NCTC looks to drive info-sharing efforts forward via new mobile app

NCTC looks to drive info-sharing efforts forward via new mobile app

The National Counterterrorism Center released a new mobile application today to share counterterrorism alerts with military and federal law enforcement.

The new application will also soon be available to state, local, tribal, territorial and other partners, according to the center. Officials said it will help bring real-time alerts and other pressing information to law enforcement and first responders who typically only get pushed NCTC information through a weekly email today.

“This is a tremendous evolution of our information sharing efforts,” one NCTC official said. The center would only give the first names of officials during a briefing with reporters.

“We’re moving from a weekly regularized info sharing effort to a daily, near real-time effort with this app,” the official said.

The application, aCTknowledge, is designed to share reports, analysis, training resources, and alerts with users.

The application is currently only available on Apple iOS devices. Officials said it will be available on Google Play “soon.”

In new terrorism bulletin released Feb. 7, the Department of Homeland Security said the United States “remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.”

DHS specifically warned about potential copycat attacks patterned after a Jan. 15 hostage standoff at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.

NCTC officials say their new application will help officials share alerts about incidents like the one at Colleyville with law enforcement immediately, rather than the message being routed via a middle party, like one of the state- or local-run fusion centers.

“The way we operate right now is we send notifications out via email, to give an example, to of fusion centers around the country,” one NCTC official said. “Some fusion centers are 24/7, but a lot are not. So this will immediately put the counterterrorism information into a user’s hand on their phone, as opposed to wait until they get back into the office the next day.”

The NCTC was established in 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It’s responsible for analyzing and integrating intelligence about terrorism and counter-terrorism, except for intelligence solely regarding domestic terrorism.

One of the center’s strengths is that its position “as the only [Intelligence Community] component with access to all foreign and domestically collected terrorism data allows its workforce the ability to provide comprehensive, coordinated, and independent all-source analysis,” Christine Abizaid, the director of the NCTC, wrote in responses to questions submitted prior to her Senate confirmation hearing last year.

But one area she noted for improvement across the IC is in anticipating and evaluating threats to national security.

“For NCTC, this means that the Center must continue to invest in innovative technology to power more comprehensive data-informed insights, increase the speed of information sharing and collaboration, and, where appropriate, automate workflows,” Abizaid wrote.

NCTC officials said the application released today is just an initial version, with plans to upgrade the app with subscription preferences, as well as audio and video in the future.

“We want to make sure that these features are usable and are wanted by our community,” one official said.

NCTC looks to drive info-sharing efforts forward via new mobile app