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Security Roundup: Obama urged to bolster US defences, London's Olympic security easy to replicate, digital mapping rise analysed

Senator urges Obama to bolster US defences

Barack Obama may be more occupied with securing his second term in the White House at the moment, but US politicians are calling on the President to take swift action to boost the security of the nation’s critical infrastructure, reports The Hill.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says Obama must issue an executive order "or take other appropriate action" to bolster America’s increasingly under-pressure defences. "While efforts to reach consensus continue, I fear that the Congress will be unable to pass meaningful cybersecurity legislation this year,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to the President. “Therefore, I believe the time has come for you to use your full authority to protect the U.S. economy and the networks we depend on from future cyber attack[s]."

On recent evidence it seems attack has been the favoured form of defence for the US’s cyber-forces. The well-publicised Flame Virus, which aimed to disrupt Iran’s nuclear programme and affected many other computers across the Middle East and Africa, was launched by the US in conjunction with Israel, experts say.

Olympic scale network security on a budget

With the Paralympics throwing London back under the world’s spotlight this week, the Games’ organisers will be working overtime to make sure everything is running like clockwork once again. And this goes far beyond Lord Coe wandering from venue to venue to briefly cast his eye over proceedings, as behind the scenes, people you don’t see will be striving to prevent hackers and cyber-criminals from hijacking the Games’ IT systems for their own means.

The measures taken during the original Olympics this summer has been described by Ars Technica as“one of the most sweeping cyber-surveillance efforts ever conducted privately.” On top of closely monitoring the Games’ security operations centres, organisers were forced to check everything else from network infrastructure to point-of-sale systems and electronic door locks. These systems generated petabytes of data that were processed in real-time by a security information and event management system, that checked for patterns that might indicate a threat - before triggering an alarm if a threat was found.

This all sounds pretty sophisticated and expensive to run, but surprisingly, such a defence does not come with a sky-high price tag and surveillance-style systems of this type can be adopted by businesses of all sizes. In some instances, the hardware may already be on hand and a free software download is enough to start developing what the CEO of Bivio Networks, Dr Elan Amir calls, “a security camera for your network.” Amir told Ars Technica that, "There's no question that within the next three to five years, not having a copy of your network data will be as strange as not having a firewall."

The escalation of digital mapping

With the navigational services of Google, Apple et al becoming increasingly sophisticated, the rise of digital mapping as a whole is coming under more intense scrutiny than ever. When Google Earth first arrived, most were too washed up in the excitement and nostalgia of homing in on shots of their childhood homes to question what the ramifications of such technology could be.

Concerns over privacy and ethics received greater publicity after the launch of Google Street View, and became even more relevant when Apple took matters down a more sinister route by deploying military-grade spy planes to capture images for its new mapping service. The Guardian has thus assessed the potential dangers of having so many people seeing the world through the eyes of a select few companies in California. As Oliver Burkeman says, “You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist, or an anti-corporate crusader, to wonder about the subtle ways in which their values and interests might come to shape our lives.”

University of London cartographic historian Jerry Brotton goes as far as claiming, "I honestly think we're seeing a more profound change, for mapmaking, than the switch from manuscript to print in the Renaissance. That was huge. But this is bigger."

Stories aggregated by Team Cymru, which runs a private Security News mailing list called ‘Dragon News Bytes’, covering the most important and interesting news items of the day.