Three major hurricanes pummeled the United States this year, occurring nearly concurrently and causing massive damage in multiple states and in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The conditions created by these overlapping disasters were extreme, with disparate needs and changing operational requirements often thwarting response capabilities. Facing unprecedented challenges during and after these storms, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security relied on traditional as well as innovative approaches to serve the affected communities.
The White House announced on October 26 the intent to appoint John Zangardi, acting chief information officer (CIO) at the Department of Defense, to be the CIO for the Department of Homeland Security.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate has launched the Hidden Signals Challenge, a $300,000 prize competition to identify novel uses of existing data to uncover emerging biothreats. The challenge calls upon innovators from a wide variety of fields to develop concepts that will identify signals and achieve timelier alerts for biothreats.
With the Internet of Things promising—or perhaps threatening—to connect many more millions of devices, experts from industry, government and the military are urging action.
The critical infrastructure covers a lot of territory, including banking and finance, gas and oil, health care, agriculture, water distribution, transportation, communication, law enforcement and emergency services. Many outdated and poorly secured computers, experts say, operate a great deal of that infrastructure. Additionally, commercial or private entities own the vast majority of the infrastructure, meaning that government has little authority to protect it.
Explosives trace detection experts from industry, academia and government laboratories will gather in Washington, D.C., on October 24 and 25 to discuss advances in trace detection technologies.
The two-day event put on by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will include presentations from S&T Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), the Transportation Security Administration and sponsored organizations performing research and development. Commercial companies, government laboratories and universities will present current research.
The president’s executive orders on immigration can be summarized in one sentence: You will now enforce the laws enacted by Congress, said Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We have no new laws, just law enforcement. We must protect the border to remain a sovereign country,” Homan explained during the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington D.C.
The Coast Guard is under-resourced and yet is always trying to do more, said Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz, USCG, deputy commandant, Mission Support, U.S. Coast Guard, at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington D.C. For example, today the service is performing its normal mission; supporting response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; and providing security for the U.N. Security Council.
A cyber strike may not be the most effective deterrent against adversaries, Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, National Security Council, told the audience at the 2017 Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
If a “bad actor” is engaging in increasingly unacceptable behavior, he said, “I think what we’ll have to do is punch him in a way that’s real-world and not cyber-world.” Deterrent actions will be “commensurate with the expense” and also will be done in such a way that it will not “create a long-term escalatory posture.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to evaluate new identity verification technology that can reduce the time it takes for travelers to pass through security. Proof-of-concept testing is taking place in select TSA Precheck lanes at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Denver International Airport.
Northeastern University will develop a system that organizations and individuals can use to audit and control personally identifiable information leaks from connected devices. The research team will investigate how to use machine learning to reliably identify the information in network flows and will develop algorithms that incorporate user feedback to adapt to the constantly changing landscape of privacy leaks.
The FBI examined 160 active shooter/mass murder incidents between 2000 and 2013 and found that 70 percent of these attacks occurred in schools or businesses. They also reported that these incidents are on the rise. As active shooter events have continued throughout the nation, various tactics have emerged, including the attack at Ohio State University where a student utilized a vehicle as a weapon and then assaulted victims with a knife. This same method of attack has occurred in other locations. Unfortunately, we can also predict that the use of explosives in such an attack is likely to happen in the future.
Someone’s always watching. In malls, stadiums, train stations, parking garages, airports—security cameras are everywhere. But with so much information flowing in, it can be challenging for the people in the control rooms monitoring activity to catch every little detail. And surprisingly, most mainstream video security technology lacks sound, color or both. That’s where Chongeun Lee, a MITRE engineer specializing in biometrics, comes in.
Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) are launching a project to find new ways to detect and track unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The project seeks to research and develop high-performance communications, networking and air traffic management (ATM) systems, including navigation and surveillance for both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The work is supported by a three-year, $1.33 million grant from NASA’s University Leadership Initiative.
Sandia National Laboratory researchers have discovered a cost-effective and simpler way to detect nuclear material. Their research makes use of organic glass scintillators that, when employed, could make it harder to smuggle nuclear materials though U.S. ports and borders.
The team of researchers created a scintillator—a device used to detect nuclear threats—out of an organic glass material instead of relying on the standard material called trans-stilbene, crystalline in the form of a molecule, according to a Sandra Lab press release.
This isn’t their first rodeo.
Ten teams from around New Mexico will compete in 10 events testing robots’ speed and security in simulated yet realistic scenarios, according to a laboratory news release. While the top three teams will receive trophies, participants mainly are vying for bragging rights, says Jake Deuel, Sandia’s robotics manager and rodeo coordinator.
As the Defense Department and other government agencies begin to recognize the benefits of working with smaller, innovative technology companies, the potential for insider threats and cyber attacks grows. And now, all federal contractors face a deadline to implement a step to protect against these outside cybersecurity risks and threats from the inside.
Beginning today, all cleared government contractors must complete insider threat employee awareness training prior to being granted access to classified information and every year thereafter. The mandate is part of NISPOM Change 2, a U.S. government regulation that requires insider threat programs for cleared federal contractors.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted a report to Congress that shows some good and bad news about the security of the government’s mobile device environment. "Threats to the mobile device ecosystem are growing, but also ... the security of mobile computing is improving,” said Dr. Robert Griffin, DHS acting undersecretary for science and technology, in a written announcement.
As if facing down escalating terror, cyber and insider threats is not enough, private businesses are hamstrung by limited budgets that make choosing how and when to defend themselves more and more difficult. This rising cluster of threats demands intense security and substantial financial resources to protect people and assets.
The struggle is most pronounced in the homeland, where private parties own the majority of assets and critical infrastructure. Relying exclusively on the U.S. government for support is no longer an option—they must engage just as vigorously after an attack.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has determined the Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) upgrade has achieved a full operating capability. The RVSS capability is currently operational in Nogales, Douglas, Naco, Yuma and Ajo, Arizona, with relocatable deployments planned this year in McAllen and Laredo, Texas.
Located on elevated towers and structures, the RVSS advanced electro-optical and infrared sensors provide persistent ground surveillance to border patrol agents. It uses a video management system with real-time analytics to effectively detect, track, identify, classify and respond to missions along U.S. borders.
Enemy states and terrorist groups increasingly are developing the means to wage an attack on a nation’s power grid just as electric companies are relying more on automated information technology. Vulnerable supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems offer access for attackers, who also are learning more devastating ways of bringing down a grid.
Small nation-states and organizations, in particular, are cultivating advanced methods of attacking electrical grids, and these groups may not be as inhibited about setting an attack in motion as the larger, well-known cyber superpowers. Many threats to the grid already may be in place, undetected and at work, ready for launching at will.