Bitcoin’s underlying technology, called blockchain, has great potential in the public sector. Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two or more parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. This can include the exchange of money, goods, property, documents or data—anything of value that can be represented digitally. A trusted centralized intermediary such as a bank can enforce terms, and details recorded in the ledger can be used for arbitration.
Smartphones and tablets offer more storage, processing power and functionality than an enterprise-class mainframe computer did less than a generation ago. Such dramatic advances make mobile devices powerful business tools and allow military forces to conduct combat missions around the clock, regardless of location.
The discussion about creating a space-oriented military branch has surfaced again. An amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2017-2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calls for a separate Space Corps by 2019. The Space Corps would fall under the Department of the Air Force but operate as an independent service, similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Department of the Navy.
I really can’t believe we are having this discussion again.
We are living in the second major wave of digital disruption. Most consider the advent of the Internet and ubiquitous email to be the first wave. In this second wave, where the cloud features prominently, modern apps and analytics will usher in unprecedented levels of productivity that will significantly differentiate militaries, companies and governments by their mission execution.
In business as in life, whenever something goes terribly wrong, there is a reflexive tendency to start talking about what should have been done and to affix blame instead of focusing on how to move forward successfully. Cyber attacks are certainly no exception.
I simply WannaCry.
This article is the last in a two-part series on what Y2K can teach the world about cybersecurity. Read the first part here.
The Y2K event went out with a whimper and not a bang, but not because the issue wasn’t serious. The potential for massive data disruption was there, but government and industry rallied to address it before the January 1, 2000, deadline. The millennium bug was squashed because stakeholders with a lot to lose attacked it in a coordinated effort. That approach can serve as both a lesson and a model for the latest security challenge: the cyber bug.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about cyberthreats over the past 15 years, yet I haven’t seen anyone offer a holistic way to address them. As I reflect on my own experiences and challenges in information and operational technology, the last problem of this magnitude that we had to face was the feared millennium bug, or Y2K. A mere 17 years later, the information technology landscape looks eerily the same. For many chief information officers (CIOs) and chief information security officers (CISOs), the size and scope of the millennium bug is about the same as today’s major security challenge: the cyber bug.
In the information security sector, the same problems and misconceptions about cybersecurity crop up again and again. Specifically, federal government leaders believe that security is purely a technology problem. But that is not the case. Cybersecurity vulnerabilities in both industry and government are regularly the result of human behavior and not solely an information technology or system error. And this human threat often is not malicious. So how are government officials to manage this type of insider risk?
Now that Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States, he will be exposed to the nation’s soft underbelly: cybersecurity. Given rapid advancements in information and communication technologies, continued coupling of the digital domain with the physical world and advanced persistent threats, critical infrastructure protection poses a major challenge for the United States.
This is where the president should focus his efforts. But is either the Department of Homeland Security or the Defense Department the right agency for cyber protection?
Happy New Year! While I prepared this column well in advance of its publishing date, I unfortunately can predict with reasonable certainty (though I wish I could do this with the stock market) that another major cybersecurity event occurred last week or will occur next week.
Changes in information technology and the capabilities it delivers are commonplace across business. We know changes will only continue, offering opportunities for improved operations and greater efficiencies. The problem is that chief information officers, who are charged with managing and delivering information technology services, often operate on procedures, structures and processes developed many years ago, in an entirely different technology era.
While the world’s attention seems to be focused on the Middle East and the spillover effects of its conflicts, the Asia-Pacific region is enduring stresses that could have far-reaching consequences. The area, which comprises half the Earth’s surface and two-thirds of its people, is facing threats to peace and economic growth that must be addressed by the one country that largely is viewed as an honest broker for security: the United States.
Several years ago, I served as a director of communications and information in a major U.S. Air Force command. The director of operations called me in one day to discuss some of the actions we were taking within my directorate. While the general appreciated my proactivity, he told me I was crossing the line between my support role and his operational business. That was hard for me to understand because I always had believed communications and information were operations. Today’s thinking seems to bear that out, and today’s requirements demand that we do things differently.
Since World War II, the U.S. military largely has borne the cost of preserving peace around the globe, which also has helped secure homeland prosperity. Boots on the ground in foreign lands have allowed us to form strong economic ties with our allies, establish a presence in critical regions and fight “over there” should a conflict arise. We adopted this strategy in the years following World War II and accepted its cost as the price of being a world leader. That strategy frequently has been under fire, with many calling for more reductions in our overseas presence to focus on problems at home.
Much debate has taken place recently on the topic of American “greatness.” While I believe this country remains great today, I also believe it has lost some of its momentum for a number of reasons, including a struggling economy. Wages are not climbing, consumer spending is stagnant, and the national debt keeps growing. We need to reinvigorate the middle class with more opportunities for higher-paying jobs so that Americans feel confident and prosperous again. Those opportunities exist, but unlike the last century, more will come from small businesses than big businesses.
The steady drumbeat of horrific terrorist attacks continues across our country and around the world. Most of these attacks are rooted in religious extremism, yet our administration and Congress keep debating terrorism terminologies and causes rather than taking aggressive and meaningful bipartisan steps that clearly identify the threats and lay out a comprehensive strategy to mitigate them. I am convinced that we will continue to struggle against extremist and other mass-murder threats until we come up with unified national positions on terrorism and gun control that most Americans can understand, accept and support.
I suspect it is no surprise to the men and women who read SIGNAL Magazine that the U.S. Air Force is facing readiness and modernization challenges after 25 years of continuous combat. What you readers might not realize, however, is that our Air Force is actually smaller today than it was when it became a service in 1947. And, according to recent congressional testimony, it sits at about 50 percent readiness. Across the board, our service members proudly carry out their missions as the world’s premier fighting forces. But if we are asking them to execute the published National Security Strategy, we owe it to these patriots to provide proper resources.
My wife and I once passed through three different airports on a trip to visit friends. As I observed each passenger terminal, I was struck by the behavior of the employees.
While the mission of those airports was quite similar—process passengers, route bags, maintain safety and keep to the flight schedule—every airport left me with a distinctly different impression. Some were more efficient, had happier employees, were cleaner and demonstrated qualitative disparities compared with others. What accounted for these differences? Airport leadership.
I recently had the honor of speaking with the men and women of the National Capital Region’s Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The question they asked most often was, “What’s it like to take off the uniform?” I thought about that question and realized that for many of these service members, the transition would be markedly different than it was for me. Not only are some of them leaving the only profession they have ever known, but also they are leaving it with new physical and/or psychological challenges.
Cyberspace is one warfighting domain that will not allow us to conduct business as usual. Unlike the domains of land, sea, air and space, which are well-understood and whose doctrines are well-established, cyberspace represents a new and challenging frontier. It demands that we take a very different approach to developing doctrine, acquiring capabilities and conducting operations. But sometimes we approach these challenges using traditional methods and timelines that may not deliver the desired results quickly enough. Several areas need to be addressed to be successful.