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02 Sep 21. Darktrace Joins Microsoft Intelligence Team. The autonomous cyber security company has become a member of Microsoft’s vendor co-operative.
Darktrace has joined the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA) — a co-operative made up of independent software vendors and managed security services providers, which have integrated their respective security products with Microsoft’s offering.
As part of the arrangement, Darktrace’s autonomous detection, investigation and response capabilities will be embedded into a number of Microsoft cloud and SaaS environments.
Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI offering collects information about an organisation’s operations, and autonomously responds to emerging threats in a bid to minimise cyber disruption.
The technology can be applied to all Microsoft 365 products, including Microsoft Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams, supporting the autonomous defence of joint customer environments from threats across cloud infrastructure and SaaS tools.
Darktrace AI is also designed to proactively protect users of Microsoft 365 email environments from spear-phishing and supply-chain attacks.
Threat alerts and automated threat investigation reports can also be sent and visualised inside Sentinel with a bespoke Workbook.
“We are proud to be members of MISA. Where Microsoft runs, Darktrace protects – and together, we are empowering and augmenting human security teams with Self-Learning AI,” Nicole Eagan, chief strategy officer, AI officer at Darktrace said.
Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president, Microsoft Defender, welcomed Darktrace to the co-operative.
“Members of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association, like Darktrace, offer solutions that supercharge defence work against a world of increasingly sophisticated, fast-moving threats,” Lefferts said.
“The integration of Microsoft 365 with their solutions allows us to work together to help customers navigate the security landscape.”
02 Sep 21. Georgia cyber incubator tries to stoke military innovation. The Georgia Cyber Center, a public-private collaboration to strengthen cybersecurity, wants to help improve the way the military develops technology.
The two-building campus in this city about two hours outside Atlanta started with $106m from the state as it tries to create a reputation as a “Silicon Valley of the South.” Companies, academic teams, and federal and state government entities — including varied defense contractors and some military satellite offices — rent spaces and collaborate in hopes of leading a revolution in cybersecurity.
“One of the great things about the center … it’s really about being a convener and a facilitator,” Eric Toler, the center’s executive director told C4ISRNET at the recent TechNet Augusta conference.
As the military has tried to adapt to the digital world, it sometimes has experienced a disconnect with the eccentric and creative nature of Silicon Valley and the startup world that revolve around tighter timelines for software drops. Military personnel are often siloed in drab government office buildings with strict rules, an atmosphere criticized at times for stifling innovation and hindering efforts to find and keep employees.
As a result, the military has attempted to dip its toes in this starkly different tech world and in some cases emulate its workspaces and culture that foster cooperation.
“We’re trying to make a much less constrained environment,” said Toler, a former Army cyber and intelligence leader. “You don’t have to follow necessarily, if you’re doing a development project, the exact same rules — and not that you’re going to break any rules, but we have far less here.”
While adopting a startup mentality and fostering a more creative space than standard-fare government buildings might seem trivial, some have said such efforts are important to attracting and retaining talented people, as was the case with the Air Force’s Kessel Run software facility in Boston.
Toler said the Georgia Cyber Center was designed specifically so it doesn’t feel like a government building.
“I knew that we got it right when I had a group of soldiers come in and I said, ‘How are you all doing?’ They said, ‘Whenever I come here, I feel so free to think.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes! We have it right.’”
The collaborative nature of the center, which hosts offices for the Defense Digital Service and Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Center, might allow the government to shorten its requirements timeline.
“I’ve seen it at the DoD level where operations from your requirements to your acquisition and fielding aren’t always aligned. We have the opportunity to get that right, at least in the cyber domain,” Toler said, adding that research being conducted at the center can be pulled into a current or future requirement.
He noted that the center has no stake in defense or government contracts, but the effort is really about bringing people together to create and solve problems.
“When people start coming together and having a conversation — it can be downstairs over a cup of coffee — it’s like, ‘Yeah we’re really challenged with this problem.’ And then you’ve got like two industry partners that say, ‘We already have a solution to that problem,’” Toler said. “‘Really? Can we buy it?’ Yeah, and guess what? It’s cheap because it’s already developed. We don’t have to go through this six-year process of articulating a requirement that no one can understand.”
On the flip side, technology the DoD has developed could be of use to commercial industry or a Georgia government department.
