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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.

Chinese and Iranian Cyberthreat Growing

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), former director of the CIA, indicated an astounding extent of Chinese cyber espionage and said he believes the Iranians are attacking U.S. banks with unsophisticated but pervasive cyber attacks.

Regarding the Chinese, Gen. Hayden said he believes the government solution to cyber espionage should be economic rather than cyber. “We have cyber espionage coming at us, and they’re bleeding us white. The reason the Chinese are doing this is economic. I think the government response should be economic. We can punish China in the economic sphere,” Gen. Hayden told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

He added that some believe we cannot punish China economically because the Chinese own too much U.S. debt. Gen. Hayden indicated he disagrees.

The general also said the U.S. engages in cyber thievery as well, but he indicated that it is more for security reasons than economic reasons. “We steal other people’s stuff, too. And we’re better at it. We’re number one. But we self-limit—we and a small number of other countries around the world, all of whom speak English,” Gen. Hayden said.

Regarding the Iranians, Gen. Hayden said the number of attacks on the U.S. banking industry has ballooned. “My sense is that we’ve seen a real surge in Iranian cyber attacks. The Iranians have committed distributed denial of service attacks against American banks. I’ve talked to folks in the game here, and they’ve reported to me there’s nothing sophisticated about the attacks, but they say they’ve never seen them on this scale,” Gen. Hayden revealed.

Cyber and Physical Protection Go Together

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 1

All too often, cyber and physical protection are considered separately, when really they go hand-in-hand, according to experts speaking at the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., February 26, 2013. The conference opened with a half-day of conversation about hackers, terrorists and natural disasters and addressed concerns involving both physical infrastructure and the cyber environment for all kinds of attacks, be they physical, virtual or even natural in origin.

Richard Puckett, chief security architect for GE, drove home the point that physical infrastructure, such as power plants, have a cyber component. “People want to be able to walk around a power plant with an iPad. They want to attach remotely to these systems, because it is an incredibly powerful and attractive tool. It’s very visceral to them,” he said. “What we’re concerned about as we see those increased patterns of connectedness is how to protect that.”

Puckett emphasized that the relationship between cybersecurity and physical infrastructure was a focus of government and military, noting that the term "cyber" means a lot of different things to different people and for the private sector was more connotative of personal and financial cybersecurity.

Paige Atkins, vice president of cyber and information technology research, Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation, said that part of the problem is that cyber is a sometimes difficult concept. “Cyber is a little harder for us to understand and grasp because it is not as graphic," she said. "In my personal experience, the cyber-physical area is underappreciated and not fully understood.”

NIST Seeks Industry Information for Cybersecurity Framework

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a request for information on Tuesday, February 26, for the cybersecurity framework demanded by the recent White House executive order.

Speaking on the cybersecurity panel at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Jeff Voas, a NIST computer scientist, said he received his first briefing on the executive order about a week ago and NIST already has begun putting together working groups. The request for information process should be concluded in about 45 days. “We’re only a week or two into this,” Voas said.

The panel included Darren Ash, deputy executive director for corporate management and chief information officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates the civilian use of nuclear power. Ash said that most nuclear power plants in this country were built decades ago in an analog environment, whereas more recent applications to build nuclear facilities are grounded in a digital environment.

“We know that cyber is important. What we expected and required of these licensees was to establish their plans on how to address cyber,” Ash said. “What’s important is what we do with it.” Recent nuclear license requirements have been accepted, he reported, and just this fiscal year, the commission has begun to inspect the cybersecurity capabilities to ensure they are meeting the requirements.

Richard Puckett, chief security architect for GE, argued that the term “cyber” is too vague, meaning different things to different sectors. To private sector clients, for example, cyber refers to protection of credit card numbers and other personal information, whereas government and military customers are more concerned with the cyber activities of other nation states and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Experts Discuss Big Data Speed

February 15, 2013

A slow down in data transmission can be deadly in the military environment, where it can mean lost lives. In a white paper that compares available information transport technologies, experts from Aspera Incorporated tackle the topic of moving big data quickly over wide area networks.

