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Homeland Security

Storms Teach Important Lessons About Infrastructure Protection

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Senior leaders in both industry and government have learned their lessons from major storms, such as Katrina and Sandy, and are working together to improve the nation’s ability to bounce back from natural disasters.

As a member of the Critical Infrastructure Protection panel at AFCEA’s Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C., William Bryan, deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure security and energy restoration, reported that in the aftermath of Sandy, a major storm that wreaked havoc in the Northeast, industry and government senior leaders worked closely to solve problems.

He added, however, that after the 9/11 attacks, “A lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy was spent on physical protection—gates, guards and guns, bio-readers at facility entrances and crash barriers and on and on and on. None of that worked during Katrina. The money invested by industry to protect their facilities did nothing to protect against the storm. So, the nation started looking at the concept of resilience,” he said. He added that the recently signed presidential directive addresses resilience.

Diving for Port Security

February 20, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The Long Beach Police Department dive team adopts new homeland security equipment.

The Long Beach, California, police department dive team is now using a newly acquired search and recovery system to help protect the local port, shipping lanes and critical infrastructure.

The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) dive team has an atypical and varied mission along the port and in the city waterways. “We have the law enforcement responsibility as well as the homeland security mission, mostly dealing with the Port of Long Beach and protecting the port against any type of terrorist threat or action,” says Sgt. Steve Smock, LBPD dive team supervisor. “Everything that the police do on land, we do underwater.”

The mission can include body recovery after a shipping accident or searching for underwater mines attached to ships or piers. The LBPD works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to search for and confiscate narcotics or other contraband being smuggled into the country. Additionally, the port is a potential terrorist target for several reasons, including the shipping lanes and some of the cargo coming into port.

“We have all these different wharfs and piers that these ships come up to and tie to. A good example is the oil exchange terminals where the oil container ships come in and offload their oil. These are, for obvious reasons, very sensitive. We do a lot to make sure that nobody gets in there to tamper with anything,” the sergeant states.

Dev Technology Group Receives ICE Task Orders

February 6, 2013
George I. Seffers

Dev Technology Group Inc., Reston, Va., recently announced that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has awarded the company multiple task orders under the ICE Software Operations and Maintenance Support Services Blanket Purchase Agreement. Dev Technology will maintain mission critical systems at ICE including the Enforcement Integrated Database, the Federal Financial Management System Infrastructure, and the Real Property Management System. These systems support ICE agents across the country. 

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

The Future of 
First Responder
 Communications

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Public safety personnel are standing at the beginning of a new era in communications as plans unfurl to create a nationwide broadband network dedicated to their needs. With many questions yet to be resolved, organizations must contend with making the right choices for today even as they prepare to take advantage of advanced future offerings.

The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network will be based on a single, national network architecture and is intended to help police, firefighters, emergency medical service professionals and other public safety officials perform their jobs better. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will hold the spectrum license for the network along with responsibility to build, deploy and operate it, in consultation with federal, state, tribal and local public safety entities and other key stakeholders. “The burden is on FirstNet to bring public safety a robust and rich network that meets responders’ needs, and this must be done in a manner that’s very cost effective,” says Sam Ginn, chairman of the FirstNet Board. “That’s our goal and mission, and we intend to succeed for public safety.”

Better Visibility for Border Security

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

U.S. officials tasked with securing routes into and out of the country are beginning to employ a technology that will pull together disparate information in a way that could save their lives or the lives of others. Though it was not designed exclusively for agents trying to control international movements, these personnel are early adopters, using the system to prevent illicit goods, undesirable persons or rampant violence from making its way over national boundaries.

The Global Information Network Architecture (GINA) is a system of systems that draws in information from many stovepiped sources regardless of their coding or programming. Originally, GINA was developed through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Xslent LLC Technologies. The work since has transferred to a CRADA between Big Kahuna Technologies LLC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center. The NPS now works with GINA through a version licensed to the U.S. government or through a standing contract with Big Kahuna Technologies for the DOD [Defense Department] Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process version.

