Digital Global Systems: Threat Management Through Situational Awareness

Fernando Murias, Chairman & CEO On the morning of September 11, 2001, America woke up to a shocking reality. As first responders, emergency managers, and security teams ran helter-skelter, trying to save lives, the inability to communicate wirelessly, dramatically impacted the levels of situational awareness and coordinated response. Fast forward to 2017, and although blocks of spectrum have been set aside specifically for critical communication, efficiently making sense of a spectral environment still presents issues for first responders and security agencies. Additional threats, such as drones carrying hazardous payloads, are also now using the wireless spectrum. Without effective ways to identify and produce actionable information from the electromagnetic spectrum, communities and critical infrastructure, remain highly vulnerable to threat.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in particular, is under tremendous pressure to derive knowledge from the information overload and protect people and assets across the country. Focus has been on executing a cybersecurity strategy, unfortunately, focus on cyber is not sufficient. The focus should also extend to achieving a high level of wireless situational awareness, which quickly identifies and reduces threats lurking on the horizon. The data produced must be fast and actionable as security teams and emergency responders have seconds to react. Current spectrum management systems just do not produce actionable information as quickly and efficiently as it is needed.

Automated spectrum management systems can achieve this feat, helping security agencies identify and analyze the large volume of RF signals and wireless data in any environment, detecting anomalous signals and alerting the stakeholders. Details regarding signals representing potential threat can be shipped for further analysis, or utilized to quickly mitigate harmful interference, improving situation awareness and coordinated efforts.

Digital Global Systems Inc. (DGS) has built automated and intelligent spectrum management systems that meet these challenges head-on. The company’s spectrum management solution utilizes the data it gathers, combined with user supplied and regional databases to provide truly actionable information. “We are teaching computers to think like engineers—to wade through the chaotic spectral environment and wireless data, to deliver key information quickly,” says Fernando Murias, Chairman and CEO, Digital Global Systems (DGS). The system automates the collection process, allowing for true remote monitoring. Robust analytics provide quick access to deep insights, allowing stakeholders to discover threats earlier. As an added advantage, the systems also provide instantaneous alerts to identify signals not normally in the environment for further analysis as well as the health status of all networked nodes.

Actionable Insights via Edge Computing

“Our strategy is to get the knowledge in the hands of the user faster, automatically, and in an easy to understand format,” adds Murias. A distributed and inter-connected nodal network is deployed to protect a particular geography: be it a seaport, border, convoy, or high-risk asset. Leveraging our patented spectrum learning systems, our nodes quickly and autonomously create a baseline of any spectral environment, following which, they identify signals that don’t belong or that deviate from this baseline. Depending on client requirements, DGS can set the parameters to trigger an alert. Triggers can be as simple as sending an e-mail or text, to engaging engines to demodulate or locate signals of interest.

We are teaching computers to think like engineers—to wade through the chaotic spectral environment and wireless data, to deliver key information quickly

This provides actionable and timely information when it is needed the most.

As DGS systems combine content from various structured and unstructured data sources, correlated events can easily be identified. This provides a much higher level of situational awareness and threat detection. “With our technology, security agencies can monitor remote areas automatically and detect interference and anomalies, with no manpower requirement on site.”

One of DGS’ clients, a global utility company, has several hundred remote locations, each one of which requires protection from threat and other nefarious activities. “Our solution delivers alerts to their command center when an RF signal persists near one of these facilities.” This feature provides a level of situational intelligence not currently available, without the need to deploy additional manpower.

DGS’ nodal network has the ability to provide the location for signals of interest. For example, a seaport might have spent huge amounts on cyber and physical security; however, a single jammer is enough to disrupt their operations. DGS can detect the presence of a jammer within seconds. One the jammer is detected, multiple nodes can provide the jammer’s approximate location, allowing expedient removal of the threat. “We can locate the jammer even if it is several miles away, providing a port with a higher level of visibility into their environment,” says Murias. DGS nodes are highly suitable for port environments, as data can be collected over several miles, analytics are overlaid both on the collection node and at a central server, allowing patterns to be clearly seen and presented to the user. DGS can utilize publicly available data, such as AIS data, or feed observations to third-party systems.

