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US Homeland Security Structures and Technologies

Water Supply

With the advancement in technology around the world, almost every system is exposed to cyber threats, which have become more common than before. Unlike in the last century, where computer systems registered the highest risk of cyber threats, every company today is a potential target for hackers or has been a victim of these malicious people who aim at interfering with the normal running of systems for their personal gain (Britt, 2005). Even though hacking is outlawed, cases of these crimes and other related activities are reported daily. While it might be hard to understand, water supply systems have become victims of hacking. Cases of water systems being attacked and vandalized by hackers have become common in the United States and other parts of the world. In this context, it is important to consider the level of preparedness and awareness for private and local authorities with regard to the current trends. This is important in establishing mitigations strategies.

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Even though cases of hacking in water systems have become real, there is a likelihood that local and private authorities do not understand the potential attacks of cyber threats on water systems (Fouda, 2005). A cyber attack on a water system in Springfield in September 2011 left the pump destroyed. Importantly, the hackers were only discovered after SCADA developed functional problems, which forced security experts to investigate. It was concluded that hackers might have accessed the system several days before being discovered, thus questioning our preparedness with regard to threats posed by hackers to the water supply.

In order to deal with the problem of hacking, it is important for all stakeholders to be involved in the entire process. For instance, hacking mainly occurs online, even though it can also take place offline. With the massive use of the internet, water systems are not exempted from being targeted by hackers. It is, therefore, important to protect the entire system from possible loopholes (Fouda, 2005). One of the ways is through safe-emailing. Since communication has widely become online, it is important to have programs and software, which identify malicious emails from being received by the system. This would ensure that hackers do not notice emails sent from the system. Spam-blocking software can also be used to filter emails, such that only genuine and standard mails are received.

Importantly, local and private authorities have to improve the web security of the water supply system. This will ensure that the system’s IP address is well-protected from malicious people. Through settings and the use of IT programs, secure browsing is necessary to promote the security of the system (Vylkov, 2010). Employees also have to know the risk of visiting some sites, which expose the system to hackers. Private information should also be cleared from the system so that people with ill-intentions cannot track the system through its web history.

Another way through which the water supply system can be protected from hackers is by use of the Internet Relay Chat. Essentially, the system should be protected against intruders, who trick internet users in order to access their IRC or track conversations. While some of these files are common, it is important to be cautious about them in order to keep hackers at bay (Godwin, 2012). In general, hacking of the water system can be prevented through IT solutions, and the creation of awareness among stakeholders. Above all, guarding the system’s data and private information has great significance in lowering attack risks.

Information Technology (IT) and Cyber-security

In the wake of cyber threats to the U.S. security and economy, there have been efforts to develop structures, which can shield the nation from these challenges. According to a 2010 report released by the White House, President Obama has been at the forefront in strengthening the nation’s cyberspace. The cybersecurity triad gives an analysis of these strategies, most of which have been initiated through legislative reviews and the creation of special units to address emerging issues regarding cyber security in the country (The White House, 2010). After assuming office, President Obama spearheaded several initiatives, which included the appointment of the country’s cyber coordinator, review of the cyberspace policy, and several legislative initiatives, focusing on a public and private network.

According to Rollins and Henning, the cybersecurity triad covers a wide-range of issues, which are intertwined with cyber threats. For instance, it talks about some of the major factors, which have contributed to the country’s inability to combat the problem successfully (Rollins & Henning, 2009). These include but are not limited to lack of enough resources and the public’s inability to appreciate cyber threats in the country. According to the Cyberspace Policy Review, which was released by President Obama’s government, the nation was assured of a reformed structure that was aimed at establishing a better strategy for the country’s cybersecurity. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security affirms that the legislation, which was introduced by the Congress after hearings, was viewed as the most significant in addressing cybercrime. The act basically proposed reforms to the current cybersecurity policy since it was inadequate in dealing with cyber threats (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011).

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On the other hand, Harknett and Stever focus on some of the major efforts, which have been applied in fighting cybercrime in the country. Their arguments are, however, based on the technological revolution, which the world has undergone in recent years. In particular, they feature nuclear technology, which has had significant implications for the country’s cyber security (Harknett & Stever, 2009). Even though current efforts to improve cybersecurity aim at radical reforms, it is important to consider some of the efforts, which were witnessed in the country’s history, regarding cyber war. In other words, the reforms should be based on previous strategies and technology that was used to tame cyber threats.

By considering the achievements of the nuclear era, it is important for reform efforts to be anchored on a stable and balanced triad, which fuses the efforts from different governments, the private sector, and the general public. In essence, the new policy has to involve holistic efforts, where everybody has a stake in the management of the country’s cyberspace (Harknett & Stever, 2009). It is believed that this collective responsibility has always been omitted in laying down strategies to deal with the emerging challenges of cybercrime. It is obvious that current efforts to deal with the problem of cybercrime cannot be successful without understanding the strides, which the country has made throughout history in dealing with the issue.

