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Boston shut down as bombing suspects chased down

Boston bombing
suspects

The greater Boston area is shut down with bus and subway service suspended and local businesses and universities closed, as federal and local authorities chase down two men believed to have carried out the Boston Marathon bombings.

One suspect, pictured in photos and video released by the FBI the evening of April 18, is dead, apparently after a shootout and car chase with police. The other suspect, who was also in the released pictures and video, remains at large prompting early morning warnings from police for residents in the Boston suburb of Watertown and adjacent suburban towns to remain indoors.

Reportedly, the men shot and killed a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (MIT), MA, and wounded a transit authority officer the night of April 18, about five hours after the FBI publicly released the suspects’ photos. The two men also reportedly carjacked a vehicle and lead police on a chase in which the suspects reportedly hurled explosives at their pursuers.

One suspect was pronounced dead at a local hospital after the shootout.

Police and federal authorities have called both suspects extremely dangerous and “terrorists,” with reports saying the remaining man could have explosives with him, or on him.

The Associated Press reported early on April 19, that the men are brothers from Chechnya and have lived in the U.S. for one year and also identified the living suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, MA.

The unprecedented, dramatic events began to unfold just after 5 p.m. on April 18 after the FBI at a press conference unveiled video capture and photos of the two men captured by private security cameras at a downtown department store near the finish line of the April 15 marathon.

At around 10 p.m., reports of a shooting near the MIT campus at a 7-11 store in Middlesex County, MA, came in and a subsequent carjacking. A statement from the Middlesex County district attorney the evening of April 18 said an MIT campus police officer responding to a report of a disturbance in the area of Vasser and Main streets was reportedly shot.  According to authorities, the officer was found evidencing multiple gunshot wounds.  He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody. A second suspect was able to flee from that car and there is an active search going on at this point in time," Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, told a news conference later that night.

Law enforcement, homeland security, White House vow to find Boston bomber

Copley
Square
explosion

Federal, state and local investigators are in the initial stages of tracking down the person or persons responsible for two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and wounded over 100, but said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The latest details to emerge from the afternoon of chaos in the city included news that the bombs  -- which were stuffed in trashcans near the race route  -- contained ball bearings or BBs meant to cause even more substantial injuries to bystanders.

A third device, which didn’t detonate, was found near the race grandstand at the finish line. Federal authorities have also told news organizations that the explosive devices were small and didn’t contain high explosives like C-4.

The New York Times reported two additional explosive devices were found in downtown Boston. Security measures in other U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. and New York City, have been stepped up in response to potential future attacks, as have security measures in cities across the world, including London, where another marathon event is scheduled in the coming weeks.

Three people, including an eight year old boy, were killed in the blasts that occurred within 100 yards of one another near Boston’s Copley Square. More than 140 were injured, some grievously, with shrapnel injuries that first responders likened to battlefield wounds.

Many of the wounded included children and a two-year-old child was being treated at Boston’s Children’s Hospital for critical head injuries.

A motive for the attacks has yet to be determined. No person or organization, foreign or domestic, has claimed responsibility.

The Pakistan Taliban, which has threatened to carry out domestic attacks on the U.S. denied responsibility for the attack the evening of April 15.

“The situation remains fluid, and it remains too early to establish the cause and motivation,” said an FBI statement issued at 9 p.m. on April 15.

Hours before, in a televised statement president Obama said it was unclear who was behind it, but whoever it was would “feel the full weight of justice.” White House officials have called the incident an act of terrorism.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, like other federal agency officials in Washington sent her condolences to the families of the dead and injured and added that her agency is providing “any support necessary” for the investigation. She also encouraged vigilance in the aftermath of the attack.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and other members of the committee, including ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) in an April 15 statement said much the same, offering thoughts and prayers for the victims and thanks to first responders and the public for their actions in the minutes after the bombs went off and as the investigation moved forward.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) vowed to “get to the bottom of this” and use the information gathered along the way to bolster future defenses.

