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21 Dec 20. New Cyber Job Opportunity! Head of Cyber Strategy and Architecture. £100,000, London, Corsham in Wiltshire and Wyton in Cambridgeshire. Your expertise will put cyber defence at the heart of our military operations.
The first duty of Government is to defend our country and to keep our people safe. Over the past three years, Defence has seen a surge in cyber events, and it’s clear that the threat to UK national security from digital attacks will continue to increase and evolve. We must therefore maximise our cyber defences, expanding the depth of coverage across military capabilities, and weaving them into the security, IT and operational fabric of Defence.
About the role
This is a high-profile role with major influence over the nation’s security. As Head of Cyber Strategy & Architecture, you will shape strategy, architecture and cyber transformational activities across Defence. Reporting to the Director of Cyber Defence and Risk (CISO) and ultimately to the Defence Chief Information Officer, you will lead a team of up to 15 Digital and IT professionals. In particular, you will take over a critical digital transformation programme, ensuring that emerging MOD digital architectures are compliant with current defensive cyber policy and compliance is maintained in line with the latest standards and initiatives across the wider commercial and military space. More broadly, you will lead the production of strategies, policies and standards to move the MOD’s cyber security agenda forward, working closely with other Government agencies and the wider defence community.
An expert cyber security professional, you’ll have substantial senior-level experience of working within large and complex organisations. You’ll bring a deep understanding of emerging trends in cyber security and a strong track-record of developing, articulating and delivering relevant architecture standards. Although defence experience is not essential, a proven ability to manage diverse stakeholders within a collaborative environment will be required. You will need to hold, or be willing to obtain, Developed Vetting (DV) clearance.
We offer a range of benefits including a generous leave allowance, flexible working options, learning and development tailored to your role, and a Civil Service pension.
Click to find out more and apply.: https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/index.cgi?SID=dXNlcnNlYXJjaGNvbnRleHQ9MTE2MTg2NDQ1JnBhZ2VhY3Rpb249dmlld3ZhY2J5am9ibGlzdCZvd25lcj01MDcwMDAwJmpvYmxpc3Rfdmlld192YWM9MTY5ODkzMCZzZWFyY2hfc2xpY2VfY3VycmVudD0xJmNzb3VyY2U9Y3Nxc2VhcmNoJnBhZ2VjbGFzcz1Kb2JzJm93bmVydHlwZT1mYWlyJnJlcXNpZz0xNjA4MjIxMjQyLTU2MDlkYmRmZjJlZmRmOGNjNDE2NTExMTE5MzNkNjIxNzhiZjhhZmQ%3D&actId=ebwp0YMB8s3D0Bbp9SMBQdUcvuQDVN7agmFTt2FsrXtbuBpn1Ml0dnKrXoxYuPXU&actCampaignType=CAMPAIGN_MAIL&actSource=500535
21 Dec 20. COMSovereign Delivers First Tethered Drone-Based LTE Network.
Announces Commercial Availability of New Fully Standards-Compliant Tethered Drone for Airborne Networks. COMSovereign Holding Corp. (OTCQB: COMS) (“COMSovereign” or the “Company”), a U.S.-based developer of 4G LTE Advanced and 5G Communication Systems and Solutions, announced that its Drone Aviation business unit has delivered its first fully integrated, drone-deployed LTE network system to a customer. This milestone marks the commercial availability of a new tethered drone-based aerial platform that allows customers to “stand up” a fully operational LTE network without reliance on existing infrastructure.
Built on Drone Aviation’s highly portable WATT 200 tethered drone, the new aerial LTE network platform features the FeatherLite™ airborne LTE communications package developed by Virtual NetCom (VNC), another unit of COMSovereign Holding Corp. Unlike other drone-based telecommunication network solutions, FeatherLite leverages advanced network function virtualization to create a complete 3GPP standards-compliant airborne LTE network with a virtualized LTE EPC (Evolved Packet Core), eNodeB small cell base station, integrated specialized application software, and multiple backhaul solutions. As a complete hosted airborne LTE network solution, the FeatherLite-integrated WATT 200 can be quickly deployed to create a network “bubble” supporting connectivity within range of the drone in response to emergencies and natural disasters, temporarily increase wireless coverage at special events or to provide connectivity in areas without any existing infrastructure. Alternatively, this solution can connect through SATCOM, microwave backhaul, or wired infrastructure to provide a link into existing commercial networks. This entire system is portable, contained within two ruggedized suitcases for easy deployment nearly anywhere.
“The new WATT 200 system we delivered further builds upon our extensive expertise in designing and building persistent tethered aerial platforms. By integrating VNC’s FeatherLite small cell platform into WATT 200, we have created an unique drone-based LTE capability that can be deployed in 5 minutes and provide long duration connectivity at the touch of a button,” said Felicia Hess, Chief Executive Officer of Drone Aviation.
“Based upon feedback from telecom service companies, operators, and government agencies, we believe that there are many potential customers with stringent requirements that can only be solved with a rapidly deployable network solution. Our tethered drone system delivers many benefits including improved safety, secure communications, and uninterruptible ground-based power, allowing sustained airborne communications and operations unmatched by battery powered drones. We intend to build upon the flexibility of our tethered aerial platforms with multiple solutions planned for release in the next few months designed to enable a broad set of capabilities for service companies, operators, first responders, and military/intelligence users,” added Dr. Dustin McIntire, COMSovereign’s Chief Technology Officer. (Source: PR Newswire)
21 Dec 20. Cyber War Looms as US Plans Retaliation Against Russia. The US is said to be planning a counter to the massive cyber attack that hit 200 US government agencies and companies.
Although Russia denies the allegations, the Biden administration is said to be considering retaliation against Russia following the cyber attack, including financial penaltis and counter-hacking.
Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, said the president-elect’s response to the assault on US federal agencies and American companies would go beyond sanctions.
“It’s not just sanctions. It’s steps and things we could do to degrade the capacity of foreign actors to engage in this sort of attack,” Klain said on CBS.
But is “Sleepy Joe” too late?
The cyber attack was a nine-month long “virtual invasion” that saw compromised software from SolarWinds infiltrate key targets, including tech giant Microsoft and a US nuclear stockpile.
Russia, specificlly the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR), may have been blamed, but the real culprit remains unclear, with China also remaining a possibility. President Trump has been downplaying the extent of the breach since making it public Saturday and has kept options open on who the culprit may be.
However, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, took a different position. Speaking on the Mark Levin Show, Pompeo said: “This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
Speaking further about the cyber attack, Pompeo added: “There was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well.”
Democratic Rep Jason Crow of Colorado likened the cyber assault to Pearl Harbor, the site of a US naval base where Japan launched a surprise attack on December 7, 1941, which brought the US into World War II.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney told NBC the data breach was “extraordinarily damaging”, adding “This demands a response. This is something we have to address as soon as possible.”
Up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers were left vulnerable during the cyber attack, but Kevin Mandia – CEO of FireEye which helped uncover the virtual invasion – told CBS that he estimated “only around 50 organizations or companies, somewhere in that zone” were “genuinely impacted” by the attack.
“I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about the purpose, nature, and extent of these specific attacks,” Mandia said.
With Biden making war-like noises over the cyber attack, Mandia also warned: “I’d be very careful [about] escalating this.”(Source: Warfare.Today)
21 Dec 20. As part of a broader move to boost the 5G industry in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 8 began auctioning a portion of C-band electromagnetic spectrum, a move the committee’s chairman, Ajit Pai, celebrated as “a big day for American consumers and U.S. leadership in 5G.”
But, in the weeks leading up to the auction, more than a dozen commercial aviation groups warned the sale could, as one study put it, lead to “catastrophic failures” with the potential for “multiple fatalities.”
At the core of the concerns are radar altimeters, a critical piece of aviation technology used by military, commercial and civil aircraft of all types — including helicopters and unmanned aerial systems — to measure the distance between an aircraft and the ground.
The aviation groups worry that 5G operations on the spectrum sold by the FCC could cause interference that would provide inaccurate readings on altimeters or cause their failure outright, in essence leaving pilots unaware of how far they are from the ground and potentially leading to crashes over the United States.
According to a memo obtained by Defense News, those concerns are shared by the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and the number two at the Department of Transportation, who are calling on the FCC to pause the sale so the safety issue can be studied more closely. The FCC, in turn, has said its own technical studies show little to no risk involved and it intends to continue moving forward.
Now, with the auction underway, the Defense Department is scrambling to catch up. The Pentagon has yet to determine the effect on military aircraft and has not established a formal position on the sale, with officials rushing behind the scenes to set up meetings and understand the potential long-term impacts.
