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NIST funds center to model disaster recovery strategies

NIST funds center to model disaster recovery strategies

After a large storm system rips through a community, a quick response time is essential for saving lives and rebuilding so communities can get back to business.  To help communities improve disaster response and remediation, The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a $20 million contract to Colorado State University to create the Community Resilience Center of Excellence.

The center will develop computer tools and virtual models to help local governments decide how best to invest in resources to mitigate the impact of extreme weather on communities and speed recovery. 

NIST-CORE or Community Resilience Modeling Environment, will be a pivotal piece of the center’s capabilities for meeting stated goals.  Using an open-source platform, NIST-CORE will incorporate risk-based decision-making and enable quantitative comparisons of different resilience strategies, NIST said.

The system will provide scientific metrics and decision tools that communities will use to evaluate the resilience of a built environment and its interconnected infrastructure. The models will also integrate social systems that are essential to recovering communities in various sectors, such as health care delivery, education, social services and financial institutions.

“The tools developed by the center will help to further advance the important goal of disaster resilience from ambitious concepts to cost-effective solutions that communities can implement over time,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May.

NIST-CORE will eventually be capable of performing analysis unlike any other disaster-resilience model in the world – learning from one analysis to the next.  As it continues to be applied, NIST-CORE’s performance will be tested alongside data from previous disasters. 

Posted on Mar 04, 2015 at 1:50 PM0 comments


CBP expands mobile passport app

CBP expands mobile passport app

Last August, the Customs and Border Patrol introduced a mobile iOS application that streamlined the entry of qualified individuals into the United States by allowing them to submit passport information electronically prior to inspection.  

CPB’s Mobile Passport Control app is now expanding to include Android devices and will also be available to travelers at the Miami International Airport. 

When Mobile Passport Control first launched, it was used solely at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  Due to the success of the mobile application, CBP expects expand to an additional 20 airports by 2016. 

Developed by Airports Council International-North America in concert with Airside Mobile and CBP, Mobile Passport Control allows travelers to create a profile, submit a declaration form and get an electronic receipt that they can show to agents at the airport, along with their passports. Travelers using the app experience more rapid service and less wait times, CPB said.

Posted on Mar 03, 2015 at 11:56 AM0 comments


superfish spyware

Lenovo CTO: Superfish spyware confined to consumer notebooks

While the Superfish VisualDiscovery spyware found on some Lenovo PCs has damaged the company’s reputation, enterprise customers have been assured the adware was confined to consumer market notebooks.

Superfish adware intercepts users’ web traffic to provide targeted advertisements. It also installs a non-unique trusted root certification authority (CA) certificate, allowing an attacker to spoof HTTPS traffic, which US-CERT calls “a classic man-in-the-middle attack.” 

In an open letter from Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius, he wrote that, “this issue was limited to our consumer notebooks and in no way impacted our ThinkPads; any tablets, desktops or smartphones; or any enterprise server or storage device.”

The company has also released an automated removal tool so customers could remove Superfish and related files. Additionally, Microsoft, McAfee and Symantec updated their software to automatically disable and remove this software.

Nevertheless, US-CERT says the systems that came with the software already installed will continue to be vulnerable until corrective actions have been taken. Instructions on detecting and eliminating Superfish are available from US-CERT.

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:21 AM1 comments


USDA cultivates open data

The burgeoning open data movement has taken hold in federal agencies as well as state and local governments.  Open data increases citizens’ confidence in government and fosters innovation and economic growth. Additionally, open data can improve agency operations as data is available in a central location.

In the last year, the Department of Agriculture has published over 800 data sets on usda.gov/data and data.gov, according to a recent agency announcement.  

In addition, USDA said it is engaging other stakeholders so it can use that feedback to improve future data submissions. In the last year USDA participated in the Safety Data Palooza and held Open Data Executive Seminars and the Open Data 500 Roundtable.

The Safety Data Palooza was co-hosted with the Department of Transportation to highlight innovations using open data from developers in the private, non-profit and academic sectors.  Various IT professionals from USDA lead policymakers during Open Data Executive Seminars providing briefings on open and big data. 

Lastly, the Open Data 500 Roundtable promoted the use of data to combat climate change.  The roundtable examined various ways data can address the risk climate change poses to the food supply as well as how data can help produce “food resilience” among the farming and food producing industry.    

USDA will continue to promote open data in 2015, outlining five goals: 

  • Document and institutionalize data publishing.
  • Development of interagency partnerships that can provide greater value for innovators and small business startups.
  • Improve the quality of USDA data sets.
  • Work with AgGateway, a group of non-profit businesses that aim to enhance and expand e-business in agriculture, to build on standards and definitions.
  • Identify who is using USDA open data sets in order to better tailor services to those users.

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 at 10:15 AM0 comments


N.C. joins states fielding live traffic safety apps

The morning commute can be a nightmare when travelers are pressed for time and unable to check traffic or weather reports before they leave home.  North Carolina has taken steps to address their concerns with the introduction of an application that allows users to check real-time conditions of roads and weather from desktops or smartphones.

The Traveler Information Management System (TIMS) provides NCDOT personnel, the public, media, emergency personnel and other state and federal agencies with 24/7 real-time data on incidents and weather conditions that affect traffic and structures on North Carolina roadways.

The app also features a search function, which allows users to zero-in on their region, route and county. TIMS provides live traffic camera coverage with updates on accidents and road conditions to provide commuters the latest possible information before they depart.   

Information from TIMS can be downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet. It is also available via RSS or SOAP feeds.

North Carolina joins a growing number of states providing mobile access to traffic data via 511 services, including Idaho, Virginia and Kentucky.

Idaho’s 511 mobile application provides access to real-time data on routes and highways across the state, including zoomable maps, roadwork and construction locations, traffic speeds, traffic incidents and video images in available areas. 

Virginia’s 511 mobile app lets users view data feeds via a map-based interface from over 800 live traffic cameras.  Virginia’s app makes voice alerts available to users who can program them for traffic events within a 5-mile to 15-mile range. In Virginia, users can also tap a “Reach The Beach” feature for best routes to Virginia Beach during peak summer beach travel.

Posted on Feb 19, 2015 at 12:44 PM0 comments