GSN 2012 Awards announced: White House deputy of homeland security recognized for leadership at annual gala

GSN Awards 2012

Hundreds of the best of the homeland security community’s federal, state and municipal government officials, government contractors, systems integrators, IT vendors and physical security product and solutions providers all came together the night of November 29 in a ballroom of the Washington, D.C. convention center to receive accolades.

The GSN awards dinner, which has become a Washington tradition over the last four years, offered a chance for the excellence and civic-minded spirit of homeland security efforts nationwide to be recognized.

Not only were the best tools and technologies acknowledged , but the people and groups who use them, from local police departments in Florida and Washington state, to the White House, were honored at the event.

During the awards ceremonies, Richard Reed, Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security, received the second annual Government Security News/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation in Public Safety and Security. Reed was chosen for tireless work in his key role in leading the development of national policy related to resilience, transborder security and community partnerships. He has been described as the president’s eyes and ears during disasters. In crises, such as the Gulf oil spill, H1N1 pandemic, and Haiti earthquake, Reed has sprung into action at the White House, coordinating information and gathering people to cope with these catastrophes.

Reed told Government Security News in an interview after the dinner that gatherings like GSN’s awards ceremony were invaluable in demonstrating that the hard work of creating a resilient, strong response to crises is performed by thousands of individuals, like those in attendance. Gatherings that bring the diverse emergency response and homeland security communities together can broaden perspectives and spur new ideas, he said.

Reed has been a determined, mostly behind-the-scenes, captain of federal emergency response efforts during the Bush and Obama administrations, helping prepare for, and respond to, some of the worst natural disasters the nation has known, from one of the deadliest tornado seasons in history in the Midwest, to historic wild fires in the west, and massive storms in the eastern U.S.

Reed said the key to capable response to such staggering events lies not only in federal hands, but in enabling state, local and even personal responses. Getting resources and training in place before disasters happen goes a long way in an effective response and recovery, he said. “The true first responders are friends, neighbors and co-workers” in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, said Reed. Local police, firefighters and other agencies arrive second, he said. Enabling people with information concerning what resources are available or where they can go for help or supplies empowers them, said Reed.

Government Security News managing partner Adrian Courtenay has made the GSN/Raytheon award an annual tradition. The prize is sponsored by the Raytheon Company, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world, which is headquartered in Waltham, MA.

Notable 2012 government excellence award winners included the local police departments in Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL, for their ground-breaking work in preparing for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this past summer. The departments put together comprehensive plans to gently defuse potentially volatile political demonstrations at the event. Both departments were also praised for implementing an innovative interoperable communications network during the GOP convention.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was recognized for its groundbreaking work on a small radiation detector. The Naval Air Systems Command won an award for its work on the Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance program, which developed an aerostat for long-term surveillance capabilities to protect ground soldiers in Afghanistan.

The complete list of GSN’s 2012 Award winners appears below: 

CATEGORY 1 – VENDORS OF IT SECURITY PRODUCTS AND SOLUTIONS

 

Best Anti-Malware Solution

 

Invincea

 

Best Identity Management Platform

 

Alert Enterprise

 

Best Certificate Management Solution

 

Entrust

 

Best Compliance /Vulnerability Assessment Solution

 

Agiliance

 

Best Data Security/Loss Management Solution

 

WAVE Systems

 

Best Endpoint Security Solution

 

StillSecure

 

Best Forensic Software

 

Silvertail

 

Best Intelligence Data Fusion and Collaborative Analysis Solution

 

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

 

Best Intrusion Detection/Prevention Solution

 

Intellidyne

Vanguard Integrity Professionals

 

Best Network Security/Enterprise Firewall

 

Black Lotus

 

Best Privileged Access Management Solution

 

Kikusema

Xceedium

 

Best Real-Time Dynamic Network Analysis

 

Fidelis Security

 

Best Continuous Monitoring Solution

 

ForeScout

Redseal

 

Best Security Incident/Event Management Solution (SIEM)

 

NetIQ

 

CATEGORY 2 – VENDORS OF PHYSICAL SECURITY PRODUCTS & SOLUTIONS

 

PHYSICAL SECURITY ACCESS CONTROL & INDENTIFICATION

 

