ODNI wants help securing biometric systems


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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is looking for industry’s help protecting biometric data-gathering systems at the nation’s borders and ports of entry. 

In a broad agency announcement, ODNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is soliciting information from industry on a plan to secure the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric systems against falsification. The project, known as Odin, looks to anticipate attacks and threats to the kinds of technologies used to collect fingerprints, iris images and facial recognition data of individuals leaving at airports or border crossings. 

“There’s a variety of different ways that you can create problems within a biometrics system,” Chris Boehnen, manager for IARPA’s Odin program, told FedScoop, mentioning common tactics like “latex putty fingerprints.” 

This project, however, looks to move beyond known tactics, he said. “If all you ever do is look for attacks that you know about, you’re probably going to miss a whole bunch.”

The technologies contracted through Odin will be used to secure biometrics systems DHS has been piloting at select ports and borders across the nation to better guard against visitors who overstay their visas. The department hopes to fully launch the program by 2018.

DHS first tried the biometrics pilot at John F. Kennedy airport at New York City and is currently testing it at Otay Mesa border crossing between Mexico and the U.S. in California.

“The overstay identification process is conducted by consolidating arrival, departure, and immigration status adjustment information to generate a complete picture of individuals traveling to the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security wrote in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on June 14.

“DHS is continuing to move forward in further developing a biometric exit system that can be integrated in the current architecture to enhance this capability,” the testimony continued.

Boehnen foresees advanced data analytics and machine learning playing a big role in anticipating and detecting attacks or other threats to the biometric systems. 

 IARPA, however, is agnostic to the kind of solutions industry proposes as long as they better detect threats, he said.

“We don’t prescribe how to solve it, that’s the beauty of issuing this BAA and letting everybody come at us with their great ideas,” Boehnen said. “We issue BAAs and invite the world to submit their best ideas towards that proposal, we then go through and review them all, then we fund the best ones.”

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Defense & Intelligence, Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Departments, Government IT News, Procurement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
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