Infrastructure protection

  • Critical infrastructureNSA director: China and “one or two” other nations can damage U.S. critical infrastructure

    Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, told lawmakers yesterday that China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks which would paralyze the U.S electric grid and other critical infrastructure systems across the country. A cyberattacks of such scope has been discussed in the past – it was even dubbed a “cyber Pearl Harbor” – but Rogers was the first high official to confirm that such a crippling attack on the United States was not a mere speculation. Rogers said U.S. adversaries are conducting electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they will be well-positioned to damage and disrupt the industrial control systems which run chemical facilities, nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, dams, and much more.

  • Coastal infrastructureChina’s second “great wall” is not so great

    China’s coastal regions are only 13 percent of the country’s land area, but contribute 60 percent of its gross domestic product. With that come layers of incentives to turn lush wetlands into engines of development and industry. A new study finds that China’s second great wall, a vast seawall covering more than half of the country’s mainland coastline, is a foundation for financial gain - and also a dyke holding a swelling rush of ecological woes.

  • LandslidesNew technology increases awareness of landslide risks

    Engineers have created a new way to use lidar technology to identify and classify landslides on a landscape scale, which may revolutionize the understanding of landslides in the United States and reveal them to be far more common and hazardous than often understood. The new, non-subjective technology can analyze and classify the landslide risk in an area of fifty or more square miles in about thirty minutes — a task that previously might have taken an expert several weeks to months. It can also identify risks common to a broad area rather than just an individual site.

  • CybersecurityU.S. spends about $10 billion a year to protect the nation's digital infrastructure

    U.S. intelligence agencies have designated cyberattacks as the most alarming threat to national security. The federal government is spending roughly $10 billion a year to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure, but hackers, some sponsored by nation-states, are successfully infiltrating civilian and military networks.Professionals from DHS, the Pentagon, and private contractors all work together in U.S. cyber centers to detect, prevent, respond, and mitigate incoming and existing cyberattacks. Several of the U.S. top cybersecurity labs are housed in nondescript office buildings with no government seals or signs.

  • Earthquakes"Slow slip events" could help in predicting magnitude of earthquakes, tsunamis

    Earthquakes and tsunamis can be giant disasters no one sees coming, but now an international team of scientists has found that subtle shifts in the earth’s offshore plates can be a harbinger of the size of the disaster. The team reports that a geological phenomenon called “slow slip events,” identified just fifteen years, ago is a useful tool in identifying the precursors to major earthquakes and the resulting tsunamis. The scientists used high precision GPS to measure the slight shifts on a fault line in Costa Rica, and say better monitoring of these small events can lead to better understanding of maximum earthquake size and tsunami risk.

  • Coastal infrastructureLow-lying island nations say rising seas levels spell doom

    The president of the Seychelles on last week urged the Earth’s small island nations to unite for a campaign against climate change — or else drown. The call came at the start of a two-day summit of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of small islands and low-lying coastal countries, ahead of global climate talks which will take place in Lima, Peru, in December. Low-lying island nations, some of which are little more than one meter (three feet) above sea level, are regarded as among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels, which is one of the manifestations of global warming.

  • EarthquakesNew app turns smartphones into sensors for an earthquake early-warning system

    The MyShake app, still in test mode, uses smartphone accelerometers and locators to augment the data on incoming quakes issued by the 400 seismometers which are part of California’s ShakeAlert program.Registered phones act as additional earthquake sensors, as the app runs an algorithm which detects when the phone is still or shaking. Should several registered phones in the same area begin to shake at the same time, an earthquake alert is issued.

  • EarthquakesCourt overturns manslaughter conviction of seismologists over 2009 L'Aquila quake

    An appeals court in Italy on Monday overturned manslaughter convictions of six of the seven natural disaster experts and seismologists who faced prison sentences for what a lower court described as having falsely reassured residents ahead of a 2009 earthquake which killed 309 people in the central Italy city of L’Aquila. The 2012 ruling was met with outrage and dismay by the scientific community, which argued that the convictions were based on a complete misunderstanding of the science used to calculate the probability of an earthquake. Leasing scientists warned that the case could prevent scientists from offering potentially life-saving advice on natural disasters in the future.