Best Biometric Identification Solution

 

Fulcrum Biometrics

 

Best Integrated System for HSPD 12/FIPS 201 Compliance

 

Brivo

 

Best Platform for Physical and Logical Access

 

Alert Enterprise

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

Best Interoperable First Responder Communications

 

Covia Labs

 

Best Mass Notification Systems

 

AtHoc

 

Best Regional or National Public Safety Communications Deployment

 

Desktop Alert

 

DETECTION PRODUCTS

 

Best Explosives Detection Solution

 

AS&E

 

Best Long Range Detection Systems

 

Vidisco

 

Best Nuclear/Radiation Detection

 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

 

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE

 

Best Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution

 

Panasonic

 

Best Thermal/Night Vision/Infrared Cameras

 

HGH Infrared Systems

Vumii

 

Best Network IP Cameras

 

Axis Communications

 

Best Video Storage/Digital Transmission Systems

 

Panasonic

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

 

Best Perimeter Protection Solution

 

Senstar

 

Best Crash Barriers

 

Nasatka

 

Best Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) Solution

 

NICE Systems

 

SERVICES

 

Best Disaster Preparedness or Disaster Recovery & Clean-up Service

 

High-Rise Escape Systems

 

Best Facility Security/Force Protection Service

 

Whitestone Group

 

Best Homeland Security Training/Higher Education Solutions

 

Bellevue University

 

Category 3: Government Security News 2012 Government Excellence Awards

 

Most Notable Airport Security Award

 

Defense Manpower Agency

 

Most Notable Maritime/Port Security Program

 

Ohio Department of Public Safety/Northern Border Initiative

 

Most Notable Railroad/Mass Transit Security Program

 

Denver Regional Transportation Authority

 

Most Notable Critical Infrastructure Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital, Tucson, AZ

 

Most Notable Cyber Security Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Department of Energy

 

Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation

 

U.S. National Guard

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

 

Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter-Terrorism Program

 

Orange County Intelligence Assessment Fusion Center

 

Most Notable Municipal/County Programs, Projects or Initiatives

 

Seattle, Washington Police Department

Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida Police Departments

 

Federal Government

 

Naval Air Systems Command (Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance)

GSN 2012 Homeland Security Awards program open for entries

The Government Security News 2012 Homeland Security Awards Program officially opened for entries on May 1, once again featuring 45 Awards in three broad Categories:Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

Returning as corporate Sponsors of the 2012 Program are BRS Laboratories of Houston, TX -- a leading software development company for video behavioral recognition software that deploys easily and rapidly on large scale video networks and provides actionable information without inundating end users with false alarms -- and Entrust, Inc. , of Dallas, TX, which offers physical/logical access, mobile security, certificate management and other identity-based solutions to governments and large enterprises.  Additional sponsors will be announced, and profiles of all 2012 sponsors, will be published in coming weeks. Companies interested in joining the ranks of sponsors of the 2012 Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

The cost to submit an entry in the 2012 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies. Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

According Adrian Courtenay, managing partner of World Business Media, several new categories created in 2011 to acknowledge successful initiatives of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and preventing crime will again be included in 2012. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local”; “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local”; and “Most Notable Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program”.

In the 2011 contest, the Bastrop Country, TX, Unified Command (including county, state and federal government agencies) was awarded the trophy for “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation” in battling 2011 Texas wildfires in Bastrop County. The United States Customs and Border Protection, Detroit Sector, was winner in the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction or Arrest” category for a dramatic arrest on St. Clair River in Detroit, and the Los Angeles Police Department was recognized for having the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program.”

Another category that was new in 2011, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military”, will also be continued, in recognition of the emergence of Cyber Security as a vitally important component of overall security for any nation. The winner of this award in 2011 was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2012 Awards Program will once again culminate with a gala awards dinner in the fall, at a venue to be announced shortly. In the 2011 program, the “GSN/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation” was introduced and presented to Admiral Thad Allen (US Coast Guard-ret.), who came out of retirement twice in recent years to serve his country, first in heading up the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and later in managing the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In remarks for the 2011 Awards Dinner audience, Admiral Allen said the continuing work of technology companies and first responders was key in any disaster. He urged everyone to become a “lifelong rapid learner” to better cope with disasters, both man-made and natural. He also said “reconciling opportunity and competency” when disaster strikes is essential to any effective recovery, and being on top of the latest, most effective technology is a product of being a lifelong rapid learner. He also said clear communications is also a key to effective response and amplified his call for a nationwide interoperable first responder radio network. 

