Public Safety

  • NIST, NTIA seeking industry partners for public safety communications test bed

    The Commerce Department’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program is signing up a new round of industry collaborators for the test bed used to evaluate advanced broadband equipment and software for emergency first responders. So far, thirty-nine telecommunications companies have signed new, five-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) to participate in the test bed program.

  • The nuclear deal with Iran: Highlights

    The details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed yesterday, 14 July 2015, in Vienna are complicated and mostly of technical nature, but the agreement itself is not much more than a bargain between the world’s powers and Iran: Iran agreed to accept the imposition of exceedingly strict limits on its nuclear program in exchange for a return of its frozen assets and the lifting of the crippling sanctions the United States, the EU, and the UN had imposed on it for its refusal to live within the strictures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which it is a member.

  • New U.K. surveillance review calls for a fresh start in the law for interception of communications

    After a year of investigation and consultation, the U.K. Independent Surveillance Review has delivered its conclusions to Prime Minister David Cameron. The authors presented their report, A Democratic License to Operate, yesterday (14 July 2015). The Review shows how a democracy can combine the high level of security the public has a right to expect, and also ensure the respect for privacy and freedom of speech that are the foundations of a democracy. The panel unanimously calls on government, civil society, and industry to accept its recommendations and work together to put them into practice.

  • Climate change a security risk second only to terrorism: Aussie defense report

    The Australian government’s energy White Paper made headlines for its reluctance to mention the term “climate change” — but a forthcoming defense White Paper does not share these reservations. A report on community consultations conducted by the authors of the defense White Paper highlights the consequences of climate change, extreme weather events, and environmental pressures as a significant security risk for Australia – second only to the risks posed by terrorism.

  • Assad is still using chemical weapons. What will it take to stop him?

    While the Syrian conflict has been perpetually overshadowed in the headlines by recent events such as the possibility of a Grexit and the Chinese stock market crash, two recent developments regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons have nearly managed to refocus international attention on Syria. First, on June 17th the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a hearing on the Assad regime’s use of chlorine barrel bombs. Second, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly reported this week that they expect another attack by the regime using chemical weapons beyond chlorine bombs. In particular, the Syrian government is suspected of maintaining stocks of sarin and VX gas.

  • Giving government special access to data poses major security risks

    In recent months, government officials in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries have made repeated calls for law-enforcement agencies to be able to access, upon due authorization, encrypted data to help them solve crimes. Beyond the ethical and political implications of such an approach, though, is a more practical question: If we want to maintain the security of user information, is this sort of access even technically possible? A report by cybersecurity and encryption experts says that whether “backdoor” or “front-door,” such mechanisms “pose far more grave security risks, imperil innovation on which the world’s economies depend, and raise more thorny policy issues than we could have imagined when the Internet was in its infancy.”

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  • Privacy vs. security debate intensifies as more companies offer end-to-end-encryption

    A long running debate has now come to the fore with greater urgency. The tension between the privacy that encryption offers, and the need for law enforcement and national security agencies to have access to secured and encrypted e-mail, has become more acute in the last two years. The revelations of Edward Snowden about the post-9/11 reach and scope of surveillance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement, have caused some tech giants to offer encrypted services to their customers – encrypted services which enhance customers’ privacy protection, but which at the same time make it impossible for law enforcement and intelligence services to track and monitor terrorists and criminals. “Our job is to find needles in a nationwide haystack, needles that are increasingly invisible to us because of end-to-end encryption,” FBI director James Comey told lawmakers in recent hearing on the Hill.

  • When the phones went dead: 7/7 showed how disasters call for tomorrow’s tech

    At times of crisis communications are essential. The emergency services need to coordinate their response while the general public wants to contact loved ones and find out what’s happening. The problem is that there simply isn’t enough capacity for everyone to use the networks simultaneously, particularly in densely populated areas like central London. Thus, one aspect of the London bombings of 7 July 2005 that many who were there remember is that their phones went dead. Mobile phone coverage in parts of central London was almost unavailable. This was not due to damage; the emergency services had shut down public access to the networks. Today’s emergency services want to make better use of video and exploit the potential of real-time mapping applications — both of which demand a network with a greater data-handling capacity. The natural place to find this capacity is the 4G mobile network that is now being rolled out around the world. But this will require new services to be designed and built for emergency services use.

