Morning Security Brief: Diplomatic Security, TSA Adds Banned Items Feature to Mobile App, iOS Security, And More

By Holly Gilbert

► An independent review has found that the State Department’s office responsible for diplomatic security must be elevated in importance to protect American embassies around the world from the growing threat of terrorist attacks. That office is run by Patrick Kennedy, a State Department undersecretary for management. The New York Times reports that the results of the panel's review, which is not yet published, “implicitly criticize Mr. Kennedy’s office as not paying enough attention to the bureau that oversees security at 275 installations, and recommends ‘as a matter of urgency’ establishing a new undersecretary job to give security matters more clout within the department’s highest policy-making circles.” The State Department has already spent millions of dollars in boosting security at embassies worldwide, including sending “dozens of additional diplomatic security agents to high-threat embassies,” installing “millions of dollars of advanced fire-survival gear and surveillance cameras in those diplomatic posts, and improved training for employees headed to the riskiest missions.” In the 31-page document, the panel concludes that “The department’s present direction of expeditionary diplomacy, operating with an increasing number of temporary and permanent posts in complex, high-risk environments, requires an organizational paradigm change.”

► The Department of Defense (DoD) says it will not be ready to conduct a full budget audit by the end of next September. The DoD had announced plans in October 2011 to complete a full auditable “Statement of Budgetary Resources” by the end of fiscal year 2014 under the leadership of then-defense secretary Leon Panetta. But now the agency says it has scaled back those plans to release a more modest “Schedule of Budgetary Activity,” according to A DoD spokesperson, Navy commander William Urban, said the new budgetary goal is a “‘sensible, cost-effective’” approach that has been discussed with outside auditors and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “’to make sure that everyone agrees that is the best way forward,’” the news report says. Congress had mandated the DoD be able to pass a full audit by September 2017 as part of the Defense Authorization Act, and Urban says the department is “positively committed” to meeting that deadline. A GAO report on Tuesday said the DoD is at “increased risk” of failing the 2017 budgetary audit if it fails to take action on the areas cited for improvement by the watchdog agency.

► To cut down on which items are and are not allowed on board flights, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has added a search capability to its mobile application that allows passengers to more readily identify such objects, Federal Computer Week reports. The "Can I Bring My ___” function on the MyTSA app can search more than 3,500 specific items in the agency’s database. According to the news report, “Passengers can fill in the blank with any words they wish in search of a match,” adding that, “many of the items in the database were suggested by passengers.” The TSA is encouraging passengers who do not immediately find a match for the item they’re searching for to attempt the query a second time for added accuracy, and that users should “eliminate unnecessary qualifiers” in their search terms.

► TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has been awarded a patent that will allow the company to lock iOS devices at varying levels to tailor the user’s security and application settings. According to the report, “Apple’s newly awarded patent describes a system wherein the method used by a user to unlock a device via gesture-based input would determine what apps are made available, as well as what hardware functions are available.” This would allow for different pattern-locking methods to determine which settings appear on the unlocked device. For example, a child finger swiping a letter on the screen would only allow access to certain apps and settings, while an adult entering a passcode might have full access to the device. The company hasn’t officially announced plans to put the patent into practice.

► In other news, IBM has closed its acquisition of cybersecurity company TrusteerRussia warns the U.S. over military involvement in Syria; and new school security measures in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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