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  • January 06, 2020 3:17 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Dark Reading

    Network segmentation is considered a key security control to prevent attackers from easily accessing critical assets from compromised, but unprivileged, computers. So why aren't more companies doing it?

    Fewer than one in five companies is currently using network segmentation to slow intruders from moving around its network, mainly due to the difficulty of configuring and maintaining firewall rules, according to a survey conducted by network security provider Illumio.

    The survey, based on interviews with 300 IT professionals, found that 19% of companies currently use network segmentation to reduce the risk of a data breach, while another 26% are planning a project in the next six months. Yet a whopping 55% of companies are not even considering deploying segmentation in that time frame, according to the survey. 

    The responses suggest that companies understand the benefits of segmenting their applications and servers, but the difficulty of the project has dissuaded many IT professionals, causing them to put off efforts, says Matt Glenn, vice president of product management for Illumio.

    "When we talked to people, they never say that they don't want to do segmentation," he says. "They ask how can they do it and what is the cost."

    Network segmentation is one way of dispensing with trust and minimizing the impact that a user could have on the network. A variety of companies have touted the zero-trust model for security, labeling trust as weakness. By limiting access to specific critical assets and data, segmentation is one way of implementing zero-trust security and can harden networks against an intruder's efforts to laterally move after a breach. 

    Last year, network segmentation appeared on the to-do lists of nine out of 10 companies, according to a blog post from network security firm Forescout. Illumio's survey suggests that companies still have to work to do, however. That's understandable, as network segmentation projects take a great deal of time and planning. Moreover, companies need to do it right — if done incorrectly, segmentation can create roadblocks for legitimate users. 

    Because of these difficulties, two-thirds of respondents considered the process of segmenting using firewalls to be fairly challenging or even more difficult, the survey found.

    "Among their most pressing concerns were cost, troubleshooting, deployment and making changes," Illumio stated in the report. "The difficulties respondents had with their firewalls ranged from deployment to obtaining budgets, implementing changes and verifying them."

    Most companies have to deal with a large number of firewall rules. Almost two-thirds — 62% — of organizations have more than 1,000 rules per firewall, according to the survey.

    Using firewalls as the basis of network segmentation can slow down the deployment of new rules for applications, the company says. The average time to deploy and tune a firewall is one to three months, and it takes an average of one to two weeks to accommodate a new application, according to the survey. Such delays make segmentation via the firewall not friendly to software development life cycles focused on DevOps, Glenn says.

    "Most people when they think about doing segmentation, they are thinking about doing it with a firewall, and that it's like trying to put together Ikea furniture with a hammer," he says. "It's not going to work, but you only have one tool, so you use it, even if it is not the right one."

    As agile development and techniques such as DevOps grow in popularity, companies are searching for methods of making security more responsive to application configuration. Software-defined networking has become one way that companies can quickly segment networks as well as add responsive security features, such as deceptive network architectures that can waste attackers' time.

    Other companies — such as Cisco, Illumio, and VMware — focus on host-based segmentation, using the firewall of the application's host to enforce security segmentation on the application.

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:59 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Smithsonian Magazine

    Last Monday, thieves targeted Dresden’s treasure-filled Green Vault in a brazen heist, making off with a haul of precious jewels. Now, yet another German cultural institution has been hit by burglars: This time, the target was Berlin’s Stasi Museum, an institution dedicated to exploring the frightening history of East Germany’s secret police.

    The break-in took place the morning of Sunday, December 1. Thieves scaled the roof of the museum—located on the grounds of the former headquarters of the Ministry for State Security, or Stasi—and broke through a first-floor window. Berlin police tell Claudia Otto and Sheena McKenzie of CNN that the perpetrators smashed several exhibition cases and stole multiple artifacts.

    Among the missing goods are a pair of earrings, a ring laden with pearls and gems, a gold watch, and a gold timepiece. The stolen jewels, according to the Guardian’s Philip Oltermann, are primarily items confiscated from people who tried to escape Soviet-controlled East Germany. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago, many such confiscated items have been returned, but the Stasi still houses a collection of valuables that could not be traced back to their original owners.

    Also stolen were eight medals, including an Order of Karl Marx (the most important award given out in East Germany), an Order of Lenin and a Hero of the Soviet Union. Only one of these medals—a golden Patriotic Order of Merit—is an original; the rest are facsimiles.

