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SIGNAL Online Exclusives

Threat Grows for Cyber-Physical Systems

November 21, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The critical infrastructure must address cyberthreats in a manner different from that of conventional information technology systems.

Homeland Security Department Seeks Software Assurance Marketplace Participants

November 14, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is seeking participants for the Software Assurance Marketplace (SWAMP), which is expected to open to beta users in January. The ultimate goal for the marketplace is to help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure by improving software used for essential functions.

Sequestration Hits Today’s Readiness and Tomorrow’s Modernization

November 7, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. military’s readiness to fight and its ability to purchase major weapon systems for the future are both threatened by strict budget caps established under sequestration, the Joint Chiefs warned during a November 7 hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.

NGEN GAO Contract Challenge Hurts Implementation

November 6, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The delay in implementing the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) caused by the contract challenge to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has affected more than just the transition time frame. The network transition will cost more for the Navy because of lost funding opportunities.

DARPA Kicks Off Cyber Grand Challenge

November 5, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

A new government-run competition seeks to advance the boundaries of computer network analysis and defense by developing autonomous cyberdefense capabilities, which combine the speed and scale of automation with reasoning abilities that exceed what human experts can do.

These are the goals of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), which according to agency officials, is the first-ever tournament for fully automated network defense systems. Building on its experience running robotics grand challenges, which greatly advanced the ability of autonomous ground vehicles, DARPA’s new event will have teams of competitors developing automated systems. These smart programs will go head-to-head against one another in real time on a network to evaluate software, test for vulnerabilities, create security patches and deploy to protect computers. To win the $2 million cash prize, teams must combine the capabilities of security software with leading-edge program analysis research, DARPA officials said.

Network computer defense currently is the realm of software specialists who can sift through code to identify weaknesses and back doors. This bespoke analysis is done by hand, making it time consuming, and it cannot be scaled effectively for volume or speed to meet changing threats. While some semi-automated software exists to help analysts, DARPA officials note that there is a need to conduct the analysis and repair parts of network defense in near real time.

This is one of the major goals of the CGC, which is not looking for incremental improvements to existing systems but for new leaps in technical capability. According to DARPA, the CGC program will push competitors to invent and develop truly autonomous cyberdefense technologies.

GAO Dismisses Protest of NGEN Contract

October 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has dismissed the protest of the U.S. Navy's Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN). As a result, the original winner of the $3.5 billion contract—a consortium headed by HP—officially has won the competition.

New Army Cyber Commander Confronts Personnel, Resource Issues

October 29, 2013
By Max Cacas

The new head of the U.S. Army Cyber Command cites the importance of looking carefully at what cyberwarriors do to determine how best to manage the men and women tasked with protecting the service’s information technology networks. This focus on personnel addresses challenges ranging from retaining talent to ensuring that cyber operations have the best resources—human and technological—for their mission.

Speaking in a media briefing in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, USA, addressed the issue raised by Gen. Keith Alexander USA, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, that the disciplines of the signal community, signals intelligence and the cyber community be combined into a “cyberteam community.”

“When you hear this, it’s usually in the context of how you manage a cyberforce, that’s the construct,” Gen. Cardon began. “There are several different ways you can do this in the Army. You can use a skills identifier, you can create a functional area or you can create a separate branch. We have not resolved how we’re going to do this yet.”

With just six weeks on the job under his belt, Gen. Cardon decried “micro-management” efforts by the Army to manage cybersecurity personnel and resources. “I do know that we need to have a way to manage the talent, because it takes a long time to train them. We can’t take the time to train them and then have them for a year and then put them in a regular unit,” he declared. “That would be fiscally irresponsible.” The general went on to say that he is working with Army staff to determine how best to manage the staff under his command.

Cybersecurity Framework Offers New Ways for Firms to Look at Security

October 28, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Information technology and communications companies doing business with the federal government may want to look at the Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework being released for public comment on October 29. The framework, which is a part of President Obama’s executive order for Improving Critical Infrastructure, outlines a series of voluntary steps that organizations can take to improve their network security. While contractors can rely on complying with existing rules and regulations for cybersecurity, federal officials said that enterprises may want to see how different sectors are approaching network security, as described in the framework.

Although the main goal of the executive order’s voluntary process is to engage the participation of companies in different industry sectors whose assets comprise the nation’s critical infrastructure, the steps and processes outlined in the framework can help enhance individual firm’s network security, and by extension, the national infrastructure as well. The framework focuses on creating an overarching set of voluntary standards for critical infrastructure firms, but many parts of the security picture are already in place in the form of existing regulations, laws and policies, Adam Sedgewick, senior information technology policy adviser for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), says.

Nationwide Broadband Safety Network Seeks Industry Input

October 28, 2013
By Beverly Cooper

Work has begun at the federal level to develop a nationwide dedicated, reliable network, which will provide advanced data communications capabilities to police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will enable public safety personnel to make cellular-quality calls and send data, video, images and text—similar to the capabilities offered on commercial networks. Incident commanders and local officials will have priority access and control over the network. Interoperability issues that result from stovepiped local systems, geographic limitations and other regional constraints also will be resolved.

The FirstNet program, which operates under an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), has issued an initial set of requests for information (RFIs) and has received more than 270 responses from industry so far. “We are looking for great expertise from vendors,” emphasizes T.J. Kennedy, deputy general manager, FirstNet, NTIA, Department of Commerce. A second set of RFIs will be issued after the existing input is reviewed, but no time frame has been set, he adds.

Currently, the organization’s efforts are task focused. The goal is first to develop a strong outreach team and then bring in the right technology and people working in an atmosphere that will drive innovation into public safety, Kennedy reports. Then the group will transition its efforts to a building focus.

Public and Private Sectors are Far Apart on LPTA

October 24, 2013
By Rita Boland

Lowest price technically acceptable procurement might not give government the best solutions, and it definitely causes consternation for industry, but it is here to stay at least for a while.

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