• Cyber Threats from the U.S. and Russia Are Now Focusing on Civilian Infrastructure

    Cyber confrontation between the United States and Russia is increasingly turning to critical civilian infrastructure, particularly power grids, judging from recent press reports. The typically furtive conflict went public last month, when the New York Times reported U.S. Cyber Command’s shift to a more offensive and aggressive approach in targeting Russia’s electric power grid. Although both sides have been targeting each other’s infrastructure since at least 2012, according to the Times article, the aggression and scope of these operations now seems unprecedented.

  • Johannesburg Power Company Crippled by Ransomware Attack

    City Power, the company supplying Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub, with electricity, has been attacked by a ransomware virus. The virus has “encrypted all our databases” representatives of the company said. Some of the company’s services have been crippled; the company said it may not be able to respond to a blackout; and more and more residents complain of loss of power. Johannesburg is not the first municipality to have its network infected by ransomware.

  • The Sea Is Rising. Can You Save Your Town?

    That headline is also your mission in The Ocean Game, the LA Times’ deceptively simple online simulation of city governance in the face of climate change. The game accompanies an in-depth look at how various California coastal communities are responding to the effects of rising seas caused by global warming. California may not be the most vulnerable part of the world that will experience the effects of sea-level rise in the coming decades, but the problems it faces are not at all trivial.

  • “A High Risk to Their Users”: An Analysis of Huawei Devices’ Security Vulnerabilities

    Western intelligence services have long suspected that the Chinese communication giant Huawei was a tool of China’s powerful intelligence services. An analysis of the state of security of Huawei’s gear and equipment has found serious security flaws and vulnerabilities. This is important, because even if we take Huawei’s implausible denials of any relationship to Chinese government at face value, the low quality of security of Huawei’s equipment would allow the Chinese government, and other state actors, to compromise the vulnerabilities of networks built with Huawei’s components. Our “analysis shows that Huawei devices quantitatively pose a high risk to their users,” the report says.

  • Developing ‘Smart City’ Floodwater Management

    In a world of smart watches, smart homes and smart appliances that monitor their environments to keep users safe and informed, can whole cities be smarter? Short answer: Probably, using cutting-edge information technologies to keep citizens and property safer.

  • Q&A: How Ridgecrest Earthquakes Helped Scientists with ShakeAlert

    U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Sarah Minson was in the thick of efforts to develop an earthquake warning system in California when a series of major temblors struck the sparsely populated community of Ridgecrest in the Mojave Desert this summer. The largest, a magnitude 7.1 quake on July 5, was the biggest to hit the state in decades. The Mercury News asked her about her work — and how this month’s big quakes is helping scientists refine California’s fledgling earthquake alert system.

  • What If a Hurricane Pushed a Surge up an Already High Mississippi River? No One Is Certain.

    The Mississippi River has always been the lifeblood of New Orleans. It’s the reason for the city’s existence, and an awe-inspiring if sometimes forgotten feature of its landscape. One thing it hasn’t been, at least in recent memory, is a threat. That is, until this month, when wary residents caught a glimpse of the old Mississippi, a face of the river that’s been hidden since it was almost completely caged by man nearly a century ago. The compliant river had become a beast scaling its walls.

  • Americans Focus on Responding to Earthquake Damage, Not Preventing It, Because They’re Unaware of Their Risk

    On July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Southern California. Their size and the damage they caused captured attention around the country. What tends to get much less notice from the public is what can be done to prevent catastrophic damage from big quakes.

  • Innovative ways to repair and construct bridges, roadways

    A 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure assessment reported that more than 9 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered structurally deficient and 1 out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition. Researchers will develop innovative techniques to repair and construct bridges and roadways through a new U.S. Department of Transportation-funded research center.

  • New Sensor Improves Earthquake Response Efforts

    The recent massive southern California earthquakes shut down Ridgecrest Regional Hospital throughout the 4 July holiday weekend while the tiny town of Ridgecrest assessed the damages. Researchers developed a new optical sensor which could speed up the time it takes to evaluate whether critical buildings like these are safe to occupy shortly after a major earthquake.

  • Raising Tough Questions about Retreat from Rising Seas

    As the global thermostat climbs and polar ice melts, the oceans are swelling and swallowing up coastlines. By some calculations, rising seas could displace 13 million Americans by 2100. While some communities are attempting to adapt in place with elevated buildings and seawalls to divert water, relocation appears inevitable for many.

  • Preventing West Antarctic Ice Collapse by Snowing Ocean Water onto It

    The ice sheet covering West Antarctica is at risk of sliding off into the ocean. The slow, yet inexorable loss of West Antarctic ice is likely to continue even after climate warming is stabilized. A collapse will raise sea levels worldwide by more than three meters. Researchers are now scrutinizing a daring way of stabilizing the ice sheet: Generating trillions of tons of additional snowfall by pumping ocean water onto the glaciers and distributing it with snow canons.

  • As Flood Risks Increase across the U.S., It’s Time to Recognize the Limits of Levees

    Many U.S. cities rely on levees for protection from floods. There are more than 100,000 miles of levees nationwide, in all 50 states and one of every five counties. Most of them seriously need repair: Levees received a D on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2018 national infrastructure report card. Climate models show that flood risks are increasing, and across the central U.S., rivers are becoming increasingly hard to control. Faith in the idea of engineered flood control is starting to erode.

  • Can the “Masters of the Flood” Help Texas Protect Its Coast from Hurricanes?

    After centuries of fighting back water in a low-lying nation, the Dutch have become the world leaders in flood control. And their expertise is helping Texas design what would become the nation’s most ambitious — and expensive — coastal barrier.

  • Flooding: Britain’s Coastal Towns and Villages Face a Design Challenge to Cope with Climate Emergency

    As an island nation, Britain has vulnerable communities that must be prepared for the impact of the climate emergency. And while much has been said about homes at risk from the sea in coastal regions, or those inland subject to river flooding, the UK Committee on Climate Change’s new progress report for 2019 has laid bare the challenge facing them.