Intel Owl Automates Threat Intelligence Data Collection

The Honeynet Project, a security research organization that focuses on internet risk mediation, has collaborated in the creation of a new open-source intelligence (OSINT) tool that collates threat information from a multitude of sources. This new resource dubbed Intel Owl provides developers access via API to the resulting threat analysis data.

The project was originally started by an intelligence threat engineer named Matteo Lodi, and a beta release was published in January. Since then the project has developed into something more robust and The Honeynet Project announced the general release in early July of this year.

Developers interested in using the new tool can check out its GitHub repository and read more detail over at the announcement of its release. 

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Author: <a href="">KevinSundstrom</a>


This online calculator can predict your stroke risk

Doctors can predict patients’ risk for ischemic stroke based on the severity of their metabolic syndrome, a conglomeration of conditions that includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess body fat around the abdomen and waist, a new study finds.

The study found that stroke risk increased consistently with metabolic syndrome severity even in patients without diabetes. Doctors can use this information — and a scoring tool developed by a UVA Children’s pediatrician and his collaborator at the University of Florida — to identify patients at risk and help them reduce that risk.

“We had previously shown that the severity of metabolic syndrome was linked to future coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes,” said UVA’s Mark DeBoer, MD. “This study showed further links to future ischemic strokes.”

Ischemic Stroke Risk

DeBoer developed the scoring tool, an online calculator to assess the severity of metabolic syndrome, with Matthew J. Gurka, PhD, of the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Florida, Gainesville. The tool is available for free at

To evaluate the association between ischemic stroke and metabolic syndrome, DeBoer and Gurka reviewed more than 13,000 participants in prior studies and their stroke outcomes. Among that group, there were 709 ischemic strokes over a mean period of 18.6 years assessed in the studies. (Ischemic strokes are caused when blood flow to the brain is obstructed by blood clots or clogged arteries. Hemorrhagic strokes, on the other hand, are caused when blood vessels rupture.)

The researchers used their tool to calculate “Z scores” measuring the severity of metabolic syndrome among the study participants. They could then analyze the association between metabolic syndrome and ischemic stroke risk.

The subgroup with the highest association between metabolic syndrome and risk for ischemic stroke was white women, the researchers found. In this group, the research team was able to identify relationships between the individual contributors to metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure, and stroke risk.

The researchers note that race and sex did not seem to make a major difference in stroke risk overall, and they caution that the increased risk seen in white women could be the results of chance alone. “Nevertheless,” they write in a new scientific article outlining their findings, “these results are notable enough that they may warrant further study into race and sex differences.”

The overall relationship between metabolic syndrome severity and stroke risk was clear, however. And this suggests people with metabolic syndrome can make lifestyle changes to reduce that risk. Losing weight, exercising more, choosing healthy foods — all can help address metabolic syndrome and its harmful effects.

DeBoer hopes that the tool he and Gurka developed will help doctors guide patients as they seek to reduce their stroke risk and improve their health and well-being.

“In case there are still individuals out there debating whether to start exercising or eating a healthier diet,” DeBoer said, “this study provides another wake-up call to motivate us all toward lifestyle changes.”

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Materials provided by University of Virginia Health System. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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How a historic drought led to higher power costs and emissions

Drought can mean restrictions for watering the lawn, crop losses for farmers and an increased risk of wildfires. But it can also hit you and your power company in the wallet.

In communities that rely on water for power generation, a drought can mean higher electricity costs and pollution linked to the loss of hydropower supplies.

In a recent study, a team led by a researcher from North Carolina State University analyzed the downstream effects of a drought in California that took place in 2012-2016, and was considered one of the worst in the state’s history.

They found that drought led to significant increases in power costs for three major investor-owned utilities in the state, but other weather-related events were also likely the main culprit behind those increases.

They also found that increased harmful emissions of greenhouse gases could be linked to hydropower losses during drought in the future, even as more sources of renewable energy are added to the grid.

“There is an expectation that droughts like this will happen again in the future, so there’s a lot of attention on the way it impacted the state as a whole and their power system,” said Jordan Kern, corresponding author of the study and an assistant professor in NC State’s Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources. “We felt there was a need to understand what happens to the grid during drought, especially from a financial, economic, and environmental perspective, and we wanted to provide more clarity.”

