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Cyber

Building
 a Bigger,
 Better Pipe

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Scientists at the U.S. Defense Department’s top research and development agency are seeking the best new ideas to provide a larger-scale mobile network to support an increasing array of bandwidth-hungry mobile computing devices for warfighters.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for new technical approaches that would expand the number and capacity of Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs) nodes available in the field.

“When we look at MANETs, it’s really tough to deliver networking services to more than about 100 users,” says Mark Rich, program manager, DARPA Strategic Technology Office. Those 100 users translate into approximately 50 nodes on a mobile wireless network operating in a forward location, generally supporting everything from tactical and operational systems to advanced video services. All of these functions are carried on a service that is largely dependent on highly secure digital radio systems. Once that limit is reached, network services begin to deteriorate in quality and effectiveness. To support larger deployments or to cover a greater area, military communications experts usually knit smaller networks using other available means, such as satellites.

Marines Set the Stage for Next-Generation Network

August 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

The steady march toward the U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network underwent a leap ahead as the U.S. Marines undertook a full transition before the contract for the new system even was awarded. The multiyear effort saw the Corps methodically absorb functions of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet predecessor so the service was positioned for a smooth adoption of the new network.

This shift to a government-owned network required more than just a change in direction. The Corps had to achieve the transition without allowing any break in services to its Marines concurrent with deployments to Southwest Asia. It had to move network operations seamlessly across a philosophical gulf as well as a logistical one without creating a new infrastructure. And, it had to finish the transition perfectly positioned for the incorporation of the Next-Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN.

By design, the transition planners had to aim at a hidden target. The entire transition took place before the contract for NGEN was awarded (see page 53), so they had no idea what the network would resemble. They needed to estimate what the winning bidder—whichever team it would be—would configure as a cost-effective, government-owned and -operated enterprise network. Then, the planners had to design a transition that would lead the Corps to that envisioned destination without losing any functionality along the way.

On June 1, the multiyear effort largely was completed. Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, USMC, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) and chief information officer (CIO) for the Marine Corps, lauds the results. “The transition effort went very, very well,” he states, crediting the skill of the personnel involved for its successful outcome. Their knowledge, as well as their ability to adapt and overcome hurdles, were key to the transition program.

All Aboard for Joint Information Environment

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Despite small pockets of resistance, officials across the U.S. Defense Department and military services support the convergence of multiple networks into one common, shared, global network. Lessons learned from the theater of operations indicate the need for the joint environment, which will provide enterprise services such as email, Internet access, common software applications and cloud computing.

That was the consensus from a wide range of speakers and panelists at the June 25-27 AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The Joint Information Environment (JIE) was a major topic of discussion. Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers, J-6, the joint staff, indicated that the joint environment is his highest priority and described it as the way to the future. “We have no choice. We have to be interoperable day one, phase one, to plug into any operation anywhere in the world, whether it be for homeland defense, disaster relief here in the United States or some combat operation somewhere around the world with coalition partners,” Gen. Bowman declared.

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, Army chief information officer (G-6), called the JIE “absolutely essential,” and indicated that it will better allow warfighters to deploy “on little notice into any austere environment.”

Teresa Salazar, deputy chief, Office of Information Dominance, and deputy chief information officer, U.S. Air Force, said she saw the need for the JIE while in the desert, where every service and every “three-letter agency” came in with its own network, which led to vulnerabilities and a host of complications.

Cyber Threats Abound, but Their Effects Are Not Certain

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Protecting the nation from cyber attack entails deterring or preventing marauders from carrying out their malevolent plans. But, while government and the private sector endeavor to fight the menace jointly, evildoers constantly change their approaches and learn new ways of striking at vulnerable points. So many variables have entered the equation that even the likelihood of attacks—along with their effects—is uncertain.
 

SCADA Systems Face Diverse Software Attack Threats

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems face numerous threats from cybermarauders coming at them from any of a number of directions. Some systems could suffer malware attacks even though they are not the intended targets, according to a leading security expert.

