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Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

START developing tools to identify potential CBRN threats

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The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is creating a process to identify potential chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) threats from non-state actors.

The project, called Advancing U.S. CWMD/CWMT Capabilities in Support of the SIGMA+ Program through Development of Anticipatory Human Social Systems Models and Adversary Weapon Selection Decision Processes, supports the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s SIGMA+ Program.

“This project expands upon previous work in which we sought to understand the behaviors of violent non-state actors in terms of their motivation to conduct a CBRN attack,” START Assistant Research Scientist Thomas Guarrieri said. “Now, we’re trying to automate a process by which we can quickly identify threats from adversaries who might conduct CBRN attacks, given what we know about the motivations of CBRN adversaries.”

The project consists of three parts — an Adversary Weapon Selection Dataset (AWSD), an Adversary Automated Template Generation (AATG) tool, and a Geospatial Risk Mapping Tool.

The AWSD will combine information about non-state actors who have pursued CBRN weapons from other START datasets. That will be merged with data on violent actors who have not pursued CBRN but conducted attacks using conventional modalities.

“What we’re looking for are differences between those groups. With that knowledge, we can use the AWSD as a foundation to build out the AATG tool, which can detect threats in an attack cycle that indicate a non-state actor might conduct a CBRN attack,” Guarrieri said.

The AATG tool will automate the processes of threat identification from the information provided by the AWSD. The team built a repository of potential actions and decisions an adversary can make and help to determine the next likely adversary action.

“The goal of the AATG tool is to simulate adversary behavior and generate realistic adversary scenarios using probabilistic behavior modeling,” START Junior Researcher Tyler Clark said. “The AATG tool has several uses, including creating templates of adversary activity that can help law enforcement recognize adversary activity and interdict before the adversary conducts an attack.”

The Geospatial Risk Mapping Tool will be created with the assistance of START’s Geospatial Research Unit (GRU).

“We’re adapting criminologist Kim Rossmo’s geographic profiling of serial criminals to identify likely locations where a nefarious actor would construct a CBRN weapon,” START Senior Researcher Marcus Boyd said. “We’re also incorporating variables gleaned from our knowledge of adversary behavior and spatial preferences. This will help refine the search area for mobile detection of CBRN build locations.”