    Jörg Drieselmann, the museum’s director, tells Oltermann that even reproductions might find buyers among collectors of East German memorabilia. But “in terms of the value of the stolen items,” he adds, “you can almost lean back and relax.”

    Speaking with BBC News, Drieselmann says the cost of the pilfered goods amounts to “a few thousand euros”—far less than the estimated value of the jewels stolen from the Green Vault, which have been described as “priceless.” (Local press estimate the trove’s value at around $1 billion, but the museum has declined to put a financial figure on the relics, instead deeming them “impossible to sell” because they are so well-known.)

    Nevertheless, the loss of the Stasi’s artifacts came as a shock.

    “It’s always painful when there’s a break-in. The feeling of security is considerably disturbed,” Drieselmann tells the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegelas quoted by Naomi Rea of artnet News. “We are a historical museum, and don’t expect anyone to break into our premises. We are not the Green Vault.”

    The building that houses the Stasi Museum was constructed in the early 1960s as the offices of Erich Mielke, the minister for state security who is credited with transforming the Stasi into an efficient and ruthless secret police organization. Using vast networks of informants and collaborators, the Stasi carried out both foreign espionage and domestic surveillance, encouraging friends and family members to spy on and report one another.

    The organization earned a fearsome reputation for kidnapping and often executing officials who had fled the East German state. It was, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “one of the most hated and feared institutions of the East German communist government.”

    Jarred by the break-ins at two German institutions over the course of just a few days, the country’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, has called for a national conference on museum security.

    As reported by Agence France-Presse, she said, “We need to look at how museums can protect their objects from such brutal activities while still being accessible to the public in the normal way.”

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:57 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Post

    The National Zoo beefed up security after two young people were found shot outside its grounds in a weekend incident that disrupted an annual winter festival, officials said Sunday.

    The zoo has increased the number of security guards and is working with D.C. police and Metro Transit Police to increase patrols nearby, a zoo spokeswoman said. Officials also plan to conduct bag checks and use handheld metal detectors at the three main entrances later this week, a measure the zoo also takes during busy days in spring.

    The measures come after Saturday night’s commotion, when young people fought during the Zoo Lights festival and set off fireworks on the grounds. Two youths were found with gunshot wounds several blocks away, and authorities are investigating whether the incidents are connected.

    Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said violence was highly unusual for Zoo Lights, which for 13 years has drawn large crowds for an LED light display through New Year’s Day.

    “We take security very seriously — security of our guests, security of the staff and security of the animals,” ­Baker-Masson said. “We want people to feel safe and secure, and we believe we are going to provide that experience.”

    The people shot were initially reported in stable condition and conscious. Police said Sunday they were not aware of any changes and have not released the identities or ages of the victims.

    D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), whose district includes the zoo, said she was talking to authorities about deploying “violence interrupters” to prevent any retaliation for the shootings.

    “I want people in and around the zoo to know this was not a sort of random shooting, because these people were apparently known to each other, and police have a definite focus to make sure this won’t happen again,” Cheh said.

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:51 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Allied Universal

    Highways, train stations, bus ways and airports experience their own type of holiday bloat, packed to the gills with frantic travelers trying to get to their destination. It can be hectic, nerve-wracking and stressful. If you have ever seen any of National Lampoon’s Vacation movies and traveled cross-county during the U.S. holiday season, then you know first-hand how Griswold misadventures and shenanigans can quickly become a fiction-based reality starring your family and you.

    With nearly an estimated one third of Americans traveling, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports the Thanksgiving , Christmas and New Year’s holidays as the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, some forethought and preparation can help you stay safe, healthy and sane on your travels. 

    It doesn’t matter if your holiday “quest for fun” involves an exotic destination or you are making that annual trek to visit family for Thanksgiving, you can save yourself from a Griswold vacation with these travel safety tips:  

    Before You “Hit the Road”

