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Dominating and Protecting the Connected Battlefield

Level 13

Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering

Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Brandon Shopp with ideas for protecting IT assets in battlefield situations.

“Dominance” and “protection” sum up the Defense Department’s goals as U.S. armed forces begin to modernize their networks and communications systems. DOD is investing significant resources in providing troops with highly advanced technology so they can effectively communicate with each other and allies in even the harshest environments.

Efforts like the Army’s ESB-E tactical network initiative, for example, represent an attempt to keep warfighters constantly connected through a unified communications network. These solutions will be built off more scalable, adaptable, and powerful platforms than those provided by older legacy systems.

Programs like ESB-E are being designed to provide wide-scale communications in hostile territory. It will be incumbent upon troops in the field to monitor, manage, and secure the network to fulfill the “protection” part of DOD’s two-fisted battlefield domination strategy.

Moving forward to take this technological hill, DOD should keep these three considerations in mind.

  1. 1. The Attack Surface Will Increase Exponentially

Over the years, the battlefield has become increasingly kinetic and dependent upon interconnected devices and even artificial intelligence. The Army Research Laboratory calls this the internet of battlefield things—a warzone with different points of contact ultimately resulting in everything and everyone being more connected and, thus, intelligent.

The Pentagon is looking to take the concept as far as possible to give warfighters a tactical and strategic edge. For example, the Army wants to network soldiers and their weapons systems, and the Navy plans to link its platforms across hundreds of ships.

Opening these communication channels will significantly increase the potential attack surface. The more connection points, the greater the threat of exposure. Securing a communications system of such complexity will prove to be a far more daunting challenge than what’s involved in monitoring and managing a traditional IT network. Armed forces must be prepared to monitor, maintain, and secure the entire communications system.

  1. 2. Everyone Must Have Systems Expertise

The line between soldiers and system administrators has blurred as technology has advanced into the battlefield. As communications systems expand, all service members must be able to identify problems to ensure both unimpeded and uninterrupted communications and the security of the information being exchanged.

All troops must be bought into the concept of protecting the network and its communications components and be highly skilled in managing and maintaining these technologies. This is particularly important as communications solutions evolve.

Soldiers will need to quickly secure communications tools if they’re compromised, just as they would any other piece of equipment harboring sensitive information or access points. And they will require clear visibility into the entirety of the network to be able to quickly pinpoint any anomalies.

  1. 3. Staff Must Increase Commensurate to the Size of the Task

The armed forces must bulk up on staff to support these expansive modern communications systems. Fortunately, the military has a wealth of individuals with network and systems administration experience. Unfortunately, they lack in other critical areas.

Security specialists remain in high demand, but the cybersecurity workforce gap is real, even in the military. The White House’s National Cyber Strategy offers some good recommendations, including reskilling workers from other disciplines and identifying and fostering new talent. The actions highlighted in the plan coalesce with DOD’s need to fortify and strengthen its cybersecurity workforce as it turns its focus toward relentlessly winning the battlefield communications war.

Whoever wins this war will truly establish dominance over air, land, sea, and cyberspace. Victory lies in educating and finding the right personnel to protect information across what will undoubtedly be a wider and more attractive target for America’s adversaries.

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

  The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

10 Comments
MVP
MVP

Seems to me this has been mentioned in 2 or 3 prior posts...essentially the same information just worded differently.

Level 13

Thanks.  I worry about what happens with this stuff fails.  I know communications have always been critical in conflicts throughout history.  Makes me wonder if we've gone too high tech when everyone a systems expert.

Level 12

I don't know about these days, but when I was in the Marine Corps we learned to use technology but minimized our use of tech during training exercises. This way we were ready to play and could do just as well without the tech.

Level 14

Thanks for the article!

MVP
MVP

basically its down to time, resources and scope

This turns into an ever-increasing challenge where general staff, officers, soldiers, civilians, and politicians are responsible for more and more knowledge and protection of information in far too many areas.  If we had trustworthy AI that could do the jobs for us, securely and reliably, the folks on the other side would have matching AI's to try and defeat ours.

While spending loads on pounds of cure, it would also be sweet if we had a few ounces of protection mixed in.  Things like:

  • Creating future cultures, domestic and foreign that could safely trust one another
  • Ensuring all children everywhere, in every country, are safe and have good nutrition and education and homes that are conducive to getting good sleep and love from two parents
  • Providing real-time alerts and punishment for infractions so people don't learn to think they can "get away with it" as they pass from children to adults
  • Teaching ethics, training all citizens in every country to be good, decent, and to always act with integrity, demonstrating good morals even when no one is looking
  • Teaching altruism as its own reward everywhere
Level 13

Thanks for the Article

Level 12

thanks for the post

MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article.

Level 12

thanks for the post