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Clouded in Confusion: Demystifying Cloud Computing

It’s like water

The term ‘cloud computing’ befuddles many. When computers first appeared on our desks at work, in order to do anything we had to buy software and install it on the box in our offices. Today, because everything can live in the cloud, one can literally purchase all his or her computing needs from a service provider who operates in the cloud. In the beginning it was about SAAS or Software as a Service. Today you can purchase virtual servers, storage, database services – organizations can now choose to place some or all of their IT systems in the cloud. These newer capabilities are referred to as infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) and platforms as a Service (PAAS) can also come from the cloud. Not only that, but the information in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere. Just like drinking water, all one needs to do is turn on the tap.

According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘cloud’ is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing … as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents.” Clouds can be public, private or a hybrid. Public clouds, (like social networks) are available to the general public. Private clouds exist solely for the use of the organization and can be located internally or externally. Hybrid clouds describe a combination of two or more clouds that talk to each other but are separate entities.

The one certainty is that cloud computing is causing a fundamental shift in information technology for organizations. Businesses large and small are starting to leverage cloud services, which means that sheriff’s offices large and small need to follow suit.

Taking a cue from the business world

In today’s economic times business leaders are increasingly focused on economies of scale, law enforcement too can learn from these practices. Just as any business that is hyper-focused on its core business, Sheriff’s agencies might better enable themselves to focus on crime fighting by outsourcing what’s not considered primary to its overall mission. Scalable, secure IT infrastructure is essential to any sheriff organization but isn’t easily achievable with slashed resources and constant threat of data breaches.

Brian Doyle is the Vice President of IT and Data Center Services at PCNet Inc., a Connecticut-based IT services company. His company is increasingly contacted by government organizations that no longer have the resources to replace aging systems, “these organizations have legacy applications which require new infrastructure to support them and because of staff reductions they probably don’t have the IT resources in place to safeguard data.” To earn industry certifications such as SAS70 Type II and SSAE16, companies like PCNet must meet strict standards that ensure physical security, networking security and sound business operations.

Data security is of paramount concern to all but with recent highly publicized data breaches, law enforcement is increasingly worried about protecting the data they gather. This summer, after the BART Police in California shut down cell-phone service following a threat of protest at a few of its underground rail stations, members of the hacker collective calling itself Anonymous infiltrated BART databases at least twice. The first time the hackers gained information about more than a hundred police officers that they subsequently posted online. The second time, the hackers released information on about 2,400 BART customers. The protesters were calling attention to a recent officer-involved fatal shooting of a homeless man.[1] “Everybody is concerned about whether or not they can keep their data protected and what are they going to do if there’s an attack. Generally IT professionals have more experience at dealing with these types of attacks than your average law enforcement IT guy”, stated Doyle.

Scalable Innovation

Law enforcement leaders are approached regularly by companies who have innovative applications that would benefit their organizations in some way. The disconnect often occurs at the point where a purchase decision is to be made which in turn requires research and then installation on in-house servers. Additionally, many of the most innovative applications need a lot of computing power to run them.

Scott Mills is the Vice President of Global Information Technology for Conservation International. He said taking something innovative to scale is one of the primary benefits of using cloud computing services, “before, if I wanted a solution I had to buy a server and software and spend time figuring out what I wanted. Now it takes 5 minutes to turn on SAAS in the cloud, now I have capability to do things I wasn’t previously able to do”.  For Mills it isn’t about having a “cloud strategy” but more about having a strategy of which the cloud is a part.

A example of this is the Baltimore Police Department’s use of Xora’s Field Force Manager Software program. The application is not only used to coordinate efforts in crowd control situations, but also to track the location of officers by the dispatchers. Without the computing power offered by the cloud, running such a program would not be possible. [2]

What does the cloud mean for forensic investigations?

While those in the IT services business, like Doyle, would argue that he is better equipped to ensure data security, many organizations are hesitant about moving operations to the cloud and cite security and the relinquishing of control as two of the top reasons why.