    • Prepare your home to appear occupied if you will be gone for an extended period. Maintain the lawn, and make arrangements for someone to collect mail and packages, or arrange a temporary hold on your mail. If possible, use light timers. Ask a neighbor to park in driveway periodically—anything that makes it look you are not gone for an extended time period. 
    • If you have an alarm system, make sure it is activated and you inform your alarm monitoring company how to contact you if a breach is identified. 
    • Ensure water lines are not left on and unplug appliances. If there is chance of a freeze while you are out, insulate external pipes prior to departure. 
    • Communicate your travel plans and contact information to family or close friends so if something unexpected happens, your whereabouts and itinerary are known.
    • Leave or advise the location of current legal documents, such as will, power of attorney and insurance documents with a family member or friend. 
    • Inform your bank, credit card and mobile phone providers of your travel dates and destination to avoid any interruption of service for perceived fraudulent activity. 
    • If traveling internationally, ensure your passport or Visa and inoculations are order and that your phone is optimized for international voice and data plans. Bring copies of your passports with you and store them separately from the originals.
    • Check weather and travel advisories pertaining to your route and pack and prepare accordingly.

    If Traveling by Car

    • Service your car prior to your departure. 
    • Check tires, oil, and fluid levels and that your brakes are in good condition.
    • Check that your emergency kit and car tools are complete and in working order.

    Pack Like a Pro

    • Traveling light will allow you to more easily manage baggage and move quickly through transit stations/terminals with less physical strain and distraction. Pack mix-and-match clothing that can be combined and layered.
    • Pack necessary medication in their original labeled containers and bring prescriptions with you in case refills are needed or to prove their legality.
    • Bring appropriate identification and insurance information.
    • Stay connected. Remember your chargers and consider purchasing a mobile “hotspot” and charger in the event your battery runs low and you can’t find a charging station or Wi-Fi is unavailable. 
    • Pack hand sanitizer, tissues, and hand-wipes to help keep germs at bay.
    • Limit credit cards to one or two and only carry small amounts of cash.
    • Pack a travel first aid kit and over the counter medication in case of an emergency.

    What NOT to Pack

    • Valuables such as expensive jewelry, clothing and irreplaceable or sentimental items should be left at home. 
    • Do not wear expensive items of clothing or jewelry. If you are perceived as an affluent tourist, your travel risk increases.
    • Leave unnecessary credit cards, Social Security card or other items you might normally carry. Only bring the essentials to minimize your risk of loss.

    Best Travel Safety Practices

    • Don’t wear headphones or walk through public, high traffic areas talking on your phone. Stay situationally aware at all times. 
    • Keep your valuables close to your body in zipped, secured pockets or bags. Cross body bags worn under a jacket provides best protection.
    • If you are lost find a safe place to get your bearings—whether in a public transit area or traveling by car. 
    • Report any suspicious activity to local authorities or security as soon as possible.

    Whether you stay home or hit the road, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

    Stay vigilant!

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:47 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the Insurance Journal

    The management of Dresden’s Green Vault, where the biggest museum heist in post-World War II German history took place on Monday, has declined to estimate the market value of the stolen jewelry “because it is impossible to sell.” That, sadly, is not true. Stealing art and antique artifacts pays, and even seemingly well-secured museums like the Green Vault will be robbed from time to time.

    The Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museums, first opened to the public in the early 18th century. Unlike the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the scene of a $500 million art heist in 1990, it had a proper alarm system, but the thieves apparently disabled it by setting fire to a nearby electrical distribution hub (which should teach museum managers everywhere never to depend on a single power source). Then they acted fast, cutting through a fence, breaking a window and making off with a number of small but immensely valuable diamond-studded items that could be worth up to $1 billion. The jewels were not insured (which should teach museum managers everywhere not to skimp on insurance — at least the thieves could be tempted to blackmail the insurance company, as they sometimes do, making it easier to catch them).

    In an interview with the weekly Der Spiegel, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand suggested that the thieves, if they were professionals, would probably break down the items and sell the diamonds separately. In March 2017, a similarly bold heist occurred in Berlin’s Bode Museum: After breaking through a window, the thieves grabbed a 220-pound gold coin worth more than $4 million. Four men, three of them members of a well-known Berlin crime family, went on trial for the theft early this year, but there’s still no verdict and the coin hasn’t been found, probably because it’s long since been melted down.

    But then, Brand’s own professional history shows that this is far from the only possible scenario. This year, he recovered a gold ring that used to belong to Oscar Wilde, stolen in 2002 from an Oxford University college by a former cleaning-company employee. The thief had long maintained he’d sold it to a gold-scrap dealer, but Brand didn’t believe him and continued investigating with the help of a man with connections to the London underworld. The college is getting the ring back next month.