Cyber Sabotage Attacks the Century’s Worst Innovation

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

One of the world’s leading experts on cybersecurity calls cyber sabotage attacks “the worst innovation of this century.” Cyberweapons have become too dangerous, and cyberattack can lead to visible and important damage to the critical infrastructure or telecommunications. And, attribution is almost impossible.

Democracy Is Doomed Without Effective Digital Identification

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Democracy has only 20 years left to live if an effective means of digital identification is not developed before that deadline. As young people growing up with social media reach voting age in increasing numbers, they will lead a major shift to online voting. A lack of identity security will throw open the gates to massive voter fraud that will destroy the fidelity of elections, and with it, true representative government.

That gloomy assessment came from one the world’s leading experts on cybersecurity. Speaking at the AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive officer and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, warned that this will be a consequence of the failure to secure the Internet.

“Kids today are always online,” he pointed out. “They will want to vote online. We need a 100-percent, biometric-based digital identification card.”

Issuing this type of identification will help secure the Internet if it is restructured, Kaspersky continued. He suggested splitting the Internet into different components: One would be highly secure, where financial transactions would take place, and another would be totally open for noncrucial activities with no identification required. Other segments with varying degrees of importance and security would be located in between these two extremes, he offered.

Armageddon by Cyber Not a Likely Scenario

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

A “digital Pearl Harbor Armageddon” that inflicts catastrophic damage on the United States is not likely soon or in the foreseeable future. The worst cyber attack that could be expected would have less of an effect for a shorter period of time, said an expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Sean Kanuck, national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the National Intelligence Council, ODNI, told the audience at the second day of the AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that predictions of destruction that would bring the United States to its knees are unnecessarily pessimistic and unlikely to materialize.

The worst cyber event that could be expected would be regional, not national, in terms of its effects. It would not be enduring, instead lasting days at most. It probably would afflict familiar targets such as oil and gas distribution networks, power grids and transportation.

The financial sector could be damaged by a cyber attack that causes substantial losses. Right now, the U.S. government does not have a baseline or a metric for determining remediation expenses or financial losses, Kanuck said.

The Most Capable Cyber Attackers Are Less Likely to Attack

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The most damaging cyber attacks possible are among the least likely to happen, because the powers capable of undertaking them are unlikely to launch them, according to an expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Sean Kanuck, national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the National Intelligence Council, ODNI, told the audience at the second day of the AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that cyber attack capability need not translate to immediate threat.

Kanuck explained that the most sophisticated players in cyber are powerful nations that know it would run counter to their interests to inflict a damaging attack on the United States. They will—and do—conduct cyber espionage, but they would not want to bring down the United States except possibly in an existential military conflict that threatens their regime or as a part of a major war.

On the other hand, some less capable cyber nations might be willing to launch a devastating attack. Nations such as Iran, for example, might see benefits from inflicting great harm on the United States.

Non-state players would join the major powers in eschewing a crippling attack on the United States. Kanuck pointed out that these non-state entities use cyber to their advantage, such as for criminal activities. “They do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” he noted. “They want to profit, but they don’t want to bring down the law upon themselves.”

Data Integrity Is the Biggest Threat in Cyberspace

July 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The most serious national security threat looming in cyberspace may be the potential for vital data to be altered by cybermarauders, according to a cyber expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Speaking to an attentive audience at the AFCEA Global Intelligence Forum in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Sean Kanuck, national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the National Intelligence Council in the ODNI, admitted that the threat to data integrity keeps him awake at night.

Kanuck offered that, some day, a chief executive officer or even a U.S. president might not be able to trust the normally reliable data needed to make a crucial decision. That situation might be even more damaging than cyber attacks currently envisioned as realistic near-term threats.

“The question will not be distributed denial of service,” he said. “The question will be, can I trust my data from being altered?” He noted that, when data is denied, victims know it immediately. But, if data is altered without people immediately realizing it, they only discover it after financial records are not clearing and balancing, for example.

“Whether it is national security information for the president, or financial information for a chief executive, when you don’t know whether the data is true or false, it’s a really bad day.”

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