Exposure to how the commercial sector operates and conducts its business in the tech world can also be a boon for military personnel who work in the center. The department has discovered the power of allowing its members to participate in internships while still on active duty to gain important experience and insights in the business sector that they can bring back to their jobs.
However, Toler sees potential to make this kind of cooperation much more frequent.
“The Army has a phenomenal program where we can select a few officers and they can go train with industry for a year, but it’s very selective and it’s very small,” he said. “What if you could give every soldier that opportunity? Not a year at a time, maybe it’s two weeks. We’ve got this project going on, we want to work on a new software application for X. Hey, let’s build a team, let’s go work on it, we’ve got space to do that, and we’ll see where you are at the end of two weeks.”
As a military commander, he said he would allow soldiers take a month tour with industry. He noticed when they came back, they were very refreshed, learned new skills, met new people, and returned with ideas, all of which made the unit better. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
16 Aug 21. Clear Communications in the Shadows. Next generation communications including software defined radios will ensure special forces can use voice and data across a full spectrum of missions.
In line with emerging requirements to maintain critical levels in connectivity across contested operating environments, special operations forces (SOF) around the world are working closely with industry partners to identify suitable solutions to ensure tactical communications at the ‘edge’.
Only when SOF units are assured levels in primary, alternative, contingency and emergency (PACE) communications can they effectively conduct the full spectrum of mission sets which can range from direct action and special reconnaissance through to military assistance and humanitarian aid/disaster relief.
Examples of assisting technology include the roll-out of software defined radios (SDRs), capable of providing SOF operators with simultaneous voice and data in addition to the support of in-field software upgrades including waveforms.
The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is pursuing similar efforts across its inventory of Next-Generation SOF Communications product line which includes L3Harris Technologies AN/PRC-163 handheld and AN/PRC-167 manpack.
An undisclosed number of AN/PRC-163s are already in service with US SOF components while the AN/PRC-167 had its first operational assessment pushed back to the third quarter of 2020 due to delays associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The development of these new SDRs comes at a time when USSOCOM is paying close attention to operations associated with the age of Great Power Competition (GPC) where SOF units can come into contact with peer adversaries, particularly from the Russian Federation and People’ Republic of China.
Areas of interest being pursued by the Tampa-based command include focus on multi-functional, mobile, small, light and power efficient systems, in addition to waveforms with reduced electro-magnetic signature; high bandwidth; protected satellite communications; multi-band access; and smaller antennae.
Both USSOCOM two-channel radios provide simultaneous voice and data services with the additional upgrade to operate a third channel through the integration of a Mission Module. L3Harris continues to design additional mission modules following the release of the first type which is dedicated to support Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission sets.
According to retired US Army SOF officer, Rob Culver, now director for Department of Defense business at Domo Tactical Communications (DTC-now part of Codan Group), such communications solutions must capable of supporting special operations in the “long war on terrorism” as well as “conflict with peer and near-peer adversaries and the escalation from low intensity conflict to large scale combat as well grey zone conflict”.
Speaking to Armada International, Culver explained: “There is an increasing demand for MANET [mobile ad hoc network] tactical communications which incorporates commercial technology and software. The demand to push communications and computing power to the tactical edge, increases the demand for the wireless transport of high data payloads such as HD [high definition] and Full Motion Video (FMV) through a mobile ad hoc network.
“In the mix of companies competing with DTC for market share are the usual traditional defence communications suppliers, as well as growing number of small business new to the defence and security marketplace. Overall, the market for tactical communications for SOF looks to be growing and appears to be especially good for software defined radios with low latency, high-capacity mesh networking offerings,” he added.
According to Culver, SOF units conducting counter-terrorism and/or operations against highly capable peer adversaries including requirement for secure, Low Probability of Intercept/ Low Probability of Detection (LPI/LPD), anti-jam and anti-spoofing communications.
Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber effects operations stated recently that opposing forces may not simply attempt to jam or cut communications but rather hack into them to spread disinformation.
“Cyber Security is a current and emerging requirement. Along with the security of the software and the waveform, there is the need for low ‘signature’ capabilities,” she stated while paying reference to the ability of enemy forces to accurately detect SOF positions to coordinate precision fires and defeat a force.
“SOF are often characterised by the need to quickly project force over long ranges without the infrastructure and logistics backup of more traditional military operations. Codan’s HF radio systems can play a critical role here by providing infrastructure-free terrestrial reach back of hundreds or even thousands of miles with minimal setup all through a simple and intuitive user interface.
