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The Lead

Scientists rank thousands of substances according to potential exposure level

October 29, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the environment, and hundreds are in our bodies. But for most of them, scientists have yet to determine whether they cause health problems. Now they’ve taken the first step toward doing that by estimating which substances people are exposed to the most.

With phased-array radar, electrical engineers aim to make car travel safer

October 29, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

Electrical engineers from the Univ. of California, San Diego have developed hardware for a new...

Nanoparticle safety: The quest for the gold standard

October 29, 2014 9:53 am | News | Comments

Researching the safety of nanoparticles is all the rage. Thousands of scientists worldwide are...

California startup unveils gun technology for cops

October 24, 2014 8:48 am | by Haven Daley, Associated Press | News | Comments

A Silicon Valley startup has developed technology to let dispatchers know when a police officer'...

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Innovations being commercialized to improve radiation detection, adhesives and sealants

October 15, 2014 8:17 am | Videos | Comments

Officials at a Chicago-based startup, Sagamore-Adams Laboratories LLC, say innovations discovered in Purdue University's School of Nuclear Engineering are being commercialized to address challenges in improving radiation detection and making sealants and adhesives safer. They have developed technology that could lead to radiation sensors that cost less and provide better information than traditional sensors.

Millions of voiceprints quietly being harvested

October 13, 2014 8:44 am | by Raphael Satter, Associated Press | News | Comments

Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice. Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords. Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases.

New method helps portable detection of potent “bath salts” drugs

October 1, 2014 11:25 am | News | Comments

Despite being outlawed in 2012 in the U.S., the synthetic drugs known as "bath salts" are still readily available in some retail shops, on the Internet and on the streets. To help law enforcement, scientists are developing low-cost, disposable, mercury-free electrodes that could be the basis for the first portable, on-site testing device for identifying the drugs.

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NIST awards contract to MITRE to support cybersecurity center

September 26, 2014 9:26 am | News | Comments

In support of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, NIST has awarded a contract its first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). The contract, which includes three initial tasks totaling about $29 million, was awarded to The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates six other FFRDCs.

Thermo Fisher Scientific teams with reference labs on new European food regulation

September 4, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

European laboratories testing food for dioxins now have lower-cost, smaller-footprint alternatives for confirming levels of toxic contaminants, thanks to a new European Union regulation. Thermo Fisher Scientific worked closely with national reference labs in the EU to support the development of the new regulation, which permits use of gas chromatograph-triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometers (GC-MS/MS) for confirmation.

C2D2 fighting corrosion

August 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Anna Maltsev, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bridges become an infrastructure problem as they get older, as de-icing salt and carbon dioxide gradually destroy the reinforced concrete. A new robot called C2D2 (Climbing Corrosion Detecting Device) is now in use in Switzerland and can check the condition of these structures, even in places that people cannot reach.

Smartphones set out to decipher a cryptographic system

August 26, 2014 8:29 am | by Sébastien Corthésy, EPFL | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have created an Android app which lets users get together to crack a modern cryptographic code. Building on earlier work that used a network of 300 PlayStation consoles, the scientists decided to leverage the power of smartphones. By running the algorithm a very large number of times the code may be broken eventually.

Researchers develop defense software "TCP Stealth"

August 15, 2014 11:19 am | News | Comments

Port scanners are programs that search the Internet for systems that exhibit potential vulnerabilities. According to report published online, Hacienda is one such port scanning program. The report says that this program is being put into service by the "Five Eyes," a federation of Western secret services. Scientists have developed free software that can help prevent this kind of identification and thus the subsequent capture of systems.

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Report: Russian hackers steal 1.2B passwords

August 6, 2014 10:10 am | News | Comments

Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion user names and passwords in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites, according to a report published Tuesday. The thievery was described in a New York Times story based on the findings of Hold Security, a Milwaukee firm that has a history of uncovering online security breaches. For confidentiality reasons, the identities of the affected websites weren't identified by the Times.

New York police see risks with drones' popularity

July 10, 2014 9:43 am | by Tom Hays, Associated Press | News | Comments

Police in New York City are concerned that the increasing popularity of drones in such a tightly packed metropolis could carry major risks, even becoming a potential tool for terrorists to conduct surveillance or carry out attacks. Even though it's illegal to fly the devices just about anywhere in New York City without permission, recent incidents and breathtaking videos of Manhattan suggest that the restrictions are being widely flouted.

License plate readers face hurdles before reaching full potential

July 2, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

Systems that automatically read automobile license plates have the potential to save police investigative time and increase safety, but law enforcement officials must address issues related to staffing, compatibility and privacy before the technology can reach its full potential, according to a new RAND Corp. report.

