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Defence Industry Seeking IT Solutions to Match Big Data Needs

Modern defence systems are required to gather, disseminate and store more information than ever before. The challenge of meeting the technology demand in a cost-effective manner is one that is shared by all governments and military organisations.

To solve this problem, military information leaders will assemble in Brussels, to get to grips with the latest strategies and equipment, which will enable global armed forces to assess the rapid increase in digital data.

The Defence IT 2013 conference, taking place in June, will build on the success of Defence IQ’s information technology portfolio, which includes the renowned annual Cyber Defence & Network Security (CDANS) conference. The full Defence IT conference agenda is available to view at http://www.defence-it.com.

Defence IT 2013 will include key presentations from several EU and UK MoD programme leaders. With the budget for improving IT infrastructure in the European Commission reaching into the billions, Defence IT will provide the platform where government agencies seek to engage with leading solution providers.

Topics under discussion include, enterprise application platforms, Big Data, Cloud Computing, online learning, codification and standardisation. Additionally, the workshop day on 20th June 2013 will focus on the tools and applications required to visualise data and how to develop information systems for situational awareness.

Belgian Minister of Defence, Pieter De Crem, hailed Defence IQ’s CDANS conference as “an exceptional platform to discuss new ideas and initiatives; to identify benchmarks, as well as to coordinate existing capabilities”. A post-show report highlighting key findings of the conference, alongside insight on CNI-targeting malware and regional digital security strategies is available to the Defence IT community at http://www.defence-it.com.

Further information on Defence IT, including the agenda, speaker lists and topics to be discussed are available online at http://www.defence-it.com, where you will also be able to register for the conference.

Notes to editor:

Defence IT will be taking place in Brussels, Belgium between 18-20 June 2013. If you would like a press pass for the conference, please contact Samantha Tanner at enquire@defenceiq.com or call +44 (0) 207 368 9300.

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Information Security Threats – Round Up From The 5th Hemispheric Security and Intelligence Forum

By Alex Stephenson, Defence IQ’s man in Brazil

What breaks a company is lack of money, not lack of management or leadership. The same applies to criminal gangs. Imprisoning individuals is almost completely ineffective compared to denying a criminal organisation the proceeds of their activity. Concerning narcotics, one method is to interdict air, sea and land cargoes of substances – an alternative is to prevent the flow of the financial incentive in the other direction. No one sells a product if they cannot receive payment. A complete approach to narcotics includes both these elements.

But, there is a crime more profitable than narcotics. The sale of unknown vulnerabilities in computer software to criminal organisations who can exploit these weaknesses either to cause damage or steal intellectual property. So significant is this threat that it was contextualised as the threat of the modern era, paralleled by the nuclear threat of the cold war. A cyber threat to remain potent needs to remain unknown and then deliver chaos. An explicit parallel to the Hiroshima bomb; a capability unknown until it was deployed was drawn.

Linking both cyber security threats and counter narcotic threats I understood there to be three key takeaways:

  • These are evolving risks, much like a game of chess they require continual attention, calculation and execution.
  • Simplistically there are two approaches that can be used in tandem; tackling the problem and tackling the incentive – money makes the world go round
  • Finally, the importance of sharing information, helping partners and collaborating.

This last point is perhaps the most important. Too often perhaps there is a concern about sharing information about a problem. Perhaps this is because there is a national sensitivity around admitting there is a problem. However, if it is happening on your patch it is probably happening on your neighbour’s and by working together the intelligence picture becomes more complete and hopefully solutions begin to appear.

It is a great privilege for me to be able to attend this conference by kind invitation of USSOUTHCOM and the Brazilian Ministry of Defence. Later during this weeklong conference I will be delivering two presentations, one to the Caribbean Regional Intelligence Conference and one to the Central American Regional Intelligence Conference. The subject of this presentation will be the Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit 2013.

2012 cyber predictions: Part 1

Cyber crime: “It’s about the suffix crime, not the prefix cyber”

“We’re seeing 66,000 pieces of malware a day according to FireEye data; last year it was 20,000 a day and two years ago it was only 5,000 a day,” said Robert Lentz, President of Cyber Security Strategies and former CISO for the U.S. DoD at the Cyber Defence and Network Security conference in London.

