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What does cyber security mean for public safety?

What does cyber security mean for public safety?

Cyber security has recently garnered attention with news of cyber attacks aimed at American and South Korean government agencies and commercial websites. Officials and computer experts in the United States said the attacks, which began over the July Fourth weekend, were unsophisticated and on a relatively small scale, and as we went to press, their origins had not been determined. They said 50,000 to 65,000 computers had been commandeered by hackers and ordered to flood specific websites with access requests, causing them to slow or stall.

So how safe is today’s public safety information? In the face of today’s emerging technologies, it seems that everything relies on computers and the Internet now—communication; entertainment; transportation; shopping; medicine; etc. Think about how much of our daily lives relies on computers. How much personal information is stored either on your own computer or on someone else’s system? Public safety relies on communications, and the security of that information is critical.

Cyber security involves protecting that information by preventing, detecting and responding to attacks. The advent of wireless communications and interagency data sharing has raised concerns about information security. Like the recent cyber attacks, you’ve heard the news stories about credit card numbers being stolen and e-mail viruses spreading. Security should be a top priority whether it be in data sharing, video surveillance or even across our country’s borders.

Because the Internet is so accessible and contains a wealth of information, it has become a popular resource for public safety professionals to communicate with each other (or neighboring agencies), research topics, and find information about possible suspects. Unfortunately, many people have become so comfortable with the Internet that they may adopt practices that make them vulnerable. For example, although people are typically wary of sharing personal information with strangers, they may not hesitate to post that same information online.

In one sense, this is good for police officers who are trying to find out more about a suspect’s whereabouts or habits. However, due to the nature of the data, it is imperative that the information being passed between agencies is secure and does not get into the wrong hands. CREDANT Technologies conducted a “mobile usage survey” among 227 IT professionals. The IT security professionals admit they are suffering from “password fatigue” when it comes to using their mobile devices. This leaves their data exposed to personal and corporate identity theft if these devices were to fall into the wrong hands.

Securing our nation against cyber attacks has become one of the nation’s highest priorities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) is an organization designed to improve cyber security coordination across the government’s civilian, military and intelligence cyber domains. The Obama administration requested $400.7 million for the DHS’s cyber security programs in fiscal 2010, compared with the $313.5 million DHS got this year. For more information about streams of funding from the Recovery Act, specifically those coming through the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), visit Many of the grant funds can be used to buy new technology, such as photo ID solutions, voice recording and video surveillance. All of these advancements are making the public safety realm safer through more secure data sharing.

In this issue, we take a look at Interagency Data Sharing in a Secure Environment (see p. 1) and some of the latest advances in wireless video surveillance and GIS technology from companies like Firetide and NEC (see pp. 1 and 22).

So take a look at these articles on data sharing and wireless security to make sure your agency is doing everything it can to protect its information and in turn its citizens.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2009

Rating : 9.6

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