Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’
In a world where North Korea can hack a movie production company’s internal communication and employee data as an act of revenge and diplomatic pique and U.S. authorities are looking into cyber spying on a Major League Baseball team — possibly by another team — it should come as no surprise that another U.S. government agency is upping its cyber defense game.
The U.S. Coast Guard has developed a cyber strategy to guide its priorities over the next 10 years. Those priorities include: defending U.S. cyberspace and the Coast Guard’s network; recognizing cyberspace as an operational domain and defend the Coast Guard’s information and communication networks while developing capabilities to detect, deter and defeat malicious activity in cyberspace; protecting the information system infrastructure that the national Maritime Transportation System relies on, which has economic and national security implications.
Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s commandant, outlined the strategy this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. He noted that all aspects of modern life have been enhanced – but often made dependent — on information technology from mobile phones to data storage facilities. And that has made numerous entities, including the nation’s Maritime Transportation System vulnerable to a wide range of cyber attacks by adversaries ranging from terrorists and hostile nation states to transnational organized crime cartels and disaffected or sloppy IT workers.
A key defense, Zukunft said several times was “cyber hygiene,” following safety practices when using government, corporate or personal computer systems. That includes not sharing passwords or using easily corruptible devices like thumb drives.
Zukunft noted that the nation’s security and prosperity is critically reliant on a safe and secure maritime domain, which, in turn is dependent on safe and reliable communications and digital networks. But the Coast Guard faces a daunting task. The two-year-old Coast Guard Cyber Command has just 70 members compared to the thousands at the Defense Department’s cyber unit. The cyber strategy notes that a recent report to Congress indicates an 1,121-percent rise in cybersecurity incidents reported to government agencies from 2006 to 2014. The report, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cites a significant rise in the compromise of sensitive information which could adversely affect national security, public health and safety.
[Digital] Help Wanted.
(REPEATING POSTING ON THIS WEB SITE AND OTHERS AFTER IT WAS APPARENTLY DELETED BY ACCIDENT FROM WORDPRESS.)
With every passing week, the necessity – and vulnerability — of cyberspace becomes more apparent.
Hardware and software failures on the Bloomberg LP network forced its iconic trading terminals to go dark for several hours on April 17 and financial markets across much of the globe ground to a halt.
The private correspondence of top executives and personal data of thousands of employees at Sony Pictures were revealed to the world last year by North Korean hackers after the movie company released a comedy about a plot to assassinate the dictatorship’s leader. The data was published again by WikiLeaks in mid-April.
And in the most recent incident, hackers, traced to Russia, penetrated an unclassified Pentagon network earlier this year before they were detected, identified and expelled. “They discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told an audience at Stanford University April 23.
The revelation came as Carter unveiled an updated version of the Defense Department security strategy for cyberspace. While the technology advances developed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have made many things in modern life “easier, cheaper and safer,” Carter noted that “it’s become clear that these same advances and technologies also present a degree of risk to the businesses, governments, militaries, and individual people who rely on them every day … making it easier, cheaper, and safer to threaten them. The same Internet that enables Wikipedia also allows terrorists to learn how to build a bomb.”
Three-Day Maritime Conference.
Future challenges and current needs for the sea services – the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard – will be the hot topics this week at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo at National Harbor, Maryland.
Top officials, including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Admiral James Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, Marine Corps Commandant General Joseph Dunford and naval commandants from Singapore, Australia and Japan will be among the speakers at the three-day event that starts Monday (April 13) across the river from Washington, D.C.
Big names in the defense and maritime industries like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, L-3, General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Austal and BAE Systems will exhibiting their latest products for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Components of the services like the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) will also ne detailing their plans and equipment requirements in the coming fiscal year.
Your 4GWAR editor will be there too, as part of the small army of reporters covering the goings on for the Navy League’s Seapower magazine and its daily show publication. We’ll be focusing on unmanned aircraft and the Coast Guard’s strategic plan for the Western Hemisphere among other assignments.
If you can’t make it to the Gaylord Convention Center, you can catch the latest news at the Seapower website and on Twitter at @seaairspace and @SeapowerMag
A Matter of Fairness.
If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight tonight (Friday, March 27), funding for the Department of Homeland Security will cease.
Pundits, politicians and analysts are quick to point out that the vast majority of DHS employees have been deemed “essential” to national security so the department will not shut down.
There will still be U.S. Border Patrol agents halting people, drugs and weapons smuggling in the Southwest and elsewhere.
