S&T Press Release: DHS S&T Selects Cyber Apex Solutions for Applied Cybersecurity Research

Washington, DC – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded a five-year Other Transaction Agreement (OTA), with a maximum value of $70 million, to Arlington, Virginia-based Cyber Apex Solutions, LLC, to facilitate applied research of prototype cyber-defenses for critical national infrastructure sectors. Through this OTA contract S&T will fund testing, evaluation and transition of prototype cybersecurity technologies that will reduce risk of cyberattacks to critical infrastructure sectors, beginning with the financial services industry. S&T will enter into projects with members of a consortium established by Cyber Apex Solutions through individual project agreements.

Cyber Apex Solutions will work closely with the S&T Next Generation Cyber Infrastructure Apex (NGCI Apex) program, administered by S&T’s Cyber Security Division (CSD). “The increase in the frequency and severity of cyberattacks on the nation’s financial services sector are a major national concern,” said Acting DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “The applied research spearheaded through this innovative agreement will result in stronger cyber-defenses for this critical part of the national economy.”

Established in 2016, the NGCI Apex program is enabling DHS S&T, the Department of Treasury and major financial services entities to work jointly to address cybersecurity concerns. Initially, the NGCI Apex program will focus on deployment and transition of cutting-edge technologies for the financial sector. In subsequent phases, the tools and technologies developed will be adapted to address a broader set of critical infrastructure sectors, including the government, energy and communications sectors. 

NGCI Apex will focus on delivering enhanced cyber capabilities to the nation’s leading financial entities in five key areas: dynamic defense, network characterization, malware detection, software assurance and insider threat. Cyber-gaps within these broad areas will be identified and defined by the Cyber Apex Review Team (CART), a group of chief information security officers and cybersecurity experts from financial institutions as well as representatives of the Treasury Department and DHS S&T. 

Once a gap is identified, the NGCI Apex program will work with Cyber Apex Solutions, which is building a consortium of cybersecurity researchers, companies and academics, to locate consortium members that already have developed possible solutions and technologies. DHS S&T will provide selection guidance to Cyber Apex Solutions on awardee(s) for each research project and jointly with the company will manage the prototyping, piloting, deployment and transition phases.

“This OTA provides a streamlined, fast-track approach to identifying and modifying existing cybersecurity technologies for financial services sector applications,” said NGCI Apex Program Manager Eric Harder. “In this way, Cyber Apex Solutions in essence will be acting as a clearinghouse for cyber technologies by working with consortium members to modify, test and evaluate their products’s capabilities against the needs and requirements provided by the CART membership.” 

CSD is part of S&T’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency. Its mission is to enhance the security and resilience of the nation’s critical information infrastructure and the Internet by developing and delivering new technologies, tools and techniques to defend against cyberattacks. The division conducts and supports technology transitions and leads and coordinates research among the cybersecurity R&D community, which includes DHS customers, government agencies, the private sector and international partners. For more information about its work, visit https://www.dhs.gov/cyber-research. 


From the S&T Blog: Keeping Communication Lines Open

This past week, I joined my team in Idaho Falls, Idaho for JamX 17. This jamming exercise, held at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, gave us the opportunity to evaluate solutions to a threat that can leave responders in the dark in regard to communications—possibly escalating already dire situations.

The proliferation of jamming devices led us to look more closely at how they could impact responder communications. Last year, we held an exercise in White Sands, New Mexico to understand the problem. We assessed jamming vulnerabilities to responder communications systems and published an after action report (you can request a copy by contacting: jamming.exercise@hq.dhs.gov).

Building off of our work from last year, JamX 17 focused on the technologies and tactics that can be used to thwart jamming devices in the public safety sector.

Using test scenarios with nearly 300 participants from over 100 federal, state and local public safety and private sector organizations, the goal of JamX 17 was to help responders recognize, respond to, report and resolve jamming incidents. By evaluating these solutions, we can say with more certainty, how responders can be more resilient to the threats of jamming. Continue reading

NTIA Group OKs Guidance for Informing IoT Device Users about Security Upgrades

Guidance on how manufacturers of Internet of things (IoT) devices should communicate with consumers about security upgrades for those devices was adopted during a June 18 virtual meeting of a multistakeholder process organized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The four-page document approved by the group advises providers of IoT devices to “consider communicating to consumers prior to purchase” whether a device can receive security upgrades, how those upgrades will be delivered, and the date on which the device will no longer receive upgrades.