    The market in stolen art and antiquities has been estimated at up to $6 billion annually. Around 50,000 thefts occur every year, and only a small fraction of the stolen artifacts are ever recovered. Some are lost forever, some resurface after many years like the Wilde ring or the two stolen Van Goghs that were put back on display in Amsterdam in April after a 17-year absence. The art and antique market has a dark underbelly that swallows up the stolen artifacts.

    The market has a tradition of secrecy. As cultural-heritage law expert Gregory Day wrote in 2014, “These norms make it taboo for buyers to ask sellers questions about a work’s purchase history, prior owners and place of origin. Acceptable buyers must abide by this code, understanding that even million-dollar sales frequently occur informally, structured as an ‘as is’ transaction.”

    This means many of those who buy art and antiques in good faith are getting stolen goods. But good faith is a nebulous notion in this market, where some dealers, known to researchers as “Janus figures,” provide an interface between legal and illegal layers of the trade. It’s hard to know when a collector is knowingly buying a stolen item or simply following the tradition of not asking enough questions. Even a stolen Vermeer or Rembrandt is relatively easy to hide: Museums only show slivers of their collections, and private collectors routinely keep their art troves in bank vaults and free ports, where hardly anyone ever sees them.

    With jewelry, even involving pieces as notable as the ones stolen from the Green Vault, it’s even easier. It would take an expert to determine that this pearl necklace around a woman’s neck at a party or that diamond-encrusted brooch on an evening dress comes from the Dresden heist, and the expert probably wouldn’t summon the courage to ask — in the unlikely event that he was invited to that particular ball at all.

    Apart from boosting security, which isn’t easy for museums since they need to remain accessible to the public, there’s not much that can be done about the prevalence of art theft. The optimal solution, perhaps, is a limited amnesty for collectors who end up with stolen items on their hands, coupled with a limited reward for returning them. After all, stolen artifacts usually sell for less than 10% of their full value on the black market, and a reward of up to 5% could be an attractive alternative to sitting on stolen goods for years or trying to sell them.

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:44 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management

    As tragedies go, the 15 March terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, seemed particularly concerning for several reasons.

    The country had experienced political bombings and other violent protest acts, but never anything to the extent of a mass shooting with 51 fatalities. “I’m 66. I never thought in my life I would live to see something like this—not in New Zealand,” a local woman told news outlets near the scene of the attacks. 

    The suspect’s attempts to draw attention to the deadly acts also seemed unprecedented: he live-streamed the shootings via a head-mounted camera. Hours after the suspect’s arrest, some Internet users continued uploading the video to YouTube and other online services. “The rapid and wide-scale dissemination of this hateful content—live-streamed on Facebook, uploaded on YouTube, and amplified on Reddit—shows how easily the largest platforms can still be misused,” U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement.

    The suspect also self-identified as a white supremacist in a lengthy manifesto he posted on Twitter before the attack. In the manifesto, the suspect railed against cultural dilution, described nonwhite people as invaders, and advocated for the superiority of his race. Experts said he had clearly spent time scouring the Internet for sites where extremists from around the world vent their anger and discuss white nationalist concepts, such as replacement theory.

    This too is troubling, experts say, because this type of activity, and its potential for violence, seems to be on the upswing. Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent who is a counterterrorism expert and homeland security scholar at the University of Southern California, recently said that white supremacy is no longer a movement on the fringes but “is being globalized at a very rapid pace.”

    The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, a nonpartisan research center at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), has found that the current atmosphere of worldwide political polarization and upheaval offers extremists an opportunity to present their views as an alternative to those who have soured on mainstream political choices. This can also lead to more violence. 

    For example, the United Kingdom’s Home Office reported that hate crimes surged following the Brexit vote in 2016. Not long before the vote, a member of Parliament who opposed the referendum, Jo Cox, was murdered. Similarly, a recent analysis of FBI data conducted by the CSUSB center found that in the United States, the election period of November 2016 was the worst month for hate crimes since September 2002.

    Earlier this year, a new report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that the number of white nationalist groups surged by almost 50 percent from 100 groups in 2017 to 148 groups in 2018. The vast majority of U.S. hate groups, including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates, and white nationalists, adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology, according to the SPLC. Also in 2018, right-wing terrorists killed at least 40 people in the United States and Canada, up from 17 in 2017. 

