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Homeland Security Department Seeks Software Assurance Marketplace Participants

November 14, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is seeking participants for the Software Assurance Marketplace (SWAMP), which is expected to open to beta users in January. The ultimate goal for the marketplace is to help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure by improving software used for essential functions.

The Bottom Line: Revolution Through Evolution

November 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The bottom line is that today's military structure is not set up to foster creative solutions and incorporate them into the bureaucracy, but a revolution quietly erupted in October. More than 80 innovators came together to discuss their ideas about how to solve some of the military's most vexing problems.

Nationwide Broadband Safety Network Seeks Industry Input

October 28, 2013
By Beverly Cooper

Work has begun at the federal level to develop a nationwide dedicated, reliable network, which will provide advanced data communications capabilities to police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will enable public safety personnel to make cellular-quality calls and send data, video, images and text—similar to the capabilities offered on commercial networks. Incident commanders and local officials will have priority access and control over the network. Interoperability issues that result from stovepiped local systems, geographic limitations and other regional constraints also will be resolved.

The FirstNet program, which operates under an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), has issued an initial set of requests for information (RFIs) and has received more than 270 responses from industry so far. “We are looking for great expertise from vendors,” emphasizes T.J. Kennedy, deputy general manager, FirstNet, NTIA, Department of Commerce. A second set of RFIs will be issued after the existing input is reviewed, but no time frame has been set, he adds.

Currently, the organization’s efforts are task focused. The goal is first to develop a strong outreach team and then bring in the right technology and people working in an atmosphere that will drive innovation into public safety, Kennedy reports. Then the group will transition its efforts to a building focus.

Cybersecurity Technologies Ready for Prime Time

September 18, 2013

Eight emerging cybersecurity technologies ready for transition into commercial products will be unveiled at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel on October 9. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate is hosting the event, which will feature intrusion detection, removable media protection, software assurance and malware forensics capabilities.

The Department of Energy’s national laboratories developed the technologies that the DHS’ Transition-to-Practice program will showcase during the Technology Demonstration for Investors, Integrators and IT Companies East event.

Cybersecurity professionals and technology investors from private industry will learn about these new technologies through presentations, demonstrations and discussions with the research teams that produced them. Attendees also will have an opportunity to schedule a private one-on-one discussions with the researchers to discuss opportunities for commercializing the technologies and areas of interest to drive further cybersecurity research.

Attendance is free, but registration must be received by October 7.

Eyeing Next-Generation Biometrics

September 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The FBI is on schedule to finish implementing next-generation biometric capabilities, including palm, iris and face recognition, in the summer of next year. New technology processes data more rapidly, provides more accurate information and improves criminal identification and crime-solving abilities.

Artificial Fish Dives Into Unknown Waters

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Domestic security officials aim to replace human divers with an autonomous underwater vehicle whose design is derived from nature: the tuna, one of the fastest and most maneuverable fish in the sea. The vehicle would be used primarily to inspect ship hulls for contraband, saving divers from hazardous trips into hard-to-reach areas below the waterline where oil and other toxic chemicals are part of the mix. Designers also envision the tuna-modeled robot could also be used for search and rescue missions.

The Biomimetic In-Oil Swimmer (BIOSwimmer) is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) being developed by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group, in Waltham, Massachusetts, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This tuna look-alike can be operated either by remote control with a tethered cable or pre-programmed to operate autonomously, according to David Taylor, specialist, cargo security, Border and Maritime Security Division, Science and Technology Directorate, DHS, and program manager for the BIOSwimmer program.

“It was originally designed as a vehicle that could go inside cargo tanks and look in oil cargos for contraband,” he explains. Based on subsequent feedback from DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field officers, the BIOSwimmer’s design has been modified to function primarily as an AUV that examines ship hulls.

Coping With the 
Big Data Quagmire

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Researchers at one of the premier national laboratories in the United States are prepared to hand the Defense Department a prototype system that compresses imagery without losing the quality of vital data. The system reduces the volume of information; allows imagery to be transmitted long distances, even across faulty communications links; and allows the data to be analyzed more efficiently and effectively.

The Persistics computational system developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) derives its name from the combination of two words: persistent surveillance. The system is designed to revolutionize the collection, communication and analysis of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data so that warfighters do not find themselves drowning in a swamp of too much information. The ground-based system has demonstrated 1,000 times compression of raw wide-area video collections from manned and unmanned aircraft and a tenfold reduction of pre-processed images. Standard video compression can achieve only a 30 times data reduction.