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

Researchers Organize to 
Share Data, Speed Innovation

February 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

To meet the challenge of implementing big data, a new international scientific organization is forming to facilitate the sharing of research data and speed the pace of innovation. The group, called the Research Data Alliance, will comprise some of the top computer experts from around the world, representing all scientific disciplines.

Managing the staggering and constantly growing amount of information that composes big data is essential to the future of innovation. The U.S. delegation to the alliance’s first plenary session, being held next month in Switzerland, is led by Francine Berman, a noted U.S. computer scientist, with backing from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Meeting the challenges of how to harness big data is what makes organizing and starting the Research Data Alliance (RDA) so exciting, Berman says. “It has a very specific niche that is very complementary to a wide variety of activities. In the Research Data Alliance, what we’re aiming to do is create really tangible outcomes that drive data sharing, open access, research data sharing and exchange,” all of which, she adds, are vital to data-driven innovation in the academic, public and private sectors. The goal of the RDA is to build what she calls “coordinated pieces of infrastructure” that make it easier and more reasonable for people to share, exchange and discover data.

“It’s really hard to imagine forward innovation without getting a handle around the data issues,” emphasizes Berman, the U.S. leader of the RDA Council, who, along with colleagues from Australia and the European Union, is working to organize the alliance. Ross Wilkinson, executive director of the Australian National Data Service, and John Wood, secretary-general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities in London, are the other members of the council.

Joint Experimentation Enables Regional Cyber Protection

February 1, 2013
By Maj. Jose Gonzalez, USAF

Commanders wrestling with control of cyberspace elements now have a new tool to help them secure their corner of cyberspace in an operational setting. The Adaptive Network Defense of Command and Control concept of operations enables joint force commander control of key terrain in cyberspace, based on assessments at an operational tempo. To achieve a joint force command objective, network operators concentrate cybersecurity and monitoring of command and control systems to maintain the initiative against adversarial attacks and provide enhanced situational awareness.

This approach was developed by the Joint Cyber Operations Joint Test (JCO JT), under the auspices of the director, Operational Test and Evaluation. It developed and evaluated a concept of operations and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to secure command and control (C2) systems with commercially available technologies.

The JCO JT tested the effectiveness of the Adaptive Network Defense of Command and Control (AND-C2) TTP for the Virtual Secure Enclave (VSE) TTP. The VSE TTP provides methods to establish and employ a community of interest virtual private network, with anomaly detection, for protection and defense of joint task force (JTF) C2 systems. The VSE TTP implements the AND-C2 concept of operations by using a virtual secure enclave for C2 protection.

The JCO JT employed a challenging test methodology for the VSE TTP. This methodology proved successful because of careful collaboration and deliberate planning. The JCO JT aligned testing with U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) experimentation and a sister Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) during a major theater exercise. Test planners closely coordinated with multiple red teams and created test conditions for quantitative analysis with statistical rigor.

Cyber, China Challenges Loom Large for U.S. Military

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3

Quote of the Day: “Make no mistake: the PLAN is focused on war at sea and sinking an opposing fleet.”—Capt. Jim Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Two separate issues, both on the rise, have become increasing concerns for U.S. military planners. The technology-oriented world of cyber and the geopolitical challenge of a growing Chinese military are dynamic issues that will be major focus points for the U.S. defense community in the foreseeable future.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly complex because of the plethora of new information technologies and capabilities entering the force. Security planners must strike a balance between effectively protecting these new information systems and imposing constraints that would wipe out most of the gains they offer.

China, the world’s rising economic power, is evolving into a military power with a reach that extends increasingly beyond its littoral waters. The U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is likely to enmesh U.S. military forces in local issues to a greater degree, and China’s steady growth in military strength will affect how international relations evolve in that vast region.

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