    The extent of the violent far-right terror problem can differ from country to country, according to Chris Hawkins, senior analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

     “In the United States, far-right extremism is emerging as a significant terrorism threat, with attack incident rates and casualty numbers likely to rise more quickly than those of Islamist terrorism,” Hawkins says. As evidence, he cites FBI data which indicates that in 2017 and 2018 there were higher arrest rates of domestic terrorism suspects, including white supremacists and other far-right extremists, than those linked to international terror groups, such as jihadists.

    In Western Europe, the threat posed by far-right extremism has also risen sharply in recent years, but it remains significantly smaller than the Islamist terrorism threat. For example, 64 counterterrorism operations against right-wing extremists in Western Europe were recorded in the two-year period between 2017 and 2018, almost triple the 22 operations in 2015–16, according to IHS Markit, an information and intelligence company. In comparison, 275 Islamist-related counterterrorism operations were recorded in 2017 and 2018.

    Although right-wing extremism does not exceed Islamic extremism in Europe, it is becoming a key secondary consideration for security forces’ resources, given the rising number of right-wing incidents, according to Hawkins.

    “The absence of an organized structure, or parent group, comparable with the Islamic State also makes far-right extremism more difficult for security services—which are mostly focused on the larger threat of Islamist terrorism—to detect and disrupt,” Hawkins explains. 

    Another troubling factor about far-right inspired attacks, he adds, is that they are more likely to be lone wolf operations, which are harder to detect. “Far-right-inspired attacks are less predictable because perpetrators are unlikely to be affiliated with an organization with a persistent ideology and support network,” Hawkins explains.

    However, it is still possible to detect a potential far-right attack before it happens, as one recent U.S. incident illustrated.

    In February, U.S. authorities arrested Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant who had been stockpiling weapons since 2017 and cultivating plans to attack prominent U.S. Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television journalists from left-leaning outlets like MSNBC.

    Court documents indicated that Hasson espoused extremist and white supremacist views online, including advocating for the establishment of a white homeland. He also studied a 1,500-page manifesto written by the Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik. Hasson had worked at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., since 2016, and was an active duty member when he was arrested. In the charges, authorities alleged he was a drug addict who unlawfully possessed controlled substances, firearms, and an illegal gun silencer.

    Josh Schubring, CPP, chair of ASIS International's Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime Council, says that from a security perspective, the type of insider threat that Hasson represented is “definitely a concern.”

    Hasson used his office computer to conduct many suspicious Internet searches, such as, “do senators have Secret Service protection?” This set off red flags with the agency. “I think the Coast Guard saw a good return on its investment in the cyber tools that it utilized,” says Schubring, who is principal of security solutions at Schubring Global Solutions.

    However, in some ways the suspect’s operation did not seem well thought-out, Schubring adds. Anyone who has received security training should be aware of the risk of conducting such searches. “He should have known he would be monitored,” Schubring explains.

    And although Hasson allegedly stockpiled weapons and narcotics and did “a lot of internal ranting,” he never directly threatened anyone or took clear operational steps. “If he had started to surveil people or make statements in public, then that’s kind of moving it up on the next rung of the ladder, from thoughts to action,” Schubring explains. Overall, Hasson seemed to have an obsession “which he may or may not have acted on,” Schubring adds.

    In the end, the Coast Guard succeeded in stopping this insider threat before he could act. “They did a great job on that,” Schubring says. 

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:40 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Chicago Tribune

    Security is not subtle at the sprawling campus of human resources technology giant Paycom in Oklahoma City.

    Off-duty police officers roam the grounds, bolstering the company’s own force of armed guards. A basement command center that looks like something out of a spy movie is filled with video screens showing feeds from hundreds of security cameras at company offices across the country.

    While heavy security has become common at airports and stadiums to deter terrorism, extreme measures have been out of the ordinary at most companies eager to maintain a comfortable work environment and a welcoming atmosphere.

    But that may be changing, as more are now hardening their defenses with new techniques, and even new legal authority, to deal with growing fears about violence on the job.

    As mass shootings have become frequent, more company leaders have confronted an absence of clear plans for protecting workers from a disgruntled colleague, even after a threat is received.

    Now, spurred by an incident at Paycom, the company has produced a formal threat assessment and response guide that serves as a national model for ways to keep a potentially dangerous person away from other workers.