There will still be Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel screening passengers and their baggage at more than 400 U.S. airports.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will continue checking people and cargo coming into the United States on trucks, planes and ships – as well as in cars and on foot at border crossings.
The U.S. Coast Guard will continue its myriad tasks ranging from rescuing people at sea to maintaining security at the nation’s ports and harbors to enforcing maritime safety and environmental laws.
The Secret Service will continuing guarding the president and other top officials.
But the 85 percent of the department’s approximately 240,000 workers who required to report for duty if the funding stops will not be paid until Congress passes a DHS appropriations bill.
“What message does this send … that we don’t think enough of you to pay you?” an alarmed Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire asked in a CNN interview today (February 27) as both the Senate and House of Representatives tried to figure a way out of the political tangle touched off by Republicans’ objection to President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.
While some say nothing bad will happen if non-essential DHS workers are furloughed – and others argue something terrible could happen, it is obvious that there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who see political gain in a partial shutdown of DHS: either to make the point that the agency’s budget is bloated or to convince voters the other side don’t care about protecting the nation from terrorism in a time of mounting threats.
Following his presentation at a Border Management industry conference earlier this week, we asked Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher what a partial DHS shutdown would mean for his agency’s mission.
“It impacts our operations, no doubt,” he said. But Fisher was confidant his people could still secure the border. “It’s unfortunate if it comes to that, that they will be working without pay, but I will tell you – in terms of their commitment to border security – on that we’ll not falter.”
At the same conference (sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement) TSA Chief of Staff Thomas McDaniels Jr. said the approximately 45,000 airport screeners exempt from being furloughed are required to report for work in the event of a funding halt. He noted the average starting salary for Transportation Security Officers, is $25,000 a year. “So we’re asking our frontline homeland security officials who are not making the most money to go without paychecks,” he said. While they are guaranteed retroactive pay once Congress can come to agreement on a funding bill, McDaniels added, “I think that’s a lot to ask of people who may be living paycheck to paycheck.” The last government shutdown to halt TSA paychecks lasted 17 days, he said, but there was no “significant attrition” after things returned to normal.
Wolf Tombe, CBP’s chief technology officer, told conference attendees that the country is confronting new threats from cyber-attacks and lone wolf terrorists, to disease outbreaks like Ebola. “The threat is evolving. We need to evolve with it, to stay ahead of it,” he said, outlining technologies his office is exploring from wearable sensors and cameras to hand launched surveillance drones to thermometers that can take an arriving air passenger’s temperature from a safe distance of 10 feet.
But if Congress fails to reach a compromise on DHS funding “all this gets shut down,” Tombe told 4GWAR “because I’m not considered essential. So my organization gets furloughed.”
WASHINGTON — Wolf Tombe has been the chief technology officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since 2003.
He says his mission is to find or develop new gizmos that will enhance the safety of CBP’s 46,657 officers and agents and increase mission effectiveness – all while reducing costs.
“Everything is about ‘How do we train and equip our officers to do their job better?,” he told attendees at a Border Management industry conference this week.
And toward that end, he is looking at wearable technology like heart rate monitors and wearable cameras he told the conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. Among the technologies CBP, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, is considering are small unmanned aircraft, including a drone mounted on the wrist.
Such technology would meet CBP new technology requirements: enhancing officer safety, increasing mission effectiveness — and reducing costs, he said. If it does any or all of those things, “bring it in and we’ll look at it,” he told conference attendees Wednesday (February 25).
Threats to the homeland, whether a disease outbreak like Ebola or lone wolf terrorists, are evolving and “we need to evolve with them, to stay ahead of it,” Tombe said.
In addition to the wrist drone, Tombe said CBP was considering the benefits of small hand-launched drones that Border Patrol agents and other CBP law enforcement officers could carry in their vehicles to get a better situational picture in remote and rugged areas like the deserts of the Southwest or the big woods along the U.S-Canadian border.
“All this technology is consumer grade,” Tombe said, meaning it is generally less expensive than equipment designed for the Defense or Homeland Security departments. He said manufacturers of wearable heart rate monitors and football and batting helmets helmets equipped with impact sensors that can text a high school coach or parent need to consider their law enforcement applications.
While the wrist drone is just in the “late prototype stages” and only stays aloft for 3 to 5 minutes, Tombe said “we’ll bring it in and take a look at it.” Meanwhile, his office plans to test the efficacy of slightly larger handheld drones with DHS operational units as well as local law enforcement departments like the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.
Redefining “Secure Border”
More than a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks showed that America needed to do a better job securing its borders, a debate continues over the best ways to manage who gets in and out of the country.
