The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is in the middle of substantial Operational Risk Management discussions behind closed doors, in light of looming budget cuts. The majority of the Intelligence Community budgets are under the DoD umbrella and in a new world order, subjected to the mobile ICT revolution that is erupting before us. Does Twitter and other social media tools present the need for a new paradigm shift in the future evolution of the Intelligence Community (IC)? Consider this recent analysis:
This paper analyzes the role of situational information as an antecedent of terrorists’ opportunistic decision making in the volatile and extreme environment of the Mumbai terrorist attack. We especially focus on how Mumbai terrorists monitored and utilized situational information to mount attacks against civilians. Situational information which was broadcast through live media and Twitter contributed to the terrorists’ decision making process and, as a result, increased the effectiveness of hand-held weapons to accomplish their terrorist goal. By utilizing a framework drawn from Situation Awareness (SA) theory, this paper aims to (1) analyze the content of Twitter postings of the Mumbai terror incident, (2) expose the vulnerabilities of Twitter as a participatory emergency reporting system in the terrorism context, and (3), based on the content analysis of Twitter postings, we suggest a conceptual framework for analyzing information control in the context of terrorism.
The Mumbai attackers could have used open source social media even more to their advantage and this is what the Intelligence Community (IC) continues to leverage as the Arab Spring(s) continue, civil war escalates in Syria and other ICT-enabled regions of conflict emerge. The tools are becoming more optimized to the kinds of applications necessary to deal with these new Operational Risks. What may continue to be the greatest vulnerability, is the economics. The ability to invest in and provide training for the new generation of cyber warriors and HUMINT collectors. Are the Trusted Systems and Networks in place integrated with the latest Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software riding on encrypted networks?
Plenty of companies ask Twitter to filter out certain parts of its enormous data set. But DataSift is one of just two companies licensed to syndicate the firehose of all Twitter feeds. (The other is Gnip.) Its internet-based Query Builder service also allows customers to run natural-language processing off the entire Twitter firehose and adjust it on the fly in several ways. The processing requires a massive amount of storage, to the tune of 1.3 petabytes, said Nick Halstead, DataSift’s founder and chief technology officer. With the open-source versions, developers can add the Query Builder’s streams and processing to business-intelligence platforms, and users won’t even be able to tell it’s running in the background, Halstead said.The convergence of mobile, cloud and big data is the single IT transformation issue in governments and the private sector. The IC and DoD realize that the only way to survive and to be more resilient, is to close or converge data centers with legacy hardware and software. Simultaneously accelerating the onboarding to private sector assets, that have also been certified and accredited. The next vulnerability being discussed, is how to acquire enough of the existing energy grid to support the requirements for cooling the vast data centers under construction and getting access to dark fibre. Bluffdale is just one example:
Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.
This is the kind of capability that will remain exempt from the threat of limited funding or future austerity in the new world order of mobile, cloud and big data. The introduction of tools or services such as Silent Circle will only add to the Operational Risk challenges of the next decade. Privacy will become a sought after luxury, only available to those with the means or the latest set of consumer-based communications tools. Either way, the senior executives of private sector critical infrastructure companies are under the spot light. They own the majority of the ICT assets and therefore have the most to win. Unfortunately, they also have the most to lose.
The future of the DoD and the IC will be determined by the success or failure of the cooperation, coordination and collaboration of men and women with a unity of purpose. Patriots who will continue to do the right things for the right reasons. The future is now about resilience and competitiveness. Lets get to work!