Technology Foraging for Cybersecurity Solutions

August 23, 2016  |  Chuck Brooks

Technology foraging, or searching for smart ideas and technologies, is a key element of research and development both in the public and private sectors. It serves as a basis for discoveries of new products, applications, and processes brought to the marketplace. There are many hidden treasures yet to be discovered, commercialized, licensed and integrated into technology solutions. Foraging can impact all innovations across the emerging technology spectrum, including in cybersecurity areas.

In government, there is an extensive infrastructure of agencies geared toward facilitating technology foraging. For specifically enhancing cybersecurity capabilities, there are dedicated research and development efforts being conducted at (among other agencies) the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy/National Labs (DOE), and in the Intelligence Community (IC).

The Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security defines technology foraging as a process of “identifying, locating and evaluating existing or developing technologies, products, services and emerging trends. This approach allows faster development and increases partnership opportunities and resources to assist the development of current or future homeland security systems and needs.”

In 2011, DHS established the Technology Foraging Office to canvas patents, journals, labs, and forums looking for adaptable ideas and early-stage technologies for the homeland security mission. The DHS foraging initiative serves as an excellent collaborative model for an encompassing, foraging map across industry, academia and government agencies. The Science & Technology Directorate of DHS (DHS S & T) operates a variety of programs complimenting the R & D and technology foraging mission for “Leap-Ahead Technologies” in cybersecurity.

DHS’s S & T Homeland Security and Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) conducts analysis to understand these organizations’ current missions, systems, and processes and ultimately identifies operational gaps where new technologies can have the most impact. Program managers lead teams of national experts to develop, test, and evaluate these new homeland security technologies and capabilities. In response to the increasing importance of the cybersecurity mission, S&T formally established the Cyber Security Division (CSD) within HSARPA.

DHS S & T Transition to Practice (TTP) was created as a result of the White House’s Federal Cybersecurity R & D Strategic Plan, as well as the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). TTP’s key role is” identifying innovative, federally funded cybersecurity research that addresses cybersecurity needs, and is helping to transition this research into the Homeland Security Enterprise through partnerships.” According to the DHS “Cyber Security Division Transition to Practice Technology Guide” several focus areas cover the critical vulnerability and cybersecurity landscape of the Directorate. These include: 1) Internet Infrastructure Security; 2) Critical Infrastructure/Key Resources; 3) National Research Infrastructure; 4) Leap-Ahead Technologies; 5) Cyber Security Education; 6) Identity Management; 7) Cyber Forensics; and 8) Software Assurance.

DHS & DOE National Labs

DHS S & T works closely via the Transition to Practice Program in areas of technology foraging with the DOE National Labs and Federally Funded research and Development Centers (FFRDC’s). These include some of our nation’s most recognized national Labs including: Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, Argonne, Sandia, Idaho National laboratory, Battelle, and Brookhaven. Recently, DHS TTP has showcased, at a series of events, new innovative cybersecurity technologies developed by the DOE National Labs, tech from academia, and from start-ups from Silicon Valley. The benefits of the Labs’ role include experienced capability in rapid proto-typing of new technologies ready for transitioning, showcasing, and commercialization. The National Labs host some of the best scientific minds on the planet. The Labs are a reservoir of specialized skills and capabilities that are now being tapped by the private sector and government agencies.

Aside from talent, the labs also have the best state-of-the art facilities for testing and evaluation of technologies. They also have a deep knowledge and accessible database of both classified and unclassified cyber threats. The nation’s 40 federally funded R&D centers annually spend many $ billions on research and development annually and have compiled a treasure trove of technologies and applications that have cyber applications. Successful technologies and projects that have migrated to operational use both in public and private sectors via the TPP program have included Botnet detection and mitigation technology, Data Visualization Tools, Active Malware Protection, and Rootkit Detection and Mitigation technology.

The Transition to Practice (TTP Program) is a resource for industry and communication is encouraged. The TTP program is coordinated by Douglas Maughan, DHS S & T Cyber Security Director and Michael Pozmantier, DHS S & T Cyber Security Program Manager. The office can be reached at ST.TTP@hq.dhs.gov


The Department of Defense is also active in technology foraging. Unlike DHS, their focus is primarily for warfighting requirements. When it comes to cybersecurity research and development, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the lead agency. The DARPA website notes that DARPA was established in 1958 “to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.” DARPA projects have seen an increasingly bigger focus on cybersecurity missions.

Like DHS, DARPA’s specialized work is often collaborative and in many cases shares results of technology foraging across government and industry. At a Christian Science Monitor Passcode conference last year, DARPA’s Director Arati Prabhakar stated that an objective of the agency in cybersecurity remains laying "a foundation for technologies that will outpace the growth of the threat." DARPA conducts “The Cyber Grand Challenge: a competition that seeks to create automatic defensive systems capable of reasoning about flaws, formulating patches and deploying them on a network in real time. By acting at machine speed and scale, these technologies may someday overturn today’s attacker-dominated status quo.”

The Intelligence Community

The Intelligence Community is also active in tech foraging. The Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity (IARPA) is operated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. IARPA “endeavours to counter new capabilities implemented by our adversaries that could threaten our ability to operate freely and effectively in a networked world. [tackle some of the most difficult] [?] “ IARPA is tasked to predict rapid changes in the information technology threat landscape and often solicits input from industry and academia. Key IARPA cybersecurity research focus areas include information assurance, advanced computing technologies and architectures, quantum information science and technology, and threat detection and mitigation. IARPA’s clients are the US intelligence community. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do have their own programs to discover and evaluate new technologies and also work closely with IARPA.


Academia also plays a key role in technology foraging. Numerous universities and colleges have invested in research and development in and have successfully commercialized information security technologies. Academia has always worked closely with the public sector and is collaborating more with the private sector to developing intellectual property, and especially innovative algorithms for cybersecurity. Many of the world’s leading academic institutions including MIT, Cal Tech, University of Chicago, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and others have contributed significantly in the creation of breakthrough technologies through basic and applied research.

As the development of new technologies continues to grow exponentially and globally, technology foraging will become more valuable as a resource for adapting to the rapidly changing cybersecurity threat landscape. There are many new technologies and applications that have yet to be discovered or rediscovered. Government, industry, and academia need to continue investing and expanding cooperation in the evolving digital arena to meet the many challenges ahead and help keep us safe.

About the Author

Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as the Vice President for Government Relations & Marketing for Sutherland Global Services. Chuck is also the Chairman of CompTIA’s New and Emerging Technology Committee and serves as a Christian Science Monitor “Passcode Influencer” He was named “2016 Cybersecurity Marketer of the Year” at The Cybersecurity Excellence Awards. In government, Chuck served at the Department of Homeland Security as the first Director of Legislative Affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. He also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a Senior Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter where he covered foreign affairs, business, and technology issues. In academia, Chuck was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University. He has an MA in International relations from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Political Science from DePauw University. Chuck is widely published in leading publications on the subjects of innovation, public/private partnerships, emerging technologies, and issues of homeland security and cybersecurity

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