Leading the News
Systems Worldwide Struggle To Recover From Ransomware Cyberattack.
In continuing coverage of the global cyberattack that hit on Tuesday, broadcast news focused on its spread to and impact in America. NBC Nightly News (6/28, story 6, 0:30, Holt) reported the attack “quickly spread to the US [and] is now affecting more and more big businesses at home. At the port of Los Angeles, officials say shipping giant Maersk was forced to shut down its massive operation there. That’s in addition to the nation’s second-largest pharmaceutical company, a major food company, and even a Pennsylvania healthcare provider among those hit.” ABC World News Tonight’s (6/28, story 8, 1:30, Llamas) Dan Harris reported, “Experts say it should be a wake-up call for the American healthcare system.” Reporting from Phoenix, Harris explained a new exercise in which medical professionals, security experts, and government employees collaborated to prepare for the “mass hack” of a hospital. Harris said, “The goal of this exercise [was] to bring awareness to a fact recently highlighted in a congressional report, which said the security of our healthcare systems is in ‘critical condition.’ With so many medical devices connected to the Internet, they are now considered potential threats.”
Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine, where Tuesday’s attack is believed to have originated, say the “software epidemic” is under control, according to Fox News’ Special Report (6/28). However, on Wednesday “the mysterious hacker group Shadow Brokers is warning of more attacks to come.” USA Today (6/27, Swartz, Sandler) reports about 2,000 systems worldwide were affected by a “virulent new strain of ransomware named Petya” that capitalized “on the same vulnerabilities that froze hundreds of thousands of computers a month ago” in the form of WannaCry. Accenture said more than $8,000 was collected by the unidentified attackers, though it would be impossible for the victims to send proof of payment in order receive the code to decrypt their files since the email address provided was shut down by German email service Posteo.
The Washington Post (6/28, Filipov, Roth, Nakashima), however, cites preliminary findings by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab researchers that the malware is a new kind of ransomware called *ExPetr* that was not previously seen, and while “it has several strings similar to Petya, it possesses entirely different functionality.” Kaspersky said about 60 percent of the attacks were carried out in Ukraine – including a regional website that was hacked an used to distribute the ransomware – and 30 percent in Russia. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “no serious problems” had occurred as a result of the cyberattacks. Among the companies that “struggled to recover” yesterday were the Real Estate unit of France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, as well as a number of firms in Belarus, Spain, Norway, and Britain.
In a front-page story, the New York Times (6/28, A1, Kramer, Subscription Publication) reports that as of yesterday, some cybersecurity experts have concluded that while Tuesday’s ransomware attack appeared to be financially minded, it could have had “a more sinister motive”: paralyzing Ukraine’s vital computer systems. In this view, the attack’s spread across borders was inadvertent and mere collateral damage. The Times explains the theory that hackers wove the virus into a legitimate update for M.E.Doc, a tax preparation software required by law for all accountants in Ukraine. As such, it affected operations at up to 1,500 companies and high-level government institutions on the eve of the country’s independence day, which many say is unlikely to be a coincidence. The Times says there’s no proof of Russia’s involvement, but in Ukraine, it “was seen as the prime suspect because it has been engaged in overt and covert warfare” since 2014.
The New York Times (6/28, Perlroth, Sanger, Subscription Publication) reports the NSA’s silence on its role in developing hacking tools used in the Petya and WannaCry attacks “is wearing thin for victims of the assaults,” and there’s “growing concern that United States intelligence agencies have rushed to create digital weapons that they cannot keep safe from adversaries or disable once they fall into the wrong hands.” Microsoft President Brad Smith said that as the source of the “vulnerabilities” now crippling entities around the globe, the NSA must “consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.” The Times says that “what is unfolding across the world amounts to a digital nightmare” for the agency, especially as officials “fret that the potential damage from the Shadow Brokers leaks could go much further, and the agency’s own weaponry could be used to destroy critical infrastructure in allied nations or in the United States.”
NBA To Hold Second Annual Hackathon.
USA Today (6/28) reports that as the sports industry increasingly turns to data analytics, the NBA “is giving college-age students the opportunity to contribute.” The piece reports that the league has announced that in September it will host its second annual NBA Hackathon, “giving young statisticians, engineers and developers a platform to help solve some of the analytics-based problems faced by the NBA on both the basketball and the business side. Graduate students and doctoral candidates from around the US and Canada “will work in teams for 24 hours before presenting their solutions to a panel of NBA executives, professors and members of the media.
West Virginia University Team Wins Experimental Sounding Rocket Association Competition In New Mexico.
