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Homeland Security

Law Enforcement in the Cloud

March 14, 2013
By Rick Hansen

The Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Program recently implemented a simplified sign-on capability that enables federal, state and local law enforcement to collaborate.

 

Event eNews Websites Deliver Conference Benefits to You

March 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

To help government and industry connect, network and learn about requirements and solutions, SIGNAL Media offers Event eNews websites for several major AFCEA International events that feature near real-time coverage as well as daily wrap-ups of speakers and panel discussions.

Tap Into New AFCEA Online Resources

March 15, 2013

To help keep global security professionals abreast of business opportunities and changes in the government acquisition landscape, AFCEA International has gathered information about these topics in a new section of the AFCEA website. Called AFCEA Corporate Member Resources, the page features new content about military and government organizations as it becomes available.

Ishpi Receives Coast Guard Cyber Contract

March 4, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Ishpi Information Technologies Inc., Mount Pleasant, S.C., has won a $6.7 million dollar multi-year task to provide the United States Coast Guard with subject matter expertise in the areas of information systems security and analysis, certification and accreditation, risk management, and information assurance training support to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology Service Center. 

Change Is Challenge

March 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 3

Although many in government are moving as quickly as possible to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, individual agencies still face cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving forward, according to officials speaking as part of the Chief Information Officer Council at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C.

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reminded the audience that DHS was created by joining a lot of disparate agencies, all of whom owned individual networks. While the department is working to integrate the information technology infrastructure and consolidate data centers, officials still meet some resistance at the individual agency level. “There’s still have lot of duplication and in some ways duplication is holding us back. I’d like to say we’re making progress, but I’ll let others grade us on that,” Spires said.

Other officials agreed that they meet resistance as well. Robert Carey, deputy chief information officer for the Defense Department cited a culture of change and said a constrained budget environment can be a power catalyst for action in moving toward a more centralized environment.

Cybersecurity itself can present challenges, according to Luke McCormack, chief information officer for the Justice Department. “Cyber’s hard. The individual pieces of that can be very difficult,” he said. He also cited the need to bring people together on emerging technologies, such as cloud-as-a-service, as a challenging issue.

Securing Critical Infrastructure Through Nontraditional Means

February 1, 2013
BY Rita Boland

A cloud project takes advantage of emerging concepts to protect energy against disruptive threats.

Researchers at Cornell University and Washington State University have teamed to create GridCloud, a software-based technology designed to reduce the time and difficulty involved with creating prototypes of smart-grid control paradigms. The system will help overcome hurdles of cloud computing in complex settings. The effort combines Cornell’s Isis2 platform, designed for high-assurance cloud computing, with Washington State’s GridStat technology for smart grid monitoring and control. The advent of this technology promises to boost both the security and the reliability of electrical services.

Developers aim to build a scalable software structure that is secure, self-healing and inexpensive to operate. They believe that by combining Isis2 and GridStat, a cloud-based grid can have all those factors as well as guarantee consistency. Infrastructure owners motivated by economies of scale and the desire to deploy the new smart-grid solutions end up with a system that also is more resistant to attack and likely to survive other disruptions.

Dr. Ken Birman, a professor at Cornell and co-principal investigator on the project, explains that several motivations drive the effort. One involves trying to find a solution to control a power grid when multiple organizations own and have access to the infrastructure. “A second challenge that’s emerged is that people have studied the power grid and found that we don’t operate it very efficiently,” Birman says. Power suppliers often are producing extra power, for example, or finding it difficult to take advantage of renewable sources. Sometimes renewable energy—such as the type that comes from solar panels on homes—is blocked from entering the power grid because officials lack the knowledge to access and use it safely.

Cloud Industry Group Issues Mobile Computing Guidelines

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

When it comes to popular smartphones and tablets, security can be a many-layered and necessary endeavor

The growing use of advanced mobile devices, coupled with the increase in wireless broadband speed, is fueling demand by employees to bring their own devices to the job. This situation has opened a new set of security challenges for information technology staff, especially when it comes to the use of apps.

