Emergency and disaster management week in review, April 25, 2016
A weekly recap of handpicked emergency and disaster management news, along with analysis and interpretation from our team of experts.
The Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), a counter-cyber crime alliance, recently identified the four top cyber security risks that affect businesses and individuals across the world. The GCA believes that phishing is the highest risk at this time, and also listed other significant cyber vulnerabilities and threats.
As vehicles become more sophisticated and connected, they also become more vulnerable to cyber attacks. This fact compelled the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a thorough review of cyber security issues in vehicles that could impact passenger safety. The GAO identified current vulnerabilities in vehicles and recommended actions to mitigate the impact of the potential attacks.
As of April 20, 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 891 confirmed Zika cases in U.S. states and territories. Puerto Rico leads all U.S. states and territories with 476 confirmed Zika cases, while Florida leads all U.S. states with 84 confirmed Zika cases. The $1.9 billion request to fund the U.S. battle against the virus remains stalled in Congress.
The wildfire first reported more than 10 days ago in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park is still burning and has now spread across more than 10,000 acres. Firefighters from 33 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico are battling the forest fire, making used of at least four helicopters, two airplanes and several ground vehicles. The fire is forcing the closure of both hiking trails and roads, as more than 17 miles of the Appalachian Trail remains closed, as does 22 miles of Skyline Drive -- a road that winds through Shenandoah National Park. The fire is being cited as the second-largest fire in the park's history.
In North Carolina, officials have determined the cause for a wildfire in the state that burned at least 15,000 acres over the past 10 days. It was determined that road maintenance work, specifically a grass mowing operation, sparked the fire that has began burning near the Dare County and Hyde County line, and spread into in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and other nearby areas. As of Thursday night, the wildfire is 78 percent contained.
Colorado state officials announced a relatively mild wildfire outlook for Colorado for the third straight year. Both 2014 and 2015 were low wildfire years for Colorado after 2012 and 2013 were both bad years. Colorado endured more than 4,900 fires on 348 square miles in 2013, while at least 6,100 fires burned more than 660 square miles in 2012.
Power Grid Vulnerabilities
A power company in the Midwest hired a team of hackers to test its security and uncover any vulnerabilities that may exist. The hackers tried to get into buildings and then hack into the power company's network in an attempt to gain full access -- and had great success. The hackers uncovered many vulnerabilities and even found it to be relatively easy to gain access to critical components in some instances.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report from March that analyzed U.S. vulnerability to electromagnetic threats. The GAO completed the review of recent federal efforts and also provided recommendations of actions that could be taken to enhance protection. The GAO reported that while the U.S. has taken steps to protect against electromagnetic risks, the power supply remains vulnerable and more needs to be done to safeguard the U.S. power grid.
House Representatives Billy Long (R-Mo.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) introduced a bill this week titled the HHS Data Protection Act that aims to improve cyber security at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The legislation would create a chief information security officer position within HHS. The new bill comes as a response to reports that surfaced in 2015 detailing different data breaches at HHS in recent years.