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Super Bowl 50: The Most Intense Security at a Sporting Event in U.S. History

A lot of people are going to show up to watch Peyton Manning and Cam Newton square off in the highly anticipated Super Bowl 50. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Upwards of 75,000 people will be able to buy a ticket to the game and even more will be crowding into Santa Clara restaurants and bars to catch the big game. The immense size of the event coupled with the recent terror attacks on soft targets, including Paris and San Bernardino, California, has made Super Bowl 50 one of the most highly guarded sporting events in U.S. history.

The Super Bowl is considered the second-highest threat environment under U.S. federal guidelines, a notch below what is called a National Security Special Event. That includes summits of world leaders and presidential inaugurations.

Despite the fact that there is currently no specific or credible threat against the Super Bowl, security officials are doing everything possible to ensure that the game goes on without a hitch.

Federal U.S. security officials are tight-lipped about how exactly their plans differ for this year’s NFL championship game from previous Super Bowls, where security is always tight, but hundreds of U.S. law enforcement agents are moving into the Bay Area the week leading up to the game, to be held at Levi’s Stadium. Training events and scenarios have been played through to ensure that all agencies know how to react if the worst comes true.

Security will be tight at the game entrances as well as game-related venues. Fans will be subject to usual metal detectors garnering long lines into the stadium. Only clear bags are allowed inside and items such as banners, camcorders, aerosol cans and umbrellas are strictly prohibited. Bags that are not covered by the guidelines will not be stored at a nearby facility and no plastic bags will be available for at the stadium entrance.

Fans can download the official Super Bowl app for in-stadium content and alert notifications straight to their smartphones. They are also encouraged to follow the twitter accounts: @SuperBowl and @SuperBowl50.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security will be setting up a giant X-ray machine to screen all cargo allowed into the stadium. Once inside the stadium, cargo and fans will be watched intensely by “VIPR teams” (visible intermodal prevention and response) that include behavior detection officers. These teams will also be deployed at higher populated areas around the stadium, including train stations.

All people throughout the stadium and Bay area will be under heavy surveillance. In one San Francisco neighborhood alone, there are around 3,000 cameras. If you are going to be in the area, expect to have your car, phone and body tracked by officials. It is not clear how the information is accessed or where it is stored, but information sharing with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies is a high priority.

A high-tech command post will serve the efforts of FBI agents, analysts and local law enforcement officers during the festivities. The command post, housed in a nondescript building not far from the stadium, will be overseeing all parts of the game as well as the celebrations before and after.

The FBI will also be deploying commando-style SWAT teams, as well as bomb experts and evidence collection technicians so that specialists are in place should the worst happen. They will have some of their most high-tech gear out and ready to use, such as remote-controlled robots used by the bomb squads.

Federal and local law enforcement agencies issued a bulletin this month, outlining theoretical scenarios, including “lone wolf” attackers like December’s shooting rampage in San Bernardino.

Officials also said that the most vulnerable “targets of opportunity” are outside, not inside the stadium.

While federal officials have confirmed there will be a no fly zone over the stadium, there will be FBI helicopters and planes that will help keep an eye on the ground and because the stadium sits by a creek linked to the Bay, U.S. Coast Guard boats will create a maritime exclusion zone around the game venue.

So, to conclude, Super Bowl 50 is going to be huge and in the wake of many terror attacks that have left numerous innocent people dead, U.S. law enforcement are not going to let up on ensuring this is one of the most heavily guarded sporting events in history.

Posted by Sydny Shepard on Feb 02, 2016

Inside the Super Bowl cyber-ops headquarters

Inside the Super Bowl cyber-ops headquarters

| @Harri8t
Friday, 29 Jan 2016 | 5:00 AM

At an undisclosed location in the San Francisco Bay Area, a team of public and private security experts is assembling a pop-up intelligence operations center for Super Bowl 50.

The goal of the multi-agency operation, led by the FBI, is simple: thwart the “bad guys.”

“The Super Bowl is one of the few civilian events that gets to be considered a national security event, so it pulls in the full capability of the U.S. government,” said Rich Mason, president and chief security officer of Critical Infrastructure, a boutique security consulting firm. “They bring a lot of resources into play.”

Others involved include the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Borders Protection and state and local agencies

The man coordinating those efforts on the ground is Mike Sena, director of Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC).

“I am not sure I will be able to sleep during this whole thing,” he said. “My biggest fear is we are going to have something break or not work. There’s always that Murphy’s law — what can go wrong will go wrong.”

With more than a million NFL fans flooding the Bay Area for the Feb. 7 NFL championship game — against the backdrop of recent global terror attacks — it’s easy to understand Sena’s sentiment.

Virginia-based Haystax Technology — a threat intelligence start-up that counts the state of California, the Department of Defense and DHS among its customers — is helping NCRIC map and make sense of all the data flowing into the intelligence operations center.

The company specializes in cybersecurity around live events and has helped keep safe a slew of high profile gatherings, including the Republican National Convention, the Oscars, the Indy 500 and six prior Super Bowls.

Haystax Technologies app for CA agencies

Source: Haystax Technologies
Haystax Technologies app for CA agencies

This year, things are a little different.

“This one in particular has a little bit more of a threat intelligence lens on it,” said Bryan Ware, Haystax Technology’s chief technology officer. “What I am seeing a lot of this year that I can’t recall seeing quite as much of is really the planning and the thought and the analysis around potential threat scenarios.”

Haystax licenses its California Common Operating Picture for Threat Awareness (Cal COP) software to a coalition of California agencies, and the Super Bowl partnership builds on that existing relationship, said Ware. The platform aggregates information — which could be in the form of officer field report or traffic incident data — then disseminates it to public safety officials.

“There is increasingly so much more data and so many kinds of sensors that could be brought to bear, that it’s really overwhelming,” Ware said. “But at the same time, you want to have the best information and it’s really our software that sits at the core and providing that situational awareness to the incident commanders and various security and law enforcement personnel.”

A giant dashboard Haystax calls “Watchboard” displays all that data on a map at the intelligence operations center. A backup operations center will also run around the clock at Haystax’s McLean, Virginia, headquarters. The company’s software also feeds data into the Cal COP app.

“Having the ability to use applications — where you can literally take a quick note or a snapshot and say this is the situation here right now — clears up those radio channels and allows people to feel more freely about reporting things that they may otherwise not have reported until things escalate,” said Sena.

NCRIC is also running a public awareness campaign around the Bay Area, encouraging people to report suspicious activity, by calling in or visiting the website which has been optimized for mobile.

“If it is evaluated to have a potential nexus to terrorism or criminal activity, it gives them the ability to push that data into the Haystax system so more than one person can see it,” he said.

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