Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
An Australian company with its American headquarters in Arlington says it is part of the fight against online radicalization.
Fivecast is a software company specializing in mining intelligence from publicly available data, which is also known as open-source intelligence.
The company, with its U.S. headquarters in Courthouse at 2311 Wilson Blvd, recently raised $20 million that it will use to further develop its products, hire some 50 employees, expand into new markets and meet a surge in demand for its services in the U.S.
That demand, the company says, is driven by a need among law enforcement agencies for better intelligence to counteract radicalization happening on the internet.
“Within the U.S., there are specific areas of high demand for Fivecast solutions: U.S. law enforcement are looking to address the growing challenge of violent extremism and online radicalization exacerbated by the continuing divisive U.S. political environment,” Marketing Director Monica Brink told ARLnow.
In recent years, scholars, media outlets and government agencies have increased their focus on how online forums and communities expose young men to extremist ideologies and radicalize them to these causes.
The increased attention comes as extremist-related murders actually have been trending down — from highs in 2015 to 2019 — but the number of murders committed by far-right extremists has gone up, according to a report by Anti-Defamation League. (The mall shooter in Allen, Texas, for instance, is said to have had neo-Nazi sympathies.)
A connection between social communication platform Discord and far-right extremism, in particular, is also firming up. Most recently, the government seemed blindsided by the fact that a young man could — and did — leak classified documents in a Discord channel where he and other young users talked about guns and posted offensive memes.
Fivecast says understanding these online havens for extremist thought and getting ahead of threats is hard and growing more difficult.
“An increasingly complex and growing threat landscape combined with the sheer volume of data available online make it extremely difficult for intelligence teams across both the public and private sector to collect, filter and analyze data in a timely way,” Brink said.
That is where its product comes in.
Fivecast runs a platform that collects and analyzes publicly available information for tasks such as identifying violent extremism and foreign influence operations as well as countering terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, she said.
Private companies and public agencies turn to the company’s platform for help surmounting growing obstacles to protecting communities and businesses from threats.
Fivecast says there is an ongoing need “for insider threat detection, large-scale security vetting and protective security” across U.S. government operations — and this is one reason it settled in Arlington.
“Fivecast chose Arlington due to the high demand for our open-source intelligence technology within the U.S. government sector as well as the talent available within the intelligence industry in this region,” Brink said.
“Arlington is well suited to our overall company mission of enabling a safer world,” she continued. “The business environment here is filled with government agencies who have a similar mission and understand the value of applying the latest AI-enabled risk analytics technology to address important intelligence challenges and keep communities safe.”
Outside of the U.S., Fivecast operates in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Together, these five countries comprise what’s known as “Five Eyes,” an alliance among the countries with roots in intelligence-sharing activities during World War II and the Cold War.
The company says it intends to use its new funding to grow its presence and staffing in Australia, the U.S. and the UK. It also intends to get into new markets, including corporate security and financial intelligence.
Two dogs with the ruff job of sniffing out danger at Reagan National Airport are in the limelight.
Ava and Messi — the pair of pooches prowling DCA for smelly signs of explosives — are among the dozen good boys and girls featured in a free, downloadable 2023 monthly calendar from the Transportation Security Administration. It features dashing photos of these daring dogs accompanied by facts about them.
“Ava and Messi both want the title of most loveable buttercup at DCA,” the calendar says.
Messi, a 6-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, is February’s fetching featured dog.
“He was clearly born to work for TSA because he enjoys watching airplanes and playing in the grass at nearby Gravelly Point,” says TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “Messi is a lovable and hard-working dog who enjoys playing with a tennis ball after work.”
He provides explosives detection support in aircraft, cargo facilities, vehicles and buildings, according to the calendar.
Ava, a four-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer whose puppy-dog expression “melts everyone’s hearts,” graces the June calendar pages.
“Ava enjoys spending time outdoors and favors a bright yellow tennis ball as her toy of choice,” Farbstein said. “She also likes to buck like a rodeo horse and prance through the airport.”
Ava and Messi and their humans are among more than 1,000 canine handler teams to support security and screening operations in airports across the nation. Every year, about 300 dogs complete a 16-week training course in San Antonio, Texas, where they get to know their handlers, adapt to busy airports and learn how to sniff out a variety of explosive odors.
These dogs are as good at their jobs as they are cute, according to Farbstein.
“They are so effective at their jobs that other public and private sector law enforcement agencies often request their support for similar security missions,” Farbstein said.
But the most precious dog of all is Eebbers, formerly of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The agency’s oldest dog retired this summer with the exceedingly important distinction of winning TSA’s “2022 Cutest Canine Contest.”
