Sgt. Travis Tasler, a battle noncommissioned officer with the 347th Human Resources Company of the Minnesota National Guard, monitors a computer during an exercise on Aug. 14, 2021. In addition to making systems more resilient to hardware and software failures, application security containers will deny malicious actors from gaining access to the computer networks through backdoor channels.
Sgt. Travis Tasler, a battle noncommissioned officer with the 347th Human Resources Company of the Minnesota National Guard, monitors a computer during an exercise on Aug. 14, 2021. In addition to making systems more resilient to hardware and software failures, application security containers will deny malicious actors from gaining access to the computer networks through backdoor channels. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Brandon Whittemore, Fort McCoy Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Army engineers are using containerized software to strengthen the Army’s networks.

Engineers of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center — a component of Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command — are developing application security containers to protect the Army’s networks from hardware and software failures.

“Application security containers are one of the fundamental building blocks to modern cloud computing infrastructure, and are one of the foundational elements to start building applications in the future,” said Frank Geck, one of the C5ISR Center engineers leading the effort.

In addition to making systems more resilient to hardware and software failures, Geck said application security containers will deny malicious actors from gaining access to the computer networks through backdoor channels as well as simplify the system troubleshooting process between engineers and system operators.

Humza Shahid, a C5ISR Center engineer working the effort, compared the containers to virtual machines – a virtual computer within a computer. Shahid said the modularity of the containers removes unnecessary software and applications from the system and only stores “the key information that’s different from a normal computer,” reducing the size, weight and power required to run the system.

“So instead of having these massive, several gigabyte files, it may come down to a couple hundred megabytes,” Shahid said.

Application security containers are one of several promising new security technologies. The modular qualities of the containers also help to reduce the “attack surface” of the technology it is housed in, closing off the avenues adversaries can take to infiltrate the system.

C5ISR Center engineers conduct routine software testing. Application security containers are one of the fundamental building blocks to modern cloud computing infrastructure as well as one of the foundational elements to building future applications.
C5ISR Center engineers conduct routine software testing. Application security containers are one of the fundamental building blocks to modern cloud computing infrastructure as well as one of the foundational elements to building future applications. (Photo Credit: Daniel Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“We demonstrated a migrated and containerized application server at NetModX 21,” Geck said, in reference to the centerpiece of the Army’s campaign of learning, designed to aggressively advance and integrate the Army’s contributions to the Joint Force. “The setting of NetModX allows us to test the functionality of the containerized applications in a relevant and realistic environment.”

Geck said engineers were also able to record logs during the experiment which will later be used to compare how the capability operates in the NetModX mission-relevant environment to how it would operate in the Tactical Systems Integration System (TSIF) testing center at Aberdeen Proving Ground as well as their own testbed.

This is the first year the Army has aligned Advanced Component Development and Prototyping funding as a logical follow-on to key science and technology efforts in the Network CFT portfolio, allowing them to have a better sense of the timeline and process for conducting market research, and reviewing and awarding contracts. Michael Monteleone, the Center’s executive director of Engineering and Systems Integration, said the alignment of Advanced Component Development and Prototyping funding with the Center’s science and technology efforts increases “the chances of technologies transitioning into the program offices.”

“Being able to use this funding allows us, as a science and technology community, to continue to make sure that what we’re doing is focused on plugging the gaps within our capabilities,” Monteleone said. “In bridging those gaps, we can ensure that when we hand the technology off to a program of record, the resources are there to finalize the last mile to get the capability out into the field.”

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The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.

The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM). Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.