Morning Security Brief: Nevada Middle School Shooting, Google's Free Cyber Protection, TSA Prescreening Expands, And More

By Holly Gilbert

►Two people are dead and two remain in the hospital after a shooting at Sparks Middle School yesterday in Reno Nevada. According to CBS News, a student opened fire on Monday morning at the school with a semi-automatic handgun, which belonged to his parents. Witnesses say the shooter proclaimed, “You ruined my life and now I’m going to ruin yours,” just before opening fire. Eighth-grade math teacher Michael Landsberry, who intervened to protect students, according to several eye-witness accounts, was killed. The gunman then turned the weapon on himself; authorities have yet to release his name. The two victims that are hospitalized, both 12 years of age, are expected to survive.

► Google announced on Monday that it will provide cyber protection for free to news outlets and human rights organizations as part of a program called Project Shield. According to Forbes, the Internet giant will focus on shielding these organizations from distributed-denial-of-service attacks, a cyberattack vector designed to prevent legitimate users from accessing a company’s Web site. So far, beta users for Project Shield include “Persian-language political blog Balatarin, a Syrian website called Aymta that provides early warnings of scud missile launches, and an election monitoring website in Kenya called the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission.” Google Associate CJ Adams said that during these past elections, with Google’s protection service, the Kenyan site stayed up for the country’s entire elections, a first in its “attack-ridden history.” Google says it is still accepting applications for the program.

►The New York Times is reporting more information on a program used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to prescreen passengers prior to arriving at the airport, including by searching “a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.” Through the Secure Flight program, the TSA already checks passengers’ names and birth dates against terrorist databases; but according to the article, “Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.” While the TSA says the measure is meant to streamline the security process for passengers who do not pose a risk, privacy groups express concern about the broader scope of personal information assessed by the agency.

►Several details still need to be finalized in the U.S.-Afghan security pact, which could create a possible delay in when U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan. According to Reuters, a senior Afghan official says the two nations are having difficulty agreeing on certain issues. “For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have been seeking to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will help determine how many U.S. soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year,” the article states. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Kabul this month, expressed his desire to see the pact include a provision that U.S. troops in the country be subject to U.S. law, and not Afghan law, but that issue was never raised during Kerry’s visit.


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