DHS S&T: Recognizing a Year in Critical Infrastructure Innovation

This November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recognizes the importance of increasing the resilience of our most core societal functions in an ever-changing technological landscape.October was Cybersecurity Awareness month, and it leads us into this month’s critical infrastructure focus with good reason: cyber innovation is forever transforming how the 16 essential sectors of critical infrastructure are managed.

Commercial facilities, transportation, healthcare, financial services, nuclear reactors and government facilities, to mention a few, are all things the average citizen relies on to function each day. They are all susceptible to cyber attacks, and they still need the resilience to withstand other natural and manmade catastrophes.

Here are a few noteworthy S&T efforts that have directly impacted our nation’s critical infrastructure this year.

SAFETY Act – The S&T Office of SAFETY Act Implementation, responsible for approving anti-terrorism technologies for insurance coverage under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act, approved its 1000th technology this year. Thanks to the SAFETY Act, various sports facilities, malls and other commercial buildings can maintain state-of-the-art security systems, and citizens can enjoy walking about those facilities feeling protected.

Flood Sensors – Our Flood Apex program has continued to collaborate with communities around the country to ensure they can be prepared in the event of a storm surge. We have partnered with industry and local emergency managers to install flood sensors that alert first responder agencies of rising water levels and collect data, powering efforts to reduce future flood damage. Data from our sensors in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, has served as the backbone for the Flood Information and Notification System, and this effort continues to expand to other regions. With such devastating hurricanes making their mark between 2017 and 2018, many communities will rely on better data to get them through these seasons.

Decision Support System for Water Infrastructure Security (DSS-WISE) – Also in the realm of flood-proofing, S&T has created a modeling and simulation tool for dam failure situations. DSS-WISE provides communities with a course of action in these events, simulating potential inundation zones, informing evacuation processes and repair strategies. This added preparation saves communities thousands of dollars in dam safety studies, and millions in damages. It also saves lives. Efforts to improve DSS-WISE have been underway through S&T’s partnership with the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE).

Cyber Risk Economics (CYRIE) – Through the CYRIE project, S&T coordinates high-level research and development efforts in cybersecurity. These involve modeling and evaluating different economic aspects of cyber threats to improve the cybersecurity posture of Homeland Security Enterprise partners. This year, S&T invested in a forecasting platform to update critical infrastructure owners on the latest cybersecurity tools available to them. CYRIE continues to help S&T and our collaborators deliver optimal cyber risk management incentives for public and private sector organizations. Recently, we released our Cyber Risk Economics Capability Gaps Research Strategy, which we hope will help close the gap between research and practice by apprising the research community of real-world cyber risk economics challenges, and, ultimately, inform evidence-based policy and actions by industry and government.

What we all need

Whether you live in the city or the country, near the beach or at the foot of a mountain, the nation’s critical infrastructure is the backbone of your community. A weakness in one sector could easily be a weakness in another. As cyber innovation continues to bridge these different sectors together into a holistic network, homeland security depends, more than ever, on our shared consideration of each one and how it factors into the big picture.


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