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News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

The WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack has hit more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday, Europol says. Governments, hospitals and major companies have all found themselves battling the malware, which demands money in return for unfreezing computers. The virus tried to infect more computers in Russia than anywhere else, according to an analysis by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian antivirus company. The interior ministry, railways, banks and the Megafon mobile phone operator - Russia's second-largest - all found themselves battling demands for ransom. An interior ministry spokeswoman said about 1,000 computers using Microsoft Windows were attacked but these had been isolated from networks. However, the ministry's vital servers were unaffected because they were running domestic Russian software, the spokeswoman said, including an operating system called Elbrus that was first developed during the late years of the Soviet Union, the New York Times reported. Electronic boards at stations announcing arrivals and departures were affected, but train services were not disrupted, Deutsche Bahn said. Some students reported seeing demands for ransoms pop up on their laptops as networks at several universities - including Tsinghua and Peking in Beijing - reported severe disruption. Meanwhile, petrol stations in the western city of Chongqing were unable to accept card payments after systems at China National Petroleum Corp became infected, the South China Morning Post reported. Overall, hundreds of thousands of computers at nearly 30,000 institutions and organisations were affected, including government agencies and hospitals, internet firm 360 Security said. The country's biggest cinema chain CJ CGV said some of its advertisement servers connected to 50 cinemas had been affected, Yonhap news agency said. A company official said films were still being screened as scheduled and the company was investigating. Overall, nine cases of ransomware had been found, the South Korean government said. The Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre said 2,000 computers at 600 companies in Japan had been affected. Hitachi said it was experiencing email delays and file delivery failures and suspected the cyber-attack was to blame, although no ransom was being demanded. The communication and information ministry said the malware locked patient files on computers at two hospitals in the capital Jakarta. Patients at the Dharmais Cancer Hospital could not get queue numbers and waited several hours while staff found paper records, local media reported. Police computer systems in the state of Andhra Pradesh have been hit, local media reports say. About 18 systems were hijacked an eventually disabled, the Business Standard reported. Several companies in the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai have also been affected. The Economic Times newspaper said India could be particularly vulnerable to the malware because a large number of organisations and individuals use old outdated versions of Windows and there are also high numbers of people using pirated software. Some of the biggest disruption was caused by attacks on the UK health system, which saw hospitals and clinics forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers. Pictures on social media showed NHS computer screens with messages saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!" In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected. A Nissan car factory in the north-eastern city of Sunderland was also affected, a spokeswoman said. The Spanish telephone operator Telefonica said it had been attacked. Telefonica's head of cyber-security Chema Alonso - himself a former hacker - said the infected equipment was "under control and being reinstalled". Other Spanish firms to be hit included power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural. Staff were reportedly told to turn off their computers. The car manufacturer had to halt production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania as part of measures to stop the spread of the virus. The logistics firm said it was "implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible", without specifying how badly it had been affected. Australian officials said so far only three small-to-medium sized businesses had reported being locked out of their systems. In New Zealand, the ministry of business said a small number of unconfirmed incidents were being investigated.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

