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Authenticating Who You are Online

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

Cyberspace has security problems, and the U.S. government is trying to do something about it. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is promoting a plan and taking actions to move citizens beyond usernames and passwords to more powerful methods of authentication. In recent years, massive data theft has occurred in the cyber realm. Even strong passwords are vulnerable to hackers.

Identities are difficult to verify online, forcing many government and civilian transactions to occur in person to satisfy security needs. Furthermore, the complexity of having multiple passwords for myriad accounts means that many people abandon using certain Web services instead of going through the process to recover passwords they forget. Trusted identification could provide the foundation for a solution, explained Dr. Michael Garcia, deputy director, NSTIC National Program Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), at the Biometric Consortium Conference.

To illustrate his point, Garcia explained that the U.S. Defense Department’s intrusion rate dropped 46 percent after the organization banned passwords in favor of common access cards with public key infrastructure. Costs, policy and other barriers prevent certain groups from following this model, however. The NSTIC has within it the idea of an identity ecosystem that will improve online trust. Officials believe the marketplace exists for such technology. Industry will lead the way with government serving as a convener, facilitator and catalyst, Garcia said. The private sector must determine how to build an ecosystem in which it can swap out technologies for various reasons.

Do You Control Your Identity?

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

 

“We are in an era where biometric data is proliferating,” Dr. Joseph Atick, chairman, Identity Council International, said today at the Biometric Consortium Conference. That expansion is taking place in the civilian world in addition to increases in the military and public safety sectors. “Biometrics in daily life has arrived,” Atick explained.

Societal changes regarding how people view privacy and how they use social media are helping to drive changes in the biometrics field. In fact, social changes are driving a revolution in the industry. Reputation of people is becoming pervasive, indelible and inescapable in large part because of the Internet. Data about individuals can be culled simply through performing a Google search and remains available indefinitely. As such, officials, or others, can link more and more pieces of information to individuals, including pieces not collected through a formal means. Atick used the example of two British citizens who were sent home after arriving in the United States and having their identities verified. They were linked to joking tweets saying they would destroy the United States and dig up Marilyn Monroe.

Social media has many implications with identity management. For one, it makes it dramatically easier to determine social identities. Through various platforms, people’s choices show their dynamic relationships, give context to parts of their lives and offer trust by affiliation. A person who has 1,000 highly respectable LinkedIn contacts, for example, should receive some weighting for trustworthiness from that, Atick said. Social media also allows for social résumés. Individuals can post whatever they want, but other people vet them. Atick explained that the upshot of what is happening in the world is that increasingly identification is being derived from data external to the biometrics enrollment process.

NATO Forwards Biometrics

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

NATO is investing time, talent and treasure into advancing biometrics, Col. Bernard Wulfse, Dutch Army, commander, Joint Task Force Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED), explained at the Biometric Consortium Conference. The alliance has named biometrics a critical capability shortfall to address. Key to achieving goals for biometrics is bringing all the partner nations together—not only the few currently supporting the efforts. Methods that proved useful against IEDs have applications in the biometrics realm, and lessons can be applied from the former to the latter.

Current conflicts generate from within states, not between them, so identifying enemies is difficult. More investment in rooting out the bad guys is necessary, Col. Wulfse explained. This anonymity in the physical and cyber realms makes it impossible for traditional forces to deploy their best capabilities. “Asymmetric threats … have rendered our strengths ineffective,” Col. Wulfse said.

Identity management of friend and foe can help mitigate the threats of these types of adversaries and not only in the military context. Other applications include C-IED, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, access control and more. Unlike in times past, biometrics efforts now truly have support from the highest headquarters, the colonel stated.

Despite this support, the basic challenges remain the same. The potential of biometrics for military use is not fully understood. NATO lacks harmonization in guidance, procedures and standards. Capabilities among the various armed forces are unbalanced. There is a lack of knowledge and trust in the biometrics arena, and many of the troops collecting biometric information today will not see the benefits from their work because it often takes years for the data to become a usable resource.

