The days of the United States as an unassailable hyperpower have been replaced by an intensely competitive environment where two large rivals have rebuilt their militaries based on perceived U.S. vulnerabilities. Cyberspace is a foremost operational domain for each nation, and the United States must respond to their challenge or risk coming out second in a conflict with either nation.
Time is of the essence in detecting and protecting against cyber intruders, but some security measures actually work counter to their goal by increasing the difficulty for managers to fight intruders. In their haste to provide the best network security possible, these managers have hindered their ability to rid their system of many types of malware.
Efforts to counter adversaries in cyberspace jointly continue apace in the U.S. military, but the changing nature of enemy activities may require new approaches by the services. Baseline cyber activities may need to be increased, while some actions will need to remain the purview of individual services.
A panel of cyber officials discussed the ramifications of such changes on the final day of the AFCEA Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS) 2016, held April 20-22 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
The ballooning volume of network breaches, the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks and the advancing talents of adversaries are among the cybersecurity challenges keeping Roger Greenwell awake at night. The chief of cybersecurity for the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Risk Management Executive, Greenwell confronts increasingly potent threats throughout a more diverse cyberscape.
Consequently, the agency, known as DISA, is moving away from traditional cybersecurity measures. New methods, from embedding security in an operating system baseline to providing security training whenever a user accesses a device, are part of the agency’s evolving cybersecurity strategy.
Working with allies on cybersecurity could provide wide-ranging solutions that both address challenges and generate operational opportunities, suggested the U.S. Defense Department’s chief information officer. Speaking at Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS) 2016, being held in the Washington, D.C., convention center, April 20-22, Terry Halvorsen told the morning plenary session audience that European allies are pursuing excellent approaches as they strive for cybersecurity. The United States and its allies would benefit highly from cooperating, he said.
China, Russia and Iran all have been blamed for brazenly intruding into U.S. government or military networks, and government officials have pointed a finger at North Korea for breaking into Sony Pictures’ computers. While an eye-for-an-eye approach may sound tempting, a cyber response is not necessarily the best solution, says Aaron Hughes, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy.
The evolution of information technology is heading toward a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Companies such as Cisco and Nutanix already are delivering HCI platforms that logically and seamlessly manage, configure and allocate memory. Additionally, a software-centric HCI combines computing, storage, network and virtualization technologies into one system, which can streamline resources and eliminate the need to navigate to different applications and platforms.
Government conversations related to safeguarding cyberspace spin around policy as much as technology, particularly when it comes to sluggish efforts to modernize networks.
Federal information assurance security policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) were penned in the late 1990s and early 2000s, long before today’s threats rendered them obsolete, not to speak of the challenges posed by the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) influence.
Federal agencies clamor for industry best practices to implement findings resulting from last year’s 30-day “Cybersecurity Sprint,” part of the administration’s broader effort to bolster federal cybersecurity. A new mandatory directive for all civilian government agencies, the Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan (CSIP), provides a series of actions to further secure federal information systems.
As the U.S. Cyber Command recruits 6,200 cyber warriors for teams positioned around the world, it must deliberately work to develop a new generation of cyber-minded warfighters rather than simply repurpose existing service members to meet its goal. The nation may not be prepared to defend cyberspace unless it emphasizes key skills early in students’ educational development. Many of these efforts must begin locally, and some military forces already are working in that direction.
The proliferation of new data sources promises to compound security challenges. Organizations must embrace a new way to protect their valued assets and information, building robust assurances against data leaks, spills and theft as well as any compromise of data integrity. Cross-domain solutions offer protection at the highest levels, and they facilitate secure collaboration at significantly lower costs than other methods.
President Barack Obama’s cyber-heavy fiscal year 2017 budget recently landed with a thud on the desks of lawmakers. Never before has so much verbiage or dollar emphasis been placed on intelligence, technology and cyber. Overall, this appears to be good news for protecting the homeland. Of course, just how the fiscal request plays out after the markups, cuts and votes remains to be determined. What we do know of the request raises the question: Is the government throwing money around or strategically setting the course for a successful future?
This threat can come from signals beamed into a control stream or even embedded software containing a Trojan horse. Researchers are addressing this challenge from traditional and innovative directions as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles continues to expand into new realms. But the issues that must be accommodated are growing as quickly as threat diversity.
When it comes to the Air Force's cyber protection teams, or CPTs as they are better known, officials are at the stage now where they’re building the aircraft while flying it.
It is all part of a growing effort to mature defensive cyberspace operations, and CPT members still are writing the playbook on how they define, map, prioritize and help defend key terrain.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the final version of a document outlining its process for developing cryptographic standards and guidelines. NIST Cryptographic Standards and Guidelines Development Process (NISTIR 7977) is part of NIST’s “effort to ensure a robust, widely understood and participatory process for developing cryptography,” the institute said in a written announcement.
As government agencies continue their IT modernization initiatives, administrators find themselves in precarious positions when it comes to security. That’s the overall sentiment expressed in a recent cybersecurity survey issued by SolarWinds. The report found that efforts to build more modern, consolidated and secure information technology environment networks increase security challenges, but management tools offer a potential antidote to the threats.
While technology helped propel the U.S. military to outshine just about every adversary, failing to safeguard key developments just might lead to its downfall, warned Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris, USAF, vice commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
At the vertex of much of technological advances has been emergence of cyberspace across warfighting domains.
Coming on the heels of Virginia's big push to reduce the number of commuters last week on area roads with Virginia Telework Week, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is updating guidance to include the latest technology available to strengthen remote-access data security, especially as the number of teleworkers trends upward.
Tasked with expected challenges to its air and space networks and data traffic, the U.S. Air Force also is seeing an increasing amount of cyberthreats directed at its base infrastructure. The service projects power from its bases, and the cyber attacks it faces there are similar to those aimed at the U.S. critical infrastructure.
Maj. Gen. Burke Edwin Wilson, USAF, commander, 24th Air Force and Air Forces Cyber, offers that the 24th is working with industry “on a plethora of capabilities.” At the top of the list are defensive capabilities, particularly counter-reconnaissance for determining the threats that are coming at Air Force cyber. These include intrusion detection and protection systems, which would be especially useful for meeting the service’s critical infrastructure cyber challenge, he says.
The Air Force is experiencing significant growth in offensive cyber operations, he adds. The service wants to be able to conduct these offensive operations globally.