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Today's News

Intelligence Community seeks to measure ‘trustworthiness’

The U.S. Intelligence Community is eager to develop tools that would enable its analysts to determine whom they can trust under certain conditions, even in the presence of stress or deception.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a relatively new organization that reports to the Director of National Intelligence, has issued a broad agency announcement that seeks to develop a methodology that can “detect and validate one’s own ‘useful’ signals for accurately assessing another’s trustworthiness.”

The BAA invites prospective vendors to submit proposals for the first of three phases of a new research effort, known as the “Tools for Recognizing Useful Signals of Trustworthiness (TRUST) Program.”

White paper submissions were due to IARPA on March 17 and full proposals are due by May 12, 2010. IARPA says it expects to make multiple awards. The program will begin in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010 and run for five years.

“Knowing whom to trust in specific contexts is vital for many Intelligence Community (IC) missions and organizations,” explains the BAA, which was issued by IARPA on February 15. “However, trust and trustworthiness – as concepts – remain highly subjective from a research standpoint and present a challenge that is both qualitative and quantitative.”

During Phase 1, which will run for 24 months, the contractor will develop validated experimental protocols that measure different kinds of interpersonal trust, in different contexts, among two-person and small groups. “In short, Phase 1 will tackle the fundamental question that must be addressed first: ‘How does one design an experiment such that one knows, with high certainty, that what is being measured is trust (vice other phenomena), in contexts that are of real-world interest,” says the BAA.

During Phases 2, the contractor will focus on sensors and signals that can be used to measure trust, and in Phase 3, the contractor will demonstrate these newly developed tools in the field.

Further information is available from Adam Russell, program manager at IARAP, at [email protected].

Vets to receive career and financial guidance Gradient Gives Back program

The Minneapolis, MN-based Gradient Financial Group, a financial services firm, and Afterburner, a specialist in team building events and corporate training workshops, are seeking up to 50 transitioning military veterans to earn a place at one of three Veteran Transition Assistance Boot Camps.  


Top candidates from each boot camp will be eligible for two years-worth of financial services from Gradient, which will include asset analysis, risk tolerance assessment, retirement planning, home mortgage origination, tax planning, and debt review and reduction strategies, according to the companies.


They also will be eligible for positions with Afterburner’s network of Fortune 500 clients, the companies say.


And, in late 2010, one vet will be selected to receive six months of mortgage / lease payments; waiver of home mortgage origination or refinancing fees; debt reduction; free tax planning and filing of 2010 and 2011 taxes; and career counseling and guidance.


For more information about the program, go to www.gradientgivesback.com.

Agiliance introduces RiskVision 5.0

Agiliance Inc., a provider of integrated governance, risk and compliance (GRC) solutions, has unveiled RiskVision 5.0, which the company calls an “industry-first” GRC solution, giving organizations a continuous link between enterprise compliance and risk objectives and security threats in cloud, mobile and on-premise environments.


New features in RiskVision 5.0 include:

Vulnerable asset identification - to identify vulnerable assets based on live connection to threat intelligence sources.

Active correlation of security data sources - to correlate and normalize data from common security solutions, such as scanners, configuration checkers, patch managers, etc.

Risk assessment and scoring automation - to assess and prioritize threats and incidents using standard and proprietary risk scoring engines.

Risk driven threat response - to intelligently prioritize and mitigate threats and incidents based on risk level and business impact.

Single application RiskVision 5.0 pricing starts at $50,000.

SAIC awarded contract by U.S. Navy C4I

McLean, VA-based Science Applications International Corporation reports that it has been awarded a prime contract by the U.S. Navy's Program Executive Office (PEO) of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) to develop Department of Defense command and control (C2) software, as well as modify and enhance existing C2 systems.


The multiple award, indefinite-delivery / indefinite-quantity contract, has a three-year base period of performance, two one-year options and a ceiling value of more than $625 million for SAIC.


Work will be performed primarily at PEO C4I's headquarters in San Diego, Calif.


PEO C4I provides integrated communication and information technology systems, delivering end-to-end connectivity and enabling decision superiority to ensure mission success of U.S. naval forces.


