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Homeland Security

Dispatch Center Incorporates Newest Technology, Promotes Interoperability

August 1, 2013

The new next-generation dispatch center for the San Luis Obispo County, California, Sheriff’s Office is one of the first in the nation to be completely Internet protocol-based, bridging its existing radio system with the latest smartphone and tablet technology. The new system turns a standard PC into a communications dispatch console and also turns a smartphone into a multi-channel land mobile radio handset for secure, on-demand push-to-talk communication. The system, from Raytheon and Twisted Pair, allows for better coordination for first responders as public safety entities move toward the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, a secure, nationwide interoperable broadband network.

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.

Cyber Threats Abound, but Their Effects Are Not Certain

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Protecting the nation from cyber attack entails deterring or preventing marauders from carrying out their malevolent plans. But, while government and the private sector endeavor to fight the menace jointly, evildoers constantly change their approaches and learn new ways of striking at vulnerable points. So many variables have entered the equation that even the likelihood of attacks—along with their effects—is uncertain.
 

SCADA Systems Face Diverse Software Attack Threats

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems face numerous threats from cybermarauders coming at them from any of a number of directions. Some systems could suffer malware attacks even though they are not the intended targets, according to a leading security expert.

Armageddon by Cyber Not a Likely Scenario

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

A “digital Pearl Harbor Armageddon” that inflicts catastrophic damage on the United States is not likely soon or in the foreseeable future. The worst cyber attack that could be expected would have less of an effect for a shorter period of time, said an expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Sean Kanuck, national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the National Intelligence Council, ODNI, told the audience at the second day of the AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that predictions of destruction that would bring the United States to its knees are unnecessarily pessimistic and unlikely to materialize.

The worst cyber event that could be expected would be regional, not national, in terms of its effects. It would not be enduring, instead lasting days at most. It probably would afflict familiar targets such as oil and gas distribution networks, power grids and transportation.

The financial sector could be damaged by a cyber attack that causes substantial losses. Right now, the U.S. government does not have a baseline or a metric for determining remediation expenses or financial losses, Kanuck said.

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.

Cyber Commander Calls for Consolidated Activities

June 12, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

In the midst of a raging controversy over widespread National Security Agency (NSA) monitoring, the head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command defends cyber surveillance efforts and calls for greater consolidation of cyber activities among diverse organizations.

Telecommunications Supply Chain is Safe … for Now

June 5, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Concerns about the telecommunications supply chain have led U.S. network providers to institute extensive security procedures, but government officials are looking at establishing formal guidelines for procuring network components overseas—for better or worse.

Critical Infrastructure Ripe for Attack

June 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Digital marauders have set their sights on the critical infrastructure and are likely to strike soon with major effect. Several different elements of the infrastructure are vulnerable to attack by all manner of cyberspace players ranging from malevolent individuals to hostile nation-states.

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