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/, and video interviews with Admiral Allen, as well as sponsors and winners in the 2011 Awards program, are available at the GSN Video Center at www.gsnmagazine.com/videocenter.

Entry forms and other information about the 2012 Awards Program are available at www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2012/welcome.

GSN 2011 Awards Program opens for entries on April 26

Government Security News has announced that its 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program  will officially open for business and start accepting entries in the program’s 45 awards categories on Tuesday, April 26.

The 2011 program contains a number of exciting new categories, reflecting the dynamically changing threat environment, in all three of the overall awards groupings: Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions, and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

The cost for each entry in the 2011 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies.

Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

Adrian Courtenay, Managing Partner of GSN’s parent company, World Business Media, LLC, cited two intriguing new categories in the government sector that have been selected to acknowledge solid “boots on the ground” achievements of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and stopping crime. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local” and “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local.”

Acknowledging the increasing importance of cyber security and the threat of cyber war among nation-states, Courtenay also pointed out that the government awards in 2010 have been expanded to include a category titled, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military.”

Returning for its third year as a sponsor of the GSN Awards Program is founding sponsor ArcSight, now a business unit of Hewlett Packard Software and Solutions, whose enterprise threat and risk platform is an integrated product for collecting, analyzing and assessing security and risk information. ArcSight is also a repeat winner in the GSN awards program for its Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) products for collecting, analyzing and assessing security incident event information.

Also returning as event sponsors are General Dynamics C4, located in Phoenix, AZ, a major developer and integrator of secure communications and information systems and technology; and  Mutualink, another GSN award winner, which creates networks of interoperable communities that can instantly share radio, voice, text, video and data files, and telephone communications in a secure environment.

The fourth and final sponsor to date in the 2011 Awards Program is Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc., of Houston, TX, also known as BRS Labs, whose software uses the fascinating, scientifically developed cognitive reasoning and artificial intelligence of behavioral analytics to leverage a stream of intelligence from millions of surveillance cameras worldwide, in order to provide alerts regarding abnormal or suspicious behavior.

Profiles of each of the 2011 sponsors will be posted on the GSN Web site in the coming weeks.

Additional companies or organizations interested in joining the ranks of 2011 sponsors of the GSN 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

According to Courtenay, the 2011 Awards Program will culminate with the annual awards dinner in early November at a venue to be announced shortly. “It’s going to be hard to top last year’s elegant dinner and spectacular after-dinner keynote presentation by four-star General Barry McCaffrey (USA-Ret.). But we’re going to try!”

In 2010, the GSN awards were presented to a sold-out ballroom at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, that included many distinguished government and military officials, academics, law enforcement and public safety professionals from across the country, along with the systems integrators, defense contractors and vendors of products and solutions used in homeland security.

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at:

www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/.

Further information and entry forms for the 2011 Awards Program are available at:

www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2011/welcome.

Obama seeks three percent hike in discretionary budget at DHS

Despite official murmurings a few months ago that the fiscal year 2011 budget request for DHS might decline slightly, the budget package unveiled on February 1 actually shows a three percent increase in “discretionary spending” by DHS in 2011, versus the prior year, and modest growth, at approximately the predicted rate of inflation, in the outer years.

“The total fiscal year 2011 budget request for DHS, including fee funded and mandatory spending, is $56.3 billion, a two percent increase over the fiscal year 2010 enacted level,” said Peggy Sherry, the acting  chief financial officer at DHS, in a telephone conference call with journalists on February 1. “The department’s fiscal year 2011 net discretionary or appropriated funding request is $43.6 billion, an increase of three percent over the fiscal year 2010 enacted level.”