Under the contract, SAIC will provide support in areas including software engineering, design, development, integration and modification, as well as test and evaluation. SAIC also will provide integrated logistics support, and configuration and program management services as required.

SafeNet offering cloud security

 

Belcamp, MD-based SafeNet, Inc., a specialist in information security, has unveiled solutions that it characterizes as enabling organizations to ensure the security of sensitive data in cloud deployments.


 Specifically, SafeNet offers the following data-centric security solutions to protect data in the cloud:


Intelligent authentication tokens, which ensure that only authorized users gain access to cloud-based resources.

Secure cryptographic key storage, which is provided by a centralized, hardened security appliance that manages cryptographic keys, access control and other security policies.

Secure storage in the cloud across file, application and database systems, which uses the cloud for backup, disaster recovery and archiving of data.
 
“With its focus on the persistent protection of information throughout its lifecycle, SafeNet’s data-centric security expertise and offerings will help put organizations at ease and ensure their trust in migrating to the cloud,” Jim Reavis, co-founder of the Cloud Security Alliance, said in a statement.

DHS tells Congress about its outreach to ethnic and religious communities

Margo Schlanger

The DHS official in charge of the department’s civil rights and civil liberties activities testified before a House subcommittee on March 17 about her office’s ongoing outreach to Arab American, Muslim, Sikh, Somali and South Asian communities in its effort to build trust and foster a two-way dialogue with these groups.

“Frequent, responsive, and thoughtful engagement with diverse communities is an imperative of effective government,” Margo Schlanger told members of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on intelligence, information sharing, and terrorism risk assessment, at a hearing titled, Working with Communities to Disrupt Terror Plots. “Such engagement gathers and shares information, builds trust, informs policy, and enables prompt response to legitimate grievances and needs.”

At the beginning of her remarks, Schlanger emphasized that her office “has no operational role in disrupting terror plots” and that her outreach to various community groups “do not involve source development or intelligence collection.”

She informed subcommittee members about a variety of actions her office has already taken to foster communications with religious and ethnic groups, which have often felt they were being inappropriately profiled or unduly scrutinized in the wake of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist plots:

Incident Community Coordination Team – Schlanger’s office has established a conference call mechanism to bring together ethnic and religious community leaders and DHS component officials in the hours and days after a terrorism incident. This ICCT has been used seven times since 2006, Schlanger testified, most recently after the Fort Hood incident last November and the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last December. An ICCT call gives community leaders a channel to speak with federal officials, she noted.

“They can share reactions to government policies or enforcement actions, and provide information about hate crimes that should be investigated, about the mood of communities in the aftermath of a homeland security incident and, possibly, about how the government might improve its effectiveness in investigating the incident,” she observed. 

Roundtables – Since taking up her position last January, Schlanger has led a roundtable that brought together American Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Somali and South Asian leaders with officials from DHS and the National Counter Terrorism Center (which is organizationally part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) and focused on “the threat posed to those communities by terrorist attempts to recruit their members.”

Her office has led other national roundtables, as well as local roundtables in Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Columbus and Washington, DC, and a session with Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, and TSA officials, to discuss how Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), often called whole body scanners, might conflict with certain religious modesty prescriptions.

Internships -- In 2007, the DHS civil rights and civil liberties office teamed up with the FBI to establish the National Security Internship Program, which brings Arabic-speaking college students to Washington to intern for the summer at DHS or the FBI. The interns also improve their Arabic language skills at George Washington University. “This program brings people with both language and cultural skills to government’s policy, law enforcement, and intelligence offices,” Schlanger explained.

She told the lawmakers that it is the ethnic and religious community leaders who bear the ultimate responsibility to counter radical ideologies that can pave the way for their young people towards violence. “Radical beliefs, after all, are protected by the Constitution,” said Schlanger, as she tip-toed into politically sensitive waters. “Our proper sphere of concern and intervention is violence, not radicalism.”

Prior to her appointment, Schlanger was a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan where her research and teaching focused on civil rights, tort, prisons and equal employment litigation, says her DHS bio. She also ran the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.