“With the integration of DTC’s Tactical MANET IP Mesh Technology into the Codan portfolio, we can seamlessly combine this long-range reach back capability with high bandwidth local MANET communications in order to deliver a shared situational awareness picture (PLI, voice, video etc.) together with the ability of any MANET mesh user to directly access the long-range HF reach back link via the Codan XTEND smartphone application,” Culver explained while describing how Codan solutions provide low latency, high data capacity, high node count and mobile solutions “for use across the spectrum of conflict in both manned and unmanned applications”.
DTC solutions include covert audio and video solutions, designed to support clandestine mission requirements of SOF units amongst other operational requirements. Products support “military special operations forces worldwide in their efforts to combat terrorism and crime”, which provide “high evidential standards” to support the identification and monitoring of terror threats, monitoring organised crime and high risk operation. DTC was unable to provide further details due to operational security concerns.
Less well-equipped SOF units around the world are also seeking to upgrade their tactical communications capabilities to support emerging demand signals from across the contemporary operating environment.
Examples include the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM) which has contracted wireless communications specialist Inrico to support modernisation efforts across the Philippines Army Special Operations Command.
In December 2020, Inrico was contracted to provide a Push-to-Talk Over Cellular (PoC) communications capability through the deployment of specialist terminals, consoles and management software.
Such an uplift in communications capabilities will support AFPSOCOM’s ongoing operational demands which include internal security operations against violent extremist organisations on land and in littoral and maritime environments.
Philippines SOF already operate Inrico PoC T320 and T199 tactical radios, although upgraded systems will support longer range communications between Luzon and Mindanao.
Upgrades will ensure secure access to tactical communications networks across the Philippines, including monitoring and prevention of cyber attacks. Additional features include AES2565 encryption to protect voice and data communications.
AI in Tactical Comms
Speaking about the Role of AI and Big Data in Military Operations at a Hudson Institute event on 7 December 2020, USSOCOM’s commander, General Richard Clarke promised the Tampa-based organisation would be “putting our money where our mouth is”.
“SOCOM is going to continue to be a pathfinder on unique, repeatable, actual real-world problems we are going to be fighting and make sure we can apply them into the future”, he said while highlighting the emerging importance of the “information environment”.
To date, USSOCOM has driven Project Maven which includes the employment of image detection algorithms to assist in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets.
However, Clarke said USSOCOM would be front and centre to evaluate and implement ML and AI across the wider DoD, specifically noting how cloud computing could also supply vast demand for data in the future operating environment.
Seeking to support emerging USSOCOM requirements as well as other SOF customers around the globe is L3Harris Technologies which is looking to future proof its own range of SDRs, particularly in relation to emerging machine learning and artificial intelligence (MI/AL) capabilities which can be used to support autonomous routing of communications as well as support in decision-making processes.
A company spokesperson described how forward-deployed SOF units must be aware of “channel conditions” across a contested battlefield, including “tracking link status and evaluating network performance”.
L3Harris continues to support US Army and coalition working groups regarding next-generation waveforms to support operation in contested environments. Solutions include LPI/LPD waveforms in addition to anti-jam solutions.
“Modern waveforms can proactively sense channels, adjust frequency, move between bands, adapt data rates, and collaborate with nearby radios to accomplish this without any operator input,” said an L3Harris official.
As an example, both the AN/PRC-163 and -167 feature integrated Signals-Based Threat Warning/Situation Awareness (SBTW/SA) solutions which allow the SDR to become aware of threatening energy and signals across a battlefield. Sources can then be identified and classified for targeting by other assets.
“This is an area ripe for future research and development, especially as we look towards aggregating sensor data across tactical networks in the ‘sensor-to-shooter’ construct,” the L3Harris spokesperson added.
However, company sources confirmed that much progress still has to be made in terms of applying ML and AI technologies to smaller form factor, tactical communications solutions including SDRs. Examples include providing SDRs and mission modules with adequate level in power to support ML/AI algorithms.
“Sophisticated AI processing is well established in large infrastructure and desktop applications, while portable equipment is just getting started with more specific tasks like biometric security. New mobile processors are just starting to feature neural processing engines, so we expect these barriers will slowly be overcome,” it was explained.