A massive cyber-attack using tools believed to have been stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA) has struck organisations around the world. Cyber-security firm Avast said it had seen 75,000 cases of the ransomware - known as WannaCry and variants of that name - around the world. There are reports of infections in 99 countries, including Russia and China. Among the worst hit was the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Scotland. The BBC understands about 40 NHS organisations and some medical practices were hit, with operations and appointments cancelled. The malware spread quickly on Friday, with medical staff in the UK reportedly seeing computers go down "one by one". NHS staff shared screenshots of the WannaCry program, which demanded a payment of $300 (£230) in virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock the files for each computer. Throughout the day other, mainly European countries, reported infections. Some reports said Russia had seen more infections than any other single country. Domestic banks, the interior and health ministries, the state-owned Russian railway firm and the second largest mobile phone network were all reported to have been hit. Russia's interior ministry said 1,000 of its computers had been infected but the virus was swiftly dealt with and no sensitive data was compromised. In Spain, a number of large firms - including telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural - were also hit, with reports that staff at the firms were told to turn off their computers. People tweeted photos of affected computers including a local railway ticket machine in Germany and a university computer lab in Italy. France's car-maker Renault, Portugal Telecom, the US delivery company FedEx and a local authority in Sweden were also affected. China has not officially commented on any attacks it may have suffered, but comments on social media said a university computer lab had been compromised. Who has been hit by the NHS cyber attack? Coincidentally, finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthiest countries have been meeting in Italy to discuss the threat of cyber-attacks on the global financial system. They are expected to release a statement later in which they pledge greater co-operation in the fight against cyber-crime, including spotting potential vulnerabilities and assessing security measures. The infections seem to be deployed via a worm - a program that spreads by itself between computers. Most other malicious programs rely on humans to spread by tricking them into clicking on an attachment harbouring the attack code. By contrast, once WannaCry is inside an organisation it will hunt down vulnerable machines and infect them too. Some experts say the attack may have been built to exploit a weakness in Microsoft systems that had been identified by the NSA and given the name EternalBlue. The NSA tools were stolen by a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers, who made it freely available in April, saying it was a "protest" about US President Donald Trump. At the time, some cyber-security experts said some of the malware was real, but old. A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, which would have automatically protected those computers with Windows Update enabled. Microsoft said on Friday it would roll out the update to users of older operating systems "that no longer receive mainstream support", such Windows XP (which the NHS still largely uses), Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003. The number of infections seems to be slowing after a "kill switch" appears to have been accidentally triggered by a UK-based cyber-security researcher tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog. He was quoted as saying he noticed the web address the virus was searching for had not been registered - and when he registered it, the virus appeared to stop spreading. But he warned this was a temporary fix, and urged computers users to "patch your systems ASAP". Many jobs can be done using software everyone can buy, but some businesses need programs that perform very specific jobs - so they build their own. For example. a broadcaster might need specialist software to track all the satellite feeds coming into the newsroom, and a hospital might need custom-built tools to analyse X-ray images. Developing niche but useful software like this can be very expensive - the programming, testing, maintenance and continued development all adds up. Then along comes a new version of Windows, and the software isn't compatible. Companies then face the cost of upgrading computers and operating system licenses, as well as the cost of rebuilding their software from scratch. So, some choose to keep running the old version of Windows instead. For some companies, that is not a huge risk. In a hospital, the stakes are higher.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Gas Natural Inc. (NYSE MKT:EGAS) (the “Company”), a holding company operating local natural gas utilities serving approximately 70,000 customers in four states, reported financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2017. Mr. Gregory J. Osborne, Gas Natural’s President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “ We continue to focus on providing excellent service to our customers in all of our utility jurisdictions, resulting in growth in full service distribution and gross margin. Additionally, our ongoing focus on cost discipline has contributed to improved earnings.” He added, “ The regulatory approval process for our announced merger with First Reserve continues on plan. We expect completion of the transaction in the second half of 2017.” Revenue for the first quarter of 2017 increased approximately 4% over the prior-year quarter. Both of the Company’s operating segments contributed to the increase. The Natural Gas segment grew due to: 1) customer growth, primarily in Maine and Montana; 2) colder weather in certain of the Company’s markets, including Montana and Maine; 3) generally higher natural gas prices; and 4) the inclusion of cancellation fee revenue for a terminated long-term customer contract in Maine. The Marketing & Production segment recognized higher revenue due to increased volumes sold as a result of colder weather in its relevant markets. Gross margin for the first quarter of 2017 increased 6% compared with the prior-year quarter. The increase was primarily due to several factors: 1) higher volume due to increased usage and colder weather in the Company’s Montana and Maine markets, partially offset by warmer weather in its North Carolina and Ohio markets; 2) higher volume driven by customer growth; and 3) cancellation fee revenue with no associated cost, resulting from the termination of a long-term customer contract in Maine. Customer count grew by approximately 300 in the first quarter, compared with the end of 2016. *See the attached tables for important disclosures regarding the Company’s use of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, non-recurring expenses and discontinued operations (“Adjusted EBITDA”) as well as reconciliations of U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (”GAAP”) net income to non-GAAP Adjusted EBITDA for the 2017 and 2016 first quarters. For the first quarter of 2017, operating income was $0.4 million higher than the prior-year quarter due to higher gross margin partially offset by higher operating expenses. Within the Natural Gas segment, gross margin grew $0.9 million and operating expenses increased $0.3 million, contributing to a $0.6 million increase in operating income for the segment. The increase in operating expenses is primarily due to IT-related support costs, partially offset by cost reductions associated with lower legal and professional services as well as lower personnel related costs pertaining to this segment. The higher operating loss within the Corporate and Other segment was primarily due to higher legal and professional costs associated with the Company’s pending merger. Adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure, was up approximately $0.8 million primarily due to higher operating income as well as higher non-cash costs. The Company believes that, when used in conjunction with measures prepared in accordance with GAAP, Adjusted EBITDA, which is a non-GAAP measure, helps in the understanding of its financial performance. Cash and cash equivalents as of March 31, 2017 grew to $7.7 million from $6.5 million at December 31, 2016. Cash provided by operating activities in the first quarter of 2017 was $10.9 million compared with $9.4 million in 2016 first quarter, with the increase primarily due to higher net income and lower working capital requirements. Capital expenditures for the first quarter of 2017 were $2.0 million compared with $2.3 million in the prior-year quarter. Capital expenditures in the 2016 first quarter included approximately $0.5 million for the portion of the Company’s ERP system that was not financed under a lease agreement. The Company has budgeted $10 million for capital expenditures in 2017, with the majority focused on growth of its Natural Gas Operations segment, including construction activities to support expansion, maintenance and enhancements of its gas pipeline systems. Cash used in financing activities was $8.4 million in the 2017 first quarter compared with $5.9 million in last year’s quarter. Debt repayment was the primary use of cash in both periods. Gas Natural Inc., a holding company, distributes and sells natural gas to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. It distributes approximately 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas to roughly 70,000 customers through regulated utilities operating in Montana, Ohio, Maine and North Carolina. The Company’s other operations include intrastate pipeline, natural gas production, and natural gas marketing. The Company's Montana public utility was originally incorporated in 1909. Its strategy for growth is to expand throughput in its markets, while looking for acquisitions that are either adjacent to its existing utilities or in under-served markets. Further information is available on the Company’s website at www.egas.net. The Company is including the following cautionary statement in this release to make applicable and to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for any forward-looking statements made by, or on behalf of, Gas Natural Inc. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, those that are identified by use of the words "anticipates," "estimates," "expects," "intends," "plans," "predicts," "believes" and similar expressions. Such statements are inherently subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed. Factors that may affect forward-looking statements and the Company's business generally include, but are not limited to the Company's ability to successfully integrate the operations of the companies it has acquired and consummate additional acquisitions; the Company's continued ability to make or increase dividend payments; the Company's ability to implement its business plan, grow earnings and improve returns on investment; fluctuating energy commodity prices; the possibility that regulators may not permit the Company to pass through all of its increased costs to its customers; changes in the utility regulatory environment; wholesale and retail competition; the Company's ability to satisfy its debt obligations, including compliance with financial covenants; weather conditions; litigation risks; and various other matters, many of which are beyond the Company's control; the risk factors and cautionary statements made in the Company's public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission; and other factors that the Company is currently unable to identify or quantify, but may exist in the future. Gas Natural Inc. expressly undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement contained herein to reflect any change in Gas Natural Inc.'s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: IA | Phase: SCC-01-2014 | Award Amount: 34.64M | Year: 2015

