As the U.S. Air Force is working to define operations on the battlefield of the future, sensors or other digitally connected devices will play a key role—as they always have—but on a much larger scale, one expert says. For the military, the world of Internet of Things, or IoT, has to work across the air, land, space and sea domains. And for the Air Force to enable a greater sensor-based environment, it has to tackle data platforms, cloud storage and capabilities, communication infrastructure and its network, says Lauren Knausenberger, the Air Force’s chief transformation officer.
The Cyber Edge
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Cloud Based Internet Isolation prototyping effort is already eliminating cyber threats every day, says Angela Landress, who manages the program commonly known as CBII.
The program uses a little technological sleight of hand to keep non-secure Internet browsing in the secure Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud rather than on the Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN). “What comes back from the cloud is actually just a video-like representation of the webpage. There’s nothing executable in it,” Landress explains.
The U.S. Army is looking toward the Internet of Things to reshape the future force for multidomain operations. Faced with the challenge of networking vast amounts of diverse sensors, the service views this type of networking as the solution to greater efficiency combined with increased capability.
Bruce D. Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, emphasizes the importance of the Internet of Things (IoT) approach across the service. “The IoT has the potential to greatly improve and economize the way we will operate as an Army in the future,” he declares.
On the battlefield of the future, warfighters will need to be extraordinarily interconnected to weapon systems in the air, sea, space, land and digital realms. To support operations across these multiple domains, warfighters will have to rely on advanced command and control capabilities and vigorously employ cyber defenses to its weapons and systems.
As the number of electronic devices connected to the Internet grows, so does the security risk and the chance of data exfiltration by adversaries. Warfighters’ use of Internet of Things devices makes the military increasingly vulnerable, experts say. In addition, as the concentration of smart sensors and connected tools widens, the military may not be able to conduct unexpected operations.
My columns so far have centered on various components of modernization and innovation that I think are needed for the U.S. military to reposition itself for success on future battlefields. Emerging technologies, culture, workforce, partnerships—all play critical roles and must be recalibrated for a future that will be increasingly complex and dynamic.
As the Defense Department moves to embrace more innovation, it will change the way our future wars will be fought. Defense planners already are working to understand this in detail, and the vision they have devised is called multidomain operations (MDO).
Supply chain security has been of concern to government leaders for decades, but with attacks now originating in industrial control systems (ICS) from supply chain vulnerabilities and with an increasing reliance on the Internet of Things (IoT), Congress is stepping up its involvement. For example, legislators have promised that more stringent standards will soon be enforced.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has begun the implementation phase for the Fourth Estate Network Optimization Initiative and will now begin building the network for 14 defense agencies. The endeavor will standardize equipment, enhance cybersecurity, improve interoperability and save significant money, DISA officials say.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has created a new Cybersecurity Directorate as a recognition that “the best defense against devastating cyber attacks is to unify as a nation against our threats,” the agency has announced.
Cyber policy traditionally has focused more on enterprise networks than tactical systems, according to Nancy Kreidler, the Army’s new leader for the Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Directorate within the Office of the Chief Information Officer/G-6. But new initiatives emphasize cybersecurity in the tactical environment, including networks, weaponry and any other systems used by warfighters.
The U.S. arsenal boasts diverse weapons that share a common cybersecurity challenge: They depend on power generated by U.S. Defense Department or civilian-owned infrastructures that are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attack. Disrupting the availability of these power systems could impact not only the United States’ ability to project U.S. military power globally but also to respond to a domestic attack.
Leaders in multiple military organizations need increased awareness of the dangers that arise from the systems used daily in training, deployment and garrison environments. The attacks these settings face are becoming more advanced and more specific as cyber attackers’ capabilities continue to improve. To mitigate the potential risk to military systems, the networks’ individual components must be identified and understood particularly at a time when component parts are manufactured outside the United States.
A new federal cyber academy aims to help relieve the shortage in skilled cyber workers. The inaugural Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy graduating class demonstrates that individuals with high aptitude and motivation can be successful in technical training and can gain the skills needed to enter the national cybersecurity workforce.
On top of other defenses, the U.S. Air Force is turning to a persistent cybersecurity model to guard its major weapon systems. Led by the Air Combat Command, which took on the service’s Cyber Mission from the Air Force Space Command last year, the service’s integration of cybersecurity includes deploying protective crews to its key airborne platforms and infrastructure.
Given increasing threat levels, the Air Force is employing cybersecurity measures to protect its data, especially to safeguard information that is weather-related and feeds into military decision making. The service is applying mission defense teams, or specialized cybersecurity crews, to safeguard weather intelligence. The cyber mission defense team structure is in action at the 557th Weather Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska.
The secret word is out and crypto is in as government and commercial experts lay the groundwork for the next generation of identity proving and authentication. Passwords are being abandoned in favor of a range of new methods that are more secure and, in some cases, more user friendly.
Biometrics are just part of the solution. They have been paired with public key cryptography in preliminary efforts. Ultimately, the solution may emerge from an entirely new concept of identity that applies across a broad spectrum of applications.
In four years, researchers funded by the U.S. military may develop a working prototype of a system that allows for a nonsurgical interface between the human brain and technology. Such a system could improve brain control of unmanned vehicles, robots, cybersecurity systems and mechanical prosthetics while also improving the interface between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) agents.
From the outer space environment of the moon to the virtual realm of cyberspace, technology challenges have the potential to vex the intelligence community. Many of the tools that the community is counting on to accomplish its future mission can be co-opted or adopted by adversaries well-schooled in basic scientific disciplines. So U.S. intelligence officials must move at warp speed to develop innovations that give them an advantage over adversaries while concurrently denying foes the use of the same innovations against the United States.
Trusted intelligence is needed in an era in which the United States is facing growing threats. The military and other entities in the intelligence community rely on the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to provide not only actionable intelligence but also the platforms or information technology systems that enable intelligence gathering, processing and analysis. To meet the increasing demand for intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, known as the DIA, has distributed part of its workforce to the various U.S. military commands that it supports. This global deployment has altered the role of the DIA, explains Jean Schaffer, the agency’s chief information security officer (CISO) and chief of Cyber and Enterprise Operations.
Second of a two-part series.
Few if any topics cause more stress across the Defense Department than cybersecurity. As I noted in my last column, department leaders have taken many steps to address the problem. While most of these steps are helpful, we still see a lot of emphasis placed on setting and enforcing cyber standards across the department and its broader ecosystem of stakeholders.