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Cyber

Resolving the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Puzzle

March 1, 2014
By George Kamis

The nation’s critical infrastructure and industrial-control systems have become such potential high-value targets for terrorists that their vulnerability threatens the fabric of society. And, as they increase in both importance and vulnerability, these systems cannot be protected using conventional information security measures.

The targets are electrical grids, transportation networks, water systems, oil/gas pipeline operations and other vital resources that serve in the interests of the U.S. economy and the public good—not to mention public safety—every day. Concerns are rising about reported increases in compromise incidents within these systems, coupled with advancements in the “sophistication and effectiveness of attack technology,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The number of incidents reported by federal agencies to the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team has surged 782 percent from 2006 to 2012, the GAO reports.

Such attacks can “cause major economic losses, contaminate ecological environment and, even more dangerously, claim human lives,” according to a research report from the University of California, Berkeley. And, industrial control systems (ICS) lie at the heart of this vulnerability.

Global events have triggered the cautionary warnings. Among the most notorious was Stuxnet in 2010, which damaged uranium-enrichment centrifuges in Iran by infecting the country’s nuclear ICS network. In 2012, the Shamoon virus attacked Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, replacing crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag and overwriting essential data with what then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described as “garbage data.” Panetta added that the incident was the most destructive attack the business sector has seen to date, as more than 30,000 computers were rendered useless.

Cyber Contest Hones Military Cadets' Skills

February 6, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Defense Department launched a new competition to promote cybersecurity education and training in the nation’s military service academies. Beginning last November, the three service academies created teams to compete in the Service Academy Cyber Stakes, which culminated in a major interschool event held over the weekend of February 1-2 at the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh.

For some years, the Defense Department has been working to increase the number of cybersecurity personnel. One major goal is to have some 4,000 specialists trained by 2017. To get the number and quality of cyber experts needed, the Defense Department has focused on training and educating—especially for future officers who will be charged with defending national cyber assets.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Carnegie Mellon University and New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering managed the Cyber Stakes event. It involved some 50 cadets and midshipmen from West Point and the Naval and Air Force academies participating in individual and small team competitions, explains Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, DARPA program manager. While the cadets competed against one another, they shared a large room. This proximity promoted team building and participation between the competitors, which helped with information sharing. More importantly, this competitive yet cooperative atmosphere will be important in helping create long-term professional relationships between these junior officers as they begin their careers, Ragsdale says.

Researchers Develop One-of-a-Kind Nanocomputer

January 31, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Scientists and engineers from MITRE Corporation and Harvard University published a paper this week revealing the development of what they call the most dense nanoelectronic system ever built. The ultra-small, ultra-low-power processor could be used for tiny robotics, unmanned vehicles and a broad range of commercial applications, including medical sensors.

Trillions of Sensors Feed Big Data

February 1, 2014
By Michael A. Robinson

The emergence of big data combined with the revolution in sensor technology is having a synergistic effect that promises a boom in both realms. The ability to fuse sensor data is spurring the growth of large databases that amass more information than previously envisioned. Similarly, the growth of big data capabilities is spawning new sensor technologies and applications that will feed databases’ ever-increasing and diverse types of information.

Defense Challenges Converge in Asia-Pacific

February 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

All the challenges vexing a modern military—budgetary limitations; information technologies; cyber; and joint and coalition interoperability—are defining operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Covering more than half the Earth’s surface and comprising dozens of nations, the vast area is rife with geopolitical rivalries that complicate efforts at regional security. And, the one domain that knows no geographic bounds—cyberspace—weighs heavily on the success of potential warfighting operations in that region.

Three days of government, military and industry speakers and panelists from around the Pacific Rim examined these issues at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013, held December 3-5 in Honolulu. The theme of “Building Coalitions Through Cyber” launched discussions that extended far beyond the digital realm.

Cyber was the dominant topic, with dialogues ranging from its advantages to its pitfalls. Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, USMC, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), quoted his commander, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, as saying, “We have built cyber on a house of cards.” Gen. Conant stated PACOM is beholden on what cyber has promised, but its full capabilities may not be available during a conflict. “We’re going to be on a denied battlespace; they won’t let us have all the comms,” Gen. Conant said of cyber activities by adversaries. “We’ll have to learn how to do task forces again.”

Scott Dewar, the Australian consulate general in Honolulu, called for domestic and international coalitions to generate approaches for cybersecurity. Effective cybersecurity ultimately will depend on the ability of nations with shared interests forming coalitions that influence the development of international rules and regulations, Dewar said, calling for “a global approach to cybersecurity and common rules of operation.”

Full Steam Ahead for Next-Generation Shipboard Network

February 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy officials expect to award a full-deployment contract for a new shipboard network this spring, and they plan to install the system on nine ships this year. The network provides commonality across the fleet, replacing multiple aging networks, improving interoperability and driving down costs. The Common Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program represents a new business model for delivering capability to the fleet, Navy officials say. The program consolidates five legacy networks into one, which enhances operational effectiveness and provides better quality of life for deployed sailors.

More DHS Cybersecurity Student Volunteer Opportunities Available

January 13, 2014
By Rita Boland

The Department of Homeland Security has expanded its Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative to more agencies. Applications are due by Friday.

Bin Laden Avatar Could Preach Fatwa

January 9, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. intelligence community has taken some flak lately for infiltrating online games, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. A just-released report commissioned by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, however, posits that the technology could be abused by extremists.

U.S. Army Selects Cyber Command Headquarters Location

December 20, 2013
By George Seffers

The U.S. Army announced today that the Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) headquarters will be located at Fort Gordon, Georgia, consolidating and coordinating Army cyber and network operations under one commander for the first time in its history.

The Bottom Line: Information-Gathering Reform Needed All Around

December 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

In an open letter to decision makers in Washington, D.C., last week, several superpowers of the Web called for global government surveillance reform. A bit of the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it?

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