In the study, Kern and scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed a new software tool to model the economic and environmental impact of the drought in California, a state that relies on hydropower to supply a significant portion of its power.

On average, the state uses hydropower to supply 13 percent of its energy needs, Kern and his colleagues reported. During the drought, there were lower levels of precipitation, melted snow and stream flow.

As a result, hydropower accounted for just 6 percent of the state’s electricity needs during the worst year of the drought. At the same time, the researchers reported that increased temperatures led to a greater demand for power for cooling.

They found the drought had a “moderate” impact on the market price of electricity. But it was actually another weather event that had a larger impact on costs: a 2014 extreme cold spell known as a “polar vortex” in the eastern United States that led to increased prices for natural gas across the entire country.

Researchers estimated that the loss of hydropower generation cost three main investor-owned utilities in California $1.9 billion. However, increased demand for cooling due to higher temperatures in the period probably had a larger economic cost than the lost hydropower, at $3.8 billion. Both are costs that can be passed on to consumers.

“We tried to figure out exactly how the drought contributed to the increased price for electricity in the market,” Kern said. “We found a reasonable impact, but overall, the increase in price during the drought in California was actually due to higher natural gas prices.”

Researchers also evaluated whether increases in renewable energy resources, like wind and solar energy, could help prevent increases in emissions of carbon dioxide from power generation during drought in the future.

“Usually what happens in California during a drought is they have to turn on natural gas power plants, and there is a spike in emissions,” Kern said. “It was a coincidence that the state was building more renewable energy during the drought. As a result of that, when they lost hydropower, they didn’t have to turn on quite as many natural gas plants.”

While other previous research has suggested an increased dependence on power generated through wind and solar could offset drought-caused increases in carbon dioxide emissions, the researchers said that’s not what they saw.

They reported that even when renewable energy capacity doubled, their model showed the same increase in fossil fuel generation and carbon dioxide emission during drought years.

Kern said that while renewable energy sources result in reduced emissions overall, their analysis points to drought years causing higher emissions, even in systems with more renewable sources.

“During a drought when you don’t have hydropower, the grid needs other types of flexible generation,” he said. “They still have to have sources of generation that can turn on when they lose hydropower, and we think it’s still going to cause periodic increases in emissions, even with increased renewable energy generation.”

The study is part of an ongoing effort to understand the impacts of major weather events such as drought, flooding or high winds on electric power systems in order to potentially mitigate power reliability, environmental and financial risks for utilities and their customers.

“My group spends a lot of time figuring out how extreme weather impacts power systems,” Kern said. “What we want to know is about extreme weather that impairs functionality of the grid — does it cause blackouts or increase costs for consumers.”

The study was published online in the journal Environmental Research Letters. It was co-authored by Yufei Su and Joy Hill of the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Environmental Science and Engineering. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation INFEWS programs.

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How drones can monitor explosive volcanoes

Due to the difficult accessibility and the high risk of collapse or explosion, the imaging of active volcanoes has so far been a great challenge in volcanology. Researchers around Edgar Zorn from the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam are now presenting the results of a series of repeated survey flights with optical and thermal imaging cameras at the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala. Drones were used to observe the lava dome, a viscous plug of lava. The researchers were able to show that the lava dome shows movements on two different time scales: slow expansion and growth of the dome and fast extrusion of viscous lava. The study was published in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

“We have equipped a drone with different cameras,” says Edgar Zorn from GFZ, the first author of the study. “We then flew the drone over the crater at various intervals, measuring the movements of lava flow and a lava dome using a specific type of stereo photography with a precision never seen before.” By comparing the data from the drone, we were able to determine the flow velocity, movement patterns and surface temperature of the volcano. These parameters are important for predicting the danger of explosive volcanoes. The researchers also succeeded in deriving the flow properties of the lava from these data.

“We have shown that the use of drones can help to completely re-measure even the most dangerous and active volcanoes on Earth from a safe distance,” continues Edgar Zorn. “A regular and systematic survey of dangerous volcanoes with drones seems to be almost within one’s grasp,” says Thomas Walter, volcanologist at GFZ, who was also involved in the study.

