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Securing Critical Infrastructure in the 21st Century

Release Date: March 20, 2017

At the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we recognize the security landscape is changing. Today, everything is connected through the Internet of Things (IoT)—new tools, devices, networks, and data.

So how do we leverage these changes to secure our nation’s critical infrastructure? How do we mitigate threats that arise from changing technology?

We already know that by connecting to IoT technologies we are improving critical infrastructure operations in key areas like energy, water, telecommunications, and traffic management.

IoT sensors provide data analytics that can be shared among security operators, resulting in improved performances, reduced costs, and enhanced security measures. Take the example of road safety—connected cars are now equipped to signal to each other and to control centers about the road conditions and potential hazards, in turn delivering real-time warnings to other drivers.

Knowing IoT is increasingly becoming a digital representation of a community’s heartbeat, our challenge today is to apply this technology to the homeland security landscape—to embrace how technology is already changing the way we communicate, conduct commerce, and move people and products.

For S&T’s stakeholders, IoT provides the ability to adapt to emergencies as they come, so communities can adjust to changing environments, which builds important resilience capacity over time. For example, S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) is funding the development of IoT sensor-based tools in flood-prone areas of Texas where the Lower Colorado River is prone to flooding. Along with partners from the Lower Colorado River Authority, FRG aims to give local officials added capabilities to respond more rapidly and effectively during rising water events to help save lives and protect infrastructure.

However, for every piece of technology that is connected to our critical infrastructure, whether to facilitate more reliable transit or collect data to increase efficiencies, the threat to our security is real.

We know we need to better understand cloud computing where more than a billion devices will be embedded into different infrastructure operating systems, including robots, buildings, and medical devices, and thousands of different algorithms will be used to collect data, changing the way key security decisions are made.

To better understand what is needed to enhance the different layers of security within our nation’s cyber critical infrastructure, S&T’s Cyber Security Division (CSD) is building public-private relationships and investing in targeted science and technology applications to learn how different operating systems can work seamlessly together, across cyber and physical domains.

CSD is collaborating with the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Science and Technology to develop a framework for how future cyber physical systems (CPS), such as automobiles and building controls and the smart grid, are engineered and interoperable. CSD recognizes security controls need to be high quality across different systems and built into CPS at the outset of future innovation cycles to ensure connectivity, data, and privacy, are secure, reliable, and trusted.

S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) is working with industry innovators to harden these advanced solutions so that security operators can rely on them during emergencies. SVIP is engaging startups, accelerators, and investors to make impacts in areas like machine learning, computer vision, predictive analytics, and other cross-cutting topics affecting the ability of critical infrastructure operators to keep this country safe and economically thriving.  

By working directly with industry innovators across the nation, S&T strives to provide advanced capabilities and analytics to better prevent, respond to and recover from all hazards and homeland security threats.

Why is this important? For homeland security operators, IoT is now a component of critical infrastructure, where security is viewed as a common good for protecting each of our different 16 critical infrastructure sectors.

Are you ready to work with S&T? Get connected today and help S&T mobilize innovation for securing our nation’s 21st Century Infrastructure. Tell us what technologies you’re developing that can enhance the security of our infrastructure.

Last Updated: 10/04/2019
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