The silver anniversary of the first PC virus is approaching in January, but even after 25 years, no victory celebration is on the horizon. Today, some experts contend we are moving from cyber mayhem to cyber missiles, as multifaceted software attacks are being used to target specific industries. The original computer worm that surfaced in 1979 was designed to scour a network for idle processors to enable more efficient computer use. Stuxnet, a worm discovered in July 2010, infects, spies on and modifies the control systems of industrial utilities, including nuclear systems. It is the most important malware yet seen, says Hypponen.
Quote of the Day:
“Cyberspace mirrors the maritime world both in the way it serves us and in the peril it brings.”—Rear Adm. Danilo M. Cortez, AFP, acting flag officer in command, Philippine Navy
The national awareness in our wartime footing is nothing like what our parents and grandparents experienced during prior conflicts. ... Our hunger for immediate knowledge, and gratification, is supported by our great resources. It could also become our greatest weakness long after the conventional weapons go silent.
"Fundamentally, the network's core is rotten. It's optimized for criminal activities."--Marcus H. Sachs, executive director of government affairs for national security and cyber policy, Verizon, describing cyberspace
"You can't command and control that domain [IT] unless you can see into it, sense inside it and control it."--Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command
The U.S. Air Force Personnel Center is transferring virtually all human resources-related information technology responsibilities to the Defense Information Systems Agency, becoming a customer rather than a human resources systems owner. The service is migrating its Total Force Service Center to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA’s) Defense Enterprise Computing Center, a fee-for-service organization providing processing capability, systems management, communications and data storage in a reliable and secure cloud-computing environment.
When a U.S. federal jury convicted Noshir Gowadia of spying for the People's Republic of China in August, it marked a victory for several U.S. investigative agencies. But the verdict might never have arrived without three years of assistance from another organization-the Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3). Comprising five different entities, the military center has a special focus on computer forensics to assist its various customers and clients.
DARPA's Transformative Apps program is taking the Android to new places and will help keep warfighters out of harm's way. Much like its commercial counterparts, these apps will provide capabilities that the users didn't even realize they needed until they were in the palms of their hands. And best of all, new apps can be suggested, created and delivered in days rather than months because of an innovative production process.
The C4ISR community's clamor for a reduction of under-the-desk hardware should soon be answered. AFRL officials are working on a secure access to multiple networks, and an application to enable data sharing across those networks is close behind.
Great minds will converge in one laboratory to create platforms with minds of their own. After decades as the birthplace of unmanned systems, the Naval Research Laboratory is building a new facility where researchers from many disciplines can collaborate. Their focus will be on building, testing and evaluating autonomous machines that could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with warfighters.
Building Blocks for Computer Vision
Last month I expressed concern that the growing gap between online functionality and security demanded a rethinking of several key aspects of security—more focus on tagging and tracking data, rethinking resilience and robustness, clearer security policies, and a need to change people’s behavior to reflect more security awareness.
Obstacles ranging from passive obstinance to active hostility are vexing efforts by the U.S. Pacific Command to maintain security across the vast Asia-Pacific region. The command has built a structure of stability throughout the region based on diplomatic and military cooperation with most of the several dozen nations that populate the hemisphere. However, new military challenges are putting plans and resources to the test.
The National Reconnaissance Office is gearing up for a dynamic future rife with innovative technologies that change the way it collects data from space. The organization is introducing new capabilities that open windows on hitherto unavailable data, as well as new products that tap both the new capabilities and long-extant services.
Spending on science and technology will increase substantially as the organization develops and exploits sensor and processing advances. A new generation of satellites will join and supplant space-based assets that have been on station as long as two decades past their original design lifetime.
The U.S. Biometrics Identity Management Agency, an Army agency tasked with coordinating biometrics efforts across the Defense Department, is expanding capabilities and broadening data sharing with other government agencies and coalition partners. The agency, which also operates the department’s premier biometrics database, is coordinating with the departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security to share biometrics data between the three primary databases used by the various departments.
No one knows yet what a working quantum computer will look like, how long it will take to develop or how many functions it will perform, but one thing is almost certain—it will be critical to national security. If such a computer is ever built, it likely will be the most powerful machine on the planet for encrypting or decrypting information, easily capable of cracking current encryption codes used by the military, intelligence agencies and commercial entities such as the banking and financial services industry.
Intelligence analysts are drowning in data, so companies are working to develop life-saving solutions in the areas of processing, compression and visualization. Years of developing titanic numbers of sensors have resulted in an ocean of data that harbors only a few lifeboats. Companies that succeed in these endeavors not only will enhance homeland security but also will reap the benefit of financial windfalls. In addition to having search agents that would help analysts uncover truly useful information, the intelligence community would benefit from new ways to store and move petabytes of data.
A multitude of changes underway at U.S. Strategic Command are revolutionizing the U.S. Defense Department’s place in space. In addition to the three Wideband Global SATCOM satellites currently in orbit, the command is discussing how the commercial sector can continue to support its missions, and its Joint Space Operations Center is undergoing not just a facelift but what can be considered a total remodeling. In addition, the command is boosting its outreach through the influence it now has with its authority over the Commercial and Foreign Entities Program.
The intelligence community faces many challenges. Some are unique, but others are symptomatic of problems throughout government. These issues address the need for consistency and reason in intelligence as well as in government decision making. My examples all pertain to the U.S. government, but they can be applied equally to governments everywhere.