• EncryptionReal security requires strong encryption – even if investigators get blocked

    By Susan Landau

    The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have been fighting against easy, widespread public access to encryption technologies for 25 years. Since the bureau’s dispute with Apple in 2016 over access to the encrypted iPhone of one of the two people who shot 14 victims in San Bernardino, California, this battle has become more pitched. This dispute is not about whether regular people can or should use encryption: The U.S. government is in favor of using encryption to secure data. Rather, it’s about the FBI’s demand that encryption systems include “exceptional access,” enabling police who get a warrant to circumvent the encryption on a device or on an encrypted call. The demand for exceptional access by law enforcement is a broad threat to fundamental parts of American society, and it poses a serious danger to national security as well as individual privacy. As technology changes, the jobs of police and intelligence workers must also change; in some ways, it will be harder, in others, easier. But the basic need for security supports the call for wide use of strong encryption – and without modifications that make it easy for Russians, or others, to break in.

  • BiometricsDNA techniques could transform facial recognition technology

    By Jean-Christophe Nebel

    Camera-based visual surveillance systems were supposed to deliver a safer and more secure society. But despite decades of development, they are generally not able to handle real-life situations. During the 2011 London riots, for example, facial recognition software contributed to just one arrest out of the 4,962 that took place. The failure of this technology means visual surveillance still relies mainly on people sitting in dark rooms watching hours of camera footage, which is totally inadequate to protect people in a city. But recent research suggests video analysis software could be dramatically improved thanks to software advances made in a completely different field: DNA sequence analysis. By treating video as a scene that evolves in the same way DNA does, these software tools and techniques could transform automated visual surveillance.

  • SurveillanceFISA Section 702 reform bill a good Start, but improvements still needed: Critics

    Last Wednesday, the draft of the House Judiciary Committee’s bill to reauthorize and reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was made public. Section 702 permits the government to collect the content of communications of targets who are non-Americans located abroad, including communications they may have with Americans. Critics urge Congress to pass significant and meaningful reforms to Section 702 which address the serious constitutional concerns it raises, or allow that surveillance authority to expire.

  • ForensicsScientific basis of fingerprints too weak for legal certainty

    It may surprise many, especially those susceptible to the CSI effect, but fingerprint evidence is not conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt. A new American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) working group report on the quality of latent fingerprint analysis says that courtroom testimony and reports stating or even implying that fingerprints collected from a crime scene belong to a single person are indefensible and lack scientific foundation.

  • Crime fightingDHS funds national consortium to develop better methods for fighting criminal activity

    The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been named a priority partner in a new DHS-funded national consortium. SHS S&T S&T) will award the consortium a $3.85 million grant for its first operating year in a 10-year grant period to create the Center of Excellence for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA). The center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.

  • Explosives detectionS&T, the Pentagon changing K-9 bomb detection

    DHS S&T Detection Canine Program partnered with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) to assist in developing a training initiative to add person-borne improvised explosive device (PBIED) detection capabilities to their canine teams. Traditionally, dogs sniff out “left-behind” bombs, but Sunny and the other members of his K-9 unit are also trained to pick up explosive scents on a person or any moving target.

  • SurveillanceBig data amplify existing police surveillance practices: Study

    The big data landscape is changing quickly, and researchers wonder whether our political and social systems and regulations can keep up. With access to more personal data than ever before, police have the power to solve crimes more quickly, but in practice, the influx of information tends to amplify existing practices.

  • SurveillanceCalifornia’s police can't keep license plate data secret: Court

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU won a decision by the California Supreme Court that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret. California’s highest court ruled that the collection of license plate data isn’t targeted at any particular crime, so the records couldn’t be considered part of a police investigation.

  • Emergency communicationsCreating reliable emergency communications networks

    When disaster strikes, it is important for first responders to have reliable, unhindered access to a controlled network, allowing them to receive and deliver critical information while ensuring effective emergency response. Unfortunately this is currently not the case. Due to power outages and cell tower damages, the infrastructure for communications is not readily available during the response to an incident or disaster, and furthermore, the cost of this infrastructure is unreasonable, even for large organizations.

  • DetectionDetecting concealed weapon, threat is not easy, and experience is no help to police officers

    Detecting potential threats is part of the job for police officers, military personnel and security guards. Terrorist attacks and bombings at concerts, sporting events and airports underscore the need for accurate and reliable threat detection. However, the likelihood of a police officer identifying someone concealing a gun or bomb is only slightly better than chance, according to new research. Officers with more experience were even less accurate.

  • DronesTethered drone tested in securing Trump’s vacation golf course in New Jersey

    DHS has announced it will test a tethered drone for surveillance over the Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, where the president is on a 17-day vacation which started on Friday. Tethered drones fly at altitudes of 300-400 feet. The fly autonomously, but an operator on the ground can control the cameras.

  • Drone forensicsIdentifying, analyzing drone-collected evidentiary data

    DHS awards nearly $1 million to a Colorado company to develop ways to increase law enforcement capabilities to identify, collect, and analyze evidentiary data from consumer and professional drones. The award is part of S&T’s Cyber Forensics, a project which focuses on development of new capabilities to help law enforcement with the forensic investigations of digital evidence from various devices such as mobile phones and automobile infotainment systems.

  • Illegal armsU.S. weapons main source of trade in illegal arms on the Dark Web

    New report, based on first-ever study, looks at the size and scope of the illegal arms trade on the dark web. European purchases of weapons on the dark web generate estimated revenues five times higher than the U.S. purchases. The dark web’s potential to anonymously arm criminals and terrorists, as well as vulnerable and fixated individuals, is “the most dangerous aspect.”

  • JammingTesting tactics for mitigating jamming

    Jamming devices are illegal, and may delay emergency response times, escalate hazardous situations, or result in loss of life. Nearly 100 federal, state, and local public safety and private organizations gathered last week to test tactics and technologies to identify, locate, and mitigate illegal jamming of communications systems, such as GPS, radio, and wireless systems.

  • First respondersBetter technologies help first responders respond more quickly, safely, and effectively

    When disaster strikes, first responders rush in to provide assistance. In addition to their courage and training, they depend on a panoply of technologies to do their jobs. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has partnered with emergency management and public safety professionals to define, develop, test and deploy these technologies to improve response and recovery. The Lab also applies its scientific capabilities to assess emergencies as they unfold.