In releasing his overall budget request, President Obama proposed a freeze in government spending for a portion of the discretionary domestic spending plan for three years, but he specifically exempted homeland security expenditures from that freeze. “It won’t apply to our national security – including benefits for veterans,” said Obama in remarks he made in the White House on February 1.

Some observers speculated that the slight bump up in DHS spending may have resulted from the nationwide trauma caused by the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing attempt, and the urgent call for stronger screening measures at the country’s airports. However, a DHS official who participated on the conference call with journalists, but requested anonymity, would not attribute the budget increase to that terrorist attack.

“As part of the budget process, we examined different scenarios and options,” explained the official. “Those are discussions that are internal to the Administration and what you see in the budget release today is the end product of all those budget deliberations.”

Among the thousands of individual line-items for specific programs and planned procurements are the following highlights:

Advanced imaging systems – The 2011 budget requests an additional $214.1 million to install about 500 extra advance imaging technology machines at airport checkpoints, above and beyond the 500 systems that had already been planned. These funds will place such whole body scanners in 75 percent of the country’s largest airports, said Sherry.

Explosive detection – Beyond body scanners, DHS will seek an additional $85 million to bolster international flight coverage by federal air marshals, an increase in $60 million for an additional 800 explosive trace detection machines and a $71 million bump up to pay for an additional 275 K-9 teams at airport check points.

Border Patrol – The new budget envisions a decrease of 180 personnel in the ranks of the Border Patrol, which will be achieved largely through attrition. A DHS official suggested that the overall operating effectiveness of the Border Patrol will not be affected by this decline in personnel slots because the Border Patrol has almost doubled in size during the past five years. “A lot of the agent workforce, the substantial portion of it, has only a couple of years experience,” said this DHS official. “As they become more seasoned and more mature in their jobs, their effectiveness will increase, and because we are not doing the extensive hiring of 2,000 to 3,000 new agents a year, we can afford to put less into training improvement.”

Cyber-security – By contrast, DHS is planning a substantial beef-up in its cyber-security efforts. The new budget seeks $379 million to develop the National Cyber Security Division, which will attempt to safeguard the dot.gov and dot.com domains, and limit the nation’s vulnerability to computer attacks. DHS wants to add another $5 million to the $5 million that was in last year’s budget for the National Cyber Security Center, which one DHS official characterized as “still in its infancy.” The budget envisions an increase in the Center’s staffing to 40 people and the enhancement of its expertise, so it can integrate with other cyber-centers throughout the federal government.

Terror trials – Contrary to media reports that a terror trial in Manhattan might require a billion dollars in security measures, the 2011 budget request for DHS includes only $200 million for such security measures, which would be available through the traditional urban area grant programs. “The department took a look at it and we think $200 million is really our best estimate of the costs,” said the DHS official.

Federal contracting – In what it calls “re-balancing the workforce,” DHS is planning to rely less on outside vendors and more on internally recruited and trained personnel, particularly in the areas of cyber-security --  where DHS is authorized to hire as many as 1,000 new cyber-specialists – and the intelligence work often referred to as “connecting the dots.” “In our analysis and operations activity, we have a major increase in the number of feds doing intelligence type work,” said Sherry.

Coast Guard – A DHS fact sheet issued by the Office of Management and Budget points out that the budget request includes $538 million for a fifth National Security Cutter and $240 million to produce four new Fast Response Cutters. Even so, the new budget seeks funds for 1,100 fewer active duty Coast Guard personnel. “We are looking to reorganize and restructure certain elements of the Coast Guard to create greater efficiency,” explained a DHS official, “and there are obviously tradeoffs made as part of that to ensure we could continue to recapitalize the Coast Guard.”

President Obama’s budget request was delivered to Capitol Hill and will now undergo months of scrutiny by lawmakers. Fiscal year 2011 begins officially on October 1, 2010.

