Archive for the ‘U.S. Department of Homeland Security’ Category

New: Residential Building Electrical Fires (2009-2011)

April 15, 2014 Comments off

New: Residential Building Electrical Fires (2009-2011) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

Findings from this report:

  • An estimated 25,900 residential building electrical fires were reported to fire departments within the United States each year. These fires caused an estimated 280 deaths, 1,125 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss.
  • Residential building electrical fires resulted in greater dollar loss per fire than residential building nonelectrical fires.
  • In 79 percent of residential building electrical fires, the fire spread beyond the object where the fire started.
  • The leading items most often first ignited in residential building electrical fires were electrical wire/cable insulation (30 percent) and structural member or framing (19 percent).
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State Fire Death Rates and Relative Risk

April 9, 2014 Comments off

State Fire Death Rates and Relative Risk
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

The fire problem varies from region to region in the United States. This often is a result of climate, poverty, education, demographics, and other causal factors. Perhaps the most useful way to assess fire fatalities across groups is to determine the relative risk of dying in a fire. Relative risk compares the per capita rate for a particular group (e.g., Pennsylvania) to the overall per capita rate (i.e., the general population). The result is a measure of how likely a group is to be affected. For the general population, the relative risk is set at 1.

In addition to the District of Columbia, the states with the highest relative risk in 2010 included West Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi. The populace of West Virginia was 3.3 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population; however, people living in Oregon, Massachusetts and Arizona were 50 percent less likely to die in a fire than the population as a whole. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia had a relative risk higher than that of the general population. Three states, Iowa, Washington and New Mexico, had a relative risk comparable to that of the general population.

Relative risk was not computed for HI, ME, ND, VT and WY due to small numbers of fire deaths which are subject to variability.

Residential Building Garage Fires (2009-2011)

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Residential Building Garage Fires (2009-2011) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

An estimated 6,600 residential building garage fires were reported to United States fire departments each year and caused an estimated 30 deaths, 400 injuries and $457 million in property loss.

Findings from this report:

  • Residential building garage fires are considered part of the residential fire problem and comprised about 2 percent of all residential building fires.
  • Fires originating in residential building garages tend to be larger and spread farther than fires that start in other areas of a residence.
  • Of residential building garage fires, 93 percent occurred in one- and two-family residential buildings.
  • The leading causes of residential building garage fires were “electrical malfunction” (16 percent); “other unintentional, careless” action (15 percent); and “open flame” (11 percent).
  • Residential building garage fires occurred most often in the colder months of January and December (at 10 percent each). Additionally, residential building garage fires also peaked in July at 10 percent.
  • Electrical arcing was the most common heat source in residential building garage fires (17 percent).

New From the GAO

March 28, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Spectrum Management: FCC’s Use and Enforcement of Buildout Requirements. GAO-14-236, February 26.
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2. DHS Asset Forfeiture: Additional Actions Could Help Strengthen Controls over Equitable Sharing. GAO-14-318, March 28.
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CRS — Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2014 Overview and Summary

March 26, 2014 Comments off

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2014 Overview and Summary (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides a brief outline of the FY2014 appropriations legislation for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested $39.0 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2014, as part of an overall budget of $60.0 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps).

Microsoft Ending Support for Windows XP and Office 2003

March 15, 2014 Comments off

Microsoft Ending Support for Windows XP and Office 2003
Source: U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT)

Computers operating Windows XP with SP3 or running Office 2003 products will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risk of viruses and other security threats.

Users have the option to upgrade to a currently supported operating system or office productivity suite. The Microsoft “End of Support” pages for Windows XP and Office 2003 offer additional details.

There are software vendors and service providers in the marketplace who offer assistance in migrating from Windows XP or Office 2003 to a currently supported operating system or office productivity suite. US-CERT does not endorse or support any particular product or vendor.

Users who choose to continue using Windows XP after the end of support may mitigate some risks by using a web browser other than Internet Explorer. The Windows XP versions of some alternative browsers will continue to recieve support temporarily. Users should consult the support pages of their chosen alternative browser for more details.

Hat tip: ResearchBuzz

CRS — United States Fire Administration: An Overview

March 11, 2014 Comments off

United States Fire Administration: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The United States Fire Administration (USFA)—which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA)—is currently housed within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6) funded USFA at $43.942 million. Additionally, the United States Fire Administration and Training budget account was subject to a 5.0% sequestration cut, putting the FY2013 level for USFA at $41.726 million.

The FY2014 budget proposal requested $41.306 million for USFA. Of the requested total appropriation, $12.267 million would be allocated to the National Fire Academy, $11.205 million to National Fire Programs, and $17.834 million to National Emergency Training Center (NETC) Management, Operations and Support. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L. 113-76), signed into law on January 17, 2014, funds USFA at $44 million.

U.S. Fire Administration — Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (PDF)
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

Since the release of our publication “Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2004),” we have worked with many fire service organizations and the law enforcement community to increase emergency responder safety in this area. Our latest study report, “Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014),” consolidates the results of this work and provides best practices and recommendations for safer emergency vehicle and roadway incident response.