Effectively managing data is the key and DGS techniques in managing data collection and accompanying analytics have been rewarded with over 30 patents over the last four years in the area of RF signals analysis. Automated processing at the point of intercept reduces the size of the data significantly while making the data output more relevant. DGS processes, enable trends, anomalies and correlated events to be seen for multiple clients. Edge processing, producing smaller and more relevant data, also assists in sending data back to a data center for further analysis. Bandwidth requirements are reduced, enabling more deployment options (vehicle, airborne, etc.), as well as deployment in less developed or harsh environments.

Besides spectral analysis for security, DGS leverages broad spectrum data capture and analytics to manage and optimize spectrum assets and wireless communications. The company plays an instrumental role in helping telecom companies. This application is also important to government agencies operating their own communication towers or aggressively looking at spectrum sharing. Identifying and resolving chronic or intermittent interference issues quickly is critical for organizations involved in protecting the homeland or transmitting valuable forms of data. Systems capable of autonomous, intelligent and unattended real-time analysis are required to manage frequency assignments going forward.

Value-Driven Systems

DGS’ high-value spectrum SigBase management systems have automatic signal detection and learning capabilities that continuously adjust and recalibrate in noisy environments.
The systems can be deployed in remote and hostile environments where the ability to send large amounts of raw data through an established network is virtually nonexistent. The systems are designed to handle fixed, transportable, and mobile scenarios, making a number of operational scenarios possible such as the use on vehicles, low flying aircraft, aerostats as well as fixed difficult to reach remote locations.

DGS’ systems hone in on communications—such as Land Mobile Radio and cell signals—as well as drone signals. Their systems are sensitive enough to distinguish between the signal coming from the drone and the controller operating it. As the signal processing happens autonomously on the node, the systems are also capable of running in stealth mode. Data can be collected and stored on the system, with the data only being transmitted when an event defined as critical is detected. As the devices are passive until data is transmitted, positions are not disclosed to the enemy. Furthermore, “the learning engines built into our systems are geared to minimize false positives,” informs Murias. A layer of intelligence governs when alerts are issues, so the operator is not flooded with unnecessary alerts. This capability is critical for autonomous networks to function effectively by minimizing false positives.

"We are also focused on building a synergy with clients and partners to offer turnkey solutions—one that drives automation into spectrum monitoring and supports spectrum sharing"

Furthermore, the DGS ‘Auto Signal Detect’ feature built into DGS’ systems automatically characterizes the noise floor across wide bands on a continuous basis. Automatically characterizing the noise floor improves sensitivity and captures a higher percentage of signals missed by legacy technology. Automated baselines also characterize what an environment should look like. This assists with identifying areas where signals have larger bandwidths or amplitudes than were seen before. “Bad actors try to hide near the noise floor or close to signals naturally occurring in an environment. DGS Auto signal detect and access to holistic data over a particular geography, makes it easier to find signals which may be using making or other hiding techniques,” says Murias.

Forging Partnerships for Spectral Efficiency

Driven by a customer-centric approach, DGS pays close attention to the voice of customers. “Our technology portfolio perfectly aligns with the modern-day requirements of federal security agencies, intelligence community, railroad, utilities, military, and telecom companies with respect to spectrum management,” highlights Murias.

With the vision to build large nodal networks across the globe for government agencies and telecom companies, DGS focuses on providing solutions to protect critical assets in both the government and commercial space. “We are also focused on building a synergy with clients and partners to offer turnkey solutions—one that drives automation into spectrum monitoring and supports spectrum sharing,” says Murias. As the government moves towards the implementation of spectrum sharing, DGS patented technology will provide a high value-add in this complex area.

DGS continues to refine algorithms and build analytics libraries to help organizations enhance their capabilities to identify and correlate key events in near real-time. The company also intends to provide hardware-agnostic analytics software that can be deployed in a client’s premises, across their asset footprint. By providing high-quality reports about interference and signals intelligence in a particular region, DGS aims to take their value proposition to the next level. “Our technology will enable market trends such as IoT and smart cities and the deployment of small cell technology. We are perfectly positioned to help governments and commercial organizations speed up their digital journey,” concludes Murias.

Digital Global Systems

Beltsville, DC

Fernando Murias, Chairman & CEO

Provides cutting-edge spectrum management systems to help government agencies and telecom companies detect threats, overcome interference and better manage their spectrum assets

Digital Global Systems