The two cameras of the drone used on the Caliente volcanic cone of the Santa Maria volcano were able to take high-resolution photos on the one hand and thermal imaging on the other. Using a special computer algorithm, the researchers were able to create complete and detailed 3D models from these images. They obtained a 3D topography and temperature model of the volcano with a resolution of only a few centimetres.

Drone missions considerably reduce the risk for volcanologists, as the cameras can be flown directly to the dangerous spots without the scientists having to go near them themselves. Instead, the greatest challenge lies in the post-processing and calculation of the models. “The 3D models of the various flights must be positioned exactly so that they can be compared. This requires painstaking detail work, but the effort is worth it because even minimal movements become immediately visible,” says Edgar Zorn. “In the study, we presented some new possibilities for the representation and measurement of certain ground movements, which could be very useful in future projects.”

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Materials provided by GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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myCOVIDrisk API Allows Companies to Track COVID-19 Risk to their Business and Workforce

Lepton Software, a GIS software provider, has announced myCOVIDrisk software and API. The new COVID-19 risk mapping solution helps businesses understand COVID-19 risks associated with their workforce, routes, assets, products, and more. The API tracks quarantine and containment zones in real-time.

Using the platform, businesses can identify employees living in or traveling through COVID-19 hotspots. The same applies for order requests from or deliveries to customers who might be in these hotspots. Whether it’s employees, customers, or other third-party partners, myCOVIDrisk allows businesses to identify risks associated with interactions and advise and plan accordingly.

myCOVIDrisk uses Google Maps as the underlying technology. Pairing the maps data with COVID-19 hotspot data, myCOVIDrisk can avoid interactions with hot spot areas, and suggest routes around such areas. Public documentation is not currently available. For access, fill out the form at the myCOVIDrisk site.

A single employee infected with COVID-19 can shut a business down, or set it back weeks or months during an attempt to get back to business as usual. Lepton hopes myCOVIDrisk will allow employers to proactively evaluate their COVID-19 risk and respond accordingly.

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Author: <a href="">ecarter</a>


Study casts doubt on carbon capture

One proposed method for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere — and reducing the risk of climate change — is to capture carbon from the air or prevent it from getting there in the first place. However, research from Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University, published in Energy and Environmental Science, suggests that carbon capture technologies can cause more harm than good.

“All sorts of scenarios have been developed under the assumption that carbon capture actually reduces substantial amounts of carbon. However, this research finds that it reduces only a small fraction of carbon emissions, and it usually increases air pollution,” said Jacobson, who is a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Even if you have 100 percent capture from the capture equipment, it is still worse, from a social cost perspective, than replacing a coal or gas plant with a wind farm because carbon capture never reduces air pollution and always has a capture equipment cost. Wind replacing fossil fuels always reduces air pollution and never has a capture equipment cost.”

Jacobson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, examined public data from a coal with carbon capture electric power plant and a plant that removes carbon from the air directly. In both cases, electricity to run the carbon capture came from natural gas. He calculated the net CO2 reduction and total cost of the carbon capture process in each case, accounting for the electricity needed to run the carbon capture equipment, the combustion and upstream emissions resulting from that electricity, and, in the case of the coal plant, its upstream emissions. (Upstream emissions are emissions, including from leaks and combustion, from mining and transporting a fuel such as coal or natural gas.)

Common estimates of carbon capture technologies — which only look at the carbon captured from energy production at a fossil fuel plant itself and not upstream emissions — say carbon capture can remediate 85-90 percent of carbon emissions. Once Jacobson calculated all the emissions associated with these plants that could contribute to global warming, he converted them to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide in order to compare his data with the standard estimate. He found that in both cases the equipment captured the equivalent of only 10-11 percent of the emissions they produced, averaged over 20 years.

This research also looked at the social cost of carbon capture — including air pollution, potential health problems, economic costs and overall contributions to climate change — and concluded that those are always similar to or higher than operating a fossil fuel plant without carbon capture and higher than not capturing carbon from the air at all. Even when the capture equipment is powered by renewable electricity, Jacobson concluded that it is always better to use the renewable electricity instead to replace coal or natural gas electricity or to do nothing, from a social cost perspective.

