Counter terrorism today is an increasingly complex matter. No longer do counter-terror and homeland security efforts just consist of securing our homeland’s borders.  We are faced with mounting threats of cyberterrorism and attacks on critical national infrastructure; challenges in protecting our nation and its citizens in times of disaster; along with emerging extremists and threats from radicalization.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a cybersecurity strategy that outlines goals for government and industry for securing the nation’s existing critical infrastructure and developing a more resilient future cyber ecosystem. In addition to securing cyberspace, the strategy also addresses preventing terrorism, securing national borders, enforcing immigration laws and disaster response.

However, successful counter-terror efforts must include the collective efforts and shared responsibilities of the complete counter-terror community including federal and state agencies, Department of Defense (DoD), police and first responders along with those responsible for securing the nation’s vital infrastructure in both the private and public sector. Achieving this level of collaboration can be a daunting task.

There are currently more than 39,000 local jurisdictions in the United States, each charged with protecting its citizens. Hundreds of thousands of law enforcement and first responders are tasked to respond to threats, from floods to chemical attacks and suicide bombers. The challenge is further complicated by the multitude of federal agencies with responsibility to coordinate with each other and keep the community informed. Counter Terror Expo US was specially organized to bring together this complete counter-terror community and bolster collaboration in counter-terror efforts. 

While the threat of terrorism spans across many industries, countries and through countless mediums, we have chosen a few areas to highlight that we feel will get considerable attention in the coming year.

A Mounting Threat: Cyberterrorism

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, cyberterrorism is any “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which results in violence against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.” Unlike a nuisance virus or computer attack that result in a denial of service, a cyber terrorist attack is designed to cause physical consequences or extreme financial harm. Possible cyberterrorist targets include the banking industry, military installations, power plants, air traffic control centers and water systems.

Fueled by economic and political forces, the threat of cyberterrorism to our technical infrastructure is real and immediate, and cyberterrorists are very motivated. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2015 at least one G20 nation’s critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.

As our nation’s critical infrastructure grows more reliant on information technologies, it also becomes more exposed to attackers that can threaten our nation’s economy, cause mass disruption of communications or other services, and attack the nation’s infrastructure through cyber means. The need to know who is behind the attack and how they plan to execute it will only be possible through collaboration and information sharing.

Securing and Managing our Borders

Border security and management efforts focus on three interrelated goals: effectively securing U.S. air, land, and sea borders; safeguarding and streamlining lawful trade and travel; and disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal and terrorist organizations.

Securing our nation’s southern border, the 1,200 miles of shared border with Mexico, has never been more important. In addition to the Mexico drug cartel gang violence that threatens to cross into our country, one concern to authorities is the fact that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is seeing more attempts of illegal entry by people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Middle Eastern aliens who come from Central America through Mexico, into Texas, and into the rest of the United States.

However, preventing illegal movements of people across our border is only one activity of CBP. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, CBP activities have continued to evolve with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., while also securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.Another challenge that CBP is facing is the many weaknesses in the system of commercial truck traffic that is entering the U.S. from Mexico and the threat that it poses to our nation’s security. The current system for transporting, storing and inspecting commercial cargo that is crossing into the U.S. is poorly designed and monitored.

To address this and other global trade concerns, DHS established the Customer-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) initiative. C-TPAT is a voluntary government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen and improve overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. C-TPAT recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers and manufacturers. Through this initiative, CBP is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate and verify the security guidelines of their business partners within the supply chain.

To learn more about these issues and the leading-edge science and technology being used by counter terror community, attend the Counter Terror Expo US debuting in May 2012 in Washington, D.C