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Advanced Capabilities Required for Future Navy Warfighting

April 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Future conflicts likely will be fought in degraded information technology environments, which will require the U.S. Navy to develop and exploit new capabilities to continue to operate in contested cyberspace. Technologies such as a flexible information grid, assured timing services and directed energy weapons must be part of the naval information system arsenal if the sea service is to maintain information dominance through the year 2028.

These were just a few of the findings presented in the Navy’s Information Dominance Roadmap 2013-2028, which was released in late March. Presented by Rear Adm. William E. Leigher, USN, the Navy’s director of warfighter integration, the report outlines the growing challenges facing the fleet and how the Navy must meet them.

The report divides information dominance challenges into three areas: assured command and control (C2), battlespace awareness and integrated fires. While the United States will continue to maintain supremacy in those areas, that supremacy is shrinking as more nations are closing the gap between U.S. capabilities and the ability to disrupt them.

Among the advanced capabilities the Navy will require toward the end of the next decade is assured electromagnetic spectrum access. Achieving this will entail fielding greater numbers of advanced line-of-sight communication systems; being able to monitor combat system operational status and adjust it using automated services; having a real-time spectrum operations capability that enables dynamic monitoring and control of spectrum emissions; and generating a common operational picture of the spectrum that is linked to electronic navigation charts and displays operational restrictions.

Marine Corps Ponders Training Changes

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

After a special operations deployment, handling state-of-the-art communications technology tops the list.

Back from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion already is working to apply lessons learned to training for the next deployment. As the battalion prepares for its next mission, it is reflecting on what its Marines learned about how they train, how their equipment worked and how they will prepare themselves for the future.

While they are able to use some of the best electronic communications gear developed for the military, the Marines nonetheless are trying to learn how they can improve both their initial and follow-up training to get the most out of that equipment. They also are asking important questions about whether they have enough, and the right kinds, of equipment.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2) Jason Reed, USMC, is a spectrum operations officer, G-6, and one of the members of the Marine battalion responsible for supporting the communications needs of Marines during the deployment. CWO2 Reed says one of the first things his bosses at the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) headquarters wanted to know is what worked, what went well and, more importantly, what needed improvement based on the deployment. For CWO2 Reed, that meant one thing: training for combat service support personnel.

He explains that MARSOC recruits Marines who have already received training for more conventional duties. “They’re radio operators, they’re maintenance folks, they’re cryptologists, they’re data network operators,” CWO2 Reed outlines. Upon arrival at MARSOC, however, the Marines receive a new level of training to support Special Operations, getting what he calls “a new baseline” in training.

DISA Lays Groundwork for Commercial Cloud Computing Contract

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

One of the U.S. Defense Department’s top information technology officials says work is beginning on a multiaward contract for commercial cloud computing services, but the official says he has no timeline or total value for the business.

Cyber Investigators Analyze South Korea Malware

March 25, 2013

The malware that infiltrated computer systems across South Korea’s banking and television broadcast industries on March 20 shares similarities with the Shamoon program used last year to wipe clean the hard drives of 30,000 Saudi Aramco workstations, according to experts at General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions. Investigators at the company’s newly-opened cyber forensics laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, say the malware is not a Shamoon variant, but that the two programs share some characteristics.

Company officials acknowledge the speculation that North Korea launched the attacks but did not comment on the program’s origin. It is not unusual, they say, for a criminal group or nation to use malware that deliberately mimics attacks used by others. Doing so, of course, casts suspicion elsewhere, helping to mask the malware’s true origins. “A number of commercial firms were hit with a somewhat similar attack. It was not Shamoon. But the techniques were somewhat similar,” says Jim Jaeger, the company’s vice president of cybersecurity services.

Cyber lab personnel identified the South Korea malware as “239ed75323.exe,” a malicious file capable of wiping data in disk drives. One of the areas it targets is the disk’s master boot record, without which a computer cannot load its operating system. The program writes a pattern to the disk that repeats the word “HASTATI.” Hastati is an apparent reference to a class of infantry in the armies of the early Roman Republic that originally fought as spearmen and later as swordsmen. The malware did not overwrite the entire disk, so some data can be recovered. The cyber lab experts posted their initial findings in a blog the day after the attacks.

 

Law Enforcement in the Cloud

March 14, 2013
By Rick Hansen

The Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Program recently implemented a simplified sign-on capability that enables federal, state and local law enforcement to collaborate.

 

Cloud Industry Group Issues Mobile Computing Guidelines

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

When it comes to popular smartphones and tablets, security can be a many-layered and necessary endeavor

The growing use of advanced mobile devices, coupled with the increase in wireless broadband speed, is fueling demand by employees to bring their own devices to the job. This situation has opened a new set of security challenges for information technology staff, especially when it comes to the use of apps.