The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has mushroomed to more than 20,000 since 2001. There have been numerous border enforcement programs like teaming Border Patrol agents with National Guard troops, flooding areas reporting high levels of illegal border entries with large numbers of Border Patrol personnel and equipment. There was even a failed program to build a physical and virtual fence along the border with Mexico — to the tune of $3.5 billion.
Now law enforcement officials are worried abou radicalized U.S.-citizens-turned jihadis coming back from fighting in the Middle East — with skills that could be used for terrorism. And Congress and the White House are embroiled in a political battle over millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, a battle that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol leaders say it is time to rethink what we mean when we talk about securing the border. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told a Washington think tank gathering last month that a secure border — where no one can cross illegally at any time — is virtually impossible, without doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and boosting the agency’s budget by $97 billion.
Since late 2013, the agency had moved away from determining its effectiveness by counting every person it apprehends trying to cross the border illegally. Instead it has re-evaluated “what it means to secure the border,” Fisher told a border security discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Rather, the Border Patrol characterizes a secure border as one of low risk – where there is a high probability of detection coupled with a high probability of interdiction.
“Border security is not an end state to be achieved and revisited every five years,” Assistant Chief Michael Schroeder told the audience. “It’s a continuous struggle,” he added. Schroeder is the author of an explanatory paper, published by the Border Patrol, detailing how and why it developed the low-risk idea in its 2012-2016 U.S. Border Patrol Strategic Plan. Instead of arrest statistics or measuring resources like number of agents or the size of the agency’s budget, the Border Patrol had to develop “a preliminary set of risk indicators” to analyze risk along U.S. borders.
Fisher is slated to be one of the government and industry speakers this week at a Border Management Summit in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday (February 24-25). You can learn more at the website of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, the conference sponsor.
The Border Patrol is using technologies like moveable ground radar, biometric identification obtained from first-time illegal border crossers and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to acquire more data on border activity and shifts from past patterns. The situational awareness provided by UAS “is something we’ve never had before. It’s led us to the metrics we have today,” according to Schroeder.
Apprehensions of people trying to cross into the United States illegally are down to 1970 levels. So the Border Patrol is using intelligence and analysis to predict where the high risk areas are — and when and where to move law enforcement resources when drug, gun and people smugglers change tactics.
But a recent report by the DHS inspector general’s office (OIG) casts doubt on the value of border surveillance by unmanned aircraft — and the information they gather.
For starters, the report contends CBP has yet to prove the value of its UAS program while drastically understating the costs. The OIG’s second audit of the program since 2012, found the effort by CBP’s Air and Marine Office “still has no reliable method of measuring its performance” and that its impact on stemming illegal immigration has been minimal.
“We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border , and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth.
Better Late Than Never.
Seven weeks past a congressional deadline, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued proposed rules for the use of unmanned aircraft in commercial operations such as monitoring crops, inspecting infrastructure like bridges and smokestacks and filming television programs and movies.
The FAA announcement Sunday (February 15) doesn’t mean small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will delivering pizza or books to your home anytime soon. “What we are releasing today is a proposed rule,” cautioned FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. In a conference call with reporters Huerta added: “Today’s action does not authorize wide spread commercial use of unmanned aircraft. That can only happen when the rule is final.” In the meantime, he noted, commercial operators must still go through the current process for a waiver or exemption to fly.
And that process, which can take many months to complete, has limited the number of business and institutions — including police and other emergency responders — that can fly UAS.
The proposed rules apply only to unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds (25 kilograms). If approved, they would limit commercial UAS flights to daylight hours on days with a visibility of three miles from where the operator is. Other limitations: a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour (87 knots) and a maximum altitude of 500 fee above the ground. The idea is to keep small drones, which aren’t required to have sense and avoid technology like that on manned aircraft, out of the way of commercial planes which usually fly at higher altitudes. The rules also would require the operator to maintain line of sight control of the aircraft. In other words, no autonomous flight out of the operator’s sight (whether it be over the horizon or just behind a hill or building). Operators would not have to obtain a pilot’s license, but would be required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center and then pass a recurring aero knowledge test every 24 months. Operators must be a minimum of 17-years-old and would also have to be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (a unit of the Homeland Security Department).
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is to be published in the Federal Register and can be found here. Additional information is on the FAA website. In addition to the 60-day period where the public can comment on the proposed rules, the agency said it would hold public meetings at the six FAA-approved UAS test sites around the country.