The existing data processing infrastructure for national security is not designed for the amounts of information being generated by unmanned aerial systems and other platforms. In addition, the communication bandwidth supporting data transmission for air to ground and the archive storage capability are too slow to support fast-turnaround human analysis, according to LLNL researchers. “These [ISR] cameras are picking up more data than we know what to do with, and there are not enough humans on the ground to analyze every pixel,” explains Sheila Vaidya, deputy program director, defense programs, Office of Strategic Outcomes, LLNL.

Shifting Tides of Cyber

July 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Industry officials foresee 
changes in network security.

Cyber industry experts predict a number of coming developments in the cyber realm, driven in part by government strategy and funding uncertainties. The future may include a greater reliance on law enforcement to solve state-sponsored hacks, increased automation and more outsourcing.

Earlier this year, the White House released the Administration’s Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets. It calls for an increase in diplomatic engagement; makes investigation and prosecution of trade secret thievery a top priority; and promises a review of legislation regarding trade secret theft to determine what changes may be necessary. The strategy contains “lots of hints” the administration will rely on law enforcement in addition to national security channels in some cases involving nation-state-sponsored hacks, says Kimberly Peretti, a former senior litigator for the Justice Department Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

“The big gorilla in the room is what we do with state-sponsored attacks. One of the priorities of the strategy itself is having the Justice Department continue to make investigations and prosecutions of trade secrets a priority. So, if we see a lot of these trade secret thefts happening by Chinese hackers or state-sponsored attackers, that could be incorporated into the strategy—to start looking at pursuing avenues criminally as well as on the national security side,” says Peretti, who is now a partner in the White Collar Group and co-chair of the Security Incident Management and Response Team, Alston and Bird Limited Liability Partnership, a law firm headquartered in Atlanta.

NSA Director Says U.S. Is Best at Protecting Civil Liberties

June 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The United States is one of the best in the world at protecting civil liberties, Gen. Keith Alexander, USA, director of National Security Agency (NSA) and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command said at the AFCEA Cyber Symposium in Baltimore.

Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked reams of data about NSA monitoring activities to the press, has been called a hero whistleblower by some, but Gen. Alexander contends that the employees at the NSA, FBI, CIA and Defense Department, who protect the nation while protecting civil liberties, are the real heroes.

As he has before, Gen. Alexander said the leaks have done irreparable harm to national security. “Public discussion of the NSA’s trade craft or the tools that support its operation provides insights that our adversaries—to include terrorists—can and do use to hide their activities. Those who wish us harm now know how we counter their actions. These leaks have caused significant and irreversible damage to our nation’s security. Historically, every time a capability is revealed, we lose our ability to track those targets,” he said. “What is going on with these leaks is unconscionable in my opinion.”

Gen. Alexander pointed out that approved processes exist for whistleblowers to express concern, and he pointed out that Snowden leaked information to the press rather than following those approved processes. “There are lawful and legitimate mechanisms to raise concerns about these programs. The NSA, the Defense Department and the director of national intelligence all have investigator generals who are in a position to do this. An individual acting nobly would have chosen one of those to voice his concerns,” he declared.

He also repeated claims that the monitoring programs have helped protect the United States and its allies on 54 occasions. He added that a recent oversight report found zero instances where the monitoring programs led to civil liberty violations.

Government Coping With New Round of Cyber Attacks

June 25, 2013
George I. Seffers

U.S. government officials are traveling the country warning companies about a new round of cyberattacks that have targeted 27 companies, compromised seven and may ultimately affect up to 600 asset owners, according to Neil Hershfield, deputy director, control systems security program (CSSP), Industrial Control Systems-Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), Homeland Security Department.

Hershfield made the comments while taking part in a critical infrastructure protection panel discussion as part of the July 25-27 AFCEA International Cyber Symposium, Baltimore.

“The reason we’re out and about across the country is that we’re seeing a new adversary taking a new approach—rather than spearphishing, they are going after vulnerabilities with [structured query language] injections, and they’re then trying to get across the networks as fast as they can as broadly as they can,” Hershfeld reported. “We’ve been working with our intelligence community partners on this and we’re now going around the country letting people know about it. We basically do this jointly with the FBI, with field offices across the country. When we’re done, we’ll probably talk to 500-600 asset owners.”

Getting the word out is crucial because “the mitigation strategy here for this kind of exploit is significantly different than what you might use in other cases,” he added.

Hershfield is part of an industrial control systems working group, a public-private partnership that is co-led by one person from the private sector and another from the government sector. The group typically meets in-person twice a year, sharing information between the public and private sectors.

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