• Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, USA, director of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN, addresses cyber-based network issues at MILCOM 2016 in Baltimore. Photo by Mike Carpenter
     Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, USA, director of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN, addresses cyber-based network issues at MILCOM 2016 in Baltimore. Photo by Mike Carpenter

New Era of Complex Military Operations Brings Cyber Concerns to Forefront

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
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The future of warfighting is smaller and lighter—technology that will let troops conduct battles from a smartphone or tablet, said Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, USA, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA.

Today’s young soldiers don’t want cutting-edge mobile technology in their warfighting platforms; they want that to be their warfighting platforms, he said Tuesday on the inaugural day of MILCOM 2016, a three-day international conference for military communications. This year's theme, Securing Communications at the Speed of Cyber, digs into the competing priorities of speed, security and cost amid emerging challenges. The conference runs November 1-3 at the Baltimore Convention Center and is co-hosted by AFCEA International and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.

Reoccurring challenges in the man-made of domain of cyber consistently test U.S. military operators, said Gen. Lynn, who also serves as commander of Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks (JFHQ-DODIN). JFHQ-DODIN has had nine named operations recently—and it’s now fully operational. 

“When you build the network, if you build it right, then the other side of my hat that I wear, the cyber side, is a lot better,” Gen. Lynn said during his keynote address. “If you build the network right to begin with the first time, then your cyber defensive role is a lot easier.

“I’m talking about defending a domain—no different than land, sea and air,” Gen. Lynn said. “But it’s a new domain, and we’re still trying to figure out fighting in the cyber domain.”

He offered attendees a slide showing annual information technology spending of the Defense Department compared to industry partners. Of the DOD’s IT budget of $31 billion, DISA operates $24 billion—a sharp contrast to the $4.4 billion spent by Verizon, for example, the $3.5 billion by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and the $5.1 billion by AT&T, he noted.

The DISA network is “one of the largest networks in the world, a very, very complex network,” he said. “The kind of throughput we have in terms of data would shock many of you.”

Part of the agency’s cyber defense solution rests with the Joint Regional Security Stacks, or JRSS. In addition to enhanced security, the measure brings with it cost savings, he shared.

What the agency needs from industry is analytics, Gen. Lynn said. DISA is using a lot of virtual desktop infrastructure, and working on how do to it cheaper. Additionally, the military needs secure mobile platforms, he said.

Currently, the department uses the common access card (CAC) and two-factor authentication to control who is on the network. “What’s CAC-card next? What’s two-factor authentication next? It occurred to me that the one thing everybody carries around that has more information [about] you than anything else is your phone.” 

Daily use of smartphones records a pattern of life behaviors—what time you wake in the morning, the location of your home and work, how fast you drive your car—that coupled with facial recognition technology in phone cameras and biometrics could be used to securely identify users, he said. Smartphones one day might be a person’s passport or driver’s license, offering a “true identity" that could also help agencies with cyber defense, Gen. Lynn said. “I’m going to need support from industry to get there.”

The materializing technology to verify identity through patterns of life, biometrics and tracking apps might leave little assurance for privacy, but realistically, that exception no longer exists, Gen. Lynn shared. “If you have some belief now that you have privacy on your devices, … I don’t think there’s a lot of privacy that’s available right now.” 

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