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GSN 2012 Awards announced: White House deputy of homeland security recognized for leadership at annual gala

GSN Awards 2012

Hundreds of the best of the homeland security community’s federal, state and municipal government officials, government contractors, systems integrators, IT vendors and physical security product and solutions providers all came together the night of November 29 in a ballroom of the Washington, D.C. convention center to receive accolades.

The GSN awards dinner, which has become a Washington tradition over the last four years, offered a chance for the excellence and civic-minded spirit of homeland security efforts nationwide to be recognized.

Not only were the best tools and technologies acknowledged , but the people and groups who use them, from local police departments in Florida and Washington state, to the White House, were honored at the event.

During the awards ceremonies, Richard Reed, Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security, received the second annual Government Security News/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation in Public Safety and Security. Reed was chosen for tireless work in his key role in leading the development of national policy related to resilience, transborder security and community partnerships. He has been described as the president’s eyes and ears during disasters. In crises, such as the Gulf oil spill, H1N1 pandemic, and Haiti earthquake, Reed has sprung into action at the White House, coordinating information and gathering people to cope with these catastrophes.

Reed told Government Security News in an interview after the dinner that gatherings like GSN’s awards ceremony were invaluable in demonstrating that the hard work of creating a resilient, strong response to crises is performed by thousands of individuals, like those in attendance. Gatherings that bring the diverse emergency response and homeland security communities together can broaden perspectives and spur new ideas, he said.

Reed has been a determined, mostly behind-the-scenes, captain of federal emergency response efforts during the Bush and Obama administrations, helping prepare for, and respond to, some of the worst natural disasters the nation has known, from one of the deadliest tornado seasons in history in the Midwest, to historic wild fires in the west, and massive storms in the eastern U.S.

Reed said the key to capable response to such staggering events lies not only in federal hands, but in enabling state, local and even personal responses. Getting resources and training in place before disasters happen goes a long way in an effective response and recovery, he said. “The true first responders are friends, neighbors and co-workers” in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, said Reed. Local police, firefighters and other agencies arrive second, he said. Enabling people with information concerning what resources are available or where they can go for help or supplies empowers them, said Reed.

Government Security News managing partner Adrian Courtenay has made the GSN/Raytheon award an annual tradition. The prize is sponsored by the Raytheon Company, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world, which is headquartered in Waltham, MA.

Notable 2012 government excellence award winners included the local police departments in Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL, for their ground-breaking work in preparing for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this past summer. The departments put together comprehensive plans to gently defuse potentially volatile political demonstrations at the event. Both departments were also praised for implementing an innovative interoperable communications network during the GOP convention.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was recognized for its groundbreaking work on a small radiation detector. The Naval Air Systems Command won an award for its work on the Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance program, which developed an aerostat for long-term surveillance capabilities to protect ground soldiers in Afghanistan.

The complete list of GSN’s 2012 Award winners appears below: 

CATEGORY 1 – VENDORS OF IT SECURITY PRODUCTS AND SOLUTIONS

 

Best Anti-Malware Solution

 

Invincea

 

Best Identity Management Platform

 

Alert Enterprise

 

Best Certificate Management Solution

 

Entrust

 

Best Compliance /Vulnerability Assessment Solution

 

Agiliance

 

Best Data Security/Loss Management Solution

 

WAVE Systems

 

Best Endpoint Security Solution

 

StillSecure

 

Best Forensic Software

 

Silvertail

 

Best Intelligence Data Fusion and Collaborative Analysis Solution

 

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

 

Best Intrusion Detection/Prevention Solution

 

Intellidyne

Vanguard Integrity Professionals

 

Best Network Security/Enterprise Firewall

 

Black Lotus

 

Best Privileged Access Management Solution

 

Kikusema

Xceedium

 

Best Real-Time Dynamic Network Analysis

 

Fidelis Security

 

Best Continuous Monitoring Solution

 

ForeScout

Redseal

 

Best Security Incident/Event Management Solution (SIEM)

 

NetIQ

 

CATEGORY 2 – VENDORS OF PHYSICAL SECURITY PRODUCTS & SOLUTIONS

 

PHYSICAL SECURITY ACCESS CONTROL & INDENTIFICATION

 

