By Ms. Sharon Rushen (RDECOM)July 29, 2010
The cyber environment is complex and constantly changing, particularly now because of the increasing number and types of commercial wireless products. While the armed services can seek to leverage new technologies, like the iPhone and Android, the U.S. Army faces unique challenges in doing so.
"We are focused on the tactical Army. The other services don't have such a challenge in terms of tactical the way we do because we are constantly moving and we're constantly changing affiliations," said George Brick, Cyber Security and Information Assurance division chief. "That presents unique challenges because you're limited on how much commercial technology you can leverage because commercial technology products are more static."
For cyber security experts at the Research, Development and Engineer Command's Communications-Electronics Center, like Brick, much of their research focuses on mobile ad-hoc networks, or networks that change locations and reconfigure on-the-fly.
The Tactical Information Technologies for Assured NetOps program is one of CERDEC's initiatives that aims to develop, mature and demonstrate security tools to protect mobile networks from attacks while allowing information to be shared across security domains.
The mobility and sheer volume of ground forces pose a number of challenges for CERDEC's cyber security initiatives.
"We are very concerned with tactical, so we're very concerned with small form factor, the power utilization requirements are a big deal for us," Brick said. "We want to keep power consumption as low as possible and cost as low as possible because we have a very large number of Soldiers, so cost is a big multiplier for us."
CERDEC's cyber engagement spurs the spectrum of cyber operations. Several of its directorates focus their research, development and engineering efforts on different aspects of the now commercially-driven landscape. CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate enables the cyber attack capability, the Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate cyber defense and the Command and Control Directorate wireless applications.
"If we don't start working with commercial technology and securing it the best we can, the Soldier is going to go out and get these capabilities anyway or wind up doing it in a much less secure fashion and more haphazard fashion than what we would want," Brick said.
Brick and CERDEC's Cyber Security and Information Assurance Division have looked at Wi-Fi, the iPhone, Android and other platforms and protocols. While these are some of the most popular, commonly used commercial technologies, translating their uses to the battlefield presents policy implications and additional challenges like identifying perishable data and how long data needs to be protected for.
Despite the challenges, being the primary engineering support source for U.S. Army communications systems is why Brick believes CERDEC will lead the way for the Army's cyber security efforts.
"All of these new and emerging technologies - that's going to be the way of life moving forward," Brick said. "You can't go backwards, you have to evolve with technology and policy has to evolve moving forward."
By his own definition, "people who are educated in the latest vulnerabilities and the latest techniques to overcome those vulnerabilities," Brick and his CERDEC colleagues are equipping our nations' "Cyber Warriors."
CERDEC Cyber Security experts will be briefing "New Technologies that Support Cyber Space Operations: CERDEC's 'Cyber Vision' and R&D;Strategy," at the LandWarNet conference, 9:45 a.m.