A Pentagon official, in response to questions from Defense News, would only say the department’s policy board on federal aviation and aviation cyber initiative task force — an interagency organization led by the FAA — are reviewing reports by industry groups about the risk of 5G interference.
Senior leaders from the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the aviation cyber initiative plan to meet Dec. 21 “to discuss findings and to establish an interagency way ahead to validate and respond to these reports,” the official stated.
Among those expected to attend are Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie Jr., the official who manages Army aviation assets; Brig. Gen. Eric DeLange, director of the Air Force cyberspace operations and warfighter communications office; and several cyber experts from the FAA and DHS.
Perhaps most notably, Honeywell Industries, a key producer of radar altimeters, has also been invited to discuss possible alternatives to current systems — a sign that the defense industry is taking the issue seriously. Honeywell declined to comment.
If the spectrum sale continues, some experts are warning a best case scenario may be that the department has to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to design, procure and install new radar altimeters across the military’s fleet of airborne systems.
The worst case?
As one senior government official with experience in aviation said, “There will be accidents, property’s going to be destroyed and people are going to die.”
The ongoing dispute
Under the Trump administration, the FCC has focused on the sale of spectrum in order to goose the nascent 5G industry, which administration officials see as a driver for American economic growth. Branded as the 5G FAST Plan, the commission has moved quickly to sell C-band spectrum.
This particular auction involves spectrum in the 3.7–3.98 GHz frequency, with the hope of selling more than 5,000 new flexible-use overlay licenses. Satellite operators using the C-Band have agreed to repack their operations out of the band’s lower 300 megahertz (3.7-4.0 GHz) into the upper 200 megahertz (4.0-4.2 GHz), in two stages. They expect to complete the move in December 2023. As of Dec. 17, more than 50 bidders had reportedly put forth over $15bn in offers for the spectrum rights.
Currently, the 3.7–3.98 GHz frequency portion of the C-Band is relatively quiet, occupied predominantly by low-powered satellites. For decades, this made the neighboring 4.2-4.4 GHz frequency a perfect place for the operation of radar altimeters, which are also called radio altimeters.
But that frequency may not stay quiet for long. Once 5G telecommunications are introduced in the 3.7-3.98 portion of the band, there is a “major risk” that those systems will create “harmful interference” to radar altimeters, according to an October study from the RTCA, a trade organization that works with the FAA to develop safety standards.
“The results of the study performed clearly indicate that this risk is widespread and has the potential for broad impacts to aviation operations in the United States, including the possibility of catastrophic failures leading to multiple fatalities, in the absence of appropriate mitigations,” the RTCA stated in its report. Research for the report was conducted by the Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute, a cooperative research organization based out of Texas A&M University.
Radio altimeters are critical during landings, once an aircraft moves below 2,500 feet from the ground. At that point, no other instruments provide an accurate measurement of a plane’s distance from the ground.
“It’s so important to have an accurate reading, because if it’s a bad reading it could lead to the airplane doing something you don’t want it to do.” explained Terry McVenes, the RTCA president and chief executive. McVenes is a former Boeing safety executive with 30 years’ experience in the commercial aviation industry.
“If your airplane thought it was 1,000 feet above the ground but was only 50 feet above the ground, well… you could have a problem,” he said.
The trade group filed the report with the FCC in early October, and shortly afterward met with an FCC engineering team. But since then, “We’ve heard nothing back from the FCC, had no other direct interactions with them” outside the official filling process, he said.
The release of the study triggered a last-minute request by 12 trade groups, including the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents military aviation companies, to consider mitigation efforts based on the report. The groups called the findings “the most comprehensive analysis and assessment to date on this subject, based on the best assumptions, parameters, and data… It has been peer reviewed for accuracy and validity and should not be dismissed by the Commission.”
The report has also gained the attention of Steven Bradbury, the acting deputy secretary for transportation, and Steve Dickson, the FAA administrator, who in a Dec. 1 letter obtained by Defense News warned that the spectrum sale could specifically damage both the Terrain Awareness Warning System, a major safety function for aircraft, and Autoland features relied on for pilots when landing a plane.
“Given the scope of the safety risk, and based upon our current knowledge, it is unclear what measures will be necessary to ensure safe operations in the [National Aerospace System], or how long it will take to implement such measures,” the two leaders wrote. “Depending upon the results of further analysis, it may be appropriate to place restrictions on certain types of operations, which would reduce access to core airports in the U.S. and, thus, reduce the capacity and efficiency” of commercial aviation.
That letter, sent to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, was requested to be added to the FCC’s public docket. However, the letter has not been posted to the FCC’s public docket as of press time.
The FCC and supporters of expanding 5G argue that the concerns are overblown.
“In the C-Band Order, the Commission concluded that our rules would protect radio altimeters used by aircraft, and we continue to have no reason to believe that 5G operations in the C-Band will cause harmful interference to radio altimeters,” Will Wiquist, a spokesman for the FCC, said in a statement. “Among other things, these altimeters operate with more than 200 megahertz of separation from the C-band spectrum to be auctioned, more protection than is afforded in some other countries.
“Moreover, the RTCA report was prepared outside of the joint aviation/wireless industry group that was set up at the Commission’s request and is not a consensus position of that group. Indeed, at least one other member of that multi-stakeholder group has expressed significant concerns with the study and several of its assumptions, and the Commission’s experts have concerns with this study as well.”
The member group that expressed concerns about the study is the wireless trade association CTIA, which in December filled with the FCC a document that called the findings “lacking and unreliable” and “unsound and unsupported.” Among the specific concerns raised by CTIA were that altimeter requirements used in the report were overly stringent, that it did not break down results by altimeter brand and model, and that the report relied on “unrealistic” scenarios during testing.
McVenes said RTCA is open to conducting the research again if presented with new data to work with, but has yet to see that information from CTIA or the FCC.
Risks to military aviation
Although the RTCA study looked exclusively at civil and commercial aircraft, almost all military aircraft are equipped with radar altimeters that are very similar to their commercial counterparts, said the senior government official. Defense News granted anonymity for this official to speak candidly about the risks to pilot safety.
While radar altimeters made for military aircraft are sometimes built to slightly more stringent requirements — having the ability to function in extremely cold or hot environments, for instance, or to withstand higher gravitational forces — they still reside on the same portion of the spectrum as commercial ones and are vulnerable to the same interference, the senior government official said.
The cargo planes and aerial refueling tankers operated by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command would be most hindered by the interference produced by 5G due to their similarities to commercial aircraft, said Mike Holmes, a retired Air Force four-star general and former head of Air Combat Command. Holmes reviewed the RTCA report at Defense News’ request.
Many of the Air Force’s mobility assets are either based on commercial passenger jets, such as the Boeing 767-derived KC-46 tanker, or are equipped with commercial off-the-shelf avionics. As such, certain mobility aircraft are approved to conduct landings in bad weather conditions when the pilot has to rely on the aircraft’s instruments — such as the radar altimeter — instead of visual cues.
“You wouldn’t be able to fly that approach if your radar altimeter was being interfered with and you couldn’t get a good signal,” Holmes said. “For the military…you’d probably divert someplace else.”
For tactical aircraft, the bigger concern would be low-level flights over terrain such as mountains. Fighter pilots use their radar altimeters when flying close to the ground to evade enemy radar or surface-to-air threats. However, Holmes noted that not all fighter jets — such as the 1970s era F-15C — have radar altimeters, and that pilots would still be able to rely on visual cues.
Still, he said, if a radar altimeter is offering faulty information due to interference, that could lull pilots into a false sense of security about how far they are from the ground.
“Part of [the problem] is going to be trying to know whether you’re getting interference or not,” he said.
The senior government official noted that the special operations community could be particularly hurt by 5G interference. Certain aircrews of platforms, such as the C-130 or C-17, receive specific training to fly special operations low level missions, which involve flying close to the ground and inserting or extracting special operators, and those training missions may become more difficult to execute if 5G interference is a problem.
This training “is often executed under the cover of darkness. Depth and obstacle perception can be hindered in darkness due to the human eye’s cell structure,” the official said. “Night vision goggles provide compensation but still limit the pilot’s situational awareness.”
If the sales go through, the military will likely have to modify or replace its altimeters to meet whatever new safety standards the FAA eventually approves to mitigate the risks of 5G interference, Holmes said.
“If you go ahead and give up this part of the spectrum, the interference will drive changes that have to be made either to modify the equipment that is being used for 5G, to modify the equipment that are on airplanes, or to modify the procedures that determine how you use that equipment,” Holmes said.
