• For the first time, an Argentinian judge rules Nisman was murdered

    For the first time, an Argentinian judge ruled that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and the agreement made by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with Iran, was murdered. Judge Julián Ercolini’s ruling comes in the same month that Kirchner, former foreign minister Hector Timerman, and several of Kirchner’s colleagues were indicted for treason over Nisman’s allegations that her and her team covered up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing.

  • Three new war crimes recognized by ICC

    On Thursday 14 December, in New York, the Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) added three new war crimes to the Rome Statute: the use of biological and toxin weapons; the use of weapons causing injuries by fragments which in the human body escape detection by X-rays; and the use of laser weapons causing permanent blindness.

  • Hackers can guess your phone PIN using its sensor data

    Instruments in smart phones such as the accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensors represent a potential security vulnerability, according to researchers. Using a combination of information gathered from six different sensors found in smart phones and state-of-the-art machine learning and deep learning algorithms, the researchers succeeded in unlocking Android smart phones with a 99.5 per cent accuracy within only three tries, when tackling a phone that had one of the 50 most common PIN numbers

  • Lawmakers from states targeted by Russian hackers urge action to protect U.S. elections

    Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Maryland) the other day, along with members of Congress from 18 of the 21 states targeted by Russian hackers in 2016, called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to take immediate action to protect state voting systems from cyberattacks and to bolster state election infrastructure.

  • New simulator tool allows testing the explosive vulnerabilities of aircraft

    Each day, more than twenty-six thousand commercial flights transport passengers and cargo to destinations around the world. S&T’s Commercial Aircraft Vulnerability and Mitigation (CAVM) program supports testing and evaluation efforts to assess potential vulnerabilities and evaluate countermeasures that can mitigate the impact of explosives on commercial aircraft. Newer generations of commercial aircraft fuselages are being made with composite materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so CAVM needs to develop a sustainable and representative testing solution in order to all evaluations of new composite aircraft structures to explosive-based threats could continue as needed.

  • U.S. ends 3-year ban on research involving enhanced-lethality viruses

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday announced it was ending its three-year moratorium on funding of gain-of-function research, that is, research which aims to make extremely dangerous viruses even more dangerous in order to find a vaccine or cure for them. The U.S. government instituted the ban in 2014, against the backdrop of rising worries that these “gain-of-function” studies would allow scientists to increase the ability of the infectious disease to spread by enhancing its pathogenicity, or its ability to cause disease. Scientists who supported continuing research involving enhancing the transmissibility of infectious disease were not helped by a series of safety mishaps at federal research facilities.

  • FAA declares seven nuclear research facilities no-drone zones

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a request from the Department of Energy (DOE) to declare seven DOE’s nuclear research facilities no-drone zones. Starting 29 December, drone operators would not be allowed to fly their UAVs within 400 feet of these facilities: The FAA said it is currently considering more “no-drone zone” requests from federal agencies.

  • South Florida faces increasing inland flood threat

    As South Florida raises groundwater levels to fight saltwater intrusion, the threat of inland flooding will only increase, according to newly published research results. Although high groundwater levels in South Florida are a major contributor to inland floods, especially during the wet season or extreme rain events, traditional flood models don’t account for the groundwater beneath our feet, scientists have found.

  • New counter-terror rules give GPs bizarre incentives to refer mental health patients as radicalization threat

    Mental health trusts in England are now to play a vital role in processing the huge number of citizens referred under the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, known as Prevent. A new policy announced in November by the Home Office means urgent psychiatric care will now be provided by mental health trusts to those people with psychological problems who are referred to Prevent. But this will remove them from a pipeline of support under a program called Channel, aimed at those suspected of radicalizing. No one could possibly object to the provision of mental health care to those in need. But on deeper inspection, the integration of mental health trusts within the Prevent strategy reveals profound confusion within counter-terrorism policies. And the move could give health professionals perverse incentives to actually refer patients with mental health needs to Prevent – because they think it might get them help quicker.

  • Obama administration ended program targeting Hezbollah drug smuggling to secure nuke deal with Iran

    The Obama administration obstructed a campaign by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and prosecute Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, in order to solidify the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, according to a news report. The campaign, called Project Cassandra, launched in 2008, was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included smuggling cocaine into the United States. Over the years, the Lebanese-based terror organization had morphed from a Middle East-focused military and political group into an international crime syndicate.

  • Spotting Russian bots trying to influence politics

    A team of researchers has isolated the characteristics of bots on Twitter through an examination of bot activity related to Russian political discussions. The team’s findings provide new insights into how Russian accounts influence online exchanges using bots, or automated social media accounts, and trolls, which aim to provoke or disrupt. “There is a great deal of interest in understanding how regimes and political actors use bots in order to influence politics,” explains one researcher. “Russia has been at the forefront of trying to shape the online conversation using tools like bots and trolls, so a first step to understanding what Russian bots are doing is to be able to identify them.”

  • Kaspersky Lab appeals DHS debarment

    Kaspersky Lab yesterday announced that it is seeking an appeal in federal court of U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision on Binding Operational Directive 17-01 banning the use of the company’s products in federal agencies. The company cites reputational and revenue impact of a Binding Operational Directive based on media reports, rumor, and unsubstantiated allegations.

  • DHS details security enhancements to Visa Waiver Program

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen last Friday announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State and other federal agencies, is taking action to strengthen the “already robust national security and immigration enforcement elements” of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP is a comprehensive security partnership with many of America’s allies. VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.

  • “Cyberbiosecurity” and the protection of the life sciences

    Biology and biotechnology have entered a digital age, but security policies around such activities have not kept pace. New research outlines how the evolving nature of biotechnology should sound alarm bells for new ways to keep life sciences assets safe. This could be from accidental cyber-physical breaches, or more nefarious threats.

  • Biosecurity conference fosters international, multidisciplinary collaboration

    Biosecurity prevents unauthorized access, loss and intentional release of biological pathogens, information and equipment that may cause harm. Biosecurity professionals from across the United States and Mexico gathered on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus 7-8 December, the first time a biosecurity conference of this scope had taken place in Arizona and one of the largest ever to be held in the United States. Leaders in the field shared multidisciplinary approaches and perspectives on biosecurity.