The AP (6/28) reports West Virginia University’s Experimental Rocketry team won first place in a rocket launching competition hosted by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association and held in New Mexico. Students taking part in the competition are called on to “design, build and launch rockets to a targeted altitude. More than 100 teams from around the world competed in the event.”
Marshall University Raising Tuition, Fees Due To State Funding Cuts.
The Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail (6/28, Jarvis) reports Marshall University’s governing board approved its “largest increase in recent memory” Wednesday by raising tuition and fees by 9 percent for most students. The vote comes in response to the West Virginia Legislature cutting the university’s funding by about $4.2 million. Marshall has lost more than $14.5 million in funding in the past five years. The nine percent increase affects in-state and out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students, while the Board of Governors also approved a 7 percent tuition increase for students from the surrounding metro area.
Research and Development
University Of Texas At Arlington Launches New Gas-To-Liquid Lab.
The Fort Worth (TX) Business Press (6/26) reports that the University of Texas at Arlington this week joined with officials from Greenway Technologies Inc. to announce the opening of their new gas-to-liquid laboratory, “named for the late Conrad Greer,” who “initiated the natural gas GTL idea with Ray Wright, president of Greenway Innovative Energy Inc. who got their company started on the journey to helping change and innovate energy production in the United States.”
Raytheon: Air Force Engineering, Testing New Air-Dropped Weapon.
Scout (6/28) reports Raytheon officials said that the Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, which is “designed to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.” According to Scout, Air Force and Raytheon officials “said” that the “new bomb is slated to be operational on F-15E fighter jets by 2018.”
Cadillac’s “Super Cruise” Feature Allows For Semi-Autonomous Driving.
CNBC (6/28) reports about Cadillac’s new “Super Cruise” feature on its CT6 sedans, which “takes driving to a whole new level,” in the words of GM engineer Robb Bolio, allowing the driver to remove their hands and feet from the controls during highway driving. The story describes Super Cruise as “GM’s answer to Tesla’s Autopilot technology,” which “dominates the conversation when car buyers and the general public talk about self-driving cars.” At the same time, Cadillac’s semi-autonomous system also has “a small camera on the steering column that watches the eyes of the driver” to make sure they are focused on the road and ready to take over again if needed. If the driver fails to resume manual control over the vehicle, it goes through a series of auditory and visual warnings until finally bringing the car to a stop automatically. Moreover, unlike the Tesla feature, Super Cruise only works on the highway and does not change lanes for the driver.
New Microscope May Help Surgeons Completely Remove Breast Tumors, Research Suggests.
HealthDay (6/28, Dallas) reports that research suggests “a new microscope could help surgeons remove breast tumors completely, reducing the number of women who must undergo repeat surgeries to remove cancer cells that were missed the first time.” This “microscope…effectively scans tumors and examines cells in three dimensions in under 30 minutes, researchers report.” The findings were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Researchers Working On Skin Patch To Deliver Flu Vaccine.
In continuing coverage, the CBS Evening News (6/28, story 11, 1:55, Mason) reported, “Fewer than 50 percent of Americans got the flu shot last year.” Emory University “researchers in Atlanta want to increase those numbers by giving people the option to vaccinate themselves with a skin patch.” Medical correspondent Jon LaPook, MD, explained that a research team at “Emory University tried something new, delivering vaccine just inside the skin, using a small patch covered with microscopic needles that dissolve within minutes.” The patch, which “can be self-administered,” lasts “without refrigeration for up to a year.” Should its development go well, “the patch will be commercially available within five years.”
Despite Press Features For Tesla’s New Battery Factory, Chinese Battery Output Will Blow Away Gigafactory.
Bloomberg News (6/28, Ryan) reports “Chinese companies have plans for additional factories with the capacity to pump out more than 120 gigawatt-hours” of battery capacity “a year by 2021,” or “enough to supply batteries for around 1.5 million Tesla Model S vehicles or 13.7 million Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids per year.” Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to move forward with his Gigafactory plans in Nevada, which is set to be completed in 2018 but would only produce as much as 35 gigawatt-hours of battery capacity a year. So “while Tesla may be building the biggest and splashiest factory, the Chinese government has launched a sweeping effort to increase the country’s dominant market share” in the lithium-ion battery market. China does not have any dominant battery manufacturer, however, with its mostly smaller companies unable to compete with Tesla’s battery production directly, but the state is encouraging combinations to consolidate the domestic battery industry.
Volkswagen Uses Nvidia GPUs To Run Deep Learning Algorithms For Traffic Flow Optimization.