“The ideal level of detail and the method of communication may differ across manufacturers, software providers, and product and service categories, as well as across buyer types,” it says.  “These voluntary communications may evolve over time as threats, solutions, and products change, and as needed to be consistent with consumers’ familiarity, expectations, and security needs.” Continue reading

FirstNet Releases Final West Region PEIs

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has released its final programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the West Region.  “Now that this PEIS has been completed and once a Record of Decision (ROD) has been signed, the proposed FirstNet projects can begin to submit the site-specific environmental documentation to determine if the proposed project has been adequately evaluated in the PEIS or whether it instead warrants a Categorical Exclusion, an Environmental Assessment, or an Environmental Impact Statement,” according to a notice in today’s “Federal Register.”

Courtesy TRDaily


S&T Press Release: DHS S&T Assesses Mitigation Tactics Against Jamming

IDAHO – 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.

The 2017 First Responder Electronic Jamming Exercise (JamX 17) was hosted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) July 16-22, at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Marine Corps Warfighter Laboratory, joined nearly 300 participants from across the country.

“For the first responders who are charged with protecting our communities, communications are a lifeline. Americans rely on first responders, and responders rely on their ability to communicate,” said Acting Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “S&T is committed to ensuring that responders have the tools they need for consistent, uninterrupted communications – its mission critical.”

Jamming devices are illegal, and may delay emergency response times, escalate hazardous situations, or result in loss of life. S&T’s First Responder Electronic Jamming Exercise initiative is combatting illegal jamming threats through

“Last year, S&T’s jamming exercise assessed jamming vulnerabilities in responder communications systems,” said Sridhar Kowdley, JamX 17 exercise director from S&T’s First Responders Group. “This year, the focus was on evaluating solutions to increase communications resiliency by helping responders recognize, respond to, report and resolve jamming incidents.”

S&T and JamX 17 participants will analyze the results from the exercise to provide recommendations and operational tools for public safety and law enforcement agencies. “Homeland security starts with hometown security,” said Mr. Bryan. “Mitigating the potential impacts of jamming is vital to ensure the security of American communities.”

S&T Snapshot: Netherlands-U.S. Cybersecurity R&D Partnership Is Thriving

“Cybersecurity is a global sport!” That is the worldview Dr. Douglas Maughan takes when it comes to fighting cyber-threats. Maughan, director of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Cyber Security Division (CSD), uses that phrase to spotlight the partnerships S&T has with numerous government and international cybersecurity entities around the world.

Because of this need for a global focus, CSD has established active partnerships with cybersecurity organizations in 13 countries—including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Israel—and an international body—the European Union.

A shining example of a mutually beneficial partnership is the cooperative relationship CSD enjoys with its counterparts in the Netherlands: the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the country’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), part of the Ministry of Security and Justice.

The U.S.-Dutch research-and-development (R&D) partnership spans numerous years and encompasses a range of activities, capped most recently with the announcement of an innovative $2.6million funding opportunity that promotes the formation of joint U.S.-Dutch research teams.

The goal of this newest initiative—announced mid-May—is to strengthen R&D collaboration between top cybersecurity researchers from both nations. The two research focus areas for the bilateral call are Industrial Control Systems/Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Distributed Denial of Service Defenses. In all, the partners plan to fund up to five unified research proposals that detail a full program of work to be conducted by teams comprised of academia, industry and laboratory (U.S. only) researchers from both countries. Continue reading

DHS S&T Awards VTO Inc. $928K for Drone Forensics R&D

 Washington, DC—To increase law enforcement capabilities to identify, collect and analyze evidentiary data from consumer and professional drones, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has awarded a $928,541 research-and-development contract to VTO Inc. of Broomfield, Colorado.

The award is part of the S&T Cyber Security Division’s (CSD) Cyber Forensics project, which develops cost-effective and novel cyber forensics solutions that help law enforcement keep pace with advances in technology. The project 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.

“Drones are an emerging area of interest for law enforcement because they contain data that may be key in criminal investigations,” said Acting DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “Like other digital devices such as computers and phones, law enforcement agencies require new capabilities to recover evidence from drones and their cameras, sensors and other devices. This project will deliver these capabilities.”

The drone forensics work will focus on conducting cutting-edge research that will address key aspects of collecting digital forensics data from drone systems. During the research, VTO will target the identification and definition of the various data types residing on drones and their connected systems, including drone board systems, flight controllers, connected mobile devices and computers, onboard cameras, and network communications between a drone and its controller. The company also will seek to identify each drone’s data-acquisition method, including logical and physical acquisition opportunities such as circuit board-level interface (JTAG) and flash-memory removal (chip-off) to identify data artifacts on drones. Continue reading