Best Biometric Identification Solution

 

Fulcrum Biometrics

 

Best Integrated System for HSPD 12/FIPS 201 Compliance

 

Brivo

 

Best Platform for Physical and Logical Access

 

Alert Enterprise

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

Best Interoperable First Responder Communications

 

Covia Labs

 

Best Mass Notification Systems

 

AtHoc

 

Best Regional or National Public Safety Communications Deployment

 

Desktop Alert

 

DETECTION PRODUCTS

 

Best Explosives Detection Solution

 

AS&E

 

Best Long Range Detection Systems

 

Vidisco

 

Best Nuclear/Radiation Detection

 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

 

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE

 

Best Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution

 

Panasonic

 

Best Thermal/Night Vision/Infrared Cameras

 

HGH Infrared Systems

Vumii

 

Best Network IP Cameras

 

Axis Communications

 

Best Video Storage/Digital Transmission Systems

 

Panasonic

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

 

Best Perimeter Protection Solution

 

Senstar

 

Best Crash Barriers

 

Nasatka

 

Best Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) Solution

 

NICE Systems

 

SERVICES

 

Best Disaster Preparedness or Disaster Recovery & Clean-up Service

 

High-Rise Escape Systems

 

Best Facility Security/Force Protection Service

 

Whitestone Group

 

Best Homeland Security Training/Higher Education Solutions

 

Bellevue University

 

Category 3: Government Security News 2012 Government Excellence Awards

 

Most Notable Airport Security Award

 

Defense Manpower Agency

 

Most Notable Maritime/Port Security Program

 

Ohio Department of Public Safety/Northern Border Initiative

 

Most Notable Railroad/Mass Transit Security Program

 

Denver Regional Transportation Authority

 

Most Notable Critical Infrastructure Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital, Tucson, AZ

 

Most Notable Cyber Security Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Department of Energy

 

Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation

 

U.S. National Guard

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

 

Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter-Terrorism Program

 

Orange County Intelligence Assessment Fusion Center

 

Most Notable Municipal/County Programs, Projects or Initiatives

 

Seattle, Washington Police Department

Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida Police Departments

 

Federal Government

 

Naval Air Systems Command (Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance)

GSN 2012 Homeland Security Awards program open for entries

The Government Security News 2012 Homeland Security Awards Program officially opened for entries on May 1, once again featuring 45 Awards in three broad Categories:Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

Returning as corporate Sponsors of the 2012 Program are BRS Laboratories of Houston, TX -- a leading software development company for video behavioral recognition software that deploys easily and rapidly on large scale video networks and provides actionable information without inundating end users with false alarms -- and Entrust, Inc. , of Dallas, TX, which offers physical/logical access, mobile security, certificate management and other identity-based solutions to governments and large enterprises.  Additional sponsors will be announced, and profiles of all 2012 sponsors, will be published in coming weeks. Companies interested in joining the ranks of sponsors of the 2012 Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

The cost to submit an entry in the 2012 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies. Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

According Adrian Courtenay, managing partner of World Business Media, several new categories created in 2011 to acknowledge successful initiatives of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and preventing crime will again be included in 2012. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local”; “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local”; and “Most Notable Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program”.

In the 2011 contest, the Bastrop Country, TX, Unified Command (including county, state and federal government agencies) was awarded the trophy for “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation” in battling 2011 Texas wildfires in Bastrop County. The United States Customs and Border Protection, Detroit Sector, was winner in the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction or Arrest” category for a dramatic arrest on St. Clair River in Detroit, and the Los Angeles Police Department was recognized for having the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program.”

Another category that was new in 2011, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military”, will also be continued, in recognition of the emergence of Cyber Security as a vitally important component of overall security for any nation. The winner of this award in 2011 was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2012 Awards Program will once again culminate with a gala awards dinner in the fall, at a venue to be announced shortly. In the 2011 program, the “GSN/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation” was introduced and presented to Admiral Thad Allen (US Coast Guard-ret.), who came out of retirement twice in recent years to serve his country, first in heading up the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and later in managing the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In remarks for the 2011 Awards Dinner audience, Admiral Allen said the continuing work of technology companies and first responders was key in any disaster. He urged everyone to become a “lifelong rapid learner” to better cope with disasters, both man-made and natural. He also said “reconciling opportunity and competency” when disaster strikes is essential to any effective recovery, and being on top of the latest, most effective technology is a product of being a lifelong rapid learner. He also said clear communications is also a key to effective response and amplified his call for a nationwide interoperable first responder radio network. 

