The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) is seeking the capabilities and enabling technologies to conduct “full-spectrum cyber operations” in its vast region of responsibility, according to its commander. Adm. Philip S. Davidson, USN, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, described this new cyber push at the keynote luncheon on the first day of AFCEA’s TechNet Asia-Pacific 2018, held November 14-16 in Honolulu.
The Cyber Edge
For three years, the U.S. Army has been asking questions about how to converge cyberspace operations, electronic warfare and spectrum management capabilities at the corps level and below to deny, degrade, destroy and manipulate enemy capabilities. Now, officials say, they are drawing closer to answers.
In 2015, the service created a pilot program known as Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activity (CEMA) Support to Corps and Below. The CEMA concept integrates elements from offensive and defensive cyber, electronic warfare, and intelligence into expeditionary teams that support tactical units.
In the coming months, researchers from Georgia Tech will reveal the results of testing on a robot called the HoneyBot, designed to help detect, monitor, misdirect or even identify illegal network intruders. The device is built to attract cyber criminals targeting factories or other critical infrastructure facilities, and the underlying technology can be adapted to other types of systems, including the electric grid.
The HoneyBot represents a convergence of robotics with the cyber realm. The diminutive robot on four wheels essentially acts as a honeypot, or a decoy to lure criminal hackers and keep them busy long enough for cybersecurity experts to learn more about them, which ultimately could unmask the hackers.
One way of ensuring that attackers don’t access a network node or break into a device is to render its identification invisible. Cloaking the device’s address gives a hacker nothing to see, and it can be done on systems ranging from government networks to medical electronics implanted inside human beings.
The Warfighter Information Network–Tactical program delivered a digital transformation, enabling maneuver elements to move faster and provide commanders with vital battlefield information in near real-time. Its flexibility facilitated communications in Iraq’s urban environments and Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain. Although a powerful improvement over Mobile Subscriber Equipment, the technologies are not powerful enough to combat adversaries wielding cyber capabilities.
Officials with the U.S. Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security recently signed a memorandum of understanding outlining a partnership that will allow the Defense Department to take a greater role in sharing intelligence and proactively defending the nation’s critical infrastructure, including next week’s mid-term election.
The Defense Department’s unique role in assessing foreign threats means that it often has information that could benefit the other departments and agencies, the defense industrial base and others with a role in defending the nation’s critical infrastructure.
It comes as no surprise that U.S. adversaries continue to target and successfully exploit the security weaknesses of small-business contractors. A successful intrusion campaign can drastically reduce or even eliminate research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) costs for a foreign adversary. Digital espionage also levels the playing field for nation-states that do not have the resources of their more sophisticated competitors. To bypass the robust security controls that the government and large contractors have in place, malicious actors have put significant manpower into compromising small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Artificial intelligence can be surprisingly fragile. This is especially true in cybersecurity, where AI is touted as the solution to our chronic staffing shortage.
It seems logical. Cybersecurity is awash in data, as our sensors pump facts into our data lakes at staggering rates, while wily adversaries have learned how to hide in plain sight. We have to filter the signal from all that noise. Security has the trifecta of too few people, too much data and a need to find things in that vast data lake. This sounds ideal for AI.
Every time federal information technology professionals think they’ve gotten in front of the cybersecurity risks posed by the Internet of Things (IoT), a new and unexpected challenge rears its head. Take, for instance, the heat maps used by GPS-enabled fitness tracking applications, which the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) warned showed the location of military bases, or the infamous Mirai Botnet attack of 2016.
U.S. military aircraft, ships, combat vehicles, radios and satellites remain vulnerable to relatively common cyber attacks, according to a report published Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report does not specify which weapon systems were tested.
In one case, a two-person test team took just one hour to gain initial access to a weapon system and one day to gain full control of the system, the report says. Another assessment demonstrated that the weapon system “satisfactorily prevented unauthorized access by remote users, but not insiders and near-siders.”