Replacing or modifying altimeters will take time and funding — two commodities defense experts predict will be in short supply over the coming years — as defense budgets flatten.
In the near term, Holmes projects the services will change their training practices to eliminate any added risk to pilots caused by altimeter interference, such as restricting pilots of certain aircraft from landing in bad weather or ensuring that pilots of fighter aircraft take off with enough fuel so that they can divert to another airport if their radar altimeter no longer works.
In short, the military will have to give up money, time and effectiveness to fix the problem.
“The outcome would be lack of efficiency. You wouldn’t fly [certain] approaches in bad weather. So there would be times you couldn’t go do what you were [planning on] doing, whether that’s moving passengers or cargo in the civilian world or whether that was passengers or cargo in the military,” Holmes said.
“But ultimately, I would think the impact is going to be greater on the commercial airline world than it was on the military world.”
A billion dollar problem
While the satellite operators who currently operate within 3.7-3.98 GHz will receive some proceeds of the sale, allowing them to move to another portion of the spectrum, no funding is set to be given to the civil, commercial and government entities that rely on radar altimeters for safe aerospace operations.
As a result, it is likely that the U.S. military will have to replace “many or most” of the radar altimeters currently onboard its airplanes, helicopters and drones, the senior government official said. And because radar altimeters have all been developed to operate on the same portion of the spectrum, there is no off-the-shelf replacement already on the market for which interference wouldn’t be a concern.
On the commercial side, McVenes said if industry has to replace altimeters across its fleet, a price tag of “several billion dollars is probably on the low estimate.” That price tag could well jump for the military side, given the complexity of work on military systems – it is easier to swap out a part on a commercial plane than a stealth-coated fighter – and the infamous prices of defense procurement.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department could need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the engineering work necessary to develop new altimeters, procuring those systems, testing and recertifying each platform for normal operations, and finally, installing the new hardware on potentially hundreds or thousands of aircraft across the military’s inventory.
“It will take many years, if not decades,” the senior government official said.
In the two months since the report was released, industry has jockeyed to get more time to study the issue and to put measures in place to mitigate the risks.
In a Nov. 17 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Aerospace Industries Association and 13 other aerospace trade groups implored members of Congress to take action to protect the frequency bands used by radar altimeters.
“We are concerned that without this congressional intervention to understand potential implications and ramifications, decisions will be made with a frightening lack of understanding of aviation requirements,” the groups stated.
Help from Congress seemingly came Dec. 7, when Rep. Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who leads the House committee, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Pai calling for the commission to postpone the sale.
“These RTCA findings are alarming; they not only align with earlier research identifying harmful effects of 5G networks to radio altimeters, but they reflect a clear need for the FCC to return to the drawing board with this premature plan,” he wrote. “There is no question that additional study is needed to understand the full extent and severity of 5G interference with radio altimeters and whether any mitigations are feasible — or even possible — to ensure flight safety.
“We must never take a chance with aviation safety — and at no point should commercial interests be placed above it.”
A day later, the FCC pressed forward with the auction.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
18 Dec 20. DARPA’s DyNAMO connects incompatible datalinks under electronic attack. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for the first time, successfully demonstrated an advanced counter-electronic warfare programme that enables disparate, incompatible tactical datalinks to receive and transmit data while in the midst of an electronic attack.
DARPA programme engineers developing the Dynamic Network Adaptation for Mission Optimization (DyNAMO) initiative were able to bridge multiple radio networks, transmitting across multiple domains, through several previously discordant datalink types to provide “uninterrupted network connectivity between all the datalinks under varying conditions in a simulated contested environment,” a 16 December agency statement said.
The radio-frequency (RF) technologies embedded into the DyNAMO system enable “automated, real-time dynamic configuration of tactical networks to ensure that heterogeneous radio nodes – whether on ground, air, or sea – can interoperate in a contested battlespace,” the statement added.
The idea behind the programme is to be able to have unbroken RF communications regardless of which specific datalink is being employed. If RF signals being transmitted from a node employing a certain type of datalink encounter interference or blockage along the spectrum, that signal can simply hop onto another datalinked node, in the same way a cell phone signal can ping from one transmission tower to another and not break communication. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Dec 20. ‘It’s going to take a lot of digging’: The Pentagon’s long search to see if anyone’s hiding in its networks. The military and intelligence community is scrambling to conduct a daunting hunt across disconnected networks to assess potential damage from an extensive federal cybersecurity breach by suspected Russian hackers.
As it searches for lurkers, one complicating factor is that the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security warned Thursday that hackers used other means to access government and business networks beyond a software platform from contractor SolarWinds, used by the Pentagon, the military and intelligence offices. That network management platform was “not the only initial infection vector,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency alert said.
The adversary was patient, well-resourced and used advanced techniques to mask its command-and-control communications, the agency said. All of those traits make crews’ search for damage or proof of a breach that much more difficult, officials told C4ISRNET.
No sign had emerged yet to indicate that the hackers had compromised the Pentagon’s unclassified or classified networks, but U.S. Cyber Command previously told C4ISRNET that the government’s most advanced cyber threat hunters stood ready for a rapid response if a breach is found.
“We continue to assess our DOD Information Networks for indicators of compromise and take targeted actions to protect our systems beyond the defensive measures we employ each day. To date, we have no evidence of compromise of the DODIN,” said Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of Joint Force Headquarters-DoDIN. “We will continue to work with the whole-of-government effort to mitigate cyber threats to the nation.”
If hackers breached defense or intelligence IT systems, a big question investigators will face is how they maneuvered inside sensitive computer networks. Are they simply able to observe communications, a common espionage practice? Or did they penetrate systems so thoroughly that they could attack to disrupt operations or destroy systems and information?
It’s too early to know the full extent of the damage or access that the suspected hackers — the Russian foreign intelligence agency known as SVR — had in U.S. networks, according to cyber and IT professionals who previously worked in the intelligence community and military.
Several experts told C4ISRNET that they expect it to be quite some time before officials have a clearer picture of any damage.
“I couldn’t estimate on that, honestly, because … all the DoD networks are very complicated,” said retired Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, former deputy chief information officer of the Navy. “You’ve got a combination of legacy networks and more modern networks. Some things are more automated than others on those networks. So it’s going to take a lot of digging … There’s probably things that they can identify right away. It’ll be awhile before they have the whole complete picture.”
The response from cyber defenders
The breach, which reached the Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, State and Energy Departments, kicked off a response requiring coordination across the federal government.
Leading the federal-wide effort is the newly formed Cyber Unified Coordination Group, made up of the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and CISA, the agencies announced Wednesday night.
The government invoked Presidential Policy Directive-41, which outlines steps for federal cyber incident response, and Bryson Bort, founder of the SCYTHE attack emulation platform company, said he is interested to see what resources DoD provides to the rest of the government.
The agency has better resources and talent to respond, Bort pointed out, saying he will be watching the extent to which those threat teams work outside their traditional roles and collaborate with the civilian agencies.
Former IT officials pointed to Cyber Command to lead the DoD response, with each service’s dedicated cyber command working on its own network. Meanwhile in the DoD, it’s likely the deputy CIO for cybersecurity will coordinate with Cyber Command and its subordinates in the services, while also keeping the highest levels of leadership at the Pentagon informed of developments, according to Blake Moore, who served as chief of staff to the DoD CIO until this summer.
Personnel have to get a sense for what the potential compromise could entail. Just because a system was breached, that doesn’t necessarily mean the hacker affected that system, Bort said.
Even if the government disconnects from the SolarWinds software called Orion that hackers used to enter the systems, teams must figure out how far the attackers burrowed into the network. They may have transitioned to create other back doors as a means of staying in the network beyond just the original intrusion., Bort said.
To establish if they are still in the network and executing a persistent campaign requires threat hunting on the network, he added, noting this is a skillset beyond traditional IT workers. Threat hunting is something a cyber protection team would be necessary for, he said.
Each service provides these defensive teams to Cyber Command, and they act as cyber SWAT teams that respond to breaches on local networks. While the services don’t own the offensive teams they provide to Cyber Command, each service retains a select few cyber protection teams to use them how they choose within their respective service.
Their hallmark is threat hunting on a network, which involves proactively searching on the network for threat actors and requires intimate knowledge of certain actor characteristics and indicators of compromise.
In a statement to C4ISRNET earlier in the week, Cyber Command didn’t directly address whether national cyber protection teams, controlled by the Cyber National Mission Force, or DoDIN teams, which are controlled by Joint Force Headquarters-DoDIN, have been deployed as part of the response effort, but simply noted the command is postured for “swift action should any defense networks be compromised.”