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/, and video interviews with Admiral Allen, as well as sponsors and winners in the 2011 Awards program, are available at the GSN Video Center at www.gsnmagazine.com/videocenter.

Entry forms and other information about the 2012 Awards Program are available at www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2012/welcome.

GSN 2011 Awards Program opens for entries on April 26

Government Security News has announced that its 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program  will officially open for business and start accepting entries in the program’s 45 awards categories on Tuesday, April 26.

The 2011 program contains a number of exciting new categories, reflecting the dynamically changing threat environment, in all three of the overall awards groupings: Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions, and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

The cost for each entry in the 2011 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies.

Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

Adrian Courtenay, Managing Partner of GSN’s parent company, World Business Media, LLC, cited two intriguing new categories in the government sector that have been selected to acknowledge solid “boots on the ground” achievements of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and stopping crime. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local” and “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local.”

Acknowledging the increasing importance of cyber security and the threat of cyber war among nation-states, Courtenay also pointed out that the government awards in 2010 have been expanded to include a category titled, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military.”

Returning for its third year as a sponsor of the GSN Awards Program is founding sponsor ArcSight, now a business unit of Hewlett Packard Software and Solutions, whose enterprise threat and risk platform is an integrated product for collecting, analyzing and assessing security and risk information. ArcSight is also a repeat winner in the GSN awards program for its Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) products for collecting, analyzing and assessing security incident event information.

Also returning as event sponsors are General Dynamics C4, located in Phoenix, AZ, a major developer and integrator of secure communications and information systems and technology; and  Mutualink, another GSN award winner, which creates networks of interoperable communities that can instantly share radio, voice, text, video and data files, and telephone communications in a secure environment.

The fourth and final sponsor to date in the 2011 Awards Program is Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc., of Houston, TX, also known as BRS Labs, whose software uses the fascinating, scientifically developed cognitive reasoning and artificial intelligence of behavioral analytics to leverage a stream of intelligence from millions of surveillance cameras worldwide, in order to provide alerts regarding abnormal or suspicious behavior.

Profiles of each of the 2011 sponsors will be posted on the GSN Web site in the coming weeks.

Additional companies or organizations interested in joining the ranks of 2011 sponsors of the GSN 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

According to Courtenay, the 2011 Awards Program will culminate with the annual awards dinner in early November at a venue to be announced shortly. “It’s going to be hard to top last year’s elegant dinner and spectacular after-dinner keynote presentation by four-star General Barry McCaffrey (USA-Ret.). But we’re going to try!”

In 2010, the GSN awards were presented to a sold-out ballroom at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, that included many distinguished government and military officials, academics, law enforcement and public safety professionals from across the country, along with the systems integrators, defense contractors and vendors of products and solutions used in homeland security.

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at:

www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/.

Further information and entry forms for the 2011 Awards Program are available at:

www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2011/welcome.

OzVision

Alan Avidan, President, indicates that OzVision is pushing the forefront of hosted video services for dealers and users. The company’s government market includes military bases, government facilities, and national monuments such as the Washington Monument, the State of Liberty and Ford’s Theater. Avidan calls for dealers and central services to join in the hosted video movement, which he describes as the future of the industry.

VideoIQ

Scott Schnell, CEO, describes Video IQ’s next generation of video surveillance, where each of its high-definition cameras has video analytics plus half a year of storage with the camera itself, thus eliminating the high cost of storage and networking. According to Schnell, VideoIQ’s cameras with high-definition sensors can track up to 24 objects simultaneously and have 3X the field of view of conventional high-definition cameras with analytics.
Place on: Home Page, Aviation/Port Security, Border Security, Infrastructure Protection, Law Enforcement. First Responders, Maritime/Port Security, Perimeter Protection, Video Surveillance

T3 Motion

Gary Joubert, VP of Sales and Marketing, reports that T3 provides electric vehicles for law enforcement that are used in almost every police department in the U.S., as well as in government agencies around the world. Other markets for the made-in-the-USA T3 series include the military, general transport and the private security business. Recent improvements have been well received, and business is great!

