The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is funding the development of technology to enhance the security of mobile device-based sensor systems used by first responders.
In a statement made this week, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced that $749,930 had been awarded to Metronome Software, a mobile security specialist based in Laguna Hills, California, which is tasked with developing the technology.
The funding comes from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Other Agencies Technology Solutions award. This is a joint project that brings together DHS S&T’s Mobile Security R&D program, (administered by its Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency Cyber Security Division), and the Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Apex program, which is managed by S&T’s First Responder Group.
Tackling device security
The NGPR Apex Program is currently helping first responders, which include emergency services personnel including firefighters and police officers, by providing them with what it calls ‘multi-threat personal protective equipment’.
This equipment contains plug-and-play sensors and advanced communications devices designed to monitor the situation around a first responder in order to protect them. It also enables them to access new information, at that location, quickly and effectively.
DHS S&T claims that the NGFR framework contains the architecture, standards and hardware needed to find, access, consume, translate and display voice, video and data for first responders.
Metronome Software has been brought in because of a “lack of security present in IoT devices”, according to S&T Mobile Security program manager Vincent Sritapan. (The US government is currently considering legislation that would require all device manufacturers selling IoT technology to any governmental department to “provide written certification” at the point of proposal that the device does not contain any security vulnerabilities or defects.)
Along with mobile device management company MobileIron and Kryptowire, a mobile software assurance provider, Metronome Software will develop a security overlay to ensure the NGFR framework and its end-to-end infrastructure have a high level of security and data provenance.
Protecting first responders
“Strengthening the security of first responder sensor networks is needed to protect data flows from attack by cybercriminals,” said William N Bryan, acting under secretary for science and technology. “The security enhancements developed through this project will be designed to ensure the system can be accessed and used only by approved devices and operators.”
In terms of the first responders, NGFR Apex program manager John Merril added that the additional features will provide responders with “secure access to critical, time-sensitive information”, and are “anticipated to increase the protection and safety of the nation’s first responders when responding to emergencies.”