• Handgun purchaser licensing laws linked to fewer firearms homicides

    State laws that require gun purchasers to obtain a license contingent on passing a background check performed by state or local law enforcement are associated with a 14 percent reduction in firearm homicides in large, urban counties, a new study finds.

  • New tool to detect deadly chemical weapon agents: Butterflies

    Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for U.S. soldiers. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.

  • China sonic attack: how sound can be a weapon

    Reports of “sonic attacks” in China, and previously in Cuba, have left many wandering whether sonic weapons could be targeting U.S. diplomats. Victims have reportedly experienced mild brain injuries with symptoms including “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” Little is known for definite, but the symptoms do suggest that some sort of sonic interference could have taken place. It is unlikely to be the result of a deliberate “sonic attack.” Instead, these injuries are probably the side effects of intrusive surveillance.

  • Winners announced in $300K biothreat prize competition

    DHS S&T the other day announced the grand prize winner of its $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. The prize competition called for the design of an early warning system to keep communities safe by using existing data sources to uncover emerging biothreats.

  • Mobile security messages 20 percent more effective if warnings vary in appearance

    Using brain data, eye-tracking data and field-study data, researchers have confirmed something about our interaction with security warnings on computers and phones: the more we see them, the more we tune them out. But the major study also finds that slight changes to the appearance of warnings help users pay attention to and adhere to warnings 20 percent more of the time.

  • The federal government has long treated Nevada as a dumping ground, and it’s not just Yucca Mountain

    Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of “The Walking Dead” TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die. In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation’s only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts. While teaching and writing about the state’s history for more than 30 years, I have followed the Yucca Mountain fight from the beginning – as well as how Nevadans’ views have evolved on all things nuclear. The project could well go forward, but I believe that it probably won’t as long as there are political benefits to stopping it.

  • Face recognition experts perform better with AI as partner

    Experts at recognizing faces often play a crucial role in criminal cases. A photo from a security camera can mean prison or freedom for a defendant—and testimony from highly trained forensic face examiners informs the jury whether that image actually depicts the accused. Just how good are facial recognition experts? Would artificial intelligence help?

  • Stop-and-search report leads Scottish police to change policy

    Police Scotland has changed the way it carries out stop and search following a series of recommendations made by researchers. The researchers’ report highlighted elements of the pilot that can be regarded as good practice while also making nineteen recommendations for improvement. Police Scotland has published their response to this and other reports, highlighting the ways in which policy has been changed.

  • Guns in Chicago just “2.5 handshakes” away

    In one of the first studies to try to map a gun market using network science, researchers used the novel scientific approach to understand how close offenders are to guns in the city of Chicago. Recreating Chicago’s co-offending network of approximately 188,000 people, the researchers used data on firearms recovered by the Chicago Police Department to locate who in the network possessed those guns. The networked approach in the study suggests that one could map the risk of exposure to guns in a network and potentially use that as strategic points of intervention.

  • U.S. troops help fight terrorists in Africa -- quietly

    The attack on the U.S. troops in Niger last October, which left four American troops dead and two wounded, was a surprise to the American public because the presence of the U.S. forces in Africa was mostly off the media. The Niger operation is one of the several U.S. military missions ongoing in about twenty African countries, mostly in the northern half of the continent. Most of these missions have one goal: “rolling back Islamist extremism.”

  • Every second matters during active assailant events

    Studies, event after-action reports, and most publications on the subject have proven that during Direct Threat attacks, most casualties occur in the first 120 seconds (2 minutes). An armed responder to the event arrives in between 4 to 11 minutes on average. It takes an additional 2 to 5 minutes before they enter the building and an additional 2 to 6 minutes to engage the attacker(s). Even if armed intervention is on-site, their reaction and engagement take minutes. The best solution to Direct Threat attacks must thus reduce the timeline of an attack to as close to zero as technology will allow.

  • Mass shootings influenced school architecture long before Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick questioned entrances and exits

    Architects and school safety experts say that campuses are already designed with minimizing death in mind — but that architecture can only go so far.

  • Moral rhetoric in social media posts tied to protests becoming violent

    Moral rhetoric on Twitter may signal whether a protest will turn violent. Researchers also found that people are more likely to endorse violence when they moralize the issue that they are protesting — that is, when they see it as an issue of right and wrong. That holds true when they believe that others in their social network moralize the issue, too.

  • Terrorists, criminals reap more than $43 billion a year from Latin America’s Tri-Border Area

    Terrorists and criminals are able to pocket up to $800 million a week or $43 billion a year from activities taking place in Latin America’s Tri-Border Area (TBA), according to a new report. The TBA is the rugged area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. It encompasses a river system stretching for 2,100 miles and crossing five countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

  • FBI: The number of unhackable devices lower than that reported to Congress

    The FBI has been telling lawmakers that it was facing a serious problem in accessing the encrypted devices seized from criminals and terrorists. For months, the Bureau has claimed that encryption prevented the bureau from legally searching the contents of nearly 7,800 devices in 2017, but on Monday the Washington Post reported that the actual number is far lower due to “programming errors” by the FBI.