Given this analysis, Jacobson argued that the best solution is to instead focus on renewable options, such as wind or solar, replacing fossil fuels.

Efficiency and upstream emissions

This research is based on data from two real carbon capture plants, which both run on natural gas. The first is a coal plant with carbon capture equipment. The second plant is not attached to any energy-producing counterpart. Instead, it pulls existing carbon dioxide from the air using a chemical process.

Jacobson examined several scenarios to determine the actual and possible efficiencies of these two kinds of plants, including what would happen if the carbon capture technologies were run with renewable electricity rather than natural gas, and if the same amount of renewable electricity required to run the equipment were instead used to replace coal plant electricity.

While the standard estimate for the efficiency of carbon capture technologies is 85-90 percent, neither of these plants met that expectation. Even without accounting for upstream emissions, the equipment associated with the coal plant was only 55.4 percent efficient over 6 months, on average. With the upstream emissions included, Jacobson found that, on average over 20 years, the equipment captured only 10-11 percent of the total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions that it and the coal plant contributed. The air capture plant was also only 10-11 percent efficient, on average over 20 years, once Jacobson took into consideration its upstream emissions and the uncaptured and upstream emissions that came from operating the plant on natural gas.

Due to the high energy needs of carbon capture equipment, Jacobson concluded that the social cost of coal with carbon capture powered by natural gas was about 24 percent higher, over 20 years, than the coal without carbon capture. If the natural gas at that same plant were replaced with wind power, the social cost would still exceed that of doing nothing. Only when wind replaced coal itself did social costs decrease.

For both types of plants this suggests that, even if carbon capture equipment is able to capture 100 percent of the carbon it is designed to offset, the cost of manufacturing and running the equipment plus the cost of the air pollution it continues to allow or increases makes it less efficient than using those same resources to create renewable energy plants replacing coal or gas directly.

“Not only does carbon capture hardly work at existing plants, but there’s no way it can actually improve to be better than replacing coal or gas with wind or solar directly,” said Jacobson. “The latter will always be better, no matter what, in terms of the social cost. You can’t just ignore health costs or climate costs.”

This study did not consider what happens to carbon dioxide after it is captured but Jacobson suggests that most applications today, which are for industrial use, result in additional leakage of carbon dioxide back into the air.

Focusing on renewables

People propose that carbon capture could be useful in the future, even after we have stopped burning fossil fuels, to lower atmospheric carbon levels. Even assuming these technologies run on renewables, Jacobson maintains that the smarter investment is in options that are currently disconnected from the fossil fuel industry, such as reforestation — a natural version of air capture — and other forms of climate change solutions focused on eliminating other sources of emissions and pollution. These include reducing biomass burning, and reducing halogen, nitrous oxide and methane emissions.

“There is a lot of reliance on carbon capture in theoretical modeling, and by focusing on that as even a possibility, that diverts resources away from real solutions,” said Jacobson. “It gives people hope that you can keep fossil fuel power plants alive. It delays action. In fact, carbon capture and direct air capture are always opportunity costs.”

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IEEE Spectrum

Amazon Reports Collision Risk for Mega-Constellation of Kuiper Internet Satellites

For the first time, we have a complete, representative number for the overall orbital collision risk of a satellite mega-constellation.

Last month, Amazon provided the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with data for its planned fleet of 3,236 Kuiper System broadband Internet satellites.

If one in 10 satellites fails while on orbit, and loses its ability to dodge other spacecraft or space junk, Amazon’s figures [PDF] show that there is a 12 percent chance that one of those failed satellites will suffer a collision with a piece of space debris measuring 10 centimeters or larger. If one in 20 satellites fails—the same proportion as failed in rival SpaceX’s first tranche of Starlink satellites—there is a six percent chance of a collision.

More than a third of all the orbital debris being tracked today came from just two collisions that occurred about a decade ago. Researchers are concerned that more explosions or breakups could accelerate the Kessler Syndrome—a runaway chain reaction of orbital collisions that could render low earth orbit (LEO) hostile to almost any spacecraft.

IEEE Spectrum

Simulation-Driven Optimization of 5G RF MEMS Filters

Efficiently design RF MEMS acoustic resonator-based filters, reducing cost, risk and time