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Security

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.

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.”

Social Media Could Jeopardize Military Operations, Careers

December 13, 2013
By Jim Sweeney

Every year SIGNAL Magazine introduces a new columnist in the January issue for its Incoming opinion column. Next year’s columnist, Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.), picked a timely topic for his first column. He worries that with social media posts, warfighters and civilian military employees “merrily are doing the work of a million foreign spies.” Gen. Bolger warns of a broad trend toward posting too much information in social media.

Defense Must Focus on Where Not to Spend Money

December 5, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Instead of deciding where to spend its money, the Pentagon now must decide where not to spend its increasingly scarce cash resources. This entails risk assessment that focuses on how not to hurt the warfighter.

Cyberspace-Enabled Coalitions May Save Cyberspace

December 5, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Cyber has provided the means for rapidly assembling and operating military coalitions in the post-Cold-War era. Now, the very nature of the domain may require coalitions to save it from a growing menu of threats. These threats can range from annoying hackers to organized crime to malicious nation-states and even geopolitical movements to restrict the flow of ideas. While the panoply of perils is diverse, the actions to defend against them may have to spring from the well of government and organizational cooperation.

South Korea Formulates National Cyber Program

December 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

South Korea didn't merely react when it suffered two extensive cyber attacks earlier this year. It established a national cyber policy and formed a government/military/commercial partnership to protect against future intrusions.

International Cultural Differences Hinder Cyber Cooperation

December 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The best intentions among international cyber experts may be foiled simply because they don't understand each other's cultural differences. Priorities and even the way of thinking can inhibit progress without cyber experts even realizing it.

National Laws Inhibit Cybersecurity

December 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The national laws that ensure freedom in modern democracies are preventing effective international cybersecurity measures. Hackers hide behind borders as they ply their malice around the world, and authorities are hard-pressed to reach them.

Domestic and International Coalitions Needed for Internet Security and Freedom

December 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Maintaining Internet security--and ensuring its continued freedom--likely will depend on like-minded nations forming coalitions that help formulate international regulations and rules of governance.

Disaster Response Generates Network Security Concerns

December 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The networking assembled for the emergency Philippine typhoon response broke new ground in connectivity among governments and relief organizations. However, it also opened the door to sabotage by cybermarauders.

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