For law enforcement, one significant issue is obtaining evidence from cloud-based systems.  These systems store data on massive storage arrays that make forensic data acquisition much more complex. Cloud providers haven’t designed a way to comply with forensic investigations and investigators have likewise not offered procedures either. In most cases, in a cloud environment, the investigator is not going to be able to get his or her hands on the actual physical device storing the data and current forensic investigation standards require direct access to digital evidence[3].  Further complicating an investigation is that different processes might be outsourced to different cloud service providers, each one with its own terms of service and each one in a different geography with possibly even several countries involved.

Security experts also point out that the low cost and flexibility that attracts businesses to cloud-based services also attracts criminals, and these services make it easier for criminals to cover their tracks and operate with significantly more anonymity in the cloud. Eric Jacksch is an Information Security expert who manages the Canadian Security Practice for a global IT services company. He outlined a scenario where a criminal could use a throw-away cell phone, a prepaid gift card and a fake email address to set up shop to commit fraud. “A few years ago, if you wanted to start a system you had to purchase or rent a physical server. Today you can rent virtual servers on the cloud by the hour, they’re dirt cheap and you can delete things when you’re done.” That system can also easily be moved around according to Jacksch, “and by the time a victim gets a credit card statement the server used to commit the fraud simply doesn’t exist.  We’re now in the era of the throw-away server and it’s going to be a nightmare for investigators.”

On the other hand, a diet-drug scam investigation provided what is known as the first search warrant benefiting from a suspect’s use of cloud computing last year. FBI agents were able to obtain incriminating data more easily because it existed on Google’s cloud servers rather than the suspect’s own hard-drives. The 1986 Stored Communications Act allows the government to access a customer’s data whenever there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the information would be relevant in a criminal investigation. Even though the Feds obtained a search warrant they did not have to meet the standards for “probable cause”, nor did they have to go to the suspect’s location.[4]

To Jacksch, the cloud isn’t more or less secure than traditional IT systems, just different. “So much depends on the provider and the way in which the services are managed and used”, he said, and added, “you’re giving up some control to the cloud provider but having control doesn’t always mean having better security. We can achieve a high level of security in the cloud.  However, poorly managed cloud services can lead to disaster just as quickly as poorly managed traditional IT servers.” The cloud-enabled ability to instantly back up data is significant to Jacksch, “many small organizations simply can’t afford the type of backup capability that cloud providers offer.”

Cloud computing requires a different approach by investigators.  On one hand, recreating a crime scenario in a cloud computing environment may become nearly impossible. Among the reasons is that data on the cloud often exists in several places and is mobile, making it difficult for an investigator to find and obtain the data in its original form. On the other hand, multiple copies of data and near-instant backup capabilities may allow the investigator to find or capture evidence that would have otherwise been overwritten.

While cloud computing is one of the most talked about developments in information technology, even IT professionals are struggling to absorb what it means to their organizations. Whether they outsource IT services or not, sheriff’s agencies in the future are quite likely to find themselves increasingly pushed to cooperate with other agencies as they struggle to understand the cloud, through all the haze and the fog.

[1]Melrose, Bob, “BART Hacked Again; Police Officer Data Released”, CBS San Francisco, http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/08/17/bart-hacked-again-police-officer-data-released/
[2] Gourley, Bob, “Cloud Computing for Law Enforcement“, Cloud Computing Journal, http://cloudcomputing.sys-con.com/node/1810027 April 28, 2011
[3] Reilly, Denis; Wren, Chris; Berry, Tom. International Journal Multimedia and Image Processing. “Cloud Computing: Pros and Cons for Computer Forensic Investigations”. Vol; 1. Issue 1. March 2011.
[4] Poulsen, Kevin. Wired.com “Spam Suspect Uses Google Docs; FBI Happy”. April 16, 2010.

This article was previously published in the NSA’s Deputy and Court Officer magazine.

Before you create a Google+ account for your agency, make sure you know what you're going to do with it.

Social Media Quick Tip: Google+, Plus What?

Before you create a Google+ account for your agency, make sure you know what you're going to do with it.

In June, Google launched its own social network called Google+. The current estimated of number of users of G+ are as high at 40 million compared to nearly 800 million for Facebook. Although neither company claims to be competing against the other, it’s clear to many social media observers that stakes are high as the one that comes out on top stands to wield considerable control over the future of the Web.