It is still unclear if each service has deployed its cyber protection team in response, as spokespeople either did not respond when asked or referred questions elsewhere.
Understanding the process
When a breach like this occurs, former national security IT officials told C4ISRNET an agency first needs to inventory its systems to see if, and where, it’s running the vulnerable platform. But that’s not an easy task, said Chris Kubic, former chief information security officer of the NSA, because some agencies may not have the automated tools to identify where on their networks the compromised software resides.
“My experience is they’ve got lots of different networks and don’t necessarily have an integrated set of tools across all of those networks,” said Kubic, now the CISO for Fidelis Cybersecurity. “They probably have lots and lots of tools, but they may not be integrated together. So they may be getting what kind of little bits and pieces of the answer to that question from different tools across their infrastructure, and they’re having to try and piece it all together.”
Barrett said that officials would also evaluate the operational or business impacts of disconnecting systems that ran the software, while also mapping out what other systems a potentially compromised system was connected to.
Rick Pina, former chief technology officer of the Army, told C4ISRNET that officials would look for indicators of stolen data, newly created accounts with elevated privileges, or compromised accounts.
Officials are looking for “anything that we can capture that actually would provide a synopsis to senior leadership on … what happened,” said Pina, now chief technical advisor for World Wide Technology.
Following a 2008 breach involving USB drives, Pina said that there were daily briefings to the defense secretary, the staff and service secretaries on the aftermath and steps to deal with it.
The Defense Department’s CIO office would also have to notify Congress of the breach due to legal requirements, Moore said. The deputy CIO for cybersecurity would also review cybersecurity policies, checklists and processes to see if anything needed to be modified based on the specific event.
“If it’s something outside of CIO authorities, they’ll recommend the path to the deputy secretary of defense on how to fix it,” Moore said, now vice president of strategy and operations for Wickr, a secure messaging company.
This type of sophisticated intrusion poses other challenges for agencies beyond just disconnecting the compromised system from its network. Nation-state adversaries are skillful at hiding.
“Just because you remove those tools and block that access, doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily eliminated the attacker or the adversary from your environment,” Kubic said.
Assuming the adversary is hiding elsewhere in the networks, security professionals in the department or services will likely have to use sophisticated technology to uncover them, said Phil Quade, former special assistant for cyber to the NSA director and chief of the NSA Cyber Task Force.
“Longer-term, I suspect they’ll use more advanced techniques that rely on high-speed security products that allow you to do ‘break and inspect’, which enables you to look for evidence of covert command and control from operators/servers,” said Quade, now the CISO at Fortinet.
“They need to also look for evidence of the tools’ existence, even if they don’t know where they are or even if they exist, by looking for the tools’ communications with the attacker’s command and control server,” he added. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Dec 20. In response to Spain’s decision to renew the country’s existing infrastructure, Indra and Thales, two of Europe’s leading high-tech Defence sector companies, have signed an agreement to work in partnership to offer a next-generation tactical communications system to Spain’s Armed Forces. The new communications system will notably enhance interoperability during international missions, and ensure Spain’s full sovereignty and technical autonomy over strategic military communications.
- Thales and Indra have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to propose a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) which will guarantee the technological sovereignty and autonomy of the Spanish Armed Forces
- The offer, made in the framework of Spain’s programme to renew its joint tactical communications system, is unique in proposing to develop a national solution based on proven software-defined radio technology
- The proposal includes a robust plan to enhance Spanish industry’s specialisation in high value-add activity and strengthen its overall competitiveness
Superiority over the enemy in today’s theatre of operations depends on the rapid, agile and secure exchange of information. Platforms and vehicles are becoming increasingly intelligent, equipped with extremely accurate sensors, which collect a high volume of information and operate in a network with other systems. Joint action with forces from other countries brings even greater technological complexity to the theatre: software-defined radio (SDR) represents a key factor for success for the modern army in such a scenario. The most cutting-edge forces will turn to SDR in the coming years for its transmission capability, speed, secure information exchange and flexibility to interoperate with other allied forces.
A unique offer combining sovereignty, support and a robust industrial plan for Spanish industry
The offer from Indra and Thales comprises the development of new high-technology products and solutions in Spain, based on a proven Thales solution. The new products will be based on Thales’ SYNAPS radio product family, enhanced with new features to be developed jointly with Indra.
Indra and Thales’ extensive radio hardware and software expertise, as well as their experience in operations, mean both companies will be able to provide services support to the Spanish Armed Forces throughout the product lifecycle.
The industrial plan included as part of the offer is designed to boost the specialisation of Spanish companies in higher value-added activities, going beyond manufacturing and assembly of third-party solutions. If implemented, it will enable Spanish companies to better compete on the international market and support sustainable employment in the country, while strengthening Spain’s technological know-how and autonomy.
The partnership will bring significant mutual benefits for both companies, strengthening Indra’s solutions portfolio, and consolidating Thales’ industrial footprint in the defence sector in Spain.
17 Dec 20. Amazon Web Services challenges Pentagon decision to stick with Microsoft for cloud contract. In new court arguments over the Pentagon’s enterprise cloud contract, Amazon Web Services said the agency errored in affirming its pick of Microsoft, noting the AWS offer is cheaper.
Microsoft rebuffed the claim, saying that AWS only lowered its bid for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, known as JEDI, after seeing Microsoft’s price tag, according to redacted court filings released Tuesday by the Court of Federal Claims. Microsoft argued that its technical advantages are superior, which AWS rejects, calling the contracting process biased toward Microsoft and asking the judge for an objective review.
The long-disputed contract, potentially worth up to $10bn over a decade, will provide cloud-computing capabilities to the war fighter in tactical environments and serve as an important platform for artificial intelligence development. Pentagon IT officials have said that the delay has hindered those efforts.
Microsoft won the contract in October 2019, and when AWS objected, a judge found that AWS’ initial protest had merit and was likely to succeed based on only the first of six errors that the company alleged in the evaluation process. DoD completed a corrective action to review proposals again, reaffirming Microsoft as the winner in September this year.
AWS argued that the DoD made “even more egregious” errors in its second-round review than the mistakes that the company alleged during the initial award process.
The company also continued to raise its allegations of political interference by President Donald Trump. AWS said that Trump tried to interfere to ensure AWS lost because of his distaste for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, which has run stories critical of the president.
AWS argued the DoD’s corrective action, which only amended the RFP for a specific data storage capability, led to a significant reduction in the price that AWS would charge for JEDI, making its proposal lower than Microsoft’s.
“As a result of the DoD fixing just one of many errors, the pricing differential swung substantially, with AWS now the lowest-priced bid by tens of millions of dollars,” an AWS statement said. “The fact that correcting just one error can move the needle that substantially demonstrates why it’s important that the DoD fix all of the evaluation errors that remain unaddressed, and ensure they are getting access to the best technology at the best price. We had made clear that unless the DoD addressed all of the defects in its initial decision, we would continue to pursue a fair and objective review, and that’s exactly where we find ourselves today.”
Amazon continued in the complaint to allege that the DoD tried to “negate many of the advantages” AWS had over Microsoft. While the DoD corrected initial errors that AWS identified, AWS claimed in the court filing that the department also found “some ‘new’ purported weakness in AWS’ proposal, by identifying ‘new’ supposed technical advantages in Microsoft’s proposal, or by ignoring the RFP’s evaluation criteria entirely.” The alleged errors require more scrutiny from the court, AWS argued.
Microsoft countered that it offered the best overall package.
“As the losing bidder, Amazon was informed of our pricing, and they realized they’d originally bid too high,” Microsoft spokesperson Frank X. Shaw said in a statement. “They then amended aspects of their bid to achieve a lower price. However, when looking at all the criteria together, the career procurement officials at the DoD decided that given the superior technical advantages and overall value, we continued to offer the best solution.”
AWS’ initial protest last year argued that the DoD made several technical errors when evaluating its proposal, in addition to allegations of interference by Trump. In February, the judge halted the DoD and Microsoft from working on the JEDI cloud after finding merit to the first of AWS’ allegations of the department’s contracting errors.
The DoD later took corrective action by reconsidering bids for a specific evaluation factor, which later prompted an agency protest by AWS because of allegations that the department didn’t respond to the company’s questions about the amended RFP. The Pentagon ultimately chose Microsoft a second time. The Defense Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on the new filings. (Source: Defense News)
17 Dec 20. DOD, DHS Collaborating on Innovative Cybersecurity Solutions. Last month, the Defense Department, Defense Innovation Unit and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on a range of cybersecurity initiatives.