Topics covered include:

  • Common crash causes and crash prevention.
  • The impact of vehicle design and maintenance on safety.
  • Internal and external factors for improving response-related safety.
  • Regulating emergency vehicle response and roadway scene safety.
  • Roadway incident scene safety.

DHS OIG – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Worksite Enforcement Administrative Inspection Process

February 27, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Worksite Enforcement Administrative Inspection Process (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

Generally, ICE’s worksite enforcement administrative inspection process met the requirements of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. However, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate has not adequately monitored or evaluated the performance or outcomes of implementing its administrative inspection process through the worksite enforcement strategy. Specifically, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations’ headquarters did not adequately oversee the field offices to ensure that they were consistent in issuing warnings and fines, and some field offices issued significantly more warnings than fines. The directorate also negotiated fines with employers, in some cases substantially reducing the amounts. Homeland Security Investigations’ inconsistent implementation of the administrative inspection process, plus the reduction of fines, may have hindered its mission to prevent or deter employers from violating immigration laws. The directorate has not analyzed the effect of these differences in implementation or sufficiently determined whether implementation has improved compliance. In addition, field offices did not always document their actions adequately and did not maintain accurate and up-to-date administrative inspection data, making it more difficult to verify employers’ compliance. As a result, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate may have difficulty fully analyzing the impact of its administrative inspection process through the worksite enforcement strategy. Because it is able to inspect only a small percentage of employers, the Homeland Security Investigations directorate should maximize the value of each administrative inspection by ensuring that it conducts the inspection process effectively.

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games
Source: U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team

Whether traveling to Sochi, Russia for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, or viewing the games from locations abroad, there are several cyber-related risks to consider. As with many international level media events, hacktivists may attempt to take advantage of the large audience to spread their own message. Additionally, cyber criminals may use the games as a lure in spam, phishing or drive-by-download campaigns to gain personally identifiable information or harvest credentials for financial gain. Lastly, those physically attending the games should be cognizant that their communications will likely be monitored.

New From the GAO

February 10, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Troubled Asset Relief Program: More Efforts Needed on Fair Lending Controls and Access for Non-English Speakers in Housing Programs. GAO-14-117, February 6.
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2. Economic Development Administration: Documentation of Award Selection Decisions Could Be Improved. GAO-14-131, February 6.
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3. U.S. Postal Service: Actions Needed to Strengthen the Capital Investment Process. GAO-14-155, January 7.
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1. Border Security: DHS Needs to Strengthen Its Efforts to Modernize Key Enforcement Systems, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-342T, February 6.
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2. Entrepreneurial Assistance: Opportunities Exist to Improve Collaboration and Performance Management for Financial Assistance Programs, by William B. Shear, director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade, House Committee on Small Business. GAO-14-335T, February 6.
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Reissued Report

1. Medicaid Prescription Drugs: CMS Should Implement Revised Federal Upper Limits and Monitor Their Relationship to Retail Pharmacy Acquisition Costs. GAO-14-68, December 19.
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This report was revised on February 6, 2014 to correct the omission of reprinting written comments from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on a draft report. A copy of the HHS’s written comments was inserted in appendix V.

CRS — Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Port of Entry

January 24, 2014 Comments off

Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Port of Entry (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

About 362 million travelers (citizens and non-citizens) entered the United States in FY2013, including about 102 million air passengers and crew, 18 million sea passengers and crew, and 242 million incoming land travelers. At the same time about 205,000 aliens were denied admission at ports of entry (POEs); and about 24,000 persons were arrested at POEs on criminal warrants. (Not all persons arrested are denied admission, including because some are U.S. citizens.)

Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for conducting immigration inspections at America’s 329 POEs. CBP’s primary immigration enforcement mission at ports of entry is to confirm that travelers are eligible to enter the United States and to exclude inadmissible aliens. Yet strict enforcement is in tension with a second core mission: to facilitate the flow of lawful travelers, who are the vast majority of persons seeking admission. A fundamental question for Congress and DHS is how to balance these competing concerns.

Malware Targeting Point of Sale Systems

January 17, 2014 Comments off

Malware Targeting Point of Sale Systems
Source: U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT)

For quite some time, cyber criminals have been targeting consumer data entered in POS systems. In some circumstances, criminals attach a physical device to the POS system to collect card data, which is referred to as skimming. In other cases, cyber criminals deliver malware which acquires card data as it passes through a POS system, eventually exfiltrating the desired data back to the criminal. Once the cybercriminal receives the data, it is often trafficked to other suspects who use the data to create fraudulent credit and debit cards.

As POS systems are connected to computers or devices, they are also often enabled to access the internet and email services. Therefore malicious links or attachments in emails as well as malicious websites can be accessed and malware may subsequently be downloaded by an end user of a POS system. The return on investment is much higher for a criminal to infect one POS system that will yield card data from multiple consumers.