Intergovernmental hierarchy is important in creating a link between the federal government and states in terms of strategies and policies. This linkage is essential in advancing harmonic reforms, which aim at securing the country’s cyberspace. The involvement of public and private networks would ensure that the task is conceived as a collective responsibility for the country (Harknett & Stever, 2009). Lastly, it is important for the public to beware of existing cyber threats, government policies, and individual roles in achieving the target.

Emergency Responders: Threat Profiles & Organization

From past terror attacks in the United States, several lessons and conclusive remarks have been made, especially with regard to the country’s preparedness in disaster management. Some of these effects, from which the Congress and all Americans got significant insights, were the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 and the attacks of 9/11/01. Carafano states that these events exposed the country’s weaknesses with regard to emergency response in every state (Carafano, 2003). Was the response sufficient? How else would the country respond if the same events were to take place today?

In answering these questions, it has been found that a lack of interoperable public safety communication is the main challenge facing emergency first responder agencies around the country. This has affected the ability of these agencies to offer efficient services when responding to emergencies. What is interoperability? This refers to the ability of public safety personnel to relay or receive information from other staff members working in different agencies. Importantly, this communication has to be in real-time and on-demand in order to serve the general public efficiently. There are several problems, which have hampered the success of this form of communication, which is crucial while responding to emergency cases in the country. Some of these challenges have been discussed below.

The first problem is the nature of the communication spectrum, which is limited. It is important to note that the public safety radio channel refers to channels, which are finite and natural. In other words, they cannot be created by human beings. As a result, the communication spectrum has remained limited, thus affecting interoperable services. Due to this limitation, there is always congestion and intense interference, which affect efficient communication.

Another problem affecting interoperable public safety communication is characterized by funding limitations. Most of the existing communication systems cannot support modern technologies, which are needed in order to facilitate interoperable communication (DHS, 2011). Notably, the replacement of outdated systems is too expensive. However, this emanates from the fact that there is limited funding for respective agencies to acquire relevant equipment or upgrade existing ones. Additionally, these agencies have a hard task of convincing the public and other parties concerned about the need for better radio communication in promoting service delivery during emergency response.

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Similarly, interoperable public safety communication is faced with incompatible technologies. There is a variety of new radio technologies, which are becoming common as most agencies prepare to upgrade or overhaul their systems to meet the needs of the emerging technology. It has been noted that some manufacturers have continued to produce equipment, which cannot be used for the purpose of interoperable public safety communication (DHS, 2011). This incompatible technology hampers interoperability, even when the radios are operating within the same band frequencies. This state further affects the effectiveness of interoperable public safety communication agencies to respond effectively during critical moments.

The last problem facing interoperable public safety communication is the lack of system planning. It has been found that poor planning, which is conceived during the development of systems, has the potential of hampering interoperability. This is, however, not put into consideration when various jurisdictions around the country are procuring interoperable public safety communication equipment (DHS, 2011). Several issues of organizational, operational, and architectural have to be considered during this procurement procedure.

It is doubtless that the improvement of interoperability is essential in promoting interoperable public safety communication. For instance, there is a need for additional and expansion of the public safety spectrum, which is appropriate in addressing congestion and interference during communication. This improvement has to be made to improve interoperability. According to Waugh 2004, adequate government funding is necessary for the purpose of replacing and upgrading the system (Waugh, 2004, p. 373). This initiative would also allow the establishment of a shared system. Of great significance is the active involvement of all parties concerned in standard-setting initiatives in order to meet the needs of the public safety communication.

Technology & Homeland Security

This segment of the essay discusses some of these technologies, in the context of Jackson’s perception towards co-evolution of offense and defense in applying homeland security technologies. As discussed by Kaplan, the use of biological, radiological, and chemical weapons is essential in dealing with future security threats and challenges (Kaplan, 2007). It is important to note that previous applications of this technology primarily focused on different acts of terrorism. Notably, the current research has incorporated several elements, including major natural threats like the bird flu, which remain a challenge to humanity. There is need to develop better devices, which can be used to detect these hazards early enough before affecting the targeted people. Importantly, research efforts have to be stepped up to develop vaccines, which would be essential, especially in case of disease outbreak (Kaplan, 2007). In order to counteract all the possibilities of terrorists’ attack on the system, it is equally paramount to develop devices, which can deactivate and disable radioactive materials. This is vital during clean-up cases.

In addition, port security offers a wide-range of solutions to future homeland security threats in the country. In general, most ports consider water-based and land security as major challenges. As a result, there is need to develop systems, which can be used to address the problem holistically. In order to achieve port security, it is essential to initiate strategies like tracking of containers, for the sake of understanding their destination and content (Kaplan, 2007). Another measure, which is close to container tracking, is cargo screening. This ensures that every luggage being shipped for transportation is safe and that which is being imported to the country meets existing security requirements. Notably, there should be a system, which stores data that is collected at the port during the screening exercise. Through digital data entry, cargo officials can countercheck cargo details before getting to the next destination.

