In my last blog post, I linked to President Obama’s proclamation announcing the start of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This week, I would like to discuss in more detail the cyber threats that we are facing as a Nation and as individuals. A key theme for this month is that cybersecurity is "our shared responsibility." Each one of us must take the time to increase our awareness of the cyber risks that are present every time we turn on our computers.
Just the other day, the media was breaking a story about the latest generation of malicious software designed to steal money from bank accounts. This "bank Trojan," called URLzone provides a sophisticated interface for managing theft from numerous accounts and deceives the account owner with false statements.
For years, research institutions have noted a steady increase in number of malicious programs that are being used to exploit the vulnerabilities of our computers. A vast percentage of all e-mail is spam, which tries to lure us into downloading software, visiting an infected website or social networking account, or even making a phone call in order to get us to reveal information useful for identity theft or to steal money. Many of these malicious actors are now sending out fake emails from the Internal Revenue Service.
Sophisticated cyber criminals are bypassing individual computer users and are attacking financial institutions. To them, the motivation is simple. Why steal one bank account record when you can steal millions? Fortunately, our law enforcement agencies have had some remarkable successes against key groups responsible for cyber attacks. Just last week, nearly 100 people were arrested in the United States and Egypt on charges of computer fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identify theft. Last month the U.S. Government convicted the individual responsible for the theft and sale of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers from numerous U.S. retailers with losses of more than $21 billion. You can learn more about federal law enforcement efforts in combating cyber crime here, here.
And then there are the botnets, which are large numbers of compromised computers that are controlled remotely by criminals or other malicious actors. Some computer experts have estimated that one quarter of all personal computers are part of a botnet. The Conficker worm has been around for about a year and has managed to spread into millions of machines through network connections and portable media such as thumb drives. These botnets appear to be used primarily for supporting criminal activities such as spam, but we worry that such large botnets could be used to launch unprecedented denial-of-service attacks against banking, government, or other important websites.
As you can see, the cyber threat is quite real. Every day dozens of Federal departments and agencies work with their industry partners to help mitigate these threats. And while we have made great strides thwarting the efforts of cyber criminals, more needs to be done. Next week, I will write more about the basic cybersecurity tips that every computer user should know and adopt.
John Brennan is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
"This is a bad flu, and it's a very safe vaccine, so under any analysis, you
should go ahead and get the vaccine."
From NPR, on an interview with ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton:
The way this country detains illegal immigrants is about to change dramatically - at least if the Obama administration follows through on a proposed overhaul unveiled this week. The man responsible for making it happen: John Morton, the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security. He tells host Guy Raz that the system has exploded in size and become too dependent on private contractors.
GUY RAZ, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz. This hour, stories of immigrants and the debate over how those who come in illegally are treated when they're caught.
This week, the Obama administration announced its intention to overhaul the way illegal immigrants are detained in our nation's prison system. About 400,000 people are detained each year for violating immigration law; many of them nonviolent offenders. The Department of Homeland Security released a report this week that describes a costly and wasteful penal system filled with people who pose little or no risk to the general population.
Well, the man charged with fixing that system is John Morton. He is assistant secretary for immigration and customs enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security.
Secretary Morton, welcome.
From the Los Angeles Times, on a visit to the Transportation Security Laboratory:
Eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the front line in America's war on terrorism runs through a little-known federal laboratory where engineer Nelson
Carey holds what appears to be a bratwurst in a bun.
"This is a Semtex sausage," said Carey, as he pinched the pink plastic explosive long favored by terrorist groups.
On his table lies a green Teletubby doll stuffed with C-4 military explosives, a leather sandal with a high-explosive shoe insert, an Entenmann's cake covered in an explosive compound that looks like white frosting, and other deadly devices Carey and his colleagues have built. None have detonators, so they are safe.
"We let our imaginations go wild," Carey said. "The types of improvised explosive devices are endless. "So are possible solutions, at least in theory. That's where the Transportation Security Laboratory comes in. Scientists here dream up ways an enemy might slip a weapon or a bomb onto a plane, and then try to build defenses to detect or counter the danger.
The work is part cutting-edge science, part Maxwell Smart.
Staffers have experimented by exploding more than 200 bombs on junked jetliners. They also have filled a warehouse with nearly 10,000 lost or abandoned suitcases and other packed luggage.
From the Los Angeles Times, on the challenges faced by the Coast Guard in the arctic:
Most days in Nome, you're not likely to run into anybody you didn't see at the Breakers Bar on Friday night. More than 500 roadless miles from Anchorage, rugged tundra and frigid Bering Sea waters have a way of discouraging visitors.
So it was a big deal when the World, a 644-foot residential cruise ship with condos costing several million dollars apiece, dropped anchor during the summer for a two-day look-see.
