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Homeland Security

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.

Helping the Grid
 to Bounce Back

June 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Industry and government search for for the best approach for the rapid recovery of a key element of the electrical grid in the event of an attack.

One of the most crucial elements of the nation’s critical infrastructure is gradually getting the attention it believes it deserves from both the electrical power industry and the federal government. In the years to come, that effort could finally yield agreement on how best to design and implement badly needed upgrades to a key component to the daily operation of the power grid—electrical transformers—and how they would be replaced in the event of a systemwide failure or an attack on the grid itself.

Electrical transformers are an important part of the power distribution system. Past wide-scale outages have been linked to failed transformers, and replacement can be a lengthy and expensive proposition. Experts predict that any wide-scale failure of multiple transformers could result in widespread social and economic damage. Groups representing the electrical power industry have focused in recent years on several voluntary initiatives involving the stockpiling of replacement parts in key locations to facilitate quick and timely recovery of electrical transformers. To date, the industry has been unable to reach agreement on a uniform, nationwide program.

The federal government side of the effort is being led by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Specifically, DHS has been a supporter of a parallel and competing program to develop a new modular transformer for use with power grids, one that is easier to transport and install in the event of an emergency and takes advantage of improved technologies.

The Bottom Line: The DOD Must Be a Squeaky Wheel

May 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

It’s time for military leaders, and yes, even members of the intelligence community, to come out from behind the curtain. They not only need to share with the public what networks and radios and tanks and guns mean to a warfighter’s safety but also what they mean to global security.

Coast Guard Adopts a 
High-Frequency Solution

May 1, 2013
By Arthur Allen and Zdenka Willis

The synergy between operational planning and radar sensing provides enhanced search and rescue capabilities.

The U.S. Coast Guard is combining high-frequency coastal radar data with traditional oceanographic and geographic information to improve its chances of rescuing people in distress on the high seas. By merging these different sources of data, the Coast Guard enhances its search abilities while also providing better weather prediction for both its search and rescue teams and an endangered public in coastal areas.

This combining of different data types requires more than just technological interoperability. It also mandates cooperation between two different government organizations: the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both groups have been expanding their cooperation, and the results have been synergistic.

The utility of this approach was demonstrated when Superstorm Sandy struck the Eastern Seaboard in October 2012. The Coast Guard prosecuted 159 search and rescue (SAR) cases before, during and after Sandy made landfall. One of those cases was the sailing vessel HMS Bounty, which foundered and sank at the height of the storm off the coast of North Carolina. Aircrews from Air Station Elizabeth City plucked 14 crewmembers from the raging seas that night.

Two Bounty crewmembers did not survive—Claudene Christian, whose body was recovered, and the captain, Robin Walbridge, who was lost to the sea. In addition to two helicopters, a C-130 Hercules aircraft, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, the high-endurance cutter Gallatin (WHEC-721) and the seagoing buoy tender Elm (WLB-204) supported the four-day search covering some 12,000 square miles of ocean, battling 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds, trying, ultimately in vain, to locate Captain Walbridge.

Cobham to Provide Surveillance Technology for 2014 World Cup

March 27, 2013
George I. Seffers

Cobham’s Brazilian subsidiary has secured its first major contract in Brazil to equip state police helicopters with high definition video surveillance downlinks, which will be used on helicopters in 12 cities during the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. The contract was developed with a local integration partner following the opening of the Cobham’s Sao Paulo office in August 2012 and includes both airborne and ground based equipment. This procurement was made through the newly-formed Extraordinary Secretariat for Security at Large Scale Events.

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.

 

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