  • CybersecuritySecurity experts worry BlackEnergy technology could soon be available to bad non-state actors

    DHS a few days ago has issued a cyberthreat alert to critical infrastructure firms warning of the malicious software called BlackEnergy, a variant of a Trojan horse believed to have originated from Russian government-sponsored hackers. BlackEnergy is similar to another Russian issued malware called Sandworm, which was used in a 2013 Russian cyber-espionage campaign against NATO, the European Union, and overseas telecommunication and energy assets. DHS believes the attack on U.S. critical systems is “part of a broader campaign by the same threat actor.”

     

  • CybersecurityU.S. government networks vulnerable despite billons spent on protecting them

    Experts say that cybersecurity has leaped over terrorism as the top threat to U.S. security, and with the awareness of the threat comes funding better to secure government systems. There are currently 90,000 information technology security professionals working for the government, 33 percent of them are contractors. The federal government is projected to hire more cyber professionals and spend $65 billion on cybersecurity contracts between 2015 and 2020, but today, federal cybersecurity officials are still struggling to keep sensitive data from hackers and cyber criminals. Some have warned of a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” — but Pearl Harbor was a surprise. No one in business or government today can continue to plead surprise when it comes to the possibility of cyberattack.

  • CybersecurityInformation sharing is key in responding to cyberattacks

    Time is not your friend when your information systems are under cyberattack, but sharing threat information before, during, and after an attack with a trusted group of peers can help. Not only does it alert the other members of your community to a potential attack, it can provide critical actionable information to speed and bolster your own defenses. Participating in a formal information sharing group can greatly enhance an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities.

  • Coastal infrastructureSea level rise threatens California coastal infrastructure

    Officials in Humboldt County, California are preparing for sea level rise, which experts say could threaten utilities and U.S. highway 101. The National Research Councilwarns that California, Oregon, and Washington could experience twelve inches of sea level rise by 2050 and thirty-six inches by 2100. Sea level on Humboldt Bay has increased by eighteen inches over the past century due to increasing tide elevation and subsidence. Gas, electrical, and water transmission lines are all buried in the farmlands behind dikes that fortify the shoreline.

  • CybersecurityRussian government hackers insert malware in U.S. critical infrastructure control software

    Investigators have uncovered a Trojan Horse named BlackEnergy in the software that runs much of the U.S. critical infrastructure. In a worst case scenario, the malware could shut down oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, and wind turbines, causing an economic catastrophe. Some industry insiders learned of the intrusion last week via a DHS alert bulletin issued by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team(ICS-CERT). The BlackEnergy penetration had recently been detected by several companies. Experts say Russia has placed the malware in key U.S. systems as a threat or a deterrent to a U.S. cyberattack on Russian systems – mutual assured destruction from a cold war-era playbook.

  • Infrastructure protectionNASA facilities across U.S. vulnerable to climate change

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been at the forefront of climate science, launching satellites that take the pulse of Earth’s land, oceans, and atmospheric systems, gathering data on climate, weather, and natural hazards. The agency, however, is itself increasingly vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate. Hurricane Isabel partially flooded the Langley Research Center in Virginia in 2003; Hurricane Frances damaged the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2004; and Hurricane Katrina damaged buildings at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi in 2005, among recent incidents. Other facilities have been damaged or threatened by tornadoes and wildfires.

  • EbolaHarnessing artificial intelligence to search for new Ebola treatments

    The University of Toronto, Chematria, and IBM are combining forces in a quest to find new treatments for the Ebola virus. Using a virtual research technology invented by Chematria, a startup housed at U of T’s Impact Center, the team will use software that learns and thinks like a human chemist to search for new medicines. Running on Canada’s most powerful supercomputer, the effort will simulate and analyze the effectiveness of millions of hypothetical drugs in just a matter of weeks.