The U.S. Army’s Cyber Blitz experimental exercise September 17-28 turned out to be an eye-opener for one maneuver officer regarding cyber’s capabilities on the battlefield.
Military leaders often describe the “speed of cyber” as being measured in milliseconds or microseconds, which means the operations tempo in the cyber realm is incredibly high and decisions are made rapidly. But an offensive cyber campaign can sometimes take much longer than maneuver commanders might expect. In a teleconference with reporters to discuss Cyber Blitz results, Lt. Col. John Newman, USA, deputy commanding officer, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, reports that the experiment proved to be a revelation.
By some measures, Dana Deasy, U.S. Defense Department chief information officer, has made a lot of progress in a little amount of time. He has developed an overarching digital modernization strategy, created a cyber working group, reviewed the department’s plans for implementing an enterprise-scale cloud computing architecture, and is leading an effort to establish a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
Work is needed to improve temporal, spectral and information understanding within the layers of the cyber domain to facilitate useful cyber-spectral and information maneuver. These advances could be incorporated into tactics, techniques and procedures as well as tactical and operational systems to enhance the overall military commanders’ decision process to achieve information dominance.
Most of the tactical cyberspace domain is spectrum-dependent and administered solely at the physical layer. Currently, warfighters cannot comprehend, much less maneuver within, a space that is inaccessible to them because they are not in a dimensionality to understand it. They operate in a cyber-spectral flatland.
Technologies are spawning a revolutionary improvement in command and control that will have a transformative impact on how it is conducted at the operational level. These advancements, particularly artificial intelligence, are changing command and control functions such as sensing, processing, “sensemaking” and decision-making. Even greater changes lie ahead as innovation serves a larger role in defining both form and function.
Future U.S. Army regionally aligned forces will benefit from experiences—and solutions—discovered during last year’s integration with the U.S. Army Europe communications network. Although their communicators expected to hit the ground running when they arrived in theater, integrating tactical communications systems was more difficult than expected. Fortunately, new technology and soldiers’ know-how not only solved the immediate problems but also set the stage for easier communications integration in the future.
Multifaceted efforts that will work in concert with each other are at the heart of U.S. Navy cybersecurity programs. The sea service faces the dual challenge of incorporating new architectures and technologies such as the cloud, light-based communications, artificial intelligence and machine learning amid increasingly sophisticated adversaries. It is implementing new approaches that promise operational efficiency and better cybersecurity, but these approaches are complementary and must function together to realize their full potential.
In the future, voice analysis of an intercepted phone call from an international terrorist to a crony could yield the caller’s age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, health status, emotional state, educational level and socioeconomic class. Artificial intelligence-fueled voice forensics technology also may offer clues about location; room size; wall, ceiling and floor type; amount of clutter; kind of device, down to the specific model used to make the call; and possibly even facial characteristics of the caller.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, will become an integral warfighter for the U.S. Army if the service’s research arm has its way. Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory are pursuing several major goals in AI that, taken together, could revolutionize the composition of a warfighting force in the future.
The result of their diverse efforts may be a battlefield densely populated by intelligent devices cooperating with their human counterparts. This AI could be self-directing sensors, intelligent munitions, smart exoskeletons and physical machines, such as autonomous robots, or virtual agents controlling networks and waging defensive and offensive cyber war.
The federal government, building on existing identity management practices, is investigating how it can leverage passports and other state and federally issued ID cards to verify identity in the digital age. The need to validate a citizen’s identity in person and online is only going to grow across platforms, experts say. And absent a secure commercial solution, the government may have to provide verification of identity.
As billions more Internet of Things (IoT)-related devices come online, the barrage of cyber threats will not only continue but will target users in new ways. Moreover, the number of adversaries mounting attacks against the United States in cyberspace will continue to grow in the next year, as nation-states, terrorist groups, criminal organizations and others persist in the development of cyber warfare capabilities, Michael Moss, deputy director, Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC) warned during recent Congressional testimony.