The Wall Street Journal (6/28, Castellanos) reports on Volkswagen AG’s research into quantum computing and deep learning to improve traffic flows in dense urban centers. Volkswagen previously purchased Nvidia graphics processing units to perfect its algorithms.
Engineering and Public Policy
House Committee Sends Legislation To Revive Yucca Mountain To Full House.
The AP (6/28, Daly) reports the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill 49-4 to revive plans to establish a permanent repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, as well as establish a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas. Supporters of the measure argue that the legislation “represents a comprehensive package to solve a nuclear-waste management problem that has festered for more than three decades.” Notably, Rep. Doris Matsui, “who helped draft the compromise bill, said it’s important to remove nuclear waste being stored at decommissioned nuclear power plants.” The bill will now go to the full House.
The Hill (6/28, Cama) reports the bill “would set a time limit for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the project and makes a necessary land transfer for the project.” In addition, the legislation allows the Energy Department “to permit an interim nuclear waste storage site before Yucca has its licensing process completed.” Greenwire (6/28, Wittenberg, Subscription Publication) reports, “Republicans hailed the measure as a major bipartisan success, while Democrats on the panel expressed uncertainty and eagerness to see what approach the upper chamber takes.”
The Las Vegas Sun (6/28, Gonzalez) reports the committee “recently heard opposition to the Yucca Mountain project, and a section of the act usurping Nevada’s water rights was removed to address some of Nevada’s concerns, said Rep. John Shimkus.” He “says he hopes Nevada will get involved in those discussions.” Shimkus stated, “It is my hope that while striking this section to acknowledge the precedent of state water permitting authority, Nevada will constructively engage with (the Department of Energy) to discuss how much water might be required to fulfill the federally mandated project.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune (6/28, Nikolewski) reports the vote yesterday signaled “a building consensus on Capitol Hill to tackle the issue as nuclear waste accumulates at plants across the country.”
House Subcommittee Approves Energy Spending Bill.
The Hill (6/28, Elis) reports the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development “has approved a slimmed-down energy bill that would cut spending – though not as much as proposed by President Trump.” The subcommittee “approved a $37.6 billion spending bill that represents a $209 million decrease from current spending levels,” but it allocates “$3.65 billion more than Trump’s budget request.” The legislation “accepted Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy.” However, it “leaned away from some of Trump’s requests, adding funds for programs shoring up America’s nuclear weapons and military engineering and continuing research and development for fossil fuels.”
Greenwire (6/28, Wittenberg, Subscription Publication) reports “the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its funding fall by about half under the budget plan, from $2.1 billion to $1.1 billion. The office supports renewable and sustainable transportation research and oversees mandatory efficiency standards.” Rep. Marcy Kaptur said, “The cuts to clean energy programs represent a very serious backtrack.” The bill “would also eliminate the loan guarantee program as Trump requested, although it would provide funds for administrative expenses for continued monitoring of issued loans.”
GM Pledges $850,000 To Support Women In STEM Fields.
Fortune (6/28, Farber) reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra wants “to get more girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering” telling the press in New York this week that GM is giving $850,000 to the nonprofits Code.org, Black Girls Code, Institute of Play, and Digital Promise for STEM programs and training. Barra said “it’s my hope those students become graduates who are equipped to join us in the technical fields required to lead in the future of mobility.”
Business Insider (6/28, Thompson) reports Barra said, “A car today has hundreds of million of miles of code. And we do see a [talent] shortage if we don’t address this.” The story highlights the expansion of GM’s autonomous and electric units to hedge its bets against disruption of transportation services by ride-hailing companies and self-driving cars.
Five South Carolina High Schools To Add Aerospace Curriculum.
In its “Curriculum Matters” blog, Education Week (6/28, Iasevoli) reports five South Carolina high schools “will offer an aerospace curriculum to develop the next generation of aviation technology talent” this fall. The state department of education will “award these high schools $50,000 each to incorporate an aerospace curriculum that teaches the ins and outs of aircraft design.” South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman in a statement, “[The aerospace] courses not only prepare students for post-secondary success but also teach them critical skills needed to fill jobs in one of our state’s most thriving industries.” Teachers will be trained how to teach these courses at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Perry Says Electric Grid Study Intended To Assess Political Bent In Energy Policy.
• Carnegie Mellon Launching New Artificial Intelligence Initiative.
• Vanderbilt Researchers Using Capillary-Like Polymer Threads To Create Circuits.
• Silicon Valley Raises Concerns Over Immigration Reforms.
• Texas High School Students Demonstrate Firefighter Mask Condensation Removal Invention At MIT Event.