Military Cyber Security: Threats and Solutions

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Published in Military & Aerospace Electronics
Written by J.R. Wilson

The entire world, especially the military, is firmly entrenched in cyberspace. Everything from personal messages among friends and family to top-secret military and diplomatic dispatches are created, transmitted, received, and read in the “0s” and “1s” of computer code.

Power grids, water treatment, and distribution facilities, hospitals, traffic control, aviation, railroads, sea transport, space-based communications, position, time, and navigation - all are part of the cyber domain.

That domain also encompasses home appliances, office equipment, children’s toys, medical devices, TV sets, unmanned vehicles, baby monitors, and espionage.

In short, it touches nearly every aspect of 21st-century life. This makes cyber attacks — from annoying but benign hacking to deadly attempts to disrupt, control, or destroy financial institutions, power grids, computer networks, and offensive and defensive military equipment — perhaps the single greatest threat the world faces, at all levels, in all nations.

The technology to detect and deter such attacks has improved substantially in recent years, yet it’s the modern version of the old armor/anti-armor loop — create a stronger, more resilient armor and someone will create a stronger, more potent anti-armor, leading to yet another new level of armor and more creative anti-armor.

This is not a new problem; it began as soon as the first computers appeared in war rooms and operations centers and has grown apace with the world’s ever-increasing dependence on electronics. But it is only in the past few years that the seriousness of the threat has been fully recognized, leading to the creation of cyber warfare and cyber security departments in almost every major entity, military and civilian, and the declaration of cyber as a full domain of war.

The sought-after end result of cyberattacks varies by the source of the attack, some of which will have multiple targets and goals. China, for example, has an obvious interest in breaching U.S. military systems, to gather intelligence and to learn how to control or compromise them. However, contemporary reports also show a Chinese focus on academics, high technology, insurance, manufacturing, construction, media, telecommunications, transportation, and video games.

“Defensive capabilities are improving constantly, but the threat spectrum also is changing all the time,” warns David Sheets, security architect at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions. “Old attacks are continually being employed against new systems, so you can’t forget about those, and new attacks are being developed all the time. The industry overall is becoming a lot more aware of the problem and putting more effort into addressing it. In the next few years, we should be seeing a lot better capabilities than in previous systems.”

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