    The company’s approach also includes a new measure based on domestic violence laws.

    “This is a huge leap forward in public policy for safety in this country,” said Larry Barton, a University of Central Florida professor who teaches courses in threat evaluation at the FBI Academy. “This is a case study, for me as an educator, that I believe will be taught in business schools and in criminal justice courses for decades to come.”

    The guide was the product of brainstorming sessions convened by the company with workplace violence experts, law enforcement and civic leaders, after an ex-worker made threats against employees.

    A new law, enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature this year with Paycom’s guidance, allows businesses to petition the court for a victim’s protective order much like one that a woman might obtain against a former boyfriend. A judge can order a potentially dangerous person to stay away from a business or its employees, which companies couldn’t do before.

    Barton, a safety consultant for private companies, said dozens of businesses as well as policy makers have expressed interest in both the guide and the new law as a way to protect themselves.

    Although the number of people killed in workplace violence has remained steady at between 400 and 500 per year, Barton said there has been an increase in the number of on-the-job shootings involving four or more victims.

    “This has been an especially disturbing year,” Barton said. “We’re tracking now about a 19% increase in mass shootings, which is very noteworthy.”

    Among the recent high-profile incidents are a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in May, in which a city engineer killed 12 people at his office, and the fatal shooting of five employees at an Aurora manufacturing plant in February by a co-worker.

    Oklahoma has its own history of workplace violence. In 1986, a disgruntled worker shot 14 people at a post office in Edmond. Five years ago, a woman was beheaded at a food processing plant in Moore by a co-worker who had just been suspended.

    In the case of Paycom, which employs about 3,200 people nationwide, the former worker was arrested last year and is facing felony charges in connection with threatening messages and social media posts. The case has been moved to mental health court, which is designed to divert individuals with a mental illness from jail or prison.

    The new threat assessment guide lays out a series of factors that company officials should consider in judging a threat and how to respond.

    Included are questions about whether an employee has been undergoing personality changes, has a troubled personal life, exhibits confused thinking, is abusing drugs or alcohol or has access to firearms.

    Depending on how many questions are answered “yes,” responses can range from a one-on-one meeting, to termination to obtaining a protective order or calling 911.

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:37 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Spring Hiller Insider

    A new study finds 100+ natural treasures, including Yellowstone, are being severely damaged by sprawling human infrastructure and land use.

    “The world would never accept the Acropolis being knocked down, or a couple of pyramids being flattened for housing estates or roads, yet right now, across our planet, we are simply letting many of our natural World Heritage sites become severely altered.” – Dr. James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

    In 1972, an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its purpose? To earmark and protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage around the world.

    Natural World Heritage sites are the places that are globally recognized as hosting the planet’s most valuable, beautiful, special natural assets. As identified by Unesco, there are 229 natural sites across the globe that boast “outstanding universal values” – places with natural treasures so important that they transcend national boundaries. Could it be so hard to treasure these places? To protect them from the creepy creep of human activity?

    Apparently, yes.

    warns that more than 100 of these special sites are being increasingly damaged, as measured by the global Human Footprint criteria; a metric that includes roads, agriculture, urbanization and industrial infrastructure, and forest loss.

    Sixty-three percent of the sites showed an increase in human pressures since 1993. Ninety-one percent have suffered forest loss since 2000.

    The most impacted sites are in Asia and include the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in India, and Chitwan National Park in Nepal; along with Simien National Park in Ethiopia.

    Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, lost 8.5 percent of its forest (365 km2) since 2000.

    Yellowstone National Park lost 6 percent of its forests since 2000.

    Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, which spreads across the Canadian and US border, lost a stunning 23 percent (540 km2) of its forests.

    “World Heritage natural sites should be maintained and protected fully. For a site to lose ten or twenty percent of its forested area in two decades is alarming and must be addressed,” says Allan. “Urgent intervention is clearly needed to save these places and their outstanding natural universal values.”

    “It is time for the global community to stand up and hold governments to account,” he adds, “so that they take the conservation of natural World Heritage sites seriously.”

    By giving a shout-out to the sites that are in immediate danger, the study will hopefully prove useful as a starting point for future consideration and policy. And importantly, will help the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which meets each year to review World Heritage properties, to explore how to protect these singular, unique treasures.

