Infrastructure protection

  • CybersecurityCybersecurity firms hire former military, intelligence cyber experts

    Over the past two years, U.S. cybersecurity firms have brought in several former military and intelligence community computer experts to help combat hackers targeting the U.S. private sector. For the new private sector employees, the wages are higher and opportunities are endless. Hundreds of ex-government cybersecurity workers represent the competitive advantage of a cybersecurity services industry expected to bring in more than $48 billion in revenue next year, up 41 percent from 2012. “The people coming out of the military and the intelligence community are really, really good,” says a cyber startup founder. “They know the attackers. They know how they work.”

  • InfrastructurePG&E to pay $1.6 billion in gas explosion settlement

    The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has levied the largest penalty in the agency’s history on Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), ordering the company to pay $1.6 billion for failures which led to a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno. The explosion killed eight people and destroyed or damaged thirty-eight homes.Afaulty weld on the pipeline caused the explosion and the resulting fire. The company may also owe an additional $1.13 billion in federal criminal fines connected to the blast, and has committed to spend $2.8 billion in reassessing pipeline safety.

  • Cyber espionageCyber espionage campaign, likely sponsored by China, targets Asian countries: FireEye

    FireEye has released a report which provides intelligence on the operations of APT 30, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group most likely sponsored by the Chinese government. APT 30 has been conducting cyber espionage since at least 2005, making it one of the longest operating APT groups that FireEye tracks. APT 30 targets governments, journalists, and commercial entities across South East Asia and India.

  • GeohazardsExtreme geohazards: Reducing disaster risk, increasing resilience

    Extreme hazards — rare, high-impact events — pose a serious and underestimated threat to humanity. The extremes of the broad ensemble of natural and anthropogenic hazards can lead to global disasters and catastrophes. Because they are rare and modern society lacks experience with them, they tend to be ignored in disaster risk management. While the probabilities of most natural hazards do not change much over time, the sensitivity of the built environment and the vulnerability of the embedded socio-economic fabric have increased rapidly.

  • Infrastructure protectionVirtual guard detects real-time leaks in water, oil-, or gas pipes

    Often, water, gas, or oil distribution networks suffer from leaks in storage tanks, pumping failures, or illegal tapping. In order to prevent losses which typically result, researchers designed a virtual guard which immediately detects abnormalities in any type of duct. Through the laws of physics and application of a mathematical model of fluid mechanics, the device calculates when an irregularity occurs on site, and issues an alert.

  • CO2 sequestrationDoubts about burying CO2 underground to address climate change

    Burying the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has been mooted as one geoengineering approach to ameliorating climate change. To be effective, trapping the gas in geological deposits would be for the very long term — thousands of years. Now, researchers have reviewed the risk assessments for this technology, suggesting that a lack of knowledge means we should be cautious of turning to this method rather than finding sustainable ways to reduce emissions at their source.

  • ResilienceJoplin, Missouri hospital re-built to withstand powerful tornadoes

    In 2011 St. John’s Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri was devastated by one of the most ferocious tornadoes in U.S history. Today, Mercy Hospital Joplinstands on the site of the former hospital, occupying a new structure designed to survive future tornadoes, with windows that can withstand 250-mile-per-hour winds. The buildingis covered in concrete and brick paneling, and houses an underground bunker where generators and boilers are kept.

  • Bunker bustingUnderground impact of a missile or meteor hit

    When a missile or meteor strikes the earth, the havoc above ground is obvious, but the details of what happens below ground are harder to see. Physicists have developed techniques that enable them to simulate high-speed impacts in artificial soil and sand in the lab, and then watch what happens underground close-up, in super slow motion. The research, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the research may ultimately lead to better control of earth-penetrating missiles designed to destroy deeply buried targets such as enemy bunkers or stockpiles of underground weapons.

  • Coastal resilienceDHS S&T selects UNC as coastal resilience center of excellence

    The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) the other day announced the selection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as the lead institution for a new DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (COE). S&T will provide the Coastal Resilience COE with an initial $3 million grant for its first operating year. The DHS Coastal Resilience COE will bring together university students and professors, DHS and other federal agencies, private sector partners, the first responder community, and other COEs to collaboratively address the unique challenges facing communities across the United States that are vulnerable to coastal hazards, including hurricanes and flooding.

  • EnergyThe addition of renewable energy to power grid requires flexibility

    Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and other green power sources are proliferating rapidly, but their reliable integration into the existing electric grid is another story. A new study offers a comprehensive reimagining of the power grid that involves the coordinated integration of small-scale distributed energy resources. The study asserts that the proliferation of renewable energy must happen at the periphery of the power grid, which will enable the local generation of power that can be coordinated with flexible demand.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. scientific panel completes sea-level rise forecast draft

    In January, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission advisory science panel completed its draft copy of sea-level rise forecasts for five regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. That draft copy has now been released for a public comment period that will last through 31 December, before being finalized in early 2016 and delivered to the state’s General Assembly by 1 March 2016.According to the 43-page draft report, by 2045, the seas will rise between 6.5 and 12.1 inches at Duck, between 4.8 and 11.6 inches at the Oregon Inlet Marina, between 4.9 and 9.3 inches at Beaufort, between 4.1 and 8.5 inches at Wilmington, and between 4.0 and 8.5 inches at Southport.

  • Coastal infrastructure$500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • Coastal infrastructureForecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest

    Unlike the South or East coast of the United States, coastal flooding in the Pacific Northwest comes primarily from large waves generated by major storms instead of hurricanes. The Pacific Northwest is dotted by small, low-lying, coastal cities where populations tend to cluster. These communities can be isolated and are susceptible to devastation from major storms that bring substantial wind, waves, and storm surge. With climate change, it is anticipated that storms will only become more frequent and intense, signifying a need to understand how the areas will be affected.

  • InfrastructureOver 61,000 U.S. bridges need structural repair

    An analysis of the recently released 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) National Bridge Inventory database finds good news and bad news when it comes to the most heavily traveled U.S. bridges. The good news is that there are over 2,000 fewer structurally deficient structures than there were in 2013. The bad news is that it means more than 61,000 structurally deficient bridges are still in need of significant repair. Cars, trucks, and school buses cross the nation’s 61,064 structurally compromised bridges 215 million times every day.

  • GridU.S. grid vulnerable to cyber, physical attacks

    The U.S. electric grid remains vulnerable to cyber and physical attacks, putting millions of households at risk from outages that could last a few days or weeks. Attacks on the grid occur once every four days, and though no great harm has been caused, some experts are warning that the series of small-scale incidents may point to broader security problems. “It’s one of those things: One is too many, so that’s why we have to pay attention,” says one expert. “The threats continue to evolve, and we have to continue to evolve as well.”