The issue of cyber crime, cyber terrorism, and, dare I say it, cyber war, is becoming increasingly prevalent today and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Listening to Lentz it’s easy to see why. Indeed, Maajid Nawaz, Chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, said it’s only “going to get worse.”

“The defining change of our generation”

Cyber security has become, in many respects, just a buzzword. However, the threats hiding behind it are very real, and not least when a digital threat is turned into a physical attack.

“I’m not being melodramatic … but the reality is cyber threats will lead to lead to physical attacks,” said Lentz.

There are countless scenarios in which this could emerge. Hacking into a hospital’s network and altering a patient’s medical records would be considered an assassination. Hacking into a nation’s nuclear weapons system and fiddling with the delicate balance of its reactors could be considered an act of cyber war….ah, wait a minute….oh yes, Stuxnet.

Cyber war itself is an issue of particular contention. What is it? How do you define it? Does it even exist as a tangible entity or is it just a term dreamed up in an attempt to describe an ethereal concept?

Dick Crowell of the U.S. Navy War College has a thoughtful response to this. “I don’t believe there will ever be a thing which we can call a ‘Cyber War’ … but I think cyber warfare tactics will be employed in all future conflicts.” That is an important distinction because it suggests that in the future a conflict will not be defined by a single strategy; the onset of the threat from cyberspace is shifting the battlespace to a point where the lines between peace and war become blurred.

The trouble is with the term itself: ‘War’ has become convoluted over the past half century, it is used more as an evocative term than a descriptive one. Technically the US has not been at ‘War’ since 1945, it has instead been involved in supposed peacekeeping missions and counter-insurgency operations.

Shaw explained that: “The word war has lost all its meaning; it’s now only relevant in political theory, not as an operational term.”

Cyber hygiene: Managing the threat

“The growth of the internet is the defining change of this generation,” said Mark Field MP, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Learning how to manage and mitigate the threats it poses will need to be the next.

“The reality is we can’t keep the bad guys out of our networks,” said Lentz. This means we need to improve our resiliency; we need to figure out how to ensure networks remain online and operational even during a cyber attack, Lentz explained.

For Lentz, the most effective response to this is to employ offensive cyber tactics. He called for key government and industry actors to conduct more drills, exercises and live operations as a way of preventing the advanced persistent threat.

For the military at least, the perception of ‘cyberspace’ has to change for this to become a reality. “We need to think about cyberspace as an operational domain, just like the land, sea and air domains,” said Lieutenant General Rhett Hernandez, Commander at U.S. Army’s Cyber Command.

Here, Lentz and Hernandez agree that changes must be implemented at the ground level. “We need to focus on the training dimension,” said Lentz. Hernandez shares this sentiment: “We need to think differently about recruiting and training.”

Staying safe online

Moving this argument forward, Major General Shaw, Commander at the MoD’s UK Cyber Policy and Plans Team, stated that “education offers the only response to preventing attacks.”

But that leads to an important question: Whose responsibility is it?

Should the government be the ones to educate the public about ‘staying safe online’ and legislate to protect against cyber criminals? More specifically is it a military or government services concern? Should industry be more accountable? Or is it up to the individual and the individual alone?

There’s no simple answer, but there’s little doubt government should be taking a more proactive approach. Whitehall has produced a Staying Safe Online campaign, but Shaw postulates that only about 1% of the UK population has actually set eyes on it (let alone heard of it) because it was not a promoted campaign. The THINK! Seatbelt campaign worked in 1973 because the government put its weight behind it, it was well promoted and reached the targeted demographic. At the moment the government is doing little more than going through the motions regarding cyber security – the ‘Great Get Along’ as Lentz calls it.

For now though, little is likely to change. We will likely only see a step-change in the government’s attitude towards cyber security after it’s too late, similar to how the War on Terror was born out of the 9/11 attacks.

“Cyber physical threats are on the horizon and that will be the ‘tipping point’ when the government really becomes involved,” said Lentz.

Shaw concluded that it will take a “whole society approach” to manage the advanced persistent threat in the future.

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