L3Harris is also offering up its Transport Aggregation Gateway (TAG) solution to support special operations customers around the world. Featuring ML and AI algorithms, TAG features Smart Blending Technology which identifies the most optimal data paths for communications traffic, particularly when operating in contested environments.
Comprising a TAG Gateway Remote Terminal and TAG Concentrator, the solution aggregates together multiple communications networks (including MANET and SATCOM for example) to ensure maximum levels in data throughput.
“TAG automatically optimises capacity by providing network resiliency and elasticity as communications systems join or leave the network. This commercial technology has now progressed to a point where it has become something useful to the DoD,” L3Harris sources confirmed.
“Today, TAG is able to aggregate and blend together the various data capacities of multiple networks, meaning there are no longer any disadvantaged user sets across the battlespace. This means a single data stream is able to exploit multiple network links simultaneously to ensure maximum levels in data throughput,” a source explained.
TAG was first demonstrated to the US Army in December 2018, with L3Harris and commercial partner Dejero spending the time since to mature the solution. Since then, L3Harris has proven the solution on board a variety of special operations vehicles including the Polaris Government and Defense MRZR Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) as operated by USSOCOM.
Also looking to the future is Codan Group which according to Culver, is observing an “ever-increasing demand for extremely low Size Weight and Power (SWAP) software defined and software configurable radios that are cyber secure and provide LPI/LPD”.
Coalition forces operating throughout the GPC will rely upon assured and resilient tactical communications to ensure tactical overmatch over highly capable adversaries across the contemporary and future operating environment.
However, emerging technologies must be easy to use and allow SOF operators to maintain focused without distraction on the mission at hand. (Source: Armada)
27 Aug 21. A swathe of new public and private sector reforms have been announced following a meeting between US President Joe Biden and the world’s largest technology companies. Representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft and other tech giants have met with US President Joe Biden to formulate a new cyber security strategy, aimed at building resilience on the organisational and individual level. Following the discussions, the Biden administration announced that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would collaborate with stakeholders to develop a new framework to improve the security and integrity of the technology supply chain. The approach aims to establish guidelines for public and private entities, which includes the development of open-source software, with Coalition, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Travelers committed to participating in the NIST-led initiative. The White House also confirmed it would expand the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to secure natural gas pipelines.
The technology companies also committed to rolling out independent initiatives:
- Apple announced it would work with its suppliers to drive the mass adoption of multi-factor authentication, security training, vulnerability remediation, event logging, and incident response;
- Google revealed it would invest $10bn over the next five years to expand zero-trust programs, help secure the software supply chain, and enhance open-source security, while also helping facilitate digital skills development;
- IBM agreed to support the training of 150,000 people in cyber security skills over the next three years;
- Microsoft announced it would invest $20bn over the next five years to accelerate the integration of cyber security by designing and delivering new solutions, and revealed it would offer $150m in technical services to help federal, state, and local governments with upgrading security protection; and
- Amazon committed t delivering free security awareness training, while also offering a multi-factor authentication device to Amazon Web Services account holders at no additional cost.
“We’ve seen time and again how the technologies we rely on — from our cell phones to pipelines, to the electric grid — can become targets of hackers and criminals,” President Biden said.
“At the same time, our skilled cyber security workforce has not grown fast enough to keep pace.
“… The estimates many of you have given us and we’ve concluded [are] about a half a million cyber security jobs remain unfilled.
“That’s a challenge, but it also is a real opportunity [and] I’ve made this a priority for my administration from the outset.”
These latest announcements come just weeks after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced the launch of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) — a new initiative aimed at streamlining cyber defence operations strategies in co-ordination with federal interagency partners, private sector, and state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) government stakeholders.
The initiative is expected to reduce cyber risks ahead of a malicious attack, while also facilitating a unified response to an incident.
Specifically, the JCDC aims to:
- design and implement comprehensive, whole-of-nation cyber defence plans to address risks and facilitate co-ordinated action;
- share insight to shape joint understanding of challenges and opportunities for cyber defence;
- implement co-ordinated defensive cyber operations to prevent and reduce impacts of cyber intrusions; and
- support joint exercises to improve cyber defence operations.
The JCDC will initially comprise of Amazon Web Services, AT&T, CrowdStrike, FireEye Mandiant, Google Cloud, Lumen, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, and Verizon.
Government partners currently include the Department of Defense, US Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, with Sector Risk Management Agencies also expected to join. (Source: https://www.cybersecurityconnect.com.au/)
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.