Invisible battleground rife with conflict

TechNet Augusta attendees gain valuable insights into the power and danger inside cyberspace.

AUGUSTA, Ga., Aug. 5, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite the numerous devices we depend on daily, most average users are oblivious to the depth and breadth of cyberspace. It runs in the background, primarily invisible to the human eye except for the nuts and bolts that make it possible: fiber, silicon and brilliant minds. It's indescribable, yet everywhere—the perfect place for skirmishes, intricate operations and full-blown attacks.

For the military, cyberspace is a domain that—like air, land and space—requires strategies to protect it and weapons to defend it. Military leaders participating in TechNet Augusta 2016, Georgia, this week enlightened conference attendees about just how difficult this challenge is in light of attacks from new—and some previous—adversaries, a resurgence of electronic warfare activities and the need to synchronize cyberspace with the combined arms fight. AFCEA International sponsors TechNet Augusta, an event that has continued to expand in the past three years.

One challenge today's armed forces face is how dependent they have become on the cyber domain in such a relatively short period of time. Although the network-centric warfare concept was introduced less than two decades ago, today's warfighters depend on technology for situational awareness, operations coordination and calls for help as if a sophisticated network always existed. But, the increased dependency on technology enlarges vulnerabilities, and connection protection is akin to defending a line in the water.

Defending technology with technology is not the only approach, however. For example, recent international conflicts with cyber components provide insights into potential adversarial e-tactics and strategies. TechNet Augusta speaker Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, USA, commander, U.S. Army Europe, shared that the United States is learning a lot about Russian capabilities from the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia used jamming and other means to effectively counter unmanned aerial vehicles flown by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the situation between Russia and the Ukraine. Gen. Hodges reported that he recently asked a senior American official what Ukraine needed most. Without hesitation, the unnamed official replied: secure communications.

"They are getting hammered because they do not have the ability to talk securely and everything they say... is intercepted or jammed," Gen. Hodges said. "Russian unmanned aerial vehicles are able to fly overhead and spy on formations—things we haven't had to worry about for the past 15 years."

Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, USA, commander, Army Cyber Center of Excellence, elaborated the real-world effects of these tactics, saying, "You can't call for supporting fires. You can't call for medevac. You can't get resupplied. You don't know where your leaders are. You get fixed, and you become a very easy target for precision fires. They maneuver right over you with combined arms maneuvers."

To address adversaries' changing tactics, the U.S. military forces are making changes of their own. Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command and Second Army, predicted one of the biggest advances in the near future likely will be the convergence of major military networks into one unified Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN). "The Signal Corps will not only be highly relevant, it will be central to everything that occurs on and across the DODIN," Pontius stated.

According to Gen. Dennis Via, USA, commander, Army Materiel Command (AMC), members of his team have initiated discussions with Army Cyber Command to determine if the AMC can play a larger role in cyber.

"We've got 12,000 scientists and engineers working out of state-of-the-art laboratories who are partnering with academia and industry to empower, unburden, protect and sustain our soldiers," he said. "We execute approximately 75 percent of the Army's science and technology budget, and I think we need to be doing more in the cyber arena to leverage these personnel and these facilities."

Gen. Via did not elaborate on his vision for AMC's greater role in cyber, nor did he say how Army Cyber Command received the idea. But the possibility of the two major commands partnering on cyber solutions illustrated one of the major themes for TechNet Augusta's last day: the need for innovation.

Read more about the innovative solutions the military services require and industry can provide online, including Gen. Via's call for a network environment where cybersecurity and cyber situational awareness can produce an automated response, react at machine speed and be self-diagnosing and self-healing all in real time.

AFCEA International, established in 1946, is a non-profit membership association serving the military, government, industry and academia. Join online.

SOURCE AFCEA International

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