AUSA Hot Topic panel focuses on cyber attack vulnerability

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Army senior leaders said communications technology is being developed and put into use inside the Army before the service’s vulnerability to cyber attacks has been fully evaluated.

The Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare hosted  Hot Topic forum, titled "The Future of Cyber in Support of Strategic Landpower."

During the panel discussions, experts emphasized the current vulnerability to cyber attacks.

"Systems were built with no cyber security in mind at all," said Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, commander, United States Army Cyber Command.

Adding, "Yet, we've got millions of these devices embedded throughout the Army."

Randy Garrett, program manager of the Information Innovation Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency clarified the immediacy of the problem by contrasting the frequency of cyber threats with more conventional threats.

"When was the last major air battle? Vietnam?" he asked. "When was the last major cyber attack? Well, what time is it right now?"

As the U.S. military increases its dependence on information technology, threat of cyber-attacks also increases.

"Every vehicle, every ship, every drone, every aircraft and, increasingly, every soldier and marine is a walking [target] covered with radios, covered with cameras, [and] interactive maps," explained Nathaniel Fick, chief executive office, Endgame, Inc.

Panel members agreed, to a certain extent, that more focused research and development is necessary to maintain footing in the field of cyber warfare.

"We tend to think, I believe, of cyber attack in a much narrower way than we ought to," said Garrett.

Several panel members discussed the importance of developing "cyber natives" -- personnel who have been provided STEM-training (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in fields connected to cyber warfare.

"Amateur students in military tactics are finding the seams [in cyber defense] and exploiting them," Garrett said, adding that such students have the potential to develop innovative cyber defense concepts if provided certain advanced training.

"If you look at the landscape right now, there are a lot of cyber security initiatives. But we don't have a good model on which we say 'we invest this' and 'we get this' level of security out of it,"  Cardon said.

Individuals working with cyber systems must be allowed the resources necessary to develop such technologies, Fick said.

Adding, "Innovation tends not to happen on a timeline."

While the panel recognized the prevalence of cyber-attacks, they also stressed the complexity of cyber warfare and the extensive hours needed to research and develop technologies which are also constantly developing.

(Editor’s note: This story is based on an article by Libby Howe, Army News Service.)