The U.S. Army is pushing to ensure that the people in charge of the latest tools in warfare are up to date in defending its information and computer networks. Personnel who are key to the service's transformation and its move to digitizing the force are being trained to install, configure, operate and maintain the latest communications systems and are learning to identify evolving threats to these systems.
A new type of defensive software protects computer networks by actively identifying reconnaissance probes and blocking subsequent attacks. The program operates in front of a firewall by marking all incoming scans and probes. The mark consists of false data about servers and other applications. Any attempts to penetrate the system using the distorted information is treated as an attack and automatically stopped.
By manipulating the slippery and elusive qualities of matter's smallest components, scientists have developed a way to encode and send data along unsecured public fiber optic lines. The method relies on the unique nature of atomic behavior-any attempt by an outside party to analyze the coded material changes the atoms' characteristics, rendering the transmission useless.
A recent exercise in San Antonio revealed how homeland security cooperation among civil authorities and the military involves more than hardware and software interoperability. Issues such as military capabilities, obligations and restrictions weighed heavily as participants sought to establish procedures to counter a potential cyberattack.
The U.S. Defense Department is developing miniaturized infrared detectors and sensors that do not require bulky cooling systems. These devices will be compact enough to fit in small robotic vehicles and microaircraft or will be manportable. The technology also may improve night vision and missile seeking equipment. Recent advances in physics and materials science are moving these devices from the laboratory to the battlefield.
When the first commercial imaging satellite rocketed into outer space, few realized that a quiet revolution leading to total transparency had begun. Like the introduction of television, the advent of commercial satellite imagery has facilitated the dissemination of information to the world in graphic detail. But experts warn that this new capability could be a double-edged sword. Commercial satellite imagery is unveiling previously secretive activities to the court of public opinion where it can be scrutinized in a way never before possible.
Information security researchers at George Washington University are studying new ways to strengthen identification authentication processes while keeping transactions as simple as possible. The techniques involve deliberate perturbations of traditional authentication processes and can be applied to password, token and biometric systems alike.
While military combatants continue to fight the war against terrorism on the battlefield, U.S. government officials are stepping up work to protect the borders of cyberspace. Information infrastructure security is such a high priority that government agencies are now required to provide reports on risk assessments, system security needs and security plans before they receive program funding.
The newest U.S. government plan for cybersecurity proposes some short-term remedies while acknowledging that long-term security goals may take years to come to fruition. First published in draft form last fall, the new version establishes a list of priority programs but eschews detailed directives. This changes the thrust of the strategy from an operations manual to a list of guidelines.
People and equipment rise to the occasion when military computer networks are attacked, according to evaluators at a recent U.S. Air Force exercise. A two-week event that tested experts on both native Air Force networks and a simulation range produced some surprises in the capabilities of humans and hardware.