In a picture from his retirement party, included in the calendar, Eebbers sniffs a personal cake shaped like a cartoon bomb, positioned next to a cake shaped like a suspicious package.
Expect extra police patrols around Arlington schools today in the wake of yesterday’s deadly elementary school shooting in Texas.
“ACPD officers are conducting extra patrols near Arlington schools,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow this morning, noting that “there are no known threats to Arlington County.”
Montgomery County, Md. police and other local police departments have similarly stepped up security. The extra patrols also come a day after an Alexandria high school student was stabbed to death during a large fight at the Bradlee Shopping Center, near the Fairlington neighborhood.
Arlington’s School Board voted last year to remove School Resource Officers from school buildings, but Arlington Public Schools and ACPD still coordinate on safety issues and police still regularly respond to incidents at Arlington schools.
APS, meanwhile, told families today in an email that it has “support services in place and available to those who may be struggling with processing these events.”
“School staff will be providing developmentally appropriate responses to students, and students should reach out to a counselor or other trusted adult if they need support,” the school system said.
The full email to families is below.
Dear APS Families and Staff:
Today is a sad day for schools and all of us nationwide as we all collectively mourn the tragic loss of life that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, yesterday. Late yesterday, we also learned of an incidence of violence closer to home in Alexandria where a high school student was killed. These events follow other recent tragedies in Buffalo and other communities.
We condemn these senseless acts of violence and offer our deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones. I want you to know that the health and safety of our schools, and the students and staff in our care, remain our highest priority. We prioritize security in all our buildings, and our safety plans are reviewed by staff, in collaboration with local first responders, as we all work to maintain the safety and security of our schools.
We understand that our students and staff may need additional support during this time. We want to reinforce that we have support services in place and available to those who may be struggling with processing these events.
School staff will be providing developmentally appropriate responses to students, and students should reach out to a counselor or other trusted adult if they need support. Staff should contact the Employee Assistance Program. Below are some resources that may be helpful during this time:
- National Association of School Psychologists Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- American Psychological Association: Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting
- Common Sense Media: How to Talk to Kids About School Shooting
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event
Let us continue working together to protect our children and community. Please remain vigilant and report any concerning behavior or other incidents you see or hear to your school administrator or supervisor.
Thank you for your partnership.
Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools
A local man is facing federal charges after bringing a handgun to Reagan National Airport.
The unnamed Arlington resident had a gun and five bullets found in his carry-on luggage at the airport’s security checkpoint, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The agency said it is the eighth gun caught at a DCA checkpoint so far this year, potentially on pace to exceed last year’s total of 30 guns detected and confiscated.
More from a TSA press release:
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented an Arlington man from bringing a loaded handgun onto his flight on Thursday, March 24. It was the eighth gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year.
The .25 caliber gun, was loaded with five bullets and was detected via the X-ray machine as the man was entering the security checkpoint with his carry-on items. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge.
“I strongly recommend that any traveler who owns a personal firearm positively confirm where it is stored before departing from home,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. Before leaving for the airport, “find the weapon and see that it is safely secured. This will help ensure that it is not unwittingly stored in a carry-on item.”
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.
Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. Additionally, if a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual may lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.
Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.
Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year. Of the guns caught by TSA in 2022, about 86 percent were loaded.
Security at National Airport has caught three guns at checkpoints so far today and it’s only mid-afternoon.
Among the three people caught trying to illegally bring weapons on to a plane today, according to the Transportation Security Administration, was a Florida man who packed a handgun, five dozen bullets, and a tactical knife.
The TSA says firearms caught at DCA checkpoints for 2021 have now surpassed those for all of 2019.
More from a press release, below.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) caught three handguns at the airport checkpoints today, the 15th, 16th and 17th guns caught so far this year, surpassing the number of guns caught in 2019, prior to the pandemic when significantly more people were traveling through the airport. The incidents were not related.
“It looks like there is an epidemic of guns showing up at our airport,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for Reagan National Airport. “Here at DCA we are still experiencing notably lower checkpoint volumes compared to 2019, while we are seeing an increase in the number people bringing their guns to the checkpoints. Let me be crystal clear, TSA does not permit guns, ammunition or gun parts to be carried through our security checkpoints and if you bring a gun, loaded or not, you will face a stiff federal financial penalty in addition to any possible law enforcement criminal charges. Even if you have a permit to carry a gun, it cannot be brought into the cabin of a plane.”
Johnson pointed out that passengers can travel with their firearms if they pack them unloaded in a hard-sided locked case and declare them with their airline to ensure the guns are transported in the belly of the plane so that nobody has access to them during the flight.