GrowSmarter aims to: Improve the quality of life for European citizens by better mobility, housing and the quality of urban infrastructure while improving the citizens economy by lower energy costs and creating as much as 1500 new jobs (on the demonstration level). Reduce the environmental impact by lower energy needs by 60 % and increased use of renewable energy thus reducing GHG emissions even more. Create sustainable economic development by demonstrating and preparing a wider rollout of smart solutions. GrowSmarter will demonstrate at 3 lighthouse cities 12 smart, integrated solutions as a way of preparing for a wider market rollout. These solutions are integrated in specially chosen sites making demonstration easy to reach and take part of for the 5 follower cities and other European and international study groups. All the smart solutions are fit into the Lighthouse-cities strategic development plans and the follower cities replication plans. The solutions solve common urban challenges such as: Renewal of existing buildings. GrowSmarter demonstrates the cost efficient renewal of 100.000 square meters of Nearly Zero or low energy districts reducing energy demand by 70-90%, Integrated infrastructures for ICT, street lighting, smart grids district heating and smarter waste handling Sustainable urban mobility for both passenger and gods integrated in smart grids, biofuels from household waste thus reducing local air quality emissions by 60%. The integration of Cities, strong group of industrial partners together and quality research organisations guarantee that the solutions will be both validated by independent research organisations and transformed into Smart Business Solutions by industry for the wider rollout to Europe. Growsmarter builds on integrated, close to the market solutions, to form business models for their wider deployment by the industrial partners. The project will help Europe GrowSmarter!


