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homeland defense

Lone Wolf Terrorists Prowl the Balkans

June 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

In the coming months, extremists fighting in the Syrian civil war likely will begin returning to Europe, funneling through the Balkans where they can find cheap weapons, like-minded allies and temporary accomplices in the form of organized criminal groups. Conditions are ripe, according to experts, for those individuals to spread across Europe, launching terrorist attacks on major cities.

Boston Marathon Bombing Lessons Learned

April 30, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Intelligence agencies could have investigated more thoroughly and shared information more effectively, but even if they had performed perfectly, they may not have been able to prevent last year's Boston Marathon bombing, according to a report delivered before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Cyber Age Spawns Complexity for Homeland Security Mission

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Dealing with the world’s increasing complexity is the primary challenge to keeping the homeland secure, according to Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. He lists border security, the cyberthreat, information sharing, terrorism, criminal organizations and climate change as elements adding to that complexity.

“We have to start understanding that the root problem we’re trying to deal with is to defeat complexities that inhibit working across boundaries to deliver solutions,” he said while serving as the morning keynote speaker on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.

Adm. Allen set the tone for the conference. Speakers and panelists conveyed that the U.S. government and the private sector have made dramatic progress in keeping the homeland secure since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Information is more easily shared among government agencies and the private sector. Network security is better understood. Technology advances at a dizzying pace. But for all the progress made, many challenges still remain, the experts agreed.

Adm. Allen related terrorism to “political criminality” and declared that transnational criminal organizations constitute the real problem. “I don’t make a distinction between counterterrorism and transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. They’re all connected,” he stated.

Regarding border security, he said borders no longer are managed in a traditional sense and should not necessarily be equated to a physical border. “The fact of the matter is we have migrated to what I call functional borders,” he offered. A container leaving central Europe, for example, for Omaha, Nebraska, may never be opened and inspected, but it will be fully vetted, and the potential for threat thoroughly assessed.

Robots Learn With Heads in the Cloud

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Researchers working on multiple projects in Europe and the United States are using cloud computing to teach robotic systems to perform a multitude of tasks ranging from household chores to serving hospital patients and flipping pancakes. The research, which one day could be applied to robotic systems used for national defense, homeland security or medical uses, lowers costs while allowing robots to learn more quickly, share information and better cooperate with one another.

Cloud robotics is an emerging research field rooted in cloud computing, cloud storage and other technologies centered around the benefits of converged infrastructure and shared services, according to researchers with the recently completed RoboEarth project, which was funded primarily by the European Commission. Cloud robotics allows robots to benefit from the powerful computational, storage and communications resources of modern data centers. In addition, it lowers costs for maintenance and updates and reduces dependence on custom middleware.

Researchers with the RoboEarth project envision an Internet for robots that will allow systems to share information and learn from each other about their behavior and their environment, paving the way for rapid advances in machine cognition and behavior and, ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction.

Cybersecurity Lies Take Longer than Cybersecurity Truth

March 24, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Attacks on a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) do not receive a lot of attention, and protecting against them is often not a priority, but they are on the rise, say researchers at The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research organization funded by the U.S. government. The MITRE team is developing tools to protect against BIOS attacks and is searching for organizations to help evaluate those tools.

Cybersecurity Tentacles Entwine Government

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

It is not surprising that cybersecurity would dominate the discussion on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. But the depth and breadth and variety of topics surrounding cybersecurity and information protection in all its forms indicates the degree to which the information security mission has engulfed every department and agency at all levels of government.

Chief Information Security Officers Support Continous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Chief information security officials from various agencies voiced support for the Department of Homeland Security's Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Program, which is designed to fortify computer networks across the federal government. The officials spoke out in support of the program while serving on a panel during the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference, Washington, D.C. Panel moderator John Streufert, director of Federal Network Resilience at the Department of Homeland Security, took the opportunity to put some rumors to rest.

Weathering the Big Data Storm

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The National Weather Service is the granddaddy of open source data, according to Adrian Gardner, chief information officer, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was "into big data before big data was cool," added David McClure, a data asset portfolio analyst within the NOAA Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Recent Tragedies Illustrate Role of Information Fusion Centers

March 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, government agencies came under widespread criticism for failing to share information and "connect the dots." By contrast, law enforcement agencies were almost universally praised following the Boston Marathon bombing and the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., both of which took place last year.

Customs and Border Protection Not Interested in Mobility for Mobility's Sake

March 10, 2014
George I. Seffers

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is only interested in mobile communication if it allows the agency to perform functions it could not perform otherwise, Mark Borkowski, component acquisition executive and assistant commissioner with the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

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