Google just launched Google+ for companies and organizations this week. At what point should law enforcement agencies incorporate Google+ into their social media programs? I was pretty excited to set up my own company page, but was somewhat disappointed once I had it created. Company pages seem to be much the same as individual pages. I was expecting many more marketing features.

I’ve long maintained that creating any social media profile should be preceded by proactive strategy development that’s in alignment with agency communication goals. The great majority of law enforcement agencies have Facebook, Twitter, even YouTube accounts without having first given any thought to what they’re going to do with them. Now that Google+ is available to your agency, first ask yourself if it makes sense for you to be there. Are any of your audiences there? Do you have a strategic reason—a business case—for justifying the page?

At a minimum, it would be a good idea to create a page to “hold” your agency name, and by all means, monitor to see if anyone is impersonating your agency (this goes for all social networks). Digital impersonators might be a big problem on Google+ as verification procedures don’t seem to have been established.

If you’re anxious to get started, once you have a personal profile you can create a page at https://plus.google.com/pages/create.

We will continue to update you on Google+ pages and will be providing more Social Media Quick Tips on how to leverage Google+ pages for your agency in the coming weeks.


DHS Networking Site and Working Group Fill Unique Roles

Law enforcement now has plenty of resources for communicating with the public online; the past few years have seen an explosion in the use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others.  But where do I go to communicate with others in my field or find advice when an issue arises?

Lately, I’ve been using a great tool called the First Responder Communities of Practice, and it is increasingly the place I turn for networking and sharing information with others in the field.  After joining the site, located at http://Communities.FirstResponder.gov, members have unprecedented access to practitioners across the country representing nearly every expertise imaginable.   I’ve been impressed with how easy it is to locate and ask questions of other public information officers and first responders whose years of experience well surpass mine.

Site members use discussion boards, shared document repositories, wikis, and other tools to collaborate on projects and share information with one another.  The site was created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate to foster information sharing across all homeland security related fields.  I’d encourage anyone who is interested to sign up for an account and begin exploring what’s available.  It’s also easy to share your own resources and get your name out in front of a nation-wide audience.

You will quickly notice the unique chance for cross-disciplinary information sharing, meaning that you can discuss common issues with groups such as the fire service or non-profit organizations.  As the world becomes more interconnected and strained budgets force further coordination of operations and resources, I think the site is an impressive place to connect on these efforts.  It’s hard to imagine the wealth of knowledge and potential for collaboration opportunities on another site. And the best part, especially in today’s budgetary environment, is its free!

In addition to the Communities of Practice site, I am also participating in the DHS S&T led Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG).  It has been fascinating to explore the potential of social media tools and to hear from other practitioners across the country regarding the integration of these technologies into their agencies.  Our discussions so far have reinforced the fact that social media for law enforcement is all about engaging the community, humanizing the agency, and keeping citizens informed at all times.  What better way is there to achieve these goals than for agencies to come together across geographic region and public safety discipline to share best practices?

Soon, the working group will release to the public a Social Media Guidance document containing a breakdown of all the issues to consider when implementing social media in a public safety organization.  It is a great resource for users of any skill level who want to get an overview of the benefits and strategies for social media in police work.  As the world embraces social media and the technology is integrated further into the lives of our community, I feel confident that the members of this working group will keep public safety at the forefront of these changes.

Both of these initiatives have me more excited than ever about how these tools will shape the way we work online, engage our community and most importantly, keep them safe!

To join DHS S&T First Responder Communities of Practice and learn more about the Virtual Social Media Working Group, visit http://Communities.FirstResponder.gov

Stephanie Slater

Stephanie Slater became the Boynton Beach Police Department’s Public Information Officer in April 2007, following seven years as a newspaper reporter. Slater, a New York native, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she majored in print journalism.  Slater is the spokeswoman for the Boynton Beach Police Department, serving as the liaison between the officers, the media and the public. She writes the department’s press releases, provides television news interviews, maintains the department’s Web sites (bbpd.org, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and oversees the department’s Officer of the Month program. Slater is a member of the National Public Information Officers Association and an executive board member with the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officers Association. Follow the Boynton Beach Police on Facebook (www.facebook.com/boyntonbeachpolice) and Twitter (@bbpd).



