Infrastructure protection

  • Seismic early warningCalifornia’s early-warning ShakeAlert system to be rolled out next year

    Officials in California expect the state’s ShakeAlertsystem to be available to some schools, fire stations, and more private companies early next year. Until now, only earthquake researchers, some government agencies, and a few private firms have received alerts from the statewide earthquake early warning system. The 2015 expansion will occur as long as Congress approves a $5 million funding request that has passed committees in both the Senate and House. A full vote on the budget was delayed until after the midterm elections.

  • BridgesResilience of California’s transportation infrastructure questioned

    A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines, and Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake.The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has spent over $13 billion in the last forty years to reinforce vulnerable bridges and interchanges. Caltrans officials note that during a major earthquake, freeways are likely to sustain significant damage, but engineers feel confident that freeways will not collapse.

  • BridgesHere’s how to fix America’s crumbling bridges

    By Henry Petroski

    There are about 600,000 bridges in the United States, and about one in four is classified as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. This doesn’t mean they’re in danger of imminent collapse; they may be simply too narrow or built for lighter traffic than today’s standards. Bridges that can’t support heavy trucks have weight restrictions posted. There are plenty of repairs that need to be done. With government funding for infrastructure projects being so tight, an alternative has arisen in what are called public-private partnerships, often abbreviated PPP or P3. In this arrangement, private investors assume the responsibility for financing and building a bridge or highway, and the investors are granted the right to collect tolls for what may be decades. The investors naturally believe they will realize a good return on their investment, even after they pay the public partner a sizable sum upfront for the concession. This upfront payment can be in the billions of dollars, which can be very tempting for a state or municipality struggling to balance its budget.

  • CybersecurityA malware more sophisticated than Stuxnet discovered

    Security experts at Symantechave discovered the world’s most sophisticated computer malware, Regin. Thought to have been created by a Western intelligence agency, and in many respects more advanced than Stuxnet — which was developed by the U.S. and Israeli government in 2010 to hack the Iranian nuclear program — Regin has targeted Russian, Saudi Arabian, Mexican, Irish, and Iranian Internet service providers and telecoms companies. “Nothing else comes close to this … nothing else we look at compares,” said one security expert.

  • CybersecurityIran may resume cyberattacks on U.S. if nuclear deal is not reached

    A failure for the United States to reach a nuclear deal with Iran could result in more cyberattacks against U.S. companies, House Intelligence Committeechairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) said. Cyberattacks by Tehran declined dramatically after the United States, other permanent members of the Security Council, and Germany agreed to an interim nuclear deal with Iran in 2013, but should the parties fail to reach a permanent nuclear deal by the newly set March 2015 and July 2015 deadlines, financial firms, oil and gas companies, and water filtration systems could be targets of malware from Iran’s cyber army.

  • CybersecurityCyber experts divided over the scope of damage of a cyberattack on U.S.

    Citing the risks of lack of preparation against future cyberattacks and the absence of security infrastructure, a new report urges across the board updates in the domain of cybersecurity. Most of the experts interviewed for the report pointed to the Stuxnet malware, which damaged Iranian nuclear-enrichment centrifuges and other nuclear-related machinery in 2010, as an example of the sort of future attacks that could disable and destroy vital infrastructure such as power grids, air-traffic controls, and banking institutions.

  • 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.”