Schlanger had previously been a Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, and an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard University. She earned her J.D. and her bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Yale University.

Navy seeks ‘new paradigm’ to defend its networks against cyber-attacks

The Office of Naval Research has issued a broad agency announcement seeking new technical approaches to defending its worldwide computer networks. It says this will require a major paradigm shift away from a cyber-defense strategy designed to “keep the adversary out” to a new strategy that recognizes the adversaries are already in the Navy’s networks, and that “we need to understand how they got in.”

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) plans to award up to five research contracts, each worth between $2 million and $5 million, to take what it calls a “fresh approach” to defending Navy networks, which have come under increasing attack during the past decade.

At an industry day conference it held on February 24, 2010 -- which was attended by more than 90 executives from dozens of high-tech software- and hardware-related companies – ONR showed a slide that indicated malware detections had skyrocketed from about 100 per week in 2002 to about 2,600 hundred per week by 2007.

“Signature-based defense of host A/V [anti-virus] and network firewalls are ineffective,” declared the presentation, offered by Stanley Chincheck, director of ONR’s Center for High Assurance Computer Systems. “We need new ways to frame, understand and reverse these trends.” 

The Navy’s broad agency announcement is seeking three different “critical system building blocks”:

Sensors and gateways – that can be located throughout a computer network to heighten awareness of real-time threats by providing information about network traffic back to a decision support system. These sensors and gateways should be “dynamically reconfigurable” and provide what ONR calls “enhanced anomaly detection capabilities,” such as beaconing activities and exfiltration.

Decision support systems – ONR wants a system that can aggregate, correlate, fuse and visualize the current security posture of its networks. Cyber-awareness would be supplemented using information from these sensors, gateways and other components. This would enable decision-makers to address cyber-attacks in near real-time.

Security-enabled protocols – These protocols would by hardened and dynamic, would ensure data delivery and reliability, and would provide control over network-based security components.

ONR says its wants to fund “best of breed” vendors and has no intention to offer multiple awards to competing vendors for a similar technology.

White papers were due to ONR by March 15, full proposals are due by May 21 and contract awards are anticipated by October 30.

“Although the primary consideration in this effort is the development of algorithms, techniques and software, low cost of acquisition and ownership are also critically important,” according to a FAQ fact sheet distributed at the industry day last month. “Where possible and when available, developers should consider use of any modified Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) or Government Off The Shelf (GOTS) in their developments as well as any design decisions that may allow reduction of lifecycle costs.”

ONR will look to private industry to come up with innovative algorithms and protocols, but it plans for government officials to lead what it calls the “Integrated Product Team” that will define the performance requirements and interfaces for the newly developed individual components, and manage the overall effort. “An overall testbed to integrate all of the disparate components / technology will be provided by the government and will be located at the Naval Research Laboratory,” said the FAQ fact sheet.

Funding for this research effort is expected to rise and fall during the next five years, says ONR. The anticipated budget will begin at about $2 million in fiscal year 2011, increase to approximately $4 million to $12 million annually between 2012 and 2014, and then fall back to about $4 million in 2015.

Additional information is available from Anthony Tysenn, contract specialist, at 703-696-4257 or [email protected].

 

The other border war: Profiles of corruption

While narco-war rages along the Mexican border, are border agents and other DHS officials being turned to the Dark Side?

Recently, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration looked into that question, taking testimony from the DHS official charged with investigating allegations of DHS criminal misconduct.

The question arises as heavily armed drug gangs battle not only each other, but the federal Mexican government as well, for turf and access to the lucrative American illegal drug market.

“Border related corruption is not limited to one DHS component, but, unfortunately, could involve employees and contractors from across DHS, from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and others,” Thomas Frost, the DHS assistant inspector general for investigations, told the subcommittee.

In fiscal year 2009, Frost said, the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) received “about 12,458 allegations of fraud and initiated over 1,085 investigations.”

Those investigations led to 313 arrests, 293 indictments, 281 convictions and 59 administrative actions, as well as more than $85.7 million in fines, restitutions and administrative cost savings and recoveries, he noted.