"We never had a ship anywhere near this size before," Chamber of Commerce director Mitch Erickson said. "My guess is they've probably been everywhere else in the world, and now they're going to the places most people haven't seen yet."
That's about to change.
The record shrinking of the polar ice cap is turning the forbidding waters at the top of the world into important new shipping routes.
Four other cruise ships also docked in Nome recently. The Coast Guard deployed its first small Arctic patrol vessels last year. Fleets of research vessels steamed north all summer, while ships surveying the vast oil and gas deposits under the Arctic seabed have talked of using Nome as a base.
1:30 PM EDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) National Communications System Regional Communications Coordinator Stephen Weinert will deliver remarks at the Michigan Emergency Management Conference
100 Grand Traverse Village Boulevard
From the Seattle Post Intelligencer, on a drug seizure at the Seattle-Tacoma airport:
The age group most likely to become infected with swine flu - students from elementary and high school - is the group that did the worst in having seasonal flu shots last year, according to data released Thursday by federal health
Only about 21 percent of children ages 5 to 17 received flu shots last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 41 percent of infants, 32 percent of adults at risk of complications and 67 percent of the elderly.
Authorities at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport seized 24 pounds of cocaine and arrested three suspects late last week, according to the Port of Seattle, which called the bust the airport's largest drug seizure ever.
In a statement, a port spokesman said Transportation Security Administration workers found an 11-pound bag of cocaine in the checked luggage of a passenger bound for Alaska. After finding the bag's owner at a departure gate, port police determined that he was traveling with two companions and, assisted by police canine Lilly, found two other checked bags with more cocaine, the port said.
12:15 PM CDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas will participate in a media availability about his vision for the agency and current initiatives
USCIS District Office
2424 Edenborn Ave.
From the Brownsville Herald, on a thwarted smuggling attempt:
U. S Border Patrol agents have arrested a man and a juvenile accused of smuggling a group of 12 undocumented immigrants across the Rio Grande.
Antonio Davila Garcia, a Mexican national, was arrested early Sunday morning near the levee by Impala Road in the South most area, court records show.
On Monday morning Davila went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan, who set his bond at $25,000 cash and remanded him to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The arrest took place after Border Patrol camera operators alerted field agents to a group of 14 individuals crossing the river in an area near Veteran's International Bridge, records show.
Agents responded to the area and caught up with the group north of the river levee a few yards from Impala Road, USBP said.
From WBOY-TV, on a DHS effort to coordinate training at the local level:
In this scenario, a terror suspect has anthrax that could be released at the Charleston Civic Center during an event. Charleston Police and the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department are working together to get rid of the threat. These types of exercises are a sobering reminder that thousands of lives hang in the balance during terrorist acts.
"Even our first day of training this week it was a wake-up call for a lot of us. We know without a doubt if something happens here, even our life ur lives are going to be on the line," says Lieutenant Sean Crosier of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department.
"It's a scary thing, but it's something we have to deal with to protect the public," says Lieutenant Preston Hickman of the Charleston Police Department. Organizers hope the training keeps law enforcement on their toes at all times regarding potential terrorist threats, because they point out it could happen anywhere and at any time.
"When people don't see something like that on a regular scale, you tend to get complacent and don't think it's going to come," says Christian Fernley, the training coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security.
No public events scheduled today
Nonviolent immigrant detainees could be held in converted hotels, nursing homes or placed in electronic ankle bracelets for monitoring as part of a series of reforms planned for the nation's detention system, Department of Homeland Security officials said Tuesday.
The moves would help overhaul a system that houses an average of 32,000 detainees every day across the country and has been criticized as having unsafe and inhumane conditions. Some of the detainees include women and children.
"This is a system that encompasses many different types of detainees, not all of whom need to be held in prison-like circumstances or jail-like circumstances, which not only may be unnecessary but more expensive," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
The department plans to build two detention centers, including one in California. Napolitano said some detainees had violent pasts and needed to be securely detained, but others were asylum-seekers with no records and should be held at facilities "commensurate with the risks that they present."
From Bloomberg News, on the President's remarks yesterday at the National Counterterrorism Center:
President Barack Obama said the U.S. is making "real progress" in the battle against al-Qaeda and other extremists as he addressed workers at the National Counterterrorism Center today in suburban Washington.
"Few Americans know about the work you do, and this is how it should be," Obama said at the center in McLean, Virginia. "Today I want every American to know about the difference you've made."
Obama said counterintelligence efforts by the center helped lead to the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man who lived in New York and Denver and is charged with plotting to detonate explosives in the U.S. He received bomb-making instructions while in Pakistan, where he attended an al-Qaeda training camp, according to a federal indictment.