GINA employs a hybrid methodology that leverages model-based architecture and component-based development—two major approaches to contemporary software development. According to a paper titled “GINA: System Interoperability for Enabling Smart Mobile System Services in Network Decision Support Systems,” written by project personnel, both approaches aim at reducing, if not eliminating, the amount of coding required to develop a system.

Industry Organizes to
 Speed Border Security Technology Development

February 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Competing companies are working to a common goal of testing and selling new technologies to government.

A newly created research and development consortium aims to expedite the piloting and testing of new technology for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of the Department of Homeland Security’s top missions. This effort, using a successful Defense Department procurement model, also hopes to expand innovation by making it possible for small businesses that don’t traditionally do business with the government to bring their ideas forward.

One hallmark of the Border Security Technology Consortium (BSTC) is that very large, established defense and homeland security contractors are members along with the small, newer nontraditional firms. “All of the tasks are under full and open competition within the consortium, and so there’s incentive for both the consortium and the government to have as much participation as possible,” emphasizes Mervyn Leavitt, vice president for applied research and development with SCRA. It is the nonprofit research company that organized and manages the consortium at the request of some of its charter members.

“With government regulations, sometimes it’s very difficult for nontraditionals that normally don’t do business with the government to break in, and often these are the firms that have very innovative ideas,” Leavitt adds.

At the heart of the BTSC is a special federal procurement vehicle known as the Other Transaction Authority (OTA). OTAs are used in agencies such as NASA and the departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, and they are designed primarily to expedite science and technology-related research and development. In the realm of rapid prototyping and development, OTAs make such work attractive to small companies.

General Dynamics to Enhance Airport Monitoring

February 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
General Dynamics Information Technology, Fairfax, Va., was awarded a contract by the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Airports, to enhance the closed circuit television (CCTV) and video management and storage system at the Los Angeles International Airport. The contract has a potential value of $27.3 million over three years. General Dynamics will design, install, configure and integrate a state-of-the-art CCTV, video management and storage system which includes more than 2,500 interior and exterior cameras, as well as 120 workstations throughout the airport. The system will integrate with the airport’s existing network, delivering digital storage and streaming video to security stations airport-wide. The CCTV and video management system will also integrate with airport alarms, sensors, audio feeds and a computer-aided dispatch system. In addition, General Dynamics will train more than 120 users. 

DHS Awards Surveillance Contract

January 22, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Integrated Microwave Technologies LLC (IMT), Mount Olive, N.J., has been awarded a Technical Investigative Surveillance (TechOps) contract by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. IMT’s contract is a competitive five-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity agreement, awarded in the video category, which includes covert video equipment such as transmitters and receivers offering mobile, fixed and multiple concealment technologies. IMT will deliver interoperable technical investigative surveillance solutions in support of federal agency requirements. 

Evidence of Possible Spring Cyber Attack on Banking Industry

January 3, 2013
By Max Cacas

The purpose of the attack is purely robbery, says a cyber expert, who has shared his McAfee report with government officials.

A cyber attack that could result in the theft of millions of dollars from American banks could take place this spring, according to a report from a noted cybersecurity expert. 
“What we’re dealing with here is a digital bank robber,” according to Ryan Sherstobitoff, a threats researcher with McAfee Labs and the principal author of the report entitled, “Analyzing Project Blitzkrieg, a Credible Threat.” And the attack mastermind could take additional steps to deter attacked banks from defending themselves and hinder their ability to recover stolen funds following such an attack.

The group behind the potential attack “is a collaboration or an alliance of ‘botmasters’ run by an individual named vorVzakone with the clear intention of robbing financial institutions,” Sherstobitoff explains in a report that was issued in mid-December. The white paper is based on months of in-depth analysis of Project Blitzkrieg, as it has been dubbed by vorVzakone’s website, and tracking the online activities of vorVzakone dating back to late summer 2012. “We know from forum posts he had published on an underground Russian cyberforum that was really meant for cybercriminals,” explains Sherstobitoff.  Those posts detailed how the attack was to be coordinated around the release of a variant of the trojan malware popularly known in the hacker community as Gozi Prinimalka.

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