Morning Security Brief: More Protests in Ukraine, Hunt for Missing Plane Costliest in History, And More

By Holly Gilbert

► Protests that began on Sunday in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Luhansk continue as the fledgling Ukrainian government attempts to regain control of the nation’s volatile eastern region. Police did manage to take back a government building that had been occupied by pro-Russian separatists in Kharkiv in what the Ukrainian foreign ministry called an “antiterror” operation, the Wall Street Journal reports. Government buildings in all three cities had been taken over by protestors on Sunday. Ukrainian officials are accusing Russia of inciting the protests, “suggesting that their powerful neighbor is trying to orchestrate a takeover similar to its incursion and annexation of Crimea,” according to the article. “While the scenario appears similar to what preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea last month, the new protests seem to lack the broad public support seen in that breakaway region.”

► NBC News reports that the hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is on track to become the most expensive search effort in aviation history, with the total cost expected to total hundreds of millions of dollars. “The figure is based on defense force statistics on available hourly costs of various assets, estimates by defence analysts and costs reported by the Pentagon,” the article states. With the assistance of 26 nations from around the world contributing aircraft, ships, satellites, and submarines, the cost of the search so far is estimated at about $44 million. In the hunt for Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, a total of $44 million was spent. The article points out that the two officials heading the search, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, have iterated that cost is “not an issue” in finding the missing jetliner.

► A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has determined that six agencies whose risk assessment methodologies were reviewed do not align with standards set by the Interagency Security Committee (ISC). A division of the Department of Homeland Security, the ISC is tasked with ensuring that federal buildings have adequate physical security measures, whether they’re government-owned, leased, or managed. The six agencies whose risk assessment methodologies did not align with the ISC are the Department of Interior, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Protective Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Office of Personnel Management. In the report, the GAO recommended that the ISC “take action to assess member agencies' compliance and provide additional risk- assessment methodology guidance.”

►An article in the Los Angeles Times describes how Congress is increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of the power grid in the United States and the challenges to securing the nation's utilties. The article uses the story of a small tech firm that was able to hack into multiple computer networks used by power companies as an example of just how vulnerable the grid is. Adam Crain, owner of a tech company in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a partner were able to successfully breach transmission systems used by “dozens of utilities,” according to the article, and found it to be “startlingly easy.” The researchers reported their findings to the Department of Homeland Security, who immediately advised the power companies update their software’s security. But the security vulnerabilities point to a larger problem when it comes to the security of the nation’s power grid and whether or not it is prepared for large-scale attacks.


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