“CISA and DIU have complementary missions and capabilities that both reinforce the Department of Homeland Security and DOD and are additive to one another,” said Jeff Kleck, director of Cyber, DIU. “Together we collectively reach across a broad swath of national interests related to cybersecurity.”
Notifying the public and private sectors that CISA and DIU are working closely together creates efficiencies that will accelerate advancements in cybersecurity, he explained.
The DIU is the only DOD organization exclusively focused on accelerating commercial technology for national security, he noted.
The DIU has offices in Silicon Valley, California; Boston; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C., where innovative technology companies are located, he said. DIU has lowered the barriers of entry for commercial companies, including startups in those and other locations around the nation. DIU has done this in part with leveraging their Commercial Solutions Opening, a streamlined Other Transaction award, and then scaling successful solutions across the DOD through a production OT.
CISA and DIU source cybersecurity capabilities from both government and industry, said Sabra Horne, chief, Innovation Hub, CISA. “The nation’s ability to access commercial innovations quickly and efficiently is critical in keeping abreast of the best industry has to offer.
“We are already sharing information and practice on commercial solutions that can address needs for the nation’s security,” she continued. “Additionally, CISA is eager to see the procurement processes DIU has successfully developed in action and how it uses alternative procurement authorities and methods to quickly obtain commercial solutions to mission problems.”
By working together, the two organizations will help each other fulfill missions, understand new threats, work together to solve challenges and coordinate investments in capabilities that aim to maximize the use of finite resources, she added.
Kleck said CISA and DIU are sharing information broadly across all categories of cybersecurity. “The intersection of commonality is quite large. We will learn together about areas of common interest and how the domestic application of DOD capabilities can benefit the nation.”
Kleck said those categories CISA and DIU are collaborating on include:
- Network & infrastructure security
- Web security
- Endpoint security
- Application security
- Managed security service provider
- Data security
- Mobile security
- Risk and compliance
- Security operations and incident response
- Threat intelligence
- Internet of things
- Messaging security
- Identity and access management
- Digital risk management
- Security consulting & services
- Fraud and transaction security
- Cloud security (Source: US DoD)
17 Dec 20. Thales Speakers Bureau: experts to ponder quantum technology, 5G, digital identity, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
- Thales announces the creation of the Thales Speakers Bureau as a platform for its in-house experts to share their experience and demystify the innovations that will shape the world of tomorrow.
- With fewer possibilities for face-to-face contact, Thales proposes to create new opportunities to connect with its customers, its ecosystem and the general public, to explain complex and key issues in simple words.
- Thales invests 4bn euros a year in R&D, and a third of its 83,000 employees are directly involved in these projects.
Quantum technology, 5G, cyberdefence, cybersecurity, biometrics, AI, self-driving cars, drones… Thales experts will remove some of the mystery surrounding the technologies that will shape the world of tomorrow.
In a world that continues to grapple with big issues such as mobility in the context of climate change; globalisation in an age of pandemics; the need to ensure safety and security while respecting people’s privacy and our added reliance on online interactions at a time when cyberattacks are on the rise, Thales sees technology as part of the solution to the challenges our planet faces. But technology alone is not enough. Today more than ever, we need human intelligence, knowledge, perspective and education, because that is how technology will drive progress and help to build a future we can all trust.
With the launch of Thales Speakers Bureau, the Group is providing a platform for a diverse sample of in-house experts to demystify subjects ranging from quantum technology, 5G, cyberdefence and cybersecurity to biometrics, AI, self-driving cars and drones. Speakers will also include subject-matter specialists with a passion for issues such as sustainable development, frugal AI and autonomous trains, as well as business experts capable of explaining global trends in the transport, space, defence, identity, security, cybersecurity and aerospace sectors.
Through this platform, customers, industry stakeholders, conference organisers and members of the media can call on experts taking part in the Thales Speakers Bureau to share their knowledge and insights on key societal and technological issues. The Thales Speakers’ Bureau can be accessed here.
“Our objective is to explain, in simple words, a range of issues that may be complex or difficult to grasp by letting our in-house experts speak. Behind every important topic, there are women and men working away unnoticed. We want to listen to what they have to say and share their unseen expertise as widely as we can, and we hope they will inspire new generations of women and men to be the researchers, engineers and architects of tomorrow’s world,” said Peggy Nahmany, VP, Communications, Thales.
16 Dec 20. DHS tests tech to spot rogue wireless devices. The Department of Homeland Security is moving ahead with tests of a commercial portable passive radio monitoring system that can find suspect cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices at field locations.
DHS’ Science and Technology directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) awarded Bastille Networks a Phase 5 other transaction agreement to continue evaluating the company’s “Flyaway Kit” that can sniff out potentially intrusive wireless devices.
Bastille Networks said it has been selling the system to the Department of Defense and the federal intelligence community, but it received Federal Communications Commission approval to roll it out for civilian use in early 2020.
The kit, said S&T in a Dec. 10 statement, uses software defined radio and machine learning technology to listen for wireless device emissions within a 3,000 square foot area. The system can find and pinpoint all cell phones, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices within that zone on a map interface, according to Bastille.
The kit, housed in a portable hard case, Bastille said, can secure permanent and temporary forward operating facilities, such as operations tents and building conference rooms. Along with cell phones and communications devices, it can also ferret out unauthorized Internet of Things devices, such as personal health monitor wristbands, Wi-Fi enabled headsets and tablet computers carried by employees.
The rapidly-deployable device detection system for field use fills an operational gap at DHS, said Ron McNeal, transition director at SVIP in the statement.
The Phase 5 OTA means S&T will test the kit further in controlled settings using an independent contractor, according to the statement, taking a more in-depth look at the system’s costs/benefits, as well as its practical use in the field.
Testing is due for completion at the end of December 2020. DHS plans to conduct operational demonstrations of the kit starting in the second quarter of 2021, an S&T spokesman told FCW in a Dec. 14 email. (Source: Defense Systems)
15 Dec 20. Winning the Fight With Data Analysis. UK Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey: “There’s a responsibility to win the information battle. It’s no longer enough to have highly complex systems…”
On 18 February, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced moves to modernise the capabilities of the armed forces thereby allowing them to better operate throughout the ‘Information Age’.
Addressing delegates at the Royal United Srvices Institute’s (RUSI) inaugural Strategic Command conference in London, Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey described a series of challenges across both contemporary and future operating environments.
“It’s no longer enough to have a battle-winning edge in terms of fire power,” he warned. “There’s a responsibility to win the information battle. It’s no longer enough to have highly complex systems; you need all of the data that comes from that system in order to get a better understanding of what the enemy is doing and what the opportunities are to exploit and win the battle.”
Supported by key service leaders from the Royal Navy as well as industry, the minister also discussed how the MoD could “counter adversaries in the so-called ‘grey zone’ through special operations harnessing disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data in the cyber domain”.
Also speaking at the event was General Sir Patrick Sanders, Commander of the Strategic Command which comprises a rebranding of Forces Command. Sanders explained his intention to “strengthen the foundations of integration within the current force and experiment and develop the capabilities and structures required for the 2030s and beyond”.
“This will be achieved in three priority areas: cyber, special forces and multi-domain integration, all are transformative, all are essential,” he suggested.
As a result, the development and employment of AI and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms continues to be explored by Special Operations Forces (SOF) not only in the UK but around the world with commanders seeking to optimise the technology to support a range of mission sets including Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Situation Awareness (SA).
One of the leading global entities investing deeply in such efforts is the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) which in October 2019 conducted its first ever Artificial Intelligence Symposium at MacDill Air Force Base to discuss emerging technologies, trends and capabilities.
The effort was the first tri-service meeting of the Command which was tasked with envisaging an ‘AI-enabled future’ for the USSOCOM.
The symposium followed a similar event conducted by the US Army Special Operations Command as well as the opening of USSOCOM’s Data Engineering Laboratory (DEL) at the SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Florida on 25 September.
At a ribbon-cutting, USSOCOM’s Commander General Richard Clarke discussed how ‘data’ will impact operations and investment in the future before outlining how the Command must move forward in attracting leading data scientists, architects, software developers and system integrators from around the world to “…improve the efficiency and capability of special operations forces”.
According to an official statement from USSOCOM, the DEL will also connect to the wider US Department of Defense (DoD) to focus on the “design and development of advanced data techniques including AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation”.