SEC Commission Statement and Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures

In light of the increasing significance of cybersecurity incidents, the Commission believes it is necessary to provide further Commission guidance. This interpretive release outlines the Commission’s views with respect to cybersecurity disclosure requirements under the federal securities laws as they apply to public operating companies. While the Commission continues to consider other means of promoting appropriate disclosure of cyber incidents, we are reinforcing and expanding upon the staff’s 2011 guidance. In addition, we address two topics not developed in the staff’s 2011 guidance, namely the importance of cybersecurity policies and procedures and the application of insider trading prohibitions in the cybersecurity context.

First, this release stresses the importance of maintaining comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity risks and incidents. Companies are required to establish and maintain appropriate and effective disclosure controls and procedures that enable them to make accurate and timely disclosures of material events, including those related to cybersecurity. Such robust disclosure controls and procedures assist companies in satisfying their disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws.

Second, we also remind companies and their directors, officers, and other corporate insiders of the applicable insider trading prohibitions under the general antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and also of their obligation to refrain from making selective disclosures of material nonpublic information about cybersecurity risks or incidents.

The Commission, and the staff through its filing review process, continues to monitor cybersecurity disclosures carefully.

 

Read the full statement.

 

 

Attorney General Sessions Announces New Cybersecurity Task Force

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the creation of the Justice Department’s Cyber-Digital Task Force, which will canvass the many ways that the Department is combatting the global cyber threat, and will also identify how federal law enforcement can more effectively accomplish its mission in this vital and evolving area.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Attorney General Sessions said.  “At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously.  That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe.”

The Task Force will be chaired by a senior Department official appointed by the Deputy Attorney General and will consist of representatives from the Department’s Criminal Division, the National Security Division, the United States Attorney’s Office community, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the ATF, FBI, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The Deputy Attorney General may invite representatives from other Department of Justice components and from other federal agencies to participate in the Task Force. He may also establish subcommittees to focus the Task Force’s efforts.

The Task Force will be responsible for issuing a report to the Attorney General by the end of June. 

The Attorney General has asked the Task Force to prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.  The scope of the Task Force’s report is not limited to these categories.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Cybersecurity for the Nation’s Election

WASHINGTON - Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) participation in a series of coordination meetings with state and local election officials, private sector companies, and federal partners to discuss cybersecurity for the nation’s election infrastructure.

“The American public’s confidence that their vote counts -- and is counted correctly -- relies on secure election infrastructure. The first primaries of the 2018 midterm election cycle are just around the corner, and DHS and our federal, state and local partners have been working together for more than a year to bolster the cybersecurity of the nation’s election infrastructure. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Executive Board of the National Association of Secretaries of States, who were in town along with representatives from all 50 states and a number of local jurisdictions for a series of meetings and briefings on this important issue. I thanked them for their partnership and pledged the Department will continue its support to state and local election officials, primarily through sharing timely and actionable threat information and offering cybersecurity services.”

A readout of DHS meetings with state election officials and other election sector partners:

WASHINGTON – Last week, senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) participated in a series of coordination meetings with state and local election officials, private sector companies, and federal partners to discuss cybersecurity for the nation’s election infrastructure.

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

DHS, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), and state and local election officials convened a meeting of the Government Coordinating Council (GCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector.  The GCC was established in October and provides a well-tested mechanism for sharing threat information between the federal government and council partners, advancing risk management efforts, and prioritizing focus of services available to sector partners in a trusted environment. 

DHS met with private sector election industry representatives in Arlington, Va., who had gathered to formally establish a Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector, the private sector counterpart to the GCC.  This GCC-SCC structure is used by the 16 critical infrastructure sectors to facilitate joint engagement with government and private sector entities and to coordinate security and resilience efforts.  The charter organizations of the SCC for the Election Infrastructure Subsector include 25 private sector and non-government organizations (listed below).

Friday, Feb. 16, 2018

On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen met with the NASS Executive Board to discuss DHS’ commitment to working with state election officials on cybersecurity for the midterm elections and beyond.

In addition, DHS joined together with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to sponsor classified briefings for election officials from all 50 states.  A similar briefing occurred on Sunday, February 18, 2018. These briefings focused on increasing awareness of foreign adversary intent and capabilities against the states’ election infrastructure, as well as a discussion of threat mitigation efforts.