Biometrics: Changing the Game and Facing Challenges

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

Biometrics has advanced significantly over the past decade, altering the lives of people across the globe, especially in developing countries. But the field faces many concerns as it looks toward the future.

Ken Gantt, acting deputy director, Office of Biometric Identity Management, outlined the challenges he sees at the Biometric Consortium Conference Tuesday in Tampa, Florida. The first is direction. Members of the biometrics community need to determine where they want to be in 2025. The second challenge is a combination of policy, privacy and perception. “What is right to share and with whom?,” Gantt asked. Third is operations in terms of improving the employment of biometrics. Fourth is technology. “We can’t do what we do without technology,” Gantt says. However, this comes with problems because of resource constraints. Developers have to make technology affordable.

The fifth and final challenge is identity, or rather, the definition of identity. Gantt explained that the term has different meanings for different people. The lack of uniformity presents challenges when groups try to work together. Gantt made several recommendations to resolve the issues he presented. One basic measure calls for a standardization of definitions and vocabulary to decrease confusion. Most of the other solutions revolve around increasing communications within and outside of the biometric community. Sharing ideas, insights and the benefits of adopting biometrics will advance the field internally as well as encouraging its acceptance by the general populace.

Programs Will Perform or Face the Consequences

September 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army no longer has the luxury of propping up program failures with extra money, causing big changes in the service’s decisions. “If a program doesn’t execute, it’s not going to be a program very long,” said Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, USA, deputy for acquisition and systems management, headquarters, Army, during TechNet Augusta. His repeated this main message throughout his presentation, emphasizing that programs must perform and meet budgets.
 
The general also addressed activities by the acquisition community related to modernizing the Army’s network. “If we’re going to get to one network, we’re really talking about enterprise,” Gen. Greene stated. Budget and world conditions are forcing the military branch to adjust how it carries out business.
 
Gen. Greene explained that under normal circumstances, acquisition officials would have the program objective memorandum for 2015-2019 complete and work on the 2016-2020 version would be underway. But because of issues with national budgets, personnel still are reworking the former version. “It’s going to be tough for my community,” Gen. Greene said. During the recent years of war, the Army has focused on immediate solutions, but now it will have to see further out to make decisions about where to place its bets for the future.  One of the most important investment bets is the network.
 

JIE Moves Boldly Forward

September 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

The Joint Information Environment (JIE) is well on its way to becoming a pervasive reality for the U.S. Armed Services and its coalition partners. The version at U.S. European Command reached initial operational capability on July 31, and the Army now has 1.5 million users on enterprise email, a key service under the environment.
 
Today at TechNet Augusta, Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J6 of the Joint Staff, said that the JIE is necessary because of real problems that exist in current environments. The foundation of the new capability is a single security architecture. Though the effort began as a measure to increase efficiencies, the military now realizes it offers much more, the general explained. Over time, the various services, commands and agencies created their own information technology. “That didn’t help us a ton on the battlefield,” Gen. Bowman said. The JIE will provide a unified enterprise for everyone, including mission partners.
 
Industry will be essential to ensuring that evolving capabilities are integrated as appropriate. “There’s no single answer,” Gen. Bowman explained. “The JIE is not static.” It also is far-reaching, intended for use at all echelons in all operating environments.  Gen. Bowman said everyone will join the new plan, though not in the same way. He compared the JIE services to a menu. Users eventually will have all the items, but not at the same time or in the same order. Earlier this month, the Defense Department Chief Information Officer Teri Takai directed that all department members will migrate to enterprise email. Organizations must submit plans within 120 days.
 

What Sequestration Means to Army Materiel

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

“No other field has changed so completely, so rapidly as signals has in the last 10 years,” Gen. Dennis Via, USA, commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), said during TechNet Augusta on Wednesday. During his address, he asked the Army’s communications community to help his organization provide the capabilities soldiers will need even as sequestration makes providing them more difficult. Senior leaders should worry about the budget, leaving soldiers in the field to worry about coming home safely.