Social Media Quick Tip: 12 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Fan Base

The No. 1 rule in all social media is to create compelling content. Beyond that, there are a number of additional ways to get people to hit the like button for your Facebook page. Here are a dozen. Tell us what works for you.

1. Interact with your fans: Respond to comments. Post questions, contests, humor. Each time someone comments on one of your posts, or hits the “like” button, their friends become aware of your page.

2. Tell them who you are: A big mistake made by many, if not most, law enforcement agencies is not letting fans know who the people behind the posts are. I like to recommend agencies have their members post as themselves with their police photo included. Also, consider adding an addition tab letting people know who runs your page.

3. Create a welcome page: A welcome page takes people who haven’t liked your page yet to a custom welcome page rather than to your wall. While you’re at it, put a welcome video in there from your Chief. Creating a welcome page requires adding a custom tab.

4. Use widgets on your website: There are many free plugins you can use on your website to make it easy for people to like your page. Some will display your current stream. Others will show a selection of your fans, or simply just provide a button to like your page from your website.

5. Status tagging: By using the @ symbol in your updates, followed by a person or business name, you’re sending that post to the page of the person or business. As law enforcement agencies, be careful about how you use this, but it can be very effective at getting more eyeballs to your page.

6. Post pictures: Especially pictures of your K-9s, action shots, helicopters, etc. Fans love to see images of cops doing what they do.

7. Use Facebook ads: Running an ad on Facebook is super easy and inexpensive. You can specify a cap on what you spend down to very low amounts. Facebook allows you to zero in on any demographic via their interests, where they live, age, etc.

8. Maintain consistency: Create a posting schedule to assist you in getting something posted regularly. The main thing is to post on a regular basis to keep reminding people that you’re there and you’re paying attention to your page.

9. E-mail signature: Add your Facebook address (assuming you’ve set a custom name) to the e-mail signature for every member of your department. In fact, all your social media profiles should consistently be distributed this way.

10. Print collateral: Put your Facebook URL, and all your other department social media addresses on every piece of print media you create including brochures, business cards, letterhead, posters and newsletters.

11. Create a poll: Find a free application to post polls for your fans to participate with. People love to vote and see how others voted on controversial or otherwise interesting topics.

12. Link to Twitter: I never suggest sending tweets to Facebook, but sending Facebook posts to your Twitter stream is fine, and it’s an effective way to get Twitter followers to join you on another platform.

What’s worked for your agency? Please add your tip in the comments section so we can all learn from your success.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

The SMILE Conference Community Loses a Friend


The SMILE Conference community has suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Peter Berghammer. Peter passed away unexpectedly Saturday evening, October 1st. Peter has been a supporter of SMILE since its inception in April of 2010. Peter was a great man; he was kind and brilliant, and he sincerely cared about law enforcement and the safety of law officers. His distinguished career is detailed below.

Peter gave his final presentation at The SMILE Conference in Dallas on September 29th, entitled “Social Media: Public Safety, Censorship and Dissent | Analysis of Tools and Trends in the Control of Social Media Dominance”. He had been a highly regarded speaker at all four SMILE Conferences to date; over the heads of some in attendance while others were in awe of his knowledge.

His presentation in Chicago – “How Do I Surveil Thee? – Let Me Count the Ways” is here. His presentation in Santa Monica – “Can the Social Media Genie be Put Back in the Bottle? The double edged sword facing law enforcement” is the most watched SMILE Conference video and is available here.

Peter leaves behind his wife Susan and their 20-month-old daughter, Abrielle.


The text below is the content from a press release issued by Public Communications Worldwide:

Garden Grove, CA October 5, 2011

– It is with a deep sense of sadness and loss that Public Communications/Worldwide (PC/W), a long-time Southern California independent public relations and marketing communications firm, announces the passing of Senior Strategist Peter Berghammer. Fifty-one year-old Berghammer died unexpectedly Saturday evening, October 1 from heart failure. Peter was an innovator and serial entrepreneur who worked on technology, aerospace and public-safety accounts for PC/W.

