Infrastructure protection

  • CybersecurityU.S. military bases vulnerable to cyberattacks on their power, utility systems

    U.S. military bases are at risk for cyberattacks against the bases’ power grid and other utility systems, according to a new report on defense infrastructure from the Government Accounting Office. The 72-page GAO document concludes military bases “may be vulnerable to cyber incidents that could degrade operations and negatively impact missions.”

  • FloodsDifferent lessons from past floods

    More and more frequent extreme weather events lead to new projects on risk management and spatial planning. Past experiences represent an added value and suggest the importance of greater involvement of local communities. Luckily, past mistakes can sometimes be useful for present or especially future decisions. This can apply to spatial planning and management in response to natural disasters and extreme weather events.

  • CybersecurityIsrael bolsters cyber defenses to cope with an escalating number of cyberattacks

    In 2013, Israel’s grid was cyberattacked, on average, a few hundred times per hour. Last year the average hourly attacks on Israel’s grid was 20,000.The number of detected cyberattacks on Israel reached two million a day during the war with Hamas last summer. The Israeli government decided there was a need to reorganize and improve the cyberdefense systems protecting Israel’s critical infrastructure.

  • Urban resilienceStrengthening urban infrastructure to withstand extreme weather-related events

    A multi-disciplinary team of about fifty researchers from fifteen universities and other institutions will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years. In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the social, ecological, and technical systems to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies.

  • Coastal resilienceWashington, D.C. sinking fast, compounding threat of sea-level rise

    New research confirms that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking rapidly and projects that Washington, D.C., could drop by six or more inches by the end of this century — adding to the problems of sea-level rise. This falling land will exacerbate the flooding that the nation’s capital faces from rising ocean waters due to a warming climate and melting ice sheets — accelerating the threat to the region’s monuments, roads, wildlife refuges, and military installations. “It’s ironic that the nation’s capital — the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change — is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be in terms of this land subsidence,” says one researcher. “Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter?”

  • Earthquake-proofingSafer structures to withstand earthquakes, windstorms

    A new cyberinfrastructure effort funded by a $13.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help engineers build safer structures that can better withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes and windstorms. Researchers aim to build a software platform, data repository, and tools that will help the United States design more resilient buildings, levees, and other public infrastructure that could protect lives, property and communities.

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  • Coastal resilienceSea level rise, storm surges increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities

    Scientists investigating the increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts when strong storm surge and high rainfall amounts occur together. While rising sea levels are the main driver for increasing flood risk, storm surges caused by weather patterns that favor high precipitation exacerbates flood potential.

  • Coastal resilienceMangroves help protect coasts against sea level rise

    Mangrove forests could play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise caused by climate change, according to new research. Taking New Zealand mangrove data as the basis of a new modelling system, the researchers were able to predict what will happen to different types of estuaries and river deltas when sea levels rise. They found areas without mangroves are likely to widen from erosion and more water will encroach inwards, whereas mangrove regions prevent this effect - which is likely due to soil building up around their mesh-like roots and acting to reduce energy from waves and tidal currents.

  • CybersecurityFusion Centers important in promoting cybersecurity

    Fusion centers were created after 9/11 to serve as primary focal points for state, local, federal, tribal, and territorial partners to receive, analyze, and share threat-related information. States can promote cybersecurity and enhance their capabilities by heightening the importance of cybersecurity as a mission of fusion centers, according to a paper released the other day by the National Governors Association (NGA).

  • CybersecurityTeams chosen for the 2016 DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge final competition

    Seven teams from around the country have earned the right to play in the final competition of DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), a first-of-its-kind tournament designed to speed the development of automated security systems able to defend against cyberattacks as fast as they are launched. The CGC winners will be handsomely rewarded, but DARPA says that more important than the prize money is the fact that it ignites the cybersecurity community’s belief that automated cybersecurity analysis and remediation are finally within reach.

  • Coastal resilienceSea levels have risen six meters or more with just slight global warming: Study

    A new review analyzing three decades of research on the historic effects of melting polar ice sheets found that global sea levels have risen at least six meters, or about twenty feet, above present levels on multiple occasions over the past three million years. What is most concerning, scientists say, is that amount of melting was caused by an increase of only 1-2 degrees (Celsius) in global mean temperatures. Six meters (or about twenty feet) of sea level rise does not sound like a lot. However, coastal cities worldwide have experienced enormous growth in population and infrastructure over the past couple of centuries — and a global mean sea level rise of ten to twenty feet could be catastrophic to the hundreds of millions of people living in these coastal zones.

  • Space debrisA giant Pac-Man devours space debris

    The Clean Space One Project has passed a milestone. The space cleanup satellite will deploy a conical net to capture the small SwissCube satellite before destroying it in the atmosphere. The SwissCube satellite has been in Earth orbit for more than five years. The challenge was to ensure that it would not become just one more piece of space garbage. The Clean Space One project is one of the solutions being tested for eliminating dangerous debris orbiting the Earth.

  • EarthquakesOur new anti-earthquake technology could protect cities from destruction

    By Pierfrancesco Cacciola

    Protecting cities from earthquakes is still a grand challenge that needs addressing, as recent disasters in Nepal, Japan, Haiti, and Chile confirm. Although significant progress has been made in understanding seismic activity and developing building technology, we still don’t have a satisfactory way of protecting buildings on a large scale. This is a serious problem, since large numbers of buildings that don’t have built-in protection exist in earthquake zones, particularly in developing countries where replacing them or introducing stricter — and more expensive — building codes aren’t seen as an option. Researchers have designed a novel vibrating barrier (ViBa) to reduce the vibrations of nearby structures caused by an earthquake’s ground waves. The device would be buried in the soil and detached from surrounding buildings, and should be able to absorb a significant portion of the dynamic energy arising from the ground motion with a consequent reduction of seismic response (between 40-80 percent).

  • CybersecurityDuqu 2.0: New, menacing programming concept

    In 2011, the security world was rocked by the announcement of a newly discovered virus named Stuxnet. This malware, unlike previous viruses, was targeted at one particular victim. That target was Iran’s nuclear program.Following on the heels of Stuxnet was a variant named Duqu.Duqu is different from Stuxnet, however, in that it was designed to gather information for future attacks, rather than perform the attack itself.There is evidence that the malware was used to gather information on the U.S. talks with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program.Since this worm is able to move laterally, and runs only in system memory, a given computer can be easily re-infected from elsewhere in the home network, without using any mechanisms that would provide persistence. Duqu 2.0 represents programming concepts never used before that make it extremely dangerous.

  • Infrastructure protectionMuons from cosmic rays used to find fraying infrastructure

    In the United States, electricity comes with the flip of a switch and heat arrives with the push of a button. Behind such convenience lies a massive infrastructure network that produces and distributes energy. And just like roads wear down and need to be repaved occasionally, this energy infrastructure degrades over time. Pipes can corrode and concrete can wear thin. Failure can be catastrophic. Seeking a better way to identify faulty energy infrastructure before it fails, researchers are using subatomic particles called muons to analyze the thickness of concrete slabs and metal pipes. Subatomic particles naturally generated when cosmic rays collide with molecules in the atmosphere, and they can be used to locate weak points in pipes and concrete.