Cyber-attacks are one of the more significant threats facing the United States and its allies around the world. Adversaries go beyond traditional uniformed Soldiers and are as diverse as their tactics.
Moreover, they can launch these attacks with little more than a personal computer, a thumb drive and an internet connection.
The results can be devastating, impacting power grids, banking networks and even government agencies.
For decades, the Department of Defense has been on guard against these cyber threats that extend beyond the clearly defined boundaries of “physical” battlespace of land, sea, air and space.
“A single cyber-attack can transcend traditional boundaries, simultaneously impacting systems across every battle space,” said Lawrence Osiecki, Director of the Armament Software Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal.
The software engineering center is part of the larger Weapons and Software Engineering Center, which falls under the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny.
The armament systems of today are more effective by leveraging computer and network resources to enhance their speed and accuracy.
But this increased performance with digital comes at a cost. The more dependent on computers, networks and software, the greater the risk of introducing cyber vulnerabilities that our adversaries could exploit.
“Cyber defense of armament systems is handled by specially trained teams of cybersecurity engineers,” Osiecki said. “Working in dedicated environments, our engineers have been successful ensuring that our weapon systems are cyber-hardened before being placed into the hands of our Soldiers.”
Although cyber security emphasis within the military has traditionally focused on information technology, it is critical to protect armament systems from potential cyber-attacks, said Osiecki, adding that the capability to do so has always resided with the weapons engineers at ARDEC.
“Armament cybersecurity is the last line of defense, so we have stepped up our game,” Osiecki said.
Though cyber-hardening of armament systems is not new, the increased spotlight on this critical mission, combined with emerging policy changes from the Pentagon, have greatly increased demand.
“Advancing cyber technologies for armament systems is one of ARDEC’s Strategic Technology Thrust Areas, and it is our fastest growing business,” Osiecki said. “This has led to a consolidation of our cyber capabilities, and the elevation of the cyber competency to the Division level within ARDEC.”
The Defense Department is positioned to spend more than $5.5 billion on cybersecurity this year, an 11 percent increase over 2015.
“The United States is the number one target for cyber-attacks world-wide,” Osiecki added. “As our adversaries have found new ways to attack our systems, our cyber defense teams have developed new and innovative cyber defense solutions.”
Osiecki said it was simply not effective to “bolt-on” cyber solutions at the end of system development.
“Cyber engineering doesn’t work that way,” he explained. “You have to ‘design-in’ the right solution early in the development process.”
“ARDEC has some of most experienced cyber engineers within the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command,” Osiecki added. “They are recognized leaders in the cyber community, and we have equipped them with the most state-of-the-art tools and facilities available.”
As an integral part of the U.S. cyber community, ARDEC leverages partnerships with industry, academia, and throughout the DOD to develop cyber hardened armaments, explained Osiecki.
“ARDEC’s Cyber Engineering Division will ensure that every armament solution delivered to the warfighter is designed from the start with the most effective, adaptive and maintainable cyber solutions.”
ARDEC expects growth in the cyber engineering competency due to the emerging and evolving threat.
“The Cyber Engineering Division is a critical capability for ARDEC going forward,” said Osiecki.
Timothy Rider and Ed Lopez contributed to this article.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense