The U.S. Army Cyber Command is transferring some of its cyber defense responsibilities for the service’s networks to the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, commonly known as NETCOM. The change, which officially took effect on June 1, transfers authority for the Army’s worldwide regional cyber centers to NETCOM, allows Cyber Command to increase its focus on electronic warfare and information operations and provides one primary point of contact for warfighters in need of network support.
The Cyber Edge
Network data collection, analysis and sharing are core to cyber defense, and Tinisha McMillan is on a mission to improve all three.
As division chief for the Cyber Situational Awareness and NetOps Division within the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), McMillan is responsible for building and providing cyber analytics and tools to enhance the department’s cyber information sharing to protect the Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN).
At 61 years old, the common business-oriented language is the same age as many college kids’ parents. The coding language had its own exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2013. Many in the industry now call it a “legacy language,” but its continued, widespread use tells a different story.
In the past two years, hackers have increasingly targeted Internet of Things devices to breach cybersecurity defenses. Because these devices are frequently not patched when software flaws are found, they represent a soft target for attackers. In 2017, 15 percent of all successful attacks exploited one of these device’s beachheads. By 2019, that number increased to 26 percent of all incidents with growth expected to continue, according to a recent analysis performed by Ponemon Institute.
With the 2020 election fast approaching and tensions with Iran continually shifting, many people are looking to U.S. Cyber Command to help ensure cybersecurity. The command faces an uphill battle because the current construct allows each service branch to retain tactical command of its organic cyber experts. To be more successful in the cyberspace domain, the command needs to take over tasking authority for all cyber-related units, establish a standardized joint cyber schoolhouse and establish a Joint Cyber Operations Command to perform joint, effects-driven cyber operations.
The efficiencies of using and embedding open source software (OSS) carry many risks. In the advent of free repositories and millions of open source projects, the notion of any reasonable centralized authentication about the origin or any assurance as to correctness is virtually impossible. As a result, users should cultivate trust relationships with a few suppliers and keep them up to date.
In the future, anyone trying to figure out how to use limited resources may reap the benefits of computers that are a hybrid of quantum and classical systems.
Such hybrid computers might prove especially efficient and effective at solving certain kinds of problems, such as strategic asset deployment, global supply chains, battlefield logistics, package delivery, the best path for electronics on a computer chip and network node placement. Research also could impact machine learning and coding theory.
Across the U.S. Air Force’s research arm, scientists are developing quantum information science capabilities in four key areas of interest to the service: timing; sensing; communications and networking; and computing. Experts at the Air Force Research Laboratory, known as AFRL, are also investigating the development of enabling technologies, which will springboard the use of quantum capabilities in the four areas.
Multiple decades of research have focused on building more secure and resilient systems by incorporating defensive techniques into computer systems. Such techniques range from enforcement-based defenses that apply some invariant to the execution of code on a machine to randomization-based defenses that enhance a system’s resiliency to attacks by creating uncertainty, diversity or dynamism in the internals of the system. Such defenses have evolved to address increasingly sophisticated attacks that bypass previous defensive technologies and minimize security-related overheads.
Rapid changes in technology create new security vulnerabilities that require small businesses to expend resources to remain compliant. Lack of guidance, definitions or policies place these companies in positions that require them to make security investments without fully understanding the need or outcome of the resources they are spending.
While government information technology firms are better staffed from a security perspective, those that provide other services often do not have enough employees or the expertise to operate their internal computer systems at a high level of security. This situation makes them ideal targets for adversaries.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge for the Defense Department. More people are working remotely, networks are busier than ever and hackers from around the world seek to take advantage, driving up demand for more situational awareness data to keep those networks safe. And the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) continues to deliver that data under the most unusual of circumstances.
The Cyberspace Operations Directorate within the Defense Information Systems Agency is employing a so-called battle drill concept to ensure communications and data are available to the combatant commanders, senior leaders or other key officials when required. The directorate is responsible for the global flow of information, especially in support of the U.S. military’s 11 combatant commands and other key Defense Department operations. The battle drill model collectively pulls together the resources needed to tackle complex communication and data issues.
By using multiple lines of effort, including college and university engagement, social media, virtual events, military outreach and partnerships, the Defense Information Systems Agency is taking a multidimensional approach to the development and growth of its cybersecurity workforce.
According to the (ISC)² 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, the global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 145 percent to meet the demand for skilled cybersecurity talent. In the United States, it needs to grow by 62 percent. “It’s a big task,” the report said.
The rising prominence of the Cyber branch in the U.S. military, and namely the Army, begs the question “What will the Cyber branch be used for?” Citing the Defense Department’s plan for the Cyber branch, as well as the Signal branch’s shifting roles in the realm of cyberspace, the responsibilities of both branches are becoming clear. It is evident that as time goes on, the Cyber branch will become focused mainly on the defense of the military domain and cyberspace.
The coronavirus is not stopping the U.S. Defense Department from proceeding with work on the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), and it shouldn’t slow down industry in doing the same. Although some of the public hearings that should have taken place by now have been delayed because of the pandemic, the CMMC team continues to train and get the word out about rules changes.
NATO is doubling down on cyberspace defense with increased partnerships and new technology thrusts. Information exchanges on threats and solutions, coupled with research into exotic capabilities such as artificial intelligence, are part of alliance efforts to secure its own networks and aid allies in the cybersecurity fight.
The threats the alliance networks face constitute relatively the same ones confronting other organizations. NATO faces the double challenge of securing its own networks and information assets, as well as helping its member nations improve their own national cyber resilience.
Amid growing fears that U.S. military reliance on civilian space infrastructure might prove a weak point, two organizations are seeking to improve cybersecurity in the burgeoning satellite industry. The Orbital Security Alliance has published a detailed set of cybersecurity guidelines for commercial satellite operators, which aims specifically at smaller, newer companies in the fast-growing “minisat” sector.
As cloud computing gains greater numbers of adherents, their increasing demands are straining security measures designed to guard operations. This problem is going to worsen dramatically when applications such as artificial intelligence development assume a significant presence in the cloud.
Yet those same complications offer opportunities. The new types of security that will need to be applied to the cloud can be used for other forms of cyberspace operations. Solutions to the difficulties of cloud security could help protect data elsewhere commensurate with the enhanced role played by the cloud.
To truly ensure the principle of one person, one vote, the American electoral infrastructure should adopt security protocols similar to those used in the cybersecurity industry. Electoral management should be conducted using variations on the techniques employed for financial systems and national security data. Unfortunately, today’s U.S. voting mechanisms at all levels as well as national policy would not pass even the most rudimentary information assurance audit.
Digital structures are needed to protect government information and operations. A group participating in a National Institute of Standards of Technology challenge is offering a secure cloud-based platform that can improve the digital and actual health of a city and protect its information.