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018

On Saturday, DHS met with Secretaries of State and other chief election officials at the NASS Winter Conference and National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) Winter Conference.  National Protection and Programs Directorate Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary Chris Krebs and Acting Deputy Under Secretary Bob Kolasky addressed attendees at the NASS conference.  Acting Deputy Under Secretary Kolasky then met with NASED.  At both conferences, DHS reiterated the department’s commitment to working with election officials and system owners to support their efforts and determine where DHS support adds the most value. The department lends its expertise and services to election partners on a voluntary basis, including risk and vulnerability assessments, cyber hygiene scans, providing real-time threat intelligence feeds, issuing security clearances to state officials, partnering on incident response planning, and delivering cybersecurity training.

South Korea wins Most Powerful Passport in the World - New record position shared with Singapore

MONTREAL, Feb. 20, 2018 - The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games isn't the only thing South Korea is proud of this February. As the world tunes in, South Korea takes the lead with the world's most powerful passport. Ranking with an impressive visa-free score of 162, South Korea joins Singapore at the top of The Passport Index ranking for the first time, ever.

The Passport Index is the world authority on passport ranking. Used by governments from around the world to monitor and increase the power of their passports, The Passport Index is the most recognized and trusted service with over 12 million users and counting.
South Korea tied with Singapore as the most powerful passport in the world (CNW Group/Passport Index)

Although European countries historically dominated the charts, with Germany at the top, 2017 saw the rise of Asia. In late 2017 Singapore took the lead as the first Asian country ever to top the world's most powerful passports. By December 2017, Germany caught up but it wasn't for too long.

"We are currently seeing not one but two Asian countries with the most powerful passports in the world," shared Armand Arton founder and president of Arton Capital. "This is a testament to the increased global respect and trust Asian countries are commanding," added Arton.

Recent changes were mainly driven by Uzbekistan granting visa-free access to South Korea and Singapore, as well as recent adjustments to visa policies in Somalia. With South Korea's visa-free score of 162, South Korean passport holders have access to many European, North American and Asian countries, including The United States of America, Canada, Russia and others.

Japan quietly moved up to number two place in the Global Passport Power ranking with a visa-free score of 161. Although tied with Germany, Japan has fewer visa-free waivers than Germany which puts it fourth in the Individual Passport Power Ranking. The Passport Index gives equal scores to both visa-free and visa on arrival conditions that add up to make the country's visa-free score.

"Thanks to The Passport Index' first-ever and unique real-time ranking, we are able to witness the volatility of the passport power trends," shared Arton. Daily changes affect the positions of most passports but it is important to note that overall the world is opening up. According to Arton, "People don't like imaginary borders that set boundaries to their opportunities in life." "Having multiple passports has become the new norm and people who haven't invested in this privilege feel anxious and left out," added Arton.

The World Openness Score as measured by The Passport Index has never been higher and has passed the 19,000 mark for the first time. The World Openness Score monitors how frictionless global travel is and since its inception in 2014, it has gained over 1,000 points.

The Passport Index issues eye-catching certificates to top position holders. Referred to as "art pieces," past certificates have been issued to Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and others.

Between South Korea's charming countryside dotted with cherry trees, century old Buddhist temples, iconic sub-tropical islands, and ambitiously diverse cities such as Seoul, it is its moment to boast its 5000+ years of history and culture for the world to admire.

"Passion. Connected." is the official slogan for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics hosted in South Korea. "The new slogan embodies our vision to expand winter sports participation to a truly global audience and encourage people to create and share their once-in-a-lifetime experiences at PyeongChang," said PyeongChang Organizing Committee President, Yang-ho Cho.

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About The Passport Index
The Passport Index is the world authority on real-time global passport ranking. Used by governments from around the world to monitor and increase the power of their passports, The Passport Index is the most recognized and trusted service with over 12 million users to date. Users enjoy in the fascinating world of passports, explore their designs, sort them (by country, region and even by color), compare them side-by-side, and see how to improve their Global Mobility Score.

SOURCE Passport Index

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