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Five Ways Homeland Security is All About Networks…

2014 February 15
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

I have not been sufficiently active in creating content for this blog, and working and teaching have left little room for blogging lately.  I was sensitive that (both of) my readers were likely giving up on HLSR, so I thought it was high time to get back to blogging, and to redesign the site to reflect what I think is a key to understanding homeland security in today’s world, understanding the importance of networks.

Of course terrorist networks are important in homeland security, but they are just one example of the role of the network in the lives of homeland security professionals.  Here are five ways that homeland security is all about networks:

  1. Informal Personal Networks – If there is one thing I have learned in my years as a homeland security practitioner, it’s that things get done, emergencies are responded to efficiently, and intelligence is shared through informal networks.  Understanding the importance of the informal network is key to the success of any HLS professional.  Find ways to encourage informal networks and it will pay when it counts…
  2. Computer Networks – If you follow the money and energy in homeland security, and I know you do, then you know that both are currently in cyber security.  Terrorists and others are attacking the homeland in many sectors via computer networks.  To stay in the game, every homeland security professional must have at least a basic knowledge of computer networks.
  3. Critical Infrastructure Networks – Everything in the world that matters is now part of a network, linked together via the Internet and controlled remotely via SCADA or other systems.  Understanding the threat and vulnerability of critical infrastructure means understanding the networks that control that infrastructure.  Additionally, many CI/KR are networks themselves.  Homeland security professionals must focus on the critical nodes of these networks, since we don’t have the resources to protect it all.
  4. Social Networks – Homeland security professionals no longer have to wait for a national intelligence estimate to find out what is going on around the world.  Operations centers in the public and private sector now have active social network monitoring capabilities to provide leaders with real time information about issues that matter to them.  Understanding social networks and tapping into them provides the professional with tools we could only have dreamed of even a decade ago.
  5. Criminal and Terrorist Networks – Law enforcement officers now have tools on their smart phones that provide them with real time information about individuals and their network affiliations.  These tools are changing the face of law enforcement.  Intelligence analysis formerly done at headquarters behind closed doors is now being done in the field instantly.   Intelligence and information is readily available in apps downloaded and shared among officers, sometimes informally.  These technologies provide new tools for crime fighters, but also push the envelope in the area of constitutional rights and privacy.  Understanding these trends and the associated legal, moral and civil rights  issues is essential for current and future agency leadership.

Successful homeland security professionals will understand the role of networks, and therefore will study tools to better leverage them.  There are tools available that take advantage of the power of the network.  Homeland security professionals that are students of networks will lead us to a secure future.

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