Obama seeks three percent hike in discretionary budget at DHS

Despite official murmurings a few months ago that the fiscal year 2011 budget request for DHS might decline slightly, the budget package unveiled on February 1 actually shows a three percent increase in “discretionary spending” by DHS in 2011, versus the prior year, and modest growth, at approximately the predicted rate of inflation, in the outer years.

“The total fiscal year 2011 budget request for DHS, including fee funded and mandatory spending, is $56.3 billion, a two percent increase over the fiscal year 2010 enacted level,” said Peggy Sherry, the acting  chief financial officer at DHS, in a telephone conference call with journalists on February 1. “The department’s fiscal year 2011 net discretionary or appropriated funding request is $43.6 billion, an increase of three percent over the fiscal year 2010 enacted level.”

In releasing his overall budget request, President Obama proposed a freeze in government spending for a portion of the discretionary domestic spending plan for three years, but he specifically exempted homeland security expenditures from that freeze. “It won’t apply to our national security – including benefits for veterans,” said Obama in remarks he made in the White House on February 1.

Some observers speculated that the slight bump up in DHS spending may have resulted from the nationwide trauma caused by the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing attempt, and the urgent call for stronger screening measures at the country’s airports. However, a DHS official who participated on the conference call with journalists, but requested anonymity, would not attribute the budget increase to that terrorist attack.

“As part of the budget process, we examined different scenarios and options,” explained the official. “Those are discussions that are internal to the Administration and what you see in the budget release today is the end product of all those budget deliberations.”

Among the thousands of individual line-items for specific programs and planned procurements are the following highlights:

Advanced imaging systems – The 2011 budget requests an additional $214.1 million to install about 500 extra advance imaging technology machines at airport checkpoints, above and beyond the 500 systems that had already been planned. These funds will place such whole body scanners in 75 percent of the country’s largest airports, said Sherry.

Explosive detection – Beyond body scanners, DHS will seek an additional $85 million to bolster international flight coverage by federal air marshals, an increase in $60 million for an additional 800 explosive trace detection machines and a $71 million bump up to pay for an additional 275 K-9 teams at airport check points.

Border Patrol – The new budget envisions a decrease of 180 personnel in the ranks of the Border Patrol, which will be achieved largely through attrition. A DHS official suggested that the overall operating effectiveness of the Border Patrol will not be affected by this decline in personnel slots because the Border Patrol has almost doubled in size during the past five years. “A lot of the agent workforce, the substantial portion of it, has only a couple of years experience,” said this DHS official. “As they become more seasoned and more mature in their jobs, their effectiveness will increase, and because we are not doing the extensive hiring of 2,000 to 3,000 new agents a year, we can afford to put less into training improvement.”

Cyber-security – By contrast, DHS is planning a substantial beef-up in its cyber-security efforts. The new budget seeks $379 million to develop the National Cyber Security Division, which will attempt to safeguard the dot.gov and dot.com domains, and limit the nation’s vulnerability to computer attacks. DHS wants to add another $5 million to the $5 million that was in last year’s budget for the National Cyber Security Center, which one DHS official characterized as “still in its infancy.” The budget envisions an increase in the Center’s staffing to 40 people and the enhancement of its expertise, so it can integrate with other cyber-centers throughout the federal government.

Terror trials – Contrary to media reports that a terror trial in Manhattan might require a billion dollars in security measures, the 2011 budget request for DHS includes only $200 million for such security measures, which would be available through the traditional urban area grant programs. “The department took a look at it and we think $200 million is really our best estimate of the costs,” said the DHS official.

Federal contracting – In what it calls “re-balancing the workforce,” DHS is planning to rely less on outside vendors and more on internally recruited and trained personnel, particularly in the areas of cyber-security --  where DHS is authorized to hire as many as 1,000 new cyber-specialists – and the intelligence work often referred to as “connecting the dots.” “In our analysis and operations activity, we have a major increase in the number of feds doing intelligence type work,” said Sherry.