Al-Qaeda continues to target the U.S. from Pakistan, Africa and Southeast Asia, Obama said. The coordination of anti- terrorism efforts at the center is critical to blunting that threat, he said.
"Every agency, every department, every branch, every level - one team, one mission, that's how we're going to prevail in this fight and that's how were going to protect this country that we all love," Obama said.
From the Chicago Daily Herald, on a new baggage system for O'Hare International Airport:
O'Hare International Airport has been awarded a $13.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for security improvements.
The funding will be dedicated to the construction of a new inline baggage handling system designed to strengthen security at the bustling airport.
"Bringing in new equipment will help improve the safety and efficiency of traveling through our nation's airports," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, said in announcing the funding.
According to DHS, inline baggage handling systems use state-of-the-art technology to screen baggage for explosives quickly while streamlining the ticketing and boarding process.
9 AM EDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate Control Systems Security Program Director Sean McGurk will deliver remarks about security issues facing critical infrastructure control systems at the International Society of Automation Expo
One Reliant Park
2 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Kevin Cook and Captain David Stalfort will testify about the National Maritime Center and maritime credentialing before the House Committee on Transportation, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
The Obama administration is looking to convert hotels and nursing homes into immigration detention centers and to build two model detention centers from scratch as it tries to transform the way the government holds people it is seeking to deport.
These and other initiatives, described in an interview on Monday by Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, are part of the administration's effort to revamp the much-criticized detention system, even as it expands the enforcement programs that send most people accused of immigration violations to jails and private prisons. The cost, she said, would be covered by greater efficiencies in the detention and removal system, which costs $2.4 billion annually to operate and holds about 380,000 people a year.
"The paradigm was wrong," Ms. Napolitano said of the nation's patchwork of rented jail space, which has more than tripled in size since 1995, largely through Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts for cells more restrictive, and expensive, than required for a population that is largely not dangerous. Among those in detention on Sept. 1, 51 percent were considered felons, and of those, 11 percent had committed violent crimes.
"Serious felons deserve to be in the prison model," Ms. Napolitano said, "but there are others. There are women. There are children."
These and other nonviolent people should be sorted and detained or supervised in ways appropriate to their level of danger or flight risk, she said. Her goal, she said, is "to make immigration detention more cohesive, accountable and relevant to the entire spectrum of detainees we are dealing with."
From KUSA-TV, on a new terrorism prevention video:
A new video released Monday teaches Coloradans how to recognize eight signs of terrorism, including suspects testing security, acquiring supplies and rehearsing terrorism plots.
The video was co-produced by the nonprofit Center for Empowered Living and Learning (the CELL) in Denver and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security.
They created it over the last four months using a $30,000 federal grant.
It is narrated by former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and 9NEWS Anchor Kim Christiansen.
"Eight years after 9/11, it's important to remember that the United States is not immune from terror attacks," Governor Bill Ritter said.
"The video will help empower citizens with the knowledge they need to protect our communities, our state, our nation."
Ritter and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released the new video after touring the CELL Monday afternoon.
"Unfortunately, the world we live in today, everyone has to assume the threat of terrorism is anywhere," Napolitano said. "It's New York City, it could also be Denver."
Napolitano says attacks across the world show the battle against terrorism is a shared responsibility.
From KNXV-TV, on the Deputy Secretary's meeting with Mexican officials on H1N1:
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute joined her Mexican and Canadian counterparts in Mexico City Monday to discuss continued coordination in dealing with the spread of the H1N1 flu.
According to a DHS press release issued Monday, the meetings focused on the further development of efforts to inform and educate the public in preparation for the fall H1N1 season.
"The shared responsibility to respond to the H1N1 pandemic requires close coordination with our Mexican and Canadian allies," said Deputy Secretary Lute.
The Mexican delegation was led by Health Ministry Deputy Secretary of Prevention and Promotion of Health Mauricio Hern?ndez, while Canada's delegation was headed by Deputy Minister of Health Morris Rosenberg.
Secretary Napolitano and ICE Assistant Secretary Morton will announce new immigration detention reforms and participate in a media availability
Myers Conference Room
500 12th Street SW
10 AM EDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will testify about human rights violators before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
So yes, September is over. And as the leaves change and the pumpkin patches are stocked up, you'd probably expect us to stop talking about National Preparedness Month. I mean, after all, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, right?
Well, preparedness is a subject that we at the department care a lot about. The Secretary has outlined it as one of the department's five responsibilities, and we've even got an entire month on the calendar devoted to it.
