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Homeland Security

Coast Guard Develops Indigenous Technologies for Cutters

March 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

By the end of this fiscal year, the next-generation command and control system for much of the cutter fleet should be installed on the U.S. Coast Guard’s 270-foot cutter class, and the system is now being considered for inclusion on 225-foot and 110-foot vessels. The system, called SeaWatch, combines navigational and tactical, optical surveillance and communications into one situational awareness picture; provides commonality across the fleet; and replaces an aging system that has outlived its usefulness.

Resolving the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Puzzle

March 1, 2014
By George Kamis

The nation’s critical infrastructure and industrial-control systems have become such potential high-value targets for terrorists that their vulnerability threatens the fabric of society. And, as they increase in both importance and vulnerability, these systems cannot be protected using conventional information security measures.

The targets are electrical grids, transportation networks, water systems, oil/gas pipeline operations and other vital resources that serve in the interests of the U.S. economy and the public good—not to mention public safety—every day. Concerns are rising about reported increases in compromise incidents within these systems, coupled with advancements in the “sophistication and effectiveness of attack technology,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The number of incidents reported by federal agencies to the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team has surged 782 percent from 2006 to 2012, the GAO reports.

Such attacks can “cause major economic losses, contaminate ecological environment and, even more dangerously, claim human lives,” according to a research report from the University of California, Berkeley. And, industrial control systems (ICS) lie at the heart of this vulnerability.

Global events have triggered the cautionary warnings. Among the most notorious was Stuxnet in 2010, which damaged uranium-enrichment centrifuges in Iran by infecting the country’s nuclear ICS network. In 2012, the Shamoon virus attacked Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, replacing crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag and overwriting essential data with what then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described as “garbage data.” Panetta added that the incident was the most destructive attack the business sector has seen to date, as more than 30,000 computers were rendered useless.

Seeking Smoother Interoperability Waters

February 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

When the U.S. Coast Guard fields its newest cutter next year, the ship will be equipped with an information technology package that offers common tools and capabilities among the cutter and aviation fleets. The technology suite will improve interoperability across the service and with other agencies, and it enhances situational awareness while providing flexibility for future upgrades.

The Coast Guard’s aviation platforms already have been equipped with the second generation, or Segment 2 Command and Control System, of the technology baseline package developed under the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) project. The project is a multiyear effort to design, develop and integrate the equipment on the Coast Guard’s newest assets, including the national security cutter (NSC), long-range surveillance aircraft and the medium-range surveillance aircraft.

Federal Software Scrubs Mobile Apps

February 1, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

A new software tool allows federal agencies to scan mobile device applications for security and accessibility issues prior to publishing them. The automated process allows developers to check their code rapidly against a variety of government guidelines to ensure that new mobile applications keep personnel and their organizations safe from hacking and other malicious outside threats.

More DHS Cybersecurity Student Volunteer Opportunities Available

January 13, 2014
By Rita Boland

The Department of Homeland Security has expanded its Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative to more agencies. Applications are due by Friday.

FEMA Promotes Preparedness

December 27, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is establishing a Thunderclap account to encourage citizens to be ready for emergencies throughout 2014.

 

Research Teams Demonstrate New Cybersecurity Technologies

December 3, 2013

Eight emerging cybersecurity technologies developed by the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories will be featured at the Transition-to-Practice Technology Demonstration Day for Investors, Integrators and IT Companies East event on December 18 in Washington, D.C.

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.

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.

Biometrics' Unprecedented Public Integration

September 19, 2013
By Rita Boland

Biometrics is on the verge of becoming more pervasive than ever in everyday life, setting the stage for personal identifiers to take the place of other common security measures. The expansion mirrors increased usage in fields such as military operations, citizen enrollment and public safety.

 

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