Business

  • Utilities increasingly aware of grid vulnerability

    An analysis by the federal government shows that if only nine of the country’s 55,000 electrical substations were shut down due to mechanical failure or malicious attack, the nation would experience coast-to-coast blackout. Another report finds cybersecurity as one of the top five concerns for U.S. electric utilities in 2014. The report also found that 32 percent of the surveyed electric utilities had deployed security systems with the “proper segmentation, monitoring and redundancies” needed for adequate cyber protection.

  • Harris protests FBI’s Motorola radio upgrade contract

    The Harris Corp. has become the second contractor, afterRELM Wireless Corp., formally to protest the FBI’s decision to award a $500 million non-bid contract to Motorola Solutions Inc., claiming the contract to upgrade the FBI’s 30-year-old two-way radio network was “factually unsound, legally unwarranted and wholly unnecessary.”

  • Home Depot faces lawsuit over Joplin, Missouri tornado deaths

    Home Depot is being sued in a wrongful death lawsuit by a woman who lost her husband and two children during a 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Edie Housel is contending that Home Depot is responsible for the death of her family due to the improper construction of the Home Depot store in which the three — along with five other people — were killed.

  • FDA authorizes use of unapproved Ebola virus test

    As Ebola continues to spread throughout West Africa, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has authorized the use of an unapproved Ebola virus test developed by the Department of Defensefor use in individuals, including U.S. military personnel and responders, who may be at risk of infection because of their work with individuals who might have the virus.The Test-tube diagnostic test is one of the Pentagon’s investment in developing a vaccine or cure for Ebola.

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  • Philadelphia refines area 911 call locator technology

    In the Philadelphia area and around much of the country, emergency services and first responders are looking to retool the ways in which cell phone locator technology could allow them to aid individuals, and they are calling for the further cooperation of cell phone providers and the government alike. “If you don’t know where the guy is, you can’t help him,” said Edwin Truitt, the Delaware County [Pennsylvania] Emergency Services director.

  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Luminex’s diagnostics tool used in Africa to help control Ebola outbreak

    Luminex said the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Diagnostics Division is working on rapid diagnostics for the Ebola virus using Luminex xMAP Technology. Luminex’s MAGPIX system was recently deployed to Africa to support research efforts to control the current outbreak.

  • U.S. to impose stricter safety rules on crude oil rail shipment

    The U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) recently announced proposed rulesbetter to secure train cars and pipelines from oil spills that may lead to fire or accidents in communities across the country. The spills are byproducts of the increase in U.S. oil production and shipments coming from Canada or the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. The proposed DOT rules would force railroads to upgrade railroad cars used for transporting crude oil, employ better braking systems, and enforce tighter speed controls.

  • Assessing flood risk in a changing climate

    Growing consensus on climate and land use change means that it is reasonable to assume, at the very least, that flood levels in a region may change. In an argument grounded in an analysis of the inherent limitations of statistical analyses, the authors of a new study suggest that researchers’ typical starting assumption that flood behavior is not changing — even in the face of suspected trends in extreme events and knowledge of how difficult such trends are to detect — causes water managers to undervalue flood protection benefits, opening the door to unnecessary losses down the line.

  • Tech firm creates software pairing response systems with open data

    A new application, called Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard (DAAD), harnesses emergency response data in real-time and across multiple departments and agencies. DAAD will function as a central hub for information in the event of a disaster — using more than 100 different interfaces that upload data. Additionally, the hub will work in accordance with all manner of local government organizations such as fire stations, police stations and hospitals to further create a larger picture during the actual moments of an emergency.

  • New rules proposed for crude oil shipments

    U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the department is proposing new rules for shipments of high-hazard crude oil by trains, as well as moving to phase out the use of older tank cars that many see as unsafe. The order follows a deadly year for oil train accidents, including a July 2013 derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec resulting in the deaths of forty-seven people and a 30 April derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia.

  • 100% scanning of U.S.-bound cargo containers delayed until 2016

    DHS has delayed until 2016 the implementation of key sections of the SAFE Port Act of 2006, which requires that 100 percent of U.S.-bound ocean containers be scanned at the foreign port of origin. U.S. importers welcome the news of the delay, but they urge Congress to eliminate the scanning requirement altogether. Some observers note that the mandate, in any event, fails to make clear how DHS defines the word “scanned.”

  • Airports say TSA makes privatizing security screening a challenge

    Airport officials described their challenges getting the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) to approve contractors, as part of the agency’s push to privatize more aviation security. The TSA was created to standardize and improve security after 9/11, but the agency’s Screening Partnership Programfor airports allows for private contractors, as long as security levels meet standards set by the TSA.

  • Scientists urge making critical infrastructure more resilient to solar storms

    Scientists predict the probability of a massive solar storm striking the Earth in the next decade to be 12 percent. The 23 July 2012 solar storm was pointed away from Earth and blasted safely into space, but had it been directed towards Earth, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries, causing extensive electricity problems that could take years to resolve. Scientists are debating the amount of damage the grid would suffer during a massive solar storm. The U.S. National Academy of Sciencesestimated in 2008 that the damage and disruption could reach up to $2 trillion with a full recovery time between four and ten years.

  • Continued funding for S.C. mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant – at least until fall

    Federal legislators have secured the funds to keep the mixed-oxide fuelplant (MOX) at the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina moving forward at least into fall, according to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and members of the state’s congressional delegation. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but since the agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel, the site has focused on repurposing and cleanup.