“SOF, along with the Department of Defense, is dedicated to advancing our data architecture and analytical tools. We believe this DEL is one of many that will emerge in the future ecosystem across the DoD, the broader US government, and foreign partners,” Clarke suggested at the event while USSOCOM’s Chief Data Officer, David Spirk highlighted how DEL ‘production’ will be aligned with USSOCOM AI goals. “This has been a huge, huge capability improvement for us and this is a realisation of what this future is for us,” he said.
US Special Operations Command Chief Data Officer David Spirk, USSOCOM Commander General Richard D. Clarke, and USSOCOM Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Master Sgt Gregory Smith cut the ribbon to officially open the USSOCOM Data Engineering Lab in Tampa.
Specifically, the DEL will support a series of USSOCOM AI/ML projects including preventative maintenance measures in support of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). These aim to predict component failure to optimise flying hours and maintain operational readiness and efficiency.
Additionally, the DEL is also expected to support USSOCOM’s Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO) concept which was launched in 2019 to provide enhanced SA, lethality, connectivity, mobility and survivability to SOF operators working in austere environments.
However, arguably one of the most critical SOF-specific mission areas likely to immediately benefit from the application of AI and ML remains intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) with programmes including USSOCOM’s Joint Geospatial Analytic Support Services (JGASS) II programme which is seeking to enhance geospatial imagery analysis in support of special operations.
According to the publication of a pre-solicitation on 13 February 2020 (USSOCOM is expected to publish a request for proposals by the third quarter of 2020), the JGASS II aims to “support enterprise level Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (PED) of imagery related intelligence utilising a variety of advanced geospatial analysis techniques through the development and operation of an enterprise geospatial architecture that includes multiple GEOINT systems and data sets”.
“Analysts will be expected to produce regional and/or extremely detailed analytical products to support special operations ‘Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, and Analyse’ [F3EA] targeting methodology using full motion video; imagery; and geospatial analysis from air, space, ground, and maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance assets.
“Analysts will also be expected to perform traditional and advanced PED on electro-optical, infrared, radar, and still frame imagery. Further, Analysts will be expected to work with Measurement and Signature Intelligence and datasets tailored to support Special Operations,” official documents highlighted before suggesting this be achieved through AI, ML and ‘other emerging technologies’.
One industry partner already working with SOF partners across the DoD, as well as partner forces and governments around the world, is Earth Intelligence (EI) specialist Maxar Technologies which is already starting to exploit AI and ML to support a limited number of ISTAR-related mission sets.
In 2021, Maxar Technologies launches its latest six-strong EI satellite constellation- WorldView Legion – which will significantly enhance the ability of SOF to observe image intelligence (IMINT) in ‘high demand areas of interest’ (AOIs) anywhere in the world up to 15 times in a single 24 hour period. Today, in-service EI satellites including Maxar Technologies’ own legacy constellations, retain capacity to revisit AOIs several times in the same period of time.
Speaking to Armada International, a Maxar Technologies official described how end users would benefit not only from the rapid increase in revisit times over AOIs but also 30cm resolution and 8-Band VNIR multispectral imaging.
Maxar Technologies’ WorldView Legion satellite constellation will benefit from AI/ML algorithms allowing SOF commanders to more rapidly PED image intelligence to plan direct action and special reconnaissance missions.
“WorldView Legion will dramatically enhance the operational effectiveness of end users as they seek to streamline decision-making processes,” the spokesperson explained before confirming how the combination of commercial technology and innovation including AI/ML, computer vision and data science, would “transform the ever-increasing volume of data into more manageable, valuable, and consumable products and analysis for more timely, meaningful decision-making”.
“We’re evolving our analytic capabilities and GEOINT solutions to empower customers to go beyond simply describing and diagnosing situations to begin predicting incidents and prescribing intervention,” the spokesperson continued before explaining how WorldView Legion will be able to support a range of special operations including ‘military mapping for mission support’ and ‘maritime domain awareness’.
“Planning special operations in remote regions or poorly mapped environments presents unique challenges and risks. It is critical that operators and allies have the latest geospatial information, including maps and visualisation tools, to plan, rehearse and execute missions. Maxar’s three-dimensional elevation datasets, mosaics and other mapping products will help enhance situational awareness and minimise risks in mission planning,” the spokesperson continued.
Defence sources described to Armada how IMINT with frequent revisit times and high resolution would assist SOF commanders in the planning and preparation of direct action and special reconnaissance operations anywhere in the world, similar to the US Joint Special Operations Command’s Operation Kayla Mueller to capture of kill ISIS founder Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi on 27 October 2019.
“A detailed understanding of the ground as well as pattern of life of a target compound and its surrounding area is absolutely critical to the successful execution of any special operation, particularly hostage rescue operations,” one defence source highlighted.
Another SOF-specific special operations support provided by WorldView Legion’s increased revisit and resolution rates including Maritime Domain Awareness where SOF units can be tasked to conduct counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, counter-narcotics and (combat) search and rescue missions.
As the Maxar Technologies’ spokesperson continued to explain to AI, “nations with offshore territory need to focus their patrolling and security efforts for challenges including illegal fishing, maritime pollution, piracy, smuggling, human and drug trafficking to name a few.
“With WorldView Legion, coordination across our radar and optical satellite, and existing VDS [vessel detection system] capabilities Maxar will help maritime agencies address the myriad of challenges across the maritime domain. By helping focus resources through systematically detecting and identifying suspicious maritime activities, SOF will be able to enhance their ability to evaluate, prioritise, and respond faster than ever before.
Despite promoting AI/ML support in these types of special operations mission sets, the spokesperson also warned how the community was not fully trusting of AI/ML capabilities.
“It is operationally effective today but not yet fully trusted,” he highlighted. “EI must bring back the data and form conclusions, leveraging ML in a time frame with WorldView Legion fast enough to react to something seen with one sensor that could be rapidly updated with a second sensor.
“AI processing is getting faster and faster, largely because of advances in Cloud technology, better hardware and algorithms. The time taken to extract valuable and actionable information from IMINT is getting impressively short,” the spokesperson added.
As a result, the international SOF community continues to push companies like Maxar Technologies to ‘shorten timelines’ associated with data processing and exploitation.
“WorldView Legion will push data into the Cloud to run algorithms at scale against the content and deliver out an end product to end users with additional capabilities included ‘Automated Change Detection’- another application which could act as a trigger for special operations.”
Elsewhere, Booz Allen Hamilton is also pressing ahead with the support of special operations with the continued development of its Modzy AI solution which has applications for special operations with rapid access, evaluation, deployment, embedding and management of AI models at scale.
Launched in November, Modzy provides customers with a platform and model marketplace for the upload, management and re-use of AI models to reduce risk in operations. Applications could include the exploitation of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to identify high value targets and military equipment in addition to ‘Overhead Building Detection’ and facial recognition- two more SOF-specific mission areas which Dr Josh Sullivan, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton highlighted to Armada.
Sullivan described Modzy as an “open architecture software solution available to customers on-premise, in the cloud, or via custom deployments” providing API access, built-in governance, adversarial defense, and explainability, the latter of which is described as one of the “toughest challenges related to scaling trustworthy AI”.
“The Modzy platform can be used to govern and manage customers’ own models for special operations applications, with customers interested in its ability to solve the last-mile challenges of AI at scale. Some of the use cases we’ve heard from defence clients include unique models that provide computer vision capability, including an aerial building segmentation model that can detect, mask, label and return information about buildings found in satellite imagery in order to assess building damage more quickly and with better accuracy more to aid in disaster relief efforts.
“Or, a military equipment classification model that can analyse JPEG images and classify the images into one of 87 military equipment classes, making it easier for analysts to process large set of images into different military equipment categories,” Sullivan concluded.
Although the potential for AI/ML support of special operations remains strong in potential, much work must be undertaken by the international SOF community in terms of not only better understanding the technology but also providing the means for operators to truly trust it moving forward. (Source: Armada)
16 Dec 20. Mercury Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY, www.mrcy.com), a leader in trusted, secure mission-critical technologies for aerospace and defense, today announced a new family of open architecture electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) processing subsystems, enabling customers to develop and deploy electronic warfare and signal intelligence solutions more rapidly and cost-effectively than typical custom solutions. The new MPS1101 and MPS1202 customizable subsystems include radio frequency (RF) transmit/receive, digitization and processing building blocks and feature application-ready open middleware for a wide variety of uses such as electronic attack, EMS monitoring and software-defined radio reducing integration time while providing a low-cost path toward system upgrades.
“Custom electromagnetic spectrum processing solutions are often difficult to upgrade and take a significant amount of time to develop,” said Mark Bruington, vice president and general manager, Mercury Spectrum Systems. “Unlike traditional, custom approaches, our new open architecture-based subsystems provide trusted, secure out-of-the-box functionality with turnkey middleware and hardware. Customers get the latest in innovation with high-performance RF and digital signal processing and can easily upgrade their subsystems as new software applications become available.”