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP | Phase: NMP-2009-2.6-1 | Award Amount: 5.77M | Year: 2010

One of the major challenges of this century is the provision of safe drinking water for a growing population. The shortage in water resources in arid areas requires the availability of more efficient and cheaper drinking water production processes. For groundwater, it is often sufficient to aerate and disinfect to produce drinking water. However, in large parts of the world the use of groundwater from aquifers is not possible due to excessive use and global climate change that allow penetration of salt sea water into the aquifers. Population growth, not surprisingly, leads to more pollution of aquifers rendering the water quality unsuitable for drinking water purposes without excessive treatment. In contrast, there are always large quantities of water vapor present in air. The objective within CapWa is produce a commercially available membrane modular system suitable for industrial applications within 3-4 years. The produced demin water from this system should be competitive with existing demin water technologies. The starting point will be the water vapour selective composite membranes that are developed in the proof of principle project. At the same time fundamental research will also be done on other alternative water selecting coatings. For both of these membrane paths the upscale from lab to industrial scale membrane production will be developed in CapWa. In CapWa the modular membrane system will also be developed and tested in the flue gas duct of a gas and coal-fired power plant, a cooling tower (or geothermal well) and in a paper or board mill. To achieve this goal the selective membranes must be thermal/chemically stable under the existing environmental conditions (50-150 C) and resistant to fouling. To be competitive with existing demin production lines, the construction of the end system must be efficient and user friendly.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP | Phase: GC.SST.2012.2-3. | Award Amount: 14.34M | Year: 2013

LNG Blue Corridors unites/mobilizes the critical mass of experience (know-how, expertise, (industrial) parties and stakeholders) in LNG transport and infrastructure technology. It involves cooperation between heavy duty vehicle manufacturers, fuel suppliers, fuel distributors and fleet operators. The project includes a first definition of European LNG Blue Corridors, with strategic LNG refuelling points in order to guarantee LNG availability for road transport in a simple and cost effective way. The core of the project is the roll out and demonstration of the first stage of the roadmap of four LNG Blue Corridors involves the building of approx. 14 new LNG or L-CNG stations on critical points/locations in the Blue Corridors and the building up of a fleet of approx. 100 LNG Heavy Duty Vehicles and/or DF vehicles operating along the corridors. The project that is scheduled for 4 years has the ambition to connect over 12 Member States, to align to existing demonstrations running at national level, and to improve the knowledge and general awareness of LNG as alternative fuel for medium and long distance road transport.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: IA | Phase: LCE-02-2016 | Award Amount: 15.84M | Year: 2017

inteGRIDy aims to integrate cutting-edge technologies, solutions and mechanisms in a scalable Cross-Functional Platform connecting energy networks with diverse stakeholders, facilitating optimal and dynamic operation of the Distribution Grid (DG), fostering the stability and coordination of distributed energy resources and enabling collaborative storage schemes within an increasing share of renewables. inteGRIDy will: a) Integrate innovative smart grid technologies, enabling optimal and dynamic operation of the distribution systems assets within high grid reliability and stability standards b) Validate innovative Demand Response technologies and relevant business models c) Utilize storage technologies and their capabilities to relieve the DG and enable significant avoidance of RES curtailment, enhancing self-consumption and net metering d) Enable interconnection with transport and heat networks, forming Virtual Energy Network synergies ensuring energy security e) Provide modelling & profiling extraction for network topology representation, innovative DR mechanisms and Storage characterization, facilitating decision making in DGs operations f) Provide predictive, forecasting tools & scenario-based simulation, facilitating an innovative Operation Analysis Framework g) Develop new business and services to create value for distribution domain stakeholders and end users/prosumers in an emerging electricity market. inteGRIDy will impact on: a) operations by reconfigurable topology control & supervision b) market by providing new services c) customer by enhanced engagement through DR mechanisms d) transmission by novel forecasting scenarios for the MV/LV areas e) part of the production incorporating innovative storage targeting the optimum use of RES f) environment by CO2 reduction inteGRIDy approach will be deployed and validated in 6 large-scale and 4 small-scale real-life demonstration covering different climatic zones and markets with different maturity.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP | Phase: ENERGY.2013.5.1.2 | Award Amount: 7.73M | Year: 2014