    The study was led by an international team of researchers from the University of Queensland, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), University of Northern British Columbia and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It was published in the journal .

    See Original Post

  • December 10, 2019 2:30 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Deutsche Welle

    Stolen art is not alien to Düsseldorf professor Ulli Seegers, who used to run the German branch of the Art Loss Register. How does she assess the chances of recovering the stolen jewels from Dresden's Green Vault?

    DW: Treasures of immeasurable proportions were stolen during the burglary of Dresden's famous Green Vault museum. As an art expert, what did you initially think or feel when you heard about the robbery?

    Ulli Seegers: I could hardly believe it at first, because not long ago, the Green Vault was beautifully restored at great expense. That was a pearl, a treasure trove of world cultural heritage. I saw it myself only a few months ago. It is really an immense loss, a treasure that is probably irretrievably lost.

    Do you think the Green Vault was underprotected?

    That's hard for me as an art historian to judge. Nevertheless, I am sure that this treasure chamber has met the international safety standards due to the aforementioned restoration. At the same time, the fact is that this standard was not sufficient, otherwise this burglary would not have occurred.

    It should not be forgotten that museums are not high-security wings. Museums and treasure chambers such as the Green Vault are there to show people humanity's cultural treasures. People have an interest in getting as close as possible to these treasures. This means that one has to weigh up quite carefully what the public interest is and how one can protect these treasures of irretrievable, and above all, cultural value as much as possible. Compromises have to be found. Wherever you let people in and allow the public to participate, there is always a residual risk.

    The pressure on the initially successful perpetrators is immense, because they now run the risk of being quickly identified through their valuable stolen items. Half a million euros are, I think, incentive enough for one or two of those involved. We still do not know how far these circles are networked and how structured their operation is. It is to be hoped that perhaps there will be at least someone among them who will be ready to serve as a key witness for this reward.

    The stolen treasure is now extremely well known. Why are art and cultural goods such coveted stolen goods in the first place?

    In this special case, it has to be noted that we are dealing here with historical jewelry — diamonds with a special cut from the 18th century. Even the material value of such jewels is enormously high. This is completely different with paintings, for example. There is a piece of canvas, a bit of paint, but the value is only defined by the cultural and artistic attribution.

    In recent years we have observed an increasing tendency for internationally networked gangs to concentrate on objects that have a high material value. Think of the break-in at the Bode Museum in 2017, when this large gold coin was stolen. It had an almost 100% purity value, over 100 kilograms of pure gold were removed at that time. The same now applies to this jewelry, where there is a real fear that the gangsters will destroy this unique cultural treasure and dismantle it into individual parts.

    So, you think the stolen jewels won't sell in their present form and the thieves probably want to have them changed?

    Yes, I'm sure. These objects are recorded in detail in various central registers and documented photographically. This means that no jeweler who is not a criminal wouldn't recognize these objects immediately. Simply because of their historical polish, they differ from common branded goods. In this respect, the objects, as they are, are certainly not freely marketable without the perpetrators being caught immediately.

    It is rumored again and again that there are art lovers who simply want to own an art treasure. Do you think this is a realistic perspective?

    These are stories we know from Hollywood movies. That there's a mystery client in the background, who, due to his infinite love of art and culture, places the order and then enjoys the loot in his personal chambers.

    You yourself were Managing Director of the German division of Art Loss Register from 2001 to 2008. What is the purpose of such a register?

    Like other databases, the Art Loss Register has a very important function: It collects worldwide reports on missing art. The disappearance of art can occur through theft, robbery, but also confiscation — think of Nazi looted art. In other words, wherever art is missing, it is included in these central registers.

    On the one hand, this has something to do with the fact that inquiries, whether from the police or the market, can quickly provide information about the origin and status of an object. On the other hand, this of course provides an important opportunity to continuously compare the international traded goods with the inventory of the loss database. For example, the registry staff are busy day after day looking through auction catalogs or going to art fairs to see the individual displays and stands to compare the lost items that are registered with the current merchandise.

    How often are art thefts solved?

    You have to distinguish clearly between the different categories. By far the best way to identify paintings is simply by the fact that they are often well documented by photographs or good descriptions. They are, by definition, mostly unique. There's only one original, and you can recognize it very quickly. But even with paintings, the enlightenment rate is in the low two-digit range. When I was managing director of the German register in Cologne, we were at 11-12%. That's a rather frighteningly low rate. With jewels the ratio is unfortunately even smaller.

