Here’s a list of 6 important very real details that should/could be of interest to writers who want to go the extra mile when delivering believable make-believe.

  1. North Korea has launched a malicious cyber activity known as Hidden Cobra. According to Homeland Security and the FBI (this information comes via legitimate outlets, not through a web of anonymous and unnamed sources and leakers), Hidden Cobra works by capturing sensitive information, and by disrupting day-to-day operations. The Department of Homeland Security urges everyone, especially organizations of sensitive natures (banks, law enforcement, etc.) to upgrade to the latest editions of Adobe Flash Player, Hangul Word Processor, and Silverlight, and to review and block all IP addresses listed in the “indicators of compromise” list they provide. For full details, please visit the DHS site here, or the Hidden Cobra link above.
  2. Rapid DNA has been successfully tested in matching families with victims in mass casualties. The process greatly reduces the time it takes to (per the DHS) “reunify families and mass-casualty victims.”

Here’s a fairly recent video of Sen. Hatch questioning AG Sessions about the importance of Rapid DNA use in law enforcement and the need to approve it’s use.

3. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with ILC Dover and West Virginia University helped develop the Resilient Tunnel Plug. This gigantic balloon-like inflatable device is designed to prevent flooding and chemical and gas attacks to a various tunnels, such as railway and automotive passageways. It’s sort of like a puffer fish in that when danger is sensed, the plug, like the puffer fish, inflates to ward off the trouble. When deployed (automatically or manually), the plug  falls from it’s storage compartment and inflates until it snugly fills and seals the tunnel opening. I understand that until the device is approved and in place and ready to work, puffer fish volunteers, among other portly swimming future-filets, are on the way to major waterside cities to assume the roles of temporary tunnel-pluggers.

4. Cell-site simulators—IMSI-catchers—are used by law enforcement, and others (bad guys), for the purpose of capturing cellphone conversations, pinpointing the exact location of a targeted phone, and even for the distribution of spam. The use of these devices by criminals has become more prevalent and, as a result, researchers at the University of Washington developed Sea Glass, a system designed to detect unusual activity in the cellular landscape. In other words, Sea Glass knows when it’s near an IMSI-catcher and it signals to its user when they’re close to one.

During a lengthy testing period in two major U.S. cities, 15 ride-share vehicles were equipped with Sea glass devices. The results indicated a pattern consistent with activity of several ISMI-catchers (also called Stargazers, among a few other names) positioned within the cities.

5. REDDI is the Department of Homeland Security’s latest program for training explosive detection K-9s. The purpose of this new training—to expose K-9 teams to current real-world conditions—is to further enhance the dogs’ ability to detect the presence of bombs/explosives. As you can see (right), the animals selected for the program are extremely smart, fearless, and well-schooled.

6. The Office of Naval Research awarded Dr. Nitin Agarwal a $1,530,778 grant to study sources of false information on the Internet and how it’s spread through social media. The study will also focus on how people and groups use this faux information to conduct cyber propaganda campaigns. Dr. Agarwal is the chair and a professor of information science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.