Spring 2017 Newsletter

In this issue: Ransomware, Internet of Things, Executive Orders


Ransomware: Holding Businesses, Governments, and Individuals Hostage

digital abstract background with skullsThe headlines say it all: “Ransomware attacks grew 600% in 2016, costing businesses $1B.

Businesses, government, and individuals are all targets of these attacks. Most attacks are generated by cybercriminals who most generally rely on infected email to deliver malware to victims.

Victims are often monitored for their data vulnerability and then an optimized amount that the victim would be most likely to pay is demanded.

Experts advise victims not pay the ransom because there is no guarantee that the cybercriminal will honor their end of the agreement. However, given the expense of downtime, many find paying the ransom to be more cost effective. To minimize risk, US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) offers several suggestions, including:

  • Perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of data or system loss and to help expedite the recovery process. Ideally, this data should be kept on a separate device, and backups should be stored offline.
  • Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software.
  • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email. See Security Tip: Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments. For information on safely handling email attachments, see Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams.
  • Follow safe practices when browsing the web. See Good Security Habits and Safeguarding Your Data for additional details.

Instances of a Ransomware attack should be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3)

The HSDL has a number of useful resources on Ransomware, what it is, and how to keep yourself protected. Here are a few:


Internet of Things: Smart or Susceptible?

internet of things“The majority of Internet ‘users’ are machines, not people.” — Managing Risk for the Internet of Things

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)  has been spurred by many innovations which rely increasingly on machines and services to meet the desire to be more interconnected, collect more data, and eliminate manual tasks.

For professionals in Homeland Security, the Internet of Things has an unlimited amount of potential in fulfilling a variety of missions. It is already being used in border security, immigration, emergency response, and critical infrastructure. Uses of sensor technology include: improving traffic flow; alerting engineers to compromised infrastructure; and monitoring air quality for biohazards, to name just a few.  Commercial uses of smart devices are also taking note of people’s movements and habits. The resulting data from products such as cell phones, smart cars, and wearable devices, which track your habits and location, are resulting in large swaths of information useful to companies… and criminals. Hacking into devices such as driverless cars and GPS devices could literally steer you wrong.

The challenges of this new technology — including the need for resources to sustain, protect, and accommodate its expansion — are part of the current discussion in both government and commercial sectors.

Below is a selection of resources from the HSDL on the Internet of Things. Additional resources can be found by searching terms including “internet of things” , “smart cities”, and “connected devices” in the HSDL.


90 Years of Homeland Security-Related Executive Orders

fountain pen“Executive orders, presidential memoranda, and proclamations are used extensively by Presidents to achieve policy goals, set uniform standards for managing the executive branch, or outline a policy view intended to influence the behavior of private citizens. […] If they are based on appropriate authority, they have the force and effect of law.” — Congressional Research Service

The HSDL collects all Executive Orders (EOs) with significance to homeland security. These can be found in the Policy & Strategy Documents Collection. In this collection, one can search across all Presidential Documents — including both EOs and Presidential Directives, or browse to find documents issued by a specific President, for example, those issued by Donald J. Trump.

In addition to all homeland security related EOs, the HSDL makes every attempt to collect any prior EOs which have been amended, revoked or superseded by newly issued EOs. As such, the HSDL collection currently has over 600 Executive Orders dating back as far as 1927.

For more information on the nature of Executive Orders, including presidential authority, and judicial and congressional responses to their issuance, see the following CRS Report: Executive Orders: Issuance, Modification, and Revocation [April 16, 2014]


Homeland Security Commemorations and Anniversaries

The next few months mark commemorations and anniversaries of significant homeland security events. Featured below are select incidents affecting the U.S., accompanied by pertinent HSDL documents. For the full list, visit the Upcoming Homeland Security Events calendar.





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