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 2020 election may be the most vulnerable yet. Last year, several federal agencies released a joint statement identifying election security as a “top priority for the U.S.” However, some have proposed mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequences associated with not social distancing. Why are we going backward instead of forward? Reverting backward during a disaster only adds challenges and difficulties with an already broken voting system. We need to be proactive, not reactive, when electing leaders at all levels across the country.
Next month, Brig. Gen. Robert Lyman (USAF) will become the assistant deputy chief of staff for Cyber Effects Operations, the AF A2/A6, at the Pentagon, the U.S. Transportation Command announced on Monday. Gen. Lyman is currently dual-hatted as the director for Command, Control, Communications, and the Cyber Systems Directorate, TCJ6, at the command.
As the TCJ6 director, Gen. Lyman led the planning, integration, operations and maintenance of the Transportation Command’s, or USTRANSCOM’s, command, control, communications and computing (C4) systems, as well as guiding cyberspace mission assurance.
The one constant of cybersecurity is its rate of change. The technology you knew yesterday was acquired, bundled and updated into a consolidated tool that provides the solution for today. That consolidation is inevitable given the breadth of solutions and vendors working to address always-shifting security operations requirements. Not all segments of cybersecurity are responding equally to consolidation though. In particular, a critical segment that is long overdue, the security operations center (SOC), has not undergone its shift—yet.
Zero Trust, a strategic security model to “never trust, always verify,” centers on preventing successful breaches by eliminating the whole concept of trust from an organization’s digital environment; instead, everything must be proven.
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.
The persistence, frequency and destructiveness of cyber attackers in this day and age propels digital defenders to search the Internet to understand how attackers operate in order to thwart attacks or fix vulnerabilities. Amidst all of the nefarious activity, cyber defenders must discern between credible threat players and less dangerous actors. One company, New York-based Flashpoint, searches the deep web and the dark web to gain intelligence on malicious cyber activity, including where, when, why and how bad actors are operating. More and more, threat actors are selling stolen, sensitive or valuable information, or they are selling awareness of vulnerabilities of companies.
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 Space Force has announced that the planned satellite hacking challenge known as Space Security Challenge 2020: Hack-A-Sat would proceed as planned, but in a virtual format due to the pandemic. The Department of the Air Force and the Defense Digital Service's (DDS's) event includes an online qualification event May 22-24, followed by a final August 7-9. During the final, participants will attempt to reverse-engineer representative ground-based and on-orbit satellite system components to overcome planted “flags” or software code.
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.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is dramatically increasing its digital security expectations for defense contractors and subcontractors. Having been on both sides of the partnership between government and the public sector, I am happy to see DOD is not only raising the bar on cybersecurity but also providing guidance on the implementation of cybersecurity best practices within the defense industrial base.
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.
Helping to meet the teleworking needs of the U.S. Air Force during the COVID-19 pandemic has been no small feat over the last six weeks. At the same time, the service is working to maintain the security of Air Force networks and communication tools in order to continue daily operations and critical mission functions, explained Brig. Gen. Chad D. Raduege, USAF, director of Cyberspace and Information Dominance and chief information officer, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
Gen. Raduege, whose role is also known as the A-6, was AFCEA Tidewater’s luncheon speaker during a virtual monthly meeting last week.
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.
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.