Law Enforcement Technology | Homeland Security Newswire

  • SurveillanceHolding law-enforcement accountable for electronic surveillance

    By Adam Conner-Simons

    When the FBI filed a court order in 2016 commanding Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in a terrorist attack in San Bernandino, California, the news made headlines across the globe. Yet every day there are tens of thousands of court orders asking tech companies to turn over Americans’ private data. Many of these orders never see the light of day, leaving a whole privacy-sensitive aspect of government power immune to judicial oversight and lacking in public accountability. MIT researchers have proposed a new cryptographic system, using cryptography on a public log of wiretap requests, which encourages government transparency.

  • Bomb disposalHigh- and low-tech solutions for bomb disposal

    To ensure bomb techs are on the cutting edge of technology as they address evolving threats, DHS S&T created the Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program. REDOPS connects the 466 bomb squads of varying sizes and budgets across the country with the tools and information they need to perform their duties better, faster and more safely. They look at a variety of sources—including the commercial marketplace, responder communities and international partners—for high- and low-tech solutions.

  • ForensicsBuilding statistical foundation for next-gen forensic DNA profiling

    DNA is often considered the most reliable form of forensic evidence, and this reputation is based on the way DNA experts use statistics. When they compare the DNA left at a crime scene with the DNA of a suspect, experts generate statistics that describe how closely those DNA samples match. A jury can then take those match statistics into account when deciding guilt or innocence. These match statistics are reliable because they’re based on rigorous scientific research. However, that research only applies to DNA fingerprints, also called DNA profiles, that have been generated using current technology. Now, scientists have laid the statistical foundation for calculating match statistics when using Next Generation Sequencing, or NGS, which produces DNA profiles that can be more useful in solving some crimes.

  • SurveillanceSpotting spies in the sky

    The use of drones for surveillance is no longer in the realm of science fiction. Researchers have developed the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. The new technology addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.

  • Law enforcementFBI wish list: An app that can recognize the meaning of your tattoos

    By Dave Maass

    We’ve long known that the FBI is heavily invested in developing face recognition technology as a key component in its criminal investigations. But new records, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, show that’s not the only biometric marker the agency has its eyes on. The FBI’s wish list also includes image recognition technology and mobile devices to attempt to use tattoos to map out people’s relationships and identify their beliefs.

  • CybersecurityCongress must adopt stronger safeguards for wireless cybersecurity: Expert

    Thanks to the advent of cell phones, tablets and smart cars, Americans are increasingly reliant on wireless services and products. Yet despite digital technology advancements, security and privacy safeguards for consumers have not kept pace. One expert told lawmakers that Congress should take immediate action to address threats caused by cell-site simulators by “ensuring that, when Congress spends about a billion taxpayer dollars on wireless services and devices each year, it procures services and devices that implement cybersecurity best practices.”

  • Passenger screeningWinners announced in $1.5 million Passenger Screening Algorithm Challenge

    DHS S&T and TSA the other day announced the eight winners of the Passenger Screening Algorithm Challenge. The prize competition solicited new automated detection algorithms from individuals and entities that can improve the speed and accuracy of detecting small threat objects and other prohibited items during the airport passenger screening process.

  • DronesDrones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines

    It is estimated that there are at least 100 million military munitions and explosives of concern devices in the world, of various size, shape and composition. Millions of these are surface plastic landmines with low-pressure triggers, such as the mass-produced Soviet PFM-1 “butterfly” landmine. Drones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines in remote regions of post-conflict countries.

  • DronesLos Alamos lab designated “No Drone Zone,” deploys counter-drone systems

    Loa Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has deployed a system to counter all unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over its restricted airspace and an additional FAA designated “No Drone Zone.” The Counter-UAS program at Los Alamos will be the blueprint for future programs at three other NNSA sites. Systems are planned for the Pantex Plant in Texas, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee, and the National Nuclear Security Site in Nevada.

  • DronesDoes the government really need this much power to deal with an attack of the drones?

    By India McKinney and Andrew Crocker

    Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 (S. 2836), which would give DOJ and DHS sweeping new authority to counter malicious drones. Among other things, the bill would authorize DOJ and DHS to “track,” “disrupt,” “control,” “seize or otherwise confiscate,” or even “destroy” unmanned aircraft that pose a “threat” to certain facilities or areas in the U.S. Given the breadth of these proposed new powers, you would expect officials to have a strong case for passing the bill. But even after the hearing, it’s not clear why DHS and DOJ need any expanded authority to go after “malicious” drones.

  • SurveillanceHART: Homeland Security’s massive new database will include face recognition, DNA, and peoples’ “non-obvious relationships”

    By Jennifer Lynch

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. And yet, we still know very little about it.

  • CrimeRisk assessment tools may increase number of incarcerations

    The use of risk assessment tools has increased considerably within criminal justice institutions in recent decades, and these tools have been viewed by many as a way to stop or even reverse the U.S. heavy reliance on imprisonment. But new research suggests these tools may actually contribute to expanding the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system. In 1972, there were approximately 375,000 people incarcerated in the U.S. By 2007, the number had climbed to 2.1 million people. In 1972 the incarceration rate was 161 incarcerated people per 100,000 residents, compared with 767 per 100,000 in 2007.

  • Considered opinion: Data & national securityCorporate data collection and U.S. national security: Expanding the conversation in an era of nation state cyber aggression

    By Carrie Cordero

    What has the Russia investigation revealed about risks inherent in mass private data collection? Carrie Cordero writes that one thing we learned from the Russia investigation is that we may be framing the conversation about corporate data collection too narrowly. “Based on what we have learned publicly so far about the Russian election interference, it is worth pausing to reflect on the national security implications of corporate data collection and aggregation as it relates to the collection of individual, private citizens’ data,” she says. “Although the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and special counsel investigations are not yet complete, we know enough already about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to understand that data collected from private companies and organizations can be accessed, exposed and potentially misused in a way that is harmful to the country’s institutional stability. At the very least, its misuse sows distrust and confusion. At worst, it shreds the institutional and societal fabric that holds the country together.”

  • SurveillanceCivil liberties organizations urge transparency on NSA domestic phone record surveillance

    Last week, twenty-four civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, urging him to report—as required by law—statistics that could help clear up just how many individuals are subject to broad NSA surveillance of domestic telephone records. According to the most recent transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NSA collected more than 530 million call records in 2017, an increase of more than 300 percent from the year prior.

  • Face recognitionFace recognition experts perform better with AI as partner

    Experts at recognizing faces often play a crucial role in criminal cases. A photo from a security camera can mean prison or freedom for a defendant—and testimony from highly trained forensic face examiners informs the jury whether that image actually depicts the accused. Just how good are facial recognition experts? Would artificial intelligence help?