U.S. Navy bolsters cyber security

This entry was posted on Monday, June 8th, 2015.

The U.S. Navy is working to bolster the cyber security of its computer networks, weapon systems, and communications equipment while bracing for potential attacks against power grids and fuel supplies.

“Cyber is in everything now,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told participants at the Defence One conference in a statement quoted by Reuters.

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“It’s not just weapons systems. It’s in every system because we are so networked.”

According to Mabus, the Navy is including more cyber threats in its war games as it develops alternative energy sources and micro-grids to ensure continued military operations in the event of an attack.

“If the grid happens to go down, for whatever reason, we can be off the grid and still provide a military to do the job,” Mabus confirmed.

It should be noted that the Navy recently launched its aptly named “Cybersafe” program to ensure the security of a small set of components and processes whose failure would harm critical capabilities, equipment, and people.

As Reuters reports, the initiative will focus on ship safety and combat systems, as well as networked combat and logistics systems. Interestingly, Cybersafe mandates a comprehensive assessment and subsequent certification by an independent security authority.

“Requesting an evaluation from an independent technical authority is an important step forward and one that is critical to ensuring a high level of security,” said Michael Mehlberg, Senior Director of Business Development for Defense Solutions at the Cryptography Research division of Rambus. “If we don’t want to be blindsided by a digital Pearl Harbor, there is no substitute for professional experts who think like the very malicious attackers we are attempting to outmaneuver.”

According to Mehlberg, adversaries can potentially exploit the weapon systems and platforms tasked with ensuring national security. As such, action must be taken to protect these critical systems from all forms of cyber attack.

“An adversary will typically exploit the weakest point in a system,” he explained. “Defending against all known threats with multiple layers of security based on a hardware root-of-trust is of the utmost importance. Many issues would likely dissipate if both SoCs and FPGAs were hardened against attacks at the basic silicon level.”

Commenting on the Navy’s initiative to develop alternative energy sources and micro-grids to ensure continued military operations in the event of an attack, Mehlberg emphasized that it is equally important for U.S. allies to have access to similar capabilities.

“Hardware root-of-trust can help us achieve this – without revealing the sensitive algorithms and other secrets that gives our country a technological edge on the battlefield,” he added.