Government IT professionals have clear concerns about the threats posed by careless and untrained insiders, foreign governments, criminal hackers and others. For the government, cyber attacks are a matter of life. We must deal with them as a common occurrence.
The Cyber Edge
The U.S. Army is head and shoulders above the other services in the cyber arena, Rear Adm. William “Bill” Leigher, USN (Ret.), director of Department of Defense Cyber Warfare, Raytheon, stated.
“The Army is the example that I hold up to my fellow sailors. The Army doing is it exactly right,” Adm. Leigher said.
The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA 2019), passed by Congress on August 1 and signed by President Trump yesterday, takes cybersecurity a step further, with language affirming DOD’s role in defending against attacks and operating in cyberspace, the fifth warfare domain.
Although past NDAA legislation has included some provisions on DOD’s cyber role, this year’s bill specifies that the Secretary of Defense has the authority to conduct military cyber activities or operations in cyberspace—including clandestine activities—to defend the United States and its allies.
The U.S. Army Cyber Command’s successful consolidation of capabilities from cyber, intelligence, electronic warfare and signal forces may be the deciding factor in whether sophisticated adversaries prevail in the future battlespace, says Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Fogarty, USA, leader of the command.
The U.S. Army’s major overhaul of its network may lead to a communications structure capable of conforming to an array of operational situations, including the possibility of providing offensive cyber and electronic warfare capabilities.
Millions of times every single day, antagonists search for entry into the U.S. Defense Department’s networks. They come from all over: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran. Some are sponsored by nation-states; others are terrorist groups.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget released a report this spring showing the abysmal state of cybersecurity in the federal government. Three-quarters of the agencies assessed were found to be “at risk” or “at high risk,” highlighting the need for a cyber overhaul. The report also noted that many agencies lacked “standardized cybersecurity processes and IT capabilities,” which affected their ability to “gain visibility and effectively combat threats.”
Medical technologies such as electronic devices implanted or injected into the human body are the next growth area for hackers pursuing money or control of individual people. With nanotechnology implants already being used for some medical treatments, advances in their application could pose as great a cybersecurity threat as what faces the Internet of Things, experts say.
When Alexander Woody was born, his mother knew she needed to forge a new path career-wise. She enrolled in an associate's degree program at her local community college and studied computer programming.
“She hit that program really hard back in the '90s and was able to succeed,” says Woody, who is now an Army specialist working as a counter pursuit operator within the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center.
Spc. Woody ended up with the NSA after finding himself also at a career crossroad. He studied chemistry at North Carolina State University and sometimes tutors high school students struggling with chemistry. But he realized it wasn’t the right career choice for him.
Fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA) remains a major challenge to the federal government. From 2012 to 2016, the 73 federal inspectors general (IGs), who are on the frontline of fighting FWA, identified $173 billion in potential savings and reported $88 billion in investigative recoveries and 36,000 successful prosecutions and civil actions.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate is working to improve the resiliency of smartphones and other mobile technologies through directed research and development initiatives. Not as secure as office computers, mobile devices are becoming the preferred target for malicious actions by cyber adversaries. In many cases, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices simply do not have the same protections available for more traditional computing technologies, experts say. The level of attacks also is moving “deeper down the mobile device stack,” from the application and mobile operating system layers to the hardware and infrastructure layers, according to the department.
It has become increasingly evident that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are poised to impact government technology. Just last year, the General Services Administration launched programs to enable federal adoption of AI, and the White House encouraged federal agencies to explore all of the possibilities AI could offer. The benefits are substantial, but before the federal government can fully take advantage of advancements like AI, federal agencies must prepare their IT infrastructure to securely handle the additional bandwidth.
Just as methodical programs to improve emergency communications interoperability are building up speed, new technologies threaten to derail the entire effort. Emergency responders find that new mobile systems bring valuable capabilities, such as enhanced data access, and they embrace these technologies eagerly. But the advanced communications systems often do not mesh with each other as well as traditional broadband radio links, and their innovative approaches pose new challenges.
The U.S. Air Force is developing a methodology for assessing the cyber resiliency of weapon systems and examining how to standardize that methodology across the service. The effort could improve the security of hundreds of weapon systems, including aerial refueling planes, fighter jets and inertial navigation systems.
The cyber realm has redefined the meaning of warfare itself. Conflict in cyberspace is constant, low-cost and uninhibited by traditional definitions of territory and country. Now, governments, militaries and private research groups from America to South Korea are taking cyber capabilities one step further, using developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to create autonomous weapons that will soon be deployed into battle.
Machine learning already has been used in both cyber and kinetic weapons, from autonomously firing gun turrets to human-superior social engineering attacks. While these advances are noteworthy, these machines are neither entirely intelligent nor autonomous.
The recent dissemination of classified information through media outlets and social media indicate that contemporary insider threat management has entered a new phase. Unlike previous generations that adhered to a strict code of silence, some millennials in charge of keeping U.S. secrets safe have the urge to share information they deem the public has the right to know. Rather than going through official channels to reveal actions they believe are wrong, people like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Reality Winner leak classified material through media and are just the first indication of information management processes that must change with the times.
The U.S. Defense Department is leaning forward by investing in capabilities that equip U.S. cyber forces with a warfighting platform to achieve, maintain and defend cyberspace superiority. The Unified Platform will be critical to realizing U.S. Cyber Command’s vision to maneuver globally and seamlessly between defense and offense across the cyberspace domain and defend far forward into an adversary’s cyber space.
Wary that the Internet of Things (IoT) could be used to introduce unwanted and unchecked security risks into government networks, senators last year created a piece of legislation that placed minimum security standards around IoT devices sold to and purchased by government agencies. The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 specifically cites the need for regulation of “federal procurement of connected devices,” including edge computing devices, which are part of the IoT ecosystem.
U.S. Army officials conducting the third annual Cyber Quest experiment, which ends today, will issue a report in about 30 days that will determine which of the systems involved will transfer to programs of record. The exercise consists of an array of systems, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, that help provide situational understanding of the cyber and electronic warfare realms.
Traffic on optical transport networks is growing exponentially, leaving cyber intelligence agencies in charge of monitoring these networks with the unenviable task of trying to sift through ever-increasing amounts of data to search for cyber threats. However, new technologies capable of filtering exploding volumes of real-time traffic are being embedded within emerging network monitoring applications supporting big data and analytics capabilities.