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Resolving the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Puzzle

March 1, 2014
By George Kamis

The nation’s critical infrastructure and industrial-control systems have become such potential high-value targets for terrorists that their vulnerability threatens the fabric of society. And, as they increase in both importance and vulnerability, these systems cannot be protected using conventional information security measures.

The targets are electrical grids, transportation networks, water systems, oil/gas pipeline operations and other vital resources that serve in the interests of the U.S. economy and the public good—not to mention public safety—every day. Concerns are rising about reported increases in compromise incidents within these systems, coupled with advancements in the “sophistication and effectiveness of attack technology,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The number of incidents reported by federal agencies to the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team has surged 782 percent from 2006 to 2012, the GAO reports.

Such attacks can “cause major economic losses, contaminate ecological environment and, even more dangerously, claim human lives,” according to a research report from the University of California, Berkeley. And, industrial control systems (ICS) lie at the heart of this vulnerability.

Global events have triggered the cautionary warnings. Among the most notorious was Stuxnet in 2010, which damaged uranium-enrichment centrifuges in Iran by infecting the country’s nuclear ICS network. In 2012, the Shamoon virus attacked Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, replacing crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag and overwriting essential data with what then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described as “garbage data.” Panetta added that the incident was the most destructive attack the business sector has seen to date, as more than 30,000 computers were rendered useless.

Many Needs Vie for Scarce Defense Funding

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The budget reductions that will be a fact of military life for the foreseeable future promise to impel dramatic changes in force structure and military operations. Ongoing needs such as high technology and overseas commitments offer the possibility of being both challenges and solutions, as planners endeavor to plan around a smaller but, hopefully, more capable force.

Army Integrates Systems Tools Across Network Echelons

February 10, 2014
By Rita Boland

Soldiers are moving away from the programs that developed stovepiped network operations solutions for particular needs and domains, transitioning to integrated capability sets.

DISA Rolls Out Version One of Unclassified Mobility Capability

February 7, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has deployed the initial version of its unclassified mobility capability, which will provide military and civilian Defense Department personnel with access to a wide selection of mobile devices, applications and services.

Cyber Contest Hones Military Cadets' Skills

February 6, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Defense Department launched a new competition to promote cybersecurity education and training in the nation’s military service academies. Beginning last November, the three service academies created teams to compete in the Service Academy Cyber Stakes, which culminated in a major interschool event held over the weekend of February 1-2 at the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh.

For some years, the Defense Department has been working to increase the number of cybersecurity personnel. One major goal is to have some 4,000 specialists trained by 2017. To get the number and quality of cyber experts needed, the Defense Department has focused on training and educating—especially for future officers who will be charged with defending national cyber assets.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Carnegie Mellon University and New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering managed the Cyber Stakes event. It involved some 50 cadets and midshipmen from West Point and the Naval and Air Force academies participating in individual and small team competitions, explains Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, DARPA program manager. While the cadets competed against one another, they shared a large room. This proximity promoted team building and participation between the competitors, which helped with information sharing. More importantly, this competitive yet cooperative atmosphere will be important in helping create long-term professional relationships between these junior officers as they begin their careers, Ragsdale says.

Researchers Develop One-of-a-Kind Nanocomputer

January 31, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Scientists and engineers from MITRE Corporation and Harvard University published a paper this week revealing the development of what they call the most dense nanoelectronic system ever built. The ultra-small, ultra-low-power processor could be used for tiny robotics, unmanned vehicles and a broad range of commercial applications, including medical sensors.

Trillions of Sensors Feed Big Data

February 1, 2014
By Michael A. Robinson

The emergence of big data combined with the revolution in sensor technology is having a synergistic effect that promises a boom in both realms. The ability to fuse sensor data is spurring the growth of large databases that amass more information than previously envisioned. Similarly, the growth of big data capabilities is spawning new sensor technologies and applications that will feed databases’ ever-increasing and diverse types of information.

How will intelligence
 acquisition priorities change in
 a post-counterinsurgency world?

February 1, 2014
By Col. Herbert Kemp, USAF (RET.)

As the national security establishment emerges from more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on other global priorities, the means by which intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) supports those priorities must change as well. ISR operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted in relatively permissive air environments that have allowed the use of long-dwell airborne platforms to provide sustained surveillance of targets of interest. This has led to an imagery-, and more specifically, full motion video (FMV)-intensive pattern of collection. While these conditions may be present in some future conflicts, they do not describe many of the scenarios envisioned for potential contested environments in the future.

Time for the Military to Take a Long, Hard Look

February 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

Military people like to look at themselves, and it has nothing to do with vanity. Rather, it is about improving, but the attention is not always welcome at the business end. Senior personnel offer the usual advice: Cooperate and learn. Do not be defensive. Looking at ourselves can only make us better, so we go along with it. And often—not always, but enough to matter—we find out important facts we did not know.

Defense Challenges Converge in Asia-Pacific

February 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

All the challenges vexing a modern military—budgetary limitations; information technologies; cyber; and joint and coalition interoperability—are defining operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Covering more than half the Earth’s surface and comprising dozens of nations, the vast area is rife with geopolitical rivalries that complicate efforts at regional security. And, the one domain that knows no geographic bounds—cyberspace—weighs heavily on the success of potential warfighting operations in that region.

Three days of government, military and industry speakers and panelists from around the Pacific Rim examined these issues at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013, held December 3-5 in Honolulu. The theme of “Building Coalitions Through Cyber” launched discussions that extended far beyond the digital realm.

Cyber was the dominant topic, with dialogues ranging from its advantages to its pitfalls. Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, USMC, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), quoted his commander, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, as saying, “We have built cyber on a house of cards.” Gen. Conant stated PACOM is beholden on what cyber has promised, but its full capabilities may not be available during a conflict. “We’re going to be on a denied battlespace; they won’t let us have all the comms,” Gen. Conant said of cyber activities by adversaries. “We’ll have to learn how to do task forces again.”

Scott Dewar, the Australian consulate general in Honolulu, called for domestic and international coalitions to generate approaches for cybersecurity. Effective cybersecurity ultimately will depend on the ability of nations with shared interests forming coalitions that influence the development of international rules and regulations, Dewar said, calling for “a global approach to cybersecurity and common rules of operation.”

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