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Supplement: IEEE 2011 Conference on Technology for Homeland Security: Best Papers

As the field of homeland defense and security expands and matures, the contributions from various disciplines become ever more important. Particularly exciting are technical advances that have real-world application to homeland security practices. For this reason, Homeland Security Affairs is pleased to partner, for the second year, with the IEEE in presenting the best papers from the Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security. Download the full issue.

The 2011 HST Conference drew more than 300 attendees from federal agencies, universities, national laboratories, federally funded research and development centers, small businesses, and industry. Peer-reviewed technical papers were organized along four tracks highlighting emerging technologies in the areas of (1) cyber security; (2) attack and disaster preparation, recovery, and response; (3) land and maritime border security; and (4) biometric, forensics, and physical security.

The award of best paper of the conference went to “Person Attribute Search for Large-area Video Surveillance” by Jason Thornton and others. This research offers video analytics to enable an operator to search through large volumes of surveillance video data to find persons who match a particular attribute profile. The technology is geared for enabling efficient and effective monitoring of large areas at a distance under challenging real-world conditions to locate and track persons of interest in real time. State-of-the-art features and matching and tracking algorithms are used with solid statistical underpinnings. The prototype system pictured in the paper has been demonstrated to cabinet-level USG officials with glowing feedback. Person-attribute-search technology for large-area video surveillance is likely to be a ‘game changing’ technology for homeland security.

The best paper of the cyber security track, “Measuring the Human Factor of Cyber Security,” by Brian Bowen, Salvatore Stolfo, and Ramaswamy Devarajan, offers a novel approach to measuring, quantifying and evaluating the security posture of human organizations, especially within large corporations and government agencies. As the authors assert, “Computer security is not just about technology and systems. It is also about the people who use whose systems and how their vulnerable behaviors can lead to exploitation.” Demonstrating and validating the research results through experimentation and testing, the authors describe the importance of addressing the human as well as technology aspects of securing the nation’s information technology infrastructure. Accessible to a wide audience and providing a description of the problem, this paper explores possible approaches and experimental results as well as indications of how the work can be extended and applied more broadly.

Integrated PMR-Broadband-IP Network for Secure Real-time Multimedia Information Sharing,” by Sebastian Subik and Christian Wietfeld received the award for best paper in the attack and disaster preparation, recovery, and response track. The authors provide a compelling exploration of an innovative, IP-based approach to integrating well-established, but limited, professional mobile radio (PMR) technologies, such as terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA), with the now rapidly emerging 3G and 4G/LTE wireless communications solutions for public safety. The proposed “Push-to-X,” peer-to-peer architecture the authors describe offers the first-responder community a potential “soft migration” path forward for achieving a full-featured, interoperable, and securable public safety communications environment.

In the land and maritime border security track, the award went to “Database of High-Z Signatures in Cargo,” by Ron Bentley. The automated detection of dangerous contraband – particularly high-Z radiological or nuclear materials within full-sized closed shipping containers – is of primary importance to homeland security. This paper describes the results of commercial prototypes using dual energy x-ray transmission imaging inspection systems. The benefits of the dual energy method allow for significant improvement of detecting threats within complex high-density cargo as compared to conventional radiograph x-ray imaging method. The database gathered in this work supports the development of high-confidence automated image processing algorithms. Of note is the author’s attention to achieving low false alarm rates with realistic background conditions, an aspect of performance that can be overlooked by technology developers, and yet is critically important to the widespread operational use of advanced technology.

Tunable, Self-curing Polymers for the Forensic Collection of Latent Signatures from Within Porous Materials,” by Joseph E. Chipuk and others, received the best paper award in the fourth and final track, biometrics, forensics, and physical security. In this paper, the authors present a unique method for collecting information from porous surfaces using a self-curing polymer that represents a vast improvement over using tapes, fingerprint lifters, gel lifters, or leaching a liquid into a swab or filter paper. Smooth, nonporous surfaces such as metal and glass are not a challenge for this sampling method, which lends itself to ever-increasing clandestine operations where the preparation surface could be a garage floor or even a parking lot.

The practical application of these and other technological innovations adds to the overall strength of homeland security efforts. As always, we welcome your comments and opinions at www.hsaj.org.

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