Coast Guard – A DHS fact sheet issued by the Office of Management and Budget points out that the budget request includes $538 million for a fifth National Security Cutter and $240 million to produce four new Fast Response Cutters. Even so, the new budget seeks funds for 1,100 fewer active duty Coast Guard personnel. “We are looking to reorganize and restructure certain elements of the Coast Guard to create greater efficiency,” explained a DHS official, “and there are obviously tradeoffs made as part of that to ensure we could continue to recapitalize the Coast Guard.”

President Obama’s budget request was delivered to Capitol Hill and will now undergo months of scrutiny by lawmakers. Fiscal year 2011 begins officially on October 1, 2010.

OnSSI Launches Ocularis 5.6 VMS to Further Improve the User Experience while Heightening System Security

OnSSI continues to add powerful new capabilities and enhancements to its flagship Video Management Software (VMS) platform with the release of Ocularis 5.6. This latest release enhances overall VMS performance and operator functionality, delivers heightened system security with fortified dual authentication measures, and provides enhanced mobile and web access capabilities. These latest improvements included in Ocularis 5.6 combine to further empower users with a best-in-class VMS solution and experience.
 

“Software providers face the ongoing challenge of increasing user access and programming capabilities while simultaneously fortifying security measures to help prevent unauthorized access. This latest release of Ocularis accomplishes both objectives while improving overall workflows.” said Ken LaMarca, VP of Sales & Marketing, OnSSI.
 

Ocularis 5.6 bolsters system security by allowing administrators to require dual operator authentication when logging-in, along with the ability to specify system permissions for Ocularis Client or Ocularis Web/Mobile. Every login activity into Ocularis Client is also logged and auditable for documentation and compliance where applicable.
 

With the heightened security measures in place, Ocularis 5.6 also improves operator functionality. For example, operators can now create, edit, save and delete views directly from Ocularis Client, giving them the control and flexibility to create the specific views they need to best perform their roles and meet their security objectives while maximizing effectiveness and efficiency.
 

The updated Ocularis Client also provides users with the ability to view camera names from any number of views that are listed. Additionally, the Client includes a new performance mode that allows larger views to be downscaled for improved bandwidth efficiency. Furthermore, Ocularis Client includes a database update to “Select All Feeds” for exporting, as well as the added ability to select audio from a different source when exporting.
 

Significant changes have been implemented for Ocularis Mobile as well, including the ability to display multiple cameras in Live Mode while also disabling the IOS idle timer to ensure continuous remote viewing. System administrators can also now designate which specific users and user groups can log in to Ocularis Mobile and Web to control access to video from outside the company network. Additionally, Ocularis Media Server has been further improved with architectural enhancements that improve overall performance, scalability and reliability.
 

Ocularis 5.6 improves overall system resilience and performance in several ways. Master Core Redundancy (failover) support has been automated, so if the Master Core is unavailable when a user logs in, the user will still be able to access video via a Slave Core. Added performance enhancements include Smart Camera Drivers for Vivotek cameras, extended support for H.265, and extended two-way audio support.

DHS Hosts National Exercise on Election Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosted the “Tabletop the Vote 2018: DHS’ National Election Cyber Exercise,” a three-day, first-of-its-kind exercise to assist DHS and our federal partners, state and local election officials, and private vendors in identifying best practices and areas for improvement in cyber incident planning, preparedness, identification, response, and recovery. Through tabletop simulation of a realistic scenario, exercise participants discussed and explored potential impacts to voter confidence, voting operations, and the integrity of elections. Partners for this exercise include: 44 states and the District of Columbia; Election Assistance Commission; Department of Defense; Department of Justice; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Office of the Director of National Intelligence; National Institute of Standards and Technology; National Security Agency; and the U.S. Cyber Command.

The scenario was based on a combination of real world events as well as potential risks facing election infrastructure, including:

  • News and social media manipulation related to political candidates and the conduct of elections;
  • Spear phishing campaigns targeting elections officials and personnel;
  • Disruption of voter registration information systems and processes;
  • Denial of service attacks and web defacements impacting board of election websites and web applications;
  • Malware infections impacting electronic voting machines and election management system software; and
  • The exploitation of state and county board of election networks.

