DHS must fulfill its anti-terrorism mission while also protecting lawful commerce, civil liberties, privacy, and other fundamental American freedoms. This means the agency must be an intelligence- and risk-driven organization—one that takes advantage of information and capabilities quickly to prevent and mitigate threats.
We help DHS take a department-wide approach to establishing the processes and systems to turn operational requirements into sustainable capabilities. Additionally, our ability to draw on knowledge developed working with other government agencies enables us to help DHS combat a variety of evolving threats.
HSSEDI's work also supports the security needs of other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the private sector. Our work involves accessing, receiving, analyzing, and sharing information from law enforcement, intelligence, and other sources.
Leveraging Social Media and Big Data Analytics to Prevent Terrorist Attacks
An example of this collaborative approach involves our work in social media analytics.
Consider, for instance, the 2015 San Bernardino attack. In December that year, 14 people were killed and 22 seriously injured in an attack in San Bernardino, Calif. It was perpetrated by homegrown extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist group.
How were they inspired? Via social media and the internet. Later that month, the DHS Science and Technology Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, and HSSEDI created a pilot team to examine how social media analytics could apply to the screening and vetting of individuals and organizations traveling or seeking immigration benefits. The goal? Help prevent such attacks both at home and abroad.
The pilot team members reached out across DHS and industry to conduct market research and establish a commercial baseline. They used their knowledge of international social media sites, media, and language processing to focus the review of open-source and social media analytic capabilities and technologies. Ultimately, the pilot team evaluated more than 270 social media tools for their potential for addressing critical mission areas. They highlighted solutions for accessing some 30 social media platforms on the Internet and darknets, using datasets in 120-plus languages. They also discovered problems with existing analytic capabilities that were quickly improved for government agencies.
The pilot team's work is serving as the national testbed for establishing the DHS Social Media Center. Their work also helped components of DHS to improve their capabilities to fulfill their missions, achieve operational efficiencies, and lower costs through the automation of advanced analytics, thereby advancing our sponsor's overall goals.
Addressing Security Risk for Global Commercial Airspace
Our work in aviation security is another prime example. The downing of a Russian passenger jet in 2015 over Egypt confirmed that security threats to commercial airliners are becoming more sophisticated. HSSEDI is helping the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) create a system that enables TSA to allocate security resources based on a more complete risk picture. The Dynamic Aviation Risk Management System (DARMS) will integrate information from various threat vectors in real time and apply risk-based security algorithms for ongoing determination and assessment of the "risk profile" for each flight.
DARMS will enable security officials to focus their security countermeasures on mitigating threats to high-risk flights while identifying the low-risk majority of flights as suitable for expedited screening of their passengers, baggage, and cargo.
Partners in this Mission
Our anti-terrorism work requires close collaboration with numerous components of DHS. Within HSSEDI's terrorism-prevention mission, our partners include:
- National Security Systems Joint Program Management Office
- DHS Joint Fusion Center Program Management Office