Infrastructure

  • U.S.-U.K. cyber war games to test the two countries’ cyber resilience

    American and British security agencies have agreed to a new round of joint cyber “war games” to test each country’s cyber resilience. The move comes after a year of high profile cyberattacks against the U.S. private sector and after warnings from the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters that computer networks of British firms face daily attacks by hackers, criminal gangs, competitors, and foreign intelligence services.

  • Mandatory cybersecurity regulations necessary to protect U.S. infrastructure: Experts

    Since last year’s cyberattacks made public the cyber vulnerabilities of major U.S. firms including Sony Entertainment, JPMorgan Chase, and Target, President Barack Obama has been on the offensive, proposing strict rules better to prosecute hackers and make U.S. firms responsible for protecting consumer information. Experts say, though, that private firms are unlikely, on their own, to make the necessary financial investment to protect against a critical infrastructure cyberattack. What is needed, these experts say, is a mandatory cybersecurity framework followed by all entities involved with critical infrastructure, strong protection of information regarding cyberattacks shared with DHS, and a sincere effort from the private sector to secure their own networks.

  • Challenges for sustainability as many renewable resources max out

    The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped to solve shortages — corn for oil, soy for beef — may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that “renewable” is not synonymous with “unlimited.” The researchers examined renewable resources, such as corn, rice, wheat, or soy, which represent around 45 percent of the global calorie intake. They also reviewed fish, meat, milk, and eggs. The annual growth rate of eighteen of these renewable resources — for example, increase in meat production or fish catch — peaked around 2006.

  • Cyber protection of DHS’s and other federal facilities is weak: GAO

    While most cybersecurity threats against government agencies tend to focus on network and computer systems, a growing number of access control systems, responsible for regulating electricity use, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), and the operation of secured doors and elevators are also vulnerable to hacking. .” GAO warns that despite the seriousness of the vulnerabilities, agencies tasked with securing federal facilities have not been proactive.

  • Louisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.

  • Sea level rise has been more rapid than previously understood: Study

    The acceleration of global sea level change from the end of the twentieth century through the last two decades has been significantly swifter than scientists thought, according to a new Harvard study. The study shows that calculations of global sea-level rise from 1900 to 1990 had been overestimated by as much as 30 percent. The report, however, confirms estimates of sea-level change since 1990, suggesting that the rate of change is increasing more rapidly than previously understood.

  • Rivers of meltwater on Greenland’s ice sheet contribute to rising sea levels

    As the largest single chunk of melting snow and ice in the world, the massive ice sheet that covers about 80 percent of Greenland is recognized as the biggest potential contributor to rising sea levels due to glacial meltwater. Until now, however, scientists’ attention has mostly focused on the ice sheet’s aquamarine lakes — bodies of meltwater that tend to abruptly drain — and on monster chunks of ice that slide into the ocean to become icebergs. A new study reveals, however, a vast network of little-understood rivers and streams flowing on top of the ice sheet that could be responsible for at least as much, if not more, sea-level rise as the other two sources combined.

  • China’s water stress to worsen with transfer initiatives

    New research paints a grim picture for the future of China’s water supply, as its booming economy continues to heap pressure on its natural resources. The study determined that water stress is only partially mitigated by China’s current two-pronged approach: physical water transfers to water-depleted regions, including the major South-North water transfer projects, or the “virtual” water embodied in traded products between regions and countries.

  • Obama to unveil several cybersecurity initiatives this week

    President Barack Obama, in anticipation of the 20 January State of the Union address, has been sharing details of his address to a generate buzz. This week, Obama will focus on cybersecurity initiatives, including identity theft and electronic privacy laws, aimed at protecting citizens and the private sector. Obama will also announce a policy package designed to provide affordable access to broadband Internet nationwide.

  • Cybercrime imposing growing costs on global economy

    A new report has found that the cost of cybercrime to the global community and infrastructure is not only incredibly high, but steadily rising as well. The study concluded that up to $575 billion a year — larger than some countries’ economies — is lost due to these incidents. The emergence of the largely unregulated, and unprotected, Internet of Things will make matters only worse.

  • NOAA employee charged with giving information on vulnerabilities of U.S. dams to China

    A National Weather Service (NOAA) employee is being charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers database and handing it off to a Chinese government official in Beijing.The dam database is considered sensitive data and has also been compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013, as part of a covert Chinese government operation.The database information includes details on the location, type, storage, capacity, year of construction, and other crucial details helpful in the event of any coordinated strike.

  • Coastal communities preparing for the next high tide

    The USC Sea Grant program is continuing the work it started three years ago to help coastal communities in Southern California incorporate “resilience” into their planning for adaptation to rising sea levels and climate change. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, Sea Grant works with researchers and community leaders to help governments, businesses and community groups know the resources available to help them plan ahead. The Sea Grant vulnerability report for the city was based on a pilot version of the USGS modeling system, called CoSMoS 1.0, which makes predictions of storm-induced coastal flooding based on a moderately severe storm that occurred in the region in January 2010. It models storm-driven sea level rise for two future climate scenarios, which can help emergency responders and coastal planners anticipate storm hazards and make plans to allocate resources to deal with them.

  • Ireland increasingly worried about effects of sea-level rise on coastal communities

    In recent years, coastal authorities in Ireland have grown increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on the Irish coastline. In the northern counties, up to 3.5 percent of the entire land area could be underwater, and low-lying cities of Cork, Dublin, Belfast, and Galway will find it almost impossible to defend against storm surges and sea level rise. Experts say it will cost at least €5 billion to protect Ireland’s most populated cities.

  • Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?

    A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and over 80 percent of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research. The study also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

  • DHS releases the wrong FOIA-requested documents, exposing infrastructure vulnerabilities

    On 3 July 2014, DHS, responding to a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) request on Operation Aurora, a malware attack on Google, instead released more than 800 pages of documents related to the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratoryto show the cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. power and water systems, including electrical generators and water pumps. The research project found that once these infrastructure systems are infiltrated, a cyberattack can remotely control key circuit breakers, thereby throwing a machine’s rotating parts out of synchronization and causing parts of the system to break down.