Mercury’s new EMS processing product family leverages common technology across multiple form factors and COTS vendors. Integrated, tested and validated by Mercury, these subsystems help customers reduce technical and operational risk, compress development cycles and quickly deploy new programs.
- The MPS1101 high-performance OpenVPX development subsystem provides open hardware, software and firmware to accelerate system deployment through a modular, composable and reconfigurable architecture, making it ideal for development electromagnetic spectrum processing applications, including secure comms and radar.
- The MPS1202 rugged broadband tactical subsystem offers customers a high-performance solution for system development and sustainment, packing substantial RF, FPGA and CPU processing in a small and rugged form factor.
15 Dec 20. Fifth-generation aircraft share bi-directional data in military IoT first. The US Air Force (USAF) has announced it successfully shared data between F-35Bs, F-35As, and F-22 Raptors using the ‘gatewayONE’ communications device.
The US Air Force (USAF) has announced it successfully shared data between F-35Bs, F-35As, and F-22 Raptors using the ‘gatewayONE’ communications device.
The stealth fighter jets use different digital ‘languages’ meaning the jets are limited to communicating with each other and command and control centres through legacy tactical data connections.
During the tests, the jets were able to share ‘actionable operational data’ in their native languages through multiple sources for the first time. The test was conducted as part of the USAF’s push to develop the Advanced Battle Management System or ABMS, which has been dubbed the ‘Internet of Military Things’.
The F-35 uses the Multifunctional Advanced Data Link (MADL) and the F-22 uses the Intra-Flight Data Link system. Using the ‘gatewayONE’ payload data can be translated between the two sources and during the tests directly pushed data to the cockpits of the aircraft rather than via a ground operations centre or tactical node.
During the test flights on 9 December, an ‘attritableONE’ XQ-58A Valkyrie uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) fitted with the gatewayONE payload, during the flight the UAV also conducted a first semi-autonomous flight alongside the F-35 and F-22.
During tests, nine out of 18 objectives were achieved. Shortly after takeoff, however, the Valkyrie’s communications payload lost connectivity, meaning some targets could not be met.
During the test, the position of each aircraft in the formation was transmitted through gatewayONE, which would allow battle managers to control operations better. The system also allowed ground controllers to pass cues to and from the two aircraft platforms and allowed a cue to be passed from the F-35A to F-22 Raptor in another first.
Bi-directional data was translated between the two aircraft into their native languages and then displayed ‘organically’ on the respective aircraft’s cockpit systems.
Air Force Lifecycle Management Center (AFLMC) gatewayONE programme manager Lieutenant Colonel Kate Stowe said: “Testing is all about pushing the limits of what’s possible, finding out where the toughest challenges are, and adapting creative solutions to overcoming difficult problem sets.
“The real win of the day was seeing the gatewayONE establish a secure two-way translational data path across multiple platforms and multiple domains. That’s the stuff ABMS is all about.”
ABMS is the USAF’s attempt to develop a so-called ‘Internet of Military Things’ and is part of the US Military’s overall push to connect all of its sensors and shooters through Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system.
59th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-35 pilot Lieutenant Colonel Eric Wright said: “The gatewayONE payload really showed what’s possible and helped us take a big step towards achieving (Joint All-Domain Command and Control).
“This critical capability provides additional connections between our advanced fighters and other forces and battle managers across all domains. The future is promising, and gatewayONE will allow the F-22 and F-35 to connect to and feed data sources they’ve never before accessed. Those future connections will bring additional battlefield awareness into the cockpit and enable integrated fires across U.S. forces.”
Additional tests saw a communications pathway established between a KC-46 Pegasus tanker and a ground node using commercial internet standards and the transmission of full-motion video to a ground controller from a Marine Corps F-35B.
The Air and Space Force’s chief architect Preston Dunlap said: “If fifth-generation platforms are going to be quarterbacks of a joint-penetrating team, we have to be able to communicate with those quarterbacks in an operationally relevant manner and enable data sharing between them, to them, and from them.
“For years people said it couldn’t be done. Today the team turned another page toward making the impossible possible,”
Dunlap added: “In just 12 months, the team has opened the door to a world where we can put the power of an operations centre into the cockpit at the tactical edge.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
15 Dec 20. Booz Allen Communications System Prototype Approved for Production and Integration. Advanced technologies will provide seamless, secure communication between U.S. Marine Corps aircraft, facilities, and troops. The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) recently hit a significant milestone and transitioned the first wave of Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) Other Transaction Authority (OTA) prototypes into production through an Other Transaction Production (OTP) award using 10 U.S.C. 2371b(f) Authority. As part of this process, which provides an accelerated pathway to rapidly test and put critical technology in the hands of our nation’s warfighters, Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) was awarded an OTP to deliver next-generation communications solutions to United States Marine Corps (USMC) sites. This not only marks one of NAVWAR’s first prototype OTAs transitioned to OTP, but this is also the first time Booz Allen has successfully transitioned one of the firm’s government-awarded prototype projects into production, representing important milestones for Booz Allen and NAVWAR.
Winning on complex battlefields of the future requires technology solutions that improve performance, readiness, and resilience. In January 2019, Booz Allen was awarded the very first IWRP project to develop a Low Altitude Range Communication System (LARCS) prototype that would provide seamless communication between approaching USMC aircrafts, facilities, as well as troops themselves. After having successfully developed and fielded the prototype, Booz Allen has now been granted authority to see LARCS through to production and integration at nine additional USMC sites.
“The battles of the future will be won by those who maintain superior situational awareness and act on it fastest, empowered by innovation in emerging technologies,” said Booz Allen Vice President, Heather Walker, the leader of the firm’s Department of Defense business in North Charleston, SC. “That’s why we’re working with our clients to produce new technology that enables interconnected and information-advantaged warfighting systems. We’re very proud to have been selected to see our prototype through production, using our in-depth mission knowledge and leveraging methodologies like model-based systems engineering to equip our nation’s warfighters faster.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
15 Dec 20. Bastille Awarded Phase 5 Contract from Department of Homeland Security. Bastille continues partnership with DHS to focus on delivering RF security to protect the nation’s sensitive data and critical infrastructure. Bastille, the leader in enterprise threat detection through software-defined radio (SDR), today announced it has been awarded a Phase 5 Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP). The funding continues the ongoing partnership that began in January 2017, in which Bastille helps to secure government organizations through its patented software-defined radio and machine-learning technology that senses, identifies and localizes threats from RF devices.
“Government agencies are under constant threat of a cyberattack due to the sensitive nature of the data they possess as well as their access to infrastructure that affects millions of people,” said Chris Risley, CEO at Bastille Networks. “Sophisticated hackers can now exploit wireless protocols to gain access to these assets. Bastille identifies and secures susceptible points in the attack surface, ensuring that potential vulnerabilities are addressed and protected from malicious attacks. We look forward to continue working with the Department of Homeland Security and are proud to play a role in helping secure the nation’s infrastructure from these emerging threats.”
The DHS shared the following in their press release announcing the Bastille Phase 5 contract award:
“As a portfolio company of SVIP, Bastille demonstrated their system’s ability to use software defined radios and machine learning technology to passively monitor the electromagnetic spectrum for wireless device emissions. This enables real-time detection of wireless devices and supports protective operations and law enforcement missions by keeping out uninvited wireless devices, such as cell phones.
As part of their commercial roadmap, Bastille adapted their solution and created the Fly Away Kit. It’s a self-contained mobile solution system that can fit into several types of protective cases for mobile deployments. The Fly Away Kit can detect and locate all cellular, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Wi-Fi devices operating within an area up to 3,000 square-feet, such as a conference room, tent site, remote office, hotel room, or speaking location. DHS stakeholders and the wider government community are continuously in search of capabilities that can be rapidly deployed for temporary field applications. The Fly Away Kit aligns with that operational need.
“Bastille has developed a technology that fills high priority capability gaps as identified by DHS operational users,” said Ron McNeal, SVIP Transition Director.
“Their ability to solicit feedback from users and adapt their technology shows an understanding of what it takes to transition these much-needed capabilities to the government.”