On Wednesday morning, TSA officers caught a Fredericksburg, Virginia, woman with a .380 caliber handgun and a gun magazine loaded with five bullets in her carry-on bag. Shortly afterward, a Florida man was stopped with a 9mm handgun loaded with 15 bullets plus two additional gun magazines with 45 bullets and a tactical knife in his carry-on bag. Then, this afternoon, a Wisconsin man was prevented from carrying his 9mm handgun loaded with five bullets, including one in the chamber, from getting through the security checkpoint.
Each traveler was cited by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who confiscated the weapons. In addition, all three individuals face a federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to an airport security checkpoint.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties remains firmly committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees, tenants and community. This week, Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1000 and 1100 Wilson (The Rosslyn Towers).
Rosslyn startup Airside Mobile is rebranding to just Airside as part of a pivot from being a travel app developer to a company focused on securing data and privacy in online interactions.
“Airside was founded shortly after the first generation iPhone was launched,” the company said in its blog. “We hopped at the opportunity to develop ultra-secure mobile technology, including the award-winning Mobile Passport App. However, the ‘Airside Mobile’ label no longer applies to our broader set of capabilities and offerings that extend beyond mobile apps to SDKs, APIs, and more. Our new name maintains the continuity of our brand while also allowing more breadth and depth for our products and services.”
In an interview with the podcast State of Identity, Chief Commercial Officer Jessica Patel said that international changes brought about by COVID-19 have emphasized the need for secure online interactions.
“The world has changed so much in these last couple of months,” Patel said. “There are some industries in the short term that have gone fully virtual that people might not have expected, like technology supporting fully virtual education. Obviously virtual healthcare and the overall health-tech space has evolved and become a bigger need in these more recent weeks… There are some of these industries that were not nearly as virtual as they are today [and there is] a need for digital identity to play a major role.”
Patel said she doubted that many of the industries that had to shift to virtual interactions will ever go back to the level of in-person interaction before the pandemic.
“When I think about changes all kinds of industries will have to make there’s going to be moves to offering digital interactions instead of physical,” Patel said. “There’s going to be a real push to implement more contactless solutions. I think that’s where leveraging digital ID and biometric technologies are going to play a huge role in a lot of these verticals.”
Over the last few months, the company has offered its digital suite of products to organizations on the front lines of fighting the pandemic, free of charge.
“If your organization is on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 and you believe that a digital identity solution would support your cause, please contact us,” the company said in a press release. “We’re here to help. Airside is uniquely positioned to respond to this need because we can protect the data with best-in-class encryption, ensure a high level of privacy for the individual and the organization, and utilize our FedRAMP-certified environment to handle increased transactions for your fundamentally important cause.”
Patel said the company’s experience in verifying identities while maintaining privacy is opening doors to expanding into a variety of financial, retail, and travel interactions. The company offers products like software development kits businesses can use for their own products or document scanning and chip reading products. Some of those, Patel said, are sold as monthly or annual licenses, while others are product sales.
“As we look to grow how we’re supporting consumers, we’ve grown beyond a customs application into a broader digital identity solution,” Patel said, “whether in banking, travel, insurance, education technology… we’re seeking to a be a ubiquitous form of digital identity that continues to put the control of sensitive information in the consumer’s hands.”
It’s a message that seems to have resonated with investors, with the Washington Business Journal reporting last week that Airside has raised $13.6 million in new funding.
