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DHS S&T Awards University of Houston $2.6M for Cyber Security Research

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DHS S&T Awards University of Houston $2.6M for Cyber Security Research

Release Date: 
September 4, 2015

For Immediate Release
DHS Science & Technology Press Office
Contact: John Verrico, (202) 254-2385

Washington, DC – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded a $2.6 million contract to the University of Houston to develop technology that will help protect emergency response systems, such as current and next-generation 911 systems, against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The contract titled “DDoS Resilient Emergency Dispatch Center” was awarded through Broad Agency Announcement HSHQDC-14-R- B00017 and is part of the DHS S&T Cyber Security Division’s larger Distributed Denial of Service Defenses (DDoSD) program.

DDoS attacks are used to render key resources unavailable.  A classic DDoS attack might disrupt an organization’s website and temporarily block a consumer’s ability to access the site. A more strategic attack makes a key resource inaccessible during a critical period.  Prominent DDoS attacks have been conducted against financial institutions, news organizations, providers of internet security resources, and government agencies. Any organization that relies on network resources, even an emergency management system, is considered a potential target, and the current environment offers many advantages to the attacker.

“Our nation’s networks and emergency response systems can become targets for cyber attacks,” said DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers. “S&T is working to develop novel solutions to counter these threats.”

The emergency dispatch system is a national critical infrastructure whose availability, resilience, and integrity are of paramount importance. The next generation 911 system, NG9-1-1, will enable emergency calls from any wired, wireless, or IP-based device and will also allow multimedia sharing. This evolution may also make NG9-1-1 more vulnerable to different types of existing or new cyber attacks.

The University of Houston-led research team will be working to develop mitigation strategies that are low cost, based on open standards, and can significantly strengthen the resilience of emergency response systems against DDoS attacks. The proposed solution leverages the cloud computing model by providing on-demand networking and computing capacities when requests suddenly surge.  In addition, the team plans to employ context-based automated smart interactive response (SIR) to verify the validity of emergency calls.

“As more systems become connected to and reliant upon the Internet, these systems also become vulnerable to Distributed Denial of Service attacks,” said Dr. Dan Massey, Cyber Security Division DDoSD Program Manager. “Through efforts like the University of Houston led project, DHS S&T Cyber Security Division is helping to develop defenses for critical systems such as Next Generation 9-1-1 systems.”

With the success of launching this R&D project, S&T looks forward to securing the nation’s networks by anticipating and defending against DDoS attacks.

For more information, visit scitech.dhs.gov/cyber-research, or email SandT-Cyber-Liaison@hq.dhs.gov.

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