Silver Spring seeks new profits from smart-city infrastructure

Wish your hometown had network-enabled streetlights? A company called Silver Spring Networks does, and Tuesday it unveiled a service designed to make the technology and other networked infrastructure more affordable.

Municipalities that want to network things like traffic lights, parking meters, natural-gas pipe monitors, water-main flow gauges, and public transit status boards now can subscribe to a service under which Silver Spring Networks installs and maintains the network. The option expands the company's business from selling technology to selling a service; that means cities can buy the service with steady payments, rather than a large investment up front to … Read more

US government releases draft cybersecurity framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released its draft cybersecurity framework for private companies and infrastructure networks on Tuesday. These standards are part of an executive order that President Obama proposed in February.

The aim of NIST's framework (PDF) is to create guidelines that companies can use to beef up their networks and guard against hackers and cybersecurity threats. Adopting this framework would be voluntary for companies. NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce.

The framework was written with the involvement of roughly 3,000 industry and academic experts, according to Reuters. It outlines ways … Read more

White House to offer companies cybersecurity incentives

With the goal of avoiding a massive cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure, the White House has proposed a handful of incentives to get power plants, water companies, and transportation networks to join a national cybersecurity program.

"The systems that run our nation's critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked," the White House wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our … Read more

'Fatbergs' choking London sewers to be used for energy

It sounds like a monster from a Victorian penny dreadful: a revolting, stinking mass of gelatinous glop lurks under the streets of London, threatening the citizenry. What's to be done?

Burn it with fire! Well, use it as an alternative energy source.

Fat and oil that accumulate in the city's drains and sewers -- forming large clogging masses called "fatbergs" -- are to be harvested and used to generate electricity at the largest plant of its kind in the world. … Read more

Take a drive down the 'Route 66 of the future'

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde thinks we drive on dumb roads. So he teamed with mega European construction company Heijmans Infrastructure to create a vision of a "smart highway" for the Netherlands -- and possibly the rest of the world.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of these future roads is the fact that two concepts of the bunch -- glow-in-the-dark roads and dynamic paint -- should arrive by mid-2013. The group plans to introduce the rest of the concepts before 2015, giving the world a glimpse at how technology could revolutionize the way we drive by making it a safer and more sustainable experience. … Read more

Feds: Power grid vulnerable to 'fast-moving cybersecurity threats'

Federal regulators charged with overseeing the reliability of the electrical grid expressed concerns about proposed cybersecurity standards and warned that existing law may not protect "against fast-moving cybersecurity threats."

Yesterday's statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came in a response to pointed questions from two senators, Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Susan Collins (R-ME), the panel's senior Republican. The senators made their inquiries in July, a few weeks after CNET published an article on the topic.

Lieberman and Collins had asked for an "expeditious comprehensive investigation" … Read more

Republicans block vote on cybersecurity bill

A Democrat-backed cybersecurity measure that the Obama administration calls necessary to protect the nation's infrastructure was blocked by Republicans opposed to what they considered to be undue regulation.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 needed 60 votes to move to a vote by the full Senate, thanks to a Republican filibuster of the measure. It mustered only 52 votes in favor, which in the Senate's upside down world allowed a minority of 46 opponents to defeat the measure. The vote mostly fell along party lines, according to Bloomberg. Senate Democrats had hoped to have a vote on the measure … Read more

Senators call for probe of electric grid cybersecurity

Two U.S. senators are calling for a federal investigation of the power grid's potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities after a CNET article last month raised security concerns.

The request for a probe comes from Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Susan Collins (R-ME), the panel's senior Republican, who warned that lapses "could undermine part of the security system protecting our grid."

They sent a letter yesterday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for an "expeditious comprehensive investigation into these allegations," which deal with digital signatures the industry … Read more

Google's new cloud service said to be imminent

Talk has been circulating recently about Google building an Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing platform in the near future. Now, GigaOM is reporting that it's possible the Web giant could be launching this service as soon as next week during the Google I/O developers' conference in San Francisco.

The tech news site is also saying that several people familiar with Google's plans have confirmed that Google will offer its current App Engine and storage with its forthcoming service.

The Web giant's platform will most likely compete with Amazon's EC2 cloud service, but it could … Read more

Disaster awaits U.S. power grid as cybersecurity lags

Security technology used by U.S. electric utilities is flawed and could increase the odds of computer intrusions or sabotage, the chairman of an industry standards group warns.

Jesse Hurley, co-chair of the North American Energy Standards Board's Critical Infrastructure Committee, says the mechanism for creating digital signatures for authentication is insufficiently secure because not enough is being done to verify identities and some companies are attempting to weaken standards to fit their business models.

"These certificates protect access to control systems," Hurley told CNET. "They protect access to a $400 billion market. They protect access … Read more