The 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center raised the awareness of the American public relative to the need for increased national security. The agency that is in the forefront of providing this security is the Department of Homeland Security. This agency is responsible for a broad range of security issues and, as a result, is confronted with a wide range of technological needs. The agency is forced to confront individuals and organizations who have availability to the latest technological innovations available on the market and the Department of Homeland Security must not only be prepared to confront the latest technology it must also anticipate future innovations.
Security and Technology
In today's world dominated by technology possessing information is even more important than it once was. The old adage is that information is power and the adage is even more important than it once was as the amount of information increases geometrically every day and there is no indication that this trend will be decreasing at any point in the near future.
Internal national security has never been a major concern for the United States. With one limited exception, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States has been virtually immune from outside threats but the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caused considerable concern and brought the reality of terrorism on the front steps of every American. Suddenly, the reality that had been present in the minds of citizens throughout Europe and Israel was a reality for Americans as well.
One of the areas that must be developed by the Homeland Security Agency in its efforts to combat threats of terrorism and to provide as much security as possible for American society is information technology. Although the concept of information collection has been around for hundreds of years the development of the computer, the expansion of the internet, and high speed communication devices has caused the collection, storage, and analysis of information increasingly more important. An entire industry has developed since the term was first used in 1958 and courses and degrees in the discipline are actually granted by colleges throughout the country (Walters, 2000).
Like any academic or professional discipline information technology has become highly specialized. The field has been dissected into security issues, computer matters, web concerns, software development, and many more. Specialization has caused an increased need for professionals competent in the various areas of concern and forced the Homeland Security Agency to develop its information technology department rapidly.
One of the areas of information technology that has become important which did not exist just a few short years ago was the field of biometrics (John D. Woodward, 2002). Biometrics is the study of the traits, physiological and behavioral, inherent in everyone that identifies them as being unique and which allows anyone familiar with these unique traits to identify us. Proponents and experts in the field of biometrics argue that with proper development and analysis it will be possible for Homeland Security Agency officials to collect data that will identify the traits of visitors in and out of America that will allow the Agency to increase America's internal security. Because of the relative newness of the field, the information available for those qualified in the discipline is relatively limited and presently this data is inadequate for proper biometric experts to provide the services that they believe would be possible once additional information becomes available. With the proper accumulation of information biometric professionals believe that they can provide accurate system operation and security in a way that other areas of information technology cannot provide.
Although the field of biometrics is still in its infancy the possibilities for its use in the area of security are limitless. The two primary areas of focus in biometrics are identification and verification. Identification centers on determining on who a person is while verification centers on confirming that the identification is accurate. How the biometric system works in actuality is complicated and beyond the scope of this paper but suffice it to say that it involves the accumulation of massive amounts of data and synthesizing it into workable information.
On a very basic level, biometrics will eventually be capable of indentifying and verifying individuals entering and leaving the United States based on their physiological and behavior traits as they present themselves at the borders. Through the use of eye color, fingerprints, facial and hand shape, voice factors, and other behavioral factors security experts will be able to increase their level of protection and do so more expediently.
Fear of terrorism has become a part of nearly every Americans' daily existence. As earlier indicated, 9/11 made terrorism a reality for everyone. America's isolation from such fears has ended permanently and awareness of its possibilities has come to the forefront.
Traditional terrorism is frightening and hard to combat but terrorism is reaching new levels of treachery and has begun entering new areas of treachery. Not unexpectedly one of the areas that terrorists are entering is cyberspace.
Terrorism has historically been directed at buildings, people, and other tangible items where the terrorists are able to disrupt the everyday lives of the society which they are attempting to influence. Focusing attention on their movement is their primary goal and being able to wreck havoc in some form is considered a success. Terrorism, however, has become far more sophisticated and the various terrorist movements throughout the world have begun to focus their efforts in other areas. Clearly disrupting the internet or the internal computer networking system of a major corporation could serve the purposes of a terrorist group greatly.
Imagine the effect that a terrorist attack on the computer system of a major national bank, a stock exchange, or airport could have. Millions of consumers would be impacted immediately and undoing the effects would be much more difficult than clearing up building rubble or removing a bombed out car.
There is considerable debate as to the ability of terrorists to successfully infiltrate the world's cyber system but the fact that cybercrime is a huge business indicates that the hacking of computer systems is a reality (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Few, if any, businesses or individuals using computers have been unaffected by someone trying to obtain information from their computer or trying to introduce a virus of some nature. Most of this hacking is by individuals working out of their own homes but it opens the door to the possibility that terrorists with more devious intentions could cause far more devastating effects (Mianecki, 2011).
"The nightmare that the DHS has," said Stewart Baker, a former head of policy at the department, "is that a very sophisticated hacker, perhaps working for Hezbollah, manages to infiltrate our electric grid and to bring down power to a portion of the United States, not for an hour or two, but for days or weeks. This would create a major humanitarian crisis. (Mianecki, 2011)"
As indicated by the cited comments, the threat of cyberterrorist and cybercriminals is significant and it is incumbent that the Department of Homeland Security prepare itself for a possible onslaught of such activity. Toward this end the Department must initiate several actions.
The threat that is most likely to be used by terrorists is the introduction of a virus into the system of a governmental agency or large corporate institution that has a widespread influence on the nation's economy. Viruses, which are self-contained pieces of software, can be introduced to computers and computer networks through emails, trojan horses, or worms and can cause extensive damage once they are introduced and be extremely difficult to clear from a computer network (Jussi, 2007).
Viruses are dangerous to a single computer but when introduced to an entire network they take on a life of their own. They quickly spread through the network invading folders, drives, and network servers and ports. Within a very short period of time, sometimes within minutes, the virus can be spread throughout an entire organization threatening to shut down the entire computer network.
Similarly, there is the threat of the trojan horse and the denial of service attack. Both threats are introduced to networks in different ways and cause different problems but are equally damaging. Both threats, like viruses, can shut down an entire network within minutes and can require hundreds of man hours to eradicate.
Preventing virus, trojan horse, and denial of service attacks requires a diligent and aggressive system of defenses. The technology for this process is readily available and all large organizations and institutions utilize is but the problem of prevention is a catch-22. Technology improves geometrically but technological improvement is not limited to devices and services that benefit the user. The hacking industry is constantly finding new methods for infiltrating the legitimate use of computers in order to promote the needs of their illegal activities. Needless to say, terrorists and terrorist groups are privy to these…