This proposal aims to develop high-potential novel and environmentally benign technologies and processes for post-combustion CO2 capture leading to real breakthroughs. The proposal includes all main separation technologies for post-combustion CO2 capture; absorption, adsorption and membranes. Enzyme based systems, bio-mimicking systems and other novel forms of CO2 binding will be explored. For each technology we will focus on chosen set of promising concepts (four for absorption, two for adsorption and two for membranes). We aim to achieve 25% reduction in efficiency penalty compared to a demonstrated state-of-the-art capture process in the EU project CESAR and deliver proof-of-concepts for each technology. The various technologies and associated process concepts will be assessed using a novel methodology for comparing new and emerging technologies, for which limited data are available and the maturity level varies substantially. Based on the relative performance using various performance indicators, a selection of two breakthrough technologies will be made. Those two technologies will be further studied in order to do a more thorough benchmarking against demonstrated state-of-the-art technologies. A technological roadmap, based on a thorough gap analysis, for industrial demonstration of the two technologies will finally be established. HiPerCap involves 15 partners, from both the public and private sectors (research, academia, and industry), from 6 different EU Member States and Associated States, and three International Cooperation Partner Countries (Russia, Canada, and Australia). The HiPerCap consortium includes all essential stakeholders in the technology supply chain for CCS: power companies, RTD providers, suppliers, manufacturers (of power plants, industrial systems, equipment, and materials), and engineering companies.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP | Phase: ICT-2013.6.2 | Award Amount: 4.89M | Year: 2013

Data centres are involved play two different and complementary roles in Smart Cities energy policies with two roles: as ICT infrastructures supporting Smart City resource optimization systems - and more in general, delivering for ICT services to the citizens - and as large energy consumers. Therefore there are huge expectations on data centres being able to run at the highest levels of renewable energy sources: this is the great challenge of DC4Cities project.\nDC4Cities addresses these requirements optimizing data centre operations as well as software running in the data centre for minimal energy consumption and adaptivity to external energy constrains, targeting the 80% usage of renewable energy sources.\nThe goal of DC4Cities is to let make existing and new data centres become energy adaptive, without requiring any logistics modification to the logistics, and without impacting the quality of the services provided to their users. Finally new energy metrics, benchmarks, and measurement processes will be developed and proposed for the definition of new related standards.\nDC4Cities will promote the data centres role as an eco-friendly key player in the Smart Cities energy policies, and will foster the integration of a network of local renewable energy providers (also interconnected with local Smart Grids and microgrids) to support the pursued increase of renewable energy share.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ECSEL-IA | Phase: ECSEL-18-2015 | Award Amount: 82.27M | Year: 2016

The goal of EnSO is to develop and consolidate a unique European ecosystem in the field of autonomous micro energy sources (AMES) supporting Electronic European industry to develop innovative products, in particular in IoT markets. In summary, EnSO multi-KET objectives are: Objective 1: demonstrate the competitiveness of EnSO energy solutions of the targeted Smart Society, Smart Health, and Smart Energy key applications Objective 2: disseminate EnSO energy solutions to foster the take-up of emerging markets. Objective 3: develop high reliability assembly technologies of shapeable micro batteries, energy harvester and power management building blocks Objective 4: Develop and demonstrate high density, low profile, shapeable, long life time, rechargeable micro battery product family. Objective 5: develop customizable smart recharge and energy harvesting enabling technologies for Autonomous Micro Energy Source AMES. Objective 6: demonstrate EnSO Pilot Line capability and investigate and assess the upscale of AMES manufacturing for competitive very high volume production. EnSO will bring to market innovative energy solutions inducing definitive differentiation to the electronic smart systems. Generic building block technologies will be customizable. EnSO manufacturing challenges will develop high throughput processes. The ENSo ecosystem will involve all the value chain from key materials and tools to many demonstrators in different fields of application. EnSO work scope addresses the market replication, demonstration and technological introduction activities of ECSEL Innovation Action work program. EnSO relates to several of the Strategic Thrusts of ECSEL MASP. EnSO innovations in terms of advanced materials, advanced equipment and multi-physics co-design of heterogeneous smart systems will contribute to the Semiconductor Process, Equipment and Materials thrust. The AMES will be a key enabling technology of Smart Energy key applications.

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