CRS — Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implements the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations, which regulate security at high-risk facilities possessing more than certain amounts of one or more chemicals of interest. Facilities possessing more than the specified amount must register with DHS through this program (a process known as the Top- Screen) and perform security-related activities. The DHS identifies a subset of high-risk chemical facilities from among those that register. These high-risk chemical facilities must submit a security vulnerability assessment, which DHS uses to confirm their high-risk designation, and a site security plan, which DHS then authorizes. The DHS also inspects high-risk chemical facilities for adherence to their submitted site security plans and later for compliance with these plans following DHS approval. The DHS regulates approximately 4,300 facilities under this program and is in the process of implementing requirements for security vulnerability assessment, site security planning, and inspection.

Adequacy of U.S. Secret Service Efforts to Identify, Mitigate, and Address Instances of Misconduct and Inappropriate Behavior (Redacted)

December 23, 2013 Comments off

Adequacy of USSS Efforts to Identify, Mitigate, and Address Instances of Misconduct and Inappropriate Behavior (Redacted) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread in USSS. Furthermore, we did not find any evidence that USSS leadership has fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior. Of the 2,575 employees who responded to our electronic survey, 2,144 (83 percent) indicated they were not aware of USSS employees engaging in any of six behaviors that were displayed in Cartagena. Additionally, 61 percent of survey respondents believed management does not tolerate misconduct.

Privatizing the Transportation Security Administration

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Privatizing the Transportation Security Administration
Source: Cato Institute

After the terrorist attacks in 2001, the federal government moved quickly to increase spending on aviation security and take control of passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports. Congress created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001, and then transferred the agency to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002.

TSA’s main activity is operating security screening at more than 450 commercial airports across the nation. The agency also runs the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), analyzes intelligence data, and oversees the security of rail, transit, highways, and pipelines. TSA has 62,000 employees and an annual budget in 2013 of $7.9 billion.

After more than a decade of experience, it is clear that the creation of TSA and the federal takeover of airport screening was a mistake. Auditors have found that TSA’s screening performance has been no better, and possibly worse, than private screening. And TSA has become known for mismanagement, dubious investments, and security failures. Former TSA chief Kip Hawley noted last year that the agency is “hopelessly bureaucratic.” And recent congressional reports have blasted TSA for “costly, counter intuitive, and poorly executed” plans and for having an “enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy.”

We would be better off without a monolithic federal agency that controls all major aspects of aviation security. Most airports in Europe and Canada use private companies for their passenger and baggage screening. That practice creates a more efficient and innovative security structure, and it allows governments to focus on gathering intelligence and conducting analysis rather than on trying to manage a large workforce.

DHG OIG — Evaluation of DHS’ Information Security Program for Fiscal Year 2013

December 4, 2013 Comments off

Evaluation of DHS’ Information Security Program for Fiscal Year 2013 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General
From Spotlight (PDF):

DHS continues to improve and strengthen its information security program. During the past year, DHS drafted an ongoing authorization methodology to help improve the security of the Department’s information systems through a new risk management approach. Additionally, DHS developed and implemented the Fiscal Year 2013 Information Security Performance Plan which defines the performance requirements, priorities, and overall goals for the Department throughout the year. DHS has also taken actions to address the Administration’s cybersecurity priorities, which include the implementation of trusted internet connections, continuous monitoring of the Department’s information systems, and strong authentication.

While these efforts have resulted in some improvements, components are still not executing all of the Department’s policies, procedures, and practices. Our review identified the following more significant exceptions to a strong and effective information security program: (1) systems are being operated without authority to operate; (2) plans of action and milestones (POA&M) are not being created for all known information security weaknesses or mitigated in a timely manner; and (3) baseline security configuration settings are not being implemented for all systems. Additional information security program areas that need improvement include incident detection and analysis, specialized training, account and identity management, and contingency planning.

Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office — 2013 Report to Congress

November 26, 2013 Comments off

Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office — 2013 Report to Congress (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

This report, covering the period from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, catalogues the Privacy Office’s continued success in safeguarding individual privacy while supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS or Department) mission.

Post Disaster Reunification of Children – A Nationwide Approach

November 19, 2013 Comments off

Post Disaster Reunification of Children – A Nationwide Approach
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

This document reflects our Nation’s first attempt to establish a holistic and fundamental baseline for reunifying children separated as a result of a disaster and aims to assist local, state, tribal, territorial, and insular area governments and those responsible for the temporary care of children, such as educational, child care, medical, juvenile justice, and recreational facilities, in enhancing the reunification elements of existent emergency preparedness plans and/or conducting new all-hazards reunification planning.

New From the GAO

November 4, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Native American Veterans: DOL Needs a Clear Plan to Improve Employment and Training Services on Tribal Lands. GAO-13-664, September 26.
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2. Department of Homeland Security: Opportunities Exist to Enhance Visibility over Collaborative Field Mechanisms. GAO-13-734, September 27.
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3. Small Business Innovation Research: Data Rights Protections. GAO-14-116R, November 4.


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