The United States has recruited private industry to help fight the war on terrorism on the home front. The next battlefield may be cyberspace, and the government is working with its operators to protect and defend crucial assets in that realm against attacks that could potentially cripple the country.
Technology is now available that allows various organizations to share information from their databases without compromising their sources or individual agency policies. The software would enable national security and law enforcement groups to coordinate their efforts by facilitating the tracking of suspicious individuals and their activities.
Research is extending the boundaries of information assurance technology to include the operational reliability of individual systems and the ability of tactical wireless networks to remain secure. Scientists are developing agile solutions to counter new types of cyberassaults and to protect vulnerabilities detected in emerging technologies.
A recently developed identification authentication system permits personnel to receive single-use passwords via wireless devices, allowing users who are traveling or at remote sites to access their networks. The technology is compatible with a variety of equipment that supports text messaging such as cellular telephones, pagers, personal digital assistants and laptop computers.
Demands to increase information sharing and collaboration among government agencies are creating a growing requirement for easy-to-use security products that facilitate classified communications. Many organizations are now realizing the benefits of videoconferencing; however, information protection in this area generally involves support from communications security-certified personnel, and moving from unclassified to classified conferences requires cumbersome procedures.
A new approach to personal computer security confounds internal thieves and external hackers by making data disappear without a trace. The new security system effectively conceals the very existence of critical files and applications from all except the authorized user.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A review of U.S. Defense Department information systems using a code analysis process has found no evidence of deliberate infusion of vulnerabilities into applications, but it has found instances of bad coding practices and programmer shortcuts that have left systems open to attack. The vulnerabilities found would not have been easily detected by an outside source, but they were open doors for an insider who wished to exploit them. The systems were hosted on extremely critical networks where a breach could have catastrophic consequences.
An increasing emphasis on information security is prompting experts in the technology industry to follow the lead of the medical and legal professions, which feature a system of specialties and subspecialties. One major accreditation organization is taking a closer look at the government sector and addressing the distinct circumstances of information security specialists in that arena. Once specific issues are identified, they could affect the certification process as well as influence public policy.
One of the key factors inhibiting the growth of the wireless fidelity market is security. The attractive wireless technology that offers a wide range of applications also is generating a wave of uncertainty about the fidelity of its connectivity.
A software analysis tool allows military and civilian managers of government facilities to evaluate vulnerability to terrorist attacks quickly. Now being installed at all U.S. military installations, the program calculates the risks that a variety of extremist organizations pose to a base or building, taking into account known tactics, methods of attack, preferred weapons and capabilities. This data is converted into graphics and three-dimensional models that can be stored and incorporated into reports.