Military Embedded Systems

U.S. DoD security sought in the airwaves and in cyberspace

Story

July 27, 2011

Sharon Hess

Military Embedded Systems

As recent meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao and other U.S. DoD and Chinese officials occur - in addition to the DoD's new Cyber Security Website launch - the need for security is once again highlighted.

As the conundrum of differing opinions rages on, relative to the U.S. federal government’s debt ceiling and the pressure of next week’s deadline, one thing that everyone can agree on in is the federal government’s need for security. Events this week including the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s report on Asian-Pacific security strategies – in addition to the U.S. DoD launching its Cyber Security Website – highlight this need.

Security over the airwaves is a must

Monday the U.S. DoD’s Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, reported on his recent travels to China, and also on in-person meetings with China’s Gen. Chen Bingde last May on U.S. soil, in an effort to beef up U.S./Chinese relations. Hu Jintao, Chinese president, and U.S. President Barack Obama have also recently forged an agreement for furthering U.S./China military relations.

When considering these scenarios technically (rather than politically), it brings to mind a couple of security “what ifs”:

1) Though security is assumed in situations such as these, what if adversaries of the U.S. or China had been able to intercept phone calls or data/text messages between Adm. Mullen and Gen. Bingde?

2) Or what if hackers were able to intercept conversations or data exchanges between the Presidential office or that of the president of China? Though we know President Obama himself was equipped with his secured “Obamaberry” a couple years ago, what about Jintao’s or Obama’s staff members who undoubtedly set up the calls between the two officials and who transmitted confirmation data or detailed meeting agendas prior to last January’s summit in Washington?

Since DoD and federal workers are a lot like the rest of our overhurried, mobile society (except for that “top secret” clearance), there’s a good chance some of those logistics calls and data transmits were conducted via smartphones such as the Blackberry, iPad, or Android-based phones – notorious for being vulnerable to interception by hackers.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, U.K-based smartphone encryption company Cellcrypt has focused on this impending need for smartphone security – and subsequently developed voice and data encryption applications for off-the-shelf smartphones. Geared toward federal government and enterprise workers and already supporting the military, the company’s secure Cellcrypt smartphone application provides voice calling encryption for off-the-shelf BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia, and Android-based smartphones. The BlackBerry app is the only one to include a secure text messaging feature so far, but Ian Meakin, VP of Marketing, says text messaging will soon come into play on the other versions of the Cellcrypt encryption application, too.

The application is downloadable in minutes anywhere an Internet connection is available, and is undetectable when crossing borders. It meets the U.S. NIST’s FIPS 140-2 information processing standard and is certified to NSA Suite B cryptographic standards. Though in the United States the Cellcrypt encryption application is only used by federal workers for “sensitive but unclassified information” – such as the aforementioned meeting agendas, where to meet, where one is traveling to and when and how, and so on – Cellcrypt smartphone encryption is additionally used for “top secret” classified information by other countries’ governments. In our September edition’s exclusive interview, Meakin tells Military Embedded Systems magazine about the technology behind the encryption Cellcrypt utilizes – and what needs to happen before smartphones are more widely used for U.S. and other governments’ classified information.

DoD’s new Cyber Security Website emerges

With security always at the fore of the long list of U.S. DoD/federal government concerns, the launch of the DoD’s Cyber Strategy Website (http://www.defense.gov/cyber) earlier this week might not come as a huge surprise.

The website was first announced at the National Defense University on July 14 by Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who said, “We do not know the exact way in which cyber will figure in the execution of [DoD’s] mission, or the precise scenarios that will arise. But the centrality of information technology to our military operations and our society virtually guarantees that future adversaries will target our dependence on it,” as reported on the DoD website.

The primary security focus is the DoD’s protection of its own networks, plus safeguarding systems that are vital for national security in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. With the DoD’s 7 million computing devices and 15,000 networks at stake, the Cyber Strategy Website is replete with up-to-the minute news, speeches, and more pertaining to five focal points:

·        Treat [cyberspace] as an operational domain

·        Employ new defense operating concepts

·        Partner with public and private sectors

·        Build international partnerships

·        Leverage talent and innovations

 

 

 

Nation-states, according to Lynn, hold all the sophisticated cyber tools right now, but access to such tools will become more widespread, he predicts.