  • Disinformation campaigns damage credibility of social media emergency alerts

    Disinformation campaigns, which populate sections of social media platforms such as Twitter, are making real emergency data and notifications harder to absorb, a cybersecurity analyst argues. The spreading of emergency-related hoaxes, including those which involve conspiracy-related topics, damages the credibility of sites that provide useful information in those circumstances.

  • Using microwave technology to detect concealed weapons

    A team of researchers in Canada and the Ukraine funded by NATO which will be exploring ways to equip soldiers and law enforcement with gear that could detect concealed threats, such as guns and explosive devices, used by terrorists and security threats. The three-year project, which launched 1 July, will study how microwave radar signals sent from either rigged vests or tripods could detect trouble as far as fifteen meters away and send early warning signals of pending danger. These devices could be used anywhere from borders to airports to crowded public events to bars and hotels.

  • Terahertz sensor detects hidden objects faster

    A new type of sensor, which is much faster than competing technologies used to detect and identify hidden objects. Called “Q-Eye,” the invention senses radiation across the spectrum between microwaves and infra-red, known as the Terahertz (THz) region of the spectrum — a goal that has challenged scientists for over thirty years. It works by detecting the rise in temperature produced when electromagnetic radiation emitted by an object is absorbed by the Q-Eye sensor, even down to the level of very small packets of quantum energy (a single photon).

  • “Strong possibility” Assad may use chemical weapons on a large scale to protect regime: U.S. intelligence

    U.S. intelligence agencies say there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect important Syrian government strongholds, or if the regime felt it had no other way to defend the core territory of its most reliable supporters, the Alawites. Following a 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack by the Syrian military on Sunni suburbs of Damascus, in which more than 1,400 civilians were killed, President Bashar al-Assad allowed international inspectors to remove the Syrian regime’s most toxic chemical weapons, but after the most toxic chemicals were removed, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine. Western intelligence services suspect that the regime may have kept at least a small quantity of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX.

  • The military option against Iran: Not a single strike, but a sustained campaign

    The new, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, is one weapon the United would likely use if a decision is made to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Military analysts say that while the destruction of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not be easy, it can be done. They also agree that it would halt Iran’s nuclear program only temporarily, and that it would take Iran three to four years to rebuild its nuclear capacity. “A single military strike would only delay an Iranian drive for a finite period so a credible military option would have to envision a long-term campaign of repeated follow-up strikes as facilities are rebuilt or new targets identified,” says one analyst. “This is within the U.S. capability, but would require policy consistency and sustained determination across several U.S. administrations. What is crucial is not the bomb, but a multiyear campaign of vigilance and precise intelligence of new targets.”

  • Mass killings, school shootings are contagious

    On average, mass killings involving firearms occur approximately every two weeks in the United States, and school shootings occur on average monthly. Mass killings — events with four or more deaths — and school shootings create a period of contagion that lasts an average of thirteen days. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of such tragedies appear to arise from contagion. “The hallmark of contagion is observing patterns of many events that are bunched in time, rather than occurring randomly in time,” says a researcher.

  • U.S. military looking for ways to lighten the load infantrymen carry on missions

    Typically, an infantryman on a three-day mission will carry 80 to 100 pounds and often more, when the weight of the weapon, night vision equipment, extra batteries to power the advanced equipment, and body armor are added to the burden. When it comes to a one day combat patrol, the weight carried drops to a “mere” sixty-five pounds.The effects of such a burden not only slow the warfighters down, they reduce agility and my result in log-term harm. The military is looking for ways to lighten the load.