Research may help prevent eye injury among soldiers

July 1, 2014 11:50 am | by K.C. Gonzalez, UTSA | News | Comments

In a basement laboratory at Fort Sam Houston military base in Texas, a research team has spent the last two years simulating improvised explosive device blasts on postmortem pig eyes using a high-powered shock tube. Their most striking discovery is that these blasts can damage the optic nerve, and these injuries can occur even at low pressures, causing visual defects that until now have been associated traumatic brain injuries.

Cold War-style spy games return to melting Arctic

June 13, 2014 8:13 am | by Karl Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

In early March, a mysterious ship the size of a large passenger ferry left Romania and plotted a course toward Scandinavia. About a month later, at the fenced-in headquarters of Norway's military intelligence service, the country's spychief disclosed its identity. It was a $250 million spy ship, tentatively named Marjata, that will be equipped with sensors and other technology to snoop on Russia's activities in the Arctic beginning in 2016.

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Are squiggly lines the future of password security?

June 5, 2014 9:16 am | Videos | Comments

The need for robust password security has never been more critical than now, as people use smartphones or tablets to pay bills and store personal information. A new Rutgers study shows that free-form gestures can be used to unlock phones and grant access to apps. These gestures are less likely to be observed and reproduced than than traditional methods such as typed passwords.

Proactive approach to detect malicious software in networked computers and data

June 4, 2014 10:12 am | News | Comments

Highlighting the impact of malicious software, Target suffered the largest retail hack in U.S. history during the Christmas shopping season of 2013. To help combat this worsening trend, Virginia Tech computer scientists have used causal relations to determine whether or not network activities have justifiable and legitimate causes to occur. The work effectively isolates infected computer hosts and detects in advance stealthy malware.

New method discovered to protect against chemical weapons

May 27, 2014 3:13 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents such as the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that may make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing. The use of polyoxoniobates for this purpose had never before been demonstrated, and the discovery could have important implications for both military and civilian protection.

In the wake of high-profile battery fires, a safer approach emerges

May 14, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

As news reports of lithium-ion battery (LIB) fires in Boeing Dreamliner planes and Tesla electric cars remind us, these batteries, which are in everyday portable devices, like tablets and smartphones, have their downsides. Now, scientists have designed a safer kind of lithium battery component that is far less likely to catch fire and still promises effective performance.

Detecting trace amounts of explosives with light

May 8, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Research in Australia may help in the fight against terrorism with the creation of a sensor that can detect tiny quantities of explosives with the use of light and special glass fibers. The researchers have created a new optical fiber sensor which can detect explosives in concentrations as low as 6.3 ppm (parts per million). It requires an analysis time of only a few minutes.

Food security may be increased by new agricultural production modeling

May 5, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Farmers optimize crop production on their own lands by rotating crops, or testing soils to choose the right amount of fertilizers to apply. But is it possible to optimize production across a much bigger area, such as the eastern U.S.? That’s the question a team of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scientists has begun to tackle by developing a sophisticated new modeling tool.

Protecting olive oil from counterfeiters

April 24, 2014 1:50 pm | by Barbara Vonarburg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Counterfeit or adulterated olive oil has been a persistent presence on the market, in part because the oil is difficult to track. An invisible label, developed by researchers in Switzerland, could perform this task. The tag consists of tiny magnetic DNA particles encapsulated in a silica casing and mixed with the oil. Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy.

Sensitive detection method may help impede illicit nuclear trafficking

April 15, 2014 12:34 pm | News | Comments

According to a new study, coupling commercially available spectral x-ray detectors with a specialized algorithm can improve the detection of uranium and plutonium in small, layered objects such as baggage. This approach enhances the detection powers of x-ray imaging and may provide a new tool to impede nuclear trafficking.

Advanced warning systems increase safety at intersections, study shows

April 9, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

A major factor making driving difficult is hazards that are sudden and hard to predict. The wrong choice in this situation, known as the “dilemma zone,” may lead to crashes. Roadside and in-vehicle display warning systems may help drivers handle these hazards by predicting their occurrence and providing advanced warning to the driver, according to a new study.

'Unbreakable' security codes inspired by nature

April 4, 2014 3:20 pm | News | Comments

Inspired by human biology, a revolutionary new method of encrypting confidential information has been patented by scientists. This discovery could transform daily life which is reliant on secure electronic communications for everything from mobiles to sensor networks and the internet.

South By Southwest: Secrets, spying, chef Watson

March 11, 2014 11:49 am | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

FOMO—or the fear of missing out—is a common complaint at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas each year. It's here, after all, that "Girls" creator Lena Dunham spoke on Monday at the same time that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave a teleconferenced talk. All the while, IBM showed off the capabilities of cognitive computing in a language anyone could understand: food.

U.S. network to scan workers with secret clearances

March 10, 2014 9:49 am | by Stephen Braun, Associated Press | News | Comments

Intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances. The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, in part to prevent cases similar to former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.

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