SIGNAL Online Exclusives

June 8, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
DSCOVR orbits the sun at a location called the Lagrange point 1, or L1. Credit: NOAA

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite today reached its orbit position 1 million miles from Earth, little more than 100 days after its winter launch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite will become the first operational spacecraft in deep space to provide constant weather analysis.

DSCOVR will replace NASA’s aged Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), launched in 1997 and operating a decade past its design life, and is expected to begin operations later this summer. 

May 14, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. government is just as vulnerable to cyberthreats—if not more so—compared to two years ago, according to a new survey of federal information security professionals. Nearly half of approximately 1,800 respondents indicated that security has not improved in the federal space; while another 17 percent stated their organization’s security posture is actually worse off, primarily due to an inability to keep pace with threats, a poor understanding of risk management, inadequate funding and not enough qualified professionals.

May 7, 2015
By George I. Seffers
A prototype device known as FINDER detected heartbeats in the rubble of Nepal, leading to the rescue of four men.

The Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) device lived up to its name in Nepal, detecting signs of life that led to the rescue of four men trapped under as much as 10 feet of bricks, mud and other debris following the devastating April 25 earthquake in the area.

FINDER, developed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), uses microwave-radar technology to detect heartbeats of victims trapped in wreckage. Jim Lux, JPL’s FINDER task manager, credits luck, but it took quick thinking and rapid coordination to ensure FINDER was in the right place at the right time to be helpful.

April 30, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Before and after illustration of Lockheed Martin's GeoMI software to piece together a number of aerial photographs into one image. Without the software, the images fail to line up seamlessly.

Imagery captured from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be up to 10 times less expensive than from manned aircraft or satellites, prompting government agencies and private farmers alike to investigate using the economical method to scan miles and miles, from power lines for infrastructure maintenance to railroads for servicing or acres of farmland for precision agriculture.

April 24, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Sandia National Laboratories researchers Jon Ihlefeld (l) and David Scrymgeour use an atomic-force microscope to examine changes in a material’s phonon-scattering internal walls, before and after applying a voltage.

Government and academia researchers made a revolutionary breakthrough in the field of thermal energy, placing scientists on a path toward the development of technology that can both harness and store energy from heat.

April 23, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers a lecture, "Rewiring the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity," at Stanford University in California on Thursday. The lecture highlights the Pentagon's new cyber strategy and innovation initiatives.

The Pentagon’s new cybersecurity strategy for the first time publicly addresses the department’s option to resort to offensive cyberwarfare tactics as a means to safeguard the military’s information networks.

The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, the second in four years, guides the development of the military’s cyber forces toward a strengthened cyber defense and cyber deterrence posture—and plans to hold in its arsenal offensive cyber capabilities.

April 15, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at

Modern commercial airliners could be at risk of in-flight cybersecurity attacks through a vulnerability posed by passengers using planes’ wireless systems, warns a federal watchdog agency.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA's) transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NexGen) and pointed out in a 56-page report several cybersecurity challenges, including protecting air-traffic control information systems, protecting aircraft avionics used to operate and guide the aircraft, and clarifying cybersecurity roles and responsibilities.

April 14, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
DARPA's N-ZERO program aims to develop wireless, event-driven sensors that would remain dormant until triggered by physical, electromagnetic and other activity. The technology could increase mission life, reduce battery size and reduce the maintenance costs of unattended wireless sensors.

The U.S. intelligence community's (IC's) leading edge in the information-age technology race, particularly in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) domain, has put the Defense Department at a self-imposed disadvantage, marked by some warfighters behind the curve when it comes time to process and analyze the vast amount of information collected, a former general says. 

April 8, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

On the same day that news headlines implicated Russian hackers in a significant cyber attack and breach on the White House, officials attending a cybersecurity summit Tuesday in the nation’s capital warned of the uptick in the number of nation-state sponsored cyber attacks against the U.S. government and businesses.

The amplification could be worrisome because cybersecurity experts already cannot keep up with, much less get ahead of, the cyber activities that pose a national threat and have risen to the level of a national emergency.

March 26, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
An example of neutron imaging: On the left, lilies photographed through an open cask. On the right, a neutron imaging system used to photograph the lilies through the lead walls of the cask. This image demonstrates the power of neutrons to easily pass through otherwise impenetrable materials.