So, as we ask you to stand up and ask "What's Our Plan?", the Secretary thought it important to lead by example. The Secretary and her senior staff participated in a Red Cross preparedness training a while back, and we've got some video from that day to share with you. As Americans, we must count on each other to be ready for whatever comes our way. It's our shared responsibility, and the American way of life depends on each of us doing our part to be ready for a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, or something man made. Take a look at the video below, and you can visit the American Red Cross for more information on setting up a training for your school, church, or place of business.
From CNN, on continued relief and recovery efforts in American Samoa:
When swine flu broke out, the government revved up a massive information campaign centered on three words: Wash your hands. The Obama administration now wants to convey similarly clear and concise guidance about one of the biggest national security threats in your home and office - the computer.
Think before you click. Know who's on the other side of that instant message. What you say or do in cyberspace stays in cyberspace - for many to see, steal and use against you or your government.
The Internet, said former national intelligence director Michael McConnell, "is the soft underbelly" of the U.S. today. Speaking at a new cybersecurity exhibit at the International Spy Museum in Washington, McConnell said the Internet has "introduced a level of vulnerability that is unprecedented."
The Pentagon's computer systems are probed 360 million times a day, and one prominent power company has acknowledged that its networks see up to 70,000 scans a day, according to cybersecurity expert James Lewis.
Five days after a deadly earthquake and tsunami slammed into the Samoan Islands, burying parts of the islands under a sea of mud and debris, U.S. agencies continued Saturday helping residents dig out and providing relief to disaster victims.
About 300 responders are on the ground in American Samoa, including personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American
Red Cross, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to those agencies. The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy are continuing transport of supplies to the territory, including meals, water, blankets, tents and medical supplies.
"In addition to our efforts in support of the governor of American Samoa, we recognize the significant impact of current disasters in other Pacific regions, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a press release Saturday from FEMA's Washington headquarters.
More than 165 people were killed in the powerful 8.0-magnitude quake and deadly tsunami that struck the Samoan Islands -- including the independent nation of Samoa and the U.S. territory of American Samoa -- on Tuesday. The death toll in American Samoa stood at 22.
From Bloomberg News, on the H1N1 vaccine:
The first doses of swine flu vaccine will reach U.S. doctors next week as the country's biggest influenza prevention program seeks to curb the earliest flu season in at least four decades.
About 600,000 tubes of AstraZeneca Plc's nasal spray vaccine will arrive Oct. 6, with shots coming later in the week totaling 6 to 7 million doses, said Bill Hall, spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department, in an interview yesterday. About 40 to 50 million vaccines will be ready to ship in the following week.
The yearly flu season officially starts tomorrow, though the new pandemic virus already is spreading widely in most U.S. states, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first vaccines will be aimed at health-care workers, children, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions that put them at risk for complications. Most adults, including the elderly, should wait until additional supplies arrive, the CDC said.
10:30 AM MDT
Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Mueller will each deliver remarks
International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference
Colorado Convention Center
700 14th Street
11:15 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will deliver remarks about streamlining management in a crisis at the Excellence in Government Conference
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave.
12:30 PM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate will join National Commission on Children and Disasters Chairman and Save the Children Vice President Mark K. Shriver to preview a report to President Barack Obama and Congress that proposes new strategies to meet the unique needs of children affected by disasters
National Press Club
529 14th Street NW
We began the third and final national dialogue for the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review this week. This dialogue is the culmination of an extensive stakeholder outreach effort that began in June with Secretary Napolitano’s outreach to homeland security stakeholder associations and two previous national dialogues.
During the previous two dialogues, we asked stakeholders to review, rate, and discuss the concepts, ideas, and draft recommendations developed by our six study groups. In the second national dialogue, over 11,000 stakeholders viewed study group proposals, and offered more than 400 unique ideas, over 2,000 comments, and over 4,000 ratings. These stakeholders came from across the entire homeland security enterprise, all 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia, and more than 2,000 U.S. Cities. Stakeholders have offered insightful comments about critical concepts such as resiliency, achieving balance between security and the facilitation of trade and legal immigration, individual, community, and family preparedness, and the need to develop working relationships and partnerships. This extensive stakeholder feedback, along with insights from our DHS study group members, interagency partners and key Association stakeholders, has continued to inform the work of our study groups.
The third dialogue, which ends on October 4, presents the final study group proposals, including the vision, goals, objectives, and key strategic outcomes from the mission studies as well as the path forward for the Homeland Security National Risk Assessment Study Group. We are seeking your input on the strategic approaches proposed by the study groups, the implications of these proposed strategic approaches, and the proposed strategic outcomes.
Your input will help inform the final review and decision-making on the QHSR study group proposals. Join the conversation at www.homelandsecuritydialogue.org.
Alan D. Cohn is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy (Strategic Plans)