Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


CIS offers pre-hardened resources for Amazon cloud

CIS offers pre-hardened resources for Amazon cloud

The Center for Internet Security announced the availability of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) for a variety of operating systems, which will enable organizations to reduce time, cost and risk in their cloud deployments.

Offered via the AWS Marketplace, the launch instances are hardened according to secure configuration baselines prescribed by CIS’s expert consensus teams. The AMIs are accessible for use by any organization using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and available for six CIS benchmarks-hardened systems: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Server, Red Hat Linux 6 and 7, Amazon Linux 2014.09, Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 and Centos Linux 7.

The CIS AMIs, which can be obtained on demand on a computer-hour basis, are the only virtual machines available in the cloud that are preconfigured based on CIS’ internationally recognized secure configuration recommendations, according to the cybersecurity nonprofit.

Amazon EC2 Regions in the United States where the CIS AMIs are available include U.S. East (N. Virginia), U.S. West (N. California) and U.S. West (Oregon).

“The need for flexible, affordable and secure resources is urgent, and as more organizations move their business into the cloud, the CIS AMIs are a cost-effective way for entities in the public and private sectors to customize solutions that meet their needs,” said William F. Pelgrin, CEO of the Center for Internet Security.

CIS produces consensus-based secure configuration benchmarks and content and serves as a cybersecurity resource for state, local, territorial and tribal governments.

Posted on Apr 01, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments


What’s new at Data.gov

What’s new at Data.gov

Data.gov, the home of the government’s open data information, has announced a new features for its open data platform. 

First, Data.gov has added a new “Open With” menu that will enable users to directly open datasets with Plotly and CartoDB – both data visualization tools. Plotly converts datasets into graphs, and CartoDB,can be used to quickly turn geospatial data into maps, some of which can be seen in this gallery of maps using government data.

The Open With menu also now supports KML and zipped Shapefiles. Data.gov will continue to add third-party tools to it. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also worked with Data.gov on an interactive data visualization tool to better illustrate the agency’s support for community building.

The tool allows the public to explore FEMA grant data related to fire, preparedness, mitigation and public assistance. The tool visualizes disaster declarations by state, hazard and county.

Data.gov also launched a customer service platform for users to request data and report problems with current datasets. The new Help Desk is based on the Open311 specification commonly used by local governments to allow citizens to request non-emergency municipal services and track progress of those requests.

On Data.gov, users will be able to request specific data to be released, submit issues (such as broken links or downloading problems) and check the status of those requests.

Currently the form is available on the Contact Us menu, but it will soon be integrated with datasets on the site. The developers also plan to make the Help Desk API available to agencies and organizations outside government.

Posted on Mar 30, 2015 at 1:15 PM0 comments


3D printed weather stations predict flash floods

3D printed weather stations predict flash floods

The rise of 3D printing has been celebrated for its ability to take manufacturing to the desktop, enabling the quick construction of toys, tools, and other industrial gadgets at the touch of a button.

Lately, it’s acquired a new mission: saving lives. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is using the technology in working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners are using the technology to build weather stations in underdeveloped countries to help predict flash floods. 

For regions that that do not possess – or cannot afford – the necessary forecasting tools to predict flash flooding, citizens are exposed to even greater danger because they cannot take necessary precautions. 

However, by using 3D printers, the components of weather forecasting stations can be built locally and relatively cheaply – for about $200. The technology works by creating a 3D computer design for each part of the weather station.

With the help of technicians from the National Science Foundation-supported Joint Office for Science Support, the components are “manufactured” using a microwaved-sized 3D printer. The printer layers threads of melted plastic to build the components. Once printed, the individual pieces are put together by hand, and low-cost electronic sensors are attached.  

Data collected by the station, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, rainfall and wind, are stored in a Raspberry Pi and transmitted to weather experts.   

“The bottom line is that 3D printing will help to save lives,” said Sezin Tokar, with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. “Not only can they provide countries with the ability to more accurately monitor for weather-related disasters, the data they produce can also help reduce the economic impact of disasters.”

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:51 AM0 comments


New York State introduces open gov API

New York State introduces open gov API

The New York Attorney General ‘s office announced an application-programming interface that will provide access to the state’s open government database

The API, a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a web-based software application, will put into action “the public’s right to know and monitor governmental decision-making,” according to the AG’s announcement.

API’s allow app developers to query databases and build applications that rely on that data. Using them, citizens and developers can access a storehouse of aggregated governmental data related to campaign finance, lobbying information, state contracts and corporate registrations, to name a few  uses of the data.

The API will provide those interested in creating their own applications easier access to the data. The tool will also  enable app developers and opengov activists ways to construct new graphical interfaces, devise algorithms for mining data and create applications that integrate various the opengov datasets.  Those databases are currently only accessible via a simple search tool bar. 

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 at 8:26 AM0 comments


Landsat 8 data free on Amazon cloud

Landsat 8 data free on Amazon cloud

Researchers and interested citizens working with Landsat images can now find 85,000 geospatial scenes freely available on the Amazon cloud, the company announced

The Landsat search-observation program has collected images since 1972, and the newest satellite, Landsat 8, gathers data based on visible, infrared, near-infrared and thermal-infrared light.  These images have become a valuable resource for researchers in the agricultural, cartographical, geological, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education sectors.  Access to Landsat data via Amazon’s AWS cloud system will enable researchers to analyze and create new products regardless of storage or bandwidth needs. 

Users will also be able to access the updated landsat-util library from the landsat-pds bucket in the Amazon S3 US West (Oregon) region.

Amazon has already committed to hosting up to a petabyte of Landsat data as part of its support of climate research, humanitarian relief, and disaster preparedness efforts with its cloud resources. 

Posted on Mar 25, 2015 at 8:26 AM0 comments