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information operations

National Security Agency Program Fills Critical Cyber Skills Gaps

June 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The first graduates are emerging from centers of excellence for cyber operations that teach the in-depth computer science and engineering skills necessary to conduct network operations. The program better prepares graduates to defend networks and should reduce the on-the-job training needed for new hires, saving both time and money.

The National Security Agency (NSA) initiated the Centers of Academic Excellence-Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) program in 2012. Eight schools were designated centers of excellence in the first two years with another round of announcements expected in mid-June. Agency officials say they hope eventually to have a total of 20 to 25 schools on the list.

The effort is a deeply technical, interdisciplinary, higher education program firmly grounded in the computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering disciplines. “We had noticed that a lot of graduates coming out of universities didn’t have quite the same skills that they’ve had in the past,” recalls Steve LaFountain, dean of the College of Cyber, National Cryptologic School, and the distinguished academic chair for information assurance and cyber, NSA. “Some of the skills needed in the cyber operations field, such as low-level programming, deep knowledge of networks and network protocols and understanding of operating systems internals, were starting to become less emphasized by academic programs.”

The change in school curricula is understandable because a lot of jobs today are focused on Web applications and mobile applications and require a different skill set than today’s cyber operations, he adds. “Instead of doing C programming, they’re now doing Java, Perl and Python programming. We decided to create this program and focus the requirements on the skills necessary for cyber operations,” LaFountain explains.

The Bottom Line: JIE Revolutionizes Transformation

May 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The military’s evolving environment stands on the strong shoulders of the past to reach for the clouds.

Cybersecurity Tentacles Entwine Government

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

It is not surprising that cybersecurity would dominate the discussion on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. But the depth and breadth and variety of topics surrounding cybersecurity and information protection in all its forms indicates the degree to which the information security mission has engulfed every department and agency at all levels of government.

Weathering the Big Data Storm

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The National Weather Service is the granddaddy of open source data, according to Adrian Gardner, chief information officer, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was "into big data before big data was cool," added David McClure, a data asset portfolio analyst within the NOAA Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Customs and Border Protection Not Interested in Mobility for Mobility's Sake

March 10, 2014
George I. Seffers

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is only interested in mobile communication if it allows the agency to perform functions it could not perform otherwise, Mark Borkowski, component acquisition executive and assistant commissioner with the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

World Complexity Creates Greatest Challenge

March 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The real challenge to keeping the homeland secure is dealing with the world's increasing complexity, Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday during his luncheon keynote address.

The Bottom Line: Revolution Through Evolution

November 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The bottom line is that today's military structure is not set up to foster creative solutions and incorporate them into the bureaucracy, but a revolution quietly erupted in October. More than 80 innovators came together to discuss their ideas about how to solve some of the military's most vexing problems.

Ground Combat Vehicles to Gain Common Technology Architecture

November 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army officials are standardizing the information technology architecture on many current and future ground combat vehicles. The effort is designed to reduce the size, weight and power of electronics; reduce life-cycle costs; and improve interoperability while providing warfighters all of the data and communications capability required on the modern battlefield.

Cyber and Intelligence Need Each Other

October 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Intelligence needs cyber, and cyber needs intelligence. How they can function symbiotically is a less clear-cut issue, with challenges ranging from training to legal policy looming as government officials try to respond to a burgeoning cyber threat.

The cyber threat is growing, and the defense and homeland security communities must strive to keep up with new ways of inflicting damage to governments and businesses. Many experts believe the cyber threat has supplanted terrorism as the greatest national security issue, and new technologies are only one avenue for blunting the menace. Intelligence must expand its palette to identify and detect cyber threats before they realize their malicious goals.

Protecting the nation from cyber attacks entails deterring or preventing marauders from carrying out their malevolent plans. But, while government and the private sector endeavor to fight the menace jointly, evildoers constantly change their approaches and learn new ways of striking at vulnerable points. So many variables have entered the equation that even the likelihood of attacks—along with their effects—is uncertain.

These were among the many points discussed in the two-day AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum held July 30-31 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Nearly all participants agreed that inaction in addressing cyberthreats would be catastrophic for the nation as a whole.

Software Assists Signal Officers

September 30, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army researchers are developing a software program that will provide signal corps officers will an improved common operating picture of the network, enhance the ability to manage the plethora of electronic systems popping up on the modern battlefield, advance information sharing capabilities and allow warfighters to make more informed and more timely decisions. In short, the system will assist in planning, building, monitoring and defending the network.

As the number of electronic devices on the modern battlefield rapidly expands, the job of the battalion and brigade signal officer, known as the S-6, grows increasingly complex. The S-6 oversees the deployment of all communications equipment. The communications officer is responsible for the supervision of all automated information systems, network management, computer network defense, electromagnetic spectrum operations and information assurance.

Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the communications officer to even know what devices, or how many, are connected to the network. And many factors, such as terrain, weather, technical difficulties and enemy activities, including jamming or cyber attacks, can disrupt the network. But the S-6 Associate software being developed at the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) will consolidate information on existing systems and simplify network monitoring. Among other benefits, S-6 Associate improves data sharing between systems used by the S-6 and the intelligence (S-2) and training and operations (S-3) functions.

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