Though best known for his marketing acumen, Peter possessed a thorough understanding and appreciation for strategic alliances, acquisitions, and mergers. Through his leadership, The Copernio Holding Company, which he founded in 2001 and in which he served as Chief Executive Officer, quickly grew from an IT solutions provider to an organization with divisions handling consulting, research, warehousing, and logistics. Under his guidance, Copernio expanded from a single location to an international corporation with warehouses and offices in over 18 countries.

In 2003, he founded Future Formats, an offshoot of the research arm of Copernio, dedicated to the consumer electronics industry and photonics research.

No matter the endeavor, Peter’s goal always remained the same: to assist clients in achieving their business objectives through the intelligent and efficient use of information technology along with a strong infrastructure.

Immediately prior to founding Copernio, Peter served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the on-line marketplace startup Avolo. With an aggressive marketing and product development strategy, he took the company to a leadership position in e-commerce trade.

Prior to that, Peter served as Director of Worldwide Communications for aerospace, defense, and industrial fastening systems manufacturer Fairchild Fasteners (now part of Alcoa). He was a pioneer in the mid-1990s in the integration of CAD/CAM with solid modeling, and the integration of solid models with the internet – effectively building a proof of concept platform, which allowed for models to be designed and deployed in one location and manufactured in locations thousands of miles away.

Later, as an executive at EDS, Peter oversaw Fairchild’s web and network implementation strategy and deployment. He was responsible for developing Fairchild’s database-driven architecture, and laid the foundation for later integration of MRP, ERP, and ERP2 systems with the internet, joining facilities in over 20 countries.

Peter began his career in the late 1970’s with aerospace fastening company Rosan of Newport Beach, CA. Rosan was later acquired by Rexnord, then by Banner Aerospace, and eventually by Fairchild.

Peter stood out for his forward thinking and strong technical grasp of many issues in the industries with which he was involved. As such, he was active in a number of industry groups. These included being a life member of the American Institute of Aviation and Aerospace (AIAA), and a 20-year member of the Society of Aerospace and Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Optical Society of America. He also belonged to The Center for Intelligence Studies, International Association for Cryptologic Research, and The SIIA: Software and Information Industries Association, in which he was an active participant on the Intellectual Property Sub-Committee, Search Engine watch group, and the Software as Service Sub-Committee.

Peter’s military associations included the U.S. Naval Institute and The Navy League, The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), and The Air Force Association. He is a life member of all of the aforementioned groups. He also belonged to the AFIO (Association of Former Intelligence Officers), NMIA (National Military Intelligence Association), IACR (International Association for Cryptologic Research), and MICA (Military Intelligence Corps Association).

Peter served his country with quiet effectiveness and always understood the importance of speaking truth to power. He brought this determination – to effectively make a difference and treat all with decency – to all of his relationships in the corporate world.

Among his educational credentials are the University of San Diego, the Goethe Institute, Cal Tech Engineering Management, and Stanford Law Intellectual Property and e-business. In 2005-2006, he was named a non-residential Fellow at Stanford Law: Center for Internet and Society researching security and crypotologic systems.

Peter was a well known speaker dealing with topics from consumer electronics to Intellectual Property, legislation, law through aerospace security, and integrated military logistics systems. He spoke on behalf of numerous organizations and at numerous international tradeshows.

As a husband and most recently, as a father, Peter found his happiest calling – and one to which he was wholly dedicated – as his family provided a newfound joy in which all his friends delighted and celebrated.

He is survived by his wife Susan van Barneveld (president of PC/W) and 20-month-old daughter Abrielle Ghislaine. The family lives in Huntington Beach, CA.

Daughter Abrielle was the light of Peter’s life. Her future education meant a great deal to him. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to an education fund for her at 19744 Beach Blvd., Suite 398, Huntington Beach, CA 92648.

A memorial service for Peter will be held on October 17 at 11:00 a.m. at Saint Mary’s by the Sea Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, CA.

— 30 —

Public Communications Worldwide
Susan van Barneveld/Nicole Fait
(714) 891-3660,

All products/services and trademarks mentioned in this release are the properties of their respective companies.
© 2011 Public Communications/Worldwide (PC/W). All rights reserved.

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