Virginia cyber security research leading the way towards safeguarding first responders

computer-worldGovernor Terry McAuliffe announced today the promising results of a collaborative public-private initiative to explore the safeguards needed to protect Virginia’s citizens and public safety agencies from cyber security attacks targeting automobiles.

Introduced in May, this is one of the first spin-off activities of the Virginia Cyber Security Commission and Virginia Cyber Security Partnership. The presentation is one of several taking place Wednesday and Thursday during the “Commonwealth of Virginia Cyber Security – Unmanned Systems Technology Showcase” in Chesterfield County.

This particular public-private working group has spent the past six months working with the Virginia State Police to assess the potential risk of cyber attacks on automobiles, specifically those vehicles used by first responders. The group first focused on the mechanisms of how an attack could be rendered on a police vehicle. Then, a series of trials were conducted last week at the Virginia State Police Training Track Complex to identify and measure the level of awareness that currently exists with public safety personnel in regards to the possibility of a cyber attack on a police vehicle. The results of the preliminary trials will be used to aid law enforcement agencies and other first responders with establishing training protocols and exploring low-cost technology that can be developed to assist public safety agencies with reducing the risk of cyber attacks against their vehicles.

“I applaud our hardworking partners on this important, collaborative cyber security initiative,” Governor McAuliffe said. “This invaluable research is essential for the Commonwealth to advance its objectives to safeguard our drivers, their vehicles and, especially, our public safety professionals. The data and protocols derived from this project are some of the first of their kind in the nation, and will be instrumental in facilitating a more universal discussion about how to preserve the security of vehicles.”

As this work group continues its efforts as part of the Governor McAuliffe’s “Cyber Virginia” platform, it will push to further identify and resolve several critically important issues related to protecting Virginians’ vehicles and the vehicle fleets operated by law enforcement agencies, to include the following goals:

  • Develop strategies for Virginia citizens and public safety personnel to identify and prevent cyber security threats targeting vehicles and other consumer devices.
  • Explore the economic development opportunities related to this specialized cyber security field within the Commonwealth.

“It is critical for industry, law enforcement and the research community to be vigilant and stay ahead of this potential new frontier of cyber attacks, working together now to mitigate future risks,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said.

This public-private working group includes coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology organization and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Additional partners include the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the University of Virginia, The MITRE Corporation, and private-sector cybersecurity companies including Mission Secure Inc., Spectrum Comm, Kaprica Security, and Digital Bond Labs.

An overview of the working group’s research was presented and demonstrated today by Dr. Barry M. Horowitz, Chair and Munster Professor of Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia, at the two-day Commonwealth of Virginia Cyber Security – Unmanned Systems Technology Showcase at John Tyler Community College’s Chester Campus.

The showcase brings together the cyber security and Unmanned Systems (UMS) communities, academia, entrepreneurs, federal labs and industry to explore the interdependence, barriers and opportunities in this rapidly emerging environment. The conference includes presentations by field experts from Aerospace Corp., Aurora Flight Sciences, CIT, FLC-MA USDA/ARS, Flirtey, GENEDGE, Golden Seeds Angel Network, Huntington Ingalls Industries, James Madison University (JMU), NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Peloton Technologies, Regionerate, Small UAV Coalition, The MITRE Corporation, Williams-Mullen, University of Virginia (UVA), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and Virginia Tech (VT).

“Virginia has already proven its ability to lead the way in the successful design, production, and applications of unmanned systems (UMS),” Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson said. “This summit affords the collaborative opportunity among cyber security and UMS leaders from across the Commonwealth and beyond to share their visions for the future and how such systems can be an integral part of building the New Virginia Economy.”

On Thursday, the showcase concludes with an Unmanned Academy Demonstration of a drone, at 2:20 p.m. by Jim Blanchard, ScD, of the USA Academy. The academy specialists in Land, Air and Sea Robotics (LASR) curriculum and laboratory equipment required for unmanned, autonomous systems research and development.

The Virginia Cyber Security Commission and “Cyber Virginia” were launched by Governor McAuliffe with his Executive Order Number Eight on February 25, 2014.


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