    How much hope can you still give the people of Dresden that their jewels will reappear?

    Of course I would also like to give hope to the colleagues on the ground who are doing an excellent job. But due to my experience in the international art market in the field of art crime, the probability that these jewel sets, as they are, will reappear at some point is rather low.

    Ulli Seegers is a professor of art education and art management at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, a unique course of study in Germany. She has published, among other things, on "ethics in the art market" and on art of the 20th century. From 2001 to 2008 she was managing director of the German branch of the International Art Loss Register Limited.

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  • December 10, 2019 2:25 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the REMI Network

    While museum relics are meant to be cherished and preserved long-term, the building systems that protect them are not.

    At the Textile Museum of Canada, which holds a collection of 13,000 fabrics, garments, carpets and beadwork that are up to 2,000 years old, aging and inadequate infrastructure had put the delicate artifacts at risk of damage or theft. With its mechanical systems due for an upgrade, the museum engaged its operations and solutions consultant to evaluate the building equipment and develop a plan to improve efficiency, increase security and ensure its collection would be protected for many more years.

    Improper mechanical systems can pose a range of problems for facility managers. It may become difficult to control the temperature in different parts of a building, making visitors and employees uncomfortable. Delicate materials may be damaged by light or humidity. Poor security measures could result in thefts or safety issues.

    The Textile Museum faced all of these threats. With its operations and solutions consultant, the museum developed a three-phase retrofit plan, which focused first on updating building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and then on improving security and lighting.

    Three steps to a successful upgrade

    During the first phase, all major HVAC equipment was replaced with new high-efficiency options to help improve comfort and overall performance. Disparate systems also made way for a new building automation system. The system integrates and automates core building functions like HVAC operations, and provides real-time centralized monitoring and control for operators. It also allows operators to set temperature and humidity control for specific sections of the museum, then alerts personnel if levels exceed their limits. Changes can be made remotely, even after business hours – a particularly useful feature for nighttime or holiday events.

    With the new system, the museum schedules its equipment operations to maximize efficiency. For example, it can adjust heating and cooling levels based on the time of day to reduce energy use. Detailed graphs chart individual equipment performance and trends for auditors. This allows the museum to address potential issues, such as high humidity levels, before they become problematic for an exhibit.

    During the second phase, the security system was overhauled. The team installed closed-circuit television and more than 20 dome cameras throughout the museum. In addition to added security, these motion-sensing cameras also contribute to the facility’s conservation efforts by reducing energy use if no movement occurs. Video is captured and stored in a scalable, IP-based system that allows personnel to easily access video files. The system is integrated into the building automation system for easy monitoring.

    Beyond surveillance, the museum also wanted to implement card access and asset locator systems. Artifacts were equipped with security tags that will trigger an alarm if they are moved outside set parameters. Standard card readers throughout the facility help control access and allow the museum to schedule door lock and unlock times. All new equipment ties into the museum’s integrated automation system for easy monitoring.

    The final phase of the retrofit focused on lighting. The facility’s 20-year-old light fixtures, tracks and dimmer switches were inefficient and unevenly illuminated museum exhibits. The building also needed to comply with Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) requirements for preserving Canadian heritage collections.

    Top of the list of priorities was a move from traditional incandescent lighting to energy-efficient LED bulbs. The team also needed to ensure new lighting complied with CCI requirements for colour, brightness and temperature. A new integrated dimming system allows lighting to be adjusted throughout the museum using the automation system. The lighting improvements helped the museum qualify for $26,000 in energy efficiency incentives through the former Ontario Power Authority’s Save on Energy program.

    Back to the future

    Right away, the museum began to realize the benefits of lower energy use and less time spent managing and maintaining antiquated building systems. The much-needed retrofit not only fixed existing problems but it also positioned the museum for the future. As technologies develop, it will be able to adapt to take advantage of new methods of safety, security and energy efficiency.

    Beyond protecting its own treasures, the changes also provided increased confidence that the museum could safeguard artifacts from the many travelling exhibits it hosts each year. It now has greater ability to expand its exhibits and program offerings.
    With these updates, the museum can continue to preserve its historic textiles while keeping an eye toward the future as it realizes the long-term benefits of the project.

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