• “Cyberbiosecurity” and the protection of the life sciences

    Biology and biotechnology have entered a digital age, but security policies around such activities have not kept pace. New research outlines how the evolving nature of biotechnology should sound alarm bells for new ways to keep life sciences assets safe. This could be from accidental cyber-physical breaches, or more nefarious threats.

  • Biosecurity conference fosters international, multidisciplinary collaboration

    Biosecurity prevents unauthorized access, loss and intentional release of biological pathogens, information and equipment that may cause harm. Biosecurity professionals from across the United States and Mexico gathered on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus 7-8 December, the first time a biosecurity conference of this scope had taken place in Arizona and one of the largest ever to be held in the United States. Leaders in the field shared multidisciplinary approaches and perspectives on biosecurity.

  • Trump to unveil administration’s national security strategy

    In a speech later today, President Donald Trump will outline his administration’s national security strategy, which portrays the world as a more competitive arena for the great powers. The administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama emphasized great power cooperation while focusing on emerging threats such as terrorism, disease, and climate change. “After being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned,” the new national security document says.

  • Bill targeting vehicular terror attacks

    New legislation — “Shielding Public Spaces from Vehicular Terrorism Act” — instructs DHS to develop tools to address evolving terror tactics, including vehicular attacks. The bill also ensures that first responders can use vital Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative funding to address security vulnerabilities of public spaces, such as bus stops, bike paths, and other mass gathering locations.

  • Exposure to terror attacks may increase risk of migraine, other headaches

    Survivors of a terror attack have an increased risk of frequent migraine and tension headaches after the attack, according to a study. “We know a lot about the psychological effects of terror attacks and other extreme violence on survivors, but we don’t know much about the physical effects of these violent incidents,” said the study’s author. “Our study shows that a single highly stressful event may lead to ongoing suffering with frequent migraines and other headaches, which can be disabling when they keep people from their work or school activities.”

  • Encouraging progress at Biological Weapons Convention meeting

    The Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties (MSP) was held last week, with many participants not knowing what to expect after last year’s failure of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference. One attendee noted that “the role of the NGOs felt even more important in such a disjointed climate where the future of the BWC was in many ways, up in the air. The importance of support and pushing for future cohesion regarding not only the intersessional process (ISP), but also S&T developments, was a significant point within the NGO statement.”

  • Experts: Treason charge against Argentinian ex-president vindicates murdered prosecutor

    Last Thursday, Argentinians woke up to a political earthquake as the federal judge Claudio Bonadio, who investigated the role of the government of ex-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center, indicted Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, as well as other government officials. Experts argued that the treason charge brought against Kirchner and a number of her top aides vindicates the late Alberto Nisman’s investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

  • Effective counter-messaging strategies to check terrorist recruitment

    The Department of Defense has awarded four social science professors $794,000 to research the effects of extremist propaganda on different personality types, as well as the effects of different counter-messaging strategies. The research will answer basic questions about the effects of exposure to online extremist messages and counter-messages, such as: What kind of messaging is most effective? What are the short- and medium-term results of exposure to extremist messages and counter-messages? What personality characteristics in viewers make them more or less receptive to different kinds of messages?

  • De-radicalization can work for former ISIS fighters

    Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, recently revealed that 60 foreign fighters who joined ISIS and other terror groups in Syria and Iraq are now back and living in Canada. Their fate has sparked fierce debate in Canada’s Parliament between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer has expressed concerns about the national security threat posed by these fighters, while Trudeau pledged to prosecute those who broke Canada’s anti-terrorism laws. Despite the sensitivity of the issue, especially when the safety and security of Canadian citizens are at stake, Trudeau’s approach could therefore be deemed the most effective and efficient. The Conservative approach, meantime, not only indicates a “once a terrorist, always a terrorist” mindset, it also capitalizes on fear and stigmatization of Muslims, and does little to resolve the issue of homegrown radicals.

  • The moral questions in the debate on what constitutes terrorism

    Even though domestic killings and nonterrorist mass shootings kill more Americans than terrorism and undermine our security, these acts typically don’t lead to calls for radical preventive measures. But if two acts of violence kill or injure similar numbers of people, have similar effects on victims and communities, and spread fear and terror, we, as a society, should see them as equally abhorrent, regardless of whether they are ideologically motivated. And we should see the goal of preventing such acts as equally urgent. Most of us, however, don’t. And that’s unfair. It’s unfair to the victims of mass killers and domestic violence, whose safety and security are not regarded as warranting the same outrage and demand for radical preventive measures that terrorist killings call for.

  • Violence a matter of scale, not quantity

    Anthropologists have debated for decades whether humans living in tribal communities thousands of years ago were more or less violent than societies today. Researchers wonder whether the question of more or less violence is the wrong one — what if it’s a matter of scale? In a new paper, the researchers present data showing that the size of a society’s population is what drives the size of its “war group,” or number of people of fighting age who defend it. They also show that the size of the war group is what determines the number of casualties in a conflict.

  • Suspect held in NYC attempted terrorist attack

    A 27-year old Bangladeshi immigrant who lived in Brooklyn was detained by the police Monday morning after detonating an explosive device in the New York City subway tunnel during the morning commute. The suspect, Akayed Ullah, was injured in the 7:20 a.m. attempted attack, as were three passers-by. The explosion occurred in a passageway near 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, in midtown Manhattan near Times Square. The injuries were not life-threatening.

  • Former Argentinian president ordered arrested for covering up Iran’s role in terror attack

    An Argentinian judge on Thursday ordered the arrest of the country’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing at the Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people and wounded 300. The former president, who now serves as a senator, is accused of signing a 2012 deal with Iran that would have allowed senior Iranian officials implicated in the attack to be investigated in their own country, rather than in Argentina.

  • The Manchester bombing: unknown unknowns and “hindsight bias”

    The May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing could have been prevented, a report by the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has revealed. David Anderson QC’s report suggests there were opportunities to reopen the case, raising the possibility the attack could have been stopped. Newspaper headlines, however, are misleading, neglecting the nuance in Anderson’s report that the decision to ignore or misinterpret the intelligence on Abedi was “understandable” in the circumstances, overlooking the complex nature of counter-terror investigations. So, could the Manchester bombing really have been prevented?

  • Germany considering requiring home, car alarm systems to be equipped with back doors

    The German government will next week discuss sweeping new surveillance powers aimed to improve public safety. The proposal to be discussed would require operators of car and house alarm systems to help police and security services in their efforts to spy on potential terrorists or criminals.