When it comes to employee corruption on the border, since 2003, “we have made 129 arrests of corrupt Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents. In FY 2009, we opened 839 allegations involving DHS employees,” Frost said.

Frost noted that efforts to bribe DHS employees have increased as drug-smuggling disruptions have become more successful. “The tactics used by the drug trafficking organizations in their corruption activities are similar to the processes or tactics used by foreign intelligence services as they attempt to recruit or otherwise compromise our officers and agents,” he added.

Attempts to corrupt DHS employees are not limited to agents at the border. “Drug trafficking organizations or even foreign governments, use immigration fraud to obtain U.S. citizenship or other immigration benefits to place conspirators in position to assist their criminal enterprise -- even as government employees or contractors,” Frost said. “We have investigated and arrested CIS employees for their role in such schemes.”

Among the several examples of uncovered corruption that Frost outlined in his testimony, involving not just the Border Patrol but TSA and the Coast Guard, among other elements of DHS, was the case of an ICE supervisory special agent , who was “assigned overseas as an ICE Attaché and later became a Headquarters official, [and who] solicited bribes to steer an armored vehicle contract to a foreign vendor. He also improperly vouched for foreign nationals who were seeking U.S. immigration visas. He was sentenced to 90 months of confinement after pleading guilty to bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, and honest services fraud.”

Frost also suggested that improvement in the following areas could help address employee corruption: (1) employee suitability; (2) monitoring and oversight; (3) employee training; (4) enforcing administrative action; (5) hotline allegations; and (6) improved information and intelligence sharing.

Fed decision makers liken agency tech adoption to vintage cars, survey finds

Federal decision makers are “perpetually behind the curve in technology adoption compared to the private sector, and hampered in technology adoption as a result of old legislation.”


That’s the view culled from a recent survey conducted by Chantilly, VA-based government market research firm Market Connections, Inc., which also observed that decision makers perceive technology adoption in government agencies as “‘slow and difficult to keep going’ like a vintage Model T.”
 
Market Connections conducted the survey last month for the Government Information Technology Council, which the research company describes as a group of senior-level government executives organized to support the delivery of high-quality and cost-effective IT services to their customers.  


The majority of the 223 survey respondents serve in management, operations, or IT / MIS roles, with 39 percent employed in defense / military agencies and 61 percent employed in federal civilian or independent agencies. Specific survey findings included the following:
 
·      Wireless / mobile solutions and cloud computing were cited most often as technologies that, while beneficial or promising, remain the most overlooked. In fact, nearly three-quarters of respondents were either unsure if their agency has a cloud deployment plan or very clear that it doesn’t have a plan.


·      Forty-five percent of respondents said their agencies are perpetually behind the technology curve compared to the private sector, while another 39 percent say that old legislation negatively impacts their agencies’ adoption of new technologies.

·      Budget limitations narrowly outpace security concerns as the top two challenges confronting the implementation of upcoming technology initiatives. In fact, 18 percent reported that general hardware and software updates were the most beneficial new or innovative technologies implemented in the last 12 months.


·      Nearly three in ten respondents say their agencies are not actively engaging Gen Y in the workforce; however, more than a quarter are offering competitive salaries and benefits, providing flexible work environments and increased coaching and training, respectively.
 

Avalias’ Avalanche TTX offers immersive disaster response training

Sydney, Australia-based Avalias, a creator of immersive emergency training software solutions for homeland defense / response agencies and corporate continuity planners, has introduced Avalanche TTX, a new scenario-based collaboration software for comprehensive disaster readiness discussion exercises.

Avalanche TTX lets incident responders across multiple agencies create and
coordinate realistic and complex disaster scenarios that present the array of urgent
challenges and dynamically shifting conditions that are likely to arise, the company says.

The new software offers a multi-media experience that helps identify bottlenecks, inter-agency coordination problems, distractions, resource shortages and other factors likely to evolve during events, according to Avalias.

“We’ve leveraged our work with major Federal and State agencies around the world to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of preparing for the worst,” Avalias CEO Harold Wolpert said in a statement. “The result is Avalanche TTX, which makes best practice homeland protection and business contingency planning capabilities easy and affordable.”

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