Photo via Airside/Facebook
HQ2 May Have Security Robots — “Amazon.com Inc. wants to keep its second headquarters safe. And it’s looking at a variety of methods like incognito barricades, a police presence on the campus, external facing cameras, and, oh yeah, ‘security robots.'” [Washington Business Journal]
More on Tuesday AM Robbery on the Pike — “The victim was in sitting in his parked vehicle, when an occupied vehicle pulled in front of him. The occupants of the vehicle engaged the victim in conversation and asked him to make change for their bill. During the exchange, the suspects gave the victim a lesser sum of money in return for the change and attempted to drive off. When the victim attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspects exited, assaulted him and attempted to steal his wallet.” [Arlington County]
CO Leak at GW Parkway Building — Arlington County firefighters responded to a possible carbon monoxide leak at the GW Parkway maintenance facility near Crystal City yesterday afternoon. Two people were evaluated for CO-related symptoms, per scanner traffic, and the leak was traced to a malfunctioning HVAC system. [Twitter]
Major Reston Property Owner Buys in Clarendon — “An affiliate Comstock Holding Cos. Inc. has acquired the Hartford building in Clarendon, extending its local footprint beyond its major outside-the-Capital Beltway developments in Reston and Ashburn. Comstock… bought the nine-story building at 3101 Wilson Blvd. from an affiliate of Chicago’s Heitman Capital Management for $128.75 million.” [Washington Business Journal, Globe Newswire]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
New Security Measures at ANC — “Arlington National Cemetery is implementing heightened security measures after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general. The extra security will create longer lines at security checkpoints and delays… All visitors over the age of 16 will be required to show a valid state or government photo ID to enter by foot or car, Arlington National Cemetery says. Visitors aged 16 or 17 can show a school-issued ID.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
Office Building Above Rosslyn Safeway Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group has paid $113.15 million for 1525 Wilson Blvd., a Rosslyn office building featuring the colorful sculpture of a dancing couple, after selling another building in the Arlington County office market last summer.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lee Highway Planning Update — “To mark the end of a year collecting ideas for the road’s ‘reimagining‘ by the nonprofit Lee Highway Alliance, its executive director, Ginger Brown, gave an update predicting that phase two — development of land-use and zoning ideas — could be ‘the most contentious.’ […] ‘Lee Highway is stuck in 1950s strip-mall zoning,’ Brown told a Dec. 19 breakfast group.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Shop Has Best Cheese Selection in the U.S.? — Arrowine, a long-time ARLnow sponsor, has the best wine selection in the D.C. area and possibly the best cheese selection in the country after its recent renovation, according to local restaurant reviewer Don Rockwell. [DCDining.com]
Pike Lane Closures Are Hurting Local Business — “An employee at Cinthia’s Bakery II on Columbia Pike said the restaurant is seeing a significant drop off in the number of customers and an increase in empty tables all due to the construction.” [WJLA]
Yorktown Boys Improve to 11-0 — “This is the new Yorktown basketball: Take the first available shot, press nonstop on defense, substitute in a whole new lineup every 90 seconds. It’s a strategy some other area schools have tried — Lake Braddock, most successfully — but few have perfected. And it has the Patriots, the worst team in their conference last season, undefeated at 11-0 after a dazzling 86-51 rout of Madison (6-5).” [Washington Post]
Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]
HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]
Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]
Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]
Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]
Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]
The Arlington County Board is looking to potentially use armed, private guards for security at county government headquarters in Courthouse.
The guards could help provide security at the building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) generally and during County Board meetings specifically, relieving pressure on the understaffed local police force.
According to an item on this weekend’s County Board meeting agenda:
The County currently stations armed police officers at the Bozman Government Center, as well as armed sheriff’s deputies at County Board meetings. To enhance public safety and security, the County would like the option to use armed private security guards.
The agenda item says that adding private guards would enhance the security at County Board meetings without taking law enforcement officers away from other jobs around Arlington.
The prospect of private security came up in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting at a municipal building.
“After the Virginia Beach shooting in May, 2019, the County Manager hosted a virtual employee town hall meeting to discuss workplace security,” the agenda item said. “[This item] merely expands the choices that the County may make for the provision of that security.”
“Funding for the potential costs of enhanced security in the Bozman Government Center was included in the Adopted FY 2020 Budget,” county staff noted in the report.
Arlington Public Schools has implemented a new identification system for all visitors entering schools starting Tuesday, September 3.
Whether picking up a child or visiting a staff member, all first-time visitors — including parents, volunteers, and contractors — must register in the district-wide Visitor Management System (VMS), according to a statement from APS. In order to register, visitors must provide an approved form of identification along with the nature of their visit.
School spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow APS implemented the program “as part of our safety and security enhancements and to streamline visitor management at all schools,” and is fully covered in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.
Accepted forms of identification include:
- United States or foreign issued driver’s license
- United States or foreign issued driver’s license
- United States or foreign government identification
- United States or foreign military identification
- State Department of Motor Vehicles’ photo identification card
- United States or foreign government-issued passport
- Permanent Resident Card (i.e. Green Card)
- Re-entry Permit
- Arlington Public Schools Alternate Parent Identification Card
The initial registry includes a screening against the Commonwealth of Virginia and Federal sex offender registries.
In order to qualify for the Alternate Parent Identification, the visitor must be a parent or legal guardian listed on a student’s online information file.
“For example, an aunt who is the emergency contact for an enrolled student who is not the parent or legal guardian would not be eligible [for the Alternate Parent Identification],” wrote officials in the statement.
Once admitted, visitors must wear a temporary printed badge at all times. In order to exit the school, they must go through the same kiosk and use the barcode on their temporary identification to check out.
Following the February 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, then-APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy stressed safety as a top priority, noting APS officials have been strictly “reinforcing” and “double-checking” awareness of school visitors at all times.