 “Today’s exercise brought together our partners from all levels of government and the private sector in order to test our ability to respond to cyber incidents that could potentially affect an election, and build strong communication and incident response plans across the election community,” said DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “The response we have received from this week’s participants has been overwhelmingly positive and we’ve identified areas we need to collectively focus on ahead of the midterm elections. In this environment, if we prepare individually, then we fail collectively, and I am grateful for everyone’s participation and partnership this week.”

The exercise provided election officials and other exercise players the opportunity to exercise and evaluate:

  • Cyber threat information sharing and how information shared by the federal government and the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) can be used for network defense purposes;
  • Processes for identifying potential cybersecurity threats or incidents;
  • Procedures for requesting state and federal incident response resources if county and state resources are exhausted;
  • The importance of a cyber incident response plan and how to incorporate the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local entities in responding to a cyber incident impacting elections infrastructure;
  • Development of public messaging and notifications related to an elections-focused cyber incident; and
  • Best practices and resources for managing cyber risk posed to different components of elections infrastructure and how to mitigate the potential consequences of an incident.

 Representatives from DHS have been working with state election officials for more than a year to exercise their cyber incident response plans and capabilities related to election infrastructure. For more information on election security, visit www.dhs.gov/topic/election-security.

###

DARPA program aims to radically improve software’s ability to recognize and reject invalid and malicious electronic data

Today, the expeditious delivery of electronic documents, messages, and other data is relied on for everything from communications to navigation. As the near instantaneous exchange of information has increased in volume, so has the variety of electronic data formats–from images and videos to text and maps. Verifying the trustworthiness and provenance of this mountain of electronic information is an exceedingly difficult task as individuals and organizations routinely engage with data shared by unauthenticated and potentially compromised sources. Further, the software used to process electronic data is error-prone and vulnerable to exploitation through maliciously crafted data inputs, opening the technology and its underlying systems to compromise. An attacker’s ability to deliver novel cyberattacks via electronic documents, messages, and streaming data formats appears unbounded, creating an unsustainable situation for software security.

To reduce the sizable attack surface created across consumer, enterprise, and critical infrastructure systems and to help tackle the threat posed by unauthenticated and potentially compromised electronic data, DARPA today announced a new program called Safe Documents (SafeDocs). The goal of the SafeDocs program is to dramatically improve software’s ability to detect and reject invalid or maliciously crafted input data, without impacting the key functionality of new and existing electronic data formats.

“With today’s online risk environment, allowing software to interact with untrusted electronic documents and messages is akin to downloading and running untrusted programs on your computer,” said Sergey Bratus, the DARPA Information Innovation Office (I2O) program manager leading SafeDocs. “To create a safer internet, we must first create safer electronic documents. Through SafeDocs, we are looking for ways to reduce the complexity of electronic document exchange and minimize the means of exploitation for all malicious actors–from cybercriminals to nation states.”

SafeDocs seeks to create technological assurance that an electronic document or message is automatically checked and safe to open, while also generating safer document formats that are subsets of current, untrustworthy versions. To accomplish its goals, the program will focus on two primary technical research thrusts.

The first thrust seeks to develop methodologies and tools for capturing and defining human-intelligible, machine-readable descriptors of electronic data formats. To do this, researchers will explore means of extracting the de facto syntax of existing data formats and identifying each format’s simpler subset that can be parsed safely and unambiguously, and used in verified programming without impacting the format’s essential functionality.

Under the second technical thrust, researchers will create software construction kits for building secure, verified parsers, using the simplified format subsets where the existing format’s inherent complexity or ambiguity has been reduced for safety. Parsers, which are used to break data inputs down into manageable objects for further processing, can contain exploitable flaws and behaviors. Research under this thrust will strive to create the methodologies and tools needed to build high-assurance and verifiable parsers for new and existing data formats to help reduce the technology’s chances of compromise.

Interested proposers have an opportunity to learn more about the SafeDocs program during a Proposers Day, scheduled for Friday, August 24, 2018 from 2:00pm-5:00pm ET at the DARPA Conference Center, located at 675 N. Randolph St., Arlington, Virginia, 22203. For additional information, visit https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=dd089906ecc1c3417a7ef399a0510cc7&tab=core&_cview=0. A full description of the program will be made available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement.

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