Besides these technologies, there are devices which have the potential of providing better solutions to future homeland security threats. For instance, there is immense potential in developing detection devices as a way of strengthening the security of the nation. For instance, X-ray systems offer promising opportunities for future application (Kaplan, 2007). A good example is the backscatter, which is also known as the millimeter wave machine. Due to the emerging and changing technology, this gadget was designed to allow scanning of a body without necessarily clothing it. Moreover, neutron resonance fluorescence imaging offers the best opportunities in cargo screening, even though it is still under development (Kaplan, 2007). According to experts, the technology allows the screening of luggage based on its atomic composition. This permits quick detection of any hazardous elements, which could be present in the luggage. As stated by Link and Henrich 2003, the only challenge experienced in the application of these technologies has always been the development of software with capability of interpreting readings on the same device, without being transferred to another machine (Link & Henrich, 2003, p. 363).

Another promising technology in advancing homeland security in the country is biometric identification. The principle behind biometrics is that it can identify a person based on a set of unique physical features. While this technology offers an array of opportunities, Kaplan affirms that the use of unique physical characteristics like finger prints is utilized in the identification of foreigners entering the country, using the US-VISIT program (Kaplan, 2007). Additionally, iris scan is used together with fingerprints. Others include but not limited to face recognition, authentication of palm veins, and retina scan. To protect these technologies from being interfered with by terrorists, it is important to monitor emerging trends in such technologies in order to initiate relevant upgrading or replacement strategies. Similarly, Jackson reiterates that the United State has made significant strides in developing technology that offers future solutions to protect the country from any form of attack (Jackson, 2009, p. 10). Nevertheless, this does not mean that research for advanced technologies does not continue.

Overall Course Review

Even though the United States has made tremendous achievements in fighting terrorism and in protecting its boarders, no one can claim that the country is free from security threats. In this line of thought, homeland security has a huge task of ensuring that the country’s security is not compromised at any given moment in history. As a result, there are several threats, which homeland security will have to confront as it aims at maintaining the country’s security (Gupta et al., 2010).

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According to the Department of Homeland Security, future security threats in the United States are likely to originate from small but dangerous groups around the world (DHS, 2007). Most of these groups may resort to cyber attacks as a way of unleashing terror and expanding their target spectrum. In line with this, Al Qaeda’s threat cannot be taken lightly even though its leader was killed by American forces. Notably, the organization of the group has been divided into several smaller groups around the world, and they may reestablish and unite efforts, especially by attacking the country’s cyberspace (Commission on Cyber security, 2011).

With ever-changing computer technology, it is doubtless that homeland security will have to face an array of related challenges. For example, malware and fraud have been identified as potential future threats for the country. This has been triggered by most hackers establishing a link between monetary benefits with internet fraud. According to Chittester and Haimes 2004, most of international hackers no longer do it for fun; they consider it to as a business, which has to earn them profit (Chittester & Haimes, 2004, p. 10). This has been heightened by massive use of the internet and exponential growth in computer technology. Money laundering is also likely to threaten homeland security, as criminals may opt for e-casinos in making money. This course has helped me to view homeland security as a crucial organ of the country’s security, mandated to perform an array of functions, which have far-reaching effects to the nation.

References

Britt, P. (2005). Ethical Hackers: Testing the Security Waters. Information Today, 22 (8), 1.

Carafano, J. J. (2003). Preparing responders to respond: The challenges to emergency preparedness in the 21st century. The Heritage Foundation. Web.

Chittester, C. & Haimes, Y. (2004). Risk of terrorism to information technology and to critical interdependent infrastructures. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 4 (4), 1-20.

Commission on Cyber security. (2011). Cyber security two years later. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web.

DHS. (2007). National Preparedness Goal. Department of Homeland Security. Web.

DHS. (2011). National Preparedness System. Department of Homeland Security. Web.

Fouda, H. (2005). Role of SCADA in Securing Critical Infrastructure. Waterworld, 21 (4), 11.

Godwin, A. (2012). Water and Wastewater Cyber Security: Strengthening the Chain. Waterworld, 28 (4), 20.

Gupta et al. (2010). Next generation 9-1-1: Architecture and challenges in realizing an IP-multimedia-based emergency service. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 7(1), 1-20.

Harknett, R. & Stever, J. (2009). The cybersecurity triad: Government, private sector partners, and the engaged cybersecurity citizen. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 6 (1), 1-16.

Jackson, B.A. (2009). Technology applications in homeland security: Adaptation and coevolution of offense and defense. Homeland Security Affairs, 5 (1), 1-16.

Kaplan, E. (2007). Homeland security technologies. Council on Foreign Relations-Backgrounder. Web.

Link, A. N., & Henrich, V. C. (2003). Deploying homeland security technology. Journal of Technology Transfer, 28, 363-368.

Rollins, J., & Henning, A. (2009). Comprehensive national cyber security initiative: Legal authorities and policy considerations. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Web.

The White House. (2010). The comprehensive national cyber security initiative. White House. Web.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2011). Blueprint for a secure cyber future: The cybersecurity strategy for the homeland security enterprise. Department of Homeland Security. Web.

Vylkov, V. (2010). The Cyber Threat: Protecting Your Power Plant Assets. Electric Perspectives, 35 (6), 54.

Waugh, W. L. (2004). Terrorism, homeland security and the national emergency management network. Public Organization Review, 3 (4), 373-385.

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