Newswise — Washington, D.C. – Assessing networks for potential vulnerabilities is an important responsibility for every organization, and it is especially critical for emergency communications at 9-1-1 centers to identify network security risks. Recently, two U.S. small businesses were awarded a total of $1.96 million in funding through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to develop tools that will support dynamic network modeling for risk management to emergency communication networks.

“There should never be any doubt that if you don’t identify risks to your security operations, a bad actor will do it for you,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “Through the DHS SBIR Program we are able to develop innovative new tools that will help secure Next Generation 9-1-1 communication networks. I look forward to seeing the work performed by America’s small businesses.”

The DHS SBIR Program, administered by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), selected Achilles Heel Technologies and SecureLogix to participate in Phase II of the program based on the successful demonstration of feasibility in Phase I for their Network Modeling for Risk Assessment technology solutions.

In Phase II, both companies will continue their research and development efforts. Achilles Heel Technologies, headquartered in Orem, Utah, will further develop a software tool suite for holistic cyber risk management of Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) systems, including dynamic network models and advanced analytics. SecureLogix, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, will continue development of a modeling tool that will help 9-1-1 decision makers plan mitigations for Telephony Denial of Service (TDoS) attacks and support awareness and education demonstrations, network planning through use of “what if” scenarios, and active training of Public Safety Answering Points call takers.

“Supporting improvements to NG9-1-1 is one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars, as it benefits the entire homeland security enterprise,” said Ann Cox, DHS S&T SBIR Topic Manager.  “Legacy 9-1-1 systems were not connected to the internet, and in some ways were less vulnerable than NG9-1-1.  Now, many new data types are accepted by NG9-1-1 centers, such as text, video, images, and even information directly from an automobile in the event of an accident. All these data types increase the attack surface in cyberspace, in addition to the traditional TDoS and other attacks that originate in the phone system at 9-1-1 centers. This modeling effort allows risk assessment for NG9-1-1 when there is not an emergency occurring, to allow for planning and training as needed.”

At the completion of the 24-month Phase II contract, SBIR awardees will have developed a prototype to facilitate the pursuit of Phase III funding. For Phase III, SBIR performers seek to secure funding from private or a non-SBIR government source and pursue technology commercialization resulting from their Phase I and II efforts.

For more information on the DHS SBIR Program, visit: https://sbir2.st.dhs.gov or contact STSBIR.Program@hq.dhs.gov.

For more information on S&T’s innovation programs and tools, visit:https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/business-opportunities.