We’ve grown accustomed to the benefits and capabilities of having a powerful computer in our pockets. We’re increasingly dependent on devices that can interconnect and be controlled remotely. We’ve even begun to take the ability to communicate via text, voice, and video from anywhere for granted.
These technologies and connected devices are so pervasive and deliver so much capability and convenience that we struggle to do even simple tasks without them. If you don’t believe me, just try to navigate to a location for the first time via map and compass. While you may eventually find your way to your destination, the process would undoubtedly be slow, painful, and difficult. And unnecessarily so, since GPS-based applications such as Google Maps exist.
This reality has not eluded our military. Today’s military leaders and decision-makers are aware that mission-critical capabilities from communications to targeting systems have grown increasingly dependent on technology. They also see technology as both a way to increase operational efficiency and as a critical advantage for their warfighters at the tactical edge.
To ensure that our troops have reliable and pervasive access to mission-critical technologies, military leadership is working hard to identify ways to enable connectivity even in the most “off the grid” scenarios and locations – embracing new technologies from mobile mesh networking to sophisticated satellite solutions for everything from situational awareness to communications and data sharing.
The result is an environment where connectivity is mission-critical for a number of capabilities.
Thanks to connectivity at the tactical edge, today’s warfighters have access to real-time intelligence. They can utilize applications, such as ATAK, for situational awareness and communication services – enabling them to see their locations and the locations of their teammates on a map and share messages among the group. They are even piloting and traveling in vehicles that are network-enabled, including a next-generation fighter prototype being tested by the Air Force that is a part of, “a family of connected air warfare systems.”
And it’s difficult to see this trend slowing in the near future.
But, if connected devices, weapons systems, and military platforms are going to continue being mission-critical on the battlefield, there is going to be another concern and consideration that the military is going to have to overcome.
Connected Warfighters Create Vulnerabilities
In September 2020, Harvard University’s Belfer Center released the results of a study indicating that China has made such advancements and investments in its cyber power that it is now considered virtually “neck-and-neck” with the U.S. in a number of cyber capabilities. And Russia isn’t far behind, coming in at number four in their National Cyber Power Index (NCPI).
This should be a frightening wake-up call for our armed forces – our largest adversaries are increasingly capable in the tools and capabilities of cyberwarfare. And it’s happening at a time when our nation is embracing a rising number of connected tools, devices, applications, weapons systems, and vehicles on the battlefield.
On the battlefield of the future, where advanced IT solutions are a distinct and pronounced tactical advantage for our warfighters, it will be essential to ensure that the networks that power and deliver those capabilities are protected. Should those networks be compromised or denied, the warfighter could find themselves without mission-critical tools at their disposal. In this situation and environment, network protection and cybersecurity are essential for mission assurance.
But the need to defend networks isn’t just present during conflicts. The increased presence of connected devices at the tactical edge creates vulnerabilities for the military even when they’re not actively engaged with an adversary.
Often, our military is deployed for reasons other than conflicts — such as in disaster response and recovery efforts. Even in these environments, the proliferation of connected devices represents an increased attack surface for those that may desire to compromise military networks. By compromising insecure connected devices and moving horizontally across the network, adversaries could access sensitive military information or lie in wait — becoming advanced persistent threats into the future.
The military has embraced security standards and practices to help protect their networks and connected devices back home. Luckily, it’s becoming possible and much easier to extend these standards to the tactical edge.
Field Deployable Security Infrastructure Packages (FDSIPs) Extend Security Standards
Government entities and cybersecurity vendors have collaborated to develop a versatile concept for achieving baseline security controls in remote and off-grid deployments called Field Deployable Security Infrastructure Packages (FDSIPs). This concept features a centralized security design that is flexible to mission needs and capable of significantly reducing the burden of ensuring that a strong security posture is in place.
Using advanced security solutions – including LogRhythm’s SIEM capabilities – FDSIPs enable military and emergency personnel operating at the tactical edge to identify and block or remediate malicious actors that are seeking to take advantage of a remote deployment’s security posture. This is essential as operating outside of the defined network boundary can create an advantage for nation-states and hacktivists to get inside the network.
The FDSIPs, which are comprised of a number of security solutions working in concert to deploy and protect a remote connected environment, deliver drop-in security applications and hardware that allows for the security monitoring necessary to protect military networks at the forward edge, or in places where a normal infrastructure is not available.
FDSIPs deliver the same network monitoring and other security tools that would be present within a garrison environment. This means that advanced or forward-deployed units can focus on accomplishing their mission, rather than their infrastructure security or the availability of their applications.
Today’s military relies on network-enabled applications, devices, and weapons platforms. And that dependence will only grow in the future. As our adversaries become increasingly capable at cyberwar, these networks will need to be defended and assured both in the garrison and on the battlefield. FDSIPs are the simple solution for delivering the security these capabilities require.