Theodis Butler has little confidence anyone can actually win the first-of-its kind, much-anticipated cyber protection challenge launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). But that isn’t stopping him from joining the two-year competition as 35 teams vie not just for the Cyber Grand Challenge $2 million grand prize, but the honor of trying to devise a fully automated system to defend against cyber attacks before hackers have a chance to get to them.
Not only is the cost of cyber intrusion severe, the likelihood of it occurring is assured. Cybersecurity defenses must be flexible, innovative and persistent to address an ever-changing threat.
A cycle of measures, countermeasures and counter-countermeasures is necessary, and if you do nothing else, you must remain flexible, advises Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, USN (Ret.), principal, The Chertoff Group. There is no silver bullet to protect everything, he emphasizes.
Cybersecurity remains a priority for the U.S. Defense Department, with officials protecting resources for it in the face of overall budget constraints. Guidance from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 directs a mission analysis of cybercapabilities not only in the active military, but also across partners, to help forces maintain their edge in protecting the nation.
The borderless world of cybersecurity now is benefitting from geospatial intelligence products. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has joined the fight against cybermarauders by providing imagery to help cyberwarriors track down online adversaries. Experts defending the United States from cyber attack abroad have a new tool in their kit by being able to see the facility from which digital malefactors are plying their wares.
The agency long has provided a variety of value-added geospatial products to customers throughout the defense and intelligence communities. In turning its eyes toward cyber, it combines data from partners to produce a unique product that over time may alter the agency’s mission.
China and Russia represent two of the most robust, comprehensive concerns to worldwide stability. Almost every major geostrategic threat—cyber attack, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, capable military forces, political influence, economic power, sources of and high demand for energy—is resident in those two countries that often find themselves at odds with the United States and its allies. Decisions by their leaders on how to engage with the rest of the world, and how the two sovereign states decide to relate to each other, will have major effects on geopolitics.
A new facility for cybersecurity is allowing U.S. Forces Korea to coordinate efforts with other U.S. commands as well as Republic of Korea civilian government and military forces. The Joint Cyber Center serves as the focal point for increasing international cooperation between U.S. and Korean forces in their defensive measures against increasing cyber aggression from North Korea. It blends activities from the local J-2, J-3 and J-6 along with input from other forces worldwide.
The first graduates are emerging from centers of excellence for cyber operations that teach the in-depth computer science and engineering skills necessary to conduct network operations. The program better prepares graduates to defend networks and should reduce the on-the-job training needed for new hires, saving both time and money.
Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know
By P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman Oxford University Press, January 2014 (Brookings)
Much is written today about cybersecurity, cyberwarfare and cyberstrategy. Now a new compendium, written by two Brookings Institution academics, offers a serious and intelligent discussion of these overlapping themes and what they the mean to politics and defense discourse in the United States.
Gadgets and gizmos are not the only things beset by the U.S. Defense Department’s continued battle with shrinking budget dollars. While some projects may be delayed, and others even derailed, the civilian work force “is now showing the early signs of stress,” Alan Shaffer, acting assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, recently warned Congress.
Furloughs, the government shutdown and sequestration, and decreasing budgets have an adverse impact on the 100,000 personnel that make up the Defense Department’s science and technology (S&T) work force.
Anyone following the progress of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) knows by now that it is not a program of record. No one will see large procurements to provide the JIE. It definitely is a framework: it defines standards and architectures for consistency across the defense environment. It defines a core environment and interfaces for the connection of networks and systems to the core. The JIE leverages initiatives to consolidate networks and data centers, to establish enterprise services and to implement transitional technologies such as cloud implementations, mobility, security solutions, big data and analytics, and the Internet of everything.
The Defense Department drive toward its Joint Information Environment is picking up speed as it progresses toward its goal of assimilating military networks across the warfighting realm. Individual services are developing solutions, some of which are targeted for their own requirements, that are being applied to the overarching goal of linking the entire defense environment.
Early successes in Europe have advanced Joint Information Environment (JIE) efforts elsewhere, including the continental United States. Some activities have been accelerated as a result of lessons learned, and they have been implemented ahead of schedule in regions not slated to receive them for months or even years.
A tactical technology support organization that has been serving the U.S. Marines for decades is beginning to find a role in the cyber domain. The group offers a broad range of services, including test and evaluation, engineering and network integration. It also supports users across the Defense Department, U.S. government and allies.
Attacks on a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) do not receive a lot of attention, and protecting against them is often not a priority, but they are on the rise, say researchers at The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research organization funded by the U.S. government. The MITRE team is developing tools to protect against BIOS attacks and is searching for organizations to help evaluate those tools.
Homeland Security Conference 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 2
It is not surprising that cybersecurity would dominate the discussion on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. But the depth and breadth and variety of topics surrounding cybersecurity and information protection in all its forms indicates the degree to which the information security mission has engulfed every department and agency at all levels of government.
West 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 2
Quote of the Day:
“We can complain, or we can lead. We’re choosing to lead.”—Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command
As with the other military services, the U.S. Navy is looking to technology to help it fulfill its mission obligations in a time of severe budget constraints. Commercial technologies may provide effective solutions at a fraction of their military counterparts; innovations promise to add advanced capabilities to existing platforms; and new readiness plans may help economize deployments while increasing effectiveness.
A Department of Homeland Security program is automating the cyber attack detection process to manage the bulk of intrusion detection and mitigation work in real time across the entire civilian government. This effort addresses a long-time shortcoming for detecting attacks and intrusions into government computer networks. Traditionally, this activity has been a time-consuming and manpower-intensive process that would take place days or weeks after the incident.
U.S. Secret Service officials are establishing two new cybercrime task forces—in Cincinnati and Denver—that will enhance the agency’s ability to detect and investigate information technology-related crimes, including credit card theft, attacks on the banking and finance infrastructure and identity fraud.
NATO’s efforts to defend against terrorism now are focusing on cyberspace as a tool of terrorists instead of merely as a vulnerability for striking at alliance nations and their critical infrastructure. These efforts cover aspects of cyber exploitation that range from understanding terrorists’ behavior to how they might use social media.
The nation’s critical infrastructure and industrial-control systems have become such potential high-value targets for terrorists that their vulnerability threatens the fabric of society. And, as they increase in both importance and vulnerability, these systems cannot be protected using conventional information security measures.