not

    Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in California are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires. Focusing on traditional approaches like fighting fires and fuels management alone can’t solve the wildfire problem. Instead, California must become better prepared for inevitable fires and change how it develops future communities.

  • Fake news is not just bad news: It is bad for the bottom line, too

    Note to Mark Zuckerberg: Beware of misinformation. Research makes a case that misinformation is a business risk for social media platforms, and proposes informational methods to alleviate the phenomenon of “fake news.” The research also suggests that Facebook users who help expose falsehoods should be compensated.

  • Serious vulnerabilities discovered in WhatsApp, allowing fake attribution, message manipulation

    WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging application, has more than 1.5 billion users with more than one billion groups and 65 billion messages sent every day. With so much chatter, the potential for online scams, unfounded rumors, and fake news is huge. Cybersecurity firm Check Point Research says that it does not help if threat actors have an additional weapon in their arsenal to use the platform for their malicious intentions.

  • Maryland lawmakers question Russian investment in election technology

    Two lawmakers, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking that he instruct the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.(CFIUS), which he chairs, to review a Russian oligarch’s financial stake in ByteGrid, a web hosting company which hosts much of Maryland’s election systems. “ByteGrid hosts Maryland’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, online ballot delivery system, and unofficial election night results website. Access to these systems could provide a foreign person with ties to a foreign government with information that could be used for intelligence or other purposes adverse to U.S. interests,” the two senators write.

  • New laser solution could slow spread of forest fires

    Aggressive wildfires are rampaging through many countries this summer, bringing death and destruction in their wake. In California alone, firefighters are scrambling to control 18 separate blazes. Texas, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, as well as Canada, Greece, India, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. are among other areas battling massive forest fires, a phenomenon experts expect will only increase due to climate change. Israeli company Fighting Treetop Fire is developing a system of removing combustible foliage with algorithm-controlled laser beams controlled via helicopter or truck.

  • Blocked from distributing plans for 3D-printed guns, "crypto-anarchist" is still in the DIY gun business

    Cody Wilson’s group Defense Distributed is known for attempting to upload the digital blueprints for 3D-printed guns. But he also helps customers make unregistered, unserialized conventional firearms, from Glocks to AR-15s.

  • New FDA initiative to reduce overuse of antibiotics in animals met with skepticism

    Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Approximately 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that the agency will soon be implementing a 5-year blueprint to advance antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The FDA wants to further its efforts to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs and combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. Critics charge the new FDA’s initiative is too timid.

  • Facebook IDs new fake influence campaign

    As the U.S. midterm election nears, the Kremlin is intensifying its disinformation and hacking campaign to help bring an outcome in the November election which would be favorable to Russia – as it did in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook on Tuesday announced it has identified a new ongoing political influence campaign and has removed more than thirty fake accounts and pages.

  • Make tech companies liable for "harmful and misleading material" on their platforms

    In a withering report on its 18-month investigation into fake news and the use of data and “dark ads” in elections, the U.K. Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMC) says that Facebook’s egregious indifference to its corporate responsibility has led to a massive failure with far-reaching consequences. The DCMC charges that Facebook “obfuscated”, refused to investigate how its platform was abused by the Russian government until forced by pressure from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. In the most damning section of the report, DCMC offers evidence that Facebook’s indifference aided and abetted the incitement and persecution of the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar, causing large-scale death and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.