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Ransomware and Other Short Takes on Secured Cities 2016

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 23 Nov 2016

Next generation 911, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning applied to video surveillance, gunshot detection, the growing threat of ransomware, and the risk posed by homegrown terrorists were all hot topics at Secured Cities 2016. The combination of IoT and machine learning are having a revolutionary impact on state and local governments and touch on almost all aspects of public safety and the Smart City.

The first responder of the future will very likely look something like the image below, fully-equipped with wearable IoT technology to provide complete situational awareness. They will know exactly where to go, what to expect, and who is expecting them. All the critical information, including the vital signs and health data of the in-field first responders, will be collected and communicated by next generation 911.To fully achieve the capabilities shown below, challenges in security, device management, network, analytics, immature technology, skills training, privacy, and standardization must first be met and overcome.


Next generation 911 builds on the concept of Computer-Aided Dispatch – the latest meaning of the CAD acronym. Last year 72% of 911 calls came from cell phones, but existing 911 centers have not yet adapted to that fact. 

The Soaring Threat of Ransomware

Ransomware attacks, as defined above, are up dramatically and according to a survey this year by Osterman Research, nearly 50% of organizations have been hit. This is due in large part to the emergence of the bitcoin as international currency. To combat these attacks, a dual-pronged strategy is needed: secure the systems with technology and train users to avoid and report infections. Here’s what the FBI says you should do if hit with a ransomware attack.

 Gunshot Recognition Systems

Whenever a shot goes off in a populated area, responders need to know the details immediately. Human witnesses typically react not to the source of the sound, but to the echo (remember the grassy knoll?), which leads responders in the wrong direction. Gunshot detection arrays, however, are not fooled. They can swivel a camera directly to the source of the shot within one second 97.22% of the time. With current systems, the shot detection is done in the field at the pole. These systems are capable of filtering out routine sounds like car doors slamming. They can also detect suspicious sounds like door rattling.

Gunshot detection systems have the same effect on crime as video surveillance systems: transgressions dramatically drop or completely disappear after the systems are installed. The Cherry Hill section of Baltimore is an example. Celebratory gun firing there had been especially terrible every July 4th and New Year’s Eve. But after installing the detectors, that activity dropped to zero, making the community much safer.

The Threat of Homegrown Terrorism

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Since 9/11, 74 Americans have been killed by terrorists, but the majority of the killers were grown and trained in the United States.Dr Errol Southers, dir. of homegrown violent extremism (HVE) studies at USC, reported on the trends and what is being done to address the issues. Southers has found that the terrorists are filled with anger and hate. Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a strong believer in conspiracy theories and follower of Neo-Nazi sites praising Hitler. Hybrid ideologies emerge: one former leader of the Aryan Brotherhood carried his hateful outlook with him after he converted to Islam. According to Southers, a particularly dangerous group is Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh (JIS; Assembly of Authentic Islam) which is active in the California prison system. The hatred festers until a “Cognitive Opening” creates a trigger. The Branch Davidian siege near Waco was this sort of trigger for Timothy McVeigh.

Many of these terrorist leaders end up killing each other, and although it is controversial, drones have eliminated a high proportion of the foreign terrorist organization leaders. A more peaceful route has been to engage with American extremists and steer them back into the mainstream or at least monitor them. 

A team of public sector experts was on hand at Secured Cities in Houston, Texas, to help government agencies and integrators plan out their smart city projects including wireless surveillance systems and wired and wireless network infrastructure needs. Learn more about Extreme Networks public sector solutions.

Bill Rademacher, Brian O’Connor, and Chip Thompson of Extreme Networks participated in Secured Cities 2016.


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