Homeland Security

October 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers
A single cyber attack could cripple an entire city, such as New York, which helps fuel the national economy, experts warn.

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 Many outdated and poorly secured computers, experts say, operate a great deal of that infrastructure.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.

October 6, 2017

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.

September 12, 2017
By Beverly Mowery Cooper
Panelists discuss immigration policies during the FCEA Homeland Security Conference.

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.  

September 12, 2017
By Beverly Mowery Cooper
Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz, USCG, deputy commandant, Mission Support, U.S. Coast Guard, speaks at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference.

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.

September 6, 2017
By George I. Seffers
Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, speaks at the 2017 Intelligence and National Security Summit.

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.”

August 17, 2017
The Homeland Security Department is testing a new contact-free fingerprinting technology at select airports.

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.

August 8, 2017
Northeastern University is developing a system that will help you plug leaks of your private information.

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.

August 1, 2017
By Bill Sullivan
Bill Sullivan, professor of safety, security and emergency management at Eastern Kentucky University, suggests solutions for preventing active shooter and other attacks in schools.

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.

July 31, 2017
By Julianne Simpson

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.

July 24, 2017
SwellPro's waterproof drones shoot video both above and below the water. In an effort to keep airspace safe, NASA is funding research into UAV system detection and tracking.

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.

July 11, 2017
By Breann Pendleton
Sandia National Laboratories researcher Patrick Feng (l), holds a trans-stilbene scintillator and organic chemist Joey Carlson holds a scintillator made of organic glass.

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.

May 18, 2017
By Breann Pendleton
2015 Robot Rodeo: Bomb squads from across the country saddled up their robots and duked it out at the ninth annual Western National Robot Rodeo at Sandia National Laboratories. Photo by Randy Montoya

This isn’t their first rodeo.

Sandia National Laboratories hosts its 11th annual Western National Robot Rodeo next week, an event where police and military bomb squads can practice using robots to defuse dangerous situations. 

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.

May 31, 2017
By Julianne Simpson

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.

May 4, 2017

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.

May 1, 2017
By Mark J. Maier

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. 

April 11, 2017
The Remote Video Surveillance System upgrade has achieved full operational capability.

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.

March 1, 2017
By Robert K. Ackerman
Power lines, such as these near the Celilo substation in Dallas Dam, Oregon, could go cold as a result of a cyber attack on the power grid. Adversaries already may have sown the seeds for shutting down power stations by embedding malware in a host of industrial control systems.

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.

October 1, 2016
By George I. Seffers
Interoperable sensors deployed across a city can feed information to first responders, improving disaster response efforts.

Homeland security researchers are defining the specifications for a central hub device that will protect, connect and inform the next generation of first responders and may be one step toward a miniature Internet of Things designed specifically for emergencies. The hub may be a personal cellphone that will provide a customizable feed of voice, video and data from an array of Internet of Things sensors, enhancing response efforts and ultimately saving lives.

February 22, 2017
By Sandra Jontz
Adm. Philip Davidson, USN, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, warns that the Navy is taking a risk by pushing modernization efforts to the back burner in favor of forward deployed fleet readiness. Photo by Mike Carpenter

The integrity of the U.S. Navy suffers today because the integrity of the force depends on capability, capacity and readiness—three areas that have taken a beating with a Navy at war for 15 years and the budget shortfalls threatening so many military arenas, said Adm. Philip Davidson, USN, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. 

January 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers free training designed to help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the electrical grid.

The U.S. government is expanding and enhancing training on how to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from both cyber and physical attacks. 

For more than a decade, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has offered a wide array of free training programs to government and private-sector infrastructure owners and operators. Critical infrastructure provides the essential services that underpin American society and serves as the backbone of the nation’s economy, security and health. It includes defense, transportation, finance, communications and other sectors.

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