The DHS press release went on to say:
“While Bastille Networks is selling their permanent system developed under SVIP to other government agencies,” said SVIP Managing Director Melissa Oh, “Their ability to understand DHS’ evolving needs and quickly develop a mobile capability will enable transition of this much needed technology to DHS in the future.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
15 Dec 20. Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Pilots for Fiscal Year 2021. The Department of Defense (DoD) issued an interim rule on Sept. 29, 2020 to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to implement the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework. This interim rule includes new DFARS clause 252.204-7021, which specifies CMMC requirements and enables the department to verify the protection of Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) within the unclassified networks of Defense Industrial Base (DIB) companies. The interim rule became effective on Nov. 30, 2020, following the 60-day public comment period. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) team for Acquisition and Sustainment is currently reviewing and adjudicating the comments.
The interim rule includes a phased rollout of CMMC implementation in fiscal years 2021-2025. Starting in fiscal year 2021, the department will pilot the implementation of CMMC requirements for Level 3 and below on select new acquisitions. In support thereof, the CISO team is currently reviewing the following pilot nominations from the military services and defense agencies and anticipates awards in late 2021:
- U.S. Navy
- Integrated Common Processor
- F/A-18E/F Full Mod of the SBAR and Shut off Valve
- DDG-51 Lead Yard Services / Follow Yard Services
- U.S. Air Force
- Mobility Air Force Tactical Data Links
- Consolidated Broadband Global Area Network Follow-On
- Azure Cloud Solution
- Missile Defense Agency
- Technical Advisory and Assistance Contract
For approved pilots, all offerors will undergo the appropriate CMMC assessment, and awardee must achieve the required CMMC level at time of contract award, and flow down the appropriate CMMC requirement to subcontractors. This allows for additional time to meet the CMMC certification requirement.
The CISO team continues to work with the Army and other defense agencies to identify and approve additional candidate CMMC pilots, to ensure they fit within the criteria, and will provide updates in the weeks to come. (Source: US DoD)
15 Dec 20. Northrop Grumman’s BACN Gateway System Surpasses 200,000 Combat Flight Hours. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC) leading Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway system reached 200,000 combat operational flight hours since its first deployment with the U.S. Air Force in 2008.
“This significant milestone further demonstrates the BACN system’s proven ability to enhance situational awareness, improve warfighter safety and deliver open communications capabilities for a wide range of missions,” said Roshan Roeder, vice president, communications, airborne sensors and networks division, Northrop Grumman. “BACN is one of the first battle-tested gateway systems to enable warfighters and platforms to effectively communicate and securely share data across all branches of the Department of Defense.”
Northrop Grumman’s BACN system is a high-altitude, airborne communications gateway that translates and distributes imagery, voice and tactical data from disparate elements—enhancing situational awareness communications and coordination for joint warfighters operating across space, air, land and sea. BACN has been used for missions such as airdrop, convoy, humanitarian assistance, close air support, and theater air control systems operations.
In response to a joint urgent operational need, Northrop Grumman accelerated development of the company’s BACN gateway system onto both manned and unmanned aircraft and delivered the first article of this critical capability to the U.S. Air Force in only nine months. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated agility through the continuous introduction of incremental performance improvements that have been demonstrated and deployed to the fleet over the 12 years of the BACN program. Improvements to the BACN system include enhancing data rates by 10 times, integrating new automation software to streamline communications and improve situational awareness, and implementing new military standard communications protocols.
The BACN system achieved its 200,000 combat flight hours milestone by flying more than 15,500 missions since the system was first deployed in October 2008. The BACN system currently flies on four EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems and three E-11A modified business jet aircraft to provide persistent connectivity and operational support 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple countries. The BACN system has delivered a mission availability rate above 98 percent over the last 12 years.
Northrop Grumman is investing in developing low size, weight and power gateway systems which are designed to enable communications and cross domain translations between multiple beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight networks and datalinks—inclusive of 5th to 4th, generation capabilities. The development of these systems includes a focus on multi-level secure and integrated functions such as cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, next generation data links and the use of third-party software and sensor solutions.
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.
15 Dec 20. Rafael is offering its BNET communication’s system to the Polish defence forces. The system is totally different from the systems used now by the armed forces of Poland. Today’s battlefields are undergoing far-reaching changes that affect the operational needs of land, air and sea forces: new, battlefield TIoT (Tactical Internet of Things) based on real-time applications, such as sensor-to-effector cycle closure systems, are emerging. Communications systems as vital enablers, are required to be agile, allow fast deployment, be highly scalable, and remain robust in the face of the chaos of battle, all the while operating under constant jamming and Cyber-attacks.
RAFAEL has developed the BNET Family – which since 2014 has been a globally field-proven Broadband IP Software Defined Radio solution for tactical operations on both Air and Land platforms, addressing the challenges of the battlefield (e.g. limited spectrum, communicating with autonomous systems, connecting multiple sensors and shooters, etc.).
The BNET is a Spectrum-Aware SDR – cognitively utilizing the spectral arena of the battlefield to the fullest. The system has already been used in the battlefield and proven capability and connected to multiple types of networks and BMS to prove a modular capability and open architecture critical for a system of this type
The BNET is enhanced with a Patented technology – Multi-frequency Channel Reception (MCR), which enables it to receive and analyse information from hundreds of frequency channels, simultaneously, using a single RF head. This enables a network rate of 100Mbps, while facilitating the formation of a single “flat” network, scaling up to thousands of radios.
The BNET is a full IP Radio – enabling seamless interoperability with other radios and with IP- based applications.
According to the Israeli company, with BNET, there are no network bottlenecks, since it constitutes a single unified logical group with no need for gateways. Additional advantages include automatic and dynamic spectrum allocation, avoiding the need for manual intervention by the battalion’s Signal Officer, using accessible spectrum (which is always a limitation) to the fullest extent possible.
Rafafel says that BNET’s ultra-fast network merge-and-heal capability (responding in seconds, rather than minutes), greatly reduces the risks associated with lack of basic communication (i.e., reduces the risk of “friendly fire”).
This is all managed and controlled easily and remotely – over the air – by RAFAEL’s Network Management System (RNMS) – a powerful SW solution to plan, monitor and control the BNET network.
European airforces are evaluating the use of the Rafael BNET and the Israeli company is now in negotiations with some European companies to adapt the system to the European potential clients.
The BNET system replaces existing radio systems installed in aircraft and according to the Israeli company while half in size and weight, it offers a very wide communications channel for data.
Recently, the Indian airforce has begun to integrate the Rafael BNET software defined radio on all its combat aircraft.
The Israeli company is supplying 1000 systems that are being integrated into all the Indian air force combat aircraft.
The BNET is the main communication system of the Israeli airforce (IAF) existing and future platforms. (Source: ARIE EGOZI)
14 Dec 20. MASS, the defence and training support company, has launched a new online learning platform for its established cyber and Electronic Warfare (EW) training courses, offering an engaging learning experience in an accessible and COVID-secure way.
MASS’s team of experts used their extensive experience of training and working in the defence sector to develop a new online learning platform. The courses include:
- Foundation level EW – this course is aimed at all levels of the military, enabling them to build and maintain an EW capability.
- (Available from Feb 2021) Introduction to Joint Operations Planning – this course is aimed at military staff and will enable them to plan Joint operations at the Operational level of a Task Force HQ.
MASS also offers cyber training to all industries and sectors; the Cyberstars and Resilience Assessment courses are available on an individual or group basis and are designed to increase awareness and importance of cyber-security.
The MASS Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides the full mix of teaching methods, including virtual classrooms, group work and individual learning. Students get the usual five-star experience of a MASS training course but with added benefits the online platform brings.
Participants are able to access courses and learning materials wherever they are thanks to the secure Cloud environment; automated reminders make it easy to set up regular training periods and employers can track the learning progress of their employees. The training is flexible, which means it can accommodate as many attendees as required.
Chris Stanley, Managing Director of MASS, said: “MASS has been delivering high quality training for many years and I’m pleased to say we’re now able to offer the same service online. It offers a safe, flexible and easy way to train your teams while still benefiting from our in-house experts.”
Spectra Group Plc
Spectra Group (UK) Ltd, internationally renowned award-winning information security and communications specialist with a proven record of accomplishment.
Spectra is a dynamic, agile and security-accredited organisation that offers secure Hosted and Managed Solutions and Cyber Advisory Services with a track record of delivering on time, to spec and on budget.
With over 15 years of experience in delivering solutions for governments around the globe, elite militaries and private enterprises of all sizes, Spectra’s platinum and gold-level partnerships with third-party vendors ensure the supply of best value leading-edge technology.
Spectra was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) in 2019 for SlingShot.
In November 2017, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd announced its listing as a Top 100 Government SME Supplier by the UK Crown Commercial Services.
Spectra’s CEO, Simon Davies, was awarded 2017 Businessman of the Year by Battlespace magazine.
Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.