The notion of nefarious scientists re-engineering the genetics of living organisms to then weaponize their new specimens has some researchers jostling for the upper hand, including those at the U.S. Defense Department’s main research agency.

March 19, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
From left to right, Jason Healey, Suzanne Schwartz, Joshua Corman and Pat Calhoun discuss the impact of lack cybersecurity on the Internet of Things and health care.

Experts today trumpet the very same warnings voiced two years ago, when then Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart implant drew public attention and fervor to the mounting warnings of lax cybersecurity on wireless medical devices, some worn and some implanted inside the body. Few improvements have been developed to protect implanted insulin pumps, for example, from hackers who can then dispense lethal doses or to safeguard pacemakers from breaches delivering deadly shocks.

“This could be a new wave of terrorism that we see,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), whose daughter wears an implanted insulin pump, said this week at a panel discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council on the issue.

March 18, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Photo courtesy of NASA

It will not be long before adversaries narrow the superiority gap the United States holds over others in satellite technology—rivals who are unencumbered by bureaucratic stagnation and who can rapidly leverage commercial technology for military use, according to one panelist speaking at the Satellite 2015 symposium in Washington D.C.

February 25, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Example of McAfee phishing quiz, determined to be among the most successful phishing email sample to compromise victims' computers through a malicious URL.

The European Union faces the same formidable increase in cyber attacks perpetrated by adversaries with improved scope and sophistication as the United States—but comes up against issues compounded by disparate national laws and cybersecurity expertise, experts say.

February 12, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
NIST's Cybersecurity Framework of protective guidelines was released February 12, 2014.

The U.S. government-backed cybersecurity framework for the nation’s federal agencies and critical infrastructure sector—released one year ago today—has received a general thumbs up of approval from industry experts. The structured guideline, presented by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is proving a successful advent toward a better understanding of cyber risks and organizations’ vulnerabilities, and the development of security programs to protect networks.

May 23, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has unveiled a drone and a mini bomb-detecting bot that operate on secure software that officials say make them hack-proof. The High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) is protective software built into operating systems from inception to negate security vulnerabilities to just about anything that works on network computers.

“The technology that we are developing here is to make it so those kinds of systems are not easily hackable. In fact, they are provably invulnerable to large classes of attacks,” says Program Manager Kathleen Fisher.

January 29, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Smugglers used a makeshift ramp to attempt to drive over a border fence in 2012 but fled when the truck didn’t make it over. Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Homeland Security Department, is calling for a 2015 appropriations bill to fund more technology to help secure the southern border.

Contrary to popular belief, illegal crossings along the southern border of the United States are at their lowest levels since the 1970s, according to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Homeland Security Department (DHS), who is calling on Congress to pass a 2015 appropriations bill to fund additional security measures for border protection and homeland security.

January 29, 2015
By George I. Seffers
An EA-18G Growler (top) and EA-6B Prowler (bottom) fly together. The Navy is developing a next-generation jammer to be integrated onto the EA-18G, but Frank Kendall warns the United States is falling behind potential adversaries on electronic warfare systems.

The United States is falling behind potential adversaries, such as China and Russia, in key technological areas, including electronic warfare, warned Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, January 28.

December 10, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Maj. Mark Jacobsen, USAF, tests an unmanned aerial vehicle as part of the Syria Airlift Project, which he hopes one day will use drones to deliver food and medicine to war-torn countries.

What if inexpensive, lightweight, easy-to-use drones could deliver food and medicine to war-ravaged refugees?

Maj. Mark Jacobsen, USAF, intends to answer that.

January 12, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Screen shot of CENTCOM's Twitter page, which had been hacked January 12, 2015.

Update: As of January 14, the Twitter and YouTube accounts for CENTCOM are back online.

The Twitter and YouTube accounts for the U.S. Central Command, the Defense Department branch responsible for operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, were hacked Monday by sympathizers of the Islamic State militant group, prompting U.S. officials to suspend the accounts and launch yet another round of investigations into a cybersecurity breach.

CENTCOM’s Twitter feed included an ominous post that read: “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS.”

December 12, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) became the first intelligence agency to host an operational capability within Amazon Web Services’ Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) environment after Lockheed Martin deployed NGA’s interactive Map of the World to C2S. With the Map of the World viewer, which could be compared to Google Maps or similar applications, now resting in the cloud, NGA officials intend to add more data and capabilities.