As U.S. involvement in Afghanistan comes to an end, the Army is resetting and establishing itself to be ready for the next contingency operation. The AMC is taking on new roles and responsibilities, making adjustments as necessary to play its part in the changes. The command is expanding its Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise (EAGLE) effort for motors. Previously, only the Reserves had the program, according to Gen. Via, but within the month it should be available at forts Benning, Campbell and Gordon as well as Redstone Arsenal. Even with budget reductions, the command is engaged in big spending. Of the $2.2 billion the Army spent on science and technology in the last year, the AMC executed $1.6 billion of it. There is $28 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan, and the command is looking to bring $22 billion of it back to the United States.

The prospect of leaner funding is a big challenge. Gen. Via explained that leaders have tough decisions to make on money and personnel. The command is mandated to reduce its manning from 580,000 to 490,000 persons. “And we may go lower than that,” Gen. Via said. “We don’t know.” He added that any possible changes, including closing down AMC locations, are on the table as decision makers try to comply with sequestration.

In an interesting side note, Gen. Via is the only Army Signal Corps soldier to obtain the rank of four-star general.

The Future of the Army Is More About People Than Technology

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

As often happens when discussions focus on military technology, talk during the first day of TechNet Augusta 2013 zeroed in on people, not capabilities. Leaders today shared their ideas on human resources and how they would make all the difference modernizing the Army network during a time of lean budgets.

The Shape of the Cyberforce

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

As cyber becomes increasingly important to military operations, the personnel necessary to success in the field are a major focus of attention. Senior noncommissioned officers from all four branches of the U.S. military and the Army National Guard sat on a panel to today discussing this issue during TechNet Augusta.
 
These leaders addressed the issue with training up cyberwarriors over a year or more, only to lose them quickly to other internal organizations or to the private sector. The Navy’s representative, Senior Petty Officer Nathan Maleu, said he is in favor of longer terms for sailors in the cyberfield and in fact would like to see that across the military as long as the term periods do not negatively impact careers. He also commented on group efforts stating “I’m really happy we’re standing up service cyber teams,” but he would like to see a more aggressive approach to standing up joint cyber teams. Air Force representative Master Sgt. Lonnie Becnel shared that the Air Force actively is working to extend tours. Another concern in his service is trying to find the people to become members of cyberteams. A lack of strong assessment tools makes it hard to know who really is qualified.
 
The Army National Guard is looking at how to recruit soldiers now and keep them through 2030 and beyond. The active Army and Marine Corps representatives expressed sentiments similar to their colleagues. However, Master Gunnery Sgt. Adam Bethard, USMC, noted that the Marine Corps has no  cyber career field. Rather, current career fields will receive more cybertraining. 

Evolutions Under Way in Army Signals

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

One particular issue keeps Maj. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, USA, up at night—materiel. Gen. Patterson is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Georgia, and shared his concerns during AFCEA International’s TechNet Augusta on Tuesday.

“I think what we’re doing at the NIE is phenomenal,” the general stated. The NIE is the Network Integration Evaluation, a twice yearly exercise that test new technologies for the Army. “Here’s my concern—it’s too damn complex,” Gen. Patterson added. The opinion is not just his own. He has heard it from many soldiers at all levels. “You need a Ph.D. to turn some of this [stuff] on,” the general explained. Troops have too much to do to have to push multiple buttons to communicate or even turn on a device.

Young soldiers were a topic throughout the general’s presentation, during which he walked the audience through what his organizations are doing in regard to the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities, or DOTMLPF, spectrum. He pointed out that youth today will not accept education that consists of multiple PowerPoint demonstrations. Therefore, trainers must adjust to be more collaborative. New soldiers and officers also expect technology. Facilities at Fort Gordon are making that difficult, because they are outdated. Gen. Patterson shared his frustrations trying to train 21st century soldiers with obsolete equipment and infrastructure. The general reaches out to young soldiers when opportunities arise. For example, he and members of his leadership team had avatars of themselves created and placed into a video that introduces newcomers to Fort Gordon.

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