As the popularity and capability of mobile devices expands, standards are necessary to ensure that personal devices can function securely on enterprise networks. To address this need, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) organized its Mobile Working Group last year. The group recently released guidance to members on how enterprise administrators can successfully integrate smartphones and tablets into their work environment. The CSA is a not-for-profit organization of industry representatives focused on information assurance in the cloud computing industry.

Communications Labs JOIN Forces Remotely

March 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts in a networked software engineering realm.

A network built after its major move to a new base is allowing the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command to link diverse communications systems into an overarching network. This enables capabilities ranging from debugging software updates before they are sent to the front to a multinational exercise for validating operational activities.

When the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) relocated from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, under the Base Closure and Realignment program (BRAC), it used the opportunity to consolidate capabilities and build new facilities from the ground up that would allow the command to take advantage of the latest technologies. Among these facilities is the Joint On-demand Interoperability Network, or JOIN. This network connects with other laboratories and communications facilities, including some in theater, to share resources and solve problems by using all of their capabilities.

The network has existed in some form for more than two decades. Today’s JOIN community includes research, development, testing and evaluation as well as life-cycle support. JOIN serves as the nexus for these diverse elements. It provides two capabilities: services and interconnectivity as a technical hub.

John Kahler, chief of JOIN, allows that the network was established to integrate the entire command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) community and to provide a technical hub so that organizations could exploit each other’s resources as well as work in “a collaborative, common operating environment.” Participants can conduct research, development, testing and engineering along with life-cycle support.

Cyber and Physical Protection are Intrinsically Linked

February 28, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The recently signed executive order on cybersecurity and the presidential directive on critical infrastructure protection are not separate documents. In fact, they are part of the same overall effort to protect the nation, said Rand Beers, undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Beers discussed the effort on Thursday at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

The two documents are “part and parcel of a whole of government and whole of society concept. The executive order is focused on cybersecurity, but the presidential policy directive takes the cybersecurity element and places it within the broader context of critical infrastructure protection in the sense that cyber and physical critical infrastructure are linked to one another,” Beers said. He added that a cyber attack that shuts down the electric grid could shut off access to water and to communications, which could affect the economy. “I’m not here to suggest cyber Armageddon is about to happen, but we have enough of a warning to understand that concerns about cybersecurity are not being overhyped.”

Beers revealed that the government is working to identify critical cyber nodes within the country, just as it has inventoried physical facilities that make up the nation’s critical infrastructure.

He added that the administration would still like Congress to pass cyber legislation. “We would still very much prefer legislation. We need to incentivize the private sector to take on the needed best practices,” Beers said. He suggested that legislation should include a safe harbor element providing liability protection to those in the private sector who adopt best practices but still suffer outages during a catastrophic event.

9/11 Attack Offers Lessons Learned for Broadband Interoperability

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which is responsible for deploying the Nationwide Public Safety Network, could learn lessons from the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon, during which emergency responders experienced almost no interoperability problems, according to emergency management panelists at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett, USNR (Ret.) mentioned FirstNet and its efforts to develop an interoperable broadband network for emergency management. “The promise of broadband is that we have the opportunity to invest in an interoperable system from inception,” he said, adding that the architecture is still not determined and interoperability is not a foregone conclusion.

He cited the response to the attack on the Pentagon as an example of interoperability that works. Adm. Barnett reminded the audience that the Pentagon roof, which was very old and insulated with a material made of horse hair, burned for three months following the attack. “Among the 13 agencies that responded, they had only one group that had trouble communicating.”

He added that the level of interoperability was achieved largely through close working relationships among the emergency responders. Those relationships were developed in the years prior to the attack.

“We can do the same thing on a public safety broadband network. We just have to make sure that the ultimate goal is that you end up with an interoperable network. Everything we have seen broadband bring to us—the various applications you have on your phone—can be available for public safety. And we really haven’t imagined it all,” he said. “It’s important to have the collaboration that the right kinds of communications systems enable. But if you don’t have the relationships that foster trust, it won’t matter what kind of electronics you have.”

National Fusion Centers Play Critical Role in Homeland Security

February 27, 2013
George I. Seffers

The National Network of Fusion Centers, developed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, are a vital part of the nation’s homeland security efforts, according to experts on the Intelligence and Information Sharing Panel at AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

The fusion centers serve as the primary focal point for the receipt, gathering and sharing of threat-related information among federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners. Although largely funded through federal homeland security grants, the centers are owned and operated by local entities.

Panelists described an environment where the need for fusion centers was identified and building began with little guidance. “We have seen tremendous progress made,” said Christian Beckner, former staff member on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “Now, we have a broad national network playing a critical role in making the country safer.”

Scott McAllister, deputy undersecretary of intelligence and analysis for State and Local Program Office, Department of Homeland Security, pointed out that prior to the 9/11 attacks, local had no role in combating terrorism. Now, however, several thousand security clearances are issued at the local level.

Beckner explained that the fusion centers sometimes pass information up the chain to federal agencies, so information is being shared in both directions. Additionally, local and state experts can analyze and process information from a different point of view than federal employees, helping to fill intelligence gaps.

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