As the popularity and capability of mobile devices expands, standards are necessary to ensure that personal devices can function securely on enterprise networks. To address this need, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) organized its Mobile Working Group last year. The group recently released guidance to members on how enterprise administrators can successfully integrate smartphones and tablets into their work environment. The CSA is a not-for-profit organization of industry representatives focused on information assurance in the cloud computing industry.

The Budget Is Dominating the Dialogue--Especially That of the Security Community

March 1, 2013
by Kent R. Schneider

Anyone who has attended an AFCEA conference in the past two months has heard the constant drumbeat from senior government leadership on the limitations on operations and readiness likely to occur in defense, intelligence and homeland security. At the AFCEA/USNI West 2013 Conference in San Diego January 29-31, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a packed audience that the U.S. Defense Department did not know how much money it would receive, when it would receive it or what the restrictions on its use would be.

While we are getting a similar message from defense, intelligence and homeland security leaders, the most concise statement of the problem comes from Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter. In a January 10 memorandum, “Handling Budgetary Uncertainty in Fiscal Year 2013,” Carter points out that the department faces two elements of economic uncertainty in this fiscal year. First, the department, as are all U.S. federal agencies, is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires March 27. While the Defense Department is working with Congress to get appropriations bills, the possibility exists that it will operate under a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Under a CR, the department is limited to prior-year funding levels, and there can be no new starts. In addition, transfer of funds among categories is very limited. Second, Congress deferred potential sequestration under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 from January 2, 2013, to March 1. If sequestration does occur this late in the year, the approximately $46 billion in reductions would occur in a very concentrated period. Remember too that the reductions under sequestration have few exceptions and must be applied across all program elements.

Modeling and Simulation Can Ease Budget Crunch

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

As the U.S. government wrestles with its myriad budgetary woes, training, modeling and simulation can provide substantial savings in a variety of ways, according to officials speaking on the Training, Modeling and Simulation panel at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

“With the economic turmoil that we find ourselves in today, where we have to simultaneously reduce costs while protecting the homeland, I believe we are now in a period where modeling and simulation and virtual reality methodologies are not really an aid to live training, they are indispensable,” said Sandy Peavy, chief information officer, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Homeland Security Department (DHS).

Peavy reported that her organization is using a modified version of a U.S. Army-developed virtual reality hologram. Since the Army already had invested heavily in the system, the DHS was able to modify it for a modest $1 million, and now the Army is integrating some of the DHS modifications into its own system.

Additionally, David Boyd, who leads the DHS Office of Interoperability and Compatibility, suggested that modeling and simulation can aid the development of FirstNet, a nationwide public safety broadband network that will cost an estimated $7 billion. “We look at modeling and simulation as a way to reduce costs and as a way to look at everything from network scenarios to communications the scenarios,” Boyd said.

He added that there are “a number of issues” with FirstNet, including the fact that it will use LTE protocols, which do not support mission critical voice capabilities and do not meet all of the needs of emergency responses. FirstNet will require the construction of additional towers, an immensely expensive task. “One of the things we have to be able to model is what happens when you overload [the system]. We don’t care what happens on a normal day. We care about what happens when a disaster occurs.”

Top Information Technology Officials Peer into the Future

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

Top information technology officials from a variety of government agencies identified cloud computing, mobile devices and edge technologies as the technologies that will be critical for accomplishing their missions in the future.

Luke McCormack, chief information officer, Justice Department, cited cloud-as-a-service as vital to the future. He urged industry to continue to push the barriers of stack computing, and he mentioned edge technology as an emerging technology. “Edge is going to be really critical to perform missions,” he said. He cited the Google Glass project as an indicator of what the future will bring.

Mobility could be the future of training and simulation, suggested Sandy Peavy, chief information officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She revealed that her office is putting together a pilot program introducing tablet computers into the training environment, and ideally, she would like trainees to be able to access simulation on the mobile device of their choice. Peavy also reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is providing special agents with iPhones and experimenting with other devices. “If I’m going to be able to provide just-in-time training, then mobile technology is the key.”

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security, also cited mobility as a key future trend, but he also brought up metadata tagging, saying that it helps to understand